Deification of Man
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
I recently had a conversation with an individual regarding her firm commitment in the absolute perfection of her "rebbe". She told me that she heard from her friends that he healed people, and did many miracles. She also said that a tzadik never makes a mistake, so he couldn't. She was also told to check her mezuzos when one is sick.
What is the Torah's view on elevating a human being to this level?
Rambam addresses these issues. In Hilchos Yisoday HaTorah, (8:1) Rambam states clearly that "(the children of) Israel did not believe in Moses due to the miracles which he performed. For one who believes based on miracles, there is doubt in his heart, perhaps he did the miracle out of trickery or slight of hand".
Rambam shows that miracles do not work to validate one's level.
Furthermore, for those who idolize a person by thinking he is the messiah due to so called miracles, I have one question...where is the performance of a miracle a requirement for one to be viewed as the messiah? Again, Rambam addresses this in the Mishne Torah, Kings (11:4), "If there arises a king from the house of David, who keeps the Torah, involved in the mitzvos, like David his father, according to the written and oral Torah, and he causes all Jews to follow this Torah, and he strengthens them in keeping the minutia, and he fights the wars of Hashem, he then has a potential status of being the messiah. If he does this and is successful, and rebuilds the Temple on its original ground, and gathers the dispersed Jews, he is then definitely the messiah." Does the Rambam say anything about miracles? No.
Additionally, how could a rebbe do more miracles than Elisha or Eliyahu who did only 16 and 8 miracles respectively? According to this person, her rebbe did many more miracles than 16. This is clearly impossible.
We also recite everyday in Uvah L'Tzion "v'yivtichu bicha, kol yoday shimecha", "and there will trust in You, all who know Your Name". We do not trust in man. King David also said this in Psalms, 146, "Do not rely on nobles or a human being who hold no salvation".
The Torah is permeated with attempts to dissuade one from idolizing man. God desires that we recognize that "He alone does wonders", as is stated every morning in "L'Kale Baruch Ne-emos".
The woman whom I mentioned also held of the view that one can't
question one who is greater. Don't we see from the Chumash (Bible) itself
where Aaron disputed Moses who was much greater, and Moses agreed that
Aaron was correct, and that he was wrong? If Moses can make a mistake,
certainly all of us alive today can, and do make mistakes. Don't we also
see countless times in the gemora where an Amora would ask questions on a
Tanna? (An Amora is one who came after the completion of the the
compilation of the Oral Law. A Tanna is one who participated in that
compilation, and is therefore greater in authority.) The Amora was fully
correct in asking questions of one greater than he.
Regarding mezuza checking:
Yes. One should check his mezuza, but merely to see if it is still kosher. Not however to function as a protective device.
Rambam clearly admonishes us from specific practices outlined in the Mishneh Torah, (Laws of Tefilin 5:4) where he states: "....but these (people) who write on the inside of the mezuza the names of angels or sanctified names or passages or seals, they are in the category of those who have no world to come. Because it is not enough that these fools have taken a command and nullified it, but they rendered a great command - the Unity of G-d, the love of Him and the worship of Him - as if it's an amulet for personal benefit and they assume in their foolish hearts that this will give them pleasure in their futilities of this world."
Rambam clearly states that the mezuza is not for personal benefit. Where did any Rishon, or Prophet or Forefather ever practice such foolishness? To think that there are powers in physical objects is something in the imagination, not in reality. These beliefs are not supported by the Torah. Though we might witness so called religious Jews practicing these foolish activities, we don't say something is true even if a million people are doing it. The question is, "did G-d sanction it".
To say that a human being is infallible is very dangerous, as it gives unconditional validation to anything such a person would say or do. The only unconditional validation the Torah gives is to G-d Himself. One must realize that the need for attachments to human personality is a human need, not sanctioned by the Torah. The Torah tells us, "Ain tzadik b'aretz she'yaaseh tove v'lo yechtah", "there is no righteous in the land who do good and haven't sinned". Infallibility is synonymous with G-d alone.
Another loss one realizes by idolizing people is that it takes one away from love of G-d.
Deification of man is not reinforced by the Torah. If it were, G-d would most certainly omit all instances where great people sinned. What the Torah is interested in is truth. Honesty. Commitment to following one's mind. Not being biased towards a personality. The gemora itself quotes a Rabbi who said, "Had Joshua the son of Nun told me such and such, I would not listen". (Talmud Chulin 124a, at the very bottom). Meaning, just because a great person says something, this doesn't make it correct. This Rabbi was displaying the proper attitude one should have towards learning: to get the facts, and process his own thoughts without respect to the views of others. Had G-d wanted us to merely follow a person, our minds would not be needed.
G-d gave each of us a rational faculty so as to use it.
Let us all follow our rebbeim who teach us the path of Hashem, to understand the wisdom of the Torah which Hashem as given us.