In the story where Yoshiyahu Hamelech did not allow Paroh Nechoh to pass through Eretz Yisroel and as a result, it led to his death, what wrong did Yoshiyahu commit by not consulting Yirmiyahu, if he used his own judgement to make his decision?
To come to a decision in Torah or a decision in public policy, you must use all the facilities at your disposal. Suppose a person is lost. He’s sitting in his car. He’s lost. So, the common sense procedure is, the first gas station or the first policeman he meets, he asks directions. To ignore such a simple expedient means that this man is reckless – he may wander lost the whole day!
Now, in Torah matters it’s common sense that the great Torah authorities are the ones most competent to guide the people. But here we have to add, not only in Torah matters, but in all matters of public policy, the gedolei yisroel are the ones most fitted for this function.
People don’t understand that. The gedolei yisroel are the ones who should make public policy! People think, let’s say, that Rav Kamenetzky in Monsey or Rav Moshe Feinstein on the East Side, they are good for asking them a question in halacha, especially when you want a kulah, a leniency. You call them up and he says yes, so now you can say “Rav Moshe Feinstein said it’s muttar.” That’s all you need. But to ask him about a matter of public policy? Not necessary, you think, because my head is as good as his head.
But that’s a fallacy! Because these people have have tens of thousands of precedents that they are studying. The Torah is full of precedents, the Gemara is full of precedents. Each precedent teaches a lesson. Now, even if they don’t think of the source; let’s say you ask Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, “Should the State of Israel do this or that?” so even though he doesn’t think of the blatt gemara, or the chapter that it is, but he has patterns in his mind. The Gadol has patterns in his mind, established according to the precedents he studies. So, automatically, when he advises, he’s following the patterns in his mind, Torah patterns. And the Torah is the ultimate source of wisdom.
Of course, if you want to ask how you can repair your leaking radiator, don’t go to him. But if you have questions relating to matters of public policy, of behaviors of communities, or of how to deal with people, there are so many precedents in the Torah, that a Gadol automatically knows what to do. But if you ignore the opportunities, it means you are reckless, because it means that you disregard the Torah as the real source of advice. By disregarding the Torah as the true source of advice and relying merely on your own inferior abilities, that’s considered a refusal to listen. Because listening means to listen to the ones who are most competent.
TAPE # 24 (May 1974)