Friday, July 30, 2010

A Subtle Sense

Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, once applied a statement of our sages to the leaders of the Jewish people in every generation. “Our sages teach that Moshaich will have the power to ‘sniff out yiras Hashem.’ Similarly, during a din Torah the judge must have this special sense, since it is not enough to merely rely on what he sees and hears. He must also be able to distinguish between a false claim and a true one through his ‘sense of smell.’
“Genuine Jewish leaders in every generation have had this special sense and have used it to determine in every new approach whether its adherents are l’sheim shamayim or not.”
One time a group of respectable people from a certain political party spent some time with the Chofetz Chaim, zt”l. After they left, a bochur was called in and he heard the Chofetz Chaim say to himself, “They think they have successfully deceived me…”
People have a tendency to take such statements to mean that gedolim are somehow infallible since they are definitely afforded great siyaata d’shmayah. Such people can become very disillusioned when confronted with what seems to be a clear error on the part of a gadol. The simple truth is that no human being is infallible. As the Toldos Adam, zt”l, explained, when listing various errors: “From here we see that no person is infallible since even the greatest sages can make a serious error. This does not detract from the greatness of these sages in the slightest. But it does teach that no person is infallible since errors abound.”
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, zt"l, similarly observed, “People say that a tzaddik must always be correct and if he errs this shows he is not a tzaddik.But this is not true. The truth is that even if a tzaddik errs, his mistake remains a mistake but the tzaddik is still a tzaddik."

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