On the one side stood the Hazon Ish and those who followed in his path, who would coalesce into a group wielding decisive influence on religious life in Israel, as the ultra-Orthodox “society of scholars” grew and became institutionalized. On the other were the guardians of tradition, especially those belonging to the Yishuv ha-yashan (the old Yishuv, the veteran Jewish community) in Jerusalem. The main spokesman of the latter group, who bore the brunt of the controversy, was Rabbi Abraham Hayyim Na’eh (1890-1954). As I noted elsewhere, this was a controversy between unequal contestants. At that time, the Yishuv ha-yashan was in decline, while the Hazon Ish was the spiritual leader of a young and radical ultra-Orthodoxy that found itself liberated, to a great degree, from the bonds of tradition. Moreover, following the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel, the latter was given the opportunity to establish a new ultra-Orthodox society, “the society of scholars,” as a stringent and selective society. This could not have been realized in the past, due both to economic restraints and (perhaps mainly) to the cultural and social restrictions that found expression in the living tradition and structure of the traditional Jewish community. This traditional community, by its very nature and essence, by being defined on the basis of its geographical bounds (in the sense that dwelling within it are members subject to the authority of its leadership), was a nonselective society that had to take into account its heterogenous character and its commitment to the tradition of past generations. It, therefore, could not agree either to deviations in the direction of leniency or to the adoption of stringent norms by a portion of its members.

Menachem Friedman, “Halachic Rabbinic Authority in the Modern Open Society,” in <i>Jewish Religious Leadership: Image and Reality</i>, vol. 2, ed. Jack Wertheimer (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary, 2004), 760-761.

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