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Mar 4, 2021

Interesting Psak: why does it matter who is the gadol hador?

On the one hand the title of the article I refer to below sounds like click-bait, but according to the article he actually said it...

On the other hand, the article/title sounds like the [ultra] Orthodox are now Reform

(the title referred to in the link below is Rav Zilbershtein paskened the gadol hador can uproot a mitzva of the Torah)

According to Hamechadesh, Rav Yitzchak Zilbershtein, rav of Ramat Elchonon neighborhood of Bnei Braq, was asked what difference does it make, if any, arguing who the gadol hador might be? is there any practical ramifications to declaring someone a gadol hador?

Rav Zilbershtein referenced a discussion in the Gemara and the commentaries to show that if someone in a generation can be determined and accepted on all the chachomim of the generation as the gadol hador and nobody else being smarter and wiser, that rav can decide on the need to uproot a mitzva from the Torah, in the form of shev v'al taaseh - sit and don't do anything (rather than actively transgressing a commandment), due to a great need in the generation.

So, Rav Zilbershtein concluded and paskened, the practical difference in discussing who the gadol hador is to know who is the one person with the ability to be lenient on something and uproot or cancel a mitzva of the Torah, using the argument of "eis laasos" - an urgent time of need.

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  1. I have another nafka mina that is right in the Shulchan Aruch.

    There are two different mitzvas of honoring talmidei chachamim. One is for chachmei ha Torah generally. The other is for one's rebbe. (They have different sources in the Torah.) The requirements for a rebbe are more stringent. For example, for a non-rebbe talmid chacham, one only need rise for him when he comes within 4 amos, whereas for one's rebbe, one must rise as soon as you see him. (See Yoreh Deah 242 and 244)

    If you look in Shulchan Aruch, is says that for a gadol ha dor, one must rise as for a rebbe.

    אם הוא מופלג בחכמה אפי' אינו רבו דינו כרבו מובהק (מי שהוא גדול הדור ומפורסם בדורו בכך נקרא מופלג בחכמה) (ת"ה סימן קל"ח ותוס'):
    (YD 244:10)
    (This is not limited to only one gadol ha dor, presumable there could be several.)

  2. There is an interesting story recently told about Rav Dovid Feinstein referring a questioner to Rav Elyashiv. He explained that there was no answer to the Shayla found in any of Chazal and only the Gadol Hador could decide the correct answer.

  3. No chidush.
    They've already done this (or tried to) with techeiles.

    1. Tekhelet, certainly, and also just about anything to do with yishuv haaretz, establishing a Jewish state, etc.

  4. Interesting that his first and only example is overriding a mitzvah, like that's the one thing he wants. Not, say, that a gadol can convince people to keep a neglected mitzvah, or maybe create a very creative solution to a big problem. Telling.

    1. Your comment is more telling than his. He was asked what the "nafka mina le dina" is and gave his answer. Yours are not halakhic differences. That someone can influence the public to keep a neglected mitzvah, or can come up with a creative solution to a problem, does not require him to be the gadol ha dor.

    2. So then he should have a list. It would be interesting.


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