A. Y. Karelitz M.D.

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61 Responses

  1. S. says:

    >Clearly he did not have a copy of Gray‘s Anatomy under his pillow.

    Why is this clear?

  2. Natan Slifkin says:

    I once asked Rav Gedaliah Nadel z”l, one of the foremost talmidim of the Chazon Ish, about the Chazon Ish’s medical knowledge. He told me that the Chazon Ish’s knowledge came from reading medical journals.

  3. Yechezkel - 1a7b says:

    I have likewise dealt with the question of “If the Chazon Ish would have been able to cure cancer…” but in a slightly different guise. The way I am asked the question is: “If all of the Jews would sit and learn Torah 24/7 as advocated by Ravi Shimon Bar Yochai (Brachos 35b), who would be the doctors to heal those who get sick?” My response addresses both forms of the question and follows a more theological track.

    For starters, we can always rely on the response presented by RaShb”Y himself in Brachos 35b which is that non-Jews would come voluntarily and fill that role. HKBH is the Chonen L’Adam Daas and He is quite capable of inspiring whoever He wants – Jewish or not – with the requisite wisdom to make the medical discoveries that would help mankind. If HKBH wants a cure for cancer to be found, He has no small pool of “servants” that He can choose Himself to lead to the right place.

    Nevertheless, I might expect this response to fall short of satisfying the questioner because he would ask: “But the Chazon Ish was blessed with extraordinary brilliance and understanding, why not assume that he is the ‘chosen servant’?”

    So here is where I take the theological track:

    HKBH tells us Himself in no less than 3 places in the Torah (okay, once it’s through Moshe) that if we faithfully follow His dictates, we won’t get sick! What this says is that the only reason we have cancer is because we are not “mushlam” (complete) in our avodas Hashem. If we would be, there would be no cancer. This is G-d’s promise in no less than 3 places in the Torah (Shmos 16:26, 23:25 and Devarim 7:16).

    What the Torah is telling us is that working toward “shleimus” in Avodas Hashem IS the cure for cancer (or – the way to avoid getting it in the first place. ‘An ounce of prevention…’). As such, one who devotes his life to helping Jews fulfill their role as a Mamleches Kohanim and a Goy Kadosh is doing more to cure cancer than anybody in medical school.

    Yes, I know we are far from mushlamim and in our day even Kedoshim are stricken with the dreaded disease R”L, but had the Chazon Ish been A.Y. Karelitz M.D., we would be that much further from true Avodas Hashem and the cancers that much worse.

    Y. Hirshman
    Achas L’Maala V’Sheva L’Matta (1a7b)

  4. dr. bill says:

    I certainly believe in a Yissacher / Zevulin based model, but actually much more. To assume all committed Jews should prefer Torah study over other pursuits, is perhaps another area where the divide in outlook between MO and chareidi is real. The world, as well as the state of israel as well as our communities need expertise and accomplishment in all areas. A frum scientists who did not dedicate his life to Torah study, may have fulfilled his life’s mission, independant of having a yissacher partner.

    The words of the Rav ztl’s yartzeit shiur on shlichut, quoting R. Kook ztl, (a rare occurence) back 45 years ago were stirring. He said, not just do we each have a particular mission based on our personality, but even that is a function of when we are born. The rav poked fun at himself, saying in this generation he gets some respect as a melamid, and jokingly asked if he would have been laughed at as melamid in the age of the Gaon.

    I don’t rememeber the source, but one chassidic master noted that the mishna say kol yisroel yesh lahem chelek LEolam habah not BEolam habbah. we all have our unique way to get there, hence LE not BE. Clearly torah scholars deserve the highest respect; that should in no way lessen the respect due to another jew.

    As to the halakha about a blessing, I am curious about the range of opinions. i am completely ignorant on this topic(among others.) I could imagine a posek arguing, there were no jews of that secular achievement level at the time the bracha was instituted, perhaps one makes the beracha EVEN for a non-jew, or perhaps, most far-fetched, one makes the same beracha for a jewish scholar regardless of his domain of expertise. Interestingly in both berachot chochmah is used(undifferenetiated on domain) and the difference is in the verb and in the person addressed.

  5. Benshaul says:

    I once heard (from a reliable source) that the Chazon Ish had said that while he could find a cure for cancer -if he did a worse disease would show up in its wake.
    The point of it was that there is always going to be a “machaleh” for which we have no cure by which Hashem hides behind. That is getting off the subject and a whole different disccusion.

  6. Ori says:

    May I ask a related question? Curing cancer is not just a Kiddush HaShem matter – there is also the mundane issue of Pikuach Nefesh, saving lives.

    How far out of our way are we obligated to go for Pikuach Nefesh matters? If I see a wounded person in the street, I am obviously obligated to bandage the wounds as best I can, and administer CPR if necessary. Am I obligated to attend CPR classes and carry bandages with me in case they prove necessary?

  7. Joel Rich says:

    There is a well known story that the GRA’s parents did not let him study medicine/pharmacology (and it is well known that the GRA studied all chachmot and valued them – but that’s for another debate) because had he studied this he would have been required to apply it to save lives.

    Question: If the CI had attained this level of knowledge greater than MD’s(and there are other stories of this nature including iirc a surgical direction for brain surgery), why was he not bound to be “meishiv aveidah” and use this knowledge to cure those who others could not cure?

    KT

  8. Baal Habos says:

    >One of my more skeptical friends conjectures that since the Chazon Ish grew up in close proximity to the medical library of the university in Vilna, it is not unlikely that he may have spent some time in the reading rooms learning anatomy. Whatever the case, and it doesn‘t really matter which is the truth…

    Why does it not matter which is the truth?

  9. Joel Rich says:

    That said, however, it is clear that just as it would have been wrong for Zevulun to have sat in the beit midrash all day instead of sailing the seas and bringing parnasah to both his and his brother‘s tribe, it would have been equally wrong for Yissachar to have left the study hall.
    =============================================
    1.Why is it clear that either would have been wrong for doing what the other did?
    2.What was the role of the kohanim as teachers of Torah in contradistinction to that of shevet Yissachar?
    KT

  10. Chaim Fisher says:

    Nice article. Stephen Hawkings, by the way, has no business being on a list with those great scientists and should be taken out of the book. They changed the world with their science. He’s changed nothing and contributed only more confusion.

  11. Leonard Cohen says:

    >…none of my students had ever heard of the author…One hand in the back of the room shot up. “Rebbi? Based on what you‘re saying about the Chazon Ish…”

    >>I don’t get it. The indication is that the students in your senior philosophy class were Orthodox (who else calls their teacher ‘rebbi’?), and yet they’ve never heard of the Chazon Ish? Unless there is some further exculpatory explanation, this is an incredibly damning indictment of these students’ Torah education.

  12. Yeshiva Guy says:

    I have to agree with the theme of the first two posters. We tend to overly lionize our Gedolim. The Vilna Gaon was famous for studying mathematical texts during his free time. That is, he didn’t just gain his knowledge out of the blue. There’s no reason to believe the Chazon Ish was any different.

  13. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I hate to spoil the party, but I think this is a silly discussion. BTW it is the first time I have made that judgment on a CC post. It is on the level of if my grandmother had wheels she’d be a trolley car. We have the obligation to learn Torah and do mitzvos as best we can and somehow make a living as best we can. Most of us are not world class in either and muddle through. We wish we were, but it’s not so. My liberal Jewish mother wishes an Israeli would find a cure for cancer so the world would love us. A nechtiger tog. A given Jew has to do what he/she has to do. The CI had to learn Torah and would not have been an MD because he was constitutionally incapable of spending that many hours a day not learning. I couldn’t be an MD or a rosh yeshiva. A particular fellow who inherited his father’s business once learned in yeshiva and was pretty good. He thought of going into chinuch. All the rabbis including several gedolim said nothing doing. He was in the position to be a major league Yissachar and that was the way it was going to be. This perhaps casts light on the statement of Chazal (the Sages): Hakol biydei shamayim chutz mi-yirat shamayim. Everything is controlled by Heaven except for the fear of Heaven. IOW, the cards dealt out are predetermined. How you respond to them internally is your small piece of the action. Einstein became Einstein rather than the CI because of his assimilated background. No one with that background could become a gadol. Nonetheless he acquired enough yirat shamayim to say “G-d doesn’t play dice with the universe”. It is also interesting that my cousin once acquired a used German translation of the Rambam’s Guide with Albert Einstein’s name in it.

  14. Doron Beckerman says:

    “The exact formulation is she‘y‘heh shem shamayim misahev al yadecha which means pretty much the same.”

    R’ Dovid,
    That is the exact formulation of the Gemara, but not the full one.

    Yoma 86a (Bach version) states:

    שיהא שם שמים מתאהב על ידך שיהא קורא ושונה ומשמש תלמידי חכמים ויהא משאו ומתנו באמונה ודבורו בנחת עם הבריות מה הבריות אומרות עליו אשרי לו לפלוני שלמד תורה אשרי אביו שלמדו תורה אשרי רבו שלמדו תורה אוי להם לבריות שלא למדו תורה פלוני שלמד תורה ראו כמה נאים דרכיו כמה מתוקנים מעשיו

    Meaning, that the extent to which the Name of Hashem is beloved by another is determined by how much they realize the effect that Torah study has on a person. So how is it Shayach to say that the Chazon Ish should have learned less and worked on cancer cures for the sake of Kiddush Hashem? Aderabba – Shem Shamayim Misahev is a function of the correlation that people make between Torah greatness and Bein Adam Lachaveiro and it follows that any detachment of the two is either a lost opportunity to bring about, or a diminishing of, שיהא שם שמים מתאהב.

    The Gemara emphasizes Shimush Talmidei Chachamim, which means in depth Torah study, as a sine qua non for the ability to effect שם שמים מתאהב. Without that, Stam משאו ומתנו באמונה ודבורו בנחת, or even finding a cure for cancer, is very nice, but it isn’t שם שמים מתאהב.

  15. Esther says:

    I’ve read at least one article on a Torah website where someone said they were inspired by Sandy Koufax to go to synagogue on Yom Kippur instead of playing on their high school sports team. Don’t we have the concept that every individual mitzvah is important? My understanding is that this was also one event among several at the time that led to Jews feeling more comfortable being openly religious, which in turn led to the tremendous baal teshuvah movement. Not necessarily disagreeing with the article, but just feel that there is no need to minimize any mitzvah, even if it’s a sports figure instead of a gadol.

  16. Ezra Schwartz says:

    I am interested in seeing the source of Rav utner’s comment that a Jew learned in maada would not warrant a bracha. in fact, many poskim disagree with this. See the Teshuvot of Kollel Eretz Hemda Bmareh Habazak volume 5 page 45. The more interesting question he tackles is whether to recite a bracha on a non-Jew who has mastered Torah knowledge (should such a thing exist).

  17. dr. bill says:

    Doron Beckerman – The gemara can be read (and IMHO should be read) quite differently. A person who does good deeds (medical cures count, shooting hoops do not, not pitching on YK is questionable) attributed to his Torah learning causes the name of God to be sanctified. So if you are seen as learned/observant and your choice is more good deeds or more learning, and your desire is to increase the level of kiddush hashem, you choose more deeds. Soemone who absorbed Torah from his father is listed; does that necessarily imply an intense level of learning??

    Learning may be an end unto itself, but never more than doing good. Again this is a major hashkafic divide; at the very least understand that there is an alternate opinion.

  18. Not Brisker Yeshivish says:

    The Chazon Ish wasn’t a born genius. He exerted himself more than most of his generation; the same Gemara over and over again, what he writes in the letters about the siyate d’shamya he got in the six hour learning without a break, etc.

    Therefore, there is no reason to assume that he had the capabilities to be at the very top of the medical field.

  19. Doron Beckerman says:

    Good luck on the book! Sign me up for an advance purchase.

  20. The Contarian says:

    I grew up in a Lubavich area. On countless occasions, I was told that the Rebbe was the greatest doctor, scientist, chess player etc etc etc.

    Now I see that the same sort of stories have permeated the Litvish world.

  21. Doron Beckerman says:

    Dr. Bill- “So if you are seen as learned/observant and your choice is more good deeds or more learning, and your desire is to increase the level of kiddush hashem, you choose more deeds.”

    Not necessarily. The Gemara does not say “look at him, the observant one etc.” The Gemara purposely starts off with the list of “Kara, Shanah, Shimeish Talmidei Chachamim” which is the equivalent of in depth learning. The person who absorbed Torah from his father is listed, yes, but he is the same Ploni who learned from his Rebbe.

    The Kiddush Hashem brought about by an observant Jew is not the same as can be brought about by an identifiable Ben Torah, and the KH brought about by a Ben Torah is not the same as can be brought about by a Gadol. Because any part or percentage of the person’s good deeds, or their quality, that may attributable to anything *but* Torah does not have the same effect. (The converse, regarding Chillul Hashem, is true as well.)

    “Learning may be an end unto itself, but never more than doing good.”

    I don’t agree with either part of the statement. Torah study is not an end unto itself – Yiras Shamayim is. And the Gemara does say גדול תלמוד תורה יותר מהצלת נפשות. The GRA’s father’s refusal to allow his son to study medicine is an application of that statement. Who disagrees with this?

  22. Chardal says:

    >Therefore, there is no reason to assume that he had the capabilities to be at the very top of the medical field.

    The CI was an autodictat both in his Torah knowledge and his medical knowledge (which he became proficient in through the reading of medical journals). Someone who can achieve that kind of competancy in complex areas without formal training does not come along often. There is every reason to suggest that a first rate mind such as the CI’s could have mastered most any subject he would have put his mind to – and little evidence to suggest otherwise.

  23. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Ezra Schwartz wondered what the halacha would be regarding a non-Jew sufficiently learned in Torah to equal a great talmid hacham. That would be inadmissible because it would involve a transgression by the non-Jew of learning areas of Torah which he is forbidden to learn.

  24. joel rich says:

    Doron,
    So your understanding is that Mordechai should have gone back to learning and let HKB”H worry about the Jews. If so, why does any Rav become a manhig(temporal leader)-why doesn’t he just sit and learn 24/7?
    KT

  25. dr. bill says:

    1) “Kara, Shanah, Shimeish Talmidei Chachamim” which is the equivalent of in depth learning.”

    Comment by Doron Beckerman — June 25, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

    really, might that be an anachronism? Perhaps, read biblical texts and reread and served scholars to learn their modes of behavior.

    and when i said torah study might be an end in itself, i was refering to torah study as a form of service to God, much like prayer. It is done to be close to God not necessarily to fear Him.

    And your GRA story proves exactly the opposite – had he studied medicine he would have had to heal people versus learn! and quoting mamarei chazal that are against halakha, requires that you think harder on what was intended. what may have been meant is that by teaching one is affecting many lives. the halakha is clear – you are mevatail torah to save even chayeh shaah.

  26. D Goldman says:

    “You often tell us, rebbi, that the primary mission that man has in this world is to be mikadesh shem shamayim – to sanctify God‘s name.”…
    -DL

    I think this is where the conversation here loses its focus. There is no source that says anything like this that I am aware of and I think it is a mistake. It suggests that the primary mission of man is to be G-d’s publicist, more concerned with PR than with actual good. It may come from the assumption that if the worst thing one can bring about is a chilul Hashem, the best must be the opposite but that is not the case.

    Our primary mission in this world is to be an eved Hashem, the appellation attached to Moshe Rabeinu at his death. That means following the Mitzvos as the comprehensive presentation of the Ratzon Hashem, which also reflect Hashem’s higher goals for His creation – the ultimate Tov. Other people’s opinions are secondary.

    I would agree that a kiddush Hashem is a reflection (a siman) that something especially tov is happening but (a) it is always in the context of an applicable mitzvah and (b) before we can even enter the conversation of kiddush Hashem, we have to be certain that among the relevant mitzvos that may apply, the correct one is being pursued. That determination depends on various considerations, such as whether a mitzvah can be carried out by someone else. But, to my knowledge, where the mitzvah would measure on the kiddush Hashem scale is not identified as a factor in choosing between mitzvos.

    Whether the correct Mitzvah to choose leads to a kiddush Hashem or not, or whether it leads to shem shamayim misahev, can be evaluated afterwards – an important benchmark in life to keep your eye on but not one to affect the decision to either learn Torah, hear the megilah, bury a meis mitzvah, pursue a cure for cancer or help a neighbor unload his donkey.
    Therefore, it seems perfectly clear to me that the Chazon Ish’s learning was a safe bet as the right choice for him to have pursued EVEN aside from his leadership as an exemplar of Torah. I am not even aware of any mitzvah (in the “official” sense) to research possible medical cures – though I imagine articles have explored the question of whether one exists – but even if there was one, it would have to have been a Mitzvah she-E efshar layasos al y’dai acherim to tear the Chazon Ish away from his learning – something which would have been impossible to prove.
    Bottom line: First be good and do good, then consider the important consideration of how others will be influenced your actions (aside from situations of yehareig v’al yaavor).

  27. Not Brisker Yeshivish says:

    Chardal

    He wasn’t a born genius. His natural intellect alone wouldn’t explain his achievements in Torah, nor would it explain how he obtained proficiency in subjects in which he only studied minimally (with regards to time).

    Why did he repeat that mishnah over and over again for a long time…

    One cam make the argument that he would’ve been a great doctor based on his diligence and perseverance. But to be at the top of the medical field- discover a cure for the machlach- genius is required.

  28. Phil says:

    Einstein was once compared to another rabbi, not the Chazon Ish this time, but to Rav Chaim Brisker:

    “R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, abraham’s Journey, pp. 120-121:

    In Berlin, I spoke with Yaakov Gromer, an associate of Albert Einstein. He was also once a talmid of my grandfather, Rav Hayyim Brisker. But he left Brisk and went on to become a great mathematician. He was not observant, but many a time you used to find him with a Gemara. He had an excellent head and could “learn.” He told me, “When I left Brisk, I found many faults with Rav Hayyim, but when I came to Berlin I realized that Rav Hayyim was a saint. They told me Einstein was considered a moral person, and he was indeed a moral person. But Rav Hayyim had more kindness” — he used the word hesed — “in his little finger than Einstein had in all his heart and brain.” One cannot understand the beauty of Judaism without encountering people of another culture. That is why Abraham had to go to Egypt — to see what Egypt was. It was fascinating at that time, and very attractive. Perhaps Abraham sometimes wondered whether life wasn’t better in this wonderful, powerful, respected, rich state. Nevertheless, he came out of Egypt not only retaining his identity, but also spiritually more powerful. He grew to great heights. Adversity and opposition made him appreciate his own worldview all the more. But Lot succumbed.”
    (Thanks GS for the tip.)

  29. Doron Beckerman says:

    “So your understanding is that Mordechai should have gone back to learning and let HKB”H worry about the Jews.”

    Of course not. He realized he was in a unique position to deal with it amd he had to. He had no choice. But he would have accomplished more by Torah study. (You think I have an easy time with this? I don’t. The Chofetz Chaim said that we certainly would not say such a thing on our own, and Rav Avigdor Miller said he had a hard time wrapping his mind around it, and asked his Rebbe about it. [The Rebbe told him that in the Gan Eden for saving lives Mordechai is at the head, but in the Gan Eden for Torah learners, which is a “bigger” Gan Eden, he isn’t.] But that’s what Chazal tell us, even though people don’t like it or oppose it (Rabbi Miller said that too).

    See Turei Zahav Yoreh Deah 251: 7

    “If so, why does any Rav become a manhig(temporal leader)-why doesn’t he just sit and learn 24/7?”

    Either he is not learning 24/7 anyhow, or maybe he consulted with his Rebbe who told him that that is what Hashem wants from him based on his unique talents, or he realized on his own that nobody else could do it, or it was thrust upon him.

  30. Chardal says:

    >I don’t agree with either part of the statement. Torah study is not an end unto itself – Yiras Shamayim is

    That is the mussar approach – but would R’ Chaim Voloziner agree? In Nefesh HaChaim in his discussion of Torah LiShma he seems to disagree with such an approach. I would also argue that R’ Chaim Brisker would disagree with such an approach.

  31. mb says:

    The Chazon Ish had Semicha? I think not.

  32. Ezra Schwartz says:

    Yehoshua–

    There are many suggestions found in Poskim to when and under what circumstances a non-Jew may study torah. Some assume that it is forbidden to teach Torah to non-Jews; there is no prohibition if they choose to learn on their own. See Seredei Aish volume two for a nice discussion of many heteirim that have been suggested.

    EYS

  33. Naftali Zvi says:

    When Ramabam introduces the concept of Chillul Hashem in Yesodei Torah 5:10, he defines it as one who knowingly and brazenly transgresses any mitzva in the Torah. Thus, anybody who is mechalel shabbos and eats forbidden foods and knows that Judaism demands differently (which is the case by most Jews) is perpetually creating a chillul Hashem.

    This being the case, I find it hard to conceive of how Sandy Koufax who had no trouble pitching on any given Shabbos can be credited with any kind of Kiddush Hashem. I suppose, since Rambam concludes that Halacha that one who is poresh from an aveira for no purpose other than Yiras Shamayim has performed a Kiddush Hashem, then it seems like this fits the bill. But all Koufax taught us was his “reverence” of Yom Kipper is all the Judaism that is worth standing up for and that he has no Yiras Shamyim for any other aspect of Yiddishkeit. I am not so sure about that.

    Along the same lines – just because a successful scientist happens to be Jewish and his Judaism has no connection to his achievements, I fail to see the Kiddush Hashem. Many Nobel prize winners are Xtian – is that automatically a “Kiddush” of Oso HaIsh?

    Put it this way – if a Jewish doctor cures cancer and accepts his Nobel prize on Shabbos (or Yom Kipper) would that be a Kiddush Hashem or Chillul Hashem?

    Don’t ask the Rambam.

  34. Chardal says:

    >He wasn’t a born genius.

    Part of my point is that anyone who achieved the kind of competancy the CI did by themselves IS a genius.

    >But he would have accomplished more by Torah study

    You are treating that ma’amar chazal as if its normative halacha. It is a davar aggada that would be understood in many different ways depending on a person’s a priori hashkafa. There is certainly no heter to respond to sakanat nefashot with Torah study in place of actual direct action – at least not from any responsible Rav that I know. So in the end, we are left with an aggadic statement that has no normative halachic impact and to which everyone will attribute their own metaphysical understanding.

  35. Doron Beckerman says:

    “really, might that be an anachronism? Perhaps, read biblical texts and reread and served scholars to learn their modes of behavior.”

    Rashi doesn’t learn in that way, he learns it as I stated. AFAIK, nobody does.

    “and when i said torah study might be an end in itself, i was refering to torah study as a form of service to God, much like prayer. It is done to be close to God not necessarily to fear Him.”

    So call it Kirvas Elokim, so be it. Yiras Shamayim means, above all, awareness, not necessarily fear.

    “And your GRA story proves exactly the opposite – had he studied medicine he would have had to heal people versus learn!”

    Only if the opportunity arose to heal people and nobody else could have done it. And his father didn’t let him!

    “and quoting mamarei chazal that are against halakha, requires that you think harder on what was intended.”

    On the contrary, it is 100% in line with the Halachah. Your statement of “So if you are seen as learned/observant and your choice is more good deeds or more learning, and your desire is to increase the level of kiddush hashem, you choose more deeds…Learning may be an end unto itself, but never more than doing good” is against Halachah. The Halachah is very clear that for a Mitzvah that can be done by others one does not stop learning, desire to accomplish Kiddush Hashem notwithstanding, and “never more than doing good” is also completely against clear Halachic guidelines (Rambam Talmud Torah 3:3,4; Tur YD 246). It isn’t a Hashkafic question at all.

    (Even a Mitzvah that cannot be done by others, if doing it will have a permanent deleterious effect on his learning, he doesn’t do it, like P’ru Urevu.)

    “what may have been meant is that by teaching one is affecting many lives.”

    Nobody says that. In the same Gemara, we learn that גדול תלמוד תורה מבנין בית המקדש, which is why Ezra did not leave Baruch ben Neria – he was Baruch’s student.

    “the halakha is clear – you are mevatail torah to save even chayeh shaah.”

    Only when it can’t be done by others. And even when you have to stop – it is a bigger Zechus to learn Torah than to save lives. See the Turei Zahav above.

    “but would R’ Chaim Voloziner agree? In Nefesh HaChaim in his discussion of Torah LiShma he seems to disagree with such an approach.”

    He disagrees with setting up one’s learning having in mind only to reach Yiras Shamayim. You have to fill yourself up with Torah in all of its facets, for its own sake, or the Yirah is nothing but a shell. But, ultimately, the entirety of the endeavor is G-d focused. In Ruach Chaim he calls Torah Lishmah “Torah l’shem Shamayim”. So, in a sense Dr. Bill is right that it is an end vis-a-vis other Mitzvos, including Yirah, but I was thinking more in terms of the end of it all.

  36. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Ezra,
    I know about the heteirim. I just don’t think that even with stringing all the heteirim together a person could reach the world-class level of Torah knowledge and wisdom. If such a unique person should arise, he would certainly see his destiny as part of the Jewish people and convert.

  37. Garnel Ironheart says:

    My medical friend told me that he was absolutely astounded by the Chazon Ish’s mastery of anatomy as evidenced in his sefer and speculated what was the source of the Chazon Ish’s knowledge. Clearly he did not have a copy of Gray‘s Anatomy under his pillow. … Whatever the case, and it doesn‘t really matter which is the truth, many people will agree that the Chazon Ish was one of the outstanding minds of the past century.

    On the contrary, it certainly does matter. Another blog recently unearthed a statement by a currently living Gadol who apparently believes that non-Jews have 33 teeth while Jews only have 32 because he found a midrash that says so! If I am going to look at a psak in medical halacha, I first want to be sure that the posek had an understanding of the science he is writing about. Otherwise, how can I properly apply it?

    > When the Talmud tells us ein ha-olam mitkayem ella al hevel pihem shel tinokot shel beit rabban

    It also rests on Torah, Avodah and Gemillus Chasadim, and Din, Shalom and Emez.

  38. Shades of Gray says:

    “Einstein was once compared to another rabbi, not the Chazon Ish this time, but to Rav Chaim Brisker”

    A similar story is related in Jonathan Rosenblum’s “R. Yaakov” biograpahy(Artscroll, chapter of “R. Yaakov in His Younger Years”), quoting a former student of R. Chaim who went on to work with Einstein on the Theory of Relativity.

    This person came to visit Slabodka, and students asked him to compare both of his eminent teachers. He said, as I recall, that R. Chaim was a better teacher and could explain things better, but Einstein a greater genius.

    R Yaakov, however, argued that the student only studied under R. Chaim in his youth, and could not appreciate his wisdom. The story concludes that the mathematician was impressed with R. Yaakov’s quick wit(as well as his command of physics).

  39. Mair Tzvi says:

    This discussion demonstrates the dangers of responding to hypothetical questions. It is extremely unlikely that anyone will discover THE “cure for cancer” for the simple reason that cancer is not one disease. Cancer of the lung is a totally different disease than cancer of the colon, for example. While it is certainly theoretically possible to postulate that there is a single unifying basic cause of “cancer”, it is not the way current cancer research is being conducted.

  40. Chardal says:

    >He disagrees with setting up one’s learning having in mind only to reach Yiras Shamayim. You have to fill yourself up with Torah in all of its facets, for its own sake, or the Yirah is nothing but a shell.

    Only he does not say this. He is pretty clear that there are two motivations for Torah learning. First, the effect it has on the higher worlds and second, to understand the sugya you are learning (which he defines as Torah liShma. He is also very clear that the preferable normative motivation is the second and the first should only be a far afterthought (this is of course in contra-distinction to the chassidic view as articulated in the Tanya where dveikut and affecting the higher worlds is the primary purpose of Torah study).

    In fact, I would assume that R’ Chaim Voloziner would go in the footsteps of the Gra who saw ir’at shamaim as a pre-requisite to proper Torah learning. He would probably invoke the mishna in avot:

    רבי חנניה בן דוסא אומר, כל שיראת חטאו קודמת לחכמתו, חכמתו מתקיימת; וכל שחכמתו קודמת ליראת חטאו, אין חכמתו מתקיימת.

    Awe is a prerequisite and not a result of learning. We all know of many scholars who could have wiped the floor with any of us in Torah knowledge but who would not be called paragons of piety.

    Now regarding your halachic assertions above that someone who is faced with an opportunity to save lives vs. learning Torah should prefer to continue learning. I am a bit asstounded that you consider this to be normative psak (although I am sure you will find plenty of sources to support it). As a matter of practicality, I would consider someone who is faced with such a “dilemma” and who then proceeds to check whether anyone else can take care of the sakkanat nefashos so that he can go back to the Gemara to be in violation of רבי חנניה בן דוסא’s warning.

  41. Doron Beckerman says:

    “You are treating that ma’amar chazal as if its normative halacha.”

    It is. See the Turei Zahav I quoted above – just like Ezra did not leave Bavel in order to build the Beis Hamikdash because someone else (Zerubavel) was taking care of it, and therefore learning Torah took precedence in practice , so too any Hatzalas Nefashos that can be done by anyone else should not be done by people learning, and if you are in the unfortunate circumstance of having to save a life instead of learn Torah, you have lost out! That’s what the Taz says, that’s what the Chofetz Chaim says (Toras Habayis Chapter 5 – “the one who learns has accomplished more”), that’s why the GRA’s father didn’t let him study medicine (because he would have been in the unfortunate position of having to stop learning to save lives!) (And, again, do I find this easy? Not at all! But that’s what Chazal say and noone disagrees with this. So it’s true no matter how much people don’t like it or oppose it)

    “It is a davar aggada that would be understood in many different ways depending on a person’s a priori hashkafa.”

    It is NOT a Hashkafic question, just as Ezra *practically* did not leave Baruch to build the Beis Hamikdash. The Maharshal (in that Taz) uses THAT statement to question the Psak of the Shulchan Aruch (The Maharshal thought that money allocated for Torah study should not be reallocated to save lives!) The Taz tempers the statement as above, but it remains 100% Halachic. Someone who would stop his learning to save a life when someone else is available would be making the wrong choice! (See Perishah 251:(13), Sefer Chassidim 1005)

    “There is certainly no heter to respond to sakanat nefashot with Torah study in place of actual direct action – at least not from any responsible Rav that I know.”

    That’s not the Halachic import of the statement.

    “So in the end, we are left with an aggadic statement that has no normative halachic impact and to which everyone will attribute their own metaphysical understanding.”

    This is just false. It absolutely does have Halachic impact and nobody has the right to attribute their own understanding of it and reduce it to a non-binding piece of Gemara without reference to the Halachic literature that applies it L’halachah. Those who do so run the risk of being Megaleh Panim BaTorah.

    Anyhow, I’ve stated my case.

  42. Chardal says:

    I would also like to add that the normative halachic statement regarding hatzalat nefashot is NOT Megilla 16b but rather Ketubot 19a:

    אין לך דבר שעומד בפני פיקוח נפש אלא עבודה זרה וגלוי עריות ושפיכות דמים בלבד

    This is the clear halachic normative statement that is most commonly applied. The Aggada in megilla can be easily understood as talking about schar mitzva or another such construct as opposed to discussing a normative chiuv.

  43. dr. bill says:

    Doron Beckerman, in terms of issues, the halakha is clear – the most qualified responds whether he be studying torah or trading securities. In terms of approach, we differ on two fundamentals – 1) the world of a Torah aristocracy versus the world for the rest of us, and 2) the world of Torah as described by, for example, R. Chaim Volozhiner and the Rav in modern times versus a world as described in talmudic times. I assume you see both 1) and 2) as (much) more similar than I do. I maintain you are reading talmudic texts addressing a life to which we should all aspire, with more modern conceptulizations of the life of yechidai segulah. The pratical consequence is probably different views of the world we view as ideal for jewish society in general.

  44. Elliot Pasik says:

    It was Albert Sabin, not Edward Sabin.

  45. Elliot Pasik says:

    Koufax refused to pitch on Yom Kippur in the 1965 World Series, not 1962. The San Francisco Giants played the NY Yankees in the 1962 Series. The LA Dodgers played the Minnesota Twins in 1965.

  46. Eliyahu says:

    Regarding the gemara in Megilla. The Ben Ish Chai gives a different pshat than the Taz. He says that Mordechai lost out by staying on as prime minister after Klal Yisrael was saved and talmud torah is only greater than sofek hatzalos nefoshos. Similarly, chovos halevovos says that the biggest zchus a person can have is to be mezakeh the rabim. One could argue that mordechai saving klal yisrael and inspiring their teshuva (kimu v’kiblu) is therefore a bigger zchus than continuing to learn in the beis medrash.

  47. Chardal says:

    >It is NOT a Hashkafic question, just as Ezra *practically* did not leave Baruch to build the Beis Hamikdash.

    Asserting this does not make it so. You are adducing as “proof” than an aggada is halachic … part of the same aggada. This is not in the major codes – and it is a bit silly to adduce it as an halachic argument. (besides, building the beit haMikdash is not the command of an individual but of the klal, it applies only after you go into eretz Yisrael and not before, and a dozen other halachic points can be made why this aggada is more likely to be making a point about values and not normative halacha).

    The fact that occationally an achron (such as the taz) invokes an aggadic passage to make a normative point in halacha is not proof of anything. The achronim are full of aggadic invocations in their piskei halacha – this does not turn an aggadic source into something it is not. Especially when the answer to such an assertion by an achron is to simply point out that the aggada is missing from any normative halachic code in the rishonim (unless you want to consider sefer hassidim a normative halachic source – which IMO is not a very valid position, it has not traditionaly been invoked as an halachic source and frankly – some of the norms it prescribes are very out there and seem to have very little connection to the gemara)

    > It absolutely does have Halachic impact and nobody has the right to attribute their own understanding of it and reduce it to a non-binding piece of Gemara without reference to the Halachic literature that applies it L’halachah.

    The point is that there is precious little such literature. And the presence of an achron here or there does not halachic literature make. Should we really collect every passage of gemara that has EVER been quoted by an achron in an halachic argument and give it the status of normative halacha? Do we really want to break down the traditional scholarly approach to deviding the gemara to normative and not normative sections – that is a major break with our messorah!

    >Those who do so run the risk of being Megaleh Panim BaTorah.

    Such a statment is just a form of bullying. It is debate scare-tactics. I suggest you stick to real arguments if you want to have a shot of convincing anyone that normative halacha is to ignore sakanas nefashos for the sake of going back to the gemara.

    I will conclude with another non-halachic story. It is said that one time the Alter Rebbe was learning with his son and a baby was crying in the other room. The son was so immeresed in his learning that he did not notice the crying. The Alter Rebbe got up, calmed the baby, and when returning to the learning told his son: ‘Torah study which makes one impervious to the anguished cries of a baby is not true Torah study. Torah study must increase our sensitivity to the suffering of others – not mute it’ – veIdach Zil Gemor.

  48. Doron Beckerman says:

    “He says that Mordechai lost out by staying on as prime minister after Klal Yisrael was saved and talmud torah is only greater than sofek hatzalos nefoshos.”

    He’s saying an even bigger Chiddush than the Taz. He is taking the Gemara practically, and he is saying that even if you think you are in a unique position to save lives, like קרוב למלכות, you shouldn’t if it will take you away from Torah study, unless it is certain that it is a Pikuach Nefesh situation.

    This is a huge chiddush, because the Beis Yosef in Yoreh Deah 178 says (regarding the Hetter to violate B’chukoseihem for krovim lamalchus):

    כיון דמדאורייתא אסירי הנך מילי היאך היה כח ביד חכמים להתיר איסור תורה לקרובי המלכות ויש לומר דמשום הצלת ישראל יש כח בידם להתיר דכשיש ישראל קרובים למלכות עומדים בפרץ לבטל הגזירות

    (The Beis Yosef has another approach that this is specific to בחוקותיהםsince the parameters are not clearly defined in the Torah) but the Beis Yosef has as an acceptable, viable approach להלכה that you can violate איסורים דאורייתא as a קרוב למלכות for the sake of precisely the situation the Ben Ish Chai is talking about, potential Hatzalas Nefashos, yet the BIC is saying you CAN’T interrupt Torah study!

    “Similarly, chovos halevovos says that the biggest zchus a person can have is to be mezakeh the rabim. One could argue that mordechai saving klal yisrael and inspiring their teshuva (kimu v’kiblu) is therefore a bigger zchus than continuing to learn in the beis medrash.”

    I don’t see the similarity, but in any event:

    תנא דבי אליהו זוטא פרק ה

    בכל יום יוצאין מלאכי חבלה מלפני הקב”ה לחבל את כל העולם כולו, ואלמלא בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות שתלמידי חכמים יושבים בהם ועוסקים בדברי תורה היו מחבלים את כל העולם כולו

    נפש החיים שער ד פרק כה
    אם היה ח”ו העולם פנוי לגמרי אפילו רגע אחת ממש מעסק והתבוננות עם סגולה בתורה הקדושה, תיכף כרגע היו כל העולמות נחרבים ונבטלים ממציאות לגמרי ח”ו… ואף גם איש אחד מישראל לבד רב כחו, שבידו להעמיד ולקיים את כל העולמות והבריאה בכללה, על ידי עסקו והתבוננותו בתורה הקדושה לשמה, כמו שאמרו בחלק צט ע”ב כל העוסק בתורה לשמה וכו’ רבי יוחנן אמר אף מגין על כל העולם כולו

    פסחים פז ע”א
    אני חומה ושדי כמגדלות, חומה זו תורה ושדי כמגדלות אלו תלמידי חכמים, וברש”י שמגינים על הדור

    So Torah study is being mezakeh the rabbim, vis-a-vis hatzalas nefashos, besides all the other benefits. The chovos halevavos gives no indication as to how to weigh which zikkui harabim is the greater.

  49. Doron Beckerman says:

    “Only he does not say this.”

    He says it quite clearly.

    שער ד פרק ח

    וכי יעלה כלל על לב האדם כיון שכל קיום ושימור התבואה הוא האוצר, יעסוק כל זמנו או רובו בבנין האוצר לבד, ולא יכניס בו תבואה לעולם, כן איך יעלה על לב איש לומר שזה תכלית האדם מישראל שישים כל קביעת למודו בבנין האוצר של יראת שמים לבד והוא אוצר ריק

    ולא כונו רז”ל במאמרם הנ”ל אין לו להקב”ה וכו’ אלא אוצר של יראת שמים בלבד אלא על אותה היראה שבתוכה מונחים המון תבואות

    “Awe is a prerequisite and not a result of learning.”

    נפש החיים שם פרק ט

    כי התורה הקדושה מעצמה תלבישהו יראת ד’ על פניו, במעט זמן ויגיעה מועטת על זה, כי כך דרכה וסגולתה של התורה הקדושה, כמו שאמרו כל העוסק בתורה לשמה כו’ ומלבשתו ענוה ויראה

    רש”י יומא עב עמוד ב ד”ה ותרעא לדרתיה

    שהתורה אינה אלא שער ליכנס בה ליראת שמים

    (With all due respect, if you’re not going to look it up carefully yourself, at least you could do me the courtesy of asking where my source for an idea is, instead of flatly denying that it exists.)

    “with an opportunity to save lives vs. learning Torah should prefer to continue learning. I am a bit asstounded that you consider this to be normative psak (although I am sure you will find plenty of sources to support it).”

    So why would you be astounded? You’re correct that there are plenty of sources for this – that when it can be done by others, you don’t. Do you have any sources to the contrary?

    “As a matter of practicality, I would consider someone who is faced with such a “dilemma” and who then proceeds to check whether anyone else can take care of the sakkanat nefashos so that he can go back to the Gemara to be in violation of רבי חנניה בן דוסא’s warning.”

    That’s right, if he has to check and he may waste precious time in saving his life. But as an equal matter of practicality, if there are, say, people swimming in camp and people learning in camp, and one of the campers is missing, and you need precisely five volunteers to search for him, so, generally, go to the pool, not the Beis Medrash. And the people in the Beis Medrash, unless time is of essence, or they have some particular expertise or whatnot, should point to the pool. This is 100% normative, in line with the Rambam. Who says differently?

  50. Eliyahu says:

    Dr. Bill, I didn’t understand your last post. Can you please clarify?

  51. Doron Beckerman says:

    Chardal,
    Let me try this one more time. If not for you, for others. If they haven’t lost interest yet.

    Asserting this does not make it so. You are adducing as “proof” than an aggada is halachic … part of the same aggada. This is not in the major codes – and it is a bit silly to adduce it as an halachic argument.

    You’re the one making completely unfounded assertions based on absolutely nothing. What you’re saying is that the Maharshal, the Taz, the Ben Ish Chai, the Sefer Chassidim, the Perishah, Shu”t Lev Chaim II: 248 , etc., etc. are all “a bit silly” adducing this Gemara as a Halachic argument.

    You NEED sources for ANY of these assertions of yours about the strength or weakness of this being normative Halachah. One more time – the Maharshal paskened against the Beis Yosef BASED SOLELY on this “Aggada”.

    The fact that occationally an achron (such as the taz) invokes an aggadic passage to make a normative point in halacha is not proof of anything.

    In your book. This is not the book used by Poskim.

    Especially when the answer to such an assertion by an achron is to simply point out that the aggada is missing from any normative halachic code in the rishonim

    So you’re saying that NONE of the Acharonim give this answer, but since Chardal “simply points it out”, then that’s the answer. But just for informative purposes, you should take a look at the Meiri who ferrets out the practical guidelines from the vast passages of Aggadeta at the end of the first perek in Megillah there – and quotes this Gemara.

    The point is that there is precious little such literature. And the presence of an achron here or there does not halachic literature make.

    In your book. This is not the book the Poskim use. There is no such thing as relegating the Maharshal, the Taz, the Rishon Letzion (by the Ohr Hachayim), etc. to “not Halachic literature make”.

    Should we really collect every passage of gemara that has EVER been quoted by an achron in an halachic argument and give it the status of normative halacha?

    This is completely disingenuous.

    Do we really want to break down the traditional scholarly approach to deviding the gemara to normative and not normative sections – that is a major break with our messorah!

    You’re painting the bullseye around the arrow. You’re assuming it isn’t normative and then saying that it is in the non-normative section.

    Such a statment is just a form of bullying. It is debate scare-tactics.

    Turning what the Poskim consider binding material into non-binding material very much runs the risk of Megaleh Panim BaTorah. This is a very real argument in the sense that it demands that you back up your assertions.

    I suggest you stick to real arguments if you want to have a shot of convincing anyone that normative halacha is to ignore sakanas nefashos for the sake of going back to the gemara.

    Based on your “mesorah” of relegating the Maharshal, the Taz, etc. to “an Acharon here or there” which “isn’t Halachic literature” and waving hands with “simple answers” like “this is just Agada” which NOBODY says, but you’re saying based on NOTHING, I don’t think I have to work very hard at convincing anyone with an open mind on this issue.

    I will conclude with another non-halachic story. It is said that one time the Alter Rebbe was learning with his son and a baby was crying in the other room. The son was so immeresed in his learning that he did not notice the crying. The Alter Rebbe got up, calmed the baby, and when returning to the learning told his son: ‘Torah study which makes one impervious to the anguished cries of a baby is not true Torah study. Torah study must increase our sensitivity to the suffering of others – not mute it’ – veIdach Zil Gemor.

    This is a Halachic story. He was Mechuyav to calm the baby since the baby was his responsibility, and it became a Mitzvah that could not be done by others.

    And speaking of debate tactics, what you’re doing here is saying that all the Acharonim who labor to reconcile the Gemara in Megillah with normative Halachah are mistaken. The real אידך זיל גמור is a story about the Alter Rebbe. This is an attempt at emotionalizing a debate on Halachic merits, which does not serve to clarify the truth.

  52. Doron Beckerman says:

    One more thing I neglected – regarding the Gemara being quoted in the codes, there’s no need for it to be quoted. We already know the rules regarding אפשר and אי אפשר לעשות על ידי אחרים. This is just another application.

  53. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “I would also like to add that the normative halachic statement regarding hatzalat nefashot is NOT Megilla 16b but rather Ketubot 19a” (Comment by Chardal — June 29, 2009 @ 2:38 am).

    Chardal, it’s not quite as simple as that. That statement of the Gemara represents the halachic BASELINE, but the actual halachah can change based on various factors, as in, for example, Sanhedrin 74a-b (which is the source “sugya” of “yaavor v’al yehareg”). That’s why we don’t “pasken” on the basis of a single statement in the Gemara. There is no such thing as a “normative halachic statement” in the Gemara because often a Gemara elsewhere qualifies that statement, and unless we know every single Gemara that even indirectly bears on it, we can’t apply it to a given circumstance. Only after taking everything into account can we establish the halachah “l’maaseh”. That is why we have Rishonim and Acharonim.

    By the way, the Gemara you are looking for is not Kesubos 19a, but Yoma 82a and Pesachim 25a-b. Those Gemaras refer to someone who suffers from a life-threatening illness; the Gemara in Kesubos (and Sanhedrin) is referring to someone whom others threatened with death if he does not sin. Although the basic halachah in both cases is that we transgress anything but ג’ עבירות חמורות, the two cases are not always comparable: see, for example, the Minchas Chinuch to mitzvah 296 who distinguishes between them with regard to a non-Jew in a life-threatening situation, and compare the Rambam in Hil. Yesodei HaTorah 5:4 with what he writes in 5:6 regarding someone in such a situation who does transgress one of the ג’ עבירות).

  54. Chaim Wolfson says:

    As an aside, re: the Gra and his father, there is a letter printed in “Karyana D’Iggarta” in which the Steipler advises someone not to become a practicing doctor because it would take away too much time from his learning. The Steipler writes that he is certain that the person would be a highly succusful doctor because he is so intelligent, and he would be so besieged with patients that he would have no time to learn! [I’m pretty sure the letter was written to Dr. Abraham Twerski, who consulted with the Steipler regularly and probably has more letters printed in “Karyana” than anyone else.] I’m not saying that case is comparable to Rabbi Landesman’s theoretical case with the Chazon Ish, but it is interesting.

  55. Chardal says:

    >נפש החיים שם פרק ט

    כי התורה הקדושה מעצמה תלבישהו יראת ד’ על פניו, במעט זמן ויגיעה מועטת על זה, כי כך דרכה וסגולתה של התורה הקדושה, כמו שאמרו כל העוסק בתורה לשמה כו’ ומלבשתו ענוה ויראה

    I have never in my life seen such a misrepresentation of R’ Chaim Voloziner’s shita. Yes. He says that one of the potential results of Torah study is increased yira’a but to imply from this that he somehow holds the the motivation for learning Torah should be to increase our yiraa is absurd! R’ Chaim spends two chapters explaining how yira’a is a prerequisite to proper learning of Torah and should be achieved through hitbonenus PRIOR to the learning of Torah (Shaar 4:4-5)

    and he speaks directly against your shita in chapter 8: איך יעלה על לב איש לומר שזה תכלית האדם מישראל, שישים כל קביעת למודו בבנין האוצר של יראת שמים לבד, והוא אוצר ריק, ולא עלתה בידו מכל עמלו רק מצוה אחת של “ה’ אלהיך תירא” וגם אין עליה שם אוצר כלל

    Further, in the entire shaar R’ Chaim makes clear that he sees yira’a as something aquired PRIMARILY through introspection and the learning of ethical tracts. The proper MOTIVATION for mainstream learning (not of mussar books) according to R’ Chaim is as he says in several places (chapter 3 of shaar 4 for one):

    אבל האמת כי ענין לשמה פרוש, לשם התורה … כגון לידע ולהבין, ולהוסיף לקח ופלפול.

    As for the rest of your long comments. I still stand where I did before – a section of germara is aggada based on its style and substance and (maybe maybe) based on whether the major rishonim treated it as such in their HALACHIC codes – not based on whether or not it is invoked in an halachic manner 1000 years later. For example, the fact that R’ Moshe quotes the ibn Ezra in a teshuva does not make it the ibn Ezra an halachic work.

    The Ohr HaChaim that you quote above as treating the gemara in meggila as an halachic text is IMO doing nothing of the sort. In fact, it seems like his whole kashya on the taz is “even if your interpertation is right and the zechut of learning Torah is greater than hatzalat nefashot, how do you get from there to a normative chiuv of prefering learning Torah over hatzalat nefashot leMa’seh. He rejects that we learn chiuv from zechut. Although he does not say so explicitly, it seems that he is saying that an aggada that teaches you about zechut does not teach you about a normative chiuv.

  56. Chardal says:

    >This is a Halachic story. He was Mechuyav to calm the baby since the baby was his responsibility, and it became a Mitzvah that could not be done by others

    This is NOT how or why the story is ever told. It is told to instill a value (which is popular in chabbad and some other chassidic groups) that Talmud Torah that causes you to lose your sensitivity to the suffering and needs of others is pagum at its core. This is the clear message of the story as the chassidim who passed it down have always understood it. Al Achat Kama veKama, the message regarding a person who thinks that someone should ignore the needs of a person whose life is in danger for the sake of talmud Torah. Never mind that I can think of no real world scenario where this would be acceptable ethically.

    The normative approach is: if someone needs your help to save their life – you help and all the rest of the cheshbonos can wait. someone who loses such an instinct due to his Torah learning is doing something wrong. At least according to this story.

  57. dr. bill says:

    50.Dr. Bill, I didn’t understand your last post. Can you please clarify?

    Comment by Eliyahu — July 1, 2009 @ 5:50 am

    In short, the role, purpose, benefits, value etc. of learning as a part of or as the center of one’s religious experience and differences, if any, based on whom one is addressing is an important area hashkafically, halakhically, philosophically, historically, etc. where the spectrum of opinions and factual disagreements are broad.

  58. Doron Beckerman says:

    “He says that one of the potential results of Torah study is increased yira’a”

    Thank you. I am glad to see that you retract your incorrect statement that “Awe is a prerequisite and not a result of learning.” It is both.

    Now, if you’ll pay attention to what I wrote, I said: “He disagrees with setting up one’s learning having in mind only to reach Yiras Shamayim. [READ – MOTIVATION] You have to fill yourself up with Torah in all of its facets, for its own sake, or the Yirah is nothing but a shell”

    You actually quote the section where he says exactly that.

    The debate on saving lives – let’s skip all the dancing around clear statements from Amudei Horaah, and make it simple. Forget about the Gemara in Megillah for now. Show me a source that says that the Halachah of מצוה שאפשר לעשות על ידי אחרים one does not interrupt learning for (which I assume you agree is normative – Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 246:18 ) has exceptions of הצלת נפשות and all areas of חסד. And by your own rules, you’re limited to Rishonim quoting counter Gemaros that are clearly normative in rejecting the application to הצלת נפשות and גמילות חסדים. (Good luck – it is against the Yerushalmi Pesachim 3:7.)

    In terms of practical application – think blood drive, for example.

    We aren’t talking about losing sensitivities. Of course that’s wrong.

  59. Doron Beckerman says:

    Upon further reflection regarding the Nefesh Hachaim, I see where the miscommunication is happening. I think we’ll agree that:
    a) Torah detached from Yiras Shamayim is worthless
    b) Yiras Shamayim is both a prerequisite and a result of learning,
    c) When studying Torah one’s cognitive thought should not be on Dveikus or acquiring Yirah, but on acquiring Torah. This is what he is talking about in the beginning of Shaar Dalet
    d) The ultimate purpose of this acquisition of Torah is part of the broader context of the purpose of Avodas Hashem (which is what I really meant to say, but used Yiras Shamayim broadly). That is what I meant by “G-d oriented”.

  60. Doron Beckerman says:

    See the commentary of the Vilna Gaon to Mishlei 10:9 –

    תחילת חכמה יראת ד’ כלומר התחלת החכמה הוא היראה, וכמו שאמרו אם אין יראה אין חכמה ואם אין חכמה אין יראה והקשו איזה מהם קודם? והענין כי במחשבה הוא התכלית תחילה ואחר כך החכמה היאך לעשות,
    והיראה הוא התכלית ולכן במחשבה הוא היראה תחילה ואם אין יראה אין חכמה, ובמעשה הוא חכמה תחילה, וזהו אם אין חכמה אין יראה

    וזהו שאמר כאן תכלית חכמה – פירוש, במחשבה התחלת ותכלית החכמה היא היראה

    Rav Wolbe (Alei Shur II, page 495) explains:

    נמצינו למדים בזה כי תכלית הכל היא היראה, ולמעשה צריכים להתחיל בחכמה. אולם יש להבין מזה גם כאשר ניגשים לעסק החכמה, צריכה המחשבה להיות להגיע על ידי זה ליראה

    אמנם התכלית היא – יראה.

  61. HF says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with 26, (someone else later may have written it as well)
    our tafkid in life is to be an eved HaShem and work on our Yiras Shamayim, that in itself is the ultimate kiddush HaShem
    ie, if someone gets dirt on his shabbos jacket, that can’t get ‘flicked’ off (as per halacha) and can’t change, that dirt is not a chilul HaShem, but the ultimate kiddush HaShem!

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