Saturday, March 10, 2012

When Trembling Becomes Paralysis

A post appeared on Cross-Currents two weeks ago which read almost like a position-paper for anti-rationalism. Written by a Rabbi Shaul Gold, and entitled "Trembling Before Rashi," it was about how it is unacceptable for anyone to argue with Rishonim even with regard to an issue such as whether their given peshat in a pasuk is actually the peshat.

Aside from the disturbing nature of the content of the post, there also appears to have been a higher-than-usual rate of comments rejected. Here are three comments from people; if you submitted a comment that was rejected, please send it in.

Netanel Livni:
>We need to teach our children reverence for Rashi, Ramban, et al, and to teach them (and ourselves) that we are not the final arbiters of the truth, and that we need to submit our understanding to their superior ken and wisdom.

Wow. "submit our understanding" - truly one of the most frightening phrases that exists in the world. For people to abdicate their intellect - the greatest gift that Hashem gave us - to others is a truly dangerous idea.

>Rashi’s peirush is beyond that stage, and disagreement belongs only to his contemporaries.

Says who??? When did we deify Rashi and the rishonim and make them infallible. When did we stop subjecting them the same critical analysis to which all knowledge should be subjected? You seem to be taking your overdeveloped sense of reverence and trying to turn it into a overarching rule that should apply to everyone. That is unacceptable.

All in all, your approach demonstrates beautifully the divide between the chareidi world's approach to education and the approach of those of us who want to educate our kids to be open minded and think critically. In my opinion, your approach can result in one of two results, for kids without a natural critical instinct, it will create a simplistic and underdeveloped world view that can not function and confront the larger world. For kids with such an instinct, it will develop contempt for the rishonim since it will not properly contextualize those statements of theirs which will sound very odd (and sometimes downright silly) to their contemporary ears. Either result is highly undesirable.

Gavriel:
R’ Nochum’s approach is not representative of the universal or even normative approach in history. Rambam certainly did not take that approach when arguing with his predecessors; Rav Hirsch certainly did not take that approach when arguing with Rambam; Chassam Sofer did not take that approach when arguing with Rashi; and countless dozens of further examples could be given.

Also, see Eric Lawee, “Words Unfitly Spoken: Two Critics of the Role of Midrash in Rashi’s Commentary on the Torah,” in Between Rashi And Maimonides, as well as other articles by him, for examples of rabbinic authorities who criticized Rashi’s use of Midrash. See too his article “The Reception of Rashi’s Commentary on the Torah in Spain: The Case of Adam’s Mating with the Animals.”

Shlomo Pill:
Classic straw-man. I don’t think anyone in the “orthodox camp” (oh no, not that term again) would dismiss Rashi lightly or flippantly. But recognizing the need to respect a point of view or the person that espouses a point of view does not necessitate canonizing that perspective or person. Conversely, asserting a right to disagree with a view or person does not also offer a license to disrespect or denigrate it. The worldview evinced by the article is symptomatic of the chareidi world. Disagreement and delegitimization go hand in hand, and since you cannot disrespect [chareidi] “gedolim” (something I think almost all of us can agree on), you also can’t disagree with them; to disagree with them is to disrespect them. Of course, the more enlightened non-am-haratzim know that disagreement is endemic to Torah and halacha, and that for the most part history and halachic guidelines demonstrate that we can disagree and do so in a legitimate and respectful way.

Looking at it from the other side, chareidi deligitimization of modern orthodoxy and modern orthodoxy's acceptance of chareidi Judaism as a legitimate expression of Torah life makes sense. Since the chareidim disagree with the MO, the MO have no legitimacy. The MO by contrast can disagree with the chareidi way of life without negating the normative legitimacy of that hashkafa.

Here are some further thoughts of my own:

First, the Rishonim freely argued with Chazal on matters unrelated to law. For a list of examples, see Rabbi Chaim Friedlander, Sifsei Chaim - Pirkei Emunah u-Bechirah, vol. 2 pp. 257-272. For example, the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 89:11) and Tosefta (Sotah 10:9) state that the famine in Egypt ended five years early when Jacob entered the land. But Ramban (Genesis 47:18) disputes this and writes that the famine lasted for seven full years. See too Ibn Ezra in his introduction to his commentary on the Torah, where he writes that one may offer alternate interpretations to those of the Sages in cases unrelated to law. If the Rishonim can differ from the views of Chazal in such matters, why can we not differ from the views of the Rishonim?

Second, Rabbi Gold apparently understands yeridas hadoros to mean that earlier generations are actually more intelligent than later generations (something discussed in a post from a long time ago, including a debate as to whether people today really believe that - clearly, at least some people do). Does this mean that gentiles in the past were also more intelligent? And does it mean that future generations will be less intelligent than us? Is there a biological mechanism to explain this decline in intelligence? There are a number of problems with such a view of yeridas hadoros.

Third, is Rabbi Gold going to be consistent? For example:

Is he going to teach his students that Adam had intercourse with all the animals? After all, this is the view of Rashi, according to the view of certain other Rishonim (see Eric Lawee's article referenced above), and Rabbi Gold believes that "we need to submit our understanding to their superior ken and wisdom."

Is he going to teach his students that according to some Rishonim, such as Rav Moshe Taku, Hashem has spatial location and physical form, and that we have no right to choose between the different views?

Is he going to teach his students that there is such a thing as mermaids? That there is such a thing as werewolves? That Og was approximately the height of the Empire State Building? And that one has no right to dispute any of this? After all, these are all the view of Rashi.

I would not begrudge Rabbi Gold's right to this approach. What bothers me is that he is apparently presenting this as the required approach for everyone - even though many people greater than he clearly had/have a different approach. (For a great example, see Rav Moshe Shamah's comments on Rashi in last week's parashah, in his wonderful new book Recalling The Covenant).

By the way, one should not think that only Cross-Currents is guilty of such sweeping comment rejection. I reject certain comments myself (people are welcome to set up an alternate blog where they post them; I would just ask that they be honest about whether they are posting all rejected comments, or only those which line up with their hashkafic view). And I recently submitted a comment to a Ha'aretz article which was rejected: the article was about "Haredi men suspected of repeated rape" and I questioned why they would not describe the religious/ social affiliation of other types of people who engaged in such crimes. "Secular Zionist suspected of repeated rape" is not a headline that I am expecting to see in Ha'aretz anytime soon.

63 comments:

  1. "First, the Rishonim freely argued with Chazal on matters unrelated to law. For a list of examples, see Rabbi Chaim Friedlander, Sifsei Chaim - Pirkei Emunah u-Bechirah, vol. 2 pp. 257-272."
    Why was R Friedlander quoting a list of these sources? I thought he was super anti-rationalist with his approach to Midrashim.

    "I would not begrudge Rabbi Gold's right to this approach. What bothers me is that he is apparently presenting this as the required approach for everyone - even though many people greater than he clearly had/have a different approach."
    Is it really okay by you? There's a problem if he believes in werewolves (or any of the other things you mentioned). And if he doesn't believe in werewolves, there's a problem of inconsistency and/or intellectual dishonesty.

    (And these robot verification things from blogger are terrible!)

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  2. Like I said, people give selective latitude to specific rishonim. No one would give the Rambam this sort of latitude.

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  3. i posted this a week ago on the cross currents aritcle and it says that it is still awaiting moderation : a)funny how the ramban, despite his introduction in the beginning of his commentary, takes no problem with arguing against rashi, the ibn ezra, and the rambam, without trembling. Plenty of other Rishonim and Achronim argue with others w/o writing this whole introduction
    b) if they are wrong, and would agree that they are wrong were they to be alive nowadays, i dont see what all the fear is about. if anything, i’m more scared to turn them into robotic recievers of different ruachim hakodeshim (ailu v’ail divrei elokim chaim, ofc…) instead of valuing them for being the great thinkers and immense Torah sources that they were.

    Also, the fear of R' Nachum came from the fact that he was his personal talmid, who heard the words directly from the mouth of his rebbe. Rashi was not my personal rebbi, despite the fact that people say the acronym, RaSh"I, stands for rebbe shel yisroel...

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  4. "I would not begrudge Rabbi Gold's right to this approach. What bothers me is that he is apparently presenting this as the required approach for everyone - even though many people greater than he clearly had/have a different approach. "

    ... and in the end Rabbi Gold wins the day because even "rationalist" rabbis turn to tradition to establish legitimacy for their approach. There is no eilu v'eilu here; stupid is stupid even if every rishon agreed and you could find no "greater" person to support your view.

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  5. I completely agree with your comment about "Secular Zionist Men...". When there was an honor killing in Canada, I wondered if it was any different than say, a lower class man killing his wife/girlfriend (we live in Memphis, where these things happen all too frequently). The only difference I can thing of is that perhaps the honor killings can be attributed to religion (not aware if religion/culture motivated), whereas in the second case (which happens frequently!) it is attributed to bad culture and lack of self-control, which is somehow more acceptable. I suppose honor killings connote inferior status of women plus crime of passion, whereas "regular" familial murder is "just" a crime of passion.

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  6. This is total kefira. We are required as a matter of law to believe the words of our Holy sages. It is not an opinion or an allegory that Og was so tall, it is FACT. Rashi did not have "opinions", he had facts as told to him by God Himself, via ruach hakodesh. This is taught in every yeshiva day school, high school, and yeshiva as well. It is not optional to believe, it is mandatory.
    The ability to think and use our brains is NOT the supreme gift you make it out to be. In fact, it is a burden. Thinking gets in the way of doing what is right and what is required. As stated by many sages past and present, it is our duty to mold and shape our minds to the point that our free will becomes the same as God's will, WITHOUT even having to think about it. That is the ultimate highest level of dveikus. When it doesn't even enter our brains to do anything different than what God has told us, thru the medium of His Holy sages, right down to and including the Gedolim of today, which btw does not include the staff of YU.
    Yerida hadoros is a real and actual continuing event. The Vilna Gaon could run circles around Hawking in physics, and the Arizal could run wider circles around the Gaon, and the people in the desert of Sinai knew how to cure cancer. Anyone not believing this may as well commit suicide because they are clearly not a Jew.

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  7. 'even "rationalist" rabbis turn to tradition to establish legitimacy for their approach'

    Rambam often did not.

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  8. People, I let Nate's comment through this time for illustrative purposes, but please do not bother responding to his am ha'aratzus.

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  9. An absolutely great book on parshanut and meforshim and the related issue of arguing with Chazal and Rashi is "Masters of the Word" by Rabbi Yonatan Kolatch.

    Incidentally, anyone who reads even one perek in Chumash with Ramban, Ibn Ezra, and Rashbam knows that the idea that one must say that Rashi is always right is absurd (unless one wants to argue that all other meforshim are always wrong, which seems to me to be a strange position to take).

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  10. "the people in the desert of Sinai knew how to cure cancer. Anyone not believing this may as well commit suicide because they are clearly not a Jew."

    I'm pretty sure that Nate's comment is meant in jest.

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  11. "... please do not bother responding to (Nate's) am ha'aratzus."

    Can we just praise him for his facetious wit? It was facetious, right?

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  12. Based on the number of such comments he submits (which I usually just reject), I don't think he is joking.

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  13. I am always mystified by people who say things like "And you have to accept what Rashi says. Half of Ramban's comments on Chumash seem to start with "As for Rashi, I have no idea where he gets his ideas..."
    There are those in the Chareidi community who equate disagreement with disrespect. Thinking in black and white they cannot understand that I can say that I don't agree with Gadol X but still respect his Torah knowledge and piety. As a result anything other than absolute submission to the opinions of "the Gedolim" is seen as kefirah.

    I've also wondered if there would be copyright issues if someone were to set up a Cross Currents mirror site with uncensored commenting...

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  14. I hope this comment is relevant: I heard a tale a few years ago (I am told that it appears in the book "Seder HaDorot") related to Parshas Ki Tissa, which goes as follows: Rabbenu Tam was discussing with other Ba'alei HaTosefot the form of the knot in the Tefillin Shel Rosh. Rabbenu Tam thought that if they could communicate with Moshe Rabbenu, they could ask him what was the form of Hashem's Tefillin shel Rosh, as he saw it at Har Sinai. They communed with Moshe Rabbenu, and Moshe Rabbenu said that the knot in the shel rosh was a particular way. Rabbenu Tam responded,"Rabbenu Moshe, are you saying this from סברא, or from נבואה?" Moshe Rabbenu said, "From סברא." Rabbenu Tam responded, "If so, I beg to differ with you."
    I related this tale then to my Rosh Kollel, and he said, "I would say the opposite. If Moshe Rabbenu says a halachah as נבואה, who says that it is admissible in a halachic discussion? On the other hand, who can argue with a סברא from Moshe Rabbenu?"
    Even if it's just a tale, I think it's still revealing about deciding between two approaches toward the opinions of our predecessors.

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  15. You might think that Nate is joking but the idea that Chazal et al were smarter then us and could have invented everything has a lot of traction in the Charedi world. I posted about this a few years ago, Could Shlomo Hamelech have invented cars? , and you can see that people really believe this (read the comments there also).

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  16. My rejected comment:

    Classic straw-man. I don’t think anyone in the “orthodox camp” (oh no, not that term again) would dismiss Rashi lightly or flippantly. But recognizing the need to respect a point of view or the person that espouses a point of view does not necessitate canonizing that perspective or person. Conversely, asserting a right to disagree with a view or person does not also offer a licence to disrespect or denigrate it. The worldview evinced by the article is symptomatic of the chareidi world. Disagreement and delegitimization go hand in hand, and since you cannot disrespect [chareidi] “gedolim” (something I think almost all of us can agree on), you also can’t disagree with them; to disagree with them is to disrespect them. Of course, the more enlightened non-am-haratzim know that disagreement is endemic to Torah and halacha, and that for the most part history and halachic guidelines demonstrate that we can disagree and do so in a legitimate and respectful way.

    Looking at it from the other side, chareidi deligitimization of modern orthodoxy and modern orthodoxy's acceptance of chareidi Judaism as a legitimate expression of Torah life makes sense. Since the chareidim disagree with the MO, the MO have no legitimacy. The MO by contrast can disagree with the chareidi way of life without negating the normative legitimacy of that hashkafa.
    Read more: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2012/02/29/trembling-before-rashi/#ixzz1oo14tDkA
    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

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  17. Another thought: the point of learning Torah is to learn the truth of the Creator. If I think that Rashi has missed something in his approach and I have sufficient scholarship to pick up on that, don't I have an obligation to disagree with Rashi? If Rashi was interested in the truth of Torah then wouldn't he want me to so he could also come closer to the truth?
    By insisting we sit back and submit to the opinions of previous generations we miss that whole point and turn the search for truth into a submission to dogma. That is not Torah no matter how black the hat of the guy promoting this view.

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  18. RNS:

    "Based on the number of such comments he submits (which I usually just reject), I don't think he is joking."

    Oh cmo'n, this one is so obvious that we can be lenient about Poe's law here and not require the obligatory winking smiley. But your reaction (granted, based on substantial experience) shows the importance of the mentioned law.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Poe's_Law

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  19. "People, I let Nate's comment through this time for illustrative purposes, but please do not bother responding to his am ha'aratzus."

    Admittedly hard to tell, but definitely a joke.

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  20. "
    I've also wondered if there would be copyright issues if someone were to set up a Cross Currents mirror site with uncensored commenting..."

    I have as well but I'm fairly sure that if the articles weren't copied in full, just a small summary blurb, there would not. The originals can be read on cross-currents.

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  21. meir says
    http://www.berdichev.org/chassidism.html
    Vilna also had a reputation for intolerance and had a pillory for heretics. Elijah himself had an earlyMaskil (follower of the enlightenment) placed in the pillory for criticising The Mishna and Rashi’s commentaries.

    I only hope that at the daf yomi siyum someone will denounce this heretic to the thousands who attend.

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  22. and the people in the desert of Sinai knew how to cure cancer

    Love it. Please post more, or better yet, Nate - please start your own blog.

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  23. "Disagreement and delegitimization go hand in hand, and since you cannot disrespect [chareidi] “gedolim” (something I think almost all of us can agree on), you also can’t disagree with them; "

    I appreciate your sentiment but think you are mistaken, and this is part of the reason that "modern" orthodoxy is always looking over it's right shoulder. Charedim disrespect and deligitamize modern orthodoxy; they are, at best, krum tinokos shenishbu who go on tefillin dates and their few knowledgeable members are misyavnim. Now the generalization is overdone, but the stereotype has a (decreasing) kernel of truth for legitimate criticism.

    When Jewish texts are excepted, charedim are more ignorant of the world than their MO counterparts. If you truly value modernity then you look down upon its absence. One particularly poignant example of this was RNS's post relaying R' Chaim Kanievski's belief that Jews and non-Jews have a different number of teeth in their mouth and that dentists refuse service to Jews based on this. How ignorant! How paranoid! Can you ever again take anything the man says seriously? If, as an MO, you can't look down at this then you are truly lost.

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  24. to "submit understanding", would make Muslims of the world very proud. It is what their current incarnation of their religion is all about.

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  25. "Based on the number of such comments he submits (which I usually just reject), I don't think he is joking.

    March 11, 2012 9:33 AM"

    I think you need to read up on one of the more modern Mysterious Creatures, known as the Internet Troll.

    The Internet Troll

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  26. Your last paragraph is very important. Cross Currents is indeed very guilty of selective publication and censoring all but the softest letters of disagreement. It's still an upgrade over certain other orthodox publications, but it is also still very much caught up in the GEDOILIM lunacy, and makes no pretense to intellectual honesty.

    That being said, as you illustrate in the Haaretz example, its been my experience that the left wing publications are at least as guilty of censorship as the right, and in fact, its pretty clear to me they are even worse. Dissenting views are never published, much less debated, apparently on the view that to do so would either violate some totem of the left, or might appear to confer legitimacy on the opposing view. In this regard, like in so many others, the left wing and so-called "liberal camp" displays all of the worst hallmarks of organized religion - be it Jewish or Christian - since time immemorial.

    Is it inherenly impossible to have a real open exchange of ideas? I dont think so. I think it just means the men behind the blog, or the viewpoint the blgo represents, just has to grow a thicker skin. The answer to bad speech is not censorship, but rather, more speech, or I would say - more convincing speech.

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  27. My comment that did not make it past the censors:

    I don’t agree with the author’s assessment that alternatives to rashi are by definition dismissive of rashi or that they know better than rashi. It’s a matter of preference. Ramban and Ibn Ezra argue on rashi k’seder and the principle objection to teaching rashi exclusively is that it creates a monolithic version of chumash that appeals less to some people than it does to others. I find it slightly condescending that the author presumes that this comes from a lack of respect and not a healthy curiosity for a varied approach to chumash.

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  28. Cross Currents is about as "fair and balanced" as Fox News is in its coverage.

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  29. Other than just being patently ridiculous, this viewpoint - on Rashi in particular - which I have heard many times, expresses a deep-seated, myopic superiority complex the part of the Ashkenazi world. This attitude borders on racism and many times blossoms into that in practicality. What I mean is that there were places in the world where Rashi wasn't even studied by adult Torah scholars, let alone by every child. One such prominent example is that of the Yemenite community. In Yemen, the children learned Tanakh, Targum Onkelos, and the Tafsir of Saadia HaGaon. And do not think that it was because they were some sort of Middle Eastern "hicks" who didn't know better and had a limited access to seforim. This is untrue. Although many repeat this lie, it remains a lie. And the Yemenites are not the only community. There were others in the non-European dominated areas of the Jewish world that did not standardize Rashi's "peshat" (which is really not that at all), but saw it as just another contribution to Torah commentary. The same goes for Rashi and Tosafot on the Gemara. People act as though they are the only opinions that count and the only way in which to read the Gemara. To even suggest something else among Haredi Jewry is practically to deny a 14th Ikkar Emunah that states something to the effect of "I believe with perfect faith that whatever the European Rishonim said on any topic is light and truth, superior to any non-European tradition, and may not be differed with."

    And why is the Rambam not even considered? People act as if he never existed or simply is to be ignored. The truth is that his approach (or something similar to it) is the remedy for all of these issues, but the side-effect (as it were) is that the majority of those who enjoy widespread and near infallible rabbinic authority who almost overnight become accountable to the Jewish polity. The cult mentality would cease, and due to then having to provide logical and reasonable Torah answers instead of the current irrational nonsense, the definition of what Judaism is would also change.

    Does anyone else find it sad that these people feel that the only way to keep people religious Jews is to keep them ignorant and subservient? Where is the Judaism of the Talmud anyway?

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  30. My brain works slower than most people on this blog, but I just hit on the possibility that Nate = R. Natan Slifkin בכבודו ובעצמו. When viewed that way, the comment (and Rabbi Slifkin's response) is a lot funnier.

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  31. Laugh and scoff all you like, but I am not trolling nor am I being facetious. I believe in what I said with perfect faith, as we are commanded to do. Haredi Judaism is the only real Judaism that exists today. Not the extreme idiocy of spitting on people, but the adherence to Torah and halacha and the Mesorah, which yes we do still have today. Contrary to modern thinking, it has not been lost or corrupted, God forbid. Everything God gave us has its rules that go with it, including the human brain. Just because you CAN think about certain things, does not mean you SHOULD think about them. And to think that because your brain comes up with some kind of nuance or theory based on so-called modern technology and current enlightened ideas makes it just another valid opinion that should be considered is over the top heresy. Nobody today has the power, or intelligence of a Rashi, a Gaon, or any other of our sages. If the Gemara says that lice can spontaneously generate, then thats all we need to hear to make it so.
    You are like the folks who are so thankful to God when you have a healthy newborn baby, but let that baby die 24 hours later and all of a sudden it can't be God who did it. Why? Because you can't fathom it. Same with all the rest - because it's beyond your comprehension, it can't be so. But it wasn't beyond Rashi's comprehension, or any of his predecessors either. Try accepting things for face value. It'll make your lives a whole lot easier.

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  32. Nate,

    I wonder if you are serious. I also wonder whether there is even one haredi gadol who would agree with your entire statement.

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  33. Nate is being serious. He's sent dozens and dozens of comments (which I have rejected), sometimes under the moniker "Mike" or "Poshiter Yid." His views are no different from those that I have heard from some other people in the yeshivah world. Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Shmuel Auerbach probably think pretty much the same way.

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  34. Another Poshiter Yid (not Nate)March 11, 2012 at 9:48 PM

    Nate,
    I was once like you with a fiery emunah, then Rachmana Litzlan, I started reading blogs. Do your neshama a favor, run away from these blogs and never come back, and never look back or get into another discussion on one of these sites. It's just not worth the damage your precious Neshama will suffer. No matter how strong your emunah, you will ultimately succumb, like I did. Rachmana, Rachmana Litzlan.
    Signed another poshiter yid, once like you.

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  35. I can not fathom what in the world everyone read that upset them so much. Please provide the quote where he even said one can't disagree with Rashi. I think sometimes you are so defensive you see everything as an attack. EPHY

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  36. It's in the comments, where the author of the post writes a follow-up. Quote: "Rashi’s peirush is beyond that stage, and disagreement belongs only to his contemporaries."

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  37. You do know that most people in the Chareidi world will offer alternate Peshatim than Rashi. The only difference Im sensing is if you end off with a "Tzarich Iyun" or you disagree. EphyG

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  38. "Nate is being serious. He's sent dozens and dozens of comments (which I have rejected),"

    Yes, he writes comments on many blogs. And it's pure trolldom.

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  39. I have often said that the only thing separating most of us from the classic meforshim is their greater knowledge of dikduk. Otherwise, why is the Ibn Ezra's answer for why Besuel's character suddenly fades from the story better than mine? Both of us are simply making educated guesses.

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  40. Charlie Hall (responding to Avi): "Rambam often did not [turn to tradition to establish legitimacy for his approach]."

    Dr. Hall: If you ever find the leisure to write about that, please advertise here. Rationalist Judaism needs epistemologists who have actually worked a few decades doing scientific research. Though it's not sufficient, it's necessary.

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  41. Im still voting troll for Nate. Too bad we can't just say "wingardium leviosa" and have the troll dispatched!

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  42. are you sure about Nate on this one, Rabbi? It sounds like he pulled the wool over even you with this witty slice of belated Purim Torah.

    Best,
    M. Singer

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  43. "I let Nate's comment through this time for illustrative purposes, but please do not bother responding to his am ha'aratzus."

    He is for real? I honestly first thought it was a joke. I guess he has never opened up an Ein Yaakov.

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  44. "In Yemen, the children learned Tanakh, Targum Onkelos, and the Tafsir of Saadia HaGaon. "

    I'm impressed! I've always found Targum Onkelos to be difficult Aramaic. But it has recently been translated into English and can now say that I find Onkelos to be an incredibly illuminating commentator.

    " And why is the Rambam not even considered? "

    I've wondered about that, too. He has a lot to say on Chumash. Has anyone ever put together a Rambam on Chumash?

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  45. @Charlie Hall

    There is a Moreh Nevuchim at HaTorah published by Mosad HaRav Kook. The book took selections from the Moreh Nevuchim and arranged them according to the weekly parsha.

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  46. Im new to the blog but the comments are really strange. Rabbi Gold said we cant just dismiss Rashi. Somehow some have interpeted this to mean Rashi is unique from other Rishoim. I think everyone will also agree that 99.9% of Rashis in Gemara we wouldn't "disagree" with even after spending weeks in a Sugya. The only question is when Rashis comments that are seemingly based on a false science or an "anti rationalist theme" should one feel comfortable dismissing them. Not because I think he wrong this one time but i follow a different general approach Or are people really just willing "to argue with any Rashi" (That sounds pretty ridiculous)

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  47. Ephy,

    In the majority of the Orthodox world today - MO included - Rashi's persush IS the true meaning. It has nothing to do with "arguing" with him, nor is it limited to scientific issues. Let's assume that Nate's comments above are not a parody (I'm fifty-fifty on that one). It's as if Rashi's perush is Torah Mi-Sinai. OF course, historically, that's absurd. But such is the current enviroment.

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  48. Re Rashi in Yemen, while I can't speak to what children were taught as normative in Yemen, I have seen many Yemenite Chumash manuscripts which contain Rashi's commentary. Rashi may not have enjoyed precisely the same high status in Yemen as elsewhere (read Chida's entry in Shem Hagedolim to see the status Sefardim accorded to him) but it is misleading to act as if Rashi was and is not revered across ethnic borders. There is much to say about whether or not and how or if we should privilege Rashi's commentary, but the same way Rashi should not be used to shove Ashkenazic superiority down anyone's throat, neither should he or his actual status be denigrated or misrepresented to counter it.

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  49. Re: "the only thing separating most of us from the classic meforshim is their greater knowledge of dikduk": let's look at the case of Rashi. His dikduk-related comments (which are generally skipped over in chumash classes) are insightful and often brilliant, and yet Rashi had no access to the works of the great Jewish grammarians of the Arab world. This means that his comments are sometimes in conflict with what are now mainstream dikduk theories, and that whenever we invoke such standards, we are disagreeing with Rashi. And yet such disagreement need not convey disrespect for a great mind who was utilizing the best knowledge available to him -- shades of Chazal and their scientific/medical observations.

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  50. It seems so obvious to me that Nate's comment is meant as parody.

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  51. Dan
    I'm not sure what you mean. First of all this has nothing to do with Rabbi Gold's article. I'm sure he would equally apply what he is saying to the Ramban etc. Secondly as someone who is still in Kollel and Charedi I can guarantee you that no one feels Rashi "is more true" than any other Rishon. Rashi is the first Rishon studied and when ONE Pshat is being offered is usually the one chosen. Why that is another converstation but it is not because Rashi is MORE true Most comments on this blog seem some what ignorant of peoples' mindsets.

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  52. I meant to address Ezra. Sorry

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  53. @"S"

    I certainly meant no disrespect to Rashi or his commentary. What I was referring to is the attitude that has cropped up regarding it and its near canonization as "the" peshat of the Torah, which is narrow, myopic, and anachronistic at best.

    As for for Rashi in Yemen: I am unsure of what you mean by Yemenite "manuscripts" of Chumash, but if you mean printed editions, then I will tell you that up until relatively recent times most of the Jews in Yemen preferred handwritten texts over printed texts and would even use the phrase "you are a printed text" as an idiom referring to someone being in error (this was due to the myriads of errors found in early printed texts from Europe). Yemen is famous for its vast amount of preserved kitvei yad that are many times hundreds of years old. If you are referring to actual handwritten manuscripts of the Chumash from Yemen that included Rashi's pirush, then I would like to know where you saw them and how can I also see them. My point about printed texts was to say that with the immense pressure on the part of the Israeli Ashkenazim (and even staunch Israeli Sepharadim with unyielding loyalty to "Maran") upon the Yemenite community, there was a move to "standardize" their Chumashim when they began printing them in Israel instead of hand-copying them. By "standardize" I mean "Europeanize" and this trend has not stopped in certain parts of the Yemenite community with their printed texts, but has also extended to haircuts, clothing styles, black hats, prayer rites, and language (i.e. I have cringed as I hear Yemenites speaking Yiddish/Yeshivishe from time to time).

    Also, when I said "in Yemen" in my previous comment, I was referring to the era prior to the 1940's since after that most Yemenite Jews were taken to Israel. There are now less than 200 Jews in Yemen, many of which who have sadly assimilated into the Muslim population around them.

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  54. Ezra:

    You are correct in your assertion about Rashi, and you are wrong on the 50/50 about me. I can attest to the fact that Rashi's pshat IS the pshat. Countless are the times that a rebbe would say "let's see Rashi" in class. Thru 12 years of yeshiva day school and 3 more in yeshiva, I have never ever heard a rebbe say "let's see what Ibn Ezra says", or anyone else for that matter.
    And no I am not a parody or a troll.

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  55. In support of Nate's last comment (assuming there is a Nate), I would be reluctant to teach Ibn Ezra on Bereshis 12:6 to a five-year-old, for example. It would be a head-on collision with the traditional view about the authorship of the Torah. Teaching Rashi on Chumash wouldn't raise such questions.

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  56. Nate,

    I'm quite aware that today's yeshivas equate Rashi with peshat. But that still doesnt make it true. If you had learned in a Sephardic yeshiva, you might indeed have learned Ibn Ezra as often as Rashi. When I was young, I remember Rabbis teaching Ibn Ezra as the peshat, and then turning to Rashi for a charming Midrash - which was not to be taken too literally.
    Ezra

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  57. Yehudah B.

    "As for for Rashi in Yemen: I am unsure of what you mean by Yemenite "manuscripts" of Chumash, but if you mean printed editions, then I will tell you that up until relatively recent times most of the Jews in Yemen preferred handwritten texts over printed texts and would even use the phrase "you are a printed text" as an idiom referring to someone being in error (this was due to the myriads of errors found in early printed texts from Europe). "

    We could have saved your entire paragraph and reduced it to the original single word I used "manuscripts." That is, written copies of the Humash with Targum and Rashi, and IIRC also with Tafsir. From Yemen. Obviously "manuscript" means a written text and not a printed one. Furthermore, I am well aware of the phenomenon of "Ashkenazation," and I in fact referred to it in my comment. I merely suggested that the proper way to combat it should not be to denigrate Rashi, who was recognized by all segments of traditional Jewry as a preeminent commentator of the Torah, which is not surprising since his commentary contains much material from Hazal, whom all recognize, as well as much valuable grammatical and linguistic material, which all recognize as well. Furthermore, his commentaries are filled with emunah, which all traditional Jewries also appreciated.

    You can see many of these manuscripts on hebrewmanuscripts.org, which is a collection of scanned manuscripts, mainly from the JTS library.

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  58. Nate: I don't know if you are a troll or not. But, taking you at face value, you know absolutely nothing about parshnut, and it is the fault of your evidently equally ignorant Rebei'im. Forget about ibn Ezra. What about the Ramban who, for all his great respect for Rashi, disgrees with him countless times. None of your Rebeii'm ever taught you the Peirush of the Ramban on the Torah? Hard to believe. See what the Hatam Sofer (and a host of other gedolei Yisrael) says about the Ramban's Commentary being one of the fundamental texts of Judaism. Or perhaps the Hatam Sofer is not frum enough for you?

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  59. One should point out (and I tried to on the CC thread but CC apparently thought this was too radical) that the Rishonim who offered less fantastic explanations are also sourced in Chazal and are Torah. And even without disagreeing with Rashi at all we should introduce material to young students in a way that makes pedagogical sense for the world they live in, which is not the one Rashi wrote for. It seems to me an obvious choice, assuming we want to inculcate respect for Rashi and for Chazal, to delay introducing so of the more fantastical midrashim until the students have developed an appreciation of both figurative language and the importance of cultural context.

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  60. Lawrence Kaplan:

    I have nothing against the Chasam Sofer or the Ramban. The answer is no, it was never taught. Perhaps it may have been mentioned as a by the way, the Ramban disagrees, etc. But even in 12th grade, in the high shiur, it was Rashi only, with a few midrashim thrown in for fun.

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  61. S.,

    One of my professors in graduate school said Rashi never attained the preeminent status in the Sephardic world that he attained in the Ashkenazic world. Are you arguing that he was wrong?

    (Of course he can be -- academics make mistakes -- but are you absolutely sure that what you write is true? I'm not trying to be rhetorical; for my own knowledge I am extremely interested in how Rashi was viewed in non-Ashkenazic lands.)

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  62. Yehuda,

    "One of my professors in graduate school said Rashi never attained the preeminent status in the Sephardic world that he attained in the Ashkenazic world. Are you arguing that he was wrong?"

    We can both be right. ;-) I'm arguing that Rashi was regarded as one of the major commentators. I said "a preeminent," not "the preeminent." The point being that he was very highly regarded. Some of the best super-commentaries on Rashi were written by non-Ashkenazim, such as the one by R. Elijah Mizrahi and Sefer Hazikaron by R. Abraham Halevi Bakrat.

    The idea that Rashi was "not a rationalist" or "too Ashkenazi" was never a factor in how he was received by the non-Ashkenazi world. Rashi, first of all, is a lot more rational than we give him credit for, simply because much of the content of his commentary is strictly grammatical and linguistic - but these are mostly skipped over by many, so they don't realize how much of his commentary is important for understanding peshat. By analogy, Christian Bible scholars who were obviously miles further away from Ashkenazi rabbinic understandings of Tanakh than Sefardi scholars were, also recognized the great value of Rashi's commentary. Furthermore, while the pre-modern Jew may have had different ways of understanding Midrash, no one would have suggested that it's a crime to cite them!

    In addition, Rashi is undeniably the preeminent Talmud commentator (even if by default) so naturally he was regarded as impressive and a first-rate talmid chochom by all Jewries, and possibly this lent further prestige to his Torah commentary?

    Chida cites his own (obviously non-Ashkenazi) rabbi that Rashi "fasted 613 fasts before undertaking to write his Torah commentary." The point isn't if this was true, but how could people who believed this stuff help but regard the man and his commentaries as important? And I would stress that it was his importance which undoubtedly gave rise to the story, not the reverse.

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  63. @ "S"

    You continue to make equivocations that are unjustified and border on non-sensical. They contradict what we know about the history of Rashi's Torah commentaries and their use outside of Europe from history.

    NOBODY is saying the negative things about Rashi and his commentary that you are mentioning. If you have heard others make negative comments about Rashi, then take it up with them, do not project it into this thread.

    As for your "many" manuscripts, I looked at these scans you directed me to and found 10-12 handwritten manuscripts dating from the 16th and 17th Centuries CE. This does not constitute "many" and they are very late. I never stated that Rashi's pirush was not learned in Yemen or that they did not have access to it - in fact, I stated the opposite. What I did say is that it was not learned as "the" standard peshat of the Torah everywhere in the world, citing Yemenite Jewry as an example. Rashi was not learned by every child or yeshiva student the way it is today. The evidence from history, mesorah, and manuscripts support this end.

    Rashi's pirush was based almost solely on Aggadic Midrashim - much of which is not meant to be taken literally. What remains is pulled from a poor understanding of Hebrew grammar - which had Rashi been familiar with the grammatical works of Rabbenu Sa`adia haGaon he would not have come to the conclusions that he did - and also stems from the flawed contentions of Chazal regarding science and the natural world as recorded in the Gemara. Further, many other comments consist of a comparison to the vocabulary of Old French - another factor which led to his commentary's limited use outside of European Jewry. His use of drash as the peshat is precisely why his "peshat" is usually wrong and far-fetched. If you feel that this is too harsh, perhaps you should read the Rambam's "Essay on Resurrection" and his "Introduction to Perek Chelek" for this type of idea.

    Torah Judaism cannot survive (as is being readily demonstrated in our times) in a Rashi-dominated world. We can survive, however, if he remains as a pre-eminent commentator among many opinions.

    As for him being the greatest Talmudic commentator "by default," you are very narrow-minded if you think of such a thing. There are many Talmudic commentators outside of Rashi, both preceding and following him. Because he was included in the Tzurat HaDaf (again, a European invention that did not exist outside of Europe - like Yemen) does not make him the "greatest", just the most widely read.

    Was Rashi respected as a great commentator who contributed much to the study of Torah? Absolutely. But was he considered the greatest? Not by a long shot. Does this constitute a disrespect to say so. Absolutely NOT. This idyllic treatment of Rashi is a new phenomenon, and this was the subject of the original post and the ensuing thread of discussion.

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