Wednesday, February 14, 2007
does being an expert in torah make one an expert in finance or medicine?
Jonathan Rosenblum's article here makes a number of accurate observations about the negative attitude of the chareidi community toward outside experts, and I admit my surprise that it was published in chareidi venues. One of the tenets that the chareidi community seems to hold dear which is rejected by most in the centrist orthodox/modern orthodox camp is the belief that da'as torah affords a gadol b'yisrael some form of transcendent wisdom that enables him to have insight into any and all problems. A local Rabbi in the 5 Towns recently put it this way: “Da‘as Torah is the belief that this complete dedication and commitment to Torah has not only transformed them into great Torah scholars, able to decide upon halachic issues of every type, but has also transformed their thinking on all issues of daily life—whether for individuals, for communal problems, or for global matters—into genuine Torah responses with clarity and understanding.” (See Krum’s post in response.) I recall exchanging comments (see this post of mine on mishmar and the comments) once with another blogger who affirmed that he would not undergo surgery despite a doctors direct advice if a gadol counselled against it, and he would not (in Israel) take the precaution of wearing a gas mask during an attack if a gadol advised that it was not necessary. In my mind such behavior is simply assur - there is a mitzvah in the Torah to guard one's life and health, and presumably the experts who know most about those subjects are doctos or generals as the case may be. The approach of this 5T Rabbi and others stands in stark contrast to Rosenblum's conclusion: "As one of Eretz Yisrael’s major young poskim puts it, one must always know whether a shayla is one for a rav or a doctor (which itself is a shayla for a rav). But knowing Gemara does not by itself make us a doctor or an actuary or a financial wizard." I could not agree more, but I do not pretend to identify with chareidi hashkafa. I am not sure those that do will be as sympathetic to Rosenblum's point.