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I have been privileged to know rabbis of great wisdom and knowledge who could address my issues with unique and helpful insights through the prism of Torah. I always understood them to have "daas Torah." But in recent years, I find that many people who have been labled "Gedolei HaTorah" (Great leaders of the Torah community) -- leaders of yeshivos and charedi communities here and in Israel -- have been caught making decisions, pronouncements, bans, denouncements, and defenses of the indefensible -- that have neither helped their community nor the Jewish community at large, and, if anything, failed to carry through basic Torah principles more often than not because the rabbis relied on false information.

Based on sources, am I right for assuming that one does not have "daas Torah" simply because you head a yeshiva or sit on a council of "Gedolei HaTorah"? Is there a way to identify who does or does not possess this insight?

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@charleskoppelman: I said upfront, I'm not sure if the question is phrased right. But I, and many others, are personally challenged by the issues I raised and disturbed that lay people follow the bad examples of their leaders and then take it to extremes, like the guyin Kiryas Yoel who set fire to a neighbor's car, injuring the neighbor in the process, because he perceived that the neighbor disagreed with the man's rebbe. Or the charedi IDF soldiers who are afraid to wear their uniforms home because of the harrassment they get. If you can help me reprhase the question, I'd be happy. –  Bruce James May 14 '13 at 17:14
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@BruceJames, blame me, for sure. I just don't think they're relevant to the question. All: If you're going to complain about the wording of the question, please see past revisions first and whether it might be worth reverting to one of them. –  msh210 May 14 '13 at 17:55
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There is a joke I once heard from a very unspoken maggid shiur in a yeshiva once (his name I don't remember at the moment but anyway I wouldn't want to post it. He is however a tremendous talmud chacham and can say such a "line" like this.) He said once "You know what it means Torah U'Gedoleh b'makom echad? ... A Gadol that can learn!" It seems that there is some truth now a days to the point he is trying to make... –  Yehoshua May 16 '13 at 15:31
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@DoubleAA English –  HodofHod May 17 '13 at 6:17

2 Answers 2

Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman H''yd addressed this question

Kovetz Maamarim V'Igros - medor davar ldor

"Large numbers of organizations have sprouted amongst the Jewish people of all forms. All of them worry and are concerned on finding solutions as to how to improve our situation. But what is coming out of all these solutions and strategies that came to us from all directions? The problems just increase and intensify. We are dropping both physically and spiritually.

Why do all these advices bring exactly the opposite result?

In order for one to be reliable to give proper and beneficial advice, a man must contain the following mental conditions.

  1. That he is a bar daas (is intelligent and understanding).

  2. That he is not nogea bdavar (has a personal bias) on the matter that he is judging and advising. Because, after there is in his heart a negius (bias), even if he is the greatest bar daas in the world, he is not fit to see straight. This is a law of nature, the ratzon (will/desire) of a person is mashpia (bears influence) on his intellect. And according to the greatness of the ratzon, so too will be the greatness of the hashpa (influence).

  3. We are warned in the torah that a judge must be "sone betza" (hate bribes) (Shmos 18.21, Rambam Sanhedrin 2.7). On the surface we could say, who cares if the judge loves bribes? It is forbiden for him to take it. And if it is forbidden then in this matter that he is judging for us, certainly he has not accepted a bribe. If so what does it matter how he conducts his personal life and whether or not he loves a bribe? The answer is that if someone loves a bribe, and likewise he who has other (selfish) desire, behold he is a nogea (bias) in every side and step of his life. Such a man is constantly involved in his desires. And since desire influences the intellect, to tilt it and twist it. Therefore the intellect of such a person is so twisted and full of distortions that even if he comes to judge on a matter in which he had no personal interest he is judging (the matter) with a twisted intellect (megamati meukom). What comes out from this is an additional condition: Not only that there should not be any personal negius (bias) in the matter he is judging now, but also that the judge should be clean of negius in all areas of his life. He needs to be a man liberated and completely free from any interest whatsoever - then perhaps he will merit a straight intellect.

  4. Even if a man has merited a straight intellect. Behold, like the words of Rabeinu Bechaye in "Duties of the Heart" (Gate of Service of G-d, ch.2) - "the intellect of man has limits, until here he can come but no further". And how far is mortal man capable of seeing? It is thus necessary on the one who gives advice to contain "daas torah" (broad understanding of torah perspective), which is infinite and dwells in the heart of every ben torah.

In simple (torah educated) people it is mixed with all types of influences and ideas from the street, or the like. And according to how great the mixture is, so too will be the diminishing of the percentage of "daas torah" . Therefore a man who is fit to be a reliable advisor is obligated to prepare in his heart "daas torah", 100% clean, with no trace of mixture of other daas whatsoever.

  1. Even if a man already includes all the conditions mentioned above, he still needs to merit a special power which is greater than all of them as in the words of the Sages "asukei shmasa aliba dhilchasa" (the ability to extract the true interpretation in torah) - siyata dshmaya (supernatural help from G-d), (see talmud sanhedrin 106b). According to the natural order it is impossible for a man to grasp correctly by himself true daas torah. Behold - a man cannot know the daas on High (of G-d). It is for this that it is necessary siyata d'shmaya, which is a special type of gift, which only rare and special sages reach. And in our times it is almost non existent to find such a reliable man who contains all these lofty levels.

If so, what is left for us to do? How can we receive correct advice which we so desperately need? Rather, we have been given a promise "yagati velo matzati - al taamin" (Megila 6b).

source:http://dafyomireview.com/article.php?docid=277

see there for the rest

bottom line is true Daas torah is extremely rare, existing only with those who are immersed in torah from their youth. such as Rabbi Elyashiv zt'l or R.Kanievsky seek out those people but formulate your question very well beforehand by talking it out with your rabbis to clarify the sides of the question. my experience is that you only have a minute or two to pose your question, so you must be very clear and present all the sides of the question very concisely.

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The quote is nearly the entirety of the source, which is more than our quoting guidelines support. Please edit to summarize or quote selected portions of the article, not the entire article. –  Monica Cellio May 16 '13 at 15:08
    
i shortened it. BTW, that site permits quoting even full articles –  ray May 16 '13 at 16:05
    
"existing only with those who are immersed in torah from their youth. such as Rabbi Elyashiv zt'l or R.Kanievsky" How do you get that from your quote? –  Double AA May 20 '13 at 20:06
    
@DoubleAA from here: "in simple (torah educated) people it is mixed with all types of influences and ideas from the street, or the like. And according to how great the mixture is, so too will be the diminishing of the percentage of "daas torah" . Therefore a man who is fit to be a reliable advisor is obligated to prepare in his heart "daas torah", 100% clean, with no trace of mixture of other daas whatsoever." –  ray May 20 '13 at 21:10
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How do you know they don't have any other daas? Also, how do you know they do have the special 'siyata dishmaya' discussed in the next paragraph? –  Double AA May 20 '13 at 21:32

Once again, a "Jewish question." Someone gets up and makes a statement, then just throws in a question mark at the end.

See "emunas chachamim" discussed here.

There's no way to really answer this; but to help inform the discussion, I will limit this to two students of Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveichik (shlit'a to them both) discussing their mentor's views on the subject:

Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff: as a young man, Rabbi Soloveichik's eulogy for Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grozinski stated that great rabbis should be followed in not just halachic matters but political ones, too. Rabbi Soloveichik reversed course later in life and his sermon "Joseph and his Brothers" stated that matters of Jewish thought aren't ruled-upon the same way; in fact, G-d had ruled in accordance with the Mizrachi (i.e. religious Zionist) Jews. Someone asked Rabbi Soloveichik, "but what about daas torah?" "Don't tell me 'daas torah' after the Holocaust", he replied.

Rabbi Mordechai Willig: there's no need to say that Soloveichik ever retracted. But there are two major caveats to the concept of 'daas torah' - superiority of Torah scholar's opinions on all contemporary matters - as advanced by Soloveichik in his eulogy for Grozinski. A.] Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grozinski was a general "posek." He ruled on agunah questions, kashrus questions, shabbos questions, and every other field on practical halacha. He was thus also qualified to rule on political questions. Rabbi Willig then cautiously observes that many "big rabbi" names today are known for the leadership of a yeshiva or Hassidic group, but many are not known for regularly ruling on matters of technical halacha; they would thus not merit the same "daas Torah" attributed to Grozinski by Soloveichik. B.] There can be many different opinions. Your great posek had one opinion, my great posek has another opinion; we're each entitled to follow those different opinions.

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Thank you for your answer. I was not really trying to make a statement. I am really feeling pain over what is happening with the examples I gave and more and I'm looking for answers. What you said is very similar to what Rabbi Eliyashiv told a good friend of mine concerning controversies surround his pronouncements. He stated that his opinions were for his community and his alone and no one else should rely on them. Would you agree that where Pirkei Avos says to find yourself a rav, it implies that there may be other rabbis who are unsuited for you but right for others? –  Bruce James May 14 '13 at 17:25

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