[Avodah] Mesora only through Rashi

Akiva Miller via Avodah avodah at lists.aishdas.org
Wed Aug 19 20:49:17 PDT 2015

I'm really very unsure what this thread is asking. Let's take, for example,
this paragraph from R' Micha Berger:

> In terms of R Yosef Caro's works, it would be like saying the
> BY was more important than the SA. Not that the SA is irrelevant,
> but we could have limped along without it. Not so the genre that
> discusses how the conclusions are reached.

What can you possibly mean, that we COULD HAVE limped along without it? We
ARE limping along without it! There is so much that is ALREADY missing from
the Mesora!

There are so many masechtos missing from the Bavli, for example. I suppose
it is possible that Ravina and Rav Ashi never saw a need to compile them,
but it's much more likely that they were written and then lost, no?

Now, imagine, if you will, a halacha which was decided (by a rishon,
acharon, it doesn't matter) because of one obscure gemara that some
ingenious thinker found and applied to a particular situation. Without this
gemara, the halacha pesuka would have been different than we are accustomed
to, but because that gemara -- obscure though it might be -- WAS found, and
is a legitimate part of our Mesora, the halacha as we know it came to be.
There must be hundreds of such halachos, maybe even thousands.

But what if that particular gemara was not hiding in Chullin or Makos?
Suppose it was a gemara in Terumos? Then that halacha would never be known
to us, because that gemara has been lost.

R"n Chana Luntz wrote:

> Yes Rashi and Tosphos enable the masses, or at least many more
> of them, to learn the process whereby the elite, such as the
> Rambam, were able to formulate their halachic conclusions.

You do realize, of course, that there was no such person as "Tosphos". The
Tosaphists were very real, and very important, but they were not the ones
to decide on the inclusion or exclusion of any particular comment. That was
the choice of the publisher of the gemara, and if his whim had gone in
another direction, who knows what other views would have gotten more press
coverage. (Yes, I know that there are many volumes filled with the writings
of even the most obscure Tosaphists, but the fact remains that getting
included in the standard printed edition is the path to widest influence.)

My point is that while RMB and RCL are trying to imagine what Torah would
look like without Tosaphos, as I see it, even the Tosaphos that we do have
is a somewhat random document. If Hashgacha (or, some might prefer, blind
luck) had gone in another direction, Tosaphos would be very different, and
practical halacha with it.

But it doesn't stop there. Need I remind anyone that even our Torah
Sheb'ksav is a reconstruction (or, some might prefer, an approximation)
created by the Baalei Mesorah? If the sources that they worked from had
been just a bit different, then our Sifrei Torah today would be different

And yet, somehow we manage.

We use the Torah that we have today, because it rendered the previous
versions (the source material of the Baalei Mesorah) to be passul. What an
amazing concept! One day, these several Sifrei Torah, all with known
yichus, each had its own chezkas kashrus. And the next day, a new document,
different from those that preceded it, comes to center stage and replaces
the others!

I would like to suggest that this is exactly how it would have worked if
there was no Rashi, or no Rabenu Tam, or no Rambam, or no Rav Yosef Karo:
We would use whatever we did have, and that would be our Torah. It would be
different than the Torah that we do have, but so what? Rashi's Torah was
different too!


> So let's do a thought experiment:  Let us say there was no
> Rambam and no Shulchan Aruch.  On what basis would there be any
> distinction at all between the halacha of the Orthodox and the
> halacha as championed by the Conservative movement?  Is that
> not where a Rashi/Tosphos only mesorah would of necessity lead
> (even throwing in the Beis Yosef), to a much broader tent than
> we have today ...

If you've been following me, then my answer to this should be clear: No!
This "much broader tent" is pure speculation. If we had no Rav ABC to guide
us, the void would have been filled by Rav XYZ, whose views might have been
to the right, to the left, or the same. And in *exactly* the same manner as
how we are obligated by the new Torah created by the Baalei Mesorah, the
possibility of differences is much less important than our confidence and
emunah that this Torah is the right one FOR US.

Akiva Miller
(now at AkivaGMiller on gmail)
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