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why then does Reb Hayyim cling to the textual test, and with such
consistency? Why did the founder of this approach cast his novel

ideas in a form that appears to be restrictive and unnecessary? I have

no intention of proposing an answer to this important question, one
that lurks behind our entire discussion and for that I beg the reader’s
forgiveness. A number of answers come to mind, but I allow myself
to avoid such speculation and leave the question open.
But the fact that this question exists must cast a certain shadow
on the Rav ’s theory. Tis leads to a second question, one of greater
interest to me: How did the Rav ’s discovery afect the world of lom-
dut afer him?

Te Rav merited that his halakhic thought was avidly heard by
students of all levels, lamdanim, ba’alei-batim and the entire range
between them. His most outstanding disciples themselves became
disseminators of Torah and broadened the infuence of their master’s

Torah. It would appear, as was stated above, that these students do not

attribute to the Rav any signifcant methodological innovation. Tey
fully recognize his remarkable pedagogic ability, the comparisons
between halakhic thought and scientifc and mathematical inquiry.
In their eyes, however, this is merely a description of what existed
before him. Tey even view the Rav ’s manner of learning as merely
an application – certainly virtuosic – of that which already existed.
From Reb Hayyim to the Rav, the method was one and the same.
Tis is not at all surprising. Students devoted to their teacher

and his Torah adopt his perceptions without question. Tis is natural,

expected and altogether as it should be. And the Rav, in his funda-
mental humility, rolled in the dust at the feet of his teachers, casting
of all presumption of methodological innovation.
We must add here that the Rav ’s force and credibility as an
interpreter developed out of his great stature and on the basis of the
assumption that it was specifcally into his hands that his teachers
had deposited the task of continuing their tradition. Tis is what his
father, Reb Mosheh, wrote about him:

From his earliest childhood, he exhibited awesome intel-
lectual ability, by no means whatsoever commonplace. My

Conceptual r20 draft 5 balanced.indd 278
Conceptual r20 draft 5 balanced.indd 278

13/12/2005 13:46:36
13/12/2005 13:46:36


Te Evolution of a Tradition of Learning

father and master, teacher and spiritual guide, the righteous

Torah genius, spiritual guide of Israel, of righteous and blessed

memory, prophesied regarding him that he was for greatness
and that he was destined to become a mighty and overarch-
ing tree. And when once my father came across a notebook
containing my son’s original Torah insights, his wonderment

was indescribable. He declared that the insights recorded were

true Torah ideas…In previous generations, it was considered
a practical impossibility for Torah knowledge and general
knowledge to be combined. However, in this generation, it is

already possible to fnd Torah and general wisdom connected

to each other symbiotically in certain great individuals. And
this is the manner in which this phenomenon has occurred:
Te level of Torah knowledge attained by the greatest Torah
scholar of the generation is transcendent and comparable
to the Torah knowledge of the greatest of earlier genera-
tions…Tere is no doubt that he is presently singular in this
generation in his understanding of Torah. His level of under-
standing is such that it is the counterweight and his opinion
is decisive in all the laws of the Torah, the lighter ones and
the more stringent. Many years ago, the Torah genius, the
head of the Religious Court of Kovno, wrote concerning him
that the Law is in accordance with his opinion in all areas
of the Torah…He is the solitary fgure in the generation in
innovation and insight into the conceptual structure of the

Should we then be astonished that the Rav ’s perception was simply
passed on to his students and that they apparently perceive his
unique qualities as mere external matters of style?82 Is it not obvious
that they would be satisfed with the assertion that Reb Hayyim’s
hiddushim are “liable to mislead us”? I, who aspire to be counted
among the students of one of the Rav ’s outstanding disciples, can
personally attest to the pangs of conscience that accompanied my
present eforts to try and view things as would an “outsider.” I did
this because I believed it to be essential in order to gain a better

Conceptual r20 draft 5 balanced.indd 279
Conceptual r20 draft 5 balanced.indd 279

13/12/2005 13:46:36
13/12/2005 13:46:36

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