Rabbis as authoritarians and teachers

I have posted some articles on this subject describing the overwhelming authoritarian mode-of-operations of many Orthodox rabbis as a reason for the Jewish majority not to follow spiritual guidelines of those rabbis.

Indeed, the Jewish majority defines the mission of a rabbi in the following way:

Rabbi literally means “teacher” in Hebrew. In the Jewish community, a rabbi is viewed not only as a spiritual leader but also as a counselor, a role model and an educator. The rabbi leads spiritual services, such as Shabbat services and High Holy Day services on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.  He or she will also officiate at life-cycle events such as Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs, baby naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals.

However, a recent statement by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, the Head of Yeshivat Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish matters, took me again to the subject.

Rabbi Melamed:

Concerning a person who contends with his rabbis, our Sages, Chazal said: “Whoever contends against the ruling of his teacher is seen as though he contended against the Divine Presence, Shechinah, and whoever quarrels with his teacher is seen as though he quarreled with the Shechinah” (Sanhedrin 110a; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 242:2). They question, resent, quarrel and oppose our teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook zts”l and all his students, among whom are their own parents and teachers.

Rabbi Melamed is changing the very essence of one of the most important Torah concepts. The Torah declares any human is created in the image and likeness of God – rabbi Melamed wants his students-humans to be created in his own image and likeness.

Rabbi Melamed deifies the role of a rabbi – he requires his constituency (in a synagogue, in a yeshiva) to obey his rules of behavior and not to exercise their individual freedom of thinking that may bring a different behavioral decision.

The Orthodox rabbinical majority agrees with the definition of rabbi as authoritarian. I know it firsthand. For many years, I have been trying to discuss with many orthodox rabbis in Israel and the USA the application of Torah guidance to my own Jewish life in political, social, scientific and spiritual realms of the Judeo-Christian countries where I has been living. And I discovered that for a truly orthodox rabbi a Torah-based discussion with an ordinary Jew is a sort of insult to his position of authority – he believes he is to rule, not to discuss.

A truly orthodox rabbi may believe he is not an authoritarian – he is a teacher. If it is so, what kind of teacher is he? There two types of teachers.

Some teachers teach the dogmas in their fields of education and demand from the students to follow unquestionably the dogmas. Those teachers believe in the unchangeable world – they believe what God created at the Beginning remains unchangeable. If it is so, the dogmas created at the beginning are applicable nowadays.

Other teachers teach how the dogmas were created and how to change them if the life-changing circumstances make the dogmas inapplicable. Those teachers believe God created the world developing – developing along the laws of nature created by God Himself. As a scientist, I am with this group.

Published by Vladimir Minkov

Vladimir Minkov Ph.D. is a nuclear scientist, published author and writer. He is the co-author of "Nuclear Shadow Boxing", a scientific history of the nuclear confrontation between the Soviet Union and USA during the cold war and is the author of many books on the Jewish identity in the Judeo-Christian civilization. Having lost much of his family in the Holocaust and finding his search for spiritual development stifled in the Soviet Union, Vladimir migrated to the United States in the late 1970s. Here in the USA Vladimir work as a scientist on various peaceful applications of nuclear energy together with American and Soviet/Russian scientist. After his retirement, he concentrated his efforts on the study of the morality of the Judeo-Christian Western Civilization connecting the morality of public life with the morality of religious life with the emphasis on the USA and the State of Israel.

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