- The Mesora
- Reader: I
think much of your site is commendable in disproving anti-Torah
methodologies. However, the usage of the word "Mesora" as
the name of your site is a bit misleading, as you constantly suggest
that people decide about religion for themselves, and not follow
anyone else. That is not what Mesora means. Mesora is t
- For this, I am sorry to offend you, but I rely
on my father, who relied on his father, and so back in a golden chain
that stretches to Matan Torah. There is no other nation on earth that
claims a mass revelation, other than Klal Yisrael. The only way we can
accept this revelation as true, and not as "mob psychology",
is if we trust that our forefathers who kept the Mesora through all
these years did not lie about the original incident. For this reason,
disputing the chain of Mesora is anti-Torah.
- I do indeed learn on my own, but keeping in
mind: "Shema B'ni Mussar Avicha, V'al Titosh Toras Imecha".
And "She'al Avicha V'yagedcha, Z'keinecha V'yomru Lach".
Right now, you do not qualify in my book of "Z'keinecha".
Both because you are afraid to accept any achronim (perhaps excepting
the Gr"a, I'm not sure, as you always insist on going back to
only Rishonim), and because you don't seem to accept a Kabbala
dimension of the Torah, for which several Tannaim come to mind,
amongst them Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. So for now, I enjoy the service
you give the Torah community in disputing charlatans, but do not
accept your word as necessarily Torah-based.
- This is possibly even in accordance with the
philosophy you espouse on your site, where you suggest everyone find
the truth for themselves. I haven't found, in your cutting off of
Jewish chachamim of a 500-year period, a philosophy true to the Torah.
Do you quibble with the Baal Shulchan Aruch? He was an Acharon. I
think it is presumptuous of you to do this, even if you do not follow
a specific Acharon's philosophy or approach to Limud HaTorah.
- There are still some people around today that
have the good sense to realize that just as they may not have
Einstein's mind and be able to build an atom bomb, so too, they may
need a teacher in plumbing the full depths of the Torah. There is
nothing wrong with this, and from Moshe Rabbeinu, leaders have been
accepted by the Jews to teach them. While I do not dispute that Torah
can be learned by any individual, if you want the correct conclusions
based on the hermeneutical principles, it can take more than a
lifetime, and part of why we need to learn is so that we can practice
halacha before we are dead.
- Your lack of respect for Talmidei Chachamim
goes against the Torah, in which we learn that we are required to give
precedence to a Talmid Chacham-mamzer over an Am Ha'aretz-kohen, and
in which we learn "Mipnei seivah takum v'hadarta p'nei
zakein". Zakein is "zeh she'kanah chachmah", certainly
a title for which a Talmid Chacham is qualified. "Hiddur" of
a Talmid Chacham is not the feeling one gets when reading some
material on your site.
- Your philosophy of judging prior generations
of giants brings to mind the Gemara: "Im Harishonim k'malachim,
anu ki'vnei adam. Im Harishonim ki'vnei adam, anu kachamorim. Velo
kachamoro shel Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair..."
- Mesora: I
do not see where we lack respect for chochamim.
- Accepting what our minds tell us is precisely
the Mesora we received - not to blindly accept whatever the previous
generation teaches. This is not how the Rishonim and Acharonim acted.
They disputed their opponents positions regardless of the Mesora of
the position. This is because the Mesora is not to simply accept
everything one hears, even in the name of the greats. This point is
stated clearly in the gemara, "even if Joshua the son of Nun said
it, I wouldn't accept it....". (Talmud Chulin 124a, at the very
bottom). This statement from the Gemara teaches us a valuable lesson:
Reputation is not preferred when it counters reason. We do not follow
an "authority", even one who was under the direct tutelage
of Moses. What do we follow? The answer: "Reason."
- Do you respect Ramban any less because he
argued on Maimonides? Why don't you feel Ramban should have simply
accepted Maimonides unquestioned? We do not answer that they were on
the level to argue, but we cannot. We do not see them defending that
position. This right of dispute is a God given right to all mankind.
This is precisely why each man possesses a critical faculty. God's
will is that each of us think for ourselves, and guide our lives based
on our conclusions. Otherwise, we must say that God's gift of reason
to all members of mankind was a mistake. This we cannot say.
- The bottom line is that we certainly abide by
the Mesora. But this acceptance in no way permits us to follow a
Mesora from another person if that very Mesora is incorrect, like the
Gemara I quoted.
- Regarding Kabballa, and other texts, again, an
idea must make sense. Maimonides' son taught us that if an idea makes
sense, we follow it regardless of the source. If the idea is
nonsensical, we abandon it. Please see my article
on the Ibn Ezra where he teaches that we
abandon an idea - even a Mitzvah - if we cannot understand it. This
was the Ibn Ezra talking.
- Thank you for taking the time to write me.
- Moshe Ben-Chaim