Lamentations: First Kinah – Lines 23-24 Part Two
“Leaders were hanged by their hand because they plundered and robbed the loot of the poor.” We also have to define how we would apply the first part of the stanza to our generation; “Leaders were hanged by their hand.” God forbid should it ever literally happen to our leaders and teachers.
I believe that the Midrash quoted above provides the key to understanding both the cause and effect of this stanza; The Midrash says that when the governors began to hang the best of the city that the elders went to protest and were ignored. Our leaders, too, are ignored. Major political decisions are made in Israel without the guidance of the Gedolim. Only the Yeshiva world follows their guidance when it comes to issues closer to home in the United States. Different parts of the Orthodox community “don’t accept” the authority of the leaders of the Yeshiva world, or claim to have their own Gedolim, who often disagree. Elements of the community who have left the confines of the Yeshiva years ago to go out into the world no longer feel bound by the Gedolim and are cynical about their authority.
The Chazon Ish wrote that, “One of the major spiritual issues of our times was and would continue to be the questioning of the authority of the Torah leaders of the generation. People would claim that our teachers are not as great as those of previous generations and are not qualified to deal with the major issues of the times. People would find it easy to say that someone is not a true Talmid Chacham and therefore we are not obligated to listen to him.” Although there are many who do listen to our Torah leaders there are far too many who do not. We find that our leaders are ignored just as were the elders who protested the hangings mentioned in the Kinah. We cannot simply criticize those who do not follow the Gedolim. We must also address the reasons why.
The fact that we live in an egalitarian society that stresses independence plays a major role in this issue. But if people felt that their teachers had something important to say, wouldn’t they be more apt to listen? If Yeshiva graduates had developed adequate respect for their teachers wouldn’t they pay more attention to what the Roshei Yeshiva had to say? Is the problem entirely the shortcomings of those who do not pay attention? Or, is there an issue in how the Gedolim speak and what they say? Is this problem partly a result of shortcomings in the Yeshiva system? Do students feel that their teachers did not address their more practical issues providing meaningful and practical advice? If they left Yeshiva feeling that their most burning issues were not addressed how can they feel that their teachers have what to say about the important issues facing society?