Same Old, Same Old: Today’s Oiber Chachamim With The Same Gripes As Yesteryear’s Oiber Chachamim

Ask the ever-so-gentle-and-thoughtful Haredi critics why they criticize Rabbis. Do they dispute the idea of leadership in Klal Yisroel? They’ll respond, ears red with righteous indignation, “Of course not! It’s today’s Rabbonin that we have a problem with”. “You know, the ones who think Judaism is all about prohibitions and bans”. “There’s a “negative attitude” prevalent in Rabbanic circles today, which is contrary to the Derachea Darkei Noam we saw in previous generations”, etc. etc.. In fact, they may say something like this:

Even worse than these are the teachers and rabbis, who know nothing of governance or circumspect judgment, or how to lighten the burden of the masses. All of their efforts are devoted to multiplying customs and prohibitions, and stringencies upon stringencies, which have no source in the Torah or tradition. Instead, these customs come from foreign sources, or the practices of old women, or foolish men . . .  If I would enumerate them all, there’s be no respite.

As for the Haredi community in general, the following is a good sample of their thinking:

Another illness which has spread among all the people is to rush to marry their boys and girls, even babies, and by multiplying the size of their families, they invite problems, physical illness, and oppressions, and they shorten their life spans. Before a boy knows how to earn a dime, he finds he has ten mouths to feed. All his days are nothing but problems, and pressures which never cease constricting him – and in his middle age he lives to see the same problems also in his own sons and daughters!

Want to know when this was written? In 1846 by the oiber chacham of his time, Adam HaKohen.

Folks, there is nothing new under the sun. The critics of Haredim today are the ideological descendents of the critics of yesteryear. They predict our demise today with the same certainty and conviction they did then, and for the same reasons. While, now as then, Haredim have much to improve on, reports of our demise have been and will always be, premature Be”h. Haredism is strong and getting stronger, contrary to what you may read online and hear from people who wish it were otherwise, B”H.

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10 thoughts on “Same Old, Same Old: Today’s Oiber Chachamim With The Same Gripes As Yesteryear’s Oiber Chachamim

    • Nice. BTW In the back of the sefer Noam Elimelech there is a letter from his son detailing the critics of his time saying there were no longer tzadikim in HIS dor!

  1. > They’ll respond, ears red with righteous indignation, “Of course not! It’s today’s Rabbonin that we have a problem with”

    Yes, and why? Because until only a few generations ago the Rabbonim were not the actual leaders of the larger Jewish communities. Yes they ran their shuls and yeshivos and in small towns and villages held positions of leadership but when it came to speaking for the Jewish population of countries it was not rabbonim but civilian folk with training and education in such matters who held those positions. And for good reason – learning Torah, no matter how much, does not confer skills in leadership. Leadership is a separate skill with separate requirements but today’s “Gedolim” are given the mantle without any such training and then expect to be followed. It is this innovation that never was before that we have a problem with.

    • Completely untrue. Rabbanom were always the decision makers and spokesmen for the people. Ever heard of the vaad arbeh aratzos? The lay leaders were responsible for the execution of those policies, not formulating them.

      Trained education? Do you know that until two hundred years ago, Jews were banned from all universities? Where’d you get this nonsense from?

      • Really you need to learn history from history books not published by Artscroll. But if you wish to stick to the “approved texts” then look in the Gemara. The Reish Galusa was rarely a talmid chacham and got his job by dint of lineage and money, not scholarship. Yet he was the leader of the Jewish community in Bavel.
        As for the university comment, no that’s not true at all. Rich Jews with connections had been attending universities across western and central Europe for centuries before the emancipation.

        • Those rich Jews you refer to were 1) more often than not not Frum 2) Not the leaders of the community. Please cite some names of such Jews who were respected leaders.

          Th reish galusa is completely off-topic. 1) when was the last reish galusa? are you going to start bringing me malchei yisroel (and dovid) as well? Those were times when Jews had some, if not complete, political autonomy. Our discussion revolves around exile-type situations.

          2) the reish galusa had executive power, which they did abuse. the chachamim were the ones who charted the course of the nation vis-a-vis ideas, as the gemara makes clear often.

    • He was, but that isn’t my point. I’m showing that the critics who claim that it “used” to be different don’t know what they’re talking about.

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