Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rav Kanievsky's psak - part two

I have not had peace of mind this entire week. One of the things I hold dear in my life is the midah of Emes. I try to be true to that midah in my business dealings, in my family life and in any area where it applies. It was partly for this reason that I was so excited about the story of Rav Kanievsky's psak. Here was a story that for all intents and purposes was completely verified and strikingly pertinent in a quite immediate sense. Or so I thought.

I wrote the email and and posted the story on my blog ( on last Sunday evening after first hearing Rav Levy's story directly from his mouth. The story was striking enough that through Monday over a thousand individual hits were registered on my blog. This did not include the numerous people that saw it via forwarded emails.

When I came home Monday from my morning seder my wife had already received two phone calls from friends about the email/post, and she also happened to be on the phone with Rav Levy's daughter for an unrelated reason. This was Rav Levy's daughter who is married to 'Dovid' - the son-in-law who is working on the project that involves constant consultation with Rav Kanievsky.

My wife tells me that she said that the story with the bomb shelters was not confirmed. I was surprised at this, to say the least. I had understood from Rav Levy that he had verified the story himself.

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.

In regards to the second part of the story involving the property purchase, I spoke directly to Rav Stein and he told me that he heard it from a reliable source.

I was understandably perplexed by this information, and my wife advised me to immediately remove the post from my blog. As far as the emails were concerned, I wasn't at first aware as to how far they had spread, and I also did not want to send out another email until I had more information. I thought that perhaps it would be possible to actually confirm the first part of the story as well. If that would indeed be possible, sending out multiple emails would only make the story into a more confusing mess.

What made matters more complicated was the following story that happened to Dovid's chevrusa.

Dovid's chevrusa came to Reb Chaim Kanievsky with a question. He had heard from one source that R' Chaim had said that if you donate to a certain organization you will merit that your children will stay on the path of Torah. A different source quoted R' Chaim as saying that it is impossible to guarantee that all of your children will stay on the path.

Rav Kanievsky resonded and said, "כל מה שאומרים בשמי הוא שקר" - anything said in my name is false.

Basically, it seems Reb Chaim was saying that until you hear it from his mouth as it applies to your situation, you can not be sure it applies to you. People have a way of hearing what they want to hear, and interpreting things as they wish to interpret them, not per se maliciously, but naturally a person understands what he hears through the lens of his own experience.

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.

I realized that even if we would ask the question, in all likelihood his response would just be, "כל מה שאומרים בשמי הוא שקר" - anything said in my name is false.

The bottom line of this whole story is that I have come to the realization that until one hears a story directly from the mouth of the one who experienced it, it should be taken with a grain of salt. It can be taken seriously, especially if it is coming from a reliable source, however even the most reliable source, and even the people themselves who experienced the story will only have understood what has happened from their own vantage point. That being the case, it would be wise to take heed, but at the same time be guardedly cautious.

As a final note, when trying to make heads or tails of this story, people have expressed the need to understand why Rav Kanievsky would make a statement that indicates there is danger here in Israel, but then say that a chasuna should be held here despite that. So I think it is important to note something that I clarified later with Rav Levy about the letter he wrote presenting the question to Rav Kanievsky. He specifically told me that he included a line in his letter saying, "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. Dovid also told me that he personally asked Reb Chaim three questions involving the issue of people being encouraged to move to Israel and whether people considering leaving Israel should indeed leave. His response to these questions was that if possible, people should indeed come here, and whether people should leave Israel, he said simply עדיף פה - better here. Would he say this for you? I don't know. If you want to know how to get your shaila to him, I would be happy to help. In any event, it doesn't take a great chacham to look at what's going on in the world and see that there is danger here. Nevertheless, Reb Chaim is telling people generally to come here and stay here. Clearly he feels that not only is it safe here, it is better to be here than anywhere else in the world.

May Hashem guide us all to do His will and may we all merit to see and hear only בשורות טובות.

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