This is the 4th post in a series discussing what modern day Orthodox people may learn from chussidut. To see the others go here.
Let’s all stop for a moment. Take a deep breath. Stare deep into our souls and admit the truth. Many disciplines still escape our knowledge. The facts are indisputable. The wiring snaking behind our walls baffles us, as do the inner workings of the 2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4.
Few of us would claim possession of technical knowledge that we lack. It’s simply too easy to be proven wrong. Either you can change the electrical outlet or you can’t (I can!). Unfortunately, non-technical knowledge lacks the same clear verification test leading to the effusion of thoughts and opinions from those who may not qualify to effuse.
The recent American Supreme Court decisions provide a great example. It seems that everyone became a constitutional scholar in the course of a few months. Stop for a moment though, breathe and forget all of your political positions…how many hours of your life have you spent studying con law? Have you read the proposed statutes that were brought to court? How about the opinion and the dissent of the court? These are all questions that should guide us in deciding about whether we should form a strong opinion about the cases.
This of course relates directly back to chussidus, modernity and protestant Christianity. When Martin Luther nailed his theses through the heart of the church, he didn’t just create a new religious paradigm, years of war and cool new flags. He also shot the first arrow in an ongoing war against authority. Luther’s actions brought power to his people and all cultures that came into contact with Protestant Christianity.
Overall, this is fantastic. G-d bless Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic brain. He enhanced Judaism by encouraging conversation regarding ritual and theology amongst the littles. The torah limits the power of the priesthood and the Levites for a reason. The conception of a tzaddik (someone with the ability to answer all questions regarding halacha, business and general life) that some (not all) chussidic courts promote is disturbing. Furthermore, educated people will be influenced by factors outside of their education when formulating their thoughts. However, no matter how self-empowered we’ve become, education must remain a prerequisite to opinion.
Periodically, I hear friends (left, right and center) passionately advocate halachic stances that they’ve spent very little time studying, frequently disparaging a rabbi or a movement in the process. While rabbis ripping rabbis is a time honored tradition (Raavad-Rambam, Ramban-IbnEzra etc.), they at least come from a point of knowledge. Nowadays, it seems that everyone feels comfortable attacking everything regardless of their own stature.
Perhaps we can look to the less enlightened world for a lesson in humility. I am not advocating belief in the redemptive power of the Tzaddik. Nor do I put much faith in the influence of genealogy (just look at me), but we should periodically think about the many hours that experts from different persuasions from our own have spent in the beit midrash honing their craft. That alone should be enough to speak with and about them with a certain amount of respect. In our quest for independent thought, we must not cast aside the value of education. If one person spent 3 years studying a topic and the other 3 hours we should factor that into our though. This is not to say that quantity of education equals quality of thought. Don’t drop everything and follow anyone with more schooling than you, but before you write that angry blog post, take a deep breath and think.
Biz vayter tzeit, kapn a glaz un zingan a niggun