[Avodah] Mesora only through Rashi

Micha Berger via Avodah avodah at lists.aishdas.org
Thu Aug 20 16:16:54 PDT 2015

On Wed, Aug 19, 2015 at 11:49pm EDT, R Akiva Miller wrote:
: I'm really very unsure what this thread is asking...

Part of the difficult of this thread is that we came in mid-conversation.

RGS <http://www.torahmusings.com/2015/07/who-was-greater-than-rambam>
quoted Qinot Mesorat haRav. The quote is long, so I'm just giving part:

   Our Torah shebe'al peh is based on Rashi and the Tosafists. If Jewish
   history had not included Maimonides, the Jewish world would have missed
   a great deal. Maimonides enriched our thinking and world view
   tremendously, but the Torah shebe'al peh would have survived without
   him. However, without Rashi and the Tosafists, there would not have
   been any mesora, any chain of tradition; we could not teach Torah
   shebe'al peh today. Take as a simple example, the Jerusalem Talmud.
   Many Rishonim, the early Medieval scholars, speak about the Jerusalem
   Talmud, and certain parts were interpreted and explained, but without
   commentaries of Rashi and the Tosafists, it is a sealed book...

This is a comment RYBS frequently made in shiur. Picture sitting in a
brisker shiur, where every talmid needs a reference set of shas and
Rambam. It is logical for the rebbe to need to remind people that
they couldn't play this game of comparing that Yad back to shas if
we didn't have Rashi and Tosados opening up shas to understanding.

Interestingly, RGS compared this to the Yam Shel Shelomo:

   Rav Shlomo Luria, the Maharshal, famously said that Rabbeinu Tam was
   greater than the Rambam (introduction to Yam Shel Shlomo). In
   discussing Kinah 42, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik suggests that the
   French and German Tosafists were more important than the Rambam,
   without discussing who was greater.

The Maharshal was very opposed to the SA. He had a hostile attitude
toward the whole notion of codification which goes way beyond RYBS's
intent in ways RYBS wouldn't agree to. He and the Maharal (his brother)
were of the "many" in RET's response.

On Thu, Aug 20, 2015 at 10:19am IDT, R Eli Turkel wrote:
: Remember that when the SA appeared there were strong objections against the
: concept.
: Many felt that a posek should know the sources and make his own
: interpretation and not
: rely or be bound by any text.

This coming in in the middle caused language confusion and consequent
frustration for RnCL.

On Sat, Aug 15, 2015 at 11:41:09PM +0100, Chana Luntz via Avodah wrote:
:> Mesorah, in RYBS's lexicon, is the conversation down time, the flow of the
:> Oral Law from generation to generation. The code describes a snapshot. The
:> parshan connects the past to the now.

: That might be so, but that merely makes it a Humpty Dumpty conversation.
: Most people understand mesorah as being that which each previous generation
: handed over to the next.

Yes, but if you want to know what RYBS meant, it requires knowing what the
word means in RYBS's lexicon, with the connotations he assumed. Notice
my suggestion about how "mesorah" was being used fits the quote from
the qinos and the example of the Yerushalmi.

I understand the frustration of thinking you were discussing a statement
that meant one thing and only after formulating a log response being
told that it likely meant something else. But that's a straightforward
misunderstanding due to your being outside the target audience when
RYBS was saying / learning Qinos, and therefore not being used to the
connoctations he assumes; and Lewis Carrol refferences aren't needed.

I intend to write a post on the meaning of the word "mesorah" as
developed in RYBS's and RHS's thought as the start of its own thread.
Because it not only comes up here, it comes up in the discussions
raging elsewhere (Torah Musings, Cross Currents, Facebook) on RWMO's
objections to Open O and feminism.

RnCL argues for the importance of codes in that post:
: 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...
:                                     But take the codes out of the equation
: and *all* these multiple rishonic positions become tenable, allowing a
: general free for all within the vastness of the parshanut tradition...
:                                 It is only those who also have an eye to the
: codes who can say that there are restrictions on where parshanut can go in
: the light of common practice.

Actualy, it's only those who have an eye on common practice. After all,
we discuss machloqesin between Rashi and the Rambam in halakhah lemasseh
contexts all the time. And if Ashkenazim accepted Rashi's ruling, or
one found in Tosafos, the Rama has no problem limiting his pesaq to that
rather than that of the Rif, Rambam or Tur. And had there not been a
Rama, then some shu"t or parshan could as well.

For that matter, there is also the middle ground, the shu"t writer (eg
the Ritva) who discusses halachic sevara and lomdus without either
using a study of a pre-existing text as his organizing principle nor
trying to codify a complete set of rulings.

For that matter, the Beis Yoseif and AhS also sit in the middle ground
-- code-like works that spend more space discussing how they understood
the sources to get there.

Returning to RAM's post for his reply to RnCL's question:
: 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.

Without the parshanim, there is no way to fill in the holes between
se'ifim, to know how the conclusions were reached so that halakhah can
survive beyond the limited set of cases in the Rambam or SA.

However, without the codifiers, it's hard to find Rashi's ruling, but not

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             A sick person never rejects a healing procedure
micha at aishdas.org        as "unbefitting." Why, then, do we care what
http://www.aishdas.org   other people think when dealing with spiritual
Fax: (270) 514-1507      matters?              - Rav Yisrael Salanter

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