Council of Torah Sages
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Council of Torah Sages

A Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah[1] (Hebrew: ‎, "Council of [great] Torah Sages") is the supreme rabbinical policy-making council of the Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah movements. Rabbis sitting on the various Moetzos are usually either one of the more prestigious Roshei Yeshiva (heads of yeshivas) or Hasidic rebbes who are also usually regarded by many Haredi Jews to be the Gedolim ("great/est") sages of Torah Judaism. Before the Holocaust it was the supreme authority for the World Agudath Israel in Europe.

Name

The component words of the name are transliterated in a variety of ways. This is frequently done as Moetzet,[2][3] and less frequently as Gedolai[4][5][6] and ha-Torah[4][6] or ha Torah.[5] The phrase is regularly shortened to Moetzes or The Moetzah.

History

In Europe

Prior to World War II, only one such body existed, the World Agudath Israel .[7] The Council of Torah Sages was established following the establishment of Agudath Israel in Katowice in 1912.[8] It was decided at the time that two councils would be set up for the movement: a council of homeowners and a council of rabbis[9] in which there will be members of Torah giants around the world.[10]

In the United States

The Moetzes of Agudath Israel of America serve as religious decisors, leadership, and political and policy liaisons with state and federal government agencies on behalf of many American Orthodox Jews.[1][11][12] The council, consisting primarily of rosh yeshivas and Hasidic rebbes, directs Agudath's policies and leadership. Formerly known as the Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah, the body was founded in 1948.[13] It sets all major policies, and guides the organization according to its precepts of Da'as Torah.

In Israel

The Moetzet (usually transliterated with an ending "t") of Agudat Yisrael likewise constituted the Israeli Ashkenazic Haredi community's religious policy leadership, and exercises strong control over political matters for strongly observant Israelis, such as joining government coalitions.[14][15]

Prior to Degel HaTorah's late 1980s break from Agudat Israel (because of the dominance of the Polish Hasidic groups), there was only one Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah in Israel.[16] With the breakaway (led by Rabbi Elazar Shach), two separate, at times complementary, councils were created.

The Haredi Sephardi Jews of Israel had also at one time followed the leadership of the Moetzet of Agudat Yisrael when it was still a body that generally spoke for most of Israel's Haredim. Eventually, however, the Haredi Sephardim broke with their Ashkenazi counterparts (again because of the dominance of the Polish Hasidic groups), and established the Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah ("Council of [wise] Torah Sages"), which in turn became the source for the formulation and expression of the policies and agenda of the Shas political party in the Israeli Knesset.[17] Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef became the main leadership figure of this council.

Members of the Council

Pre World War II

In Katowice were appointed to the council Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter (1866-1948) Rebbe of Ger (Chairman), Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneerson Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Halevy, Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, Rabbi Itzela of Ponevezh, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Breuer, Rabbi Ze'ev Feilchenfeld of Posen, Rabbi David Zvi Hoffmann, Rabbi Kopel Reich of Budapest.[18]

At the great congress in Vienna in 1923, the Council included: the Chofetz Chaim, the Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Friedman the Chortkov Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, Rabbi Meir Arik, Rabbi Yitzchak Zelig Morgenstern the Admor of Sokolov ,Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Elazar Leiner the Admor of Radzin, Rabbi Meir Dan Plotzky, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein, Rabbi Meir Shapira of Lublin, Rabbi Avraham Mendel Steinberg of Brod, Rabbi Kalman Weber of Piestany and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Breuer.[19]

In 1937 the members of the Council were: Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter, Rabbi Yitzchak Menachem Mendel Danziger of Aleksander, Rabbi Dovid Bornsztain of Sochatchov, Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Friedman of Sadigura, Rabbi Mordechai Shalom Yosef Friedman of Przemysl, Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, Rabbi Aharon Levin, Rabbi Aharon Kotler, Rabbi Ben Zion Yoezer (Rabbi of Turda and President of the Federation of the Association of Ultra-Orthodox Communities in Romania), Rabbi Dov Ber Av Beit Din of Ozarkov, Rabbi Moshe Blum Av Beit Din of Zamosc, Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Tsirelson, Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky, Rabbi Menachem Ziemba, Rabbi Mordechai Rotenberg, Rabbi of Antwerp, Rabbi Akiva Sofer and Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Ungar. The council's president was Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski.

Post World War II

Past members

Alphabetically:

Current members belonging to Agudath Israel

Moetzes Agudas Yisroel meeting February 2013 with 12 of 13 members present from l-r:Vizhnitz-Merkaz Rebbe; Boyana Rebbe; Modzitzer Rebbe; Slonimer Rebbe; Sanzer Rebbe; Belzer Rebbe; Erlauer Rebbe; Gerer Rebbe; Vizhnitzer Rebbe; Sadigur Rebbe; Bialer Rebbe; Bostoner Rebbe; (not in photo:Serit-Vizhnitzer Rebbe)[20]
Alphabetically:

Current members belonging to Degel HaTorah

Alphabetically:
The first Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of "Degel HaTorah", March 1989, home of Rabbi Schach. Sitting alongside Rabbi Steinman

Members in the United States

Past members

Alphabetically:

Current members

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Schloss, Chaim (2004) [2002]. 2000 Years of Jewish History (Fourth Revised ed.). Jerusalem, Israel: Feldheim Publishers. p. 294. ISBN 1-58330-214-X. Retrieved 2010. The final resolution declared that Agudas Yisrael would serve to resolve all difficulties facing Jews and Judaism on the basis of Torah, without any political considerations. The Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, the rabbinic council, would be the supreme governing body and final authority in all decisions.
  2. ^ Elazar, Daniel J. (1989). People and Polity: The Organizational Dynamic of World Jewry. Wayne State University Press. p. 129. ISBN 9780814318447. Retrieved 2010. The chief pasekim of the ultra-Orthodox are organized in the Moetzet Gedolei haTorah (Council of Torah Greats).
  3. ^ Baumel, Simeon D. (2006). Sacred Speakers: Language and Culture among the Haredim in Israel. Berghahn Books. p. 34. ISBN 1-84545-062-0. Retrieved 2010. Following the tradition begun by his father, R. Israel Alter was active in developing and leading the Moetzet Gedolei Hatorah (Council of Torah Sages) of Agudat Yisrael, which was the guiding force and deciding board behind the decision of the Haredi Agudat Yisrael political party in Israel.
  4. ^ a b Kranzler, David; Landesman, Dovid (1998). Rav Breuer: His Life and Legacy. Jerusalem, Israel: The Rabbi Dr. Joseph Breuer Foundation. p. 37. ISBN 9781583301630. Retrieved 2010. R. Eliyahu Meir Bloch - one of the members of the Moetzes Gedolai ha-Torah with whom Rav Breuer maintained a close relationship - also decried the failure to offer instruction in Tanach... .
  5. ^ a b Tikkun. 6. 1991. p. 62. Retrieved 2010. Agudath demanded insularity and an authoritarian organization. The Agudath founded the Moetzes Gedolai Ha Torah (the Council of Torah sages), a group of renowned rabbis, the interpret the problematic areas of modern life according to Torah law.
  6. ^ a b Sherman, Moshe D. (1996). Orthodox Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 123. ISBN 0-313-24316-6. Retrieved 2010. Kotler emerged as one of the most significant Orthodox rabbinic leaders of the time, not only in America, where he was Chairman of Agudath Israel's Moetzet Gedolai ha-Torah (Council of Torah Sages), but in Israel as well.
  7. ^ Amsel, Meir (1986). Encyclopedia Hamaor: Perpetual Memoirs and Responsa in 4 Divisions. Congregation and Yeshiva Hamaor. p. 278. Retrieved 2010. He was one of the founders of Agudas Israel in Czechoslovakia, and after the Holocaust, of Agudas Israel of Central Europe, and was one of the leaders of the Moetzes Chachmei Hatorah in the area.
  8. ^ "The General Assembly of the Agudath Israel Committee", Hatzfira, October 29, 1912
  9. ^ "Agudat Yisrael assembly in Katowice", Moria, June 14, 1912
  10. ^ Asher Reichel, "Igrot Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac HaLevi", Mossad Harav Kook, p. 66, on the HebrewBooks site
  11. ^ Hutner, Isaac (2007). Katz, Steven T. (ed.). Wrestling with God: Jewish Theological Responses during and after the Holocaust. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 557. ISBN 978-0-19-530014-7. Retrieved 2010. Yeshiva and day school principals from across the nation posed the above question to Rabbi Yitzchok [Isaac] Hutner, head of the Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin-Aryeh and a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Torah Sages) of Agudat Israel or [sic] America.
  12. ^ Agudath Israel of America, ed. (May 2003). Daring to Dream (pamphlet). New York, NY: Agudath Israel of America. p. unnumbered. Retrieved 2010. Through the years, Agudath Israel has been guided by its Torah leadership, mainly through the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Torah Sages), comprised of many of the country's leading rabbinic authorities. Aside from the focus put on their decisions and policy statements, regarding most every major issue confronting American Orthodoxy...
  13. ^ The Struggle and the Splendor: A Pictorial Overview of Agudath Israel of America. Agudath Israel of America. 1982. pp. 23-24.
  14. ^ Goldberg, David H.; Reich, Bernard (January 2009). Fatton, Jr., Robert (ed.). Religion, State, and Society: Jefferson's Wall of Separation in Comparative Perspective. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan / St.Martin's Press. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-230-61230-3. Retrieved 2010. Established in 1912 in Kattowitz (Katowice), Poland, Augda was to be a Torah movement directed by Moetzet Gedolei Hatorah (Council of Torah Sages), a group of rabbinical scholars who represent the various factions of the Aguda movement and are chosen for their scholarly merit and prestige in the realm of Orthodox Jewry. Moetzet Gedolei Hatorah continues to be the supreme decision-making body for Aguda adherents, and its decisions are sovereign in all questions affecting the membership, including religious and political matters such as joining or remaining in the government coalition.
  15. ^ Baumel, Simeon D. (2006). Sacred Speakers: Language and Culture among the Haredim in Israel. Berghahn Books. p. 34. ISBN 1-84545-062-0. Retrieved 2010. Following the tradition begun by his father, R. Israel Alter was active in developing and leading the Moetzet Gedolei Hatorah (Council of Torah Sages) of Agudat Yisrael, which was the guiding force and deciding board behind the decision of the Haredi Agudat Yisrael political party in Israel.
  16. ^ Baumel, Simeon D. (2006). Sacred Speakers: Language and Culture among the Haredim in Israel. Berghahn Books. p. 41. ISBN 1-84545-062-0. Retrieved 2010. Unlike the dynastic succession of Hassidic courts, which usually allowed for one central rabbinical authority per sect at any given time, the Mitnagdic world often had several Gedolim (Great Torah Scholars) to turn to in one generation. From the 1970s until the late 1990s, R. Shakh functioned as the major authority in terms of various issues, and his political machinations were instrumental in creating a new form of Mitnagdic separatism. Having broken away from the heavily Hassidic Moetzet Gedolei Hatorah in the latter 1980s, Shakh founded a new Haredi political party, (Degel Hatorah), started a new Haredi newspaper, Yated Ne'eman, and created the She'erit Yisrael kashrut authority.
  17. ^ Bick, E (Winter 2007). "A Clash of Authority: Lay Leaders and Rabbis in the National Religious Party". Israel Affairs. Retrieved 2010. In Shas there is a single hierarchy, with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef the unchallenged leader of the party. He sits at the head of the party's Council of Torah Sages (Moetzet Chachmei Hatorah), which is subordinate to his authority.
  18. ^ "Agudath Israel assembly in Katowice", Moria, June 18, 1912
  19. ^ See "In Agudath Israel", Doar Hayom, May 5, 1929
  20. ^ HaMevaser Daily, Issue# 1244, February 8th, 2013, pg 1, "Gathering of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel"
  21. ^ a b c Hapardes, September 1941, p. 16

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