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A Jewish Sourcebook
A Jewish Sourcebook
Compiled & translated by
Author: Yad Moshe, Yad Yisroel, Child & Domestic Abuse (3 volumes)
Second Revised Edition Includes English texts only Hebrew to be published separately Emunah Press Jerusalem-New York 2011
A Jewish Sourcebook © 2011 Daniel Eidensohn 124 Parkville Avenue Brooklyn, New York 11230 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Daas Torah blog http://daattorah.blogspot.com/ All rights reserved including that of copying by all means including photographic and electronic. This also applies to the translation as well as edited Hebrew text. In other words - no Xeroxing of pages is allowed without written permission from the author - even for good purposes. Violating this prohibition constitutes stealing.
Resources utilized The following data bases were utilized. Bar Ilan’s Responsa Data Base, Davka’s Judaica Classics, DBS’s Data Base, and Encyclopedia Judaica. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s Handbook of Jewish Thought. Rabbi Menachem Kasher’s Torah Shleima and Rabbi Dr. Shmuel Adler’s Aspaklaria were also indispensable. A number of English translations were useful aids in my translation: Soncino Tanach, Talmud, Medrash and Zohar. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s Living Torah. Rabbi Chavel’s Ramban. Rabbi Eliyahu Munk’s Rabbeinu Bachye, Akeidas Yitzchok, Shaloh and Ohr HaChaim. iv
Rabbinic Guidance When I started thinking about this project years ago, various concerns were raised about the appropriateness of making a sourcebook. I consulted with a number of talmidei chachomim who validated the idea of a theological sourcebook containing a range of views. It is important to note that none of these rabbis were involved in the actual composition of this sourcebook nor did they see the resulting compendium prior to publication. I am solely responsible for its contents. Rav Eliyashiv stated that making a sourcebook with a range of views was permitted. Furthermore, the fact that conflicting views might cause confusion in some readers was not a reason to avoid teaching them. He stated that any confusion that might result should be clarified by consulting the reader’s rabbi or rosh yeshiva. However, he indicated there were two conditions for a legitimate sourcebook. Firstly, that the sources needed to be accepted ones and not those from recently discovered manuscripts of questionable validity. Secondly, the views needed to be the authentic views of major authorities - and not the distorted assertions found in some polemical works. While I believe I have succeeded in fulfilling these conditions there is not universal agreement as to which material should be classified as mainstream. For example, concerning the Ramban’s statement on Agada, there are many - such as Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky - who asserted that it is not the authentic view of the Ramban. However, the Chasam Sofer accepted it as valid. When faced with this type of dispute between recognized authorities, I have brought the views from both sides. I have not attempted to decide between positions or give my personal opinion concerning who is right. This is in accord with the advice of Rav Moshe Shapiro. While he told me to proceed with writing this sefer, he advised me not to present my own views or interpretations and to let the sources speak for themselves. Rav Nachman Bulman helped me clarify what I was trying to do and provided encouragement. Rav Moshe Heinemann spent time clarifying issues and validating the project. Rav Joseph Elias provided valuable sources when I first started working on this project. Rav Noach Weinberg told me that studying theology was important especially for baalei teshuva. Rav Yaakov Weinberg was encouraging and provided critical understanding of some of the underlying issues. Rav Avraham Pessin reviewed some issues and provided me with unique insights. Rav Moshe Chaim Geldtzahler has provided important help as well as profound comments on some of these issues. Rav Yosef Rottenberg’s deep understanding and commonsense opened new vistas.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents .................................................................................................................... v Preface: Why study Theology? by Rav Triebitz .......................................................... 1 Purpose of the Sourcebook ................................................................................................. 7 Principles for Using this Sourcebook .............................................................................10 G-d requires Specific Spiritual Achievements ...........................................................15 Teachers: Nature & Importance......................................................................................19 Ignorance: Not an Excuse for Sinning ...........................................................................25 Kiddush HaShem: Sanctifying G-d’s Reputation .......................................................30 Chilul HaShem: Profaning G-d’s Reputation ...............................................................31 Convert: Can be more spiritual than born Jew ..........................................................34 Spirituality & Decency: Torah & Natural Law ............................................................36 Sinning: Why does a Religious Person sin? .................................................................41 Beliefs: Sources & Kabbalistic Influences ...................................................................44 Agada & Medrash: Source of Theological Beliefs ......................................................53 Beliefs: Are Obligatory in Judaism .................................................................................66 Beliefs: Some Foundation Principles ............................................................................76 Heretical Beliefs: Prohibited by Judaism.....................................................................82 Martyrdom: Dying for Correct Beliefs ..........................................................................99 Beliefs: Some have Changed over Time ..................................................................... 103 Jewish Personality Traits ............................................................................................... 107 Skepticism: Inherently a Jewish trait ......................................................................... 110 Chutzpa (brazenness): Essential for Spirituality ................................................... 112 Faith: Innate but must be developed ......................................................................... 115 Faith: Not identical with Knowledge? ........................................................................ 120 Simple Faith: Is Best (Emuna Peshuta) ..................................................................... 127 Simple Faith: Its Problems ............................................................................................. 135 Intellectual Faith: Is Best (Theology) ......................................................................... 142 Intellectual Faith: Its Problems .................................................................................... 153 Sage/Tzadik: Aspect & Dwelling Place of G-d ......................................................... 165 Tradition (Mesora): Rabbis Transmit & Create ..................................................... 174
Torah is not in Heaven: Man decides Halacha ........................................................ 187 Innovation (Chidush): Needed for Spirituality ....................................................... 190 Innovation (Chidush): Prohibited? Chadash Assur .............................................. 196 Truth: Objectivity or Will of G-d................................................................................... 199 Eilu v’Eilu: Multiple Truths or One? ............................................................................ 204 Truth: Greater importance than Authority ............................................................. 209 Seeing is more Real than Beliefs or Hearing ........................................................... 211 Knowledge: Clear Awareness of Truth ...................................................................... 214 Knowledge: Basis is Torah & Prophesy ..................................................................... 223 Philosophy: Relationship with Torah ........................................................................ 225 Secular Knowledge vs. Torah Knowledge ................................................................ 233 Reshus: Activity that is neither mitzva nor sin?..................................................... 242 Questions: Essential to Understanding ..................................................................... 243 Answers: Parameters of Legitimacy ........................................................................... 260 Distort views: For Authority/Education/Kiruv ..................................................... 266 Preserving Society by suspending Torah laws ....................................................... 272 Daas Torah: Authentic Jewish way of Thinking ..................................................... 275 Daas Torah: Ask Gedolim all Issues ............................................................................ 280 Daas Torah: View of Rav Moshe Feinstein ............................................................... 284 Gedolim: Fallibility? ......................................................................................................... 286 Infallibility because of Ruach Hakodesh? ................................................................ 291 Rabbinic Authority – Sources....................................................................................... 310 Majority Rule – must submit? ....................................................................................... 330 Disagreeing with Post Talmudic Authorities .......................................................... 341 Chazal (Talmudic Sages): Uniqueness ....................................................................... 361 Disagreeing with Chazal ................................................................................................. 376 Disagreements amongst Chazal ................................................................................... 385 Chazal versus Science ...................................................................................................... 389 Racism is prohibited ........................................................................................................ 400 Contentment: Whether Wealthy or Poor .................................................................. 401 Pleasure: Important but only in Moderation ......................................................... 403 Corporal Punishment: Children & Students ............................................................ 405
Providence: Foundation Principle of Belief ............................................................. 409 Providence: Denying or Rejecting ............................................................................... 417 Providence: Attribute good & bad events to G-d ................................................... 422 Providence: G-d has Knowledge of Man .................................................................... 427 Providence: G-d intervenes in World ......................................................................... 430 Providence: Individual or only in General ............................................................... 440 Tzadik: Protected from Harm ....................................................................................... 460 Mazel & Magic versus Providence ............................................................................... 472 Astrology & Fortune-telling are Prohibited? .......................................................... 481 Marriage: Predestined or Reward/Punishment? .................................................. 487 Life is only Good for the Tzadikim .............................................................................. 491 Suicide: To Prevent Sexual Sins or Repent............................................................... 492 Suffering: Reasons & Benefits ....................................................................................... 496 Suffering: Reacting Positively & Cherishing It ........................................................ 505 Suffering: Complaining about G-d causing It ........................................................... 515 Free-will: Harming others despite Providence ...................................................... 532 Suffering: Always from Sin or is also Natural?........................................................ 543 Anger at Others is Wrong: G-d causes Everything ................................................ 561 Reincarnation: Suffering for Previous Existence ................................................... 566 Suffering: Beyond our Understanding ....................................................................... 568 Suffering: From Love (yesurim shel ahava) ............................................................. 574 Suffering: Other’s – Rejoice or feel Sad? .................................................................... 581 Suffering: In spite of Bitachon ...................................................................................... 586 Suffering: Children’s – Reasons .................................................................................... 591 Suffering: Tzadik/Moshiach - Reasons ...................................................................... 593 Time of G-d’s Anger: Even Righteous Suffer ............................................................ 605 Messianic Age & Suffering .............................................................................................. 607 G-d Suffers ............................................................................................................................ 608 Trials & Tests: Historical Examples ............................................................................ 609 Trials & Tests: Acquiring Faith & Reward ................................................................ 618 Bitachon: Security from Trusting G-d ........................................................................ 632 Bitachon: Tzadikim sometimes lack or don’t want .............................................. 666
Bitachon: Without Effort produces Success ............................................................. 686 Work: Relationship to Torah ........................................................................................ 704 Work: Obligation & Purpose ......................................................................................... 714 Effort: Required but does not Cause of Success ..................................................... 724 Prayer: Relationship to Effort or Bitachon .............................................................. 754 Sickness Repent or Doctor ............................................................................................. 763 Rosh HaShanna: Determines Success for Year? ..................................................... 779 6 Day War & Entebbe: Miracles or Nature? ............................................................. 782 War: Effort vs. Bitachon .................................................................................................. 785 Miracles ................................................................................................................................. 789 Hebrew Endnotes ......................................................................................................... - 812 -
Preface: Why study Theology? by Rav Triebitz I
G-d commands us to study the Torah twice - in Deuteronomy (11:19) and again in Deuteronomy (4:9–11). Each verse, however, is uniquely distinguished by its own internal semantical and syntactical form as well as the context in which it appears. Deuteronomy1(11:19) states, “You shall teach the commandments to your children to speak about them, while at home, while traveling on the road, when you lie down to go to sleep and while you rise up.” This verse appears in the description of the reward and punishment which will result from the fulfillment or transgression of the commandments. Consequently, this verse is generally understood to refer to the study of the halachic obligations of the Torah - in all their variegated details. In contrast, Deuteronomy2(4:9) concerns the necessity of recalling the monumental events of the giving of the Torah at Sinai. Here the Torah informs the Jewish people, “Be careful for yourself, and guard your soul greatly, not to forget the events that your eyes beheld at Sinai. That is in order that they shouldn’t leave your heart for the rest of your life, and you shall tell them to your children and to your children’s children.” Ostensibly, the second verse deals with our obligation to effectively communicate the experience of the mass revelation of the Torah at Sinai. It requires us to preserve the memory of the event which constitutes the pivotal historical proof of the truth of the Torah and Moses’ prophecy. However, the Talmudic Sages3(Kiddushin 30a) understood the verse to be a command to study the Torah. Furthermore, Nachmanides4(Maimonides’ Book of the Commandments) asserts that it is specifically a command to study the “faith of the Torah.” Consequently, the two verses which obligate us to study the Torah actually refer to two types of study. One refers to the study of the legal part of the Torah, and the other refers to the study of Torah’s theology. Each form of study is deemed a separate scholarly enterprise. Given the fact that each is based on a separate verse, it is incumbent upon us to explore the unique features of each, what they have in common, and their differences. In the world of Talmudic and Rabbinical epistemology, the idea itself and how we derive it from its source in the Torah are inextricably intertwined. Therefore, one can explore the nature of a Torah concept, even to its fine details, by careful scrutiny of the verse from which it emerges. Towards this end, it is instructive to compare the two verses with respect to their salient contrasting features. Such an analysis yields three notable distinctions. 1) The first verse, dealing with the commandment of the “legal” study of the Torah is expressed in the plural, while the second verse, which deals with the commandment of “faith” study, is expressed in the singular form. This grammatical difference between plural and singular is representative of the more general textual context in which the two verses appear. The discussion of reward and punishment is formulated in the plural since it addresses the nation collectively. In contrast, the whole exhortation not to forget the experience of Sinai is formulated in the singular. In other words, the punishments and rewards enumerated in this chapter are ones of communal
Preface: Why Study Theology by Rav Triebitz
bounties and disasters emphasizing collective responsibility, while the existential experience of Sinai emphasizes a unique individual spiritual approach. This would seem paradoxical in light of the fact that performance of the commandments usually depends solely on the individual Jew whereas the revelation at Sinai was a national experience, upon which the Jewish nation was founded. The resolution of this paradox can only be explained by the intrinsic interdependence of the individual and the community which forms a dyadic unity unto itself. (This will be elaborated in a future work.) 2) The first verse uses the verb “to teach,” whereas the second verse utilizes the verb “to tell,” or “to make known.” Teaching refers primarily to an intellectual activity, while story-telling requires a more visceral mode of transmission. This distinction would seem to make sense in light of the fact that we are dealing with the two very different epistemological types. One is more legal and analytic, requiring the transmission of clearly elucidated concepts, while the other involves the transmission of an existential state of revelation and spirituality. In other words, legal study by definition involves scholarship, while describing transient experiences seems incompatible with an intellectual process. How can they both be considered aspects of the commandment to study Torah? We find a possible reconciliation of the “study” and “experience” duality in the views of the medieval commentator Seforno. Seforno5(Deuteronomy 4:9) interprets the phrase “and you shall tell your children” to be formulating the existential experience in terms of “conceptual proofs.” These intellectual proofs can then be transmitted to those who were not actually present at Sinai to witness the revelation. 3) The final distinction I would like to note is the difference in enumeration of generations between these two verses. The “legal” study verse only lists two generations - parents and children - while the “faith” study verse lists three generations - parents, children and grandchildren. The profound significance of this distinction is noted in the Talmudic discussion in tractate Kiddushin (30a). Having discussed the salient syntactical and semantical distinctions between these two verses, we can now proceed to the corresponding consequences of these distinctions. Knowledge of these consequences will help us understand the distinction between the methodologies of faith-study and legal-study. 1) The first distinction noted was between the singular formulation of faith-study as opposed to the plural formulation of legal-study. The significance of this can best be understood in light of the fact that the Ten Commandments spoken to the Jewish people at Sinai are all stated in the singular. This is understood by the commentators as expressing the personal aspect of the Sinai revelation. As explained above, the medium of conveyance of the Commandments at Sinai points to the faith study of the Torah. Faith, it is argued, is a more intensely individual experience and as such demands a more individualized imperative. The legal study of the Torah which has a greater legal dimension requires a less subjective and more objective orientation and is therefore expressed in the plural. On the basis of this, we can draw an analogy to the two verses at hand, and their respective commandments to engage in the study of Torah. The goal of faith-study is to direct a person to a more perfect and complete faith in G-d and is therefore expressed in the singular. In contrast, legal study is expressed and formulated in the plural. This idea is beautifully expressed in the Tannaic commentary to Deuteronomy (Sifrei 6 - Parshas Eikev): “Is it your desire to recognize the One who spoke and created the world? Study Agada, for thereby you shall recognize Him.” The faith-study of the Torah in fact deals primarily with the
Aggadic part of the Torah. Therefore, we see that faith study is being equated with knowledge of G-d - the very essence of the first two commandments. The language of the Sages, “your desire to recognize,” is a beautiful expression of the highly intensive personal dimension which is intrinsic in the study of Agada, and in the study of the faith of the Torah in general. A pedagogical consequence of this is that the approach to the study of hashkofa must take into careful consideration the specific needs, goals, and “desires,” of each individual in order that he is allowed to personally “recognize the One who spoke and created the world”. 2) The second distinction was the distinction between the verbs “to teach” and “to tell.” The “to tell” of faith-study is related to the methodology of converting psychological and intuitive insights into clearly expressed language and concepts, and the inverse process of penetrating language and ideas to their core psychological and intuitive origins and recesses. The purpose of this is to capture the inner spiritual experience of Sinai when the Jewish people witnessed clearly G-d’s word and Moses’ prophecy. An important goal of the faith study of the Torah is that the formal intellectual process of analysis touches the spiritual consciousness of the student so that his faith is properly “felt” as well as thought. A Cartesian type dichotomy of mind and body undermines the faith study process, for it does not produce true “believers.” In fact the relationship between thought and feeling, idea and intuition, must be truly hybrid and coexistent. Just as analysis must be buttressed by feeling, intuition, and psychological insight - they in turn must be buttressed by analysis. That is because lack of logical clarity can produce a feeling of uncertainty and inner confusion which is dangerous to personal faith. For this reason, the study of faith requires the harmonization of thought and feeling to attain his goal of understanding. 3) The third and final distinction involves the contrast between the dyadic father - son formulation of legal-study with the triadic grandfather – father - grandson formulation of faith-study. This distinction can be understood best in terms of viewing study of the Torah as an interpretation of sacred canonical texts, with the teacher and/or father viewed as the text, and the student and/or son viewed as the one who studies and interprets the text. This process is a central feature of all Torah study. In terms of this model, the legal-study of the Torah is formulated in the Pentateuch as a text and an interpretation. The faith-study of the Torah, however, is formulated as a text (grandfather), an interpretation of the text (son), and a second, perhaps alternative, interpretation of the same text (grandson), or even a more general interpretation which mediates between the text and its interpretation. Where the dyadic formulation of legal-study is essentially a dialectic of text and interpretation, effort and resistance which produces a clear legal conclusion, the triadic formulation of faith-study produces a multiplicity of interpretation each representing an irreducible truth - “these and these are words of the living G-d.” This expresses the very nature of Aggadic interpretation which seeks to produce multiple interpretations which serve to express the multi-dimensional ontology of Aggadic and hashkofic concepts. On a pedagogical level, the faith-study of the Torah is essentially the discovery and elaboration of the spectrum of ideas which defines both the possibilities and boundaries of acceptable positions. A consequence of this is that the student must be exposed to a full spectrum of hashkofic thought in order to fully appreciate the issues, and then formulate his own position. The implications of these three principles and their relevance to this volume will be discussed in detail in the final section.
Preface: Why Study Theology by Rav Triebitz
Traditional Jewish historiography views the progression of time as epochal. Each epoch is distinguished by a unique spiritual ontology which provides the tools for earmarking historical events and developments from a Torah perspective. For example, the Talmud in tractate Avoda Zara7(9a) divides up all of history into three epochs. There are also the Rabbinical divisions of the Patriarchal pre-Sinaic epoch, the Tannaic epoch and the Amoraic epoch. These epochs are frequently delineated by epochal compendiums which conclude the earlier epoch and provide the starting point for the next one. Hence, the Mishnaic compendium of Rabbi Judah the Prince concludes the Tannaic period and forms the interpretive text of the Amoraic period. The Talmudic compendium of Ravina and Rav Ashi concludes the Amoraic era and serves as the interpretive texts of the medieval era known as the Rishonim. The significance of inter-epochal compendiums is more than the facility of transition between eras it is the device through which a veritable continuum of Tradition is preserved through the vicissitudes of Jewish history. The commensurable dialogue between seemingly different eras is a hallmark of the Jewish claim to authentic tradition in contradistinction to postmodernist views of irreducible paradigms which by definition resist communication and, hence, continuity. It is important to note the famous words of Rabbi Yosef Karo in his introduction to his commentary to the Tur: “Who will be brazen enough to place his head between the lofty mountains to resolve their disputes based on rational arguments…for due to our many sins, our minds are too constricted to be able to understand them, let alone to surpass them (in halachic resolution)…” Through the words of Rabbi Yosef Karo, who authored the authoritative Jewish code of law known as the Shulchan Aruch, we are able to understand the very nature and purpose of inter-epochal compendiums. That is, to create the medium through which an intra-epochal dialectic can now be canonized and serve as the basis for the halachic decisions of the next epoch. In addition, this very medium will serve as the textual basis for the intra-epochal dialectic of the next epoch. This methodology is what preserves the integrity of the halachic process, and insures the continuity and authenticity of the Torah from Moses to the present day. The concept of inter-epochal compendiums is not only a halachic concept but also an Aggadic and hashkofic one. Whether it is the non-legal parts of the Pentateuch itself, or the Aggadic texts of the Tannaic and Amoraic eras, inter-epochal compendiums provide the basis through which the faith-study of the Torah is taught and communicated across generations. While the ontological basis of this idea is rooted in the structure of Jewish spirituality, the details of which are certainly beyond the scope of this introduction, we clearly see the usefulness of the compendium concept in all areas of Torah study. In addition to the canonical compendiums discussed above, there is a utilitarian value, in my opinion, to non-canonical compendiums as well, especially in areas where there is no central access to the relevant ideas. The present volume which you now hold in your hands is an example of such a compendium. It is a work desperately needed in order to communicate the faith of the Torah to those Jews who are deeply steeped in today’s post-modernist culture. It is found, unfortunately, in today’s age, that even highly educated people who are intellectually open, have difficulty comprehending and therefore relating to the faith-study of the Torah. To my mind, this is
partly due to the lack of a suitable compendium to facilitate the commensurable transmission from the thoughts of the most important rabbinical thinkers and commentators to today’s Torah-hostile intellectual environment. The present volume serves admirably to redress this egregious lack. In this impressive compendium, Rabbi Eidensohn has provided the Torah world with an invaluable treasure. It is the fruit of many years of arduous labor of selecting, arranging and translating thousands of citations. It places before the reader the rich spectrum of Daas Torah in a number of crucial areas of Jewish thought. Part of the uniqueness of this volume is that it presents the ideas in their original exposition. It avoids the use of modern and postmodern (i.e., non-Jewish) concepts and interpretations. These non-Torah concepts are often used to produce an apologetic “politically correct” theology. Instead, this volume presents the pure undiluted expression of Torah-true concepts. In other words, it lets the sources speak for themselves without distillation or interpretation. This was done in order that the teacher and student can literally stand at Mount Sinai and relive the existential experience of the Giving of the Torah in its most pure and direct form.
In the first section of the introduction, I presented the three basic principles which underlie the faith-study of the Torah. In the second section, I discussed the phenomenology of the Jewish spiritual-legal continuity across historical and cultural divides. This continuity provides the basis for the authentic transmission of Jewish faith and thought. This volume, which you are now reading, is a productive tool for integrating these two pillars in the construction of a pedagogical approach to the faith study of the Torah. It involves a process constituting three steps. 1) Surveying the spectrum of opinions on each topic and organizing them into a coherent ordering running from the more visceral, intuitive, existential positions to the more analytical and conceptual positions. (This corresponds to principle #3 above) 2) Establishing a dialectic between the visceral-intuitive view and the rational-analytic view which will bring out the important underlying dyadic dynamic of the issue which faces the student. (This corresponds to principle #2 above) 3) Seeking out the individual approach of the student which comes from the visceral-analytic dyad in order to produce a powerful personal “hashkofa” and approach to the issue involved. (This corresponds to principle #1 above)
It is important, however, to bear in mind the following precautions.
1) Someone who is not experienced in the formal study of theology will inevitably lose himself in the myriad array of opinions and views. Consequently, meaningful benefit from this momentous volume will be reaped only with the direction and guidance of a qualified teacher. One who is steeped in the traditional study of Jewish texts.
Preface: Why Study Theology by Rav Triebitz
2) The usage of this volume to teach the material to someone intelligent - yet uninitiated - requires a painstaking organization of the material. In particular, it requires an eye and ear to the specific needs and goals of each student. In this way, the sheer volume of material can be made manageable and allow the student to absorb the material and not feel overwhelmed. 3) At every stage, it is always important to consult a proper rabbinical authority - both with regard to methodology and content. Indeed, not every Rabbinical authority will necessarily be an expert in every area of Hashkofa, and they may well steer questioners to higher authorities. This is crucial in order to achieve the maximum success and avoidance of pitfalls which always arrives by attempting to teach new material and a different way of thinking. My advocacy of the present volume as a teaching resource is not just based upon the above theory but also my personal experience. I have successfully utilized part of this material - some of which is found in the present volume and some from the future volumes - in teaching a select group of students. The results have exceeded our expectations. Despite its apparent daunting nature - in practice it leads to spirited discussion and spiritual growth not obtainable by other means.
It is my blessing and prayer that this magnificent volume will reach out to a people starving to once again stand at the foothold of Mount Sinai and hear again the Word of G-d as He spoke to the Jewish people and to Moses His prophet. Rav Meir Triebitz
I would like to acknowledge the vital help and advice I have received from all my students at Machon Shlomo, the Moreshet and Maalot Institutes at Neve Yerushalayim, Kollel Derech HaChaim and the “think-tank”. Most notably Andrew Kaye, Jake Greenberg, Dan Shatzman, Prof. David Rier, Zevy Horowitz, Gamliel Shmalo. My discussions with Rabbi Dr. Dovid Refson have sensitized me to the challenges of kiruv. Working with Rabbi Beryl Gershenfeld has given me the opportunity to carry them out in practice
Purpose of the Sourcebook
General concepts - needed to understand system
Ramchal8(Introduction to Derech HaShem): Knowledge which is viewed in the context of a systematic framework is superior to non-systematized knowledge... The perception of many details is a heavy and unsatisfying burden. One struggles and exhausts oneself without obtaining satisfaction. Curiosity is aroused but is not satisfied because of the absence of an overall picture. This is because a large part of the meaning is in the interrelationships of the components rather than the thing itself. Since he is lacking the knowledge of the interrelationships, he cannot possibly comprehend the thing properly and is therefore doomed to failure and frustration. In contrast, one who knows the full context sees the thing as it really is as well as all its implications. This success causes tremendous pleasure and excitement. Therefore, it is of primary importance in the study of any subject to know its relative place in a conceptual framework... One should be aware that since the number of possible details is incredibly large that it is ultimately incomprehensible to the human intellect. Consequently, it is appropriate to try to understand the underlying concepts. Since each concept contains many details, the comprehension of a concept enables him to understand the multitude of details that make up the concept. Even though the knowledge of the details is not automatic, one who knows the concept will readily understand the details when he is confronted with them and has the ability to see how they conform to his previous knowledge. This conceptual approach is prescribed by Chazal (Sifri Devarim 32, 2). They say: Your comprehension of Torah should always be conceptual rather than merely a collection of details... Maharetz Chajes9(Introduction to Toras Neviim): I didn’t go in the path of most authors, who typically explain only the details of the mitzvos and how to perform them while the foundation principles of Torah are ignored. It is obvious that the knowledge of the fundamentals of Torah is weak among many and consequently there are an increasing number of unacceptable opinions. ...The importance for a beginner in secular fields to have a clear introduction is obvious, but it is even more important when studying Torah. ...This is the intent of the statement in the Medrash10(Shir HaShirim 2:16), ‘Originally when Torah was learned “Clall,” people wanted to learn Mishna and Gemora, but now that it is not “Clall,” people want to learn just Tanach and Agada’. That means that when people had the general rules (Clall) it was easy for them to listen to Mishna and Gemora. Now that they just see the isolated details, they get lost and confused by the Talmud and they just want to hear Tanach and Agada and they run from the Talmud. The Yerushalmi11(Shabbos 87a) also says, ‘that any Torah without a Beis Av [foundation] (handle) is not Torah’. That means Torah without an understanding of a conceptual framework.... Rav Shlomo Wolbe12(Alei Shor 2:1): We find concerning our Sages and the Rambam that they searched for general principles for the commandments of the Torah. For example, Berachos (63a) states: “What is the small principle that the entire Torah is dependent upon? In all your ways you should know Him.” Makkos (24a): Chavakuk established Judaism on a single commandment - that the righteous lives by his faith. Bereishis Rabbah (24:8) R’ Akiva said: Loving your fellowman as yourself is a great principle of the Torah. Rambam (Shemonah Perakim Chapter 5)… Why do our Sages seek general principles for the Torah? What would be lost if a person fulfilled the 613 commandments according to the details without knowing the universal concepts? This is comparable to people saying that a person can’t see the forest because of the trees. In other words, he sees only the details but not the overall picture. He fulfills the details of the commandments but he doesn’t see and understand what G-d wants of him - because obviously there is a purpose to the commandments. In learning gemora, the importance of the general rule or concept is obvious. Because there is an overwhelming amount of detail, there is a need for summary concepts of principles. The Talmudic scholar determines the general principle for each
Purpose of the Sourcebook 7
discussion…the Talmudic scholar knows how to determine the fundamental concept underlying the principles. In fact in exactly the same way that the Talmud is analyzed so it is necessary to study the fundamental theological principles of the Torah. This search for universal principles and concepts is not just limited to Torah study but also applies to personality traits… Thus, we find the great masters of mussar looking for fundamental principles underlying proper personality and behavior. Consequently, a person should strive to be a true scholar (lamdan) in all areas - including personality and spiritual perfection. This requires many years of devoted effort…
Necessity of primary texts - not just interpretations
Raavad13(Mishneh Torah - Introduction): The Rambam wrote: “I called this composition Mishneh Torah because if a person first reads the Torah and then reads this work - he will have no need for any other source to know the Written and the Oral Law.” The Rambam thought he was making an improvement by only describing the final law and not describing how he arrived at it. In fact he has not produced an improvement. That is because he has deserted the approach of all previous authorities. They all bring proof to their words. They cite the source of their material. Knowing the original material is very important. That is because sometimes a judge will rule based on a particular proof. If he knew that greater authorities than he would have rejected this proof - he would alter his position. Therefore when faced with a view stated by the Rambam, I simply don’t know how to use the material. I don’t know the nature of the authority he is using. Consequently when I find a view that contradicts my own traditions and learning, I don’t know whether I should reject it or accept it. If the authorities were greater than me, I would accept it and reject my own view. But if I am a greater authority than the one being cited, why should I change my position? Furthermore there are issues that our predecessors disagreed about. The Rambam picks one side of the dispute. Why should I rely on his choice? Perhaps the view of the other side is correct. I simply don’t know the basis of the Rambam’s choice and therefore have no way of knowing whether I would agree with it. He is acting as an oracle.
Primary texts are presented without polemics
Rav Hai Gaon14(#99):.... You should know that our approach is not like that of others who study something and then explain it differently than the intent of the author of the text. In fact, we are committed to offer explanations from the perspective of this particular authority and the actual content of what he wanted said and what he truly thought. It is important to remember - that despite the accuracy of our presentation - that we don’t guarantee that these words are in fact the unquestionably correct Halacha. There are many statements of great authorities that are not accepted as Halacha. We are simply explaining the text from the viewpoint of the author. Rambam15(Letter on Astrology): I know of course that it is possible to search and find isolated opinions of some sages in the Talmud and Medrashim whose views contradict [what I have said.] ... These statements should not trouble you. One simply doesn’t discard a clearly established Halacha and revert to the initial analysis. Similarly, it is not appropriate to discard a well-validated principle and simply rely on a minority opinion of the sages instead. That is because the sage [is not infallible and] might have erred by overlooking some important facts or hints when he stated his views. Alternatively, he might have stated his view only concerning a unique situation that had been presented to him and he had not meant to state a general principle. This caution is illustrated by the fact that many verses of the Torah are not meant to be taken literally - as has been clearly established by impeccable proofs. Therefore, they are explained in a way that makes sense rather than taken literally. The general rule is that a person should never easily toss aside his well-considered views. His eyes should look unflinchingly forward and not backwards.
Provide a reference tool for teaching and learning
The main purpose of this work is to provide a source of relevant texts - organized for ready access. By translating the material into English it also enables self-study for those who wish to explore the material on their own - prior to discussion with a rabbi. It also aids in assembling relevant material for teaching these issues. Thus, it is to be viewed primarily as data to be discussed and presented by a knowledgeable teacher. It is thus a reference tool - not a comprehensive exposition of Judaism.
Range of traditional views surveyed
Rav Binyamin Silber16(Otzair Gedolei Yisroel): By means of the study and analysis of the range of [legitimate Orthodox] approaches it will aid - G-d willing - in fulfilling the words of the prophet Malachi (3:16), Then the religious people will speak to each other. The prophet is commanding in G-d’s name - that in the Messianic Era the barriers will be removed between the different religious factions and their different ways of serving G-d. Consequently they will communicate fully with each other. In view of the anticipated full communication, it is not surprising that there is in this era, immediately preceding the Messianic Era, an increased problem of internal splits and divisions between religious Jews supposedly for the sake of Heaven. Even if we are only lacking in this ability to communicate [without heated disputes] - that itself is indicative of divisions and factionalism. Therefore, [to aid in achieving this full communication] it is important to be aware of the variety of legitimate approaches and to gather them together…. Rav Yisroel Salanter said there is no general rule of how to serve G-d properly and this rule is also not an absolute rule. This is because the majority of distinctions and differences are a function of the place and time. Thus it cannot be said one approach is “the approach”…[Therefore] In this generation, standing at the very end of exile, there is a greatly increased desire to create divisions. Consequently, we must strive to minimize the barriers to communications to fulfill the words of the prophet [Malachi (3:16), Then the religious people will speak to each other.]
Purpose of the Sourcebook 9
Principles for Using this Sourcebook
Familiarity with material is required before analyzing it
Avoda Zara17(19a): One should first study the Torah to be familiar with it and then afterwards analyze the material. Furthermore, he should study even if he forgets the material and even if he doesn’t understand it… Berachos18(63b): A person should always learn Torah first by rote and then afterwards analyze and think deeply about what he has learned. Maharal19(Avoda Zara 19a): It is not correct to learn some Torah and deeply analyze only that small part which was learned. Rather a person should learn Torah until it is fluent in his mouth and only then analyze it. This is because a person should not be engaged in analysis and conceptualization initially when he is not knowledgeable about Torah. Only when he has the status of having mastered Torah, can he successfully engage in analysis. Successful analysis is in fact a Divine gift. When a person has mastered Torah and is lacking the analysis and conceptualization then G-d helps him reach completion with analysis. However, a person who has not mastered Torah at all is not capable of proper analysis - because he is still lacking Torah. Therefore, people must first master Torah and then engage in analysis. Maharal20(Nesivos HaTorah #5): Woe to the embarrassment and degradation that we have changed our way of learning Torah from previous generations. This change is entirely because people say they need to sharpen themselves with subtle textual analyses (pilpul). Even if there was such a need, our Sages (Berachos 63b) have said: You should first learn the text and thoroughly familiarize yourself with it before deep analysis is done…. Therefore, if analysis is to be done on the text - it is still a precondition that the text be learned. The analysis that is done today purely for sharpness - without mastering the text - in fact stupefies with utter nonsense. We see what this “sharpness” is and what it is producing. Typically, one would expect young students to be learning and mastering many tractates before marriage. However now when a student marries he has mastered nothing. This is because they are learning Tosfos - which was meant as a supplement to the gemora. They should in fact be acquiring the gemora itself first. The reason for the focus on Tosfos is simply because it was printed on the page of the gemora. If the Rosh or other halachic commentaries had been printed there instead, they would be learning Halacha instead… What is the need for the young student to be involved in subtle textual analysis in the same way as the mature student? The consequence of this misplaced focus is that the students do not achieve mastery of Halacha. If you try explaining to the students’ fathers that they should be learning Halacha and not Tosfos, they react as if you were trying to convince them that their children should stop learning Torah! This is because all the father is concerned about is that his child has a reputation as a sharp mind - rather than that he learns Torah properly… Meiri21(Avoda Zara 19a): A person should only learn in a place where his heart desires. He should first familiarize himself with new material and only afterwards analyze it in depth. Finally, a person should not despair of learning even if he cannot remember what he learned and even if he doesn’t understand what he is learning. Our sages say that if a person says: “I tried but didn’t succeed” he is not believed. Rashi22(Berachos 63b): A person should be quiet and pay careful attention to the material until he is thoroughly familiar with it - even though he doesn’t understand it. Only afterwards, he should ask questions and clarify the difficulties.
Humility and respect is required when asking questions
Rav Chaim Voloshner23(Ruach Chaim 1:4): … It is prohibited for a student to accept the words of his teacher if he has questions about them. Furthermore sometimes the truth is with the student and not the teacher. Avos24(1:4), One should sit in the dust at the feet of one’s teachers and drink with unquenchable thirst what they say. The word for sitting - avek - can also mean struggle or warfare. That is because this is an obligatory struggle. The holy rabbis who have composed the books we study have in fact given us permission to struggle and to fight over their words and to answer the difficulties they raise. Therefore, we have the right to question what they say and not to blindly accept their words - but one must love the truth…. Since ascertaining the truth is the prime concern - we must be very careful not to be conceited and egotistical in the discussions and to imagine that we are as great as the teacher or author with whom we are disagreeing. We should be aware in our hearts that we might simply be misunderstanding their words. Therefore we must always be very humble. We must have the attitude, ‘I am not worthy to argue but this is Torah and I must know the correct answer’. Furthermore, the Mishna states that the struggle is conditional on being ‘in the dust at their feet’ which means we must be humble and submissive and figuratively sit on the ground before them in these discussions. Seridei Aish25(1:113): I frequently comment on the apparent contradiction found in Avos (6:5) concerning those factors involved in acquiring Torah i.e. analysis of the students and faith in our Sages. Furthermore, what does faith in our Sages have to do with acquiring Torah? However, the explanation is that if one doesn’t believe in the truth of the words of the sages then one readily dismisses them for the slightest reason. With an attitude of condescension, one proclaims that they didn’t know what they were talking about. Consequently, one makes no effort to investigate and try to validate what they said. However, in the end we find that in fact we are the ones who have erred. … Therefore it is characteristic of the truly wise to presume that the sages have not erred, G-d forbid! In fact we, with our limited perspective and limited understanding, have erred. On the other hand to blindly believe and not struggle to comprehend with our intellect the apparent difficulties, saying simply that they knew and we need merely to mindlessly rely on them - that is also not correct. We need to wrestle mightily with the apparent contradictions and doubts as if they are people like us. With this approach, we will come to a much profounder and sharper comprehension. Thus, we see that both factors - emunas chachomim (faith in our sages) and pilpul (intellectual evaluation) - work together to the purpose of the acquisition of Torah.
Labeling opposing views as heresy is problematic
Netziv26(Introduction to Bereishis): Bereishis was called Sefer HaYoshor (the Book of the Upright) by the prophets. That is because it is about the Avos - Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov who were called upright by Bilaam. We need to understand why he singled them out by the title “upright” instead of other descriptions such as tzadik or chasid? Furthermore, why is Bereishis singled out with this description of “upright”? Another question is why Bilaam asked that his end should be like those who have such a description? The praise of uprightness is to reinforce G-d’s judgment in destroying the Second Temple which was a generation of tzadikim and chassidim and those devoted to learning Torah - however they were not upright in the mundane world. Therefore, because of the baseless hatred in their hearts to each other they suspected that whomever they saw who did not conduct himself according to their opinion in Yiras Shamayim must be a heretic. Consequently, this led to much killing and all the evils in the world until the Temple was destroyed. Thus, there was an acknowledgement of the uprightness of G-d’s judgment in that He would not tolerate tzadikim like these. Rather He wanted tzadikim who were upright in the world. Because even if the non-upright tzadikim were motivated by religious consideration - such conduct destroys the world. Therefore, this was the praise of the Avos that besides being tzadikim and chassidim
Principles to Know for Using this Sourcebook
and lovers of G-d to the ultimate degree - they were also upright. That means that they conducted themselves in relation to the peoples of the world - even the debased idol worshippers - with love and were concerned about their welfare in regards to the preservation of Creation. This we see in the pleading of Avraham for the people of Sedom - even though he had total hatred for them because of their wickedness - nevertheless he wanted them to live…
Perfection is the goal - not moderation
Chazon Ish27(Letters 3:61): Just as the unvarnished facts and truth are synonymous so are uncompromising perfectionism and greatness. Perfectionism means to develop something to the ultimate degree. One who advocates moderation and despises perfectionism, his lot is with the frauds or with those lacking understanding. Without perfectionism, there can be no completion and if there is no perfection, there is no beginning. The beginning is with constant questions and replies. The perfecter is the brilliant respondent who orders everything in its rightful place. We regularly hear announcements from well-known groups that they have nothing to do with uncompromising perfectionists. They nevertheless describe themselves as being the true Jews with appropriate faith to Torah. We simply note, however, that just as there is no such thing amongst lovers of wisdom as love for minimum knowledge and hate for the very wise there is similarly no such thing as loving Torah and mitzvos moderately and hating the uncompromising perfectionists. All the foundations of emuna, the 13 principles and their derivatives, are inherently incompatible with the lightweight wisdom and superficial life that exists in this world. In contrast clear recognition, energetic involvement; high precision in emuna is the hallmark of the perfectionist. Those who proudly testify on themselves that they have not tasted the sweetness of uncompromising perfection are simultaneously testifying that they are missing emuna in the foundation of religion both intellectually and emotionally. Their attachment is only lukewarm. The perfectionists, who despite their genuine wish to have pity on these doctrinaire moderates, do not honor and respect their opponents. The yawning abyss that separates them is naturally only widened as the result of the disputes that occur when they interact with each other. The only true moderation that can exist is that which results naturally to those who love the perfection and strive towards it and educate their children to strive for the peak. In contrast how unfortunate are those “moderates” who cast aspersions on the perfectionists. The obligation of our education is to perfection. The only genuine protection of the educational system is to be contemptuous and to ridicule those who denigrate perfection. However given the burning spirit of youth it is not appropriate to strongly condemn specific individuals amongst the unfortunates. Instead, the youth should be developed to have true love of Torah that requires personal effort and heavenly pleasantness and they should not have obstacles placed on this road. Those schools that are labeled as moderate schools, they are not successful because of the fraud that is inherent in moderation…
Sages are the indispensable foundation of understanding Torah
Rav Aaron Kotler28(Osef Chidos): Rambam (Me’ila 8:8) writes: It is correct for a person to try to understand the laws of the Holy Torah to the full limits of his intellect. However, that which he cannot understand he should not view with contempt as he would do with secular material. We can understand this principle from the concern the Torah has for any profane use of a physical entity which has been sanctified to G-d by our words. Even if it is done accidentally, the profanation requires atonement. So surely concerning the Divine Commandments, they should not be rejected or treated with ridicule because he doesn’t understand their purpose…. G-d’s Torah is incredibly deep and profound. When a person with his limited intellect attempts to understand and evaluate it with his miniscule understanding, he is lowering the Torah to his level. There is no greater profanation than this. Man has to know that just as there are limits to the physical senses … there
are limits to his intellect. He needs to accept the explanations of our Sages for every word and letter of the Torah. That is because the language of the Torah is not ordinary language and is not based on our understanding. Therefore, in order to understand the Torah requires tremendous mental abilities, pure study in a sanctified manner, and a reliable direct tradition. Only by means of the traditions of our Sages, who knew how to explain and interpret every letter in the Torah, are we able to comprehend even a tiny part of Torah. These words of the Rambam apply to all aspects of the Torah including Halacha and agada, laws and stories. None of them are properly understood by relying solely on untrained human understanding. Furthermore, one needs to take the greatest care in understanding the stories found in the Torah since they are extremely likely to be misunderstood. These misunderstandings have great consequence and undermine the foundation of the Jewish people. It is obvious from what we have said that it is prohibited to say that some aspect of Torah should have been written differently or is unnecessary. Such an attitude constitutes rejection of the Torah and causes eternal punishment and loss of the World to Come. According to the Halacha (Rambam Teshuva 8:8), a rejecter of the Torah is one who asserts that even a single letter was not said by G-d. It is even prohibited to say that some words of Torah (e.g., the Ten Commandments) are more important than others… 2) It is one of the basic principles of Torah that every letter of the Torah includes and is necessary for Creation itself… Bereishis Rabbah (1:1): G-d looked into the Torah and created the world. Eiruvin (13a): A scribe has to be very careful in writing a Torah because if he deletes or adds one letter he destroys the world. Also included in the Torah are all events - past present and future - of the entire universe and concerning every one of us...
Term “Sages” refers to Talmudic Sages
There is a special status according to the rabbis of the Talmud. They are sometimes referred to as Chazal (Sages of Blessed memory). In order to differentiate them from post-Talmudic rabbis, they will be referred to as Sages with a capital “S” or Rabbis with a capital “R.” Rabbinic legislation as well as the Talmud and medrashim are a product of the Talmudic Sages. Therefore, the rabbis of the post-Talmudic periods of the Gaonim and the Rishonim - despite their superiority to contemporary rabbis - are inferior to that of the Sages. Thus, such post-Talmudic figures as Rashi, Rambam or the Shulchan Aruch have a lower authority than the Sages. The different types of rabbis and the reasons for differences in authority - while a very critical issue - will only be addressed indirectly in the present volume.
Torah study needs to be enjoyable
Avoda A person only learns Torah if he finds it interesting… Levi and R’ Shimon were learning Torah with R’ Yehuda Hanassi. When they finished that book of the Torah, Levi requested that they start learning Mishlei while R’ Shimon requested that they learn Tehilim and he forced Levi to accept his decision. When they reached the verse in Tehilim (1:2): But whose desire is in the G-d’s Law, R’ Yehuda Hanassi offered the following explanation. “One only learns Torah if he finds it interesting.” Levi, who had been forced to learn Tehilim, commented that he now had an excuse for leaving the study session… Rashi30(Avoda Zara 19a): A student should only be taught the gemora that he is interested in. If he is taught a different gemora, it will not be retained since attention is dependent upon interest. Mishna Berura31(Biur Halacha 553): … A person only learns what he finds interesting. Consequently, we see that many Torah scholars are negligent in learning the few topics permitted on the fast of the Ninth of Av, because it is unpleasant learning something different than normal. I am one of them. Zara29(19a):
Principles to Know for Using this Sourcebook
Maharal32(Chidushei Agada Avoda Zara 19a): … The reason that a person only learns the Torah that he finds interesting is because Torah requires a connection to the recipient. That is why it is called “his Torah” when he accepts it. Therefore, one should only learn that which he finds interesting because then he will relate to it and it will be “his Torah.”
Translations provide only tentative understanding
Rav Moshe Feinstein33(Igros Moshe Y. D. 4:38:5): … There is no prohibition to translate even Mishna and Halacha. However, the most important thing is that the translator must be fully aware of his responsibility and that even a small error can cause a major problem for those studying the translation… Surely, those who translate from Hebrew to another language have to be concerned about error and therefore it is best to refrain from translation…. In conclusion, I would advise not to be involved in studying from translated works and it is best to learn in the original language and this will to lead greater success. Rav Moshe Feinstein34(Igros Moshe Y. D. 4:38:6): … but concerning the writings of more recent sages whose works are not so well known, it is necessary to bring their reasoning for two reasons. 1) In order that their words should not be ridiculed when they are misunderstood. The reader of the translation might not attempt to obtain the original work to try to understand it. 2) Those reading the translation might not assume that the author had an intelligent reason for what he said. Therefore, if the author’s words are brought without explanation the reader might simply reject them. Rav Moshe Feinstein35(Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:91):... I heard that someone is making a sefer in English which consists of the halachic decisions from my Igros Moshe. This is prohibited even if the translation is done properly. That is because there is no one today who is able to make [a new Shulchan Aruch] in which the halacha is stated without providing explanation and sources. I have already been asked for permission to do this by others. I replied that I do not give permission to do such a thing. The reason is that the halacha might not be stated accurately. There are many possibilities for error in such a scheme as well as errors that such a project could cause which is even worse. Even if the teshuvos are translated, this is still a major problem in that it presents these halachic decisions to the masses who are not Torah scholars and they will generalize incorrectly from them. Therefore I categorically object to doing this project. Kiddushin36(49a): A literal translation is [often] a lie while a free translation risks heresy Tosfos37(Kiddushin 49a): … Rabbeinu Chananel explains that a person who translates literally e.g., “They saw the G-d of Israel”(Shemos 24:10) - is stating a lie because it is impossible to see G-d… On the other hand one who translates this verse as, “They saw an angel of G-d” is stating heresy because they are attributing the praise of G-d to a mere angel. However, the correct way of translating this verse is, “They saw the glory of the G-d of Israel.”
Viewpoint of Orthodox Judaism accepted - not defended
The material cited in this work assumes the validity of Orthodox Judaism and is not an attempt at proving it. For example, Orthodox theology accepts that the Torah we have today is the Torah that Moshe received on Sinai - without any creative input from human beings. Therefore, I present no discussions concerning the validity of Biblical Criticism, the degree of support from historical and archeological evidence, nor support from scientific or secular philosophical evidence. There are also no discussions concerning the validity of Judaism in relationship to religions that have claimed to have supplanted it, nor secular philosophies that claim to be more correct. The entire effort is directed to understanding Orthodox theology.
G-d requires Specific Spiritual Achievements
No excuses for not knowing it
Rav Chaim Mussar #33 5731): Everyone is required to thoroughly examine his deeds especially before Rosh HaShanna - the Day of Judgment. This obligation is not just to discover transgressions and lapses in observance of the commands. It also includes the evaluation whether one's path in serving G-d is the correct one for him since everyone has a unique path. The issue of Avodas HaShem is such that a person could keep all the mitzvos yet have a completely false approach to serving G-d. The problem is compounded by the fact that he might have incorrectly assumed that what he was doing would be pleasing to G-d. Nevertheless all his efforts would have been to accomplish a mistaken goal. Consequently if he has not carefully evaluated the correctness of his plan then all his efforts and sacrifices are wasted. Furthermore he is punished according to the degree of effort he made to accomplish this wrong plan. This can be seen from the fact that Rav Yochanon ben Zakkai who was not only the leading Torah scholar of his time but also had succeeded in saving Torah for all future generations was frightened before his death. He cried before his students and said "I see before me two paths - one to Gan Eden and the other to Gehinom and I don't know where they are taking me. Shouldn't I cry?" His fear was not because of failing to keep the whole Torah. His fear was solely because he might have failed to properly have done his Avodas HaShem. There is the additional problem with Avodas HaShem that one simply can't repent for doing it incorrectly since it is easy to be mistaken and assume that you are doing the right thing. Shmuelevitz38(Sichos
No excuses for not achieving it
Gra39(Mishlei 16:4): Every individual has a unique way that he is to serve G-d. (Berachos 58a): Just as no two people look the same, no two people have the same way of thinking. Therefore no two people have identical naXtures. When there were prophets, people went to the prophets to inquire of G-d. The prophet would respond based on his prophetic understanding concerning the way that person should conduct himself according to the source of the person's soul and the nature of his body. When prophecy ceased to exist there was still the power of ruach hakodesh that is in each person and each person could use it to determine what he should do. …However this is only useful if the person is spiritually refined and is purely directed to serve G-d. Otherwise his spiritual intuition is totally unreliable…. Therefore now that we lack the purity of spirit, we cannot rely on spiritual intuition and instead we can at most focus on doing mitzvos and Torah study for the sake of G-d to the best of our ability… Mishna Berura40(Shaar HaTziyun 622:6): A person many times despairs of correcting his faults and concludes that if G-d decrees that he dies because of his failure there is nothing he can do about it. However this is a mistaken attitude because in the end, G-d will get the correction of the soul that He wants. The soul will be reincarnated over and over again into this world until the correction is achieved. Consequently why should the soul repeatedly suffer death and the anguish of the grave and other things? Proof of this is from Yonah whom G-d wanted to prophesize for Nineveh and he tried to escape to the sea where prophesy does not occur. We see that he sunk into sea and was swallowed by the great fish and was in its belly many days where it seems that it was impossible to fulfill G-d’s command. Nevertheless we see that at the end G-d’s will was fulfilled and he went and prophesized. Thus it is with everyman according to his divinely ordained task. Therefore as it says in Avos (4:22): Don’t view the grave as a refuge-because you were born against your will, you live against your will, you die against your will and against your will you will have to justify all your actions to the Heavenly court.
G-d requires Specific Spiritual Achievments 15
Rav Wolbe41(Alei Shor 1:167): There are three different historical eras [concerning the Gra’s idea of learning about one’s true self through prophecy.] 1) Originally the prophets ascertained for every individual his unique service of G-d according to the source of his soul. 2) the nature of everyone’s service of G-d was established through the lower level of ruach hakodesh – but this was associated with a great danger. That is because if his spiritual state was not pure he would end up establishing his path in service of G-d according to his biases and subjective feelings. This could lead to him to determine his actions primarily for his own pleasure and desires – but he wouldn’t be aware of his error because he would think that he had ascertained everything entirely through ruach hakodesh. 3) The third era is that of our modern era. No one even tries to establish his unique path in serving G-d and instead we concern ourselves entirely with whether our deeds are according to G-d will. It is important to note that the Gra is not saying that now we don’t have the ability to go in the path of greatness and wonders and that therefore the entire concern with one’s unique service of G-d is terminated. Rather the Gra’s intent seems to be that in our generation we can no longer determine our unique service of G-d by means of ruach hakodesh according to the source of our soul and the physical nature of our bodies. The reason why use of ruach hakodesh is no longer done is because subjective biases and errors are common today. Therefore we are only left with the option of trying the best we can to act according to G-d’s will. This determines our program and our goals. We learn which mitzvos are easy for us to fulfill and which ones are difficult. We ascertain which attributes to eliminate and which ones are desirable to acquire. We determine which approach makes it easy for us to accept much work and which approach we are grateful when we achieve even a little. Consequently it is through our interests in how to fulfill the mitzvos and to improve our personality – we are able to determine the nature of our unique service of G-d. [Look at the introduction to this chapter concerning the Gra]. Therefore even in our generation each person is obligated to do his unique service of G-d. A person concerned with spiritual growth cannot be satisfied by simply observing the mitzvos. He is obligated to clarify and improve and perfect himself in the area of his personality and conduct. To the degree that he is focused on his genuine uniqueness to that degree he is praiseworthy. Rav Wolbe42(Alei Shor 2:550): G-d judges every single individual according to what he is – that means according to his true nature – and who can survive that judgment? When G-d created man he planted in the source of his soul – that means “his true nature” – the rules that govern his life. In other words the guidelines for his unique existence. Therefore each man was sent into this world to fulfill the mission in this world that he alone is able to fulfill. That mission is implanted into the source of each man’s soul. This is alluded to in Mishlei (22:20)… When a person returns to G-d at the end of his life this is the basis of his judgment – did he in fact act truly in accord with his mission – “according to what he is”? It seems from the Maharal that the true self of a person is ascertained through experience if not – G-d forbid! – through suffering. Bereishis Rabbah (32:3), “‘G-d tests the tzadik’, The artisan does not test a bad container which is not strong enough to withstand a blow without breaking. What does he test? Only the good containers that even if they are hit many times they do not break. So it is with G-d. He does not test the wicked but only the righteous as it says, ‘G-d tests the tzadik’ and it says ‘G-d tested Avraham.’” It is only in regards to what has been implanted in the essence of his being that a person is tested because that is what he has the ability to withstand. If it hadn’t been that Avraham had learned the entire Torah on his own in his youth, G-d would not have tested him by means of the Akeidah in his old age. (This that we typically call “tests”, are in fact only the difficulties that we bring on ourselves through our sins. In truth they are not truly tests which G-d brings – chas v’shalom). This is the reason for the beracha of “the true judge”. That means that G-d judges man justly according to his true essence and according to man’s true essence brings on him the events of his life and his death. However these matters are too theoretical and abstract. One’s true self is so concealed in a person that a person like ourselves is not able to determine what it actually means. Who amongst us is capable
of knowing what the principles of our lives actually are? Nevertheless despite our apparent inability to ascertain our intrinsic life principles we are judged specifically on whether we accomplished them. Obviously then a person is expected to determine what his personal life principles are. The Gra reveals to us an amazing approach to understanding this profound matter and many important things are learned from his holy words in his explanation of Mishlei (16:1-4)…. All paths of man follow after the Prime Will. In other words there is an intuition and innate instinct that correctly provides guidance for a person’s action – but that is only if the person is perfected without selfdeceit and bias… However this Prime Will is not the wish that pops into a person’s mind as to whether he should eat or sleep or other similar matters. It is also not the desire to be a shoemaker or carpenter. The Gra concept of Prime Will is what the Maharal calls the “true self.” It is the rules of one’s life which contained in a hidden will which directs all of man’s life. This is ultimately the highest power in man and as is known that higher a power is the more concealed it is and thus this is the most concealed aspect of a person. However man cannot simply decide to utilize it to know whether he is refined and fully developed or not. That is because a person will follow his intuition even if it is determined by self-deception. Therefore the Gra notes that since a person views all the paths that he is attracted to as good – he cannot simply rely on his human understanding or thoughts. Consequently the Gra advices that one should first and foremost ascertain that your deeds are in accord with G-d’s wishes and that you also direct your thoughts to be in accord with G-d’s will. Everything was created for G-d’s honor. Even the wicked person was created for that bad day when there will be punishment for those who turn from G-d’s commandments. This also clarifies what is meant by G-d’s will – you should know that whatever is done it is for the sake of G-d i.e., the Written and the Oral Torah. The basic idea of these four verses is to provide an approach for a person to conduct himself and to be in accord with G-d’s will and good advice. That is because each and every person has a unique way that he should follow. Because people’s thinking differs one from another and their faces are not identical and the basic natures of any two people are not identical. When there were prophets people would go to them “To inquire of G-d” (Bereishis 25:22). The prophet would tell him – according to the principles of prophecy – the path in life that he should follow according to the unique essence of his soul and according to his physical nature… The Gra continues by saying that when prophecy ceased there remained ruach hakodesh that a person could know within himself his proper path. This is indicated by Yeshaya (40:13), “Or from whom besides G-d does a person know what is best for himself.” The fact is that each person has ruach hakodesh. However the Gra concludes from Tanna D’bei Eliyahu (2:8) that a person can only utilize this ruach hakodesh when he is free from sin and his thoughts are directed to G-d. These words of the Gra throw new light on the period of Prophets and on the circumstances of life in this period. Whoever wanted to know his path in life went to the prophet. The prophet revealed to him his proper program according to the source of his soul. That is because the prophet perceived, by means of his prophesy, the person’s true self. With this knowledge the prophet was able to give a precise prescription of how the person should conduct himself in life and what his mission to help perfect the world was. However with the cessation of the period of Prophets there still remained ruach hakodesh amongst Israel. Every individual by means of his own ruach hakodesh was able to ascertain his true self and to recognize the way he should conduct his life. There is no question that in that post prophetic period there were individuals who used their ruach hakodesh and were successful. However utilization of ruach hakodesh is predicated on not having any biases or selfdeception. If there was even the slightest distortion and bias it would lead to distortion and error his understanding even if he was utilizing ruach hakodesh! The reality of this danger is learned from Korach who through his ruach hakodesh saw that the prophet Shmuel would be his descendant. This knowledge enabled him to rationalize his dispute with Moshe. He simply didn’t realize that he wasn’t free of jealousy. This is simply incredible. The Gra clarifies this point by saying, “But who can say that they have a pure heart without any deception or bias at all and that there nature
G-d requires Specific Spiritual Achievments 17
doesn’t lust or incline to anything besides the will of G-d?”…With the decline of the generations it becomes increasingly difficult to merit having pure ruach hakodesh as has been explained by R’ Chaim Vital in his introduction to Shaarei Kedusha that today all prophetic visions have been blocked… Therefore our path today is to make sure our deeds are devoted to G-d concerning involvement in Torah study and fulfilling the mitzvos properly. Torah study means to ascertain G-d’s will in each topic and not to study for the sake of new interpretations or principle. The focus needs to be solely on clarifying G-d’s will - that is contained in the depths of every topic in the gemora. Similarly the fulfillment of mitzvos properly means to observe them precisely without regard whether they are from Choshen Mishpat or Orech Chaim whether they are mitzvos of the heart or deed. Every mitzva needs to be done with the full effort required to fulfill it properly. It is through the great and diverse effort that one comes to ascertain G-d’s thoughts. It is well tested and proved that one who struggles many years in the study of Torah and the doing of mitzvos without any bias and ulterior motivation and learns much mussar through this – over time will have revealed to him his hidden abilities and true insights. His Torah will reveal to him what his mission in life is… In this we return to the beginning of the chapter. The ultimate task of a talmid chachom is to come closer to the truth of the Torah. There are of course many levels of accomplishment in this task until he merits to the absolute truth and to understand the subject matter to its final halacha. To the degree to which a person merits the truth of Torah he comes closer to knowing is own true nature. That is the nature of Torah. Therefore a person who strives to understand G-d’s will by means of the Torah itself will come to know himself and even his true self.
Teachers: Nature & Importance
Authority who knows truth from falsehoods
Rambam43(Letter to Yemen): A blind person depends upon a sighted person because he knows that he lacks the ability to determine the correct path. A sick person who is ignorant of medicine depends upon the advice of a doctor for a cure. Similarly, those who are not experts need to rely on the prophets who have the true vision. They teach which ideas are true and which are not. After the period of the prophets, came the period of wise men who exert themselves day and night to study and analyze ideas in order to know which are true and which are false.
Books are our teachers now – not people
Piskei 242:3): Shevus Yaakov (2:64) writes, “Therefore it is correct to all those who make rulings for others that they should not do so without first studying the matter first in a book. That is because our teachers are the books which have become widely distributed amongst our people …Aside from that, it is appropriate to do so in a place where there are no Torah scholars so that he shouldn’t be suspected…” We find a similar statement by the Pri Megadim at the beginning of his sefer on Orech Chaim… Shevus Yaakov45(2:64): The initial act in making a ruling for others – even though he has a clear basis for making the ruling – nevertheless it is not correct that he should simply issue a ruling immediately without examining the matter in a sefer. This is true even it is obvious what the answer is. However the Torah has mercy for the property of Jews and therefore it is appropriate to be deliberate in judgment. Chazal have told us that it is prohibited for a student to make a ruling in the presence of his teacher unless he is a distance of 3 parsas. So surely when our teachers are in fact our seforim which have become widespread amongst our people – it is correct for all those who make rulings for others not to do so without first studying the matter in a sefer. This is what I received from my teachers. In particular I heard this from … who was an elderly scholar who was rav for 40 years in Prague. Nevertheless he did not make a ruling without first looking into a sefer first because of this reason…Aside from this it is proper to do so in a place where there are no Torah scholars because of concern that the masses will suspect that he is being unduly strict with them because of his piety and they think that he doesn’t care about their property since he is making a ruling without investigating the matter in a sefer…and they will end up going to a different rabbi… Steipler46(Piskei Teshuvos Volume 5 529:12): In Orchos Rabbeinu (2:112) the Steipler is quoted as saying that the mitzva of greeting one’s teacher on Yom Tov is only relevant at a time when the Torah was learned orally and the student had acquired most of his Torah learning from his teacher. However in modern times since people learn Torah from gemora and other seforim – the concept of a master teacher is not relevant and therefore there is no obligation to great one’s teacher on Yom Tov. This that a person acquires a method of learning does not give his teacher a special status because it is possible for him to acquire this on his own. Furthermore who knows if the method he was taught was true. There is no obligation to greet a teacher who is not a master teacher on Yom Tov. This that we learn the halacha from the Shunamite woman because she greeted Elisha on Yom Tov - even though it is not relevant that say that he was her master teacher – is because Elisha was the teacher of all Jews and therefore everyone was required to greet him. Tshuva44(Y.D.
Conveys necessary emotion – not gained from text
Shiurei Daas47(4:1): …It is also important to be aware that when a great sage teaches, his words can only convey the matter but not the profound concept that exists in his heart. The form - which is the soul of the Torah - simply cannot be conveyed adequately with mere words. However since
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the sage wishes to transmit the fullness of his wisdom to others, it manifests itself through his entire being and is expressed in his emotions by body movements and facial expressions. Therefore, a student is able to comprehend this inner nature of the wisdom only by close attachment to his teacher. …
Distorting views for clarity – SEE DISTORTING VIEWS Guidance of wise teacher needed to understand faith
Rambam48(Letter to Yemen): You should know that just as a blind person depends upon a sighted person because he knows that he lacks the ability to determine the correct path, and just as a sick person who is ignorant of medicine depends upon the advice of a doctor for a cure similarly those who are not experts need to rely on the prophets who have the true vision. They teach which ideas are true and which are not. After the period of the prophets came the wise men who exert themselves day and night to study and analyze ideas in order to know which are true and which are false.
Halachic authority - make yourself a teacher
Avos49(1:16): Make yourself a teacher and remove yourself from doubt and don’t guess the amount of your obligation for ma’aser. Rambam50(Avos 1:16): This command to appoint yourself a teacher is not for the sake of learning but for deciding questions of halacha. You should establish an authority that you rely upon concerning what is permitted and prohibited and thus remove your doubts. This is also stated in the Yerushalmi… This Mishna also commands that one should strongly avoid guessing the amount of ma’aser because it is a type of doubt.
Heresy: Misunderstood answers/SEE ANSWERS Heresy: SEE HERESY Individualized instruction
Rav Moshe Feinstein51(Igros Moshe Y. D. 4:38:7): When a person begins to learn in yeshiva for the first time, it is important that he have a teacher who will properly explain what he needs to know. This teacher should also be available to explain to him those things which seem strange. For those students who have already made some progress in yeshiva, it is a good idea to prepare for them a book in English that will explain the reasons for the mitzvos. However, it is important that they don’t start studying such a work before they are ready for it. However, if it not possible to prevent them from studying it before they are ready for it then one doesn’t have to make great efforts to prevent them - as long as the book provides explanations for the Halacha. In general, it is best that the teacher is able to explain the concepts in an individual manner that is tailored to each student and thus it is preferable not to publish English halachic works. This personal explanation is best done directly by the teacher. However perhaps the benefit of having English halachic works is in fact greater than the concern that they will be misunderstood and therefore there is no need to object to their publication. Nevertheless, it is a good idea of the authors of these English works to consult with their own rabbis or some outstanding Torah sage as to how to present the material.
Not to say anything which he didn’t hear from teachers
Berachos52(27b): Someone who says a Torah teaching which he didn’t hear from his teacher causes the Shechina to depart from the Jews. Maharsha53(Berachos 27b): One who says something he hadn’t heard from his teacher… This prohibition only applies if he repeats something he hadn’t heard from his teach but we find
many examples where the Sages say things they hadn’t heard from their teachers but they are saying it as a logical deduction. Therefore it is possible to say that Rabbi Eliezer would only not say something which was not from logical deduction since he hadn’t heard it his teacher’s mouth. Rambam54(Hilchos Talmud Torah 5:9): A student should not say anything which he has not heard from his teacher unless he mentions who he learned this from. Shach55)Y.D. 242:43): Normally what a student says is assumed by the listeners to be something he heard from his teacher. But if he did not in fact hear it from his teacher it is necessary to say from whom he did learned it. But for something he heard from his teacher, it is appropriate to say without attribution. The Bach writes that it would seem that this rule is only relevant when he only had a single teacher. But if he learned from two different teachers it is necessary to mention from whom he learned it. Nevertheless nowadays it is assumed that what a person says is something he figured out on his own. Therefore this law has changed. But it is definitely prohibited to say something without attribution and surely not to attribute it to himself when in fact it was something he heard from another. That is like glorifying oneself with a garment which is not his. Sukkah56(28a): It was said about Rabbi Yochanon ben Zakkai … he never said any matter which he had not heard from his teacher… and Rabbi Eliezer his student did likewise.
Questions: SEE QUESTIONS Questions: SEE ANSWERS Righteousness of teacher is prerequisite
Rambam57(Hilchos Talmud Torah 4:1): It is prohibited to learn from a teacher who does not go in the good path - even if he is a great scholar and the people need him - until he repents. This is learned from Malachi (2:7): For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge and they should seek the law at his mouth - for he is the messenger of G-d. Our Sages say that only if the teacher is like an angel should you seek Torah from his mouth. Shulchan Aruch58(Yoreh Deah 246:8): A teacher who does not go in the proper way - even though he is very learned and everyone is dependent upon him - one should not learn from him until he repents. Shach59(Yoreh Deah 246:8): … Chagiga (15b) states that the reason why R’ Meir learned Torah from a heretic - despite the requirement that a teacher be like an angel - is because that prohibition applies only to those who will be influenced by the teacher. R’ Meir and others who are capable of withstanding the influence are in fact permitted to learn from a heretic… The question is why didn’t the Rambam note this distinction that the gemora makes between adult and child - between those mature enough not to be influenced and those who might be influenced? It is possible that the Rambam agrees with Tosfos (Chagiga 15b) who notes that in Moed Koton (17a) R’ Yehuda excommunicated a certain scholar because he had a bad reputation. Tosfos explains that the reason that no differentiation was made by R’ Yehuda is that he felt all the students would be influenced. Thus, we see that even in Talmudic times the older students were considered as susceptible to bad influence and had to be protected. So surely, in our days, everyone is considered as susceptible to bad influence and thus the distinction of the gemora is not relevant for actual Halacha. An alternative explanation is that most poskim do not accept this distinction because it was only held by R’ Meir and not the majority of our Sages. Shiltei Gibborim Avoda Zara60(Rif 5b # 1): Even something good is prohibited to be learned from heretics… Thus, we are commanded by the master of all the prophets Hear Israel G-d our G-d is One. It doesn’t says to comprehend and understand knowledge about G-d in a scholarly manner but rather to believe in the unity according to the tradition in the same manner as we accept the Torah and mitzvos according to tradition…
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Role-model – is imitating desirable?
Bartenura61(Ediyos 1:3): A person is obligated to say it in the language of this teacher - in other words the word hin used by Hillel is not from the Mishna but from the Torah. The reason that Hillel used the word hin is because that is the way he heard the halacha form his teachers – Shmaya and Avtalyon. However the Rambam heard from his father that the reason is because both Shmaya and Avtalyon were converts and they were able to pronounce the hin and said instead in. We see this phenomenon even today. Therefore Hillel also said in instead of hin - in the same way as his teachers the converts Shmaya and Avtalyon Berachos62(47a): Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav that the guests are not allowed to eat anything before the host eats. Rav Safra said he should have said taste and not eat. So what is the difference between Rav and Shmuel? There is no difference in meaning [Rashi], but one should repeat information in the language that was used by one’s teacher. Berachos63(47b): Who is an ignorant person (am haaretz)? … Others (R’ Meir) say that even if a person has learned Bible and Mishna but has not served a Torah scholar he is an ignorant person. R’ Huna says the Halacha is accord with the view of the Others Berachos64(62a): R’ Akiva noted that he once followed R’ Yehoshua into the bathroom and learned three things from observing him. “I learned that one should not sit in an east-west orientation but only north-south. I learned that one should get uncovered only when sitting not standing. I learned that one should not clean oneself with the right hand only the left.” Ben Azzai objected: How can you be so insulting to your teacher? R’ Akiva replied: how one conducts oneself in the bathroom, is itself Torah and I need to know it. Ben Azzai reported that he once followed R’ Akiva into the bathroom and learned the three things observing him [that R’ Akiva had learned by observing R’ Yehoshua]. R’ Yehuda objected: How can you be so insulting to your teacher? Ben Azzai replied: how one conducts oneself in the bathroom, is itself Torah and I need to know it. Rav Kahane once hid under Rav’s bed while Rav was with his wife… Rav discovered him and told to get out since it was totally unacceptable behavior. Rav Kahane replied: How one conducts oneself with one’s wife, is Torah and I need to know it. Ediyos65(1:3): Hillel said, A full measure (malei hin) of drawn water invalidates the mikve – he only expressed himself this way because a person is required to say Torah in the same language he heard from his teachers. Meiri66(7b): The knowledge of how the Torah actually is to be expressed in deed requires serving or observing Torah scholars. While intellectual learning is the cause of wisdom, observing the sages is the cause of knowing how Torah manifests itself. This is true both for knowing monetary matters as well as knowing that which is prohibited or permitted. Rambam67(Commentary to Ediyos 1:3.3): Shmaya and Avtalyon were the teachers of Shamai and Hillel – as it says in Avos. They were converts and they retained the non-Jewish pronunciation and therefore they mistakenly said, Melo hin (no measure) when they meant to say malei hin (full measure). Hillel repeated the halacha the same mistaken way - because that is the way he heard it from Shmaya and Avtalyon. He said that a person has an obligation not only to report the information that he heard from his teacher but to use the same language… Rashi68(Shabbos 15a): A person is obligated to say it in the same language as is teacher… In other words the term hin is not from the Mishna but rather it is the language of the Torah. But this is the way that Hillel heard from Shmaya and Avtalyon. My teachers explained it in the language of Moshe. But I am disturbed by the fact that in many places no effort was made to do this. Tiferes Yisroel69(Ediyos 1:3): 20) A person is obligated to say it in the language of his teacher. In other words we know that a hin is in fact 3 kabs. Therefore it would have been better to say 3 kabs
which is much more commonly said in the mishna. Nevertheless he said hin because that is the way he heard it from his teacher. [….However the Vilna Gaon said that what was said differently is the word malei because this word is totally unnecessary in the mishna and it would have been sufficient to simply say that a hin measure of water disqualifies the mikve. Because Avtalyon the teacher of Hillel was a convert he was not able to pronounce the letter hey in the word hin and he pronounced it in – which means no… In order that the students should make the mistake that he meant that drawn water doesn’t invalidate a mikve, Avtalyon added the world malei (full). Hillel since he pronounced the word correctly but since his teacher added the word malei Hillel added it also.]
Sage: SEE SAGE/TZADIK Serving a teacher is greater than learning from him
Berachos70(47b): Who is an ignorant person (am haaretz)? … Others (R’ Meir) say that even if a person has learned Bible and Mishna but has not served a Torah scholar he is an ignorant person. R’ Huna says the Halacha is accord with the view of the Others Sefer Chareidim71(16:3): It is a mitzvah to provide assistance to Torah scholars (Shemos 23:25), And you shall serve the L-rd your G-d. We learn from the word “es” that this includes Torah scholars. In fact we learn from our Tradition that it is greater to serve a Torah scholar than it is to learn Torah as Melachim (1 19:21) praises Elisha for pouring water on Eliyahu’s hands – but doesn’t mention that he learned Torah from him. Furthermore Kesubos (96a) teaches, “All work that a servant does for his master a student does for his teacher.”
Sanhedrin72(19b): Whoever teaches someone Torah is considered as if he gave birth to him. This is learned from Moshe who was considered the father of Aaron’s sons because he taught them Torah. Bava Metzia73(33a): If there is a conflict between recovering one’s own lost property or that of either one’s father or teacher - one’s own property takes precedence. However, if there is a conflict between recovering one’s father’s or one’s teacher’s property - then his teacher takes precedence since his father only brought him into this world while his teacher brings him into the World to Come. If his father is also learned then his father takes precedence over his teacher… If his father and teacher were in captivity - his teacher should be rescued before his father. If his father is also learned than his father takes precedence over his teacher. Rambam74(Hilchos Talmud Torah): … There is no greater honor than that to be accorded to one’s teacher. There is also no greater awe than that which one should have for one’s teacher. Our sages say that the awe for one’s teacher should be comparable to the awe one has of Heaven…
Theological expertise of teachers is rare
Avoda R’ Abahu told the heretics that Rav Safra was a great man. He was consequently exempt from paying them taxes for 13 years. Once they asked him to explain a verse (Amos 3:2): You only have I known [or loved] from all the families of the earth; therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities. “Why would G-d vent His anger on His beloved?” Rav Safra remained silent because he was unable to answer them. They began to torture him. R’ Abahu saw them and asked them why they were hurting Rav Safra. They answered: You told us that he was a great man but he can’t even explain the meaning of a Biblical verse! R’ Abahu answer: I told you he was learned in the teachings of the Sages but I never claimed that he was learned in Bible! The heretics asked how R’ Abahu was able to answer their questions about Biblical verses? R’ Abahu replied: Those of us who spend times in debate with heretics study in order to reply to these types of Zara75(4a):
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questions. Others do not pay attention to these issues… They then asked R’ Abahu to answer their original question. R’ Abahu said: This is analogous to a man who is owed money by two people one is his friend the other is his enemy. He allows his friend to pay back little by little while his enemy must pay all at once. Rambam76(Treatise on Resurrection): … I came to the realization that it was not correct to deal with issues in religion without also explaining and justifying the fundamental principles underlying these issues. This became especially obvious after meeting a person who considered himself one of the great Torah scholars. He was in truth very competent in Jewish law. However he was in doubt as to whether G-d was physical - having eyes, hands, feet and guts as described in Biblical verses. In fact, I have met others from various lands who are very certain that G-d is physical and they consider anyone who disagrees with this view as a denier and heretic. They understand literally the many Talmudic stories that describe G-d in physical terms. I have heard similar reports about other people that I have not met personally. When I learned about these totally lost souls and disgusting people who think they are amongst the great Jewish sages, foolish men who are more disoriented than animals - their minds filled with the nonsensical thoughts of old women and the useless fantasies of children and women - I realized that it was necessary to explain the fundamental Torah principles in my writings on Jewish law...
Ignorance: Not an Excuse for Sinning
Bilam – sinned for not trying to know
Bamidbar77(22:34): Bilam said to the angel of G-d, “I have sinned because I didn’t know that you were blocking my path. Therefore if my journey displeases you, I will turn back.” Netziv78(Bamidbar 22:34): Because I didn’t know. The essence of Bilam’s sins was that he hadn’t made any efforts to know and understand. He should have realized that the donkey’s strange behavior was a message that G-d was opposed to his journey [instead of just hitting the donkey]. Sefer Chasidim79(#153):… When Bilam told the angel that he had sinned by not noticing him, he meant that he had sinned by not paying attention to the information available to him and that he should have tried to discover the reason behind his donkey’s strange behavior. From here we learn that a person is required to apply his full intelligence and efforts to properly have awe and respect of G-d wishes since a person is punished for not knowing that which he is capable of knowing by thinking and investigation. Thus one cannot say to G-d that his transgression was unintentional because he didn’t know it was a transgression. Shaloh80(Parshas Matos – Derech Chaim #6): And Moshe was angry at the officers of the army [because they kept the enemy women alive]…(Bamidbar 31:14). But why was Moshe angry since he hadn’t commanded the soldiers to kill the women? We can answer that this was self-evident even without an explicit command… A person is obligated to do that which commonsense dictates. I have written about this in Parshas Balak (21) concerning Bamidbar (22:34), “ I sinned because I didn’t know” - because he should have known. Shaloh81)Parshas Balak - Derech Chaim #21): “I have sinned because I didn’t know (Bamidbar 22:34).” This statement seems problematic. If he was not aware, then what was his sin? What Bilam meant was that he didn’t know - that he which he should have known and understood - and therefore he was guilty of a sin. It is because of this obligation to know that G-d has given man intelligence to analyze and understand. Also in this situation, Bilam should have tried to understand the reason for the strange conduct of the donkey. The foundation principle in this matter is that a man is always liable for his damages, because Man is always liable for his deeds – whether he is asleep or awake (Bava Kama 26a). Therefore Man needs to constantly think about, analyze and make certain he is not the cause of the slightest evil in the world.
No mercy for one who suffers because he didn’t use his full abilities Be’er Sheva82)92a): All those who don’t have understanding – This means those who don’t want
to pay attention and try and understand. Berachos83(33a): Rav Ami said, “Great is understanding [de’ah] because it is placed between two names of G-d … (Shmuel 1 2:3). And anyone who doesn’t have understanding it is prohibited to have mercy on him as it says (Yeshaya 27:11), For it is a people of no understanding, therefore He that made them will have no compassion upon them. Maharsha84(Sanhedrin 92a): Any man who has no understanding it is prohibited to have mercy on him… While it is obvious that one should be merciful to a creature in need but that is only if it hasn’t distorted its fundamental nature that it was created with. A man who was created with a unique mind and intelligence – if he now lacks this understanding he is not shown mercy… Panim Yafos85(Bamidbar 19): Our Sages (Vayikra Rabba 1:15) state, “Any man who has no understanding then a dead animal is better than he is. That is because every man in his lifetime needs to fully involve himself in Torah and mitzvos in order to rectify the Tree of Knowledge.”
Ignorance: Not an Excuse for Sinning
Sanhedrin86(92a): Rabbi Eleazar said that any man who is lacking understanding it is prohibited to have mercy on him as it says in Yeshaya (27:11), For it is a people of no understanding: therefore He that made them will not have mercy upon them, and He that formed them will show them no favor. And Rabbi Eleazar said that whoever gives his bread to one who doesn’t have understanding – will suffer… and Rabbi Eleazar said that whoever doesn’t have understanding will eventually be sent into exile as it says (Yeshaya 5:13), Therefore my people without understanding were exiled.
Only if he actively did something to prevent knowing
Shaloh87(Davey HaAmudim – Amud Hadin 21): Bilam told the angel, “I have sinned because I didn’t know (Bamidbar 22:34).” This seems contradictory because if he didn’t know then wasn’t a sin? The answer is that Bilam had taken a bribe as Rashi explained (Bamidbar 22:20)…This taking of a bribe caused him to not think clearly. Consequently when he said that he had sinned he was referring to taking his a bribe [and not to failure to notice the angel]. This bribe was the reason that he didn’t know [or didn’t want to know]. That is because a bribe causes a distorted understanding of reality.
Sins – even done accidentally – blemish the soul
Shaloh88(Asarah Mamaros 3&4 #165): … Since the soul is sublime and spiritual and it was taken from a very high spiritual source, then whatever wrong a person does – even if done accidentally – harms the soul. An analogy would be that if someone spills ink on a clean white garment – even if was done by accident – stains the garment…. This is alluded to in Bamidbar (22:34), “I have sinned because I didn’t know.” In other words, even though my ignorance was not intentional – nevertheless I have sinned. That is because of the principle (Bava Kamma 3b) that a person is always responsible for his acts – even those done accidentally which he could have prevented if he had thought about the consequences of his behavior. Consequently a person needs think about the possible outcome of what he does so that he does not cause the slightest harm. And this concern applies even more to an important person and thus requires him to take much greater precautions and thought. To the degree that he is great, to that degree he needs to anticipate harmful outcomes. Shaloh89(Yoma Derech Chaim #212): G-d was angry at Uzza [for grabbing hold of the Ark because he was afraid it would fall] and He struck him down because of his unintentional mistake [Rashi] (Shmuel 2 6:7). He should have realized that the Ark would not fall down because G-d carried its bearers and therefore logically it carried itself. He also forgot he was absolutely forbidden to touch it. [The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, ‘Uzza, [the ark] carried its bearers; must it not all the more [be able to carry] itself!’- Sotah 35a]. We see from this that a person is punished even for accidental sins since he should have known it was wrong but he didn’t. Similarly concerning Bilam (Bamidbar 22:34), “I sinned because I didn’t know.” In other words I sinned in the fact that I didn’t know because I should have learned and thought about the matter by myself. From this a person learns that he needs to always pay attention and think constantly. Therefore in those matters which he should have known but didn’t – a mistake is considered as an intentional sin. And even those sins that result from complete accidents – they still require atonement. Mareh Yechezkeil90(Shabbos Shuva): … In truth even accidental sins (shogeg) require atonement since he should have taken precautions not to come to sin. [The Shaloh discusses this on the verse where Bilam says, “I sinned because I didn’t know”(Bamidbar 22:34). Sinning should not be treated differently than money where a person is extremely carefully never to suffer a loss. I have a proof from the Yerushalmi (Makkos 7a) which says, They asked Wisdom what is the punishment for a soul that sins. Wisdom answered that it needs to bring a sacrifice. However
Prophecy said it should be killed… We see that the Torah requires the offering of a sacrifice for all sins – even when done accidentally. That would mean that Prophecy is saying that death is incurred for all sins – even when done accidentally…Dovid (Tehilim 38:19) said, I describe my sins. Even though I confess my intentional sins I am still worried about my unintentional sins. Because people think that they only need to repent serious sins and in truth even thoughts of sinning require repentance… A person not only has to repent for thinking about sinning but also for not thinking about things that would prevent him from sinning.
Tinok SheNishba: Non-religious are not - if they saw religious Jews
Igros Moshe91(Even HaEzer 1:82): … In fact, however it is reasonable to say that these children of heretics are not considered in the category of tinok shenishba amongst the non-Jews since they live in places where religiously observant Jews are found and also because their ancestors believed in G-d and His Torah and they were influenced to follow in the mistaken ways of their parents. In fact they had the option of following in the influence of the religiously observant and their ancestors and a son is more influenced by his ancestors. If so they are in effect freely choosing the bad path and they through their evil thoughts are caught up in evil and they have misled themselves. And I saw in the Rambam(Hilchos Mamrim 3:3) that he writes, “And what is our case that the person is considered a full heretic and should be killed? It is a person who follows after his lightheaded thoughts and after the desires of his heart and denies the Oral Torah just as Tzadok and Baysos did first and similarly all those who mistakenly followed after them.” Thus we see that even those who mistakenly followed after Tzadok and Baysos even though they themselves were not heretics. However after they were captured by the words of Tzadok and Baysos and followed after them and did not follow after the good observant Jews - they are considered as those who initiated heresy. The reason is simple because they also saw righteous and observant people and they were able to follow after them and nevertheless they went after the wicked and therefore they are considered as having deliberately sinned. Thus is it with our present case. These people also see righteous and observant people and they are able to follow after them. Nevertheless they are caught to go after the wicked and are thus intentional sinners and are like those who initially denied the Torah and therefore they are included amongst those who should be lowered into a pit and not rescued and are therefore worse than non-Jews and they are invalid as witnesses as I have explained. Nimukei Yosef92(Bava Metzia 42b): It makes sense than an apostate (mummer) can be lent money with interest – since he knows about G-d and his actions are rebellious and thus he is a heretic. However the child of this apostate since he has been raised in the religion of idolatry his actions are unintentional (shogeg) and thus he is not to be killed for his non-observance – so why can he be lent money with interest? That is not a question since the only one who cannot be lent money is the tinok shenishba amongst non-Jews who never was aware that Torah exists. However the ignorant person who has grown up amongst Jews and nevertheless he goes and attaches himself to the practices of the idolaters he is also a sinner who can be killed. Shach93(Y.D. 159:6): Karaites - The Beis Yosef says, “Regarding the Karaites it appears to me that Rambam in his Commentary to Chullin considers them as tinok shenishba amongst the non-Jews. Therefore it is prohibited to lend money to them with interest. Even though from the words of the Nimukei Yosef it appears that it is permitted to lend to them with interest. Nevertheless we don’t desert the explicit words of the Rambam for the sake of the words of the Nimukei Yosef.” I examined the words of the Rambam there and I did not find any implication to support this understanding. In fact the Rambam wrote just the opposite. Concerning a sinner the poskim have taught that it is permissible to lend to him with interest. If so the same would be true of Karaites. The Maharshal also wrote that the Karaites have the status of sinners and it is permitted to lend to them with interest. The Derisha cites this. This understanding seems possible in the
Ignorance: Not an Excuse for Sinning
teshuva of R’ Eliezar ibn Chaim (#113) that the Karaites have the status of Jewish sinners. Also look at the responsa of Rabbeinu Shimshon who is cited by the Mabit (2:38). Also the responsa of R’ Betzalel(#3). He also writes there that the Karaites in the time of the Rambam had many good qualities in contrast to the way they are now. Shevet HaLevi94(9:198): Question: Concerning an elderly man who has the status of tinok shenishba (a child captured and thus is ignorant of his Torah obligations) – is it necessary to show respect for him by standing up for him?... Nevertheless tinok shenishba – even if he was amongst non-Jews and now he is amongst Jews and he knows that he is a Jew – and even though at times it is possible to consider his behavior as shogeg (accidental) and even ones (beyond his control) – but as long as he has not become observant he is no different than a sinner out of lust. Look at Yoreh Deah (241:1) concerning giving charity in such a case…Therefore a secular Jew today if he is classified as being forced against his will to be irreligious because of his bad education – nevertheless he knows that there is the Torah. And also if he is given the status of sinner out of lust or even less than that – nevertheless he clearly is not acting as a Jew and thus there is no obligation to standup for him according to the straight forward understanding of the halacha as is apparent from the language of the Rema. Nevertheless it is reasonable that there are times when it is appropriate to be respectful of the elderly if he is a simple person – at least to speak to him in a respectful manner… The Radvaz writes … every day we bring these Karaites to repentance and we draw them to believe in the Oral Torah. Nevertheless they blaspheme and debase the rabbis of our tradition and they cannot be judged as acting against their will but in fact they are rejecters of the Oral Torah.” Thus the words of the Radvaz. Due to our many sins it is that way today also. The majority of secular education is to contradict the Oral Torah. They explain the Bible against the views of our Sages. Consequently it is difficult to consider them to actually have the status of tinok shenishba even though it is certain that they have no choice in the matter due to their bad education which is given to them. Therefore it would appear as we mentioned above that it should be sufficient to honor them verbally. Yabiya Omer95(E. H. 3:21): Greater than this we find concerning the Karaites of modern times who are considered tinok shenishba amongst the non-Jews. Nevertheless if they are warned about their transgressions but they don’t want to return to observing the Oral Torah they are to be killed. This is stated in the Mishna LeMelech (Hilchos Malve v’loveh 5:2) in the name of the Mabit and the Radvaz. This is also the view of Maharam ben Chaviv in Kol Gadol (#27). Nevertheless they are invalid to serve as witnesses as is stated in the Maharksh (#33). And this is surely true concerning those non-observant Jews who are found amongst us and they see that the religious woman cover their hair and wear modest clothing. Therefore it is certain that after they have been warned and cautioned regarding religious observance they are considered as deliberately transgressing the Torah. And even R’ Akiva Eiger who permits those who shave with a razor to be witnesses because they don’t think that shaving is prohibited – that is only where they have not been warned against the practice. However if they were informed that they are not valid witnesses because of shaving it is clear from his teshuva that they are invalid witnesses. … And surely where the beis din warns her and instructs here that an action is completely prohibited – if she transgresses what she was warned about she is divorced and doesn’t receive her kesubah because she is viewed as deliberately sinning and there is no greater religious transgression than this. Yabiya Omer96(E. H. 8:12.2): … We can conclude from all of these sources that the majority of poskim rule that the Karaites are invalid witnesses according to the Torah. It would follow from this that their marriages are not valid either when done before their witnesses. I saw in the Igros Moshe (E.H. 82.11 page 215b) that he cites the Rambam (Hilchos Aidus 5:11 and Hilchos Mamrim 3:3) that we have already mentioned. Rav Moshe writes “even the children of the Karaites and grandchildren who have been misled by their ancestors and there they are considered tinok shenishba which is ones (against their will) – that is only in regards to law that they are not put in
the pit or saved. However in regards to testimony they are definitely invalid. That is because as long they are mistaken and don’t observe Judaism properly they are no better than a non-Jew and are invalid to be witnesses. That is because once they have seen the righteous and proper Jews and they have the opportunity to follow in their ways and they chose to continue following in the ways of their wicked ancestors – they are now considered deliberately sinning and therefore they are invalid witnesses.” (See also Igros Moshe E.H. 4:32.7 page 76a). Also look at Ginas Veradim (O.H. 3:1 page 49b).
Ignorance: Not an Excuse for Sinning
Kiddush HaShem: Sanctifying G-d’s Reputation
Good behavior of Jews can sanctifying G-d’s reputation
Berachos97(6a): … G-d says to the Jews, “You have made me a unique entity in this world and I shall make you a unique entity in the world….” Jews make G-d a unique entity in the world as it says (Devarim 6:4), “Hear of Israel the L-rd our G-d the L-rd is one.” In turn G-d promises that He will make the Jews a unique entity in the world as it says (Shmuel 2 7:23),”Who is like Your nation Israel – a unique nation in the land.”… Rambam98(Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 5:11):… Similarly according to the greatest of the sages, it is necessary to be careful with himself and to go beyond the letter of the law. Therefore if the sage is very careful with himself and speak pleasantly with others and has to be considerate of others and receive them pleasantly and not respond to insults. Rather he should show respect to others even if they don’t respect his dignity and should conduct his business with honesty. He should minimize his association with the ignorant masses but should rather spend his time studying Torah while wearing talis and Tefilin. He should conduct all his affairs beyond the letter of the law. In other words he should conduct himself so that all find him praiseworthy and love him and desire to emulate his deeds. Such a person sanctifies the Name of G-d…. Ramchal99(Derech Chochma p116): A person who needs to mingle with the non-Jewish scholars should learn that which causes them to respect him. Consequently G-d will be sanctified through him. Shabbos100(75a): Bar Kappa said that whoever knows how to calculate the cycles and planetary movement but doesn’t is described in Yeshaya (5:12):”But they don’t pay attention to the work of G-d and don’t see the activities of His hands.” R’ Yochanon said: “How do we know that it is a mitzva for a person to calculate the cycles and planetary movement? Because it says in Devarim (4:6): ‘For this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations of the world.’ What is the wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations? It is the calculation of the cycles and planetary movement.”
Sanctification of G-d by acceptance of suffering
Zevachim101(115b): [G-d said]…I will be sanctified by My glory. My glory is understood to mean My honored ones. Moshe and Aaron did not know what this meant until Aaron’s sons died. When Aaron’s sons died Moshe told Aaron: Your sons died only to sanctify G-d’s name. When Aaron learned that his sons were G-d’s honored ones he was silent and received reward for his silence. That is the meaning of “And Aaron was silent”….
Martyrdom - SEE MARTYRDOM
Chilul HaShem: Profaning G-d’s Reputation
Bad behavior of Jews can profane G-d’s reputation
Berachos102(19b): Rav said that if one found a prohibited mixture of threads in his garment he must take off the garment even in public. What is the reason? Because it says in Mishlei (21:30), There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel against G-d.” That verse means that any situation which causes the profanation of G-d’s name (chilul HaShem) [e.g., not keeping Torah commandments] no concern is to be shown for human embarrassment or degradation. Igros Moshe103(Y.D. 2:130): Concerning the matter of a giyores who has been following the appropriate Jewish practices and has kept a distance from her father and mother from the time that she has converted 20 years ago even though they live in the same city. But now her mother has fallen ill and requests that she come with her children to see her because she has a great longing to see her grandchildren Even though the giyores knows that according to the Torah there is no relationship anymore with her parents, nevertheless she wants to know if it is appropriate because she has a very strong natural love to her parents and she wants to fulfill her mother's request at this time of sickness. …. Answer:… However the more appropriate reason is that they might say that the laws of Torah are not correct if she is told not to go and this is a very significant point by itself even without the concern that she might revert. We see this from the fact that the halacha is that we visit sick non-Jews for the sake of peace as well as sustain the poor non-Jews and bury their dead for the sake of peace (Gittin 61).... So it is obvious that she and her children would be going against the ways of peace of they don't visit her mother. So besides that factor the Rambam (Mamrim 5; 11) states that it is prohibited for a ger to curse his non-Jewish father or hit him and not to shame him so that people won't say that the ger went from a higher religion to a lower one so he should at least not shame his father (Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 241)... So if she doesn't go to visit her sick mother with her children it will cause the mother suffering and maybe it will drive her crazy. Thus we see it is an insult to the mother if she doesn't go and it is such pain that it is like hitting and cursing her. So therefore going to her mother is not only permitted but is obligatory to comply with the wishes of her mother to come and bring her children.... R’ Akiva Eiger writes that this is part of human culture.... This mean that even though it is not an explicit law of the Torah that a non-Jew must honor his parents and therefore it is not an issue of coming from a higher religion to a low one nevertheless but since natural ethics requires honoring parents then it is also included in coming from a higher religion to a lower one. It is like the reason of chilul HaShem if they should say that the Torah permits something that even a non-Jewish knows is prohibited... Mesilas Yeshorim104(#11): There are many situations that can be a chilul HaShem and a person has to be careful to guard G-d’s honor. In everything he does it is necessary to weigh things carefully so that it does not produce a chilul HaShem. It has been taught that there is no distinction made whether the chilul HaShem was inadvertent or intentional. … Furthermore according to the level of the person and according to his importance in the eyes of others it is necessary to avoid doing something which is inappropriate for such a person. That is because to the degree that a person is viewed as a Torah scholar or important Jew to that degree he should be careful with every aspect of his deeds. If he isn’t careful it will produce a chilul HaShem since he is perceived as representing the honor of Torah. Thus the more a person is a Torah scholar the greater his deeds are watched and thus he has to be careful to be upright and perfect his personality. To the degree that he is missing refinement, to that degree he causes shame to the Torah and to G-d who gave the Torah and commanded that it be studied in order to reach perfection. Rambam105(Sefer HaMitzvos Negative 63): This is a warning against chilul HaShem (profaning G-d’s name). This is the opposite of Kiddush HaShem (Sanctifying G-d’s name)… Vayikra (22:32) says, “You should not profane My Holy Name.” The sin is divided into three parts - two general and
Chilul HaShem: Profaning G-d’s Reputation
one specific to the person. The first general principle is that whoever is told to transgress the prohibition against idol worship or the prohibited sexual relations or murder even if it is not a time of forced conversions – is obligated to give up his life and be killed rather than transgress… However if he transgresses rather than die he has in fact profaned G-d’s name and has transgress this prohibition. Furthermore if this was done publicly i.e., in front of 10 Jews then he profaned G-d’s name in public and this is an extremely serious sin. Nevertheless he is not flogged because he was forced…The second general principle is that if a person sins without any lust for that sin and without any enjoyment but does it purely to rebel and through off the yoke of Heaven this is also chilul Hashem and he is flogged. The part that is specific to the person is that a person who is known as one who is refined and good deed who does an action which appears to the masses to be a sin and that appears inappropriate for such a distinguished person to do – even though the deed is not a sin he still profanes G-d’s name. This is described in Yoma (86a) where it describes examples of chilul HaShem. It says if one of these distinguished sages took meat from the butcher without paying immediately. Another one said that if he walked 4 cubits without discussing Torah or wearing tefilin it would be a chilul HaShem. Rambam106(Shavuos 12:2): The sin of false oaths is amongst the most severe sins as we have explained in Hilchos Teshuva. This is so even though there is no punishment of kares or execution by beis din. Nevertheless there is the desecration of G-d name (chilul HaShem) which is greater than all other sins. Rambam107(Hilchos Teshuva 1:4): Even though that repentance (teshuva) atones for everything and the Day of Yom Kippur itself atones, there are sins for which atonement comes immediately and there are others which the atonement comes later. For example if a person violated a positive commandment whose punishment does not entail kares and he repents. Then his sins are immediately forgiven…However if he transgresses a negative commandment whose punishment doesn’t entail kares or capital punishment and he repented, then the repentance is completed with Yom Kippur… If he commits a sin which is punishable by kares or death and then repented, there is not complete atonement even after Yom Kippur but rather he need to die to complete the atonement. Furthermore he doesn’t have complete atonement until he has experienced suffering… However all this is true only if he hasn’t caused the profanation of G-d name (chilul Hashem) by his sin. However if he has caused chilul HaShem, then even if he has repented and Yom Kippur has passed and he remains repentant and he receives physical suffering – the complete atonement only happens when he dies…. Shulchan Aruch108(Y.D. 242:11):… You need to separate a person from sin such as when you see a person who is sinning because he doesn’t realize that his action is prohibited or because of his wickedness. It is permitted to stop him and to tell him that his actions are prohibited - even if you say this in the presence of your own rabbi [which is showing disrespect]. The reason that we are not concerned with a lack of respect for your own rabbi is that whenever there is a chilul HaShem (because someone is violating G-d’s command) we are do not show deference for our teachers but need to act immediately. Steipler Rav (Within the Domain of Gedolei Torah Volume 2 page 557-560): … When Rav Lorenz told the story to the Steipler Rav, the Steipler screamed, “A Jew who sins and repeats that sin, it is better that he be punished in this world and not – G-d forbid – in the World to Come.” He explained, “The punishment in this world is minor compared to what happens in the World to Come. Furthermore if you succeed in stopping the jail sentence he will continue to repeatedly commit this crime. It is better that he receive his punishment and perhaps learn self-restraint…In addition if I give you permission and you testify for his benefit it is obvious that every newspaper and all the public media will publicize the matter and it will also be a chilul HaShem when he sins again…”
Yoma109(86a): What is chilul Hashem? … Yitzchok of the school of R’ Yanai said that it is a chilul Hashem when one’s colleagues are ashamed because of the rumors that people say about him. R’ Nachman bar Yitzchok said chilul Hashem results when a person studies Bible, learns Mishna and has intensive interaction with talmidei chachom but is not honest in business and doesn’t have a pleasant way of talking with people – people say, “Woe is the person who studies Torah, woe is his father who taught him Torah, woe is his teacher who taught him Torah because this man studies Torah and look how disgusting his deeds are and how ugly are his ways!…
Kiddush HaShem – SEE KIDUSH HASHEM Martyrdom – SEE MARTYRDO
Chilul HaShem: Profaning G-d’s Reputation
Convert: Can be more spiritual than born Jew
Convert can be more spiritual than a born Jew
Kiddushin110(70b): Converts are as deleterious to the Jewish people as a scab… Medrash Tanchuma111(Lech Lecha #6): Converts are more beloved to G-d than the Jews who stood at Mt Sinai. The reason is that those who stood at Mt. Sinai would not have accepted the Torah if it hadn’t been for the awesome spectacle of the thunder, lightning, the great wind and the sound of shofars. In contrast, the converts saw none of this and still came to cling to G-d and accepted the Torah… Rabbeinu Bachye112(Shemos 24:5): This that our Sages say that “converts are as deleterious to the Jewish people as scabs” is not to be understood as an insult to converts but rather as an insult to Jews from birth. In other words since G-d knows how much that the converts have sacrificed by leaving their families and birthplace in order to cling to Him - it sets makes the Jews from birth look bad when they don’t serve G-d whole heartedly. This is stated in a medrash … Tosfos113(Kiddushin 70b): Converts are as deleterious - Rashi explains because they are ignorant of the mitzvos and thus cause misfortune by their lack of observing the Jewish laws and that they set a bad example for other Jews. … Others explain that they are a source of trouble to the Jewish people because G-d repeated the prohibition of not upsetting converts 24 times and it is impossible not to transgress this serious prohibition. … Another explanation is that converts are in fact more knowledgeable in mitzvos and are more scrupulous in observing them than Jews from birth. This contrast causes G-d to punish the Jews from birth when they are not properly observant… Another explanation is that they cause problems by being assimilated amongst the Jewish people and the Divine presence only rests on families that have a pedigree…
Majority of Torah was given through converts
Shaloh114 (Shavuos Torah Ohr #91): You should know that the majority of the Torah was given in association with converts. Moshe was attached to Yisro who was a convert. The convert Onkelos translated the Torah. Concerning the Oral Torah, the gemora (Sanhedrin 86a) states that an anonymous Mishna is Rabbi Meir…and all of this was through Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva was descended from converts from Sisra. Rabbi Meir himself was descended from the Caesar Nero [Gittin 56a]…
Oral Torah is primarily from converts
Rav Tzadok115(Tzedkas HaTzadik #76): The foundation of the Oral Torah is from Rabbi Akiva who was from a family of converts. Similarly R’ Meir was also descended from converts (Eruvin 13b).
Converts have greater love of Torah
Rav Tzadok116(Machshavos Charutz Chapter 19): R’ Akiva is the foundation of the Oral Law…He had to be a descendant of converts because love of Torah is most manifest in converts. We see that from the fact that despite G-d’s redemption of the Jews from the slavery of Egypt and making them into a kingdom of priests, when He brought them to Mt. Sinai to get the Torah He had to force them to accept it (Shabbos 88a). Even when they eventually accepted it out of love in the time of Purim - it was because of the love of the miracle and salvation. In contrast, the convert leaves the tranquility of the world and the total freedom to fill his lusts as a non-Jew. He willing comes to restrict himself and to attach himself to the Jewish people who are lowly and despised in this world. … It is only because of the convert’s love of Torah that he comes close and accepts the
yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven… Furthermore, we see in Medrash Tanchuma (Noach 3) that the Jewish people had to be forced to accept the Oral Law since it requires so much effort. The only ones who learn it are those that have great love of G-d with their entire heart and soul - and not someone who loves wealth and pleasure… We see then that G-d had to force the Jewish people to accept the Oral Law even though in their inner soul they really wanted to accept the Oral Law…Nevertheless in the revealed aspect of this world which is the world of free will and effort the love of Torah is more manifest amongst converts. Similar Pesachim (91b) states that converts are more careful in their performance of the mitzvos than Jews from birth…. Therefore, Rabbi Akiva who was descended from converts merited being the foundation of the Oral Law. In addition, we see that the description of the acceptance of the Torah was written in the section of Yisro - who was the head of all converts - and manifested great love of Torah. He left his high status and wealth to be in the Wilderness with the Jewish people…
Converts can be more Spiritual than born Jews 35
Spirituality & Decency: Torah & Natural Law
Decency can be found amongst all men
Berachos117(8b): It has been taught: R. Akiva says: For three things I like the Medes: When they cut meat, they cut it only on the table; when they kiss, they kiss only the hand; and when they take counsel it is in private in the field…. It has been taught: R. Gamliel says: For three things I like the Persians: They are modest in their eating habits, modest in the use of a bathroom, and modest in another matter… Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky118(Emes L’Yaakov): According to the Halacha, Avraham was not obligated to risk his life to save his nephew Lot…. Avraham risked his life because the Patriarchs were yeshorim (upright) [Avoda Zara 25a]. That means that their actions were not governed only by the strict letter of Torah law - but by straight thinking. G-d made man inherently yashar (upright). According to uprightness, there was an obligation to try and save Lot… Avraham felt responsible for Lot’s welfare because Lot’s father had died in a furnace because of his belief in the G-d of Avraham. Therefore, according to uprightness (menshlikeit) Avraham had to organize his men and pursue after Lot’s captors. In truth the lives of the Patriarchs - which was before the giving of the Torah - was based on the attribute uprightness. This is the meaning of the expression [Vayikra Rabbah 9:3] that derech eretz (civility) preceded the Torah… Therefore, this civility and menshlikeit can be expected even from non-Jews. Even though they weren’t given all the mitzvos, but everyone can live in accordance with the inherent uprightness - if he wants.
Kiddush HaShem – SEE KIDDUSH HASHEM Kiddush HaShem – SEE CHILUL HASHEM Natural law from commonsense
Toras Avraham119(Toras HaSeichel HaEnushi #2): … Intellect (seichel) which characterizes man is not simply a means of knowing and understanding data. In fact the intellect is a moral faculty to know what is truly straight. G-d created man with this faculty in order to teach him the path of life. Therefore it is obligatory for man to use it to know what is right and wrong and not to distort his straightness and wholesomeness. It enables him to be a moral judge to understand things in full. Thus man is obligated to keep things which he knows are right - as well as that which he has been commanded directly by G-d. Both obligation serve to direct him properly… Rabbeinu Nissim Gaon120(Introduction to Talmud): The reason that there is punishment for activities not specifically commanded is because all those Mitzvos which are derived from commonsense are obligated on everyone from the day that G-d first created Adom HaRishon. Not only him but also all his descendants afterwards for all generations. Rambam121(Moreh Nevuchim 3:17): A person is rewarded for any good deed and punished for sin - even though these activities were not commanded by a prophet. This is because a person is held accountable for those things which are dictated by commonsense. Ramban122(Bereishis 6:13): The generation of the flood was punished for theft because it was an obvious sin. Our Sages (Sanhedrin 108a) say that this sin sealed their fate. That is because it was commonsense that it was a sin, there was no need for a prophets to warn them. Furthermore it was evil to both heaven and man.
Eruvin123(100b): Even if the Torah hadn't been given it would be possible to learn proper conduct from observing animals. Modesty from the cat, avoidance of theft from ants, avoidance of adultery from the dove and sexual conduct from the rooster.
Non-Jews can be spiritual Religious faith of non-Jews is naturally stronger
Meshech Chochma124(Shemos 12:21): It is said about the Jews that they are believers the descendants of believers (Shabbos 97a). However Taanis (5b) notes that non-Jews have stronger religious beliefs than Jews - even when their religion is utter nonsense. “The Kittites worship fire and the Kedarites worship water, and even though they know that water can put out fire they have not yet changed their gods but My people hath changed their G-d for that which doth not profit.” And even if you want to answer that the faith that is being praised, is believing in things that will happen in the future such as the resurrection of the dead - non-Jews also have strong faith in events that will happen in the future. To explain the distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish faith, one must note that the appreciation of things such as love, beauty and power are all inherent in a person. The ancient peoples sanctified all these natural powers and placed high value on them and described them as resulting from specific gods. Thus they had a god of beauty, a god of power and a god of love as is well known. A person who personified one of these natural attributes was described as a godly person. Even today, the peoples of the world make images and sanctify these tangible - directly experienced characteristics. Even the Moslems have sanctified the grave of their savior in Mecca and done other things. Consequently, we see that the emotions and senses directly support their faith which is built upon experience and imagery. Thus, non-Jewish religious faith is essentially just an extension of natural emotion. That is not how G-d conceives religious faith…. In fact, all tangible existence is totally separate from the one Creator. All this is such pure abstract intellectual awareness that Chovas HaLevavos (1:2 Shaar HaYichud) asserts that true service of G-d is for either the philosopher or prophet. Nevertheless, all Jews - even without reaching the levels of prophets or even philosophers - truly believe in these pure abstract thoughts of His existence and His unity and they scoff at all that which is entirely based upon natural emotional experience. They understand that faith based entirely on innate human feelings and thoughts is worthless and transient representing only conjecture - G-d in the image of man. This is why Chazal state, “How did the Jews merit to recite the Shema which extols the unitary of G-d? Because they were descendants of Abraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov.” Because of this knowledge gained from their forefathers - Jews understand this profound abstract philosophical issue and scorn emotion based faith... Meiri125(Avos Introduction): There is a strong emphasis and constant warning in the Torah to stay far away from idol worship since there has always been a strong attachment to it generation after generation. An intelligent person would naturally ask why this error of idol worship has repeated itself generation after generation? The answer is that the average person more readily believes that which he can perceive and comprehend than that which is intangible and abstract. Therefore, a person’s nature draws him to idol worship.
Righteous non-Jews rewarded in the World to Come
Meiri126(Sanhedrin 57a): Every non-Jew, who accepts upon himself the seven commandments, is one of the saints of the nations of the world and is considered a religious person and he has a portion in the World to Come. Rambam127(Hilchos Teshuva 3:5):… The righteous of the non-Jews also have a portion in the World to Come.
Spirituality & Decency: Torah & Natural Law
Rambam128(Hilchos Melachim 8:11): Whoever accepts the seven mitzvos of Noach and is careful to observe them is considered one of the pious members of the nations and he has a portion in the World to Come. However, this is true only if the accepts and does them because G-d has commanded them in the Torah and had Moshe inform us about them. However, if he keeps them purely because of his intellectual recognition - he does not have the status of a ger toshav and is not considered amongst the pious of the world and not amongst their wise men [alternatively: or only as one of their wise men]. Rav Wasserman129(Likutei Mamarim v'Michtavim) Non-Jews are required to keep the basic seven mitzvos and they receive punishment for not keeping them. The non-Jew will complain and make what seems a reasonable claim, “How was I supposed to know that I was required to keep these mitzvos?” However, if you reflect on the issue you will find that belief that G-d created the world is self-evident to all intelligent people. There is no need for profound philosophical analysis to understand this. As the Chovas HaLevavos says, “If a person suddenly spilled ink on a blank piece of paper - there is no way he would expect a coherent essay to appear on the page…” So this raises a rather perplexing question - how can profound and brilliant philosophers conclude that the world is an accident? The resolution of this riddle is found in our Holy Torah which reveals all that is concealed. We find a prohibition for a judge to take a bribe. The amount that constitutes a bribe is the value of a couple cents. … Therefore, the foundations of faith are obviously true to anyone who is sane. However, his rational assessment - like that of the judge - only exists if he has not been bribed. This means in our case that he is entirely free from the desires for the unrestricted access to the pleasures of this physical world. We see then that the source of heresy and perverse intellectual beliefs is not due to a breakdown of the mind per se. His failure to see the obvious is because he has been blinded because of his fear of losing what he views as his indispensable pleasures…
Non-Jews repent when told of their sin - Jews don’t
Rambam130(Avos 2:14): You should know what to answer the apikorus. It is necessary to learn things to be able to refute the apikorus when they ask you questions. It is important to note that this only applies to a non-Jewish heretic. In contrast one should not argue with a Jewish heretic since it only makes them worse and they intensify their abusive comments. Therefore, one should not speak to them at all since it serves no constructive purpose and you can’t help them at all... Furthermore, even though the ability to respond to the heretics requires that one learn the non-Jewish religions, one should take care not to accept any aspect of their religion. You should constantly be aware that G-d is fully cognizant of what is in your heart. Therefore, one’s heart should always be directed at having the proper faith. Maharal131(Netzach Yisroel 14) I have already explained with clear proofs that the soul is the dominant factor in the nature of the Jew. For example, being stiff-necked is one of the bad qualities that Jews have. Practically speaking that means that Jews refuse to accept chastisement and will not listen to corrective advise. This is in fact because they are not intrinsically materialistic. Only something which is materialistic is readily altered. Consequently Jews are very resistant to change and will not accept the advice of others. Furthermore, Beitza (25b) states that they are the most aggressive and pushy people. That is because they have the power associated with being the defining figure that is separate and distinct from the readily altered material. In contrast, the non-Jews readily change their ways and readily accept correction. The Yerushalmi (Sanhedrin 11:5) therefore explains that Yonah did not want to go on a mission to Nineveh because he knew that this people would readily repent after hearing his chastisement. This would reflect badly on the Jews who stubbornly resisted repenting…
Spirituality is not automatic result of religious practice
Rav Dov HaMusar page 337): There are two views concerning the purpose of observing mitzvos. 1) It is an end in itself which is to fulfill the will of G-d. 2) It is a means to educate and develop man to spiritual perfection - which he is obligated to achieve. Many of the opponents of Mussar hold the first view that man’s primary obligation in the world is simply to fulfill G-d’s will and to keep His commandments. Their focus is to clarify the commandants so that they are done as precisely as possible. They are not concerned with investigating and clarifying the hidden aspects of man. They don’t value being involved in clarification of hashkofa issues. They are not curious about the psychological forces and the depths of the heart. They don’t examine their personality traits and their manifestations. They have no interest in seclusion and mediation. They serve G-d purely and simply. On the other hand, they are fully aware that the Torah requires spiritual development and personality development. However, they view these as commandments that are no different than the other commandments of the Torah. While some of them accept that they require preparation and others see these commandments as an end in themselves - none of this group require a special program to achieve this personal perfection. Instead they assert that one should be totally devoted to an in depth study of Torah - which is superior to all else - and are very concerned with exacting observance of mitzvos. They are concerned with extra stringencies according to their clarification of the nature of the Halacha and view this approach as the way to achieve personal perfection and the perfection of the world. In contrast to this group, those who require Mussar belong to the second group that the prime focus of man is his obligation for spiritual perfection. This second group asserts that G-d’s will is not fulfilled simply by keeping His commandments as expressions of G-d’s authority. They require that the focus be on the commandments as the means to achieve spiritual and personal perfection. The consequence of this perspective is that commandments are seen, as means - not ends in themselves. Therefore, it is not sufficient to simply physically perform the mitzva. They seek means and strategies to involve the inner person, as well as his thoughts and his emotions. They view that the primary impact of the mitzva does not come from a mechanical performance - though they don’t denigrate that is produced by it - but only that which penetrates and influences the inner being. Katz132(Pulmos
Unlearned Jew can be spiritual
Rav Moshe Chagiz133(Mishnas Chachomim): A Portuguese Marrano living in Tzfas (the city of the Arizal) heard the sermon of a local rabbi concerning the importance of the Show Bread that was brought every week in the Temple. This rabbi expressed great anguish because the mitzva of the Show Bread was no longer practiced. This pure hearted Marrano returned home and told his wife to bake two perfect loaves of bread every Friday. He told her he wanted to offer these loaves to G-d and that hopefully G-d would find them acceptable and would eat them. Friday afternoon he brought them to the synagogue and placed them before the Aron HaKodesh where the scrolls of the Torah were kept. Then he prayed that G-d would accept them and eat them. He entreated G-d like a child entreats his father. He then returned home. When the caretaker of the synagogue came, he saw the loaves and ate them with great happiness. That night when the Marrano came for the Shabbos evening prayers, he ran to see what had happened with the loaves. When he saw that they were missing he was filled with great joy. He returned to tell his wife how wonderful it was that G-d had not rejected his offering and had eaten them. He told his wife that she needed to be very careful in the preparation of the loaves since they gave G-d pleasure. Every Friday he would bring fresh loaves to the synagogue, pray and leave them before the Aron HaKodesh. One Friday while he was delivering his loaves and saying his prayers - it happened that the rabbi of the synagogue was there preparing his speech for Shabbos. The Marrano who was in ecstasy while offering his loaves to G-d was unaware that the Rabbi was listening to everything he said. The rabbi became furious when he realized what was going on. He started screaming and insulting the
Spirituality & Decency: Torah & Natural Law
Marrano “You idiot do you think that our G-d eats and drinks? It is obvious that the caretaker takes them - not G-d. It is a terrible sin to ascribe any physicality to G-d.” The rabbi continued his tirade until the caretaker came in as usual to take the loaves. The caretaker - without the slightest embarrassment - admitted that he had taken them. When the Marrano heard the confession of the caretaker he started to cry. He begged forgiveness from the rabbi that he had erred in understanding the sermon. Suddenly a special messenger entered and announced in the name of the Arizal that the rabbi should immediately return to his home. He explained that on Shabbos morning when the rabbi would be giving his sermon - he would die. The rabbi was shaken by what he heard and went immediately to the house of the Arizal to find out what he had done wrong. The Arizal explained that the rabbi’s sin was that he had ended the pleasure that G-d had been receiving. That since the destruction of the Temple G-d had not received pleasure comparable to what the Marrano had provided by bringing his two loaves of bread with such purity of heart. Consequently, since the rabbi had stopped the Marrano’s offering it was decreed that the rabbi had to die and that there was no way the decree could be changed. The next morning while the rabbi was giving his sermon he died as the Arizal had said
Sinning: Why does a Religious Person sin?
At Sinai their hearts turned to idol worship
Shemos They turned quickly aside R’ Shimon ben Chalafta said it means: “The Jews took the wrong path from the very beginning.” It is normal for a person to start deviating from his intended path after traveling two or three miles but it not normal to deviate in the first mile. So this is what G-d said to them: When you sinned, you couldn’t wait till the second or third day but you had to sin on the very first day! R’ Meir said that it wasn’t even after one day that they sinned but even while they were standing at Sinai itself - proclaiming “We will do and obey” - their hearts were intent on idol worship. (Tehilim 78:36): They spoke fraudulently with their mouths and lied to Him with their tongues … Rabbah134(42:8):
Idol worship despite faith in G-d
Meiri135(Avos Introduction): There is a strong emphasis and constant warning in the Torah to stay far away from idol worship since there has always been a strong attachment to it generation after generation. An intelligent person would naturally ask why this error of idol worship has repeated itself generation after generation? The answer is that the average person more readily believes that which he can perceive and comprehend that which is intangible and abstract. Therefore, a person’s nature draws him to idol worship.
Natural desires & lusts can overcome faith
Sanhedrin136(63b): Rav said that the Jews knew that idol worship was meaningless and they only worshipped idols to permit themselves sexual transgressions. Other sources which indicate that they had an actual belief in idols refer to a later period when they eventually became attached to idol worship. Kiddushin137(81a): A group of redeemed women who were brought to Nehardea. They were taken to stay in the upper chamber of the house of Rav Amram the pious and the ladder was removed for their protection. One passed before the skylight and caught Rav Amram’s attention. Rav Amram grabbed the ladder, which normally even ten men couldn’t move, and placed it at the entrance to the upper chamber. He started climbing the ladder to the women. When he was half way up, he paused and called out, “There is a fire at Rav Amram’s house!” The Rabbis came and said that they were ashamed of him. He replied, “It is better that you are ashamed of me in this world than the World to Come. He ordered the Tempter to leave him and it came out like a column of fire. He said to it, “You are fire and I am flesh but I am stronger than you.” Kiddushin138(81a): R’ Akiva used to ridicule those who sinned. One day Satan appeared to him as a woman on the top of a palm tree. R’ Akiva started climbing up the tree to get to her. When he was half way up the tree, Satan released him from his lust. Satan said to him that if it had not been announced in Heaven, “Be careful of R’ Akiva and his learning” he would have destroyed him as some worthless thing.
Sinner prays for success in sin
Bartenura139(Avos 4:4): Even at the time that people go to sin their needs should be openly before You so that You have mercy on them. Berachos140(29b) R’ Yehoshua says: A person traveling in a dangerous place should say a short prayer. . . in time of ibur. What does in time of ibur mean?… … Even when they transgress [overim] the words of the Torah may all needs be taken can of by You. Berachos141(63a Ein Yaakov #139): What is the short text that all the essential principles of the Torah depend? Mishlei (3:6): In all your ways know G-d and He will direct your paths. Rava said
Sinning: Why does a Religious Person sin?
that is true even for committing sins. R’ Papa said: That is why people say that even a thief prays for success before committing a robbery. Rabbeinu Bachye142(Kad HaKemach Bitachon): Mishlei (3:6): In all your ways you should know G-d - means in doing mitzvos as well as all other activities. The verse continues, And He will strengthen your paths - which means that besides the reward for having bitachon - which is unbelievably great - he will also be successful. This attribute of bitachon - as noted in Berachos (63a) - even helps success in sin. This is why people say that even a thief before committing his crime - prays for success. Rambam143(Berachos 4:4): The explanation of parshas haIbur is explained in the gemora to mean that even when they are sinning that G-d should save His people and fulfill their requests
The greater the person - the greater is his desire for sin
Avnei Miluim144(Introduction):… Our Sages say that whoever is greater his yetzer is greater. That is because there is no comparison of one who has bread in his basket to one who doesn’t. When the spirit is closed in, it makes a greater effort to break through the restrictions and escape. Therefore one who holds to the path of Torah without letting his lust to express itself – the yetzer harah does not have bread in his basket because it is highly unlikely for the person to do a really disgusting sin. Therefore his yetzer harah becomes stronger and the power of his lust which is being restrained is aroused to escape the restraints and act. It is different with a person who is not a tzadik since his yetzer harah has bread in its basket. Meaning the yetzer harah has the ability to influence through lust. Since the yetzer harah is not locked in, it doesn’t make efforts to go out. This is what Tosfos (Kiddushin 31a) concerning that the one who is commanded has a greater yetzer. That the one who is not commanded to do the mitzva has bread in his basket because if he wants he can ignore the mitzva. However this picture changes over time. That is because it is well known that one who gets habituated to constant pleasure that it is no longer pleasing to have the same thing every day. Therefore the power of lust and its strategies change every day as is known that the way of drunkards is to search new ways to get pleasure… Rav Tzadok145(Resisei Layla #3): According to the degree of perfection that a person has, there is a corresponding potential for imperfection. From the time of the sin of Adam, good and evil have become intertwined and there is a direct correspondence of one to the other. Whoever has a great imperfection has the means to acquire a great perfection - if he merits it. We see this in the words of the Zohar (3 216a) that in generation of the Flood - that was destroyed because of their sin they had the potential to be the ones to receive the Torah. Similarly Sukka (51a) states that proportional to one’s greatness is his lust which is called foolishness… Thus the greater the person’s wisdom is also the greater is his potential for foolishness. Consequently, at the time when idol worship existed we find that prophecy also existed. Just as there were revelations of the light of prophecy to see spirituality with the eye there was a lust for other gods that were visible to the eye. Sifsei Cohen146(Shemos 1:1): Each man and his household came – this teaches that a person should not travel to another country without his wife going with him. Just as we find that when Rav went to another country, he would ask who wanted to get married for the time that he would be living in that land. This was in order that he would not live without a wife and therefore Lilith would not get him (Yoma 18b). This is the reason that they decree that Tefilas Haderech should be said. It was in order that he would be married to the Shechina as it states in the Zohar (1:49b). And even though Rav would say Tefilas Haderech, he still would temporarily marry someone because whoever is greater than his fellow his yetzer is greater. Similarly Lilith’s main battle was with great people.
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