Sunday, July 16, 2006

Torah Sheba'al Peh

Chazal do not make comments and opinions except based on interpretation of Torah. Or sometimes in order to interpret Torah. They all lead to or lead from Torah. If the comment or opinion would not be true then the Torah that caused the prompted the comment or that the comment creates would not be true. And that cannot happen.

The Ritva in Eruvin explains that Hashem showed Moshe BOTH pairs of Tefilin, both Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam, and then said to Moshe, OK, these are the possibilities, now go and decide based on what your Poskim say to do. This applies to all Halachic disagreements.

The seforim write that according to Kabbalah, both Rashi AND Rabbeinu Tam Tefilin should be worn, and Rashi, for instance also wore Rabbeinu Tam tefillin and vice versa. The disagreement is merely which Tefilin are the Halachicly mandatory ones.

Chazal has a mesorah for all of their psakim. We can trust the veracity of the Mesorah because the same mesorah was taught separately in so many different schools by so many different people, in different cities and different countries, and all of them are the same basic version. There was not one line of mesorah but many, and at the end of all the lines the mesorah is the same. If one or many got messed up they would not match.
Where they didn't have a mesorah, they took that into account. Example: The halachah is that you cannot punish a person if you derive the punishment with a kal vachomer. One reason given is, because a kal vachomer is logical and has no mesorah to back it; and we cannot punish a person just because our logic says so.
Hashem also gave Moshe the methodology for deciphering the Halochos. In order for Halachah to be valid, the determination must be made with the formula that Moshe got on Har Sinai.

Sometimes only the methodology was given, not the specific Halachah, such as Kal Vachomer. Hashem did not tell Moshe which Kal Vachomer to make, but rather left it up to the Chachamim to do so using their own logic. The rest of the 13 methods of deciphering the Halachah - the midos shehatorah nidreshes bahen - were given to Moshe together with the exact Halachos that they are designed to derive.

Hashem also showed Moshe all the possibilities that can be learned from a Kal Vachomer but left it up to the Chachamim to decide l'halacha.

Sometimes, even in the case of a black and white Halachah, the way to learn out the Halchaha was given over to the Chachamim, even though the Halachah was known.

The case of Moavi V'Lo Moavis(that the prohibition of Moavite converts only applies to the men)was an exception. This Halachah was simply forgotten. The Arizal says Hashem purposely caused this Halachah to be forgotten so that the Neshoma of Moshiach can come down to the world in a hush-hush manner that the Satan would never think is happening. The Satan does not want Moshiach to be born, since when Moshaich comes it’s over for the Satan, and so he (the Satan) exerts all his effort against a real Moshiach in this world. Therefore, Hashem had to "sneak" the soul of Moshiach into the world in a way that the Satan would never figure he's being born. So the halachah that validated moshiach as legitimate was temporarily forgotten, until the time came when it was "safe" to recover it.


We aren't worried that the Rabbis made mistakes in the Mishnah and Gemarah. First of all, we're talking about people great enough to easily resurrect the dead. They weren't what we refer to today as "Rabbis".

Second, remember that this was Hashem's plan. He wanted the Rabbi's to argue it out, and He said that whatever their conclusions are, that's the Halchaha. Now it's Hashem Who made this plan, and Hashem Who decides whether people make mistakes of not, so if Hashem said that this approach works, why second guess it? The thing to remember is that it's Hashem's plan, and if He saw an imperfection in it, He can easily protect His plan from it, meaning, He can make sure that the Rabbis won't make mistakes, or He could have thought of a different plan.

But the bottom line is that Hashem said this is how the Halachah is determined. He made the plan, He knew of whatever weaknesses there may be in it, and He approves anyway. So why assume there's a problem?

Sometimes, Hashem will cause wise men to make terrible mistakes in judgment (Gittin 56b), because the generation is not worthy of having the wise decision made for them (Maharsha ad loc). On the other hand, Hashem does give Tzadikim supernatural wisdom when they are deserving. This is called Ruach HaKodesh. When Hashem said to follow the Chazal, Hashem knew every statement they will even make. If He said to follow them, that means He makes sure that following them is the right thing to do. Since we have no way of knowing that Chazal made a mistake, we are obligated to follow them regardless, and doing so means we did the Will of G-d. So even if it could be true that Chazal erred, it was the will of G-d that we should follow that error, meaning, in the end, that we are doing the right thing.


Hashem gave Moshe on Har Sinai all different possible ways to understand the Torah. Then Hashem said "Let the Chachamim decide which of these ways is going to be the Halachah". This is why Ailu V'Ailu Divrei Elokim Chaim. The reason Hashem did this is because He wanted the Halachah - the Torah - to be part of us literally, not merely stuff that we know from outside. Creating a Halachah internally imparts much more holiness - the amount that Hashem decided is proper - than does merely knowing an externally created Halachah.

So all opinions of the sages are equally holy, since they were all given on Har Sinai. The bottom line Halachah is merely what we happen to be obligated to follow. It does not mean the other opinions are "wrong".

Certain Halochos have more possibilities than others. Certain Halachos were understood the same by all Chachamim. Certain ones were disputed.
There is no "wrong" opinion. Hashem said whichever opinion you people come up with is the one to follow.

However, you have to use Hashem's methodology, and you have to be as right as a human can be. You can't just haphazardly use your logic and say you have an "opinion". The Gemora (Sotah 47b- see Rashi there) says that the cause of machlokes in Klall Yisroel, bas machlokes, is Talmidim, even sincere ones, who do not adequately analyze the issues, but rather use their own logic and assume they understand what their rebbe said. You can’t assume you know. You have to turn over the sugya again and again and ask yourself maybe I am wrong, how do I know I am right, a hundred times, and if after all that, you honestly and objectively know that you are right, then you have a Torah opinion.

Of course, one of the questions you have to ask yourself is, am I qualified to deal with this altogether?

Now, even after all the thoroughness, we will still have differing opinions, because no two people think 100% alike, and especially in Torah, where one's Torah opinion is tied to the roots of his soul, and no two souls are alike. And that is why we have legitimate machlokes.


The concept of Torah Lo Bashamayim Hi only applies to defining the Halachah. But where physical facts are concerned, prophecy or Ruach HaKodesh may be used. In other words, let's say someone takes a milchig spoon out of a fleishig drawer. He doesn’t know if the spoon was used for fleishigs or merely misplaced there. If he had Ruach HaKodesh, he could rely on it to tell him how the spoon got there, since that is a fact, not a Halachah. This is true even though the knowledge of this fact will affect the Halachah, for if the spoon was just accidentally put there, he doesn’t have to kasher it, but if it was used for hot fleishigs he does. The Halachic part of the decision comes from the person's Torah knowledge, but the facts that the Halachah depends on comes from Ruach HaKodesh. That is fine.

But if he does not know how it got there, he may NOT rely on Ruach HaKodesh to tell him whether he has to kasher the spoon or not, since that is paskening a sheailah, and that can only be done by Torah knowledge.


The Torah works differently than other "sciences", l'havdil. Other sciences are discovered, little by little, and every further discovery adds and compounds the previous.

Not so by Torah. Hashem gave Moshe the Torah on Har Sinai. Hashem was the best teacher ever, knew more Torah than humanly possible, and gave this to Moshe in a supernatural manner, so that Moshe knew more than humanly possible.

From there, things got handed down orally and we know that the generations got lower and lower. First there were prophets. Then no more prophets. There used to be open miracles, then no more.

People constantly went down in level. Knowing Torah is not merely an intellectual. It’s a spiritual accomplishment that involves levels of siyata dshamaya. Being smart isn’t enough. The validity of a person's Torah is dependent on their connection to Hashem, not merely their IQ. A Sefer Torah that an apikores writes gets burned. Even with Hashem's names. It's worth nothing. The great ancients were so close to Hashem, their Torah was proportionately valid.

The smallest of Chazal could resurrect the dead. Can we? They lived their lives on a level that we cannot imagine, and were also closer to the revelation on Har Sinai chronologically than we are. Their Torah was on the same level as they were - everyone’s Torah is on the level that they are.

Since it is obvious based on what we know about Chazal's levels of holiness that we can see from their lives, it's obvious we can't compare ourselves to them.

Plus, it doesn’t say anywhere in the Torah when we should end a "tekufah" and at what point we say "OK, we can't argue with the previous generations". The way this happens is, the generation itself sees that it is no longer able to match the Torah quality of the previous generation, answering their questions or matching their skills. And there is a universal acceptance that we are in a new Tekufah.

That’s what happened between the Rishonim and Achronim, Tanaim and Amoraim, etc. So those great Torah giants who knew Chazal unanimously conceded that they are unable to match them in Torah skill. Even though nobody told them this, or forced this on them. Klall Yisroel decided unanimously that Chazal has ended and we are, relatively, just plain people.

It makes zero sense, after all that, for us, nowadays to say we know better than those who were there.


Halachah and Mitzvos are not different for anybody. The only difference is where a person at a given time is ready to accept. Like when a doctor tells a person at risk for heart failure to go on a diet, quit smoking, and do exercise, he may begin with cutting down on fat and smoking a bit. This does not mean that the person's health risks are any different than anyone else's; it means that because of his circumstances, he will not be able to stop his unhealthy practices cold turkey. So we help him through it a little at a time. But the instructions apply equally to everyone.

So too what is asur for me is asur for you. And we all have the same 613 Mitzvos - no more, no less (except of course if specified in the Torah such as the difference between men and women).


The Halachah defines what's moral.

Example: Before the Torah was given, if someone needed a loan and you loaned him money at 1% interest, which was way below the prime rate then, you did him a big chesed.

But after the Torah was given, if you lent someone money on interest you committed a terrible sin, since the Torah prohibited it. After the Halachah says not to do it, it is no longer a chesed but a misdeed.

This is because the Torah knows what’s good or bad for us, and if the Halachah says do NOT give this guy money, its because the Torah knows the best thing for this guy is not to have the money, despite what it may look like to you.

Morals are the creation of society. Each society decides what they consider "moral". In ancient China, at a man's funeral, they would kill his wife and bury her with her husband. They considered that moral, then. It's like loyalty to the husband even after death.

But now we consider that insane. In a thousand years from now they could saying that today's morals are barbaric.

The only thing consistent is the Torah. If the Torah says do not do such and such because it is "ervah" - that means it is immoral. The Torah has its own rules of morality, just like, l'havdil, man-made rules, but the Torah's rules were made by G-d, Who really knew what is moral and not.




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