Dec 6, 2009

"Seeking Daas Torah" - argh!

The pervasive and incorrect usage of the phrase "daas Torah," in recent years is getting quite annoying. If a halachic question is asked of a qualified rabbi, the answer is the rav's psak. If a non-halachic question is asked of a qualified rabbi, rebbetzin, zaide, parent, the answer may be an eitza or an opinion.

Now the word "dei'ah" (as in daas) means opinion, but that is certainly not how the phrase "daas Torah" is currently being used by certain segments of the yeshivishe world. Not until the rise of the Chasidic movement do we find that people consulted Torah scholars for business, medical etc. advice and followed it blindly. And the Misnagdim found this extremely objectionable! It is extremely peculiar that many non-Chasidic people today have taken on this "blind faith" approach to non-halachic issues which they have termed "daas Torah."

R' Chaim Volozhiner (Ruach Chaim 1:4) writes: It is forbidden for a student to accept his teacher's words if he has questions on them. In other words, according to R' Chaim V. there is no such thing as blindly accepting what someone tells you. You might choose to because you think the person has good advice, but people were not indoctrinated with the idea of daas Torah until recent decades.

In the "Ruach Chaim" of Rav Chaim Volozhiner on the Mishna in Avos, "Marbeh eitzah marbeh sevunah," he says that when seeking advice, you should ask numerous people, collect all the different opinions, and then use their collective wisdom to make a decision for yourself, since you ultimately know your situation better than anybody, but others are perhaps wiser than you, so if you combine their wisdom and apply it to your self-knowledge, you will have good advice.

This was certainly the approach in Litvishe circles up until recently.  But now, in frum publications you can find the misuse of the "daas Torah" phrase such as (in an article about herbal medicine this disclaimer:) "In serious medical situations, it is important to consult daas Torah ..." This sounds ludicrous. If there is a shaila to be asked, it is asked of a rav or posek!

Even worse (as seen in a popular frum publication): "They got daas Torah not to ... "


Never was such a phrase heard in the history of the Jewish people until the past few years and for good reason! It's ridiculous! If someone got advice not to do something, they should say so. If someone got a psak not to do something, they should say so. "They got daas Torah"?! What on earth does that mean?

This "daas Torah" phrase, which has crept into our speech, obscures rather than clarifies. It implies that the person who was consulted gave a ruach ha'kodesh type of answer which cannot be disagreed with, when it was nothing of the kind. Please oh please, avoid using this phrase!
Let's get back to saying:

"I asked my rav ..."

"I consulted with my rosh yeshiva ..."

"I discussed the matter with the mashgiach to get his opinion ..."

"I spoke with my Rebbetzin ..."

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