Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why I Have My Serious Doubts Rav Kanievsky Said That People In Israel Would Be In Bomb Shelters For Chanukkah

I don't know if he said it. Geulah Perspectives first reported it, then took down the contents of the post. As he writes in an update:
I have received a lot of response to the post entitled "Rav Kanievsky's Psak" and I have taken down the post, and I am still not putting it back up for the time being. There is someone who will be asking Rav Kanievsky directly whether these statements were indeed made, and also whether he feels it is appropriate that they be made public knowledge. In any event, I will defer to his wishes.
The problem is that many things are reported in various rabbi's names when they were actually made up, misattributed, or misunderstood. A prime example of this was a rumor, reported and subsequently debunked by "yaak" of Yeranen Yaakov, {oops! link was wrong, now corrected} that Rav Chaim Kanievsky instructed his family to buy a new suit for Thursday, when he would greet mashiach. Read there for how it was misunderstood.

In a previous post, I explained how if Rav Kanievsky shlita really said this, we are not put into the Lord-Liar-Lunatic trilemma, such that we are compelled to accept this as Daas Torah, or such that if he is wrong, we would (chas veshalom) think less of him.

But I am not at all convinced that Rav Kanievsky actually said this, as I will not explain.

In the present case, while the author began his post with "this is not a rumor," if you read it carefully you will discover that in fact major critical portions of it are indeed rumor. I saved a copy on parshablog, so it is available here.

1) The bomb shelters -- was from R' Levi's 14 year old daughter, who heard at her friend's house that someone had asked, and received this reply. The someone was not specified by name. So, rumor. Geulah Perspectives can vouch for the anonymous R' Levy, but this is someone else entirely. Now, R' Levy was able to get in contact with the person who asked Rav Kanievsky and received the bomb-shelter response, a young man named Reuven. But while Geulah Perspectives can vouch for R' Levy, he cannot vouch for Reuven's accuracy. And even R' Levy seems not to know Reuven personally.

Not that I think Reuven would lie. But it is quite possible that Rav Kanievsky said something that Reuven misinterpreted. He asked about having a wedding on Chanukka. Now Moed Katan 8b prohibits a wedding on Chol HaMoed or Yom Tov. But Purim and Chanukka are permitted. So that was not the reason for the answer. (Though the reasoning of the gemara is that if it were permitted, people would delay until that point, when people have off, thus delaying fulfillment of the Biblical command.) But perhaps the chassan wanted to delay the wedding until Chanukka, thus postponing the mitzvah deOrayta. After all, when he asked it, it was almost two months away. And it is possible that wedding halls were available earlier. And so Rav Kanievsky might have said to have it earlier -- because who knows, given the current state of the world and Israeli security, we might all be in bomb shelters on Chanukka.

I have no idea that this is actually what happened in the exchange. But it is certainly possible that this, or something similar, occurred, and Reuven misinterpreted it to be an absolute prediction of what would occur on Chanukkah. Just as Rav Kanievsky was misinterpreted in terms of buying a suit to greet mashiach, when really he said buy a suit for the wedding, and who knows, perhaps mashiach will come by then and we can use it to greet mashiach.

The above was what I had prepared before the update. Now that he has updated, he has researched and clarified that R' Levi did not actually contact Reuven, the one who asked Rav Kanievsky, about this. Rather, he heard it from someone who heard it, etc., such that it was not confirmed at all. Thus, it is quite possible that this was either entirely made up, or more likely, a case of broken telephone along the lines of what I described above. For in the update, he wrote:
It became clear that in my excitement about the story, I had misunderstood what Rav Levy had said. As it turned out, Rav Levy had heard the story from his son-in-law Dovid who had in turn heard it from another rav in the neighborhood, 'Rav Stein.' When I subsequently spoke to Dovid directly, he said that Rav Stein had heard both the story about the bomb shelters (his wording was 'bunkers') and the story about buying property from two different sources. Rav Stein could not remember from whom he had heard the story about the bomb shelters, and thus could not verify it. In the original version of the story as Rav Stein had heard it, someone came to Rav Kanievsky asking if he should make his chasunah on a certain date in Kislev of this year. Rav Kanievsky responded and said that he should not make the wedding on that date as we would be in bunkers. Again, this story could not be verified.
2) In terms of the prices of apartments going down, such that one should not buy at this point, he heard this from Shimon, another unnamed person who may have misunderstood. Again, you need to actually hear this firsthand to get the full impression, but it may have been intended as that the economic times are hard, and who knows, prices of apartments might well go down, and you will lose all this money you put in. To take so much money and invest it in real estate at this point may well be financially imprudent, and it makes more sense to rent for a few more months, until the market settles.

That is, this question was not one of psak. But everyone annoys gedolim with questions like this, such that the gadol is overloaded. It is seeking a blessing from a rebbe. But they also seek direction, and he gave prudent financial advice. The thing is that I could have given similar advice. But had I said it, it would not be interpreted as a prediction, because of information from on high. Maybe Rav Kanievsky had this information from Eliyahu haNavi, but maybe not. And perhaps he was ambiguous, and Shimon interpreted it this way.

3) Did R' Levy's speaking to Rav Kanievsky clarify matters? It appears not. From the description of it, it is very difficult to actually speak at length with Rav Kanievsky. As Geulah Perspectives writes:
"I subsequently spoke to Dovid a number of times, and at first we thought that perhaps we could confirm the story by asking Reb Chaim directly whether he had indeed said these things. Dovid went first on Tuesday night and then on Wednesday night to Reb Chaim, but the first time he was too late to speak to him. The second time he was one of the last people in and was unable to get to this question, as he had another important and pressing question to ask."
When R' Levy asked the question, it was a lengthy question about the chasuna, and whether it should be in Eretz Yisrael or in America. And Rav Kanievsky read it and apparently gave a rather short answer -- יותר טוב שיהיה פה, and when pressed verbally, said again יותר טוב שיהיה פה. This is certainly not enough to endorse the idea that the apocalypse is coming on Chanukkah and that everyone will be in bunkers.

However, about the letter that was presented:
"We have heard that the Rav [meaning Reb Chaim Kanievsky] has said that some serious things are going to be happening in the near future," and Reb Chaim read the entire letter very carefully and did not make any comment to the contrary of this statement.
But Rav Kanievsky neither confirmed nor denied this one sentence, among many others. And one might say shetika kehodaah, but this might not be true when an individual is overloaded and is prioritizing. And as expressed, Rav Kanievsky might even have agreed to it. He said that he thought the words situation was pressing, and that some serious things might be happening. But not that this was a prediction altz ruach hakodesh. Or else, by saying יותר טוב שיהיה פה, he was saying that he did not think there would be such serious problems in Israel.

Or, it did not have anything to do with that point at all. After all, there were other real concerns. Should one prioritize friends or family here? Should one subject them to this extraordinary expense? He could have been answering on the significant merits of one possible course of actions over the other, and not have been addressing that one line within the letter at all.

Also the letter did not specify exactly what Rav Kanievsky was alleged to have said. It should have specifically mentioned bomb shelters on Chanukkah, or the falling prices of real estate. Then Rav Kanievsky could have confirmed or denied it. As it is, it remains shrouded whether Rav Kanievsky understood this part of the question (for it was not phrased properly) and whether the questioner understood Rav Kanievsky's response.

4) It does indeed come down to what Rav Kanievesky said:
כל מה שאומרים בשמי הוא שקר
The problem is, how do I know this statement is true? After all, it was said in Rav Kanievsky's name!

But it is a problem when a gadol is overloaded with people asking questions, from the minor to the major. And when they are therefore not really approachable, in order to answer these types of questions. One cannot simply call up Rav Kanievsky and say "Hey rabbi! did you say, or did you not say that we would be in bunkers on Chanukkah?" Because so many people are trying to get access, you need to wait in line, and possibly write it down, and get a very short and possibly ambiguous response. This is not a good situation, and it is unclear what can be done to rectify it.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin