Dear R' Slifkin,

I'm currently going through your Controversy page with interest and in the spirit of simpatico I'd like to tell you that I personally witnessed something similar. Of course I had long been able realized that "The Gedolim" were human beings who in no way were responsible for all that was going on in their names (and worse, everything that was going on in their names simply by their not having spoken the contrary, such as when a Rav told me that R' Elyashiv must support the stoning of Jews on Rechov Bar Ilan because, after all, we see no signed letters from him opposing such stonings, and certainly, like the oracle of Delphi, he knows all) - but I finally had the opportunity to witness it for myself.

I was involved in a scary and complicated case of pidyon shvuyim that was literally a life and death situation. But of course this is pidyon shvuyim were talking about so there's a life and death danger in going through with paying the ransom as well, you're familiar with the general issues regarding it in halacha I'm sure. In any case, I was 20 years old at the time and was certainly unwilling to take such achrayis on my own shoulders so I attempted for some time to meet R' Elyashiv to get a psak on it (after, predictably [if I recall correctly], a more easily accessible Rosh Yeshiva refused to write me a letter to aid in collection without a psak from R' Elyashiv first). In any case, I finally managed to secure an appointment with R' Elyashiv in his apartment and I made sure that he would have an oizer there with him who was a native English speaker so that nothing would be lost in translation, this was of course a case of pidyon shvuyim with ramifications for mi yichye and mi yamus and I was terrified of the possibility that I'd leave the meeting with the feeling that I didn't get a clear psak from on high because I might have been unclear with my Hebrew explanations in answering R' Elyashiv's questions.

In any case, this well known English-speaking oizer (I know that's not the correct term but I'm not in the mood to try and recall it right now, feel free to remind me though - ah, mishareis) translated my shailah and details to R' Elyashiv in such a clearly biased manner that there was almost no way for R' Elyashiv to answer anything but that it's ossur altz "yoiser michdai dmayhen". The fellow practically told R' Elyashiv that it was assur within the context of my shailah.

Anyhow, at that time I felt like a personal burden had been lifted from me. I had received God's psak on the subject (through daas torah) and... well, God had decided! Too bad for the Jew in question, but it was pretty good for me.

Nu, come some time later and I spent a few hours in a series of shiurim on the subject of pidyon shvuyim and I start to have doubts as it seems that it's possible that the psak halacha is not so clear on the matter. I attempt to meet the Tzitz Eliezer (I believe it was) but he didn't come to his shul that day so I took a bus to R' Sheinberg in his home then and there. I joined the minyan for maariv of taanis esther and immediately upon the conclusion of kaddish yosum I approach him to ask him my shailah. On account of my somewhat modern dress he decided to play it safe in not assuming that I was a Yeshiva guy (maybe some new baal tshuvah or something) and he says "today was a fast day" and asks if I could wait a while. I mentioned that this a shailah of life and death and he heard my question immediately, paskened that I should try to raise the funds and said, "it's a great zchus what you're doing, if I had the koiach I would help you", and, if memory serves, he also made sure through his womenfolk that I received ample cake with which to break the fast.

In any case, I walked out elated and, strangely, similarly unburdened to how I had felt after I received my first psak from R' Elyashiv. (If I recall correctly, I was discouraged originally by friends and Rabbeim from going back to R' Elyashiv to re-ask my shailah on the grounds that it had been "asked and answered", daas torah had spoken through the magical mechanism by which it speaks and new or more detailed or clarified information was extraneous to the issue of how it functioned.)

In any case, I myself considered the possibility that I had done something wrong in going to R' Sheinberg after R' Elyashiv had already given a counter psak. How could God speak contradictorily through the single mechanism of daas torah? So I decided to call R' Sheinberg, let him know of the previous psak and have him assuage my concern by telling me the obvious (which I would first inform him), that R' Elyashiv hadn't heard all of the details that he himself had heard and hadn't had the full discussion with me as he had and that therefore I needn't be concerned, his halachic ruling was accurate. - It didn't quite work that way though. When I mentioned the R' Elyashiv chapter he reacted much as I imagine you reacted when you first heard that kol koirehs might be going up against you b'shem the gdoilim. He told me to not go by his psak but to go back to R' Elyashiv. He didn't retract his psak but seemed clearly terrified of the possibility that he had just fallen into some complicated situation where this unknown askan in modern clothes might cause it to be known that he had paskened differently on a shailah to R' Elyashiv.

I now felt the full weight of this man's life on me as it had not been lifted by either R' Elyashiv or R' Shteinberg. No one had taken this unbearable load from the tiny shoulders of an unconfident bachur.

So I found a way to get back to R' Elyashiv, this time without any misharsim intervening (I was in the back seat as he was driven to give a shiur in Bucharim) and I went over our history together on the subject and what I had come across in my am haratzishe learning that might indicate the possibility of an opposite psak, and without my mentioning of R' Sheinberg's psak (as per R' Sheinberg's instructions)... R' Elyashiv told me to go ahead with it.

This was a case of clear and present hatzalos nifashos where I saw bimloi einai how gdoilim are maneuvered by the people who somehow (I'd love to know how) gain vulture-close access to them.

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