Jan 19Liked by Natan Slifkin

When someone says "you don't know how to learn" what they really mean is that you don't know how to interpret chazal in a way that supports the present charedi way of life!

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So your contention is that you know how to learn but Rav Chaim Soleveichik didn’t and that Rav Shechter agrees with you on this?

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This post, as many others, provide much mirth in my life.

It is like a native Tamil speaker pontificating, with absolute authority, over an Aztec idiom found in an archaeological dig in Siberia.

Your understanding of Brisk, the Chazon Ish, 'knowing how to learn' and actual learning, are pitiful.

Knowing how to learn means 'knowing the unwritten rules of the halachic process - what is considered an inference and what is considered a stronger proof. Which opinions are viewed greater than others and when, how to decide between shitos, how to compare one Halacha to another, and most of all - the rules of Torah logic'.

Brisk is one small part of it, and not too relevant.

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"What I am saying is that not much is actually required for analyzing texts; it’s just clear thinking, breadth of knowledge (in order to establish the context in which the text was written), and, most of all, intellectual honesty."

What may be the most important ingredient is missing from this list: Many years of intense learning the texts to get a feel for their nuances and subtleties. All of the above criteria won't do much good without that. (I once heard that R' Shaul Leiberman said that any professor of Talmud that didn't study in a yeshiva was lacking for this reason.)

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Slifkin in a nutshell.


Talmidei Chachamim: Eh anyone can open up Sefaria and do what they do.

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Wow, you really do like swimming in a pool of sharks and piranhas.

Yes, I know that sharks are only found in ocean habitats, and piranhas are only found in freshwater locations. That's why I wrote "in a pool", which means this is a man-made location.

Wishing you הצלחה רבה in your heroic challenges that you set yourself. Let's just hope that the sharks eat the piranhas, or vice versa.

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Wow, Natan, three posts in a row! You should start calling this blog "The Mecharker Challenge"!

The line "not much is actually required for analyzing texts" is a tell-tale giveaway that one doesn't know how to learn. Learning is so much more than analyzing texts. (And there is no need to mention your self-evidently ridiculous line about the Rambam and Rav Chaim). "Breadth of knowledge" would unfortunately not include you, if referring to Torah knowledge. "Intellectual honesty" would exclude somebody who can't admit that he was wrong about the Tashbetz only referring to community rabbis. You are simply not in a position to lecture anybody about intellectual honesty.

However, your real issue is not simply that you don't "know how to learn", it's that you you don't know how to *read*. Whether the Tashbetz, or a letter from Rav Feldman, or anything else, you show that failing every opportunity you have.


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Actually, what I meant when I said you don't know how to learn is that you simply don't know how to learn. You attempted to use a pseudo-halachic approach that included a short biography of the Tashbetz and your own conjecturing to NEGATE WHAT THE SOURCES ACTUALLY SAY. You didn't really do any research on that aspect and seem to be incapable or unwilling to do so, so I will share with your reader an excerpt from a sefer where the mechaber ACTUALLY read through the Tashbetz carefully and went through all the poskim over the centuries to distill their opinions. THAT is what is considered KNOWING HOW TO LEARN. It's possible that the author has his slant, but at least he is not fabricating things out of thin air!


No one is referring to R' Chaim or how big of a lamdan you are. You SIMPLY MISSED THE BOAT.

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Jan 19·edited Jan 19

I am reminded of an exchange I had with a Charedi "wannabe" Rav some time ago (He is a Rav, the "wannabe" refers to the Charedi bit. He desperately wants to be one, but, due to his institutional affiliation and personal nature, just isn't often seen that way.)

I lamented the recent loss of Rav Adin Steinsalz and mentioned how influential his modern elucidation of the Talmud was and that it prompted the creation of the more Yeshivish Artscroll version. He responded that R' Steinsalz wasn't actually a talmid chacham - why, he didn't even explain certain passages the way R' Chaim (Brisker, not Kanievsky) did!

He was saying that R' Steinsalz "didn't know how to learn" because he didn't spout the Yeshivah line.

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In שו״ת שרידי אש Rav YY Weinberg criticizes the Brisk style of learning for the same reasons as this post. (Don’t have the Sefer in my house to find exact location)

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I'm the guy your post responds to. To describe "knowing how to learn" is like asking how much it costs to stay in the King David: If you have to ask, its too much. And so too, if you need "knowing how to learn" explained to you, you don't understand it.

Knowing how to learn at its most basic level means Gemara, and, in some circles, lomdus. Men as disparate as the Malbim and R. Berel Wein put out seforim on Gemara before they engaged in their Tanach projects, so they'd have credibility. Now, the booklet you append to the post is hardly the אורחות חיים or עיונים בתלמוד, and it definitely looks questionable with an early 1998 publication date, yet still referring to yourself as Natan and zoobabbi. The academics might have fun with that. But its helpful, its helpful. I would encourage you to do more, and put it out there.

In the end, though, I don't think it will really change anything, because knowing how to learn is ALSO (not exclusively, as you claim) an ethos. No matter what you do, you'll never be part of the club. I can understand why that's maddening or even hurtful. One comes from a small town, is excited to finally get to what he thinks (mistakenly) is the big leagues, and tries to dress like them and think like them and be like them - only to realize he'll never be part of them. The correct way to deal with it is not to lash out and try at every turn to insult the club or knock them down. Its a useless effort, and just makes you look small. No, the way to handle it is to be like the Sneetches. Stop focusing on their club, and start focusing on your own. In your case, you've now glommed onto religious Zionism. OK, so tell us why you think its so good. Why you think its the best club to join. I think that will be helpful to your readers, and probably also to yourself.

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I believe that the Rav stated that the purpose of the brisker method was to find the truth. At the same time, the Rav was reluctant to pasken because even with the brisker derech, the truth was elusive . The Rav could usually see two or more points of view and in perfect brisker fashion, he was reluctant to decide which side was true. But the brisker method was not just an exercise in intellectual. gymnastics. It was an attempt to find the truth

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I don't think Slifkin is qualified to decide between the Chazon Ish and Rav Chaim of Brisk.

Michael Avraham a senior member of the Bar Ilan Kollel and a major talmid chacham is convinced thet that the Rambam meant the Brisker way though without the modern language

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Holy Smokes all this time I thought that Rav Chaim Soloveitchik knew how to learn! I guess Rav Boruch Ber and Rav Shimon Shkopp should have been reading Reb Nossons blog instead of wasting all that time in Volozhin. At the very least they should have learned under Rav Shacter who apparently doesn't agree with their derech. (Which is strange because his Rebbe Yosher Ber was as BRISK as it gets. Hey Hoh if Reb Nosson says it, then it must be true.

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Natan you said "Furthermore, when Rambam himself was asked about such contradictions, he didn't employ Brisker-style distinctions; instead he simply said that he erred, or changed his mind"

Where can I see this quote or paraphrase, thanks.

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There is a "high priest" approach to learning which suggests that only the "right people" are qualified to have opinions, or to seriously engage in a personal way with the text.

This approach is directly contradicted by the chumash itself: "

For this mitzvah which I command you this day is not concealed from you and it is not far off. It is not in the heavens that one would say: Who will go up for us to heaven and take it for us and make us hear it that we might do it? And it is not across the seas, that one would say: Who will cross the seas for us and take it for us and make us hear it that we might do it? For the thing is very near to you in your mouth and in your heart to do it.

Intelligence is not wisdom. And the Torah is accessible to all, not merely to the "really smart" few.

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