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Jun 25, 2014

Abandoning Rav Ovadia's legacy

The letter of Rav Shalom Cohen banning women from academic institutions, even Haredi ones, has taken up much of the airwaves over the past couple of days. People are upset, people are supportive, stories are coming out how bad education is and how it caused people to stumble and has destroyed families, people are questioning, how could it be, Rav Ovadia's daughter, etc.

(as an aside, the most interesting story I heard, from a rabbi on the radio, was the one where a young women went to one of these academies and then got a job. At the job she became exposed to the internet, and then things changed with her spirituality - he didnt say what specifically,but it negatively affected the home and children - I found that story funny as it did not really have to do at all with the academy. In her workplace she used the Internet and that was the problem he described, but he blames the academy for her downfall.)

One comment in particular stood out for me.  MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) criticized Rav Cohen as becoming irrelevant and disconnected form the people. Lavie said he is trying to take the community many years backwards , and he is going directly against the moreshet, the legacy, of Rav Ovadia Yosef whose daughter founded the Michala Hacharedit, with the blessing of her father..

Without getting into debating Rav Cohen's words (I think most readers here know what I feel on this topic), I think MK Lavie is off-base. Rav Cohen is not obligated by Rav Ovadia's legacy. I dont even know if that can be called his legacy - just because it was one thing he did and supported, does that become his legacy? Who decides what someone's legacy is?

But even if it is the legacy of Rav Ovadia, why should Rav Cohen be obligated by it? Rav Cohen is a big boy and, to paraphrase Robin Ventura, he took a position, as head of the Moetzet of Shas, in which he had to put his big boy pants on. He can do what he feels is right, regardless of what Rav Ovadia thought. Rav Cohen is in charge now, he is the go-to rav, he makes the decisions. He does not have to follow someone else, but can do what he himself feels is right.

Statesmen are not obligated by Rabin's legacy, whatever it might be, or Ben Gurion's legacy or Menachem Begin's legacy, and rabbis are not obligated by Rav Ovadia's legacy, or Rav Shach's legacy, or the Brisker Rav's legacy.

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  1. Rafi,
    You are missing one major underlying issue here. And that is that Rav Cohen is not following Daas Torah of his predecessor. We have been fed the concept of infalibility through dass torah for the past 40 years, so how is that he doesn't follow it.

  2. Rav Ovadia has passed. Rav Cohen is now the daas torah of Shas.

  3. I agree with you Rafi.

    3 points:

    1) Rav Ovadia ZT"L is replete in his writings on how one is allowed to argue on the Aharonim of previous generations. He himself argued on the Ben Ish Hai many times.

    2) If he doesn't want to make it as if he's arguing on Rav Ovadia ZT"L, Rav Cohen Shlit"a can say that if Rav Ovadia would have known all the stuff that goes on in some of those institutions, he would never have allowed it.

    3) Kikar has a 2008 letter signed by Rav Cohen where he does allow women to go to these institutions - under certain conditions. In that article, Rav Cohen's people told Kikar that there is no contradiction - the 2008 letter explained what is permissible while the latest letter explained what is prohibited. In essence, they're saying that the earlier letter qualified the latest letter.

    1. I heard on the radio clarifications about that earlier letter from rabbonim - they explained that the first letter was based on information back then. it was new then, the letter was based on what they expected it to be.
      The new letter, on the other hand, is based on the reality of what it has unexpectedly turned into.

  4. one thing I dont get - these michlalot run by haredim, and a few of them are by shas leaders - adina bar shalom, yaffa deri has one, and Nissim Zeev has one, are all teaching/promoting kfira or ideas that would harm ones ruchniyus? do the heads of the schools not know? how does this happen?

    1. that is what some rav on kol b'rama discussed: it is simply impossible for a rav to micro-manage the courses. while someone studying electronics won't be facing too many challenges, anyone taking biology, physic, and in particular liberal arts stuff will be getting it by the spoonful.

      of course, if Ono College wants to have a psychology major without teaching say freud, they could. but who is going to recognize such a worthless degree?

      and second of course: these places could drop all problematic subjects and teach their students nothing but electronics and computer programming and accounting. but then where will the chareidi world get the trained personnel that they so desperately need to fill sensitive positions? do they really want secular social workers in beitar?

  5. Statesmen are not obligated by legacy, but countries are obligated by treaties signed by previous governments.

    Basically this says that an entire culture that existed and, maybe, was even promoted by the prior leadership can be destroyed in 12 seconds. I think that is dangerous.

  6. Rav Mutzafi agrees with Rav Cohen: here.


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