[The ongoing crisis of the rabbinate has been overshadowed this week by the political crisis surrounding the ongoing exposure of the venality of Ehud Olmert. While the Talansky circus was underway, though, there were two siognificant developments. First, Rav Druckman's termination was suspended, sine die. Second, an appeal on behalf of the woman originally hurt by R. Sherman is finding it difficult to garner support among many of the same elements in the Religious Zionist community who are among R. Druckman's most vocal supporters. Both developments reminded me of a vort that the Rov zatzal presented on a Saturday Night in Boston, and which was the key point of my valedictory at the YU Hag ha-Semikha in March, 1982. It is more relevant today than it was even then.]
The Mishnah in tractate Ta'anit (10a) states that if the 17 day of Marheshvan arrives, and no rain has yet fallen, 'singular individuals' (יחידים) begin to fast. The Talmud (10a-b) then asks who these 'singular individuals' are. Here the Talmud distinguishes between scholars (תלמיד) and these יחידים. [תלמיד means student, but based upon the parallel passages in Shabbat 114a and Qiddushin 49b, it 's clear that here תלמיד is shorthand for 'scholar' (תלמיד חכם).] A scholar is defined as 'who when asked a matter of halachah in any place can answer it, even in the Tractate Kallah.' In other words, one is referring here to a an individual who possesses sovereign mastery of the entire Torah. (Though see, per contra, Tosafot Shabbat ad loc. s.v. ואפילו).
Knowledge, however, does not make one, automatically, a יחיד. The latter is one who 'is worthy of being appointed a leader of the community.' Knowledge, it would appear, is not sufficient for leadership. One needs more. The Rav declared that, first and foremost, one must have fortitude and courage. The theoretician may be a fine teacher. However, if he lacks courage; if he is not sensitive to the needs of the community, then he is not a יחיד. He may not, he must not, be appointed as a leader of the community.
Far too many acknowledged rabbinic scholars lack this crucial characteristic. They are either timid and/or obtusely insensitive. Some of those presently in power in the Israeli rabbinate, lack the latter quality. Far too many of those who would replace them, are woefully deficient in the former trait.
Since I count myself among the latter group seeking a solution. I urge my colleagues to look into their souls to find the courage, the גבורה, to step up to the plate and do the task that God has given them.
Woe to them if they don't. Woe to us if they don't.