The Maharal of Prague, famous for the legend of having created a Golem, a robot in true human form but incapable of clear thinking, is in fact much more famous as a Torah scholar and author of many important books and a particular perspective on Judaism.
In his Sefer, NeSiVos Olam, Pathways of the Universe; he makes the following remarkable observations in the section titled, Pathway of The Torah.
The Maharal famously says, it is better for us to struggle with understanding the Halacha and applying it, even if we get it wrong, than to avoid that struggle by consulting a rabbi or a Sefer, and getting it right.
This is found in Nesivos Olam, Nesiv Torah end Ch 15.
It certainly is predicated upon the assertion that HKBH does NOT hold us to account for what we have or have not DONE, but we are held accountable for the things we have and have not learned and tried to evaluate ourselves.
Certainly not everyone is capable of analysing everything or perhaps even most things BUT the question HKBH will ask us is DID YOU TRY?
Lo Bashamayim Hi, means Gd wants us to apply our minds to determine Halacha.
Reb Chaim Volosiner FORBIDS accepting what ones Rebbe Paskens or advises if one has questions on it.
In the same vein he explains that HaVey MisAbek BeAfar RagLeyHem – means not to sit at their feet but TO GO INTO BATTLE with them.
Of course Poskim ought to be consulted, the question is what is our attitude our posture to Halacha, to Yiddishkeit. Is it blind obedience or is it a matter to be investigated to our best ability and is a process in which Gd wants us to be engaged?
Is the Posek or Sefer to be challenged or bowed down to?
Similarly the principle of Lama Li KeRa SeVara Hu, indicates that what emerges from the human mind and what is a product of our Gd given ability to think IS GREATER than what Gd has disclosed to us at Sinai.
I have no doubt that if we ask an ordinary guy in the Beis HaMedrash, -: Do you believe it is better to receive instruction from The Almighty or figure out the same thing yourself? 10 out of 10 will say, Of course it is better to get it from HaShem. Religion, as it is understood today, dictates that what comes from Gd is holy. Of course we prefer to receive holy instruction which is perfect and infallible, rather than use our own human fallible and imperfect brains to figure out HKBH’s instructions.
I strongly suspect that this tendency toward NOT using our minds to determine Halcha, the distorted focus of thinking that Avodas HaShem is all about getting the right thing DONE, has led us down a path where we dismiss the Halachos of Bittul. It’s all about getting the rightthing done, ensuring there is NO non-K component in the food. But in truth, as much as it is Kefira to dismiss the prohibition of eating pig, is it Kefira to dismiss the Halachos of Bittul and Rov.
after saying various things about two questions that he himself asks in this piece [NeSiv HaTorah end Ch 15], leaves them essentially unanaswered.
1) The RaMBaM and Tur seem to disagree with him since they compiled Seforim that provided rulings which lead one away from Talmud Gemara.
2) What is to happen these days [in the life of the Maharal] that we are no longer Baki in Talmud - how are we to Pasken Halacha?
If the Maharal was concerned about the Poskim, and not about the individuals - these questions would not have troubled him.
The Maharal is troubled by the change in attitude across the entire community. HKBH, he says, is principally concerned about our engagement with Torah - that means one thing and one thing only - TALMUD. The focus of the Torah is the rulings provided by and to be derived from, the Torah. When this pursuit becomes detached from TALMUD, then the very activities which we deem to be our service to GD are in fact DESTROYING HKBH's plan and purpose for this universe. The world stands upon Torah, he says, and when we become detached from TALMUD in spite of the fact that we are super-devoted to following all the minutae and accomodating as many opinions as possible; we have lost the plot. We, in our frenzied misdirected devotion to BE OBEDIENT to GD are in fact destroying the world - MeVaLey Olam. Because HKBH does not want OBEDIENCE. HKBH wants us to be engaged in His Talmud. And that is the message of wrestling with one's teachers, of raising the dust in the Talmudic struggle, of not accpeting that which one's Rebbe has said just because he said it.
Furthermore, Reb Chaim does not suggest that this battle and questioning and prohibition/refusal to accept one's Rebbes ideas is limited only to those who have Semicha. On the contrary he applies the imagery of small kindling, the students and the insistent, relentless heat of their questions, being required in order to set the large log ablaze. No one doubts the value of a reporter who pecks away at a politician or other authority, to uncover truth and expose untruths. Reb Chaim Shmulevitz would say, the weakest part of his Shtikel Torah was the part where he shouted the loudest and thumped on the Shtender the hardest.
To suggest that Reb Ch Voloshiner is urging us to use our brain to argue in theory but that we should nontheless in practice follow the guidance of our Rebbe, is just pure fantasy. It is psychedelic to suggest that we MUST follwo but not follow blindly. That's like telling someone to shower but not get wet.
It is truly remarkable that the very Mishnah that is the poster Mishnah for Bittul HaYesh, [cast yourself at the dust of their feet] for sublimation of one's identity to the supreme authority of a Master, [Aseh LeCha Rav] is in fact, according to Reb Chayim VeLoshiner, a testimony to the opposite. Because Bittul HaYesh means Bittul to HKBH, not to a human. It means in fact, LaMa Li KeRa, because the potential Sevara that resides in our heads is greater than the Passuk pronounced by HKBH at Har Sinai. And it is the foundation upon which RaMChaL structures the dialogue where the seeker id the Neshama but the
The Maharal clearly differentiates this from the Chacham who has not served Torah Sages [Lo ShiMesh]. Such people the Gemara says, are a Boor, an Am HaAretz but they are NOT MeVaLey Olam - destroyers of the world. And why not? Because they are still engaged with Talmud.
Rashi explains that the problem is that since the logic, the reasoning, the Talmud is not clear, the consequence is that sometimes the Mishna's ruling will be wrongly applied to a different situation. The Maharal insists Rashi is wrong [Ein HaPirush KiDeVarav KeLal] since if the problem would be a WRONG Pesak, then the Gemara would NOT use the word HALACHA but TaUs; i.e. Those who err by consulting the Mishnah are the destroyers of the world. The Maharal is adamant that even when the Mishna is correctly used to rule in that very same situation - such a ruling destroys the world.
This has nothing to do with the person being a Torah Sage or an ordinary bloke, a Posek or a pipsqueak. It relates to one thing only - are we connected to the logic of the Torah or are we just pursuing a religious life of obedience.
As far as getting permission to offer rulings and not being Morah Halacha whilst in the prescence or the jurisdiction of one's Rav; that has to do with Kibbud TCh. The student may not rule FOR OTHERS, but he is certainly OBLIGATED to follow his own understanding and is PROHIBITED from following the ruling of his Rebbe when he has quesions on it.
Semicha is recognition that the recipient is qualified to Pasken without consulting others. Before Semicha is granted, this TCh participates in debate and decides; its like training wheels, what is called I believe in the US internship. After Semicha he need not consult before issuing a Pesak.
Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2012 15:27:05 -0500
From: Micha Berger <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: [Avodah] Brain is the Link to HKBH
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
On Fri, Nov 09, 2012 at 5:34pm +1100, R' Meir Rabi wrote:
: The Maharal famously says, it is better for us to struggle with
: understanding the Halacha and applying it, even if we get it wrong, than to
: avoid that struggle by consulting a rabbi or a Sefer, and getting it right.
: This is found in Nesivos Olam, Nesiv Torah end Ch 15.
Available at <http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14202&st=&pgnum=72>.
It's not what I see there. I see the Maharal telling the chakham that even
the authors of secondary sources wouldn't want them ignoring the talmud to
turn to them when pasqening.
Yes, when speaking of the risk for an error:
"And this is better thasn someone who pasqens from one text and
doesn't understand at all the reason for the thing, who walks like
a blind man on the road."
But different than what it says above, and thus doesn't justify RMR's
conclusions, for two fundamental reasons:
1- It's advice to a poseiq, not advice to the masses that they work by
themselves and not "consult a rabbi or a sefer".
Which is what originally bothered me about RMR's presentation of
this Maharal. A talmid needs reshus to give hora'ah when the rebbe is
available. Meaning that there are limits to thinking for oneself even for
someone who is unlikely to err -- never mind the hamon am! In fact, when
we call semikhah "Yoreh Yoreh" we are invoking this idea from Sanhedrin
5b by quoting the sugya's buzzword. Semikhah is netilas reshus to think
for oneself. Which rules out the notion that this is how everyone is
supposed to do things.
2- The Maharal is speaking about non-understanding obedience. IOW,
don't just read a Qitzur, MB, or Shemiras Shabbas keHilkhasah and tell
your qehillah whatever is written there. Understand /why/ the din is
this way or that. Or get out of the pasqening business. Which isn't even
following one's own mind over that book. It could be you don't like the
sevara that the din converged around. But understand it.
And that understanding is so important that the occasional error is
less of a price to pay than occasionally violating the consensus through
ignorance of it, because one looked at the talmud and missed the acharon.
He speaks of ignorance, not of willfull selection of sevara over accepted
: Reb Chaim Volosiner FORBIDS accepting what ones Rebbe Paskens or advises if
: one has questions on it.
: In the same vein he explains that HaVey MisAbek BeAfar RagLeyHem ? means
: not to sit at their feet but TO GO INTO BATTLE with them.
Yes, to use your brain. Not to follow yourself halakhah lemaaseh over
a received pesaq! Follow, but not blindly!
On Fri, Nov 09, 2012 at 5:37pm +1100, R Meir Rabi wrote:
: The Rosh [Chulin Ch8] quotes Rabbenu Simcha...
: He explains that the Torah prohibits cooking meat in its mother's milk.
: This phrase is not just a poetic term, but a Halachic qualification. The
: only milk that may not be cooked with meat, is milk that emerges from a
: mother. Once it is altered and is no longer the same as it was when first
: emerging from the cow, it is transformed into a product that may be cooked
: with meat. [It might be a problem understanding in this case why the curds
: are deemed to be milk.]
: I think the greatest Chiddush of this discussion is the genius of Rabbenu
: Simcha. Where does he draw the substance of his Chiddush? The answer is,
: there is no Gemara that supports this interpretation, it is only the power
: of the human mind. LaMa Li KeRa? SeVaRa Hu. No verse in the Torah is
: required to teach us that which is self evident.
But his chiddush is lomdus, explaining the gemara's pesaq WRT "mei chalav"
on Chullin 111b, the top of 114a, and "nisyuvei dechalba" in Pesachim
42a. Again, a non-blind following of existing pesaq, and not an instance
of "lamah li qera? sevarah hi!"
On Wed, Nov 07, 2012 at 01:20:15PM +0000, Akiva Miller wrote:
: Regarding the sale of a shul to be a mikveh, R' Micha Berger wrote:
:> (RMF in IM CM 1:42 reaches the same conclusion [as the CI], but argues
:> that since one may sell a seifer Torah to marry a woman
:> (Megillah 27a) and qedushas ST outranks that of a shul (prior
:> mishnah, 25b), then qal vakhomer one may sell a shul to build
:> a miqvah. Thus defusing this example for the sake of our
: Rather than defusing this example, I think it is a *great* example of
: the "inventive logic" that I referred to above. Do you think that these
: arguments did not occur to earlier poskim? Yet they don't seem to have
: mitigated the psak of the Mishna (Megillah, 2nd one on 27b) and Shulchan
: Aruch (OC 153:9)....
I just meant it defuses the miqvah case as an example of choosing least
amongst issurim. RMF instead claims that selling the shul would be mutar.
I just got an epiphany about huterah vs dechuyah, but go try to relay an
epiphany. I never thought of the two (dechuyah and this kind of "halakhah
ve'ein morin kein" choosing the least amongst issurim) at the same time
before to realize they're connected.
In terms of RAM's point, I actually think that:
1- There are plenty of sevaros that, intentionally or not, hinichu lahem
chakhamim for later generations and now seem obvious in retrospect.
2- This particular situation isn't the one in the mishnah or the
SA. The case where a rav had to choose between building a shul or a
community that violated taharas hamishpachah required the rabbi living
among non-observant Jews. Not that RMF was creating a sevara that let
him overturn halakhah pesuqah. (Which is the common theme that had me
reply in this thread, rather than continuing this under the obsolescent
subject line "eivah".)
In general, the eivah thread seemed to be talking about three things:
1- RET was talking about cases where people find excuses to sanctify
their violation of halakhah. Regardless of whether they found halachic
loopholes. Like his enigmatic citation of Yonah as an example.
2- RAM appears to be talking about people's ability to find halachic
loopholes where the halakhah violates their natural sense of morality.
Often/usually by showing a way in which their situation is new in a way
not covered by the old new pesaq.
If I may add, this requirement isn't always true. In CM, it's possible
to say that because parties' expectations changed, the *existing* din
would. Because most of CM is about agreements between parties. Which is
why qinyanim can be made by conforming to secular conventions.
Or the Sho'el uMeishiv's (1:44) idea that if secular society saw the moral
obligation to protect an author's creation and publisher's investment, it
is impossible that the Torah is less moral. He therefore assigns ownership
of ideas to their creator. And since, in halachah, ownership is eternal
(barring proactively making a kinyan), he paskened that copyrights are
lehalachah also eternal -- even when secular law and morality do not.
Sometimes it's that a new situation needs a new pesaq. In CM, sometimes
it's that the standing pesaq is to conform to property as people think
of it. And then there are other cases of where existing pesaq has new
implications. See below.
3- I thought we were talking about cases where people are finding new
instances of eis la'asos despite not being able to find a justification
for a new pesaq on the halachic plane.
One is left in a similar quagmire trying to understand the CC on formal
education for girls. Did he mean "eis la'asos laH'" literally, and thus
it's a lesser-sin situation? Or did consider the discussion of what was
covered in preexisting pesaq more primary? If the issur always excluded
that which is necessary to avoid sin, then the CC could -- and did --
then that pesaq would include some theoretical knowledge for girls living
in a society that has mandatory secular education. Avoiding going off
the derekh is also avoiding sin. Just as much as avoiding ignorance of
On a third aspect of this "independent thinking about halakhah" post...
The Brisker chumerah defies the more common theories about what the
halachic process is. You're basically taking the daas yachid of the
Rambam, that halakhah has one right answer and the poseiq needs to
*discover* what HQBH or the rabbanan who made a taqanah meant. There
is a right and a wrong pesaq to every question, and "eilu va'eilu
divrei E-lokim chaim" refers to HQBH wanting the effort more than
Which gets us back to my disagreement with RMR. I mean here the effort
that goes into the stream of pesaq, not of an individual relying on
himself rather than qualified avaliable resources.
From the discovery perspective of machloqes, R' Chaim Brisker or
the MB can talk about being chosheish for shitos that the consensus
rejected. These shitos have preexisting reality, and a lack of certitude
that the consensus converged on the right one is sufficient to motivate
playing safe as a lifnim mishuras hadin technique. One isn't required to
go beyond that demanded halachic process, but there is value to doing so.
However, the majority of ge'onim and rishonim consider one of a few
variants of the theme that machloqes is the product of being able to
extrapolate from existing halakhah to new cases in multiple ways. IOW,
that the poseiq *constructs* new halakhah, *not* discovers it.
This line of reasoning leaves no reason (eg) to be chosheish for shitas
haRosh if we constructed the halakhah to follow the Rambam. It doesn't
make a difference if you've mastered lomdus to the point that you can
see the strength of the sevaros of both sides. It's the process of pesaq
that makes the Rambam (in my example) right, not the
Ironically (given who we're talking about), RYBS's theory of halakhah is
based around this, when Halakhic Man calls halakhah a creative partnership
between HQBH and man. If man *creates*, there is no halakhah-ness to
shitos man didn't chooose. You're being chosheish for things never made.