The Market for Gedolim: A Tale of Supply and Demand

Chaim Saiman writes:

Gadolhood is less about the individual erudition of a given rabbi and more about a social fact, reflecting the experience of a community bound by a concrete conception of Torah, halakha, and rabbinic authority. This sense of authority cannot be manufactured by simply turning to a rabbi to ask a few questions here and there, no matter how great the rabbi or how significant the individual question. Thus, even should the market supply many potential gedolim, a community will not find a gadol unless it truly demands one.

Allow me to offer another example. When viewed from the supply side, there is a good argument to be made that my close friend, R. Ethan Tucker, head of Mechon Hadar, is qualified to be a halakhic decisor and, in time, perhaps a gadol of the community he is building. On occasion, Ethan and I have discussed how his views on a given halakha, or on Halakha as a whole, might penetrate the Orthodox discourse. My own view is that the Orthodox community will be forced to take him seriously when there are identifiable communities committed to living their Jewish lives in accord with his halakhic worldview. However, as long as the halakhic vision of Mechon Hadar remains a niche project, limited to those in the yeshiva’s direct orbit, the broader rabbinic world will feel little need to take it into account. As the Sages put it, “ein melekh belo am.” There is no king without a people.

About Luke Ford

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