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02/01/2013

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Te Conceptual
Approach to Jewish
Learning
edited by
Yosef Blau
Robert S. Hirt, Series Editor
THE MICHAEL SCHARF PUBLICATION TRUST
of the YESHIVA UNIVERSITY PRESS
NEW YORK
1

The Conceptual Approach
to Torah Learning: The
Method and Its Prospects

1
Aharon Lichtenstein

\ue00eo the a\ue015erage ben yeshivah, the \ue015ery thought o\ue010 a metho\ue00fology o\ue010 lear\ue013\ue011\ue013g \ue011\ue014, at be\ue014t, a two-e\ue00fge\ue00f \ue014wor\ue00f. O\ue013 the o\ue013e ha\ue013\ue00f, he f\ue013\ue00f\ue014 \ue011t allur\ue011\ue013g. O\ue013 the ob\ue012ect\ue011\ue015e pla\ue013e, \ue011t hol\ue00f\ue014 out the prom\ue011\ue014e o\ue010 greater

rat\ue001o\ue002al\ue001ty a\ue002\ue000 or\ue000er, \ue002ot to me\ue002t\ue001o\ue002 approx\ue001mat\ue001o\ue002 to truth \u2013 \ue004alue\ue003
much \ue005ought a\ue004\ue000 apprec\ue002ate\ue000; a\ue004\ue000 \ue005ub\ue003ect\ue002\ue006ely, \ue002t el\ue002c\ue002t\ue005 the hope o\ue001
a more e\ue001c\ue004e\ue005t a\ue005\ue002 e\ue000ect\ue004\ue007e \ue002\ue004rect\ue004o\ue005 o\ue003 h\ue004\ue006 mo\ue006t cher\ue004\ue006he\ue002 act\ue004\ue007\ue004ty.
A\ue003\ue000 yet he \ue004e\ue003\ue004e\ue004 a \ue000\ue002\ue004cor\ue000a\ue003t \ue003ote. It\ue004 u\ue003\ue001am\ue002l\ue002ar\ue002ty \ue002\ue004 threate\ue003-
\ue011\ue013g, \ue011t\ue014 pur\ue014u\ue011t pote\ue013t\ue011ally u\ue013\ue014ettl\ue011\ue013g, a\ue013\ue00f \ue011t\ue014 occa\ue014\ue011o\ue013ally tech\ue013\ue011cal
\ue000ormulat\ue001o\ue003\ue004 \ue002arr\ue001\ue003g. More o\ue005er, the percept\ue001o\ue003 that a \ue004y\ue004temat\ue001c
\ue001mpul\ue003e character\ue001ze\ue003 the aca\ue000em\ue001c commu\ue002\ue001ty, wh\ue001ch the bu\ue000\ue000\ue001\ue002g
talmid hakham po\ue014\ue014\ue011bly \ue014u\ue014pect\ue014, o\ue013ly \ue011\ue013te\ue013\ue014\ue011fe\ue014 the \ue00f\ue011\ue014comfture.
Tere are, howe\ue005er, \ue000eeper a\ue003\ue000 more ge\ue003u\ue002\ue003e root\ue004 \ue001or the
amb\ue011\ue015ale\ue013ce. Te\ue014e relate, pr\ue011mar\ue011ly, to a\ue013x\ue011ety o\ue015er the lo\ue014\ue014 o\ue010 pa\ue014-
2
Aharon Lichtenstein

\ue014\ue011o\ue013 a\ue013\ue00f the \ue012a\ue00f\ue011\ue013g o\ue010 awe. Co\ue013cer\ue013 that e\ue001c\ue011e\ue013cy w\ue011ll be atta\ue011\ue013e\ue00f at the expe\ue013\ue014e o\ue010 re\ue015ere\ue013ce touche\ue014 a raw \ue013er\ue015e. A beit midrash \ue011\ue014 \ue013ot a \ue014hoe \ue010actory, a\ue013\ue00f \ue011t\ue014 occupa\ue013t\ue014 are \ue013ot \ue011\ue013\ue00fe\ue013ture\ue00f to the bot- tom l\ue011\ue013e. It \ue011\ue014 the ep\ue011ce\ue013ter o\ue010 the\ue011r ex\ue011\ue014te\ue013t\ue011al orb\ue011t, a\ue013\ue00f the\ue011r \ue014tu\ue00fy

there \ue001\ue003 a\ue002\ue001mate\ue000 by a \ue003\ue001mple pet\ue001t\ue001o\ue002: \u05da\u05ea\u05e8\u05d5\u05ea\u05de \u05ea\u05d5\u05d0\u05dc\u05e4\u05e0 \u05d4\u05d8\u05d9\u05d1\u05d0\u05d5 \u05d9\u05e0\u05d9\u05e2 \u05dc\u05d2,
\u201cOpe\ue013 Tou m\ue011\ue013e eye\ue014, that I may behol\ue00f wo\ue013\ue00frou\ue014 th\ue011\ue013g\ue014 out o\ue010
Ty law\u201d (\ue000ehillim 119:18).
I\ue001 th\ue000\ue002 re\ue002pect, the amb\ue000\ue003ale\ue001ce \ue000\ue002 a\ue001alogou\ue002 to the Roma\ue001t\ue000c\ue002\u2019
re\ue014er\ue015at\ue011o\ue013\ue014 (o\ue013e recall\ue014 Watt\ue014-Du\ue013\ue014to\ue013\u2019\ue014 \ue00fe\ue014\ue011g\ue013at\ue011o\ue013 o\ue010 the mo\ue015e-
me\ue003t a\ue004 \u201cthe re\ue003a\ue004ce\ue003ce o\ue001 wo\ue003\ue000er\u201d) about \ue004peculat\ue002\ue005e thought. \u201cDo
\ue013ot all charm\ue014 \ue002y,\u201d a\ue014ke\ue00f Keat\ue014,
At the mere touch o\ue010 col\ue00f ph\ue011lo\ue014ophy?

Tere wa\ue014 a\ue013 aw\ue010ul ra\ue011\ue013bow o\ue013ce \ue011\ue013 hea\ue015e\ue013:
We k\ue013ow her woo\ue010, her texture; \ue014he \ue011\ue014 g\ue011\ue015e\ue013
I\ue013 the \ue00full catalogue o\ue010 commo\ue013 th\ue011\ue013g\ue014.
Ph\ue011lo\ue014ophy w\ue011ll cl\ue011p a\ue013 a\ue013gel\u2019\ue014 w\ue011\ue013g\ue014,
Co\ue013quer all my\ue014ter\ue011e\ue014 by rule a\ue013\ue00f l\ue011\ue013e
Empty the hau\ue013te\ue00f a\ue011r, a\ue013\ue00f g\ue013ome\ue00f m\ue011\ue013e

U\ue013wea\ue015e a ra\ue011\ue013bow
(Lamia, ii, 229\u2013237)
It \ue001\ue003 exacerbate\ue000, howe\ue004er, by two \ue000\ue001\ue003parate a\ue002\ue000 yet compleme\ue002tary
\ue010actor\ue014. F\ue011r\ue014t, o\ue013e \ue014e\ue013\ue014e\ue014 that at \ue014take \ue011\ue014 \ue013ot \ue012u\ue014t my\ue014tery but \ue014acre\ue00f
my\ue003tery, \ue001t\ue003 apprehe\ue002\ue003\ue001o\ue002 to be accompa\ue002\ue001e\ue000, co\ue002\ue003eque\ue002tly, w\ue001th
tremor \ue013o le\ue014\ue014 tha\ue013 w\ue011th wo\ue013\ue00fer. T\ue011\ue014, o\ue013 the \ue015\ue011ew o\ue010 R. Matya b.
Hara\ue014h, wa\ue014 the thru\ue014t o\ue010 the \ue014ummo\ue013\ue014 to Mo\ue014he Rabbe\ue013u at S\ue011\ue013a\ue011,
\u05e8\u05de\u05d0\u05e0\u05e9 \u05e2\u05d9\u05d6\u05d1\u05d5 \u05ea\u05ea\u05e8\u05d1 \u05d4\u05de\u05d9\u05d0\u05d1 \u05ea\u05e0\u05ea\u05d9\u05e0 \u05d4\u05e8\u05d5\u05ea \u05d0\u05d4\u05ea\u05e9 \u05d9\u05d3\u05db \u05d5\u05d9\u05dc\u05e2 \u05dd\u05d9\u05d9\u05d0\u05dc \u05d0\u05dc\u05d0 \u05d1\u05d5\u05ea\u05db\u05d4 \u05d0\u05d1 \u05d0\u05dc
\u05d4\u05d3\u05e2\u05e8\u05d1 \u05d5\u05dc\u05d9\u05d2\u05d5 \u05d4\u05d0\u05e8\u05d9\u05d1 \u05f3\u05d4 \u05ea\u05d0 \u05d5\u05d3\u05d1\u05e2,\ue004 \u201cTe purpo\ue014e o\ue010 the Scr\ue011pture here wa\ue014
to \ue011\ue013\ue014p\ue011re h\ue011m w\ue011th \ue010ear, \ue014o that the \ue00eorah be g\ue011\ue015e\ue013 w\ue011th \ue010ear, w\ue011th
trembl\ue002\ue003g, a\ue003\ue000 w\ue002th \ue004weat, a\ue004 \ue002t \ue002\ue004 \ue004a\ue002\ue000: \u2018Ser\ue005e the Lor\ue000 w\ue002th \ue001ear a\ue003\ue000
re\ue012o\ue011ce w\ue011th trembl\ue011\ue013g\u2019 \u201d (\ue000ehillim 2:11) a\ue013\ue00f \ue011t\ue014 echoe\ue014 ha\ue015e re\ue015erber-
ate\ue00f \ue010or po\ue014ter\ue011ty. Seco\ue013\ue00f \ue011\ue014 the \ue015\ue011\ue014ceral qual\ue011ty thatHa z al a\ue014cr\ue011be\ue00f
totalmud \ue000orah. I\ue004 character\ue003z\ue003\ue004g \ue003t, they re\ue005orte\ue001 to metaphor\ue005
relat\ue011\ue013g to the mo\ue014t eleme\ue013tal o\ue010 phy\ue014\ue011cal a\ue013\ue00f p\ue014ych\ue011c exper\ue011e\ue013ce\ue014:

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