Nov 9, 2009

Personal Rabbinic Responsibility

While it seemed like the elevator issue was pretty final, with some technician raising some issue with rabbonim including Rav Elyashiv, claiming that because of the issue shabbos elevators should be assur to use.

Based on that, the rabbonim came out with a conclusive psak completely banning the use of shabbos elevators, even in the most b'dieved situations saying that it is pure chillul shabbos.

It turns out it is not so clear cut and we might not yet have heard the final word.

Bchadrei is aware of a meeting of rabbonim, instigated by a concerned rav who is director of the Technological Institute for Halacha. Rav Halperin is concerned with the severity of the psak, considering as he says, the technician who raised the issue "does not know his right from his left".

A team of rabbonim have been meeting to go over and analyze the variou sissues of the elevators and their ramifications. The team is headed by Rav Efrati, Rav Elyashiv's right hand man and a leading Rabbi in Jerusalem.

There are 3 main concerns being discussed:
  1. the question of pikuach nefesh. People who are not well who relied on the elevators and are now physically walking up flights of stairs putting their health in danger.
  2. bein adam l'chaveiro - people bought apartments based on the knowledge that they had working, kosher, shabbos elevators. The fact that they will no longer be allowed to use them is a serious damage to them.
  3. Rabbonim who have previously paskened the elevators were kosher might have liability because of changing their psak. Supposedly Rav Elyashiv would be immune from this because he is like a "free craftsmen" offering his opinion, but others who receive salaries will likely be legally liable for any monetary damage caused by their changing their opinions.
Rav Shubaks, a dayan involved with the team of rabbis, has requested based on the 3 reasons listed above that the psak be changed back to allowing the use of shabbos elevators. Rav Elyashiv agreed to convene the group of rabbis to meet and analyze all the issues, and come out with a final decision in the coming days.

A cynic would wonder which of the 3 reasons mentioned above is really the one that got them to reconsider....


  1. Youre opening the pandoras box for zilzul talmidei chachamim. You know that. And you know what the gemara says about those that are Mezalzel Talmidei Chachamim

  2. Wow, talk about mixed culture metaphors, anon 1:29 pm. What do chazal say about using idioms based on Greek mythology?

  3. i always wonder why the sweeping across-the-board ban come before the inquiry...

  4. actually, bechadrei opened up the discussion, or maybe it is rav shupaks who opened it up, using such an issue as the reason to reverse the decision

  5. I believe that there is more than a little politics here, none of it having to do with Rav Elyashiv personally and all of it having to do with his hangers-on.

    Rav Rozen, of the institute that gives heksherim to Shabbos elevators, has a couple of strikes against him.
    1)He is a Mizrachinik.
    2)He has not subordinated his da'as to the Rav Elyashiv henchmen, who seek more and more control of religious authority.
    3)Was formerly the head of the Rabbanut's committee on conversion -- one of the henchmen's pet targets.

    Add to this mix the Bnei Brak culture, which is less controlled by askanim and more controlled by actual Rabbanim. However, this culture completely rejects all attempts to use technology to lower the severity of Shabbos prohibitions. They feel that these "patentim" are ridiculous.

    For instance, I believe that they do not allow Ma'ayanei HaYeshua (their local hospital) to utilize any of this technology, including Shabbos phones for its medical staff. They believe that it is preferable for the doctors to use a regular phone on Shabbos (b'hetter)than to use technological tricks to get around the prohibition.

    People forget that behind every Rabbinnic decree is an askan waging war against someone or something. It's not as if teh Rabbonim have regular meetings to discuss the issues of the day. Someone has to light the fire, fan the flames, and then pay for the publicity.

  6. We all know the gemara that speaks about the times before mashiach, when the rabbanim will be "leading" us while constantly turning around to check which way we want to be led. Halevai that this is yet another proof that mashiach is around the corner.

  7. It seems to be the rabbis (or their helpers, I guess depending on your perspective) themselves who are responsible for the zilzul. After all, it is they who did not think about the repercussions of their actions before acting.

  8. If he changes the pesak, that shows something about his character.

  9. Something good or something bad?

  10. HM,
    the buck stops there, period, end of report.
    Joel Rich

  11. RYSE answers questions. He doesnt publicize his view. He doesnt ask the questioner why do you want to know, and who are you coming out against. He just responds to the exact question asked.

    I can offer an example of how confusing this might be.

    True story -- There were 2 guys in a Kollel who were discussing the use of the twistie ties on Shabbos. Each one said that they personally had asked RYSE regarding them, and they got opposite responses. One head mutar and one assur. They couldnt figure it out. (They are chareidi, so they couldnt just say RYSE is old and not with it, or he randomly makes mistakes)

    B'Kitzur, from the discussion it came out that both guys, when explaining to RYSE what a twistie tie is, twisted their hand as if they are twisting a twistie tie (although there was none in their hard). The one who got the psak of mutar, twisted his hand ONE time and the one who got the psak of assur twisted his hand 2 times. RYSE holds there is a difference (perhaps similar to that of making a knot where there is a differnce between once and twice). This is not speculation. It was confirmed afterwards that this is indeed RYSE's opinion on the matter (that there is a difference between one twist and 2).

    Now, you might ask, shouldnt RYSE inquire and try to find out what exactly is the shaila? Shouldnt he be more clear and elaborate when answering?

    The answer is no. He doesnt need to start to cheshbon what is the question and what does he mean, and why would he ask in this way? The answer to the question is ______ period.

    Sure it leads to confusion - so dont listen to pashkevilim that you dont know what the question is. RYSE never told you to listen.

    When rabbonim want their daas known, they make it known. Publically. When RYSE wanted to be clear who to vote for the Yerushalayim elections - he went to the asifa. he didnt answer one guys question and rely on his pashkevil.

  12. The "zilzul talmidei chachamim" I wan referring to - and I apologize for not being clear - was the obvious intent of the blog post that the "real" reason is that they face financial responsibility - not emmes, not achrayis, not wanting to pasken correctly, not bein adam lechaveiro. Just money.

  13. right- big talmidei chachamim are never influenced by money.

    do you live in a jewish community?

  14. (1) but Anonymous - that's why they agreed to review the psak, because someone pushed the money-button.

    (2) Hopeful, I'm too busy feeding the kids to attend Rav Pogrow's program yet .... :-) Where's the gemara you're referring to?

  15. Sotah daf 49 amud beis: "Pnei hador kipnei hakelev." (Referring to what will happen in the time preceding mashiach). Rav Elchonon Wasserman, in his famous kuntrus "Ikvisa D'Mishicha" quotes Rav Yisrael Salanter's interperatation: A dog walks ahead of his master and it might look like the dog is the one deciding which way to go, but in reality the dog is checking where the master wants him to go. The nimshal is the leaders who appear to be leading, while in reality are basing (some of) their decisions on what the tzibbur want i.e. leading them down the path on which they wish to be led.

  16. "The answer is no. He doesnt need to start to cheshbon what is the question and what does he mean, and why would he ask in this way? The answer to the question is ______ period. "

    So, you're saying that RYSE doesn't care that his teshuvot could be misunderstood and cause great confusion to klal yisrael.

    I would be ok with this answer if RYSE was a small town rav who had no influence on any larger communities.

    I don't buy it with a rav who is supposed to be a gadol hador. If you receive that title, than yes, you have to do the cheshbon of what is the question, what does he mean, why is he asking it. You also have to do the cheshbon that your teshuva will spread by word of mouth and being clear will cause less confusion, being unclear will cause greater confusion. At the very least, how about asking the questioner to bring in an actual twistie tie and seeing how it works so you can give a definitive answer ? Why would he give a psak for a physical object based on hand motions?

    Call it zilzul talmidei chachamim if you like, but being a gadol hador entails being a leader and taking into account how the community receives your word. I get really tired of hearing all the excuses about why everyone mixes up RYSE's teshuvot.

  17. The one who got the psak of mutar, twisted his hand ONE time and the one who got the psak of assur twisted his hand 2 times.

    But at the time they didn't realize this distinction at all. Which means that the one-twist guy assumed that twist ties are allowed even with multiple twists. If he had acted on this, he would have broken Shabbat simply by following the "psak" he received from RYSE. I think it's clear that under such circumstances, the decisions RYSE gives - even if reported with total honesty which is not always a given - cannot be relied on. It is not a criticism of RYSE to say that when you're 98 years old, you should be answering shailot in writing or not at all.


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