I recently came across a difficult question, not all Halachic, which I was reluctant to decide on for myself. I decided to do what I was taught is the right thing, and ask a great Torah scholar.
Having studied in several Yeshivas with some of the greatest scholars in our generation, I picked up my phone and decided to dial. The problem? There was no one to answer the phone.
It brought me back to an article I once wrote the caused a stir in the frum world, so much so that a friend from Yeshiva called me and asked: “Did you ask for Daas Torah before writing it?”. Since we had studied in the same Yeshiva and since I am a good Jew I answered him with a question and asked: “Which of our rabbeim do you know who picks up their phone?”. His response was a heartbreaking silence.
Unfortunately, this situation is not unique to one or two cases. Too many Yeshiva graduates who went to the finest Yeshivas find themselves making very difficult decisions, be it on educating their children, as community Rabbonim, as Rabbeim, as doctors making life and death decisions, as therapists, in matters of business halacha, and so many other areas, with no one to go to with their questions.
Sure. There are some questions you can ask and get an answer. You might be able to write with a pen and paper and send it in the mail and get an answer some two months later–though in most cases by then the question is irrelevant. There are also rabbanim who spend day and night answering questions to those in their shuls or immediate areas, yet that does not address anyone not living within a ten minute walk from them, and there are rabbonim who do answer many questions, yet find themselves overwhelmed by the number of questions and people they need to address.
I go back to the days when my grandfather, Rabbi Boruch Poupko was a young Rov in Pittsburgh and could call Reb Moshe Feinstein, Rav Henkin, or his Rebbe from Yeshiva Reb Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik with any question he might have had. I reflect on the days Gedolim like the Chofetz Chaim, R’ Shlomo Zalman Aurbach, R’ Zelig Epstein, R’ Shmuel Birnbaum, and so many others were able to spend hours upon hours answering questions, taking phone calls, writing letters, and being responsive.
I have no simple answers. Perhaps this has to do with the Bracha and Simcha industries that have so many of our Gedolim spending their days and nights on social and communal events rather than addressing difficult halachic questions. Perhaps it is something else.
Either way, we must acknowledge that in the current situation, if you are a frum doctor with a life and death question, a Rov, or really just anyone with difficult halachic questions you can dial 2 for Daas Torah and just hold the line.
The writer is an eleventh-generation rabbi, teacher and author. He has written Sacred Days on the Jewish Holidays, Poupko on the Parsha, and hundreds of articles published in five languages. He is a member of the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America.