This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
The Study of Talmud as Understood and Practiced by the Greatest Medieval Scholars
1 There are three different parts to Torah study, as the Gemara states: ³A person should split up his learning: one third Bible, one third Mishnah, one third Talmud.´i This paper will focus on how the nature of this ³third part´ of Torah study, Talmud, was understood by the greatest Rishonim. To understand their approach, it is first necessary to briefly review the development of Talmud until that time.
The Nature of the Oral Torah and Talmud Study
Originally, the only written texts the Jews used were the 24 books of Tanach, as there was a prohibition on writing down any part of the Oral Torah. As the Gemara states:ii + " ? : . . +: , , " + " +: , , ,
This was considered the ideal way to learn Torahiii and was practiced for many centuries. Eventually, due to persecutions and hardships, the Oral Law came in danger of being forgotten and it became necessary to write part of it down. Rabbi Yehuda haNasi compiled the 6-order work of the Mishnah. However, the oral nature was not abandoned entirely. The Mishnah and beraitot continued to be recited mostly from memory.iv Similarly, after the Talmud was written down, people continued to learn primarily in an oral manner.v Many students in the Geonic era did not learn from a written text of the Talmud, but recited it orally. Perhaps their focus was less on analyzing and comparing the Gemarot from the outside, and more on partaking in the Talmudic process itself. Eventually, the majority of Jews left Babylonia and the era of the Geonim ended. The oral nature of Talmud could no longer be maintained in the far-flung lands in which the Jews
2 found themselves. Different schools of learning developed their own approaches to Talmud study. This paper will examine how the Rambam, Tosafot and Ramban viewed the Mitzvah of Talmud. Their views on this subject can be seen both in their discussions of the mitzvah and in the way they themselves learned.
Talmud According to Rambam
The Rambam states that people learned the Oral Torah in the same manner during the time the Gemara was compiled as they did right after the time of Moses: " "
Just as Joshua and Pinehas studied in matters of analysis and law, so did Ravina and R. Ashi (the last of the Amoraim).´ vi He does not distinguish between before and after the Mishnah was written down; the basic nature of Talmud remained unchanged. Similarly, when describing the mitzvah for his own post-Talmudic time, the fundamental mitzvah remains the same:
, . ³A person is obligated to divide his study time in three: one third should be devoted to the Written Law; one third to the Oral Law; and one third to understanding and comprehend the ultimate derivation of a concept from its roots, inferring one concept from another and comparing concepts, understanding [the Torah] based on the principles of Biblical exegesis, until one appreciates the essence of those principles and how the prohibitions and the other decisions
3 which one received according to the oral tradition can be derived using them. The latter topic is called Talmud.´viii This definition of Talmud seems to describe the way the people would have learned before the Oral Torah was written down, yet Rambam does not feel that a new definition is needed for his time. The nature of the Mitzvah always remains the same ± focused on the primary source, the Written Torah, and on understanding and analyzing it based on the oral traditions. Rambam does not say that the mitzvah of Talmud consists of analyzing earlier generations¶ statements. In fact, Rambam attacks the blind acceptance of intermediary sources: ³Such is the mentality of even the elect of our times that they do not test the veracity of an opinion upon the merit of its own content but upon its agreement with the words of some preceding authority, without troubling to examine[i.e evaluate] that preceding source itself.´ix x Indeed, Rambam had no compunctions about arguing with the statements and rulings of the Geonim. However, the authority of the Talmud is a more complex issue. The Talmud itself is not exactly an intermediary source; in a way, it is more like the traditions that earlier generations had passed down orally.xi Yet, this does not mean that the Talmud¶s conclusions are the final word on every matter. Since Rambam views the fundamental mitzvah of learning Talmud as being focused on understanding the Divine word above any intermediary source, he sometimes even breaks with the apparent conclusion of the Talmud. He views Talmud study for us as partaking in the same process the Talmud did, granting us much authority in the halakhic process. For instance, Rambam extensively relies upon the Tosefta, the Talmud Yerushalmi, and even the Midrashei Halacha. He sometimes rules in accordance with a passage in these sources
4 over an apparently conflicting passage in the Bavli, and may rely on his own analysis to decide whom to pasken like.xii Herbet Davidson discusses many examples where the Rambam seems to rule like the Yerushalmi.xiii xiv At times, the Rambam even seems to focus more on the primary source in a passage than the explanation of the Talmud Bavli itself (though normally without contradicting the Bavli).xv xvi In addition, there are many places where Rambam reads the Mishnah differently than the Gemara did, and rules accordingly.xvii Perhaps the clearest example of the Rambam¶s independent focus on the primary sources is the way the Rambam darshens pesukim. He was often willing to cite different pesukim than the Gemara did,xviii and sometimes may even invent his own derashot.xix These examples demonstrate his bold derech, and are in accordance with his view of Talmud. What is the goal of the study of this study of the primary sources? Rambam explained the goal was to know how all the rulings of ³ permitted´ and ³forbidden´ which one learned from the shemuah, or received traditions, are derived from the Torah. This will let one understand why the halachah is that way, and will allow the person to apply it to other cases. But this is the main purpose of Talmud ± to get a final understanding of the halacha.xx xxi Even the Talmud Bavli is only a means toward understanding the fundamental components of Torah she-bi-ketav and Torah she-be-al peh, not an end unto itself. And since the halakhot themselves are fundamentally oral in nature, people should not be bound to specific texts to be able to learn them. Thus, Rambam wrote two important works, the Perush haMishnayot and the Mishneh Torah, which provided alternatives to the Talmud as a means of acquiring halakhic knowledge.xxii These works demonstrate Rambam¶s approach of focusing on the ideas themselves and his emphasis on the final halacha.
5 Another aspect of the Rambam¶s understanding of Talmud is its broad scope. Talmud is separated from a text, the ideas are what count. Therefore, even non-halachik matter can be included in the Mitzvah of Talmud. Rambam considers the esoteric teachings all to be part of Talmud. As Twersky has explained, Rambam considered philosophy to be an integral part of Talmud.xxiii He shows that Rambam even considered hokmah is synonymous with Torah. This is because the truth of the ideas is what counts. In fact, in these areas, the Talmud has less authority than in halachik matters. The Rambam often seems willing to go against various aggadic statements of the Gemara and clearly does not consider many aggadot to be binding. Rambam considers these domains to be ones where a person has even greater latitude to think on his own, for they are not as dependent on tradition.xxiv Within these matters, one again sees Rambam¶s focus on the primary idea above all else. As the Rambam famously said, ³You must accept the truth from whatever source it comes´.
Talmud According to Rashi & the Ba alei Tosafot
Other Rishonim understood the mitzvah of Talmud differently than the Rambam. This can be seen in the very way Rashi defines the original Mitzva. He explains the nature of Talmud that the Tannaim studied as follows: , , . ³Talmud´ xxv ± this is sevara (reasoning), that the later Tannaim would be medayyek (infer/analyze) the difficult words of the early ones to explain them and give reasons, just as the Amoraim after the Tannaim explained the words of the , -
6 Tannaim before them and established the Gemara; that diyyuk (analysis) in the days of the Tannaim was called ³Talmud.´xxvi Like Rambam, Rashi also sees the basic nature of Talmud as staying constant even after the writing of the Mishnah. Yet Rashi defines the mitzvah very differently. Instead of being focused on primary sources, it seems that the fundamental mitzvah of Talmud is to analyze and compare the words of the previous period of scholars. One could even suggest that the primary sources are not the main basis for halacha.xxvii The Ba¶alei ha-Tosafot seem to be following this understanding of Talmud in the very way that they learned Gemara. They developed new ways in the study of Gemara, comparing various Talmudic passages to each other and trying to resolve contradictions and explain differences. They analyzed the Talmud in a way similar to the way the scholars of the Talmud analyzed the Mishnah.xxviii This approach to Talmud was novel. The Geonim did not compare different passages of the Talmud as extensively as the Ba¶alei ha-Tosafot did since they partook in its own analyses. The Ba¶alei ha-Tosafot moved the focus of analysis one step further away from the original biblical source, from working within the Talmudic process to analyzing the Talmud from the ³outside´. This shift may have caused them to lessen the importance of studying the primary biblical sources. While the Talmud states one should divide his learning between Mikra, Mishnah and Talmud, Rabbeinu Tam comments: -' . " (. " ) " '
7 ³With our Talmud (Babylonian) we exempt ourselves from what our Sages said ³A person should split up his learning: one third Bible, one third Mishna, one third Talmud¶´xxix According to Tosafot, the study of Talmud can possibly replace all of Talmud Torah. This is clearly very different from Rambam¶s focus on interpreting the written Torah itself. Tosafot also did not emphasize final conclusions. They did not view the study of Talmud as being focused on getting the final halahca, but rather in analyzing different views. While Rambam wrote a work that consisted just of the final halahca, the work of Tosafot consists of questions and answers on various views in the Gemara. While halachos may emerge from such study, this does not seem to be their main emphasis.xxx In fact, sometimes practical Halachik matters have a very different role in Tosafot than in the Rambam or other Rishonim from Sephard. When the simple reading of a Gemara appears at odds with the common practice of the people, Tosafot often try to defend common practice. They re-interpret the Gemara to fit with practice, even if this sometimes leads to a difficult interpretation.xxxi How could they do this? The common practice was the way the people had been acting, assumedly for generations, so Tosafot feels it must be justifiable. This fits with their general approach of emphasizing tradition over the primary sources. Rambam did not feel the need to defend common practice. The primary sources take priority over the customs of the people.
Talmud According to the Ramban
The Ramban lived in 13th century Spain, which had begun to be influenced by the Tosafist style of learning. In the Ramban¶s words: , , ,
8 ³They are the guides, they are the teachers, they reveal to us the hidden´xxxii Yet Ramban did not completely adopt the Tosafist approach. In many ways, he combined it with the traditions of Spanish learning. Tchernowitz summarizes the derech of the Ramban: The first of the elaborators ( ), who went in the middle between the ba¶alei ), the ba-alei
halachot pesukot (of the Rambam style) and the Analyzers ( Tosafot´ xxxiii
While his style of learning may have been in-between Tosafot and the Rambam, Ramban placed a greater emphasis on tradition than Tosafot. This emphasis shaped the way Ramban learned, and helped to strengthen a style of Talmud that was different than that of Rambam. Ramban stressed the authority and truth of tradition in many ways, and this outlook permeates every work that he wrote. His wrote the Sefer haMitzvot to defend the Behag from the Rambam¶s attacks. As he states in the introduction, defending the earlier scholars was his life¶s goal, for the they were our teachers and carriers of tradition: , . , , , , ... He was their student and would establish the truth of their words without bias: , , . " . . . : . , . ... , , ... , , " ,
9 He also wrote the ³Milchamos HaShem´ to defend the Rif from the attacks of the Behag. In the introduction the Ramban praises the Rif even more than the Behag. While he frequently did not rule like the Behag in his commentary on the Sefer haMitzvos, here he feels the Rif is almost always right. He criticizes the Ba¶al Ha¶maor for arguing with the Rif and says that we should follow the Rif, as per chazal¶s rule to pasken like the greater source, especially since the Rif was earlier. These citations all demonstrate the Ramban¶s great emphasis on defending tradition. Ramban was sometimes willing to argue with earlier post-Talmudic opinions, but his approach to tradition was very different than the Rambam¶s. Rambam did not view the Geonic works as something necessary to defend. He was focused on the original truth. Rambam emphasized it was the truth that mattered, not who made the statement. Ramban believed that tradition did matter. While the Geonic works may not have had the authority of the Gemara itself, they did become part of the mesorah of Talmudic learning. The Ramban considered the earlier generations¶ works as being worthy of having entire commentaries written to defend them. This approach to tradition may have influenced Ramban¶s understanding of derashot chazal. David Novakxxxiv argues that Ramban¶s approach to tradition is what led him to consider all Mitzvot to be of fundamentally d¶Orayta nature. He contrasts this with Rambam¶s approach, which emphasized the role of independent reason in halacha. While Rambam considered all derashot to be ³divrei sofrim´, things derived by the sages (that were not on the same level as D¶oraytaxxxv), Ramban grants more strength to chazal¶s derivations. In non-halachik areas, Ramban also emphasized tradition. In hashkafic issues, Ramban defends the traditional, more literal understanding of many texts from the allegorical interpretations of Rambam. He attacks the Rambam in many places for breaking with the
10 traditional understanding of an issue. Where Rambam, in many places, followed reasonxxxvi & Aristotle, Ramban followed his tradition and the simpler understanding of Chazal. xxxvii In his commentary on the Torah, Ramban defended the traditions of chazal. Ramban frequently attacks Ibn Ezra for arguing against chazal¶s interpretations of pesukim. Yet, Ramban did not take as strong a position as the Tosafists in his understanding of the authority of aggadata. He sometimes differed with chazal¶s interpretations of pesukim, and even allowed non-traditional sources to influence his commentary.xxxviii In his approach to agadata, Ramban again took a moderate approach between that of the Rambam a Tosafot. Septimus discusses many different statements of the Ramban, and demonstrates that he took a nuanced approach.xxxix In other areas, Ramban followed the Spanish way of learning over that of Tosafot. While some Ba¶alei Tosafot may have not emphasized the study of Tanach, Ramban wrote his most famous work on the Pentateuch. Like Rambam, he also believed in a broad learning in many areas.xl He was both a leader in Talmud, in Peshat, Derash and in Kabbalah. xli While Rambam felt the secretes of ³ma-aseh merkava´ and ³ma-aseh b¶reishit´ lied in metaphysics, Ramban considered the truth to be found in Kabbalah. He felt that Kabbalah were the secret traditions that went back to chazal. Ramban also may have placed a greater emphasis on the final halacha. He wrote a Rifstyle work on the passages in Gemara that the Rif omittedxlii, and wrote a halachik work on avelut. His commentary on Gemara does not discuss many cases not relevant to halacha, and this may also reflect his greater focus on halacha.xliii Ramban emphasized tradition more than Tosafot, and this may help explain some of his differences with Tosafot. While some have argued that in many issues Ramban lay more in the Tosafist camp, Ramban was a recipient of the Spanish traditions. He would not have abandoned
11 all of his Spanish traditions in his defense of Tradition! His practice and understanding of Talmud was defined by a respect for tradition.
A Deeper Examination
It is possible that the difference between Rambam and other Rishonim on their views on learning Talmud relates to their different conceptions of yeridat ha-dorot (³decline of the generations´). Most Rishonim, such as Tosafot and Ramban, seem to accept a literal understanding of yeridat ha-dorot - that each generation, or era, was at a lower level than the previous generation. This clearly fits with Ramban¶s approach to tradition. The reason he placed such a great emphasis on tradition was because the earlier generations were greater than the later generations. This also explains why Talmud would consist of analysis of the previous generations¶ statements. It would be presumptuous for later generations to independently interpret the words of significantly earlier sources. Each generation can only try to understand the previous generation¶s explanations of the more primary sources. This would possibly explain why Ramban and the Ba¶alei ha-Tosafot do not use the same independent authority as Rambam, but accept all the rulings of the Talmud Bavli as the final word. They lived too far after Talmudic times to be able to independently rule against passages in the Bavli based on other sources, or to interpret pesukim and Mishnayos differently than the Gemara did. However, Rambam may have had a different conception of historical decline. Menachem Kellner, in Maimonides on the ³Decline of the Generations´ and the Nature of Rabbinic Authority, argues that Rambam did not believe in a rule of historical decline. Instead, the reason we refrain from arguing with the Gemara is just because the Jews accepted its authority. He cites
12 the previously cited passage from Sefer ha-Mitsvot, where Rambam seems to imply that part of yeridat ha-dorot is because people blindly accept a preceding authority: Such is the mentality of even the elect of our times that they do not test the veracity of an opinion upon the merit of its own content but upon its agreement with the words of some preceding authority, without troubling to examine that preceding source itself. Kellner is partially right.xliv According to Rambam, there were other factors that may have caused the decline, such as persecutions, dispersions of Jewry, and collapses of central rabbinic authority.xlv Later generations may have forgotten some of the Torah that the earlier generations knew. There were circumstances that caused a decline, and Rambam does not appear to believe in an absolute historical rule of steady decline. While these reasons explain why we must ultimately accept the authority of the Talmud, and also explain why Amoraim accepted the authority of the Tannaim, they are not as fundamental as the Tosafist understanding of yeridat ha-dorot. Rambam¶s understanding of yeridat ha-dorot allows for more independent analysis for later generations, as Rambam himself did. It also explains why Rambam did not feel bound to any views of the Geonim, for there had not been any decline since their time. It also may explain why Rambam views the fundamental mitzvah of learning Talmud as being focused on the primary sources rather than on intermediary commentaries. Elu Va-Elu & Truth It is possible that Rambam and the other Rishonim also understood the concept of machloket differently, and specifically, the Talmudic dictum of ³ ´ (³These and these
are the words of the living God´). The Talmud describes the disputes between the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai:
13 , , : .
Can both sides really be right? Rashi answers affirmatively: Rashi says that even when several Amoraim entered into a halakhic dispute, each arguing the merits of his view and each drawing upon appropriate comparisons to establish the authenticity of his perspective, ³there is no degree of falsehood present (ein kan sheqer), and such a dispute can be characterized as one in which all the various positions represent the µwords of the Living God¶´xlvii. Ritvaxlviii (ibid.) wonders how both sides of an argument can be true: " " ,
. , , " ,
Ritva, citing the French rabbis (i.e. the Ba¶alei Tosafotl) understands ³elu va-elu´ literally: God showed Moses many possibilities within every matter and there is no single original truth. Every view can be considered the exact truth of God at Sinai! Kanarfogelli cites many additional examples that demonstrate that the ba¶alei tosafot believed in multiple truths. The Ramban also accepted this Tosafist view of multiple truths. Though, as Ta-Shema points outlii, he adds a rational explanation for it:liii Talmudic studies are not like mathematics, where one can conclusively prove the truth of his statements. In Talmud, arguments can be
14 brought as support, but they rarely refute the other position entirely. Yet this is enough for each argument to be considered ³divrei E-lohim chayim´. This understanding of elu va-elu can be seen in the approach of the Rishonim to Talmud study and in their own analyses of the Talmud.liv Rashi explained that Talmud was an interpretation of the previous generation¶s words. Ramban was the defender of tradition, and wrote works defending post-Talmudic rabbis. A Maimonodean would likely object to such a style of learning ± ³What if the intermediate source was incorrect? To understand the truth, one must focus on the primary sources!´. Yet, according to their understanding, this is not a problem. ³Elu v¶elu´ teaches that there are multiple ways of understanding. Both sides of a dispute can be true, so surely an undisputed intermediate source can also! Thus, Rashi¶s strong position on Elu v¶elu fits with his definition of Talmud. According to Ramban, the earlier traditions also achieve the status of Torah. In fact, often the words of the sages can, to an extent, be literally considered divrei E-lohim Hayim: , , .lv One need not be afraid that their words are wrong, for their views are truth and a part of Torah. This understanding also allows Tosafot and Ramban to analyze both sides of a dispute, for both can be considered true views. Perhaps this can also explain why Tosafot does not emphasize final conclusions, but often cites many views on a matter. Rambam never mentions elu va-elu, and he considers mahaloket to be an unfortunate circumstancelvi that should be resolved with proper analysis. The primary focus of one¶s learning should be to reach halakhic conclusions, not to analyze every opinion. If one relies on intermediary sources, he may correctly understand them yet still be have an incorrect "
15 understanding of the Torah itself. One must turn to the original sources in order to discover the one truth. Thus, Rambam defined the mitzvah of Talmud as being focused on the primary sources. He also tried to maintain this primary focus himself. Rambam specifically omits all rejected opinions from his Perush ha-Mishnayot and Mishneh Torah, and only renders final conclusions.
After the dispersion of Jewry, different views emerged about the nature of Talmud. This paper examined the views of Rambam, Tosafot and Ramban. Their different outlooks are seen in their explanation of the mitzvah of Talmud and in their own approach to learning, as seen in their written works. The deeper difference between their views may be reflected in alternate understandings of yeridat haDorot and ³Elu V¶Elu´. Students of Talmud on our times should find their own path to take in their own studies, but a reflection on these issues should be helpful. As long as their learning continues in the traditions of the past, perhaps each derekh can be considered ³eilu va-eilu.´lvii
i ii iii
Kiddushin 30a. Gittin 60b.
Why was the Oral Torah oral? As discussed later in the paper, this may have been so that people would be focused on the Torah itself instead of on an intermediary source. In addition, the oral nature allowed for different people to learn in their own styles, since there was no specific text they were bound by. See R. Sherira Gaon¶s description of learning before the Mishnah was written down (in the Iggeres of R. Sherira Gaon). See also footnote on the later discussion of Elu V¶elu, which cites a statement from Rambam about this topic.
See, for example, Yaakov Elman, ³Orality and the Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud,´ Tradition 14:1 (1999): p. 52-99. v See Robert Brody, ³The Talmud in the Geonic period,´ p.29, Printing the Talmud ± from Bomberg to Schottenstein (New York: Yeshiva University Museum, 2005): at pp.31-32. He quotes from R. Aaron Sarjado Gaon (head of the academy at Pumbedita from 942±60), who says that most of the Academy ³does not know what a book is.´ Brody argues that the Geonic style of learning was different than how people learned later because of its oral nature. See later discussion of Tosafot.
Rambam¶s Introduction to the Mishnah.
The Rambam changes the word from ³Mishnah´ to ³Torah she-Bal Peh´. Isadore Twersky shows that Rambam understood the terms ³Mishnah´, ³Mitzvah´, ³Halacha´ and ³Torah she-Bal Peh´ as being equivalent in many contexts (Introduction to the Code of Maimonides p. 490-492). This fits with Rambam¶s view of the unchanging nature of learning Torah. Before the Mishnah was written down, there was some form of oral ³Halacha´ that people studied and derived from the Torah. After the Mishnah was written down, the same style of learning continued.
Mishnah Torah, Hilkhot Talmud Torah 1:11. From Rambam¶s Introduction to Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth. (Translation by Chayim Chavel). See also the translation of R. Yosef Kapach: [ ] [ ] -[ . ] , .
Something may be lost when intermediary layers of commentary replace the primary sources as the new focus of learning. An analogous idea can be found elsewhere in Rambam, in his description of the development of Avodah Zara (Mishnah Torah, Hilkhot Avodah Zarah 1:1). That halacha can be adapted this discussion to get an idea of what Rambam is attacking: ³ «People began saying ³Since the commentators are servants of the Torah, they deserved to be studied and analyzed [«] and this is the honor of the Torah.´ So they began building sevarot and offering inferences [«] saying this is the way of the Torah. And after the years passed, people arose and said, ³Study this commentator or all the commentators in this way and that way. Eventually, the Holy, Awesome Torah was forgotten from all people« See the later discussion of yeridat ha-dorot where Rambam¶s view of the Talmud¶s authority is explained, as well as the footnotes there. See Tchernowitz, Chayim. Toldot Ha-Poskim, Vol I, p.217-220. In it, he cites many examples where the Rambam rules like the Yerushalmi against the Bavli, and discusses the fact that the Rambam is not following any clear rules when he paskens like one side. This may be because the Rambam followed his own analysis to decide. I only found these pages in Tchernowitz after I had already written this section, but the entire discussion is a confirmation of the Rambam¶s primary focus.
xiii xii xi
See Herbert Alan Davidson, Moses Maimonides: The Man and his Works, p. 119 and footnote 130. He mentions how there are many examples in which Rambam seems to rule like the Yerushalmi, but the Bavli can be interpreted to accord with it. If this is the case, then it would fit with the idea that Rambam interprets a primary source independently of the Bavli, as long as it does not directly contradict the Talmud Bavli.
An additional example in can perhaps be found in Mishnah Torah, Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 5:5, where Rambam discusses the law of a city sacrificing all the lives of its inhabitants rather than give over one Jew to be killed. Rambam takes his ruling from a Yerushalmi, even though some (the Remach) think the Bavli contradicts it. xv For example, see Kiddushin 6b (concerning one who betroths with a loan) and 58b (concerning the sprinkling of water from a sin-offering), where Rambam¶s explanation seems to be focused on the primary source and gives a simpler explanation of it, even though it does not accord as well with the Gemara. I believe that he may have felt it was preferable to give the best explanation of the more primary source because that reading could be true independent of the Talmud¶s explanation. (So even if his reading does not fit with the gemara¶s, it may still fit with the primary source.) In both examples, other
Rishonim give a simpler explanation of the Gemara, but their readings do not as easily fit with the more primary sources. For another possible example, see Yad Malakhi Kelalei ha-Rambam #38. See also the earlier cited case from Yesodei ha-Torah where Rambam seems to focus on the primary sources instead of following the rules of pesak. Rambam rules like Resh Lakish over R. Yokhanan (though there is a rule in pesak to follow R. Yokhanan) that a city cannot hand over a specified person who is not liable to the death penalty. Kesef Mishnah explains that he follows Resh Lakish because the implications of the Tanna'ic and biblical sources are in his favor. See, however, Yad Peshutah, ibid. who argues that Rambam had a different text. This idea of trying to fit with a more primary source or understanding may be seen elsewhere also. For example, the Talmud Bavli often rules in a certain way based on its understanding of the Pentateuch and rules of Derash. An objection is raised from the Mishnah, which the Talmud dismisses with either an answer that seems forced or with a textual addition or emendation (hisura mehsara). The Talmud may recognize that the answer seems forced, but they are basing themselves off a primary understanding of the Torah, and try to avoid outright contradiction with the Mishnah. See Elhanan Samet, Yad la-Rambam: Diyyunim be-Piskei ha-Rambam be-Yad Ha-Hazakah (Ma¶aleh Adumim; Jerusalem: Ma¶aliyot, 2005/2006). He describes many cases where Rambam rules like his own reading of the Mishnah, but then also follows the Gemara¶s reading elsewhere (since they are usually two different cases).
xviii xix xx xvii xvi
Tchernowitz lists many examples of this (Ibid. p.202).
See Tchernowitz p. 217.
The reason for Learning Halachik matters is to know the Halacha, be able to practice it and teach it. I.e. " " and " ". In fact, this purpose in learning is apparent in almost every verse in the Torah that mentions learning Torah, so Rambam has the Primary Source to back up this position. (See, for example: Shemos 24:12, Devarim 17:19, 31:12, 32:46 and Joshua 1:8.) xxi Unlike many others in Sephard, Rambam understood final Halacha to include every area, including Kodhsim and Taharos. As his work was a new form of the Oral Law, it had to contain everything. His work continued the tradition from Sinai and would exist when the Temple would be re-built, so nothing could be omitted. For more discussion of this topic, see Twersky p.204-215. As Rambam states in his introduction to the Mishnah Torah, he felt his work could be read after Mikra, without any work in between. He felt these works could replace the study of Mishnah, for nonMikra learning is not bound to a specific text. This is not to say that Rambam felt a person could fulfill all of the Mitzvah of Talmud just by reading the Mishnah Torah. In the quote above, Rambam described many aspects of Talmud, and the Mishnah Torah certainly doesn¶t include all of them! Rambam himself emphatically states in a Teshuva that the Mishnah Torah does not fulfill Talmud. Perhaps a person could fulfill Talmud by learning the reasoning and principles that explain why the halachos in the Mishnah Torah are the way they are. See Twersky, Non-Halachik Aspects of the Mishnah Torah, and also Igros Moshe Orach Chayim Vol.4 #39. xxiii P.488-500.
In fact, according to Rambam, Aristotle was able to reach the highest levels of wisdom with his intellect.
xxv xxvi xxvii
The standard text says ³Gemara´, but the more correct version is ³Talmud.´ Rashi in his commentary on Sukkah 28a.
See Isaac ha-Levi Rabinowitz, Dorot Ha-Rishonim Vol. I, part 5 In it, he claims that the derashot that the sages seem to derive directly from the Torah are in fact derived from the analyses of scholars in the
previous period. While it seems unlikely that Rashi held as extreme a view as the Dorot HaRishonim, he may have held closer to it than to Rambam¶s position. it See Chaim Tchernowitz, Toldot ha-Poskim vol 2 p. 20 who says that the ba-alei ha-Tosafot copied the exact style of the amoraim. He and Karnofogel also cite the Maharshal from his introduction to the Yam shel Shlomo, who says about the Tosafist work on the Gemara: , . , . : . . , , . . xxix This is found in Tosafot¶s commentary on Sanhedrin 24a, s.v. Belulah be-Mikra u-ve-Mishnah, and Tosafot says similarly on Kiddushin 30a, s.v. Lo tserikhah le-yomei, as well. xxx See Ta-shema, who points this out, and contrasts it with the Sephardi emphasis on halacha (Israel Tashema. Kneset Mechakrim - Iyunim B¶Sfarot ha-Rabanit vol. 2, p.239-240). See Haym Soloveitchik, "Religious Law and Change: The Medieval Ashkenazic Example" which discusses many of these cases.
xxxii xxxiii xxxiv xxxi xxviii
Quoted by the Maharshal and by Bernard Septimus, ³Nahmanides and the Andalusian Tradition´.
p.106 Chapter 3 ±³Tradition´, ³The Theology of Nahmanides Systematically Presented´. The chapter contains a full discussion of Nahmanides emphasis on tradition, and brings many more examples. (Though one should realize that the book contains many misrepresentations and errors.)
This is sufficient contrast with Ramban, however Rambam actually defined ³divrei sofrim´.
Indeed, in Rambam¶s famous palace analogy, he attacks those who just accept opinions based on ³traditional authority´ instead of ³speculation´ and ³inquiry´ (More Nevuchim III: 51). xxxvii In fact, Ramban also attacked Aristotle himself for not following tradition and denying the existence of spiritual elements. (Torat haShem Temimah 1:147. Cited in ³Jewish Thought And Scientific Discovery In Early Modern Europe,´ by David B. Ruderman, Moshe Idel.)
xxxviii xxxix xl
For example, see his well-known discussion of the rainbow in Parshat Noach.
See a summary of Ramban¶s broad scope and approach to Kabbalah in Ephraim Karnofogel, On the Assessment of Nahmanides and his Literary Oeuvre. xli What Ramabam did for philosophy, Ramban did for Kabbalah. Since they were each universally recognized Talmudic authorities, there other areas of study also became accepted. (Heard from R¶ Horwitz, see Moshe Idel¶s discussion of ³First-Order Elites´.). xlii In this work, he followed the linguistic style of the Rif, and didn¶t even cite authorities from after the Rif by name (Tchernowitz). He wanted his work to follow the Rif exactly, which shows how much he respected the Rif. Tosafot, on the other hand, rarely even cites the Rif.
Though it may be connected to the conciseness of his commentary vis a vis that of Tosafot.
It is true that Rambam emphasizes the acceptance of the Talmud¶s authority, yet he also mentions the reason why it has such authority: . , (from Rambam¶s Introduction to the Mishnah Torah) ...
He is not saying we should just arbitrarily accept earlier authority, since how would that help us know the truth? Rather, the earlier authorities gathered together to establish the halacha, and they had the authentic traditions going back to Moshe, before the exile caused so much Torah to be forgotten (see next footnote). Again, see Rambam¶s Introduction to the Mishnah Torah: ³After the court of R. Ashe, who wrote the Talmud in the time of his son and completed it, the people of Israel scattered throughout all the nations most exceedingly and reached the most remote parts and distant isles, armed struggle became prevalent in the world, and the public ways became clogged with armies. The study of the Torah declined, and the people of Israel ceased to gather in places of study in their thousands and tens of thousands as before.´ Rambam mentions the circumstances that caused the decline, so it is not as absolute a rule as others may have viewed it. Eruvin 13b. ³Rabbi Abba the son of Shemuel said: The House of Shammai and the House of Hillel argued for three years, these said the halakhah is like us, and these said the halakhah is like us. [Eventually,] A voice [from Heaven] declared µThese and these are the words of the Living God, but the halakhah is like the House of Hillel.¶´ xlvii Citation from Karnofogel, ³Torah Study and Truth in Medieval Ashkenazic Rabbinic Literature and Thought´. The main purpose of this quote is to demonstrate the Tosafist view of ³Elu v¶elu´. With regards to the Ritva, he followed in the general approach of his teacher, the Ramban, on many topics. He also wrote the Sefer haZikaron, a defense of the Moreh Nevuchim from the attacks of Ramban, even though he felt the Ramban was more correct (see his introduction). This may have been because, by then, the Rambam had become part of the tradition that was worthy of being defended. In this way, he was following in the style of his teacher, who wrote a defense of the Behag, despite not always agreeing with him. Both of these works show their respect for tradition, and their appreciation of multiple viewpoints. xlix The French Rabbis asked, µHow is it possible that both sides are the words of the Living God, when one forbids and the other permits?¶, and they answered µWhen Moses went up on high to receive the Torah, they showed him on every matter 49 views to forbid and 49 views to permit, and he asked God on this, and He said that it will be handed over to the Sages of Israel in each generation, and the ruling would be like them.¶ And this is correct according to Derash (homiletics), but [kabbalisticly] there is a reason in the matter. Karnofogel points out that Tosafot Rabbeinu Peretz says the same thing. Ephraim Kanarfogel, ³Torah Study and Truth in Medieval Ashkenazic Rabbinic Literature and Thought,´ available at: http://hsf.bgu.ac.il/cjt/files/Knowledge/Kanarfogel.pdf.
li lii liii liv l xlviii xlvi xlv
In his introduction to the Milchamos haShem.
The following discussion of ³elu va-elu´ is partially based on Moshe Halbertal, ³Three Medieval Theories of Jewish Law,´ in Noam Zion, Elu v'Elu: Two Schools of Halakha Face Off On Issues of Human Autonomy, Majority Rule (Jerusalem: Shalom Hartman Institute, 2008): 49-51, available at: http://www.hartmaninstitute.com/uploads/Holidays/Elu-02062008_0957_45.pdf.
" . Cited by Karnofogel p.109. He also cites some examples where Tosafot says certain statements were said with Divine Inspiration.
In fact, according to Rambam, a primary reason the Oral Torah was oral was so as to prevent machloket:
With reference to the Law, this rule was very opportune; for while it remained in force it averted the evils which happened subsequently, viz, great diversity of opinion,, doubts as to the meaning of written words, slips of the pen,1 dissensions among the people, formation of new sects, and confused notions about practical subjects. (Guide to the Perplexed I.71 translation by M. Friedlander)
At least according to Tosafot. Rambam would probably consider many derakhim to be examples of yeridat ha-dorot.