Monday, July 20, 2015
Elucidating Reb Chaim
When I was in yeshivah, one of my favorite sefarim was Chiddushei Reb Chaim on the Rambam. I was always fastidious about taking notes, and did so with this work too. Later, when I was teaching at Ohr Somayach, I found it very useful to teach Chiddushei Reb Chaim - not from the original Hebrew, but instead presenting the arguments in English. My notes came in handy, too, not just for myself, but also for my students.
Reading a post from Rabbi Gil Student reminded me that I still have these notes sitting on my computer. I am making them freely available here. The document includes ten sections of Reb Chaim's work, translated and also presented in outline form in order to make the arguments easier to follow. I converted the notes from an old Word file, so the formatting is not up to my usual standards. I haven't checked it over in the last fifteen years, either, but I probably wouldn't get around to doing so, so I am making it available as-is.
When I wrote these notes, I took it for granted that Reb Chaim was getting at what Rambam actually meant. I was aware of the Chazon Ish's glosses in which he disagrees with Reb Chaim, but I was taught in yeshivah that this was a sign that wherever he didn't write a gloss, he agreed with him, and showed that he fully supported his basic approach. I was taught the same about Raavad and Rambam.
Twelve years later, now that I am older, wiser, and more historically aware, I realize that all this was wrong. The Raavad fundamentally disagreed with Rambam's approach, the Chazon Ish fundamentally disagreed with Reb Chaim's approach, and Rambam did not have Reb Chaim's concepts in mind.
Does awareness of this fact mean that there is no value to learning Reb Chaim? Does it mean that there is less value? My initial thoughts are to say no to the former and yes to the latter, but I am open to hearing what people have to say.
Posted by Natan Slifkin