Religion Magazine

Tcheiles and Halachic Debate

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
Rabbi Nachum Eisenstein, a close student of Rav Elyashiv, made a big splash a couple of weeks ago when he was a guest rabbi on the Headlines podcast by R' Dovid Lichtenstein.
The topic of the podcast was parnassah and education (entitled "Halachos of Parnassah and the Tuition crisis") and when asked his opinion about the need for more basic "secular" education so the young men will possibly be able to be more successful with earning a living, Rav Eisenstein was, to put it mildly, unimpressed with the arguments and went into a screaming fit when discussing the topic. Rav Eisenstein concluded that most of the kollel yungerleit survive and it is only a small minority that are misfits and unsuccessful who need to resort to shnorring, and the secret  of the great success of the vast majority of the kollel yungerleit is a miracle and we cannot talk about it so as not to ruin the miracle and make it end. No education necessary.
R' Lichtenstein once again turned to Rav Eisenstein as one of the guest rabbis to comment in his latest podcast, this time on the topic of tcheiles.
The first two rabbis consulted spoke very calmly and lucidly about the various issues. One spoke in support of wearing tcheiles nowadays and went through a variety of proofs from chazal and science to support the conclusions that the tcheiles discovered "recently" is the real thing (or at least likely enough that it would be worth wearing). The second rabbi spoke in opposition, mostly based on mesorah, to wearing tcheiles today. It was a very interesting halachic presentation, with both sides presented.
Tcheiles and Halachic Debate
And then he turned to Rav Nachum Eisenstein. Rav Eisenstein, once again, blew up and went into a screaming rage about how those who wear tcheiles are against the gedolim and their opinions are not valid and the gedolim knew all the proofs and still did not wear it and they are mevatel a mitzva of listening to the chachomim and it is connected to going to Har Habayis, and chadash assur min hatorah (new things are prohibited), yadda yadda yadda. No reasonable discussion, for or against, just railing against those who do differently.
Rav Natan Slifkin wrote some comments worth reading on the topic despite his not wearing tcheiles either and in agreement with some points of Rav Eisenstein's opinion, they diverge from rav Eisenstein's rhetoric.
In light of what Harry Maryles wrote about Rabbi Eisenstein after the podcast on parnassah, considering what the Eisenstein boys were like when he knew them way back in yeshiva, listening to him speak on tcheiles was far more understandable. As HM concludes there, "I think he actually does know all of this. Rabbi Eisenstein is not stupid. But he is partisan. And if the official line of the Charedi world is that young people do not need an education, by golly he’s going to be the one to trumpet that the loudest. Once a Kanoi, always a Kanoi. None of this surprises me. That’s how he was as a student back in HTC. When evaluating anyone’s public comments, it helps to know where they are coming from. That is certainly no less true here."
Basically, if he is not willing to have a halachic discussion on a practical question and discuss the issues and opinions, no matter what his conclusion is, his opinion might be entertaining but it isn't worth much beyond that. His opinion might be good when he is trying to figure out how to behave, or for his own talmidim to figure out what to do, but that rhetoric doe snot have a place in halachic discussion. Even if you conclude that tcheiles should not be worn, or whatever the issue might be, the halacha could be, and should be, analyzed thoroughly and not just washed away with saying that so and so did or did not so that's what we have to do.
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