New York – Today’s Daf (Bava Basra 155a): Infallibility and Rabbinic Leaders

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    New York – There is a Mitzvah in the Torah to listen to the greatest Torah leaders in the generation. The Mitzvah is “Lo sasuru min hadavar asher yagidu lecha Yamin usmol.”

    A careful reading of the Sefer HaChinuch, however, reveals that this does not mean that our leaders are infallible. The reason for the Mitzvah is so that there will not be pandemonium- where everyone does whatever he or she wants. Just as an army cannot function when soldiers do not listen to their general, so too must we listen to our Torah leaders as well.

    Today’s Daf (Bava Basra 155a) seems to indicate that, at times, our Torah leaders can be misled – at least temporarily. Our sages made an enactment that a young man who inherited land even though he may be Bar Mitzvahed must be 20 years old (or 18 according to another opinion) for the sale to be valid. An exception to this rule is if the youth has demonstrated an acumen for business. Otherwise, we assume that he does not realize the value of property and just wants the cash.

    There was a case where such a young man sold property that he had inherited from his father to some purchasers. The family members of this young men wished to reverse the sale and told the young man to eat dates and spit out the pits in front of Rava, the head of the Bais Din, adjudicating the case. When Rava noticed his behavior he reversed the sale.

    The purchasers realized that a scam was pulled and told the young man that the Bais Din was overcharging them for the Sofer who was writing up the ruling and that he should complain. The young man did so and thus demonstrated that he did have a sense of business acumen. Rava reversed his earlier ruling.

    Although at the end, Rava arrived at the correct psak din, we do see that unscrupulous individuals can, on occassion, or temporarily, mislead even the greatest Rabbis of our generation. Some meforshim have explained that the seyata deshmaya [Divine assistance] of a generation’s leaders is dependent upon the spiritual level of the generation.

    At times some of the Gedolim will be able to see through those that are attempting a manipulation when others do not. When such a manipulation is attempted, those unscrupulous individuals may accuse those who are trying to set the record straight as being “Mevaze Gedolim.” Nothing is further from the truth, and this should be recognized as a manipulation as well.

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