Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Tammuz 5761 - July 11, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Ish Al Ho'eidoh -- A Man Over the Congregation

by L. Jungerman

Excerpts from the letters of Maran HaGaon R' Yitzchok Hutner zt'l

"Let Hashem, the G-d of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation . . . "

Our Torah scholars are the eyes of the nation, and eyes are the windows to the soul. One can get to know a person through his eyes and one can similarly know the spirit and soul of a congregation through its Torah scholars. The eyes are located in the head, in the uppermost part of a person's body -- and this is the suitable place for a Torah scholar, at the head of the community, at the height of its collective stature. And only when he occupies this respected position can the community see its way forward, through him.


In all towns, the town clock used to be placed on a steeple, high up for everyone to see. But if one wished to reach this clock for some reason, he had to climb a ladder. Clever people used to give two reasons for placing the clock up so high: one external and one internal. The external obvious reason is so that it could be seen from afar. The internal reason was to keep it out of reach of the masses. Indeed, the purpose of the clock was to establish the correct time for the townspeople. People would adjust their own timepieces according to the time on the face of the town clock. Were it accessible to one and all by being placed lower down, say the clever ones in the town, people would always be tampering with the town clock. Instead of adjusting their clocks and watches, they would adjust the town clock respectively to conform to the time they had, and it would be marching forward and backward all the while.

To our regret, there are many communities which do not see the necessity of placing their rabbinical authority "on a high place." And if he is relegated to a position of low stature, everyone feels free to approach him and bend the rov's opinion to his particular representation and interpretation. It turns out that the position becomes superfluous since it no longer has any meaning and carries no clout. The secret is to find a high place, a pedestal, upon which to place the moro d'asro, so to speak. The height will obviate the individual's ability to manipulate him, or to impose his opinion on the moro d'asro as he likes.


Chazal say that if a person has a member of the family who is sick, he should go to a wise man (chochom) and request that he intercede for mercy for him through prayer (Bovo Basra 116). This is difficult to understand for it is well known that the power of prayer is primarily attributed to righteousness rather than wisdom. It is the tzaddik whom one must approach to intercede in prayer, as we find stated in Rashi in the beginning of Parshas Toldos: There is no comparison to the prayer of a tzaddik ben tzaddik and the prayer of a tzaddik ben rosho. Yet here we find that the Sages advise that one go to a wise man so that he ask for mercy for the sick person through his prayer.

We find elsewhere that the prayer of a king's servant before his master is more effective even than that of a minister before the king. Is not a Torah sage similar to a royal minister? True, and even though, generally speaking, the prayer of a tzaddik who is like a servant of the king is preferable and more effective than that of a wise man who compares to a minister, nevertheless there does exist an advantage in the sage who is compared to the minister.

This is because his prayer is likened to the prayer of the many, that is, as a minister he represents the public, the people, rather than an individual, even though that individual, the servant, may be more familiar and closer to the king. And we have been promised that "The A-mighty will not repulse the prayer of the masses . . . " The wise scholar incorporates within him a portion of the general body of the community of Israel, therefore, his prayer is in the category of the prayer representing the many.


The Torah study of those who are the exalted ones, privy to the inner chambers of the palace of the king, permanent residents in the tents of Torah, creates within them a very special feeling for understanding the history of the people. Its soul and spirit, manifested through the events of the years, lies in their hearts and illuminates their inner awareness. This is a special feeling, the intuitive sensitivity of talmidei chachomim to feel the pulse of the nation through the events that transpire.

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