Is there a source to assert that the leaders of the Jewish people at any given time are always correct in how they lead (perhaps because their decisions are divinely inspired), or is it possible to say that any leader of the Jewish people is no more infallible than a regular person? Is there a middle ground?

  • 2
    I think you need to clarify exactly what you mean by "correct". Do you mean that the leaders always make the decision that has the most desirable consequences as judged by the average person (within the community, outside the community)? Or that they always make the decision that has the consequences that are desired by God? What criterium are you using for "correctness"? Also, does being "always correct in how they lead" mean the same thing as "infallible"? – LazerA Dec 12 '12 at 16:47
  • 2
    Duplicate? – msh210 Dec 12 '12 at 16:56
  • 1
    @nikmasi What exactly is the "colloquial sense"? (Incidentally, I have written on this topic in the past (here).) – LazerA Dec 12 '12 at 17:01
  • 1
    @msh210 Actually, I don't think it's a duplicate. That question is discussing arguing with a gadol in the context of Torah study. This question is discussing the authority of a gadol (or rabbi, or something along those lines - the question is unclear) as a community leader. – LazerA Dec 12 '12 at 17:03
  • 2
    i thought masechet harayos is about the sanhedrin's errors including those that cause the masses to sin -- not just about individual cases. – rosends Dec 12 '12 at 17:52

The dictionary translates fallible as capable of making a mistake. Everyone is capable of making a mistake. From Moshe Rabeinu hitting the rock, to the Shevatim selling Yosef, etc., there are many recorded instances where Gedolei Yisroel were fallible. However they do have a divine special protection (story of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein Zatzal with Aguna and many others).

  • 3
    What is the story of R Feinstein and the Aguna? And how does it show that his level of divine protection is greater than mine because of his status as a "Gadol"? – Double AA Dec 12 '12 at 17:14
  • There was a lady who came to him crying that she received permission from a Gadol after the war (do not remember which one) to remarry, and now her original husband has shown up. He asked her to repeat the story a few times, and then started screaming at her "This is absolutely not true, I have permitted over 2000 Agunos to remarry, and not once has the original husband shown up, I knew this Rav who you claim gave you permission, he was bigger than I, and it is impossible that he would of made such a mistake". The lady admitted that she made up the story. (heard from Rabbi Yakov Rotenberg) – Gershon Gold Dec 12 '12 at 17:19
  • 2
    @nikmasi Sounds more like the standard halachik procedure for permitting agunot is so strict that we are very confident we are right. All R Feinstein needed was confidence that the other rabbi followed standard operating procedure (something I share as well). – Double AA Dec 12 '12 at 17:23
  • 1
    @DoubleAA, I guess it comes down to the precise wording of R' Moshe's protest - whether it was making a more rationalist or more mystical claim, which unfortunately is not available here. – Isaac Moses Dec 12 '12 at 17:27
  • 1
    +1. The part of the answer that answers the question (everything but the last sentence) seems like a very good argument. (I believe the last sentence, too, but quantification and a source would be nice.) – msh210 Dec 12 '12 at 20:02

I'm going to give you an answer to that question as I heard it from Zalman Posner, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Sherith Israel of Nashville, Tennessee. He said:

Before the war in a train station in Europe, several chasidim found themselves waiting for their trains. They decided to use the moment to tell stories of the miracles their rebbes had performed. The fellow from Satmar told his stories, as did the fellow from Belz, and the fellow from Bobov. Finally they got to the chasid from Lvov and asked him to tell stories about his rebbe's miracles.

"I can't think of any," he replied.

"Surely you're holding out," they cried. And they nudged and nudged and finally, he admitted, there was one miracle . . .

"I heard of a business deal in Warsaw that sounded good," he related. "But before I would do a business deal, I went to my rebbe. He knew of a better business deal in Moscow. So, of course, if my rebbe thinks I should go to Moscow, I'm on the first train. And, you know, had I invested in that deal in Warsaw I would be a very wealthy man today. And the money I invested in Moscow ... it's all gone."

The others looked shocked. "So nu, what's the miracle??"

"The miracle," he said, "is that I'm still a chasid."

  • I've heard this story said about the Alter Rebbe. Th point being that the relationship of rebbe and chossid isn't about what the rebbe can do for me to help me be successful but rather how it is a selfless relationship in which a rebbe and chossid are united in serving Hashem to do for Hashem what must be done in fulfilling the purpose of our creation to make G-dliness revealed in the physical world. – Dude Mar 15 '16 at 20:32

See Vayikro 4 (22) “If a leader [of Israel] sins and unintentionally commits one of all the commandments of the Lord, which may not be committed,” to see that the Nosi (and by extension gedolei Yisroel) is/are indeed fallible.

  • 1
    that's a personal sin, not a mistake in leading the people – user2110 Dec 12 '12 at 19:59
  • Wouldn't it make more sense to invoke the verses regarding the religious leaders' sins (kohen gadol and sanhedrin) than the political leaders'? – Loewian Jan 19 '16 at 5:12

You must log in to answer this question.