Who Is The Most Highly Regarded Haredi Torah Scholar?

Marc B. Shapiro, history professor, writes:

…opponents of R. Steinman have been very harsh in their evaluation of him, and a steady stream of publications has appeared designed to show that his views are not in line with the haredi Daas Torah going back to the Chazon Ish and continuing through R. Elyashiv’s leadership. These publications have also attempted to show that he does not have the level of Torah scholarship required to lead the haredi world. Yet R. Chaim Kanievsky, who throughout the controversy has been the most vocal in attacking R. Auerbach and his followers, has, as far as I know, never been subject to written criticism. All of the many attacks on R. Steinman simply omit mention of R. Kanievsky even though R. Kanievsky stands together with R. Steinman. One who claims that R. Steinman’s views are not in line with “correct” haredi thinking must assume that R. Kanievsky has also departed from the “proper” haredi path, which is a difficult position for most haredim to adopt. At the end of the day, R. Kanievsky is the most highly regarded Torah scholar in the haredi world, and if he has subordinated himself to R. Steinman, that will be enough for almost all haredim even if they do have questions about some of R. Steinman’s liberal positions…

I would like to make just one more point about the term gadol ha-dor which is now so important and means the most prominent Torah leader of the generation. I think it is the equivalent of the term manhig ha-dor and is parallel to the other term that has popped up in recent decades, posek ha-dor. Regarding posek ha-dor, since the passing of R. Elyashiv, and then R. Wosner, I haven’t seen the term used for anyone in the Ashkenazic haredi world, and there is no one towering halakhic figure (although one is bound to emerge). In the Sephardic world, after the passing of R. Ovadiah Yosef, both R. Yitzhak Yosef and R. Meir Mazuz have emerged as posek ha-dor as well as gadol ha-dor. When it comes to gadol ha-dor in the Ashkenazic haredi world, both R. Steinman and R. Auerbach are regarded as such, and my sense is that many also regard R. Kanievsky as the gadol ha-dor even though he himself claims that R. Steinman holds this position…

I cannot recall a gadol who did not have enemies who tried to tear him down…

It is almost impossible for one to be removed from “gadol” status once he has been elevated to this level. I think we can be very proud that in the long history of gedolim there are no examples – at least I am not aware of any – where gedolim lost their status because of immoral behavior…

As far as I know, there is not even one scholarly article about R. Steinman, which is surprising, to say the least, since he is the single most important haredi rabbinic leader.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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