Why We Don’t Have a Gadol Hador

Rabbi Harry Maryles wrote an excellent piece, about what it take to make a Gadol Hador for today. I posted this:
I wonder if yiddishkeit can actually handle a Gadol HaDor? I’m hoping to get feedback from people older than I am (I was born in 1970), but was yiddishkeit more unified 35-50 years ago. I know there were less yeshivas and day schools. Were we more tolerant of other hashkafos in the 50’s and 60’s? Parents and their children were, literally, the post-Holocaust generation. They survived near extinction and saw a home-land be born. I think most frum Jews under the age of 40 today would have a problem universally accepting ONE Gadol.
Now, let me expand why it will be hard for those under the age of 40 to have ONE Gadol. Once I read Rabbi Maryles’ post I solved a puzzle that had been brewing in my head for over two years. Most trends and movements in the non-Jewish world eventually ripple into frum society. The best example is the Enlightenment with brought about Haskalah.

Over two years ago I read about Generation C on the Trendwatching website. Check this out here, and then click back.

I wondered when would the frum world become victims to Generation C… the content Generation? We live in a world where we control as much of our individual content as possible. I’ve got 40 ringers on my Treo, not to mention the mp3’s I can use as ringers (not during Sefira, of course). We’re blogging, My Spacing, and creating our own content. Even Artscroll has cashed in on helping us indivualized our davening content… here.
Do we really need four types of leather to choose for our siddurim?
The general division of frum yidden is only magnified by those of us who fall into “Generation X”. So named, because we don’t fit into any description. We are fragmented. It’s really no surprise that there is division among todays’ RW, LW, Charedim, Modern, parents, teachers, and principals. If we don’t know who we are, how can anyone accept on Gadol?
As I think about what e-lists I belong to I’m as confused as anyone. On any given Friday, I’m printing: Rabbi Frand, Rav Kook, Yated, and Torah MiTzion…just to name a few. Why? Because I’m controlling the content of what I read on Shabbos!!!
If I had to guess, my generation won’t have a Gadol Hador. It will take a generation to realize that fracture won’t help klal Yisroel. With Hashem’s help my children and Rabbi Maryles’ grandchildren will have worked out the issues and once again we will have a Gadol.

6 thoughts on “Why We Don’t Have a Gadol Hador

  1. Harry Maryles

    Great post. Very insightful. It certainly adds to the problem. But, while I might agree that this generation is better able to control the “content” of their lives, I’m not sure that it totally prevents the emergence of a Gadol HaDor. It may be more difficult, but it is not impossible.

    I think the greater obstacle is the fragmentation of Torah Judaism into ever increasing subdivisions. Within obervant Judiasm since Churban Batis Sheni: First we were all Jews. Then we became Sefardim and Ashkenazim. Ashkenazim became Lithuanians and Chasidim. Chasidim then btoke up into a ton of different types. Lithuanians broke up into their own sub-divisions …such as the Mussar Movement or Briskers. Fast forward to today and even the Charedi/MO divide has been subdivided. There is LW, and RW MO. There is Charedi Lite and Ultra Orthodox. There is Agudah and Mizrachi. If anything prevents universal agreement as to who is the Gadol HaDor, this is it. I spoke to this issue in my comment to yours on my blog. Here is what I said there:

    I wonder if yiddishkeit can actually handle a Gadol HaDor?

    I’m not sure there ever really was one Gadol that was universally recognized as The Gadol. In our day there has been such stratification of streams within Orthodoxy that it would be impossible. Sefardim would never have accepted R, Moshe as The Gadol HaDor, And Ashkenazim would never have accepted Rav Ovadia Yosef as The Gadol HaDor either. Of course both communities accept them each as Gedolim but not as the singular Gadol HaDor. Same thing with Lubavitch who thought of their Rebbe that way, or Satmar who thought of thier Rebbe that way, or the MO community who thought of RYBS that way.

    But it is possible to say that if one is considered a Gadol by most of the world and that a significant number of them consider him The Gadol HaDor as well then it has more meaning to it. This was the case with R. Moshe.

    …was yiddishkeit more unified 35-50 years ago. I know there were less yeshivas and day schools. Were we more tolerant of other hashkafos in the 50’s and 60’s

    The answer to that question is yes. People were more tolerant back then. But increased numbers always lead to more divisions amongst Klal Yisroel. It is natural for a group of people who want to emphasize their own Hashkafos to splinter off and make their own schools, Shuls, and other institutions. The more separatist the ideas, the more separated the institutions are and the more separated the groups become. This is what has happened in the US. There are pros and cons to it but one thing is certain. There is far less Achdus because of it.

  2. Neil Harris

    To quote Rav Schwab zt’l, Hashem doesn’t separtate Reform, Conservative, or Othodox. Either you follow Hashem’s Torah, or not.

    But, Rabbi Maryles,Ashkenazim, for the most part, did accept Rav Moshe as The Gadol HaDor. Maybe the problem is that most people don’t want a Gadol Hador. That’s really what I’m trying to get across. With all the “content” and individualims that is present today, maybe people feel they have no room for a Gadol?

    I daven for Moshiach, I daven for health, to see the Tov in things, to be an eved to Hashem, to be a good husband, and to be a good parent. But I’ll be honest. I never thought of davening for a Gadol, until now.

    Thanks for taking a look at what I wrote.

  3. Outoftown

    I think another problem of having a gadol hador or even serious gedolim right now is the rabbis who would be filling that position now were lost in the shoah. So espcially in America, there is a lost generation of gedolim. I think in 20 years, there will be several rabbis who will step up to fill these positions in both the charedi and MO worlds, but right now there just aren’t the numbers of qualified rabbonim with the proper experience. At least I hope this problem will resolve itself in the next generation.

  4. Bari

    I really enjoyed the post, Neil. I agree about the one Gadol thing. There have been Gedolim who were generally accepted by all strata as Gedolim. Nowadays that’s hard to come by.


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