Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Da’as Torah and the Settler Movement

Da’as Torah is the notion that Jewish religious authorities have special even supernatural knowledge, giving them insight not only into the practice of Judaism, but also everyday life as well. For example, what job to pursue or what policies the government should follow. This concept is usually associated with Haredi Orthodox Judaism. Dr. Samuel Heilman, in discussing the rise of Da’as Torah in modern times, takes it as a given that this applies not only to Haredim, but to the settler movement as well. According to Heilman.  

Da'as Torah evolved into charisma and merged the scholar rabbi with the Hasidic rebbe. In spite of the efforts of the yeshiva world, particularly in its Lithuanian tradition, to remove these associations, the rebbeization of the scholars continued. Scholars became saints, or at least saintly rabbis. Thus Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, head of the Merkaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, and Rabbi Eliezer Schach, yeshiva head at Ponovezh in B'nai B'rak, became for their students no less charismatic figures than the Lubavitcher rebbe or the Belzer rebbe were for their Hasidic disciples. Among the Gush Emunim, some of this has transformed yeshiva heads and scholars into partisan commanders. (Samuel Heilman, “The Vision from the Madrasa and Bes Medrash: Some Parallels between Islam and Judaism” Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Jan., 1996), pg. 24.)

This statement struck me as odd as I am used to thinking of the settler movement as a form of modern orthodoxy. Granted, the settler movement is strongly messianic and even apocalyptic, but I have never seen any tendency to venerate their leaders. It would be one thing for settlers to disobey the Israeli government under orders from their leaders because they believed that Jewish law forbade them to give up land or because intellectually they believed that giving up land was bad policy. But when have settlers claimed that their leaders were, in opposing the government, acting under direct divine inspiration? I am putting a shout out to my readers, some of whom I presume are more knowledgeable about the settler movement than I am. Do you see the settlers as venerating their leaders as a form of Da’as Torah or is Heilman simply talking nonsense here?   


Ben-Yehudah said...


Unfortunately a little bit of this if going on, but not in the direction of holding onto land as policy. Rather the opposite has occurred. Azza fell in 5765 due to "rabbis" using non halachic sources and reasoning and pil pul to create an atmosphere of ambivalence and insecurity in Torah, if not an anti Zionist approach of "let's wait around for Moshiah," and throwing around the only line in the Talmud Yerushalmi they seem to want to admit knowing, "Qim'a, qim'a..." (slowly, slowly...). IOW, wait around for Moshiach.

Please see this important 40 minute to know what I'm talking about.


"Those who ask a halachic question are entitled to a halachic answer." -Rav Meir Kahane hy"d.

...and "da'as Torah" is NOT a halachic answer...

(Found your blog again through Eric Rosenberg)

Garnel Ironheart said...

Ah, so I'm glad you posted on this.
One huge misconception in North America is that Religious Zionism (I should post on this) is just Modern Orthodoxy in Israel. This is completely untrue.
While one can make the case that Modern Orthodox folks are religious Zionists in that they are religious and also support the concept of the modern state of Israel, Religious Zionism as a movement is quite different.
First, Rav Kook, his son, and other founders of the movement were Chareidi rabbonim who distinguished themselves from their peers by being Zionist, not in any form of other religious observance. Rav Kook had far more in common with Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld than he did with any North American MO rabbi.
Second, Rav Kook's background is misnagdish - he was a prize student at Volozhin - but he was definitely influenced by chasidus - he was close with the 2nd Gerrer rebbe, for example. Perusing through Orot HaKodesh it's easy to see that influence and it explains why Religious Zionist thought contains elements of both Litvish and Chasidish origin.
Finally, the reason Daas Torah isn't as big a factor in Religious Zionist circles today is because RZ has undergone a phenomenon similar to what Chabad has gone through since the Rebbe died, and before them the Bratzlovers. In both those groups one leader stood out so much that there could be no successor for him. In RZ circles, both Rav Kooks filled a similar role so that there is no single leader within the movement that cane claim a level necessary to imitate the Daas Torah phenomenon in chareidi circles.

no one said...

very nice garnel

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Thank you.

Batya said...

You'll never get it from your vantage in NY. MO is an American religion. The messianics are those who think there can be "peace through negotiations." yby is right; watch the movie.