Judaism has no equivalent to the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. There is an entire tractate of the Talmud, called Horiut, predicated on the assumption that even members of the ancient Sanhedrin, the greatest Rabbis of the generation were capable of erring, even in halachic matters.
But it is nonetheless a principle of Jewish thought that those most imbued with Torah-knowledge and who have internalized a large degree of the perfection of values and refinement of character that the Torah idealizes are thereby rendered most qualified to offer an authentic Jewish perspective on matters of import to Jews. Expert doctors, too, even if they are fallible, as they must be, are still the most qualified people to offer medical advice.
Torah leaders, like parents, may seem to children, might seem unreasonable at times. But, just as parents always remain parents, Torah leaders remain Torah leaders.
Two people can study exactly the same sources and have diametrically opposed approaches to them, because they have completely different worldviews. The Rambam, who had a believe in the natural, believed in naturalizing miracles – others see that as heretical.
There is no reason why the leadership of a “great Torah authority” who is entirely locked into a particular worldview should be accepted by someone with an entirely different worldview.
There is a comparison to “expert doctors”; it’s more like saying that an average, scientifically-educated Western person should submit to an “expert healer” in China. It’s a completely different system of thought.
It is simply not the case that a great Torah sage is always a great leader. Leadership is much more complicated than that. Rav Eliezer Melamed (Eliezer Melamed is an Israeli Orthodox rabbi and the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Bracha, rabbi of the community Har Bracha, and author of the book series Peninei Halachah) says
“Gadlute be Torah (Torah greatness, eminence) necessitates anall-embracing, fully accountable handling of serious issues facing the generation, including the attitude towards Am Yisrael in all its diversity and various levels – both religious, and non-religious; the attitude towards mitzvoth of yishuv Haaretz (settling the Land) andthe on-going war which has surrounded it for over a century; the attitude towards science and work, and the contemporary social and economic questions.”
Expertise in Torah does not even necessarily make one wise in worldly affairs.. The Sages themselves pointed out that one can be a Torah scholar (by their standards!) and yet lack da’at (knowledge)- and they described such a person as being worse than a putrid carcass!
It is important in Judaism however, not to air our dirty laundry in public. In the Jewish world, it is accepted that there can be differing points of view. To the outside world which does not understand the nuance of what is being discussed, it looks like the entire religion is based on falsehood, because the outside world doesn’t have the concept of these, and these both being the world of the eternal G-d.
In the past, before the world of the internet, people had the good sense to have Jewish discussions privately. In the Torah world, it was understood that learned people could have a different point of view.
Today, Halacha is dragged into the newspaper, and since the more controversial something else the more readers it gets, the writers go out of their way to trumpet unaccepted positions as being the accepted position. They try in the press to make out the Torah scholars as fools.
The most recent example during Passover was the Zoom controversy. While there were initial discussions over whether electricity would be allowed over Shabbat over 100 years ago, the majority of the Orthodox Rabbis decided electricity was similar to fire and therefore could not be used on Shabbat and Holiday days.
Where there other viewpoints over the years? Yes. Some Rabbis initially allowed electricity over Yom Tovs (Jewish holidays) as opposed to Shabbat. Everybody had their say, but it was all part of the discussion process with final majority opinion. That is how Judaism works.
We follow the majority opinion, because one can nearly always find a dissenting minority opinion that disagrees. If we followed the minority there would never be a consensus on practically anything. So, as a result, we follow the majority on deciding the bottom line.
The newspapers and press, however, love to play up controversy as I said before. It is therefore important to give respect to a Torah leader, even if you don’t follow his opinion, because of the importance of his point of view. On some items, you are forced to follow the majority, even if you don’t agree.
The official COVID-19 lockdown started March 23 and will likely start to peak around May 1st. That is EXACTLY 40 days.
The Latin root of the word “quarantine” is “forty”. So, what does the Bible say about 40?
The flood lasted 40 days.
40 years Moses fled Egypt.
40 days Moses stayed on Mount Sinai to receive the Commandments.
Exodus lasted 40 years.
40 days for a woman to rest after giving birth.
The optimum number of weeks for human gestation is 40.
A group of theologians thinks the number 40 represents “change”. It is the time of preparing a person, or people, to make a fundamental change.
Something will happen after these 40 days. Remember, whenever the number 40 appears in the Bible, there is a “change”.
Please know that during this “quarantine” rivers are cleaning up, vegetation is growing, the air is becoming cleaner because of less pollution, there are less theft and murder. Healing of our earth is happening, families are getting more in touch and connected, better appreciating loved ones and what they have, and most importantly, people are turning to their faith. The Earth is at rest for the first time in many years and hearts are truly transforming.
Remember we are in the year 2020, and 20 + 20 = 40.
Lastly, 2020 is a perfect vision. May our sight focus on the Lord and living according to his perfect vision for us knowing he holds us in the palm of his hand.
May these days of “quarantine” bring spiritual renewal to our souls, our nation, and our world.
As we learned above there are always a couple of points of view as we learn from this story:
A Jewish Success Story
Morris took off his glasses and said, “Well, son, it was 1932 during the heart of the Great Depression. I was down to my last nickel.
“So I invested that nickel in an apple. I spent the entire day polishing the apple and, at the end of the day, I sold the apple for ten cents.
“The next morning, I invested those ten cents in two apples. I spent the entire day polishing them and sold them at 5:00 pm for 20 cents. I continued this system for a month, by the end of which I’d accumulated the sum of $1.60…..
“Then my wife’s uncle Bernie died and left us two million dollars.”