Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Shevat 5759 - Feb 10, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
Why are there Differences of Opinion In Judaism?

The following is a translation of Chapter 7 of Loda'as Bo'oretz Darkecho

by Rav Yehuda Greenwald

The following is a translation of Chapter 7 of Loda'as Bo'oretz Darkecho

Part II

The first part discussed the existence of differences and the idea of a disagreement that is lesheim Shomayim. It also dealt with the fact that sometimes very strong language is used to express these differences.

Why Differences About Hashkofo?

Question: "I can understand that there can be a machlokes about halochos or in divrei Torah, but why is it necessary for there to be differences in hashkofos? This is especially harmful in our period, in which the Torah-true should appear united.


We must uproot a popular misconception. Society insists on dwelling on a person's "world outlook," and believes that almost every issue is connected to it. Maran the Mashgiach, HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, said that "world outlook," weltanschauung, is a concept that stems from German philosophy; it means how a person sees the world and implies that each person can create his own world outlook to fit his personality. This way of thinking is also termed "every person with his own truth." This seemingly awards legitimacy to everyone who holds whatever subjective views he fancies.

The Mashgiach added that certainly in the Torah World such a concept of world outlook and "how do I see this" is irrelevant. The only important factor to be taken into consideration is what does the Creator want the world to be like, how does He look at the world, and what does He want from us in every matter. Our personal view does not matter in the least.

We can grasp the Creator's Divine will through studying Torah and shimush talmidei chachomim who know how to reach da'as Torah -- the will of Hashem setting forth how we should act in this world.

This point is unknown to the secular world. They look at the world of Torah and mitzvos as if it were a collection of world outlooks, of which some are wise and others simply strange. They maintain that every individual can either accept or reject each one as he or she pleases. I am afraid that this type of thinking has penetrated somewhat among us too. There are matters of da'as Torah that we mistakenly treat as world outlooks even though sometimes these matters are purely halachic.

A relative once called me up and asked me a question. Her relative had asked her to provide him with an affidavit (formal testimony) stating that during the Holocaust period his family spoke German. This affidavit was necessary for him to lodge a compensation claim against the Germans. Only with that affidavit would he be considered a Holocaust victim. She told me that although her relative had indeed suffered in the Holocaust, the detail that she was requested to confirm, that his family spoke German, was false.

I asked some kollel students what their opinion was and a few said: "It is unquestionably a mitzvah to take every penny possible." This was my feeling too. Nonetheless, I asked two eminent poskim and their reaction was a decisive No: "It is forbidden to sign a false affidavit for monetary gains."

I was extremely shaken up. Despite all of the strong feelings and the hatred we feel towards those beastly oppressors, and even though every human being is revolted by the dreadful iniquity and barbarous acts they committed, the halocho stands firm and clear that a false declaration is prohibited.

This psak has nothing to do with world outlooks, and is not based on any ideologies. It is what the Creator wants from us, and only what He wants from us. One prominent poseik, a member of the Beis Din Tzedek of the Eidah HaChareidis, absolutely prohibits a whole series of false claims against governmental bodies of the State of Israel in all sorts of affairs, although his view about the State of Israel is drastically negative.

A unique point is that gedolei Yisroel are not only concerned with revealing Hashem's will in halachic problems but also in matters of correct views, the affairs of Klal Yisroel, and other current topics. Maran the Chazon Ish once ruled that a Jewish girl must yehoreig ve'al ya'avor -- is obligated to die rather than go to Sheirut Leumi (Women's [Compulsory] National Service).

When National Religious Knesset Members visited him and asked where that ruling is found in the Shulchan Oruch, the Chazon Ish replied staunchly: "We have a fifth part of the Shulchan Oruch." Besides the four standard parts of the Shulchan Oruch in which are ruled all the halochos that every Jew needs, there is an additional part that is needed for decisions pertaining to the government, the world, and general conduct. That part is called da'as Torah, and with it we can rule that one must die and not commit a certain aveiro!

As mentioned, this does not emanate from a subjective world outlook, but the intensive study of a real talmid chochom to know what is Hashem's will in a certain subject. It is exactly like his intensive study to know whether something is muktzah, chometz, gezel, or deception of others.

Now we can understand that just as in halachic matters and Torah study there are differences of opinion, yet "both of these are the words of the living Elokim," so also in questions of guiding Klal Yisroel and actual current problems there are hard-as-nails points of view, but all are the words of Hashem.

The Abundance of Controversies

Question: I still have difficulty in understanding why there are so many disputes, and why there is such hatred and resentment between the various movements.


First, not everyone is privileged to have da'as Torah so that he can be relied upon to rule for am Yisroel in matters of avodas Hashem. There are those who, despite being knowledgeable in Torah, have never engaged in shimush talmidei chachomim or have not done so sufficiently. When there are many such people and they publicly proclaim their views, the number of erroneous views increases. Disagreements that are not lesheim Shomayim also increase. The results: hatred and havoc.

Second, we must remember that our period is called by Chazal ikvesa dimeshicha (the footsteps of Moshiach), and the gemora (Sotah 49b) describes it in the gloomiest of colors. One of the adverse symptoms of this period is that "the truth will be missing." This is, in fact, our present condition. We are perplexed by very fundamental problems and do not always find the simple and agreed-upon truth. The constant spiritual decline of the generations from Mount Sinai onward only escalates the problem.

Naturally it is not inevitable for dissenting opinions and schools of thought to breed hatred. Our mentors have warned their talmidim that hatred should not exist between disagreeing sides. These chachomim demanded of us to show love and brotherhood to all Jews.

The Alter of Kelm writes in a letter discussing the proper spiritual preparation for Elul, "The main motif on which all of the groundwork for holy Elul stands is that we should prepare ourselves to live among people who have views contrasting with our own. We must do this with love and brotherhood although in our hearts and with our views we must remain distant from them" (Kisvei HaSaba MiKelm, I, pg. 44).

The present reality is, however, far from being as it should be, and we do find people expressing themselves in another way altogether.

The Maharal of Prague writes: "There is nothing in the world to which a person is more attracted to than machlokes, and there is nothing more innately harmful than machlokes" (Derech HaChaim, pg. 260). The yetzer hora lures people to amplify their various arguments. This is especially so in the most truly important subjects -- spiritual affairs.

The ba'alei mussar explain (in a drush) what Chazal mean when they say that "any machlokes that is lesheim Shomayim will ultimately persist." When two dealers quarrel about some business deal they will probably make up before Yom Kippur and will forget their disagreement. When, however, the disagreement is lesheim Shomayim, and each side imagines that he is coming to save Kvod Shomayim and Klal Yisroel, there is no chance that either side will give in.

The Netziv of Volozhin, HaRav Naftoli Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Volozhin, writes that this was the sin that caused the churban of the second Beis Hamikdash. Even though "there were tzaddikim, chassidim, and those who toiled over the Torah, they were however not virtuous in their worldly dealings. Because of their groundless hatred for others they suspected anyone who did not act like them in yiras Hashem of being a Tzeduki or an apikores. An excessive practice of this resulted in bloodshed and all possible evils, until finally the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed" (Ha'amek Dovor, introduction to Bereishis).

We must also remember that when the different Torah-true movements in Judaism developed, the Jewish Nation was scattered all over the world. Thousands of miles separated one group from the other, and even one Chassidus from another. This allowed them to develop in a relatively quiet way.

At present the Torah-observant public is concentrated mainly in three large cities: Yerushalayim, Bnei Brak, and New York. In one neighborhood and even on one street you can find living, one next to the other, Chassidim of various Rebbes, Lithuanians, and other groups. The different groups naturally meet each other constantly, and in the wake of this, continual friction exists between the camps.

This troublesome abundance of disputes requires us to act intelligently. Only by using our wits can we rectify the situation of being torn apart one from the other and bridge over the different schools of thoughts and opinions, generating real fraternity and peace. It is, however, most unfortunate that we are living in a generation in which there has been a most drastic decline in reasoned behavior, wherein people are unable to understand and accept other opinions and schools of thought.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.