Let’s start with a story. Once Rav Shalom M. Hedayya, when he was a very young man, asked Rav Yehuda Petayya if Rav Aryeh Levine was one of the 36 hidden Tzadikim upon whom the world is supported. Rav Petayya said, “Yes, sometimes.” Rav Hedayya at first was a bit taken aback. Rav Petayya, continued and said, it is written that there is no Tzadik that does only good and does not err. In those times when he errs he is not one of the 36. It is a given concept within Kabbalah that there is no such thing as a Tzadik M’beten. That a Tzadik is made, not born, and that even Moshe Rabbeinu at points in his life sinned.
I was teaching the Shaar HaKavvanot on the Shema the other day. There is a bit where the Rav states that there are two more or less super-Tzadikim who are ultimately responsible for the world receiving all of it’s spiritual sustenance. One of my students, someone I would call a Kanoi(Hebrew for Zealot), asks which one is the greater? Not really sure myself, because I’ve never really cared, I said, that it seems to me that they are equal. Said Kanoi responds that his Gadol of Choice(GOC from now on) was definitely one of them.
Now personally I am far from convinced that being a Torah sage automatically makes one righteous. In fact given the Ramchal’s introduction to Mesilat Yesharim, Rav Chaim Vital’s Shaarei Kedusha 2:1 and numerous other places I am actually quite sure that it does not guarantee that one is a Tzadik, just that one is wise. There is a lot more I could say on this issue, but for the sake of Lashon Hara, I will remain silent.
Coming back to my Kanoi, not wanting to be argumentative I said, “sometimes”. His face went through about 12 shades of red, and then finally he sputtered something along the lines of how dare I speak lashon hara about GOC. I said I wasn’t speaking Lashon Hara, and related the above mentioned story. He felt fairly strongly that unless I was on the level of Rav Patayya I couldn’t say such a a thing. My response was that I certainly could because the principle is written in holy books.
He circled back to his Lashon Hara argument. At about this point I had had enough. So my reply was to ask why he was so bothered by this supposed Lashon Hara, of saying that GOC is no better than Moshe Rabbeinu, while he speaks Lashon Hara every day. When he looked shocked, I replied that ever since the elections announced there hadn’t been a day where he didn’t find a chance to say everyone who votes for Meretz is a Sheretz. That never bothered him, but to say that GOC is not a greater Tzadik that Moshe Rabbeinu or David HaMelekh suddenly that is inexcusable.
That is when it hit me. For Kanoim, halakha is just as subjective as it is for those they so readily accuse of destroying the Torah. When it is something that they want to do, suddenly it has to be super strict. When it is not, any loophole can be utilized. In other words hypocrisy.