Monday, July 17, 2006

Torah Misinai and only MiSinai

[Note: I included the questions asked in this post so there would not be any confusion. It doesn't mean anything against the other great questions asked, it's just that this seemed like it needed context. If it gets confusing, please let me know. Thanks. -taon]

{Achiezer: I had it pointed out to me that the Ibn Ezra (and, apparently, the Chasam Sofer as well) in certain places seem to imply that the entire Torah is not completely written by Hashem/Moshe. Also, there’s something in Bamidbar Rabbah (3:13) that says Ezra put the nekudos/was unsure about some words, and I heard Rav Moshe wanted to burn this medrash. Rashi to Breishis 18:22 (in SOME editions) says it is a "Tikkun Sofrim shehafchuhu Z"L lichtov ken" (see Mizrachi, who quotes the Rashba that I know you will quote, Moderator, but also adds that Rashi seems to hold it is an actual change by Sofrim. And Medrash Tanchuma Beshalach at the end also writes "Tikkun Sofrim Anshei Knesses HaGedolah". The Eitz Yosef on the spot disputes this and says it was a later addition as he saw in the Ba'al Tzedah, but a different meforash seems to imply that the girsa is correct. Also, Ralbag (I am told) expresses the idea of "yesh mi-yesh" as opposed to yesh mi-ayin. These are very disturbing references--how should we deal with these?}

The phrase "Tikun Soferim" does not mean anybody c"v changed the text of the Torah, but rather it was a Peirush, a commentary, as to what the Torah intended when it wrote a certain thing. In other words, because of certain reasons, the Torah always had in mind the Soferim's comments, and meant it from the beginning. The moshol they give is like when King David would tell his scribe "Write down that David decrees so-and-so," and the scribe would write "King David decrees so-and-so". Even though the King did not use the title when referring to himself, it was his intention that the scribe write it anyway. The "tikum soferim" is part of Torah shebal peh, similar to the Ksiv-Kri that we have in many places.
Any differences in Sifrei Torah are in Ksiv-Kri, or malei or chaser, etc,. which is a matter of Torah shebaal peh, or Halachah l'moshe misinai. There are numerous disagreements about such things throughout Halachah.

But all this pertains to the Halachos of HOW to write the Torah, not what the Torah means to say.

The Rishonim and Achronim have already explained these things. The most comprehensive treatment of this that I know of is in Minchas Shai Zachariah 2:12. See also Maharal Tiferes Yisroel 66, Haksav V'Hakabalah Bereishis 18:22, and also Rambam Commentary on Mishna Kaylim 17:12.

The Ralbag says simply that yesh m'ayin the way we understand it does not make any sense, and that the Torah does say the "waters" were in existence before creation started. He suggests that during the time of the "waters" there was "substance without form", which is obviously nothing that we can comprehend, nor is it anything physical in any way that we can relate to.

To us, there is not much practical difference between this the position of total "yesh m'ayin". It only is a disagreement in philosophical terms, of what is the nature of the "nothing" that existed before creation. The Ralbag does not mean that there was anything in the sense that we conceptualize physicality before creation. It was something unimaginable. Like the "waters".

The Ralbag backs up his position with proofs from Chazal. Of course, most authorities disagreed with his position anyway. And he acknowledges his disagreeing with the Rambam in this.

That having been said, the Ralbag was very much into philosophy, more loyal to Aristotle's opinions than even the Rambam (though he got most of his information about Aristotle's positions from the Arabian philosopher ibn Rashd), and his philosophical ideas were criticized by other Rishonim. The Rivash writes that even though the Ralbag was great in Torah, his involvement in philosophy caused him to go off in a number of ideas in Milchomos Hashem, and he lists them. Interestingly enough, the Yesh M'Ayin issue is not one of them. The Milchomos Hashem was a very controversial Sefer, more so in many ways even than the Moreh Nevuchim, but basically for the same reasons. Rav Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov used to refer to the Ralbag's Sefer as "Milchomos Im Hashem." The Ralbag was embroiled in the same anti-philosophy controversy that the Rambam was.

However, needless to say - and the Ralbag writes this explicitly in a special section in Milchomos Hashem - that philosophy is useful only to the point that it does not conflict with the Torah and Chazal. When there is a contradiction between the two, it means that the Torah is of course correct, and that any problems in understanding are our fault, not the Torah's or Chazal's.

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