Once upon a time, many years ago there was an era when a Israel yeshiva experience for those without day school background was unknown. It was the euphoria after the Six Day war and young Jews flocked into the city with backpacks and indeterminate plans. Rabbi Elephant of ITRI together with Rabbi David Hartman ran a program called Shapells College (its original name was the Shalom Hartman Institute) for such students. Rabbi Hartman broke off, even though he raised the money, because the program was too yeshivish. On the other hand, Rabbi Brovender left taking with him eight students to found Yeshivat Hamivtar after a kerfuffle from an article in the Shapells College Journal-Petach.
I looked at the article recently in the process of researching a different topic. Once I had a copy, I figured it might be an interesting post. The purpose of the article was to show that the concept of daas Torah is limited by looking to the lack of certainty even in prophecy. The article is framed about the quest for certainty in non-halakhic matters. If one is labeled a gadol, then can his opinions transform the uncertainty of philosophical speculation into quasi-halakhic categories? The article’ basic answer was that if we could not tell if a prophecy in the Bible was true, then we certainly accept the charismatic leaders of our time as certain. The article in general has a rationalist tone, including referencing Eliezer Goldman’s article on prophecy as naturalistic. Below are a few selected paragraphs> Here is the entire article — Chaim Brovender_On the Determination of Non-Halakhic Reality (A Model from the Prophets)_Petach2_9-17
ON THE DETERMINATION OF NON-HALAKHIC REALITY (A MODEL FROM THE PROPHETS) Rabbi Chaim Brovender
An involvement with Torah reflects the attempt of a human being to live with truth. The recognition that man can act in accordance with God’s will and the desire to live accordingly is, in fact, man’s attempt to cleave to absolute truth. However, any attempt to maximalize one’s living in accordance with God’s will, must of necessity recognize and come to grips with an overwhelming contradiction. Torah does not seem to give man a method by which to recognize the “truth” in every case.
Even if we were to accept that all people who have “ideas of the Holy” also recognize that it must be a reality in some context, is it also true that the recognition of this reality implies a reduction of uncertainty in the mind of the beholder? If I recognize spirituality in a fellow human being, can I reduce my doubt about the determination of a non-halakhic question by simply accepting his determination? Does philosophical speculation, for example, become transformed into quasi-halakhic categories when that speculation is done by the spiritual personality?
Certainty is man’s quest but not his lot. Other than those matters where the Torah has determined a method for achieving a formal decision (halakha). any decision rests on man’s capacity to evaluate a particular situation. That man, as an individual, must enter into the decision making process is apparently a basic part of the notion of free choice. Not even God’s spiritual representative, the prophet, was able to effectively remove uncertainty.
A question of some significance arises as a result of our discussion. How is it that the spiritual person (prophet) can mislead. Clearly Hanania possesses spiritual credentials:·Otherwise, would Yirmiyahu heed his words?
In other words, prophetic achievement is not sufficient to guarantee that a person will be able to pass on the prophecy as received to the people of Israel. Since these qualities are variables in the particular prophet, they must be personal, and not prophetic qualities. A person who has greater amounts of these human qualities is the greater prophet. The false prophets were prophets. Their ability to relate to the spiritual directive was unique. However, their personal might was a variable, and at times determinedwhether they would be able to speak prophecy truthfully.
It is not my intention to prejudice the question of whether Maimonides felt that becoming a prophet was entirely in the hands of man or not. On this question refer to A. Goldman, “Prophecy & Choice” (Nevua U’bhirah)
It is possible to claim that there are no non-halakhic problems within Judaism. It is not my intention to debate this position but only to declare that I disagree. It is hard to imagine that Maimonides’ Pardes or that Nahmanides’ dictum, naval b’reshut ha’Tora are Halakhic categories.