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The Mesorah Is Our Bible

Torah Torah Shebal Peh mesorah

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#1 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 04:44 PM

Please listen to this shiur.

The authority, the "Bible," if you will, of Orthodox Judaism is not the Scriptures, nor is it the Talmud. It is our Mesorah. Instructions and methodologies of interpretation handed down from generation to generaiton of Torah scholars, beginning with Hashem handing the Torah to Moshe on Mt. Sinai. The Scriptures and the Talmud certainly are authoritative, to be sure, but they are not the totality of our authority, and nor may we interpret them save per the guidelines of our Mesorah.

In fact, without the Mesorah, we would not even know what the Talmud is. Consider:

Why can I not disagree with the Gemora? If you will say that the Gemora is Torah SheBal Peh and that one cannot disagree with Torah SheBal Peh, I will ask you perhaps my Svaros are also Torah SheBal Peh - just like those of Rava and Abaye regarding which we say למה לי קרא סברא הוא? How do I know that the Gemora is in fact all Torah SheBal Peh? Perhaps the generation of Mar Bar Rav Ashi and Mar Zutra is not included in the Gemora, and they would have no authority to disagree with their predecessors, the same way for example, the Geonim have no authority to argue with Amorayim?

In fact, why can I not argue with Moshe Rabbeinu? Moshe was only human, wasn't he? He did make a mistake at the Mei Merivah, so perhaps I can catch him at other mistakes as well?

How do we know who are the Magidim that constitute Makchish Magideha?

Why can I not disagree with the Rishonim? Where does it say that the likes of me cannot disagree with the Gemora? If it says so in the Gemora, then that would be circular reasoning, wouldn't;t it?

And please do not tell me that the Kesef Mishna says Klall Yisroel agreed to seal the Gemora after the last generaiton of Amorayim and that no longer can anyone disagree, because, why can't I disagree with that Kesef Mishna? And besides, how does this "agreement" that Klall Yisroel made bind me? Did I agree to be part of that deal? And if that is the only reason I cannot disagree with the Gemora, because of some mutual contract between all Jews, then if I do disagree with the Gemora, is my sin merely violating this contract - but it does not mean that I cannot in fact be correct and Ravina and Rav Ashi wrong?

The one and only answer to these questions is that the Mesorah of Klall Yisroel detemrined all of the above. After the last generation of Amorayim we recognized - we meaning the Torah scholars of the generation - that we are no longer capable of competing with the previous generations in terms of Torah authority. The Torah scholars recognized the end of an era, and it is their authority that determined we can no longer create Torah SheBal Peh. It is the same consensus of sages that determined the Tekufah of the Rishonim is over and our opinions cannot compete.

This ability to assess the superiority of the judgement, and hence, authority, of others is the cornerstone of our religion. Without it, our entire religion falls apart, for there is no reason to force us to follow the conclusions or interpretations of the Talmud, or anyone else for that matter. I don't have to listen to anyone except Hashem and even when Hashem speaks, I do not have to follow anyone's interpretation except my own. Everyone is fallible and who says I cannot contend with the sages of old?

And any possible reason you will give me that I must follow the Gemora and et cetera will not be valid because the irrefutable retort will be that whatever you tell me is the opinion or interpretation of some sage or group of sages and nothing binds me to agree with them. You cannot logically prove the authority of the sages from the sayings of the sages because who says those sayings have authority to being with.

The true explanation is that the authority of Judaism, the "Bible" that we follow is the opinions of the sages of the generations. The ability to recognize such superior judgement the prize of those who toil relentlessly and objectively in Hashem's Torah and possesses a great deal of Yiras Shamayim. And the superior judgement of such sages is our bible.

Please refer to the Shiur cited above for a fuller treatment of the topic.

The question: "What made our religious authorities authorities?" can be asked of other religions as well, and there, there is no Mesorah to explain things. I have asked Christian missionaries many times, even if I (c"v) accept Yoshka as a prophet (for the record, Yoshka himself never claimed real prophecy), why in the world would I have to follow Paul and the gospels? Who put them in charge? Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that their god decreed everyone must follow them. Why can I not say that they misrepresented or misunderstood Yoshka altogether? Why do their words and deeds become part of the "Bible" and not mine? Who gave them such authority?

Christians don't have such a thing as a Mesorah and no such thing as a Torah SheBal Peh, and so their religion is really not held together by anything except the opinions of some human beings, which have no more authority than you or I. Without a Mesorah to determine the way to identify unrivaled scholarship and judgement, there is no reason I cannot decide that I am a gospel myself.



#2 Guest_achasshoalti_*

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 04:28 PM

After the last generation of Amorayim we recognized - we meaning the Torah scholars of the generation - that we are no longer capable of competing with the previous generations in terms of Torah authority.


But who gave those Torah Scholars the authority to make that decision & why does it bind me?

#3 taon

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 05:06 PM

So why are there people who claim they can argue with Rishonim?

#4 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 05:29 PM

So why are there people who claim they can argue with Rishonim?

You mean people nowadays? Because they are Amei Haaretz (I am judging them Lekaf zechus).

You mean people like the Vilna Gaon and Shaagas Aryeh? Because the Mesorah itself allows room for such exceptions. The Gemora says this: לימא תיהוי תיובתיה דרב? - רב תנא הוא ופליג. And the same Mesorah-given Torah judgement that determined the period of the Rishonim are over also determined that these individuals are exceptions.

#5 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 07:41 PM

I have to admit I have not read a lot on this site. So if my question has already been addressed I apologize.
Basically, what I want to know is what proof is there that Judaism is the truth? What if matan torah was just one big hoax? After all, Moshe rabbeinu was the best magician of his time. Is it possible that the giving of the torah was just a fantastic display of fireworks that fooled millions? And it seems that not all the people fell for it even as it was happening as they went ahead with their eigl anyway. But we can never know their side of the story as history is written by the survivors... Also is it not suspicious that all the supernatural events that seemed to follow the chosen people ceased happening once moshe was no longer around?
I mean no disrespect, I was just hoping for an educated point of view.



See here, the Proof From Mesorah forums.

#6 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 07:53 PM

But who gave those Torah Scholars the authority to make that decision & why does it bind me?

Well, there is a Machlokes regarding whether the command of Asher Yagidu Lach applies to the Gedolim of all generations (see Sefer HaChinuch), but that is not what I am discussing here.

It is not authority I am discussing; it is expertise.

The Gedolei HaDor are experts in what the Ratzon Hashem is. Not only that, but the nature of Torah is that its human repository becomes an embodiment of Torah itself. It purifies and refines body, mind and soul.

So it's not an issue of are you bound to what the Gedolim of each generation say. It's that you are bound to the Ratzon Hashem, and they are the experts in determining that.

#7 mosheemes

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 03:03 PM

If I'm not mistaken, certain churches such as Eastern Orthodox , Roman Catholic and Anglican have something that they call "Apostolic Succession" which they believe in, which claims that their "bishops" have been ordained in a straight line back to the original Apostles. So even tho your missionaries were most probably protestant evangelicals who don't believe in apostolic succession, these (very large) churches do and your particular argument in that sense doesn't hold weight (not that I'm in the least suggesting that the traditions of these churches have anything to do with the truth c'v).

#8 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 04:38 PM

If I'm not mistaken, certain churches such as Eastern Orthodox , Roman Catholic and Anglican have something that they call "Apostolic Succession" which they believe in, which claims that their "bishops" have been ordained in a straight line back to the original Apostles. So even tho your missionaries were most probably protestant evangelicals who don't believe in apostolic succession, these (very large) churches do and your particular argument in that sense doesn't hold weight (not that I'm in the least suggesting that the traditions of these churches have anything to do with the truth c'v).

You are mistaken. Apostolic Succession does not claim a Mesorah. If anything, just the opposite.

Apostolic Succession only claims that the ordination of each Bishop was granted by a previous Bishop going back to Yoshka. It does not claim any particular teachings or explanations of the Scriptures were handed down, nor does it claim that the expertise of these Bishops in the chain is anything extraordinary. On the contrary - Apostolic Succession says that the authority of a Bishop is because he was granted authority from a previous Bishop. It means that if a Bishop has this type of ordination, that itself gives him the authority. Our Mesorah says the opposite - authority is predicated on greatness in Torah and Yiras Shamayim. Our Mesorah is a recognition of who these exceptional personalities are, and the methodology for how we recognize them.

In our Mesorah, people are granted authority because of their greatness. In Apostolic Succession, people are considered great because they were granted authority.

But that's just FYI. You didn't read my post. I wasn't making any "argument" about the veracity of any particular religion here. I was not talking about the Mesorah of Kabbalas HaTorah but rather the Mesorah of who is a greater authority than whom. I said that is the basis for all of Judaism. Your response that some Christians also have such a thing, besides being wrong as I explained above, does not matter. If that is how they want to define their religion, so be it. My point was that is how we define ours. The truth of our religion is established by other means. Here we are not talking about proof to our religion, but rather what our religion IS.

#9 FS613

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 08:06 AM

L'Chvod Rabbi Shapiro, Shlita:

 

I listened to your audio file lesson on "the Mesora is our Bible."

There is an issue from there that I am confused about, unless I am mistaken and didn't hear correctly;

 

in which case, please correct me.

 

What does it mean when it's said that a Rav writes down his "Chiddushim" or "creates Torah" ?

Isn't the Torah what's been handed down the generations from father to son, from Har Sinai?

Thank you.



#10 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 07:05 AM

L'Chvod Rabbi Shapiro, Shlita:

 

I listened to your audio file lesson on "the Mesora is our Bible."

There is an issue from there that I am confused about, unless I am mistaken and didn't hear correctly;

 

in which case, please correct me.

 

What does it mean when it's said that a Rav writes down his "Chiddushim" or "creates Torah" ?

Isn't the Torah what's been handed down the generations from father to son, from Har Sinai?

Thank you.

Yes, of course, but two things:

 

1) Not everything Moshe Rabbeinu handed down we still know today. If we would, then we would be as great Talmidei Chachamim as Moshe Rabbeinu was. So if someone can restore what was originally handed down by way of evidence and research and Svara, we refer to that as a "chidush."

 

2) Chazal tell us that Moshe was told on Har Sinai כל מה שתלמיד ותיק עתיד לחדש, which means that the reason Moshe received that particular Dvar Torah on Mt. Sinai was because some time in the future, some Tamlid Chacham was going to figure it out. So yes, Moshe did get it on Sinai, but the first person (in a cause-and-effect way; not in a time-line way) to think of it was the Talmid Chacham who is making the Chidush today.

 

So sometimes what Moshe heard was the cause of the Torah and the Talmid Chacham just figures out what Moshe was told but his peers did not know; other times, the Tamlmid Chacham figures things out form the Torah and Moshe Rabbeinu was given a preview of those Chadisshim.

 

But either way, the Talmid Chacham's chidush is considered Torah.

 

(Needless to say, the Chidush must be created according to the Torah due process -- which is the topic of the Shiur you heard.)



#11 JewishInsurgent

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 02:58 PM

I'm confused by this whole, "Gadolim know the ratzon of Hashem," thing. I don't buy it. 

 

The Gemara makes it clear that this is not the case (Bava Metzia 59b) with the machloket of Rav Eliezer vs. the Chachamim, where Hashem LITERALLY takes the side of Rav Eliezer and the Chachamim LITERALLY shut Hashem out. The point was that the Ratzon of Hashem is not as relevant as the decisions of the Chachamim as to what they BELIEVE the ratzon of Hashem is. 

 

Of course you are arguing a Daas Torah take on halacha with the idea that the Chachamim know better by some window into the world of Hashem, but this is disputed regularly in the Talmud, the writings of Maimonides, and the Ibn Ezra among many other sources.



#12 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 06:28 PM

What you are "not buying" nobody is selling. You are not understanding the concept - or the Gemora you quoted.

 

First, the concept. The authority of Gedolim come from their expertise, not any official status conferred upon them. That's all.

 

The Gemora you are quoting does not relate to that in the slightest. It does not discuss at all where the authority of Chachamim come from. So I don't understand your question.

 

It sounds like you've been fed the idea, very popular in certain not-so-Torahdik communities, that the reason we listen to what Chachamim say is because they are "infallible." That's just silly. Nobody says that. And nobody needs to. That's not what EMunas Chachamim is. Please see here

 

But aside from that, you're reading into the Gemora something that it did not say.You are assuming that this Gemora means that the majority of Chachamim in the case of the Gemora made an error. The Gemora says no such thing. The Chachamim correctly deciphered what the Torah wants them to do. Because the rule תורה לא בשמים היא is part of the Torah's instructions. Considering those instructions, the Chachamim were 100% correct. The Chachamim did correctly decipher the Ratzon Hashem. Hashem wanted the Chachamim to side against Rabi Eliezer and against the Bas Kol. 

 

The Rishonim say over there (see Rav Nisim Gaon) that the miracles performed against the Chachamim were not for nothing - Hashem does not make miracles for nothing. Rather, it was a Nisayon to see if the Chachamim would follow the Halachah of אחרי רבים להטות. Ultimately, the Chachamim insisted on doing what the Ratzon Hashem was that they should do.

 

And you're forgetting something - if the Chachamim have no great expertise in deciphering the Ratzon Hashem, then what in the world makes them Chachamim to begin with? If, as you say "it matters what the Chachamim think Hashem's Ratzon is," then what qualifies one as a Chacham that what he thinks the Ratzon Hashem is should matter to anyone?

 

There are no two sides here - by definition Chachamim, Gedolei Yisroel - call them what you like - are experts in decipering the Ratzon Hashem. 

 

That's what makes them Chachamim.







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