When Do Big Rabbis Become Small Rabbis?

In his third lecture on Rabbi Chalom Messas for Torah in Motion, Rabbi Marc B. Shapiro says:

I don’t think Rabbi Yitzhak Abadi has any following. He learned his whole life in the Litvisha world. Rav Abadi was the posek in Lakewood. People would wait in line after mincha to ask him questions.

For many people, the office makes the person. If certain rosh yeshiva left YU, nobody would hear of them. If Rav Schachter left YU, he’d still be big.

Rav Abadi goes to Israel and opens up a little yeshiva in Har Nof, Jerusalem.

A student of Rav Abadi (Syrian) says his father went to Israel to find the rav. He went to his apartment building and asked a person where was Rav Abadi? The person didn’t know. The father started crying. Rav Abadi was the posek of the Lakewood Yeshiva and now he was unknown.

Rav Abadi’s biggest student in America is Rav Baruch Simon.

There is no question that Rav Abadi is brilliant. Sometimes it is the breaks. He had these controversies with the rosh yeshiva‘s [R. Shneur Kotler’s] wife at Lakewood. These yeshivot are often family institutions. He was more popular than the rosh yeshiva.

R. Shneur Kotler’s inherited Lakewood when he was young and then he had to spend much of his time fundraising. He was not on Rav Abadi’s level in Torah learning. It became obvious to people. This created problems with Shneur Kotler’s wife and the Kotlers started to pressure Rav Abadi to leave. It became untenable for him.

After Rav Abadi left, and this is what the Kotler family will never forgive, they appointed three or four rabbis to take his place and decide Jewish law for the yeshiva. These new rabbis turned their back on their rebbe (Rav Abadi) and wanted nothing to do with him.

Rav Abadi is an original posek but with little influence (because of the Kotler family). One Kotler son had a website to take questions and he would write back with such chutzpah, saying we don’t need to explain the psak.

Everything Rav Abadi says is based on halacah and Shulchan Aruch, only we don’t know anymore because everything we do in kashrut is chumras and not the standard halacah. The Kotler family could’ve turned him into a leading rav in America. The problem was one of the Kotler sons.

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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