[Avodah] Maharal - MeValey Olam, SeVara etc.
meirabi at gmail.com
Sat Jan 12 14:44:32 PST 2013
I ask a simple question - Does the Maharal say that CORRECT decisions are
not Torah [and destroy the world] when there is no Talmud behind them?
In other words, does Maharal disagree with Rashi who says that the problem
is limited to wrong decisions which may be reached when ruling just from
the Mishnah without Talmud?
I have summarised the first part of the Maharal, below. I would appreciate
if rather than just telling me I am wrong or that we have already discussed
this, some useful dialogue might be promoted.
After expanding upon those groups of inferior classes of people, Boor Am
HaAretz etc. discussed in the Gemara, the Maharal explains another even
lower class, the TanaIm - those who decide Halacha from their knowledge of
the Mishnah. The Gemara curses these people as destroyers of the world.
Maharal explains why this category is worse than the other categories. The
people who decide Halacha without understanding its foundations and its
logic, destroy the foundation of this world which is Torah. Their knowledge
and their CORRECT decisions are not Torah since they lack a clear
understanding of the Mishnah. The Torah is principally the practical
rulings for life guidance, and this is what the world stands upon. When
Halacha [even though it is correct] is not determined from a clear
understanding of its logic and its foundations but from knowledge of the
Mishna alone, the foundations of the world are being destroyed.
Maharal disagrees with Rashi’s interpretation, that wrong decisions may be
reached when ruling just from the Mishnah, in the strongest possible terms.
This destruction Maharal explains, has nothing to do with the wrong
conclusion being reached. He proves this from the Gemara’s use of the word
Halacha, “MeVaLey Olam are those who decide Halacha from the Mishnah”. The
Maharal argues that Halacha must be referring to rulings that are
Halachically correct, otherwise it would say TaUs – “decide erroneous
rulings from the Mishnah”. Thus in spite of issuing Halachically correct
rulings, these people are destroying the foundation of the world. Since the
Torah is Sichlis, the Halacha must be Sichlis, which is Talmud.
Therefore, the Maharal concludes, the Gemara is irrevocably binding the
Halacha with an understanding the Talmud of the Halacha. Notwithstanding
perfectly accurate Halachic rulings, such rulings which lack Talmud are
There is little doubt that Maharal’s opposition, his war, is equally
directed to the issues we have been discussing, which are, unquestioning
submission and acceptance of the rulings and guidance of our religious
leaders within some of our communities. This is why we see such strong
emphasis on and development of the emotional non-rational aspects of our
religious life. This includes what we have been discussing, such as adding
angelic names to Mezuzos, not learning Nittel [imagine what RaMBaM would
have said about that] etc. etc. all being defended as sacrosanct and
untouchable. As though there is a fear that if one component should be
successfully challenged the entire edifice will crumble.
And this leads to irrational and shrill defence of these practices since
there is simply no other way to defend them. The problem is not with the
practices themselves [so what’s the big deal if you cut your finger-nails
in a different sequence – which BTW Reb Y Hillel told me is nonsense, or
use a red rooster for Kapparot?] but with the type of thinking they
cultivate, the mindscape that is being constructed in our upcoming
generation. When people begin to see the religious life, inculcated from
their birth, and their thinking, is not rational, might they become
somewhat disillusioned? The plan appears to be, that by then, they are so
deeply enmeshed that it is too late to escape.
Meir G. Rabi
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