Rav Avigdor Miller on The Free Will of the Misnagdim

Q: You said earlier (see yesterday’s Q&A) that a chisaron by the chassidim is that sometimes they put the Rebbe before Hakodosh Boruch Hu because they emulate him too much, which can sometimes cause them to make errors. Don’t the misnagdim do the same with their Roshei Yeshivos? 

Isn’t it true that even among the misnagdim, the followers look up to their Rav and they emulate him? Yes, of course, to some extent. But they don’t have this attitude that it’s everything.

Now,  I said before that there’s a loss in this, and there’s also a benefit. The benefit is that people who are influenced by a chassideshe Rebbe will do more than people ever do for an adam gadol, who is their Rebbe. It’s a fact. Because there’s less independence by a chassideshe Rebbe. With a Rebbe it’s a gzeirasha’kasuv. If a Rebbe says something, it’s always right. And therefore people are more eager to live up to his requirements. Whereas in the case of an adam gadol, a Rosh Yeshiva or someone like that, there’s still a certain amount of free will and criticism. People use their own judgement too.

However we don’t find people fighting over “My Rosh Yeshiva” or “Your Rosh Yeshiva.” They’re not that committed. As I said before, by the chassidim it comes from a lot of love, a lot of commitment. It’s a positive trait, a good thing. You’re committed to your Rebbe! But it has a certain weakness too. Because if people will remain just with that and don’t go further, so it becomes only a cause of fighting and nothing else.

There was fighting in Europe too. Only that in Europe you didn’t have newspapers to publicize it. Here you have the Algemeinar Journal which is making a very bad mistake by writing about it. They shouldn’t be writing about it in the newspapers. These things shouldn’t be spoken about at all! It’s bad enough that it’s happening, but you don’t have to spread it – especially among the irreligious Jews and the goyim.

Now, certainly עשה לך רב is a very great principle. And עשה לך רב doesn’t come to exclude a Rebbe. A Rebbe is also a Rav, no question about it. So the עשה לך רב is a Rosh Yeshiva or the רב is the Chofetz Chaim, zichrono l’vracha, or the רב is Rav Aharon Kotler zichrono l’vracha. Any rav – whether it’s one of these great men, or the רב was Rav Yosef Yitzchok, the old Lubavitcher Rebbeh zichrono l’vracha. Or it was the old Gerrer Rebbe zichrono l’vracha – whoever the Rav is, if you understand that the Rav is only a ladder that you’re climbing up to reach Hakodosh Boruch Hu, then he will lead you to success.

Only that you must know, that your “Rav” shouldn’t be the cause of your undoing. Sometimes by blind allegiance – that means by not thinking and acting on raw emotions – people can use the עשה לך רב just for machlokes. And that’s not the purpose of a Rav or a Rebbe.
TAPE # 165 (April 1976)