Torah Law and Torah Values

Technical compliance, but attitudinal disagreement.

As the Open Orthodox movement further develops its theology, it is increasingly evident that the above is a principal credo. One should comply with the letter of the Law, but one is free to disagree with the attitude of the Law, as well as with the attitude of Chazal and primary rabbinic authorities – the transmitters and teachers of the Law.

This Open Orthodox credo has emerged in various writings cited here over the past few years, and it has taken center stage again in some new Open Orthodox writings, two of which were included in this week’s Cross-Currents Weekly Digest.

One such piece, entitled The Gay Child in My Daughter’s First Grade Class, written by an Open Orthodox leader in Canada, argues that teachers in yeshiva day schools should not teach that boys marry girls and vice versa, as it offends the realities of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. The Torah’s moral position on the topic is completely absent from this essay, as if our main concern should be to show respect for homosexuality, while we block out the fact that the Torah just so happens to have some choice words and value points about homosexual unions.

Of course, those with same-sex attraction should be shown understanding and sensitivity, but the problem here is teaching new norms and formulating a novel morality that is not in sync with the Torah, while the Torah’s position is granted faint acknowledgment, to be technically followed in a strictly halachic sense while rejecting its thrust and message.

The writer of this essay, as did other, more senior Open Orthodox leaders, links readers to a video entitled An Orthodox LGBTQ+ Wish List, which she says inspired her. Viewers will note that the video includes aspirations and even demands by homosexuals that their unions be accepted by Orthodoxy. If this does not contradict the Torah, I do not know what does. Yet, Open Orthodoxy extolls it.

Another new Open Orthodox article, Women of the Tent: The Power of Women’s Prayer Spaces, argues with the interpretations of Rishonim (who were actually invoking the words of Chazal) in praising the modesty and halachic meticulousness of righteous women, rather than showcasing these women as center stage personalities:

Rashi comments on the fact that Sarah is nowhere to be found when guests arrive in Genesis 18:2, and explains that Sarah was in her tent because she is modest. Here we see a gendered look at the function of her tent, closed and private, as opposed to Abraham’s which couldn’t be more inviting. Respectively, I think that Rashi’s perspective does not jibe well with the text. When the guests enter Abraham’s tent, they are expecting Sarah. They are confused as to why she isn’t there. They ask for her by name. The lesson to be learned shouldn’t be that Sarah was modest… Another famous story of a woman with a tent is Yael. She famously welcomes Sisera into her tent and puts him into a fairly deep sleep with warm milk. Soon after, she thrusts one of the tent pegs into Sisera’s forehead, killing the leader of the opposition in the battle led by Deborah. While this could serve as an example of a woman who was resourceful and served as a brave and bold soldier, instead, commentaries praise Yael for using a tent peg instead of a sword. They explain that Yael was careful as to not violate the prohibition, “A man’s item shall not be on a woman…” (Deuteronomy 22:5). Here are two biblical examples of women leaders whose strong personalities are subdued by rabbis’ interpretation. 

Again, the words and values of Chazal and primary rabbinic authorities are rejected.

Another Open Orthodox leader recently posted about his great discomfort reciting aloud the beracha of She’lo asani isha, which he feels is a terrible offense to women. Unlike some of his Open Orthodox colleagues who omit this beracha, this Open Orthodox scholar, committed to halachic requirements, recites it, but he clearly disagrees with the beracha as he understands it.

This bifurcation of Torah law and Torah values, or Torah morality, is one of the touchstones of Open Orthodoxy. Although it has not yet been fully explored and highlighted, it should be.

Here are some pertinent words from Rav Soloveitchik zt”l about the topic:

One cannot divide the Aseres Ha-Dibros (Ten Commandments) into parts, and separate the social norms from the so-called theological or ritual norms… Either man accepts the authority of God as the legislator of the moral norm, be it individual or social, or he gives up his attempts to mold a moral conscience and to organize a society upon the foundation of a man-made relativistic morality…

Just as one may neither separate the social norm from the theological faith premise… similarly one should not try to accept the theological faith premise without embracing the rest of the Commandments. What Yahadus (Judaism) has proclaimed, by integrating the principle of faith into the system of the moral law, is of a revolutionary character.   

In a 1968 address to RIETS Rabbinic Alumni (published here), noting that the Torah records that the Avos (Patriarchs) erected mizbechos (altars) but usually omits mention of sacrifice thereon, the Rav explained:

Apparently, the mizbe’ach of the Avos was not for the purpose of offering a live sacrifice. The mizbe’ach symbolized submission, their own surrender. Because the highest sacrifice is not when you offer an animal. It’s very easy when you offer an animal. The highest sacrifice is when man offers himself.

What do I mean “offers himself”? The Torah hated, condemned, human sacrifices… It’s one of the most reprehensible abominations. Yes, physical human sacrifice was rejected, but spiritual human sacrifice – submission and surrender, acceptance of God’s will, to abide by His will even if His will sometimes runs contrary to our aspirations, His will sometimes makes no sense to us – [that was valued and required]. We can’t understand it, it’s incomprehensible. We are full with questions, we can point out so many contradictions. [But] if we surrender and submit ourselves, actually this is the highest.

And that’s what Avrohom taught himself, and he taught others. This means “vayiven sham mizbe’ach” (“he erected an altar there”) actually. Whom did he sacrifice? His own independence, his own pride, his own comfort, his own desires, his own logic, his own reasons. He believed. If one believes, it is an act of surrender, sacrifice…


Even those who admit the truthfulness of the Torah Shebe’al Peh (the Oral Law) but who are critical of Chachmei Chazal (the Talmudic Sages) as personalities, who find fault with Chachmei Chazal, fault in their character, their behavior, or their conduct, who say that Chachmei Chazal were prejudiced, which actually has no impact upon the Halacha; nevertheless, he is to be considered as a kofer (denier).

Clearly, accepting the Torah’s and Chazal’s values and morality are incumbent. One cannot be Orthodox in deed but reject the values and morality of the Torah and Chazal in attitude. This is at the crux of the Open Orthodox conundrum.   

Authentic Judaism is not only an expression of commitment to the letter of the Law, but also to the spirit of the Law, and to the attitudes of the Law’s authorities. The latter two of these critical components have set Open Orthodoxy apart from normative Orthodoxy, as Open Orthodoxy has tried its best to replace many traditional Torah attitudes with contemporary secular values and mores.

(It of course must be noted as well that several Open Orthodox seminary students have forthrightly denied even the first component – fidelity to the letter of the Law – and their ordinations were nonetheless kept on track. One such ordainee wrote a book that rejects the halachic concept of Kiddushin (marriage). And a young man who is scheduled to be ordained soon has written that the prohibition of homosexual relations should be rescinded.)

Authentic Judaism at times boldly confronts and always teaches society. The Torah is not afraid to speak out, even when contemporary
 values, including egalitarianism, do not comport therewith. Judaism
 has always been about going against the grain and taking a stand for the
 Torah’s values in the face of societal opposition. This is the story of
 Avrohom Avinu, and it is the narrative of our people. It is and has always been the
 key and mandate for the survival of our faith and our nation.

This unswerving fidelity to the traditional Word of God and Values of God are in fact expressed by Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l in the attached letter about the legacy of Rav Soloveitchik. The letter expressed Rav Lichtenstein’s opposition on the matter to the positions of Edah, the organization that is roughly considered to be the forerunner to Open Orthodoxy. Please read the letter and share it.

As I have written on many prior occasions, I do not relish the writing of these articles. In fact, I pen these articles with great dislike and severe discomfort, as I am not a confrontational person. I typically do everything possible and then some to avoid conflict, and I would prefer to use my time on almost anything else. Yet, there is a need to speak out when the integrity of Torah is at stake, and there are many who are unaware of the issues and problems.

May there be no need for any more such articles, and may Orthodoxy, in its many beautiful and varied authentic manifestations, be preserved and perpetuated according to the values of our Mesorah.

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112 Responses

  1. Steve brizel says:

    Once again Rabbi gordimer explains the radical nature of OO and its advocates in a clear manner without rancor or apologies

  2. Larry says:

    I do not see the difference in methodology between the OO interpretations of Chumash and the interpretations of those who subscribe to Tanach Bgovah Einayim.  Each reinvents as they see fit.  Neither is faithful to chazal.

    There are plenty of MO Yeshivot and high schools that teach TBE.   There are yeshiva trained orthodox rabbis who write far more problematic commentaries on Chumash than anything that comes out of OO Maharats who have the equivalent of a high school GED in bible studies.

    It would be far more valuable to take a stand against commentators that reject chazal, regardless of their religiosity.

    • c chaim says:

      can you give examples of yeshiva-trained rabbis who have written such interpretations?

    • mycroft says:

      Rabbi Jeremy Wieder once gave a shiur on YU Torah explaining the rationale as to how people can explain things differently than most Chazal. For starters the Rambam and Saadiah Gaon did not believe there ever was a talikng donkey to Bilaam-it was a dream.  Their  explanation goes against Chazal. Thus, for example the ideas of R S Spero who for decades among others about the literacy of Bareshet stories is within acceptable parshanut. R Wieder then pointed out the obvious one couldn’t do that to the essential theme of Shemot of Matan Torah, Yiziat Mitzraim because if they never happened there is nothing left.

      Many medieval classical meforshim used their own svara to interpret psukim in a pshat way different than Chazal. Of course, I personally doubt the enterprise for HS students first some humility and learn what our classic meforshim stated eg mikras gdolot.

      • larry says:

        You are entirely correct.  Though, anyone who opened a mikraot gedolot is aware that the Rishonim disagree on pshat in Chumash.  Two weeks ago when someone on this site mistakenly wrote that the Moreh is not a source for pshat, I replied with a  list of several Rambans on Chumasah where Ramban argues pshat against the Moreh, including the parshanut you cite. That is basic and obvious.

        What is being taught at certain places is new interpretations that have zero basis in midrash and rishonim.  These Rabbanim are making up a new pshat that can be shoehorned into the text but has no mesorah.  Their approach has three major flaws.  First, we do not believe that chazal and rishonim had the wrong pshat.  Second, these Rabbis treat the personalities in Tanach without the reverence they deserve.  Third they reach conclusions that are very close to if not actually biblical criticism.  In these ways, the interpretations of the Tanach B’Govah Einayim schools differs little from the interpretations of OO.  However, the Rabbanim of TBE are Orthodox yeshiva trained Rabbis with yirat shamayim and mesirut nefesh for clal Yisrael.  The overwhelming majority of Rabbanim in Israel are against or banned the TBE approach.  It is a major schism between certain parts of the Daati Leumi  who support and Chareidi Leimu who reject this school.

      • mycroft says:

        “What is being taught at certain places is new interpretations that have zero basis in midrash and rishonim.  These Rabbanim are making up a new pshat that can be shoehorned into the text but has no mesorah. ”

        There is no theoretical reason why one can’t give a pshat that has no basis in midrash and rishonim.Absent a mesorah misinai which by definition couldn’t exist for Neviim and Ktuvim what is the problem? I have written that humility should make this rare and not appropriate IMO for HS students-first learn standard mikraos gdolot. However, I see nothing theoretically wrong in giving a nach pshat different than rishonim.

        “Their approach has three major flaws.  First, we do not believe that chazal and rishonim had the wrong pshat.”

        Source-absent a mesorah on halacha-see eg Rashbam very liberal on parshanut very traditional on halacha.

        “Second, these Rabbis treat the personalities in Tanach without the reverence they deserve.”

        I’m aware of discussion in Shabbos 56-but others take a different viewpoint-treating Nach as accurate in its plain meaning. BTW-there were Chazal who did not take the believe that our heroes are perfect see eg debate on Yoav ben Zruia as a proxy to a debate on David Hamelech.

        “Third they reach conclusions that are very close to if not actually biblical criticism.  In these ways, the interpretations of the Tanach B’Govah Einayim schools differs little from the interpretations of OO.”

        The fact that somrthing comes from OO doesn’t automatically make it false.

        ” However, the Rabbanim of TBE are Orthodox yeshiva trained Rabbis with yirat shamayim and mesirut nefesh for clal Yisrael. ”

        So why are you  deciding appropriateness or not of actions done by “Orthodox yeshiva trained Rabbis with yirat shamayim and mesirut nefesh for clal Yisrael. ”

        “The overwhelming majority of Rabbanim in Israel are against or banned the TBE approach. ”

        Parshanut does not require agreement-halacha eg day of Rosh Chodesh does.

        “It is a major schism between certain parts of the Daati Leumi  who support and Chareidi Leimu who reject this school.”

        So the schism is not only between OO and Chareidi it is between Chareidi and Dati.

      • larry says:

        I do not think we have the right to create new pshats, beacuse they are likely to be wrong and lead to misunderstanding.  I think we need to treat personalities in Nach with great reverence as per the introduction to Igros Moshe volume 8.  I believe that the approach to learning Pshat is critical to building yirat shamayim.

        I do not need a source that the Chazal and Rishonim have a better understanding of pshat than contemporary scholars.

        I am not deciding the appropriateness of anything for anyone other than me.  But enough Rabbis have told me personally and written publicly that Tanch BeGovah HaEinaym is wrong that I accept their opinion and reflect it on this site.

        Your conclusion is correct, there is no difference in my opinion between how an OO Rabbi might teach a text and how that text might be understood at a dati mamlachti school.  My argument is that OO is breaking no new ground in parshanut they are following a path that has many adherents in Israel.  I agree with the majority that says this path is entirely wrong and a danger to developing yirat shamayim.

        Rabbi Gordimer continues to criticize the teachings of OO and says it is not personal.  However, OO is not breaking any new ground.  If Rabbi Gordimer is sincere, and I believe he is, he could join with the multitude of Rabbis in Israel who are critical of this approach to Chumash and not dwell on the individuals.

      • Richard says:

        He’ll never do that because many (most? substantially all?) of the proponents of TBE are associated with and students of RAL. Indeed, the yeshivot that espouse this approach to Tanach are referred to as “yeshivot haGush.” So the points you are making only strengthen OO’s right to approach Tanach the way some of them do, which is not what RAG is trying to do.

      • larry says:


        I agree.  My point is that OO approach to pshat is very similar to the Tanach BeGovah HaEinayim approach.  If one wishes to be impersonal, then one must criticize the approach when anyone uses it, not sectively when one demographic uses it.

        I would add a new point, criticizing glorified facebook posts written by people lacking a proper Torah education trivializes the problem.  I have no worry about what a YCT student thinks or writes.  A Beis Yaacov middle school student know more Torah than them.

        I fear that OO is borrowing from parts of MO.  Whether it is through MO high school principals who overreach their authority or through MO Rabbis whose approach to Tanach is questionable, OO is not growing in a vaccum.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        In many instances, you can find this in Rashi, Ramban and Ibn Ezra BUT they were classical mefarshim using far more than “their own svara”. They were using different reliable mkoros that were transmitted to them. and which in their POV , were important Chiddushim in understanding the Torah.

    • Marty Bluke says:

      There is a fundamental difference between Aggada and Halacha. In Aggadda there is much more leeway to be inventive. Halacha is very different because of the practical implications.

      • mycroft says:

        Essentially agree-It is halacha which we are bound by. We haven’t paskened aggadah, parshanut and hashkafa etc.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        It is not an issue of whether there is a formal psak or not-we perform many mitzvos and minhagim  in away that hearkens to Aggadah, Parshanut and Hashkafa, as opposed to a simple minimalistic performance of a Mitzvah as a means of showing Ahavas HaShem.

        The Musaf of RH in any Orthodox machzor is a restatement of Hashkafa 100 that has been codified via its being accepted as the only acceptable text. So is any Tefilas Musaf and many other Tefilos-such as Aleinu. That says far more than  the absence of a formal Psak Halacha.

    • Steve brizel says:

      The issue is relatively simple. Does the aforementioned derech supplement or supplant the views of the  classical mefarshim and enhance or reduce the moral values in the Torah and nach


      • Richard says:

        How could a pshat-based approach reduce the moral values of the Tanach? What does that mean?

      • mycroft says:

        “The issue is relatively simple. Does the aforementioned derech supplement or supplant the views of the  classical mefarshim”

        AGREED-I can’t see how the “new derech” could be a legitimate one if it in general supplants the views of classical mforshim-there is a legitimate use for that approach but very limited IMO.

  3. Arthur says:

    The essay you linked by the young man who is scheduled to be ordained soon is one of the most senseless, circular and illogical “arguments” I’ve ever read outside of electoral politics.  How about if we apply his discourse like this.

    In olden days, the world didn’t have a proper understanding of the many pleasures of bacon.  People who love bacon and think it’s ok for Jews to eat it must be appointed to be the OU’s senior kashruth poskim — they can form an “equitable matrix” [LOL!] with Rav. Schachter — since that seems to be the expedient way to have bacon declared kosher.

    And why is it kosher?  If you say bacon is traife, fervent bacon-fressers will be unable to experience the same pleasure as people who enjoy kosher food as much as they enjoy bacon.  This, as a categorical matter, deprives them of their of their “full judicial personhood” [really LOL!].  The imperative to make sure everyone enjoys full judicial personhood, although not found in any halachik sources, is nonetheless in and of itself an adequate halachic basis to permit Jews to eat swine, regardless of whatever else Torah may say to the contrary.

    Do I get smicha?

  4. YbhM says:

    This bifurcation of Torah law and Torah values, or Torah morality, is one of the touchstones of Open Orthodoxy. Although it has not yet been fully explored and highlighted, it should be.

    Agree that this needs to be explored … indeed it is the fundamental issue in understanding and properly addressing OO.


    – talking about “values” is itself reflective of the perspective of the  “Frankfort school” and Nietzsche their predecessor (Rabbi Shalom Carmy once pointed this out when someone talked about “yeshiva values”).  One talks of “values” in the context of a distinction between “values” and “facts”.

    – so really what this is about is that OO rejects the Torah’s teaching on basic topics such as homosexuality.  Or rather:  OO rejects the notion that the Torah has a particular “teaching” on homosexuality or on any other topic.  OO claims that since there are different understandings of the Torah’s teaching, any “understanding” is legitimate.  Thus there is nothing for us to learn from the Torah according to OO.

    – we can notice that OO views on feminism, homosexuality, ascetism vs. hedonism etc. almost always coincide with the contemporary zeitgeist.  So OO is really about experiencing the Jewish institutional framework (learning, praying etc.) from the perspective of the contemporary zeitgeist.  What puzzles me is why people want to do this  ie. if you are of the zeitgeist, why wouldn’t you go with the zeitgeist?   To put it differently:  why study something if I assume that there is nothing in it that I don’t know already?

    • Doc P says:

      It’s as old as time. A person wants to fulfil his personal desires yet rationalize it with the belief system he knows (deep down) to be true. In ancient time it manifested itself as idol worship, an attempt to meld physical passion with “holiness”. Now we have a new kind of avodah zaroh, albeit it’s a little more cerebral.

  5. Bob Miller says:

    For a practice to be technically in compliance with Torah, all Torah requirements germane to it have to be met, not just the obvious ones.   I doubt OO practice consistently rises even to this level, even among the OO intelligentsia.

  6. Tuvy Miller says:

    I think it would be helpful to introduce some mekorot to the discussion about arguing on Hazal/Rishonim (which are questions of different orders). Rashbam, in his introductory comments to Parashat Vayeshev, makes it fairly clear that it is possible to offer new peshat explanations. “הפשטות המתחדשים בכל יום”

    He himself is willing to do this, even going against Hazal in matters of halakha (see his explanation to “va’avado le-olam” in the beginning of Mishpatim which he says is forever, not until Yovel). This is just one example of many in Rashbam and among other Rishonim. These provide ample justification for offering “new” peshat interpretations. See also Tosafot Yom Tov’s comments to Nazir 5:5 where he makes a similar point about Humash and Mishna (albeit with certain reservations that might distinguish him from Rashbam).

    The license to argue on Hazal in matters of Aggadah was the widely held opinion among the Gaonim. See R. Shmuel ben Hofni in his Mevo haTalmud (mistakenly attributed to R. Shmuel haNaggid) and quoted by Radak in his comments to the Ba’alat Ov story in Shmuel I, ch. 28.

    Another important source in this discussion is the Rambam (Mamrim 2:1). The simple peshat of the Rambam there would allow for such disagreement. Kesef Mishneh’s question and answer spawned a whole literature in the Aharonim which seems to obscure the real possibility that Rambam felt one could argue with earlier authorities in matters of interpretation (but not on takanot and gezerot). Meiri seems to have concurred with this (see his Seder ha-Kabbalah (Machon Ofeq) pp. 103) as did R. Haim of Brisk (quoted in Kovets Shiurim Bava Batra #633).

    Wrt the question about Tanakh beGovah haEynaim, I think it is important to point out that this is not a majority/minority debate within the Dati Leumi world. While Rav Tzvi Tau, Rav Shlomo Aviner and others have vociferously opposed it (though not always so convincingly), there are a number of prominent Rabbanim who have endorsed it. R. Yehuda Amital and R. Aharon Lichtenstein provided for its flowering at Yeshivat Har Etzion (though they themselves may have had reservations about certain elements) and R. Yoel bin Nun and R. Yaakov Medan are current practitioners of the approach. It is demonstrably untrue to claim that the yirat shamayim of these rabbanim and many of their talmidim is lacking because they practice this approach. Furthermore, oftentimes this approach utilizes Hazal/Rishonim and presents their opinions as part of the overall reading of a given story.

    • R.B. says:

      You raise some good points. However, all of the approaches you mentioned in your valuable comment does not in any way justify the commentary of the OO write who R’ Gordimer has quoted. She did not bring any text-based pshetim that differ from CHAZAL or classic Meforshim. Instead, she dismissed a comment of Rashi on the basis that its coming from a patriarchal in its value system and favoured what she believes to be the plain meaning because it supports her view. That’s why I believe that by Larry raising Tanach B’Goveah Enayim, he muddied the waters about the real issues at stake here (Note: I never heard of this TBE before, by the way). IIf we allow this feminist kind of analysis in Orthodox parshanus, which is common in non-Orthodox feminist bible studies, than this way beyond what the sources you cited consider legitimate readings of pesukim and CHAZALs.

      • Tal Benschar says:

        Agreed.  I too have never heard of TBE, but the Rishonim that have all been cited here are based on two things: (1) the statement of Chazal that <i>ein mikrah yotzei miydei peshuto and (2) aspects of the Torah she be Ksav (language, grammar, parallel usages in other parts of Tanach, etc.) that are interpreted to convey a message.  It is a basic concept of learning Torah that pesukim have multiple layers  of meaning, and the fact that some meforshim may come up with interpretations of what they believe is “pshat” based on the language of the Tanach that differs from Chazal merely means that, in their view, there is another level of interpretation than Chazal’s derash.  (When it comes to halakha, it is the derash that generally controls.)

        That is far afield from contradicting interpretations of Chazal and Rishonim because you believe they are oppressive or misogynist (chas ve shalom) and want to reinterpret the text to fit the Zeitgeist.

      • Tuvy Miller says:

        But that’s the thing. If read these mekorot inside they do allow for broader interpretive powers beyond the rules you’ve mentioned. They are taking a fundamental stance on the intepretive freedom granted to lomdei Torah.

        You can say that the particular example quoted in this article is shoddy parsha, but if someone, motivated by the “zeitgeist,” offers a compelling read of the text against Rishonim, or even Hazal, I see little reason why it should be dismissed out of hand as such. If inluence by prevailing trends was a pesul, then you’d have to cut out large swaths of classical parshanut


      • R.B. says:

        You are confusing broad interpretative powers to interpret beyond what CHAZAL have provided, based on what you say is a compelling reading of the text, and applying an ideology to how to read and interpret pesukim. We should not accept this kind of interpretation because, whether the reading appears to fit with the text, will come down to one principle – is a reading getting away from assumed patriarchal intrepretations of pesukim, or not. Second, you write about intrepreting CHAZAL but the approach evidence here assume that CHAZAL’s interpretations were intended to force patriarchal intrepretations into the text. Once you accept that, you cannot than claim the freedom to intrepret medrashim and the like except with that assumption always coming into play. In fact, this approach actually limits interpretation, since one always has to consider whether a particular medrash is aiding and abetting a patriarchal POV. These readings shoot the arrow and draw the target around them.

      • Tal Benschar says:

        “If read these mekorot inside they do allow for broader interpretive powers beyond the rules you’ve mentioned. ”

        Why don’t you cite some of these mekoros, because I very much doubt it.  The whole point of parshanut ha mikrah is to explain the text based on the text.

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    Personal confession time-I have been learning Parshas HaShavua with Rashi and Ramban in the original for years and supplementing each year with a different commentary-Seforno, Netziv and Meshech Chachmah. There are also wonderful commentaries such as Beis HaLevi, Emes L Yaakov and RSRH, also and where applicable, the superb drashos and shiurim of RYBS . None are rooted in the false dichotomy of either RAK’s view of Parshanut vs Pshat only. There are also wonderful Sifrei Chasidus and Sifrei Musar that offer views that should never be dismissed solely because they are drush. I attribute my love of Chumash to my training in JSS under R Moshe Besdin ZL who was a persistent advocate of “it and not about it.”

    If a pshat oriented approach  borders on or asserts the exclusive superiority of Pshat rooted in a combination of literary analysis and contemporary realia as the only legitimate means of Parshanut, such an approach detaches the unity of TSBP and Torah Shebicsav and can border on not being “it” . IMO, such an approach becomes little more than literary analysis of the document and drains Torah and Nach of a moral message, as a means of competing with various schools of Biblical criticism,  which bores me simply because it is devoid of a moral message, and even more fundamentally, because neither Chazal, nor the Gdolei HaMefarshim operated from such approach. I would hope that I am not speaking alone in stating  I would not appreciate that derech being the sole or primary means of instruction of Chumash and Nach to my grandchildren, especially if it is utilized at the expense of acquiring textual literacy in the classical Mfarshim.R Moshe Lichtenstein’s essay on this subject in his volume on Moshe Rabbeinu explores this issue and his objection to a Pshat only approach.

    IMO, one should master the classical Mfarshim ( Rashi, Ramban, Sforno, IbnEzra, Rashbam ( who acknowledges in both Parshas Pekudei and Vayikra that Rashi has the correct approach on the subject matter at hand therein) , Netziv,  and Meshech Chachmah.

    I would add that you can also find a great deal of very valuable Parshanut and moral lessons throughout many of the sefarim of the Baalei Chasidus and Baalei Musar, as well as the essays of the Beis HaLevi.Far too often, the discussion of the scope, hashkafa and approach  of Parshanut creates a false conflict between the champions of Pshat only and the idea most noticeably voiced by RAK that we cannot approach the conduct of the Avos, etc from our POV. That is a false dichotomy because both in many sections of Aggada and Gdolei Mfarshim , we see very strong critiques of the Avos, etc. One need not recoil from the view of RAK by championing Pshat only at the expense of having a thorough grounding in and being textually literate in the Gdolei Mfarshim.

    • mycroft says:

      “Rashbam ( who acknowledges in both Parshas Pekudei and Vayikra that Rashi has the correct approach on the subject matter at hand therein)”

      If quoting Rashbam on Parshanut and Rashi one should also quote Rashbam on  vayeshev Yaacov where he quotes his grandfather -Rashi-that if Rashi had time he would write an explanation based on new discoveries happening.

      • Steve brizel says:


        However rashbam also yields to rashi which advocates for rashbam tend to ignore or overlook

      • mycroft says:

        Read Lockshin into to his Rashbam where he maintains Rashbam is basically a perush on Rashi-where he doesn’t comment he agrees and depending on words used by Rashbam he is either supplementing, clarifying or contradicting Rashi.

        If I recall correctly Kapach on Rambam has a similar idea that Raavad agrees with Rambam when he is silent.


      • dr. bill says:

        mycroft, i have not seen that point by rav Kapach ztl.  IIRC, Dr. Grach disagrees and quotes his father as having countless examples where the raavad disagrees without comment.  i am clearly not even close to a bar hochi, but have a number of examples that i think support the Rav’s ztl position.  I seem to recall that the Raavad was in his 70’s, near the end of his life, when he read the Mishne Torah and his hagaot were his side comments, not meant as an exhaustive critique.

      • mycroft says:

        “mycroft, i have not seen that point by rav Kapach ztl.”

        I tried to find it in myKapach-20 volume or so Rambam and couldn’t. I believe I read it in his sfarim-it is possible that he told me that when Is poke to him which is decades ago-most recently late 80s. Re Lockshin-I saw him last a few months ago-I was a month in Jerusalem and Lockshin davened in the same Hashkama minyan that I did . Spoke to him a couple of times after minyan.

        IIRC, Dr. Grach disagrees and quotes his father as having countless examples where the raavad disagrees without comment.  i am clearly not even close to a bar hochi, but have a number of examples that i think support the Rav’s ztl position.  I seem to recall that the Raavad was in his 70’s, near the end of his life, when he read the Mishne Torah and his hagaot were his side comments, not meant as an exhaustive critique.

      • Steve brizel says:


        R lockshin serves a so called halachik advisor for at a partnership service in Chicago and has voiced open disdain for Torah observant Jews who don’t share his views

  8. dr. bill says:

    I make it habit of discounting comments by the Rav ztl without full context and certainly those in the book you linked to.  As I once mentioned, I watched the Rav interact with a famous historian who held views about aristocratic Tannaim and those Tannaim of lesser economic class.  I wonder if any of the current RY sitting in shiur had a clue who the guest was and what the Rav, with a broad smile on his face, was doing.  I walked away with a clear view of the Rav’s POV, different from what you quote, and equally or even more baseless.  I assume the Rav would not consider his son, the late prof. katz and his students koferim because they admit to a context influencing how poskim behave.  I find your position as well as those who over emphasize influence from weltanschauung a tad simplistic.  Psak and even hashkafah however they integrate external influences has eternal validity.

    • mycroft says:

      “I assume the Rav would not consider his son, the late prof. katz and his students koferim because they admit to a context influencing how poskim behave.”

      All poskim take into consideration the environment they are in. However, we don’t believe that  Chazal reached results to agree with whatever Roman law said. We believe the halachik process is eternal-eg following procedures and mesorah from Sinai-but Halacha changes. Do you know anyone who will not do business with the general population Dec 23?

      • dr. bill says:

        agreed that the environment is critical.  however, when chachmai hakabalah observed something positive in society, they would on occasion take pains to promote a similar idea from halakhic principles.  that starts you down a path that as i noted does not allow for simplistic viewpoints.  though rishonim behaved that way, the (limited) familiarity with the talmudic environment that their writings exhibit, rarely led them to explain talmudic passages that way.  this area of academic talmud, requires a nuanced set of beliefs best not discussed on a blog.  this is where i part company from both the OO crowd and rabbi Gordimer who both have a penchant for public discussion of what is best discussed in more appropriate settings.

    • mycroft says:

      “I make it habit of discounting comments by the Rav ztl without full context and certainly those in the book you linked to”

      Context is almost everything for the Rav. Thus, by far the most credibility about the Rav’s beliefs are articles that were published by him during his lifetime.

      The least credibility is given to statements supposedly said by the Rav to one individual which were not publicized during the Rav’s lifetime. Even besides credibility issues I’ve refused to buy any book that is based on private conversations that the Rav supposedly had with an individual that were intended to be private. Even if credible the abuse of trust that the Rav placed in that person would be reason not to buy the book.

      • Steve brizel says:

        That is a chumra yesera that I doubt that most people subscribe to


      • Steve brizel says:

        Ask Dr Michelle Levine what is her view of lockshin

      • mycroft says:

        I have never met to the best of my knowledge Dr Levine. The issue is not Dr Lockshin, the issue is what he wrote on the Rasbam and Rashi. Unless the other person shows that he is wrong  on the issue I don’t care about what she thinks of Lockshin. If I were to ask him a sheila I would be interested.  I have never asked him a sheila. BTW FYI  Lockshin has smichah from Yeshivat Mercaz Harav Kook in Jerusalem-just checked online.

      • Steve brizel says:

        Dr Levine’s lectures and articles are also available for your review at yutorah

      • Steve brizel says:

        Why move the goalposts back by making an unwarranted assumption that the conversations were intended to be private

      • mycroft says:

        It is as  obvious an assumption as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The Rav was very careful to put it mildly in the manner in which he expressed his opinions for the public.

      • Steve brizel says:

        Ignorance is not bliss.Dr Levines speciality is parshanut especially the classical mfarshim and teaches at scw

      • Steve brizel says:

        Proof please re the books in issue

      • mycroft says:

        “Ignorance is not bliss.Dr Levines speciality is parshanut especially the classical mfarshim and teaches at scw”
        If you have a link to any article that she wrote that is available  online I will read it. Dr. Lockshins speciality is exactly the period of Rashbam and Ibn Ezra and has written on both.

      • mycroft says:

        “Steve brizel
        February 25, 2016 at 1:25 pm
        Proof please re the books in issue”

        I made a general statement I did not specifically refer to any books-if the facts do or do not apply to any book fine.


      • Steve Brizel says:

        I think that those interested in the Torah of RYBS even when presented by Talmidim and without “authorization” ala samizdat in pre Glasnost USSR has voted with their wallets to the contrary

      • mycroft says:

        “I think that those interested in the Torah of RYBS even when presented by Talmidim and without “authorization” ala samizdat in pre Glasnost USSR has voted with their wallets to the contrary”

        The issue is to what extent supposed quotes from the Rav are accurate that only came to light after his ptirah is a question. That assumes even good faith by the person quoting-it is possible that people both on the right and left of the Rav distort him to either become more kosher or to make him a greater revolutionary than he was.

        As Dr Bill has stated with the Rav everything is in context.

        I find it strange that  a maamin makes an argument for proper behavior from how wallets have voted. What percentage of the worlds population believe in what we do? I am sure you would not make an argument that we are wrong because the world has voted with its wallets.

        I also find it strange how one does not care about people disclosing conversations with a Rebbe that the Rebbe did not desire to be public.

      • Steve brizel says:

        Torah from rybs whether or not disseminated and or edited is and has always been in demand

        I do not consider myself alone in saying that there is neither any halachic ethical or legal prior restraint in  the dissemination or purchase of such seforim tapes and books

      • Steve brizel says:

        Many pictures of rybs show numerous tape recorders. You are magnifying what rybs described as a family malady into the equivalent of the Pentagon papers

      • mycroft says:

        “I do not consider myself alone in saying that there is neither any halachic ethical or legal prior restraint in  the dissemination or purchase of such seforim tapes and books


        Many pictures of rybs show numerous tape recorders. You are magnifying what rybs described as a family malady into the equivalent of the Pentagon papers”

        I distinguish between repitition of what theRav said in a public shiur where if one had the whole shiur transcript to see context it would be very helpful versus those who are repeating “private” conversations which even assuming arguendo that they are repeated faithfully in context-questionable at best-have the issue of abuse of of a personal relationship. To me it is unethical to repeat conversations which one party stated in confidence.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Assumptions that were never subjected to any acid test by by those who rely on them as the truth  should never be confused with verifiable facts such as sunrise and sunset. I think that I share the view of many in the YU/OU/RIETS orbit and of other Bnei Torah that we look forward to well edited sefarim and books rooted in the Torah of RYBS-regardless of whether the family has approved their publication or whether the sefer and/or book emphasizes one or more aspects, as opposed to all of RYBS’s total Torah package.

        When you use the term “context”, that is IMO spin for saying that we have nothing to learn from anything that RYBS did not edit and publish  in his lifetime-which is just another form of moving back the goalposts that we find ignored in the case of so many Gdolei Torah and their talmidim who have published excellent sefarim of their chiddushim, hanhagos chumros, kulos and views on a wide range of views posthumously. WADR, your POV would support the banning of MOAG.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      R A Berzon mentioned in one of the books about RYBS that talmidim from BMG always looked forward to raising funds in Boston because they knew that RYBS would write a generous check. Take a look at the check, letter and date in the annexed link Aside from the documented fact of RYBS being able to cross hashkafic boundaries, R Y Blau recalls that RYBS, who was quite helpful not just with raising money for Chinuch Atzmai, but also helped R SK ZL find the best medical care possible in Boston and was Mnachem Avel afterwards in Lakewood.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Nice story-RHS quoted RYBS saying that Lavud, a critical Halacha LMoshe MiSinai in both Hilcos Sukkah and Hilcos Eruvin-was not developed as a result of a lack of trees in EY, as was maintained by some maskilishe historians.

  9. Avi says:

    “…..One should comply with the letter of the Law, but one is free to disagree with the attitude of the Law, as well as with the attitude of Chazal and primary rabbinic authorities – the transmitters and teachers of the Law. …. ”

    Well, that is the whole idea of a Pruzbel, and a Heter Iska, and an Eiruv of Strings, and an Eiruvei Techumim. We also stopped doing Korbonos even on Bomos. We also interpret ‘Ayin Tachas Ayin’ to mean Money. We also atopped selling our young daughters as slaves. All because we have different attitudes.

    We no longer force a divorce just because the woman is ‘Roeh Dom Machmas Tashmush’; or because she didn’t have children for 10 years.

    These are only some of our attitudes.

    • Ben Bradley says:

      That’s a mixed bag of half truth and untruth. When chazal found a way round the letter of the law, eg pruzbul, heter iska. that’s because they wanted to maintain the Torah’s values in a situation where it was challenged by the letter of law. The nature of a legal system, even the Torah’s, is that sometimes the intent of the law can be defeated by it’s own rules. The Gemara is explicit that Hillel’s motivation in pruzbul was to protect the mitzva of lending money and thereby support the needy.

      Eiruvim of strings and eiruvei techumim aren’t even relevant here. There’s no Torah value involved, just a question of technicalities of a sugya and, to quote the Brisker Rav, if it’s muttar it’s muttar.

      As for Ayin tachas ayin, that’s a part of the original torah b’al peh to Moshe Rabeinu, not some subsequent change. That’s the way the Rambam learns it in his hakadama to the mishna and no one suggested otherwise until the 20th century. It’s also implicit in the sugya there. So that’s nothing to do with changes in attitude.

      Roeh dam machmas tashmish doesn’t happen these days because we have gynaecologists. So also irrelevant. And there was never a mitzva to have slaves, just a permission. So yes, a change in attitudes has come about there but that’s not contrary to the Torah’s intent or values.

      So let’s clear away the smokescreen intended to cover the antics of those OO leaders who want to permit the forbidden and adjust the Torah Hakedosha to the zeitgeist.

      • Sol says:

        The Torah was Adamant about the importance of Yibum (building up your relative’s family), we just ignore it.

        The Torah hated Ribbus, we just make a trick to charge Ribbus.

        The Torah saw nothing wrong when a father sells, or is Mikadesh his 11 year old daughter, we don’t like it.

        We create a Rishis Hayochid  from a D’oireisidik Rishis Horabim with a string.

        Regarding Ayin Tachas Ayin, the Gemoro in Hachovel  is struggling with 15 different ways, (nobody agrees with nobody)  how could we have gone from an eye-for-eye, to money.

        The Parsha of Ben Soirer was rejected immediately.

      • Larry says:

        Where were you educated that you are so mistaken about Torah?  I am sorry that you were taught so incorrectly

        We do not ignore Yibum. It is one of the biggest tractates of the Talmud. We choose Chalitza over Yibum for the reasons discussed in Mishna Bechorot 1,7.

        the mitzvah of Ben Sorer remains in effect   SeeRamabam Sefer hamitzvot prohibition 194.

        feel free to consult your local Orthodox Rabbi for answers to your other difficulties


      • sol says:

        No. The Torah wants to shame a person who does Chalitza instead of Yibum.

        Ben Sorer was never ever practiced.

        With today’s attitudes, we would never allow a Goiyel Hadom to kill a Shoigeg.

      • Steve brizel says:

        This is a very superficial view as to a very important subject which unfolds as a direct consequence of the luchos shniyos. Moshe rabbeinu was given not just the text of the Chumash but also the keys and tools of interpretation that were transmitted to the chachmei hatorah I’m every generation

      • dr. bill says:

        why do you (and others) insist on yet another set of counter-factual beliefs?  the torah gave chazal the power to interpret, period.  why create another set of beliefs about “the keys and tools of interpretation” that certainly do not exist today and are not recorded anywhere.  I hope you don’t think the yud gimmel midos shehatorah nidreshet ba’hem is all or a part of that.  IMHO, beliefs of this sort lead to a “my way or the highway” attitude that all is too often present in more right wing circles.

        OTOH, the examples by Sol and Avi above are ridiculously amateurish and unworthy of response.  Years ago, toward the end of her NYU Tikvah center lecture, i think during Q&A, Prof. Hayes made a fabulous comment about chazal’s stance vis-a-vis ben sorer u’morar.  It is a bit odd that an academic seems to have more respect for chazal than commentators on this blog.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Dr Bill wrote:

        “why do you (and others) insist on yet another set of counter-factual beliefs?  the torah gave chazal the power to interpret, period.  why create another set of beliefs about “the keys and tools of interpretation” that certainly do not exist today and are not recorded anywhere. ”

        Take a careful look at the giving of the Luchos Shniyos and especially Gittin 60, and Drashos HaRan and many other Rishonim. The keys to interpret also include the power to determine all issues of Torah SheBaal Peh and Halacha in every generation

      • Ben Bradley says:

        Dr Bill- you’re going to have to explain what you think is counter factual. The Rishonim certainly understand the yud gimmel midos as the tools given to Moshe Rabeinu for two purposes: 1. To connect halachos of the oral Torah to the written Torah. 2 To derive new halachos.  The Rambam is clear on this in both the second shoresh to sefer hamitzvos and in the hakdama to the mishna. If you think something about this is counter factual, please feel free to argue on the Rambam.

      • dr. bill says:

        Steve Brizel, Ben Bradley.  Steve, your reference to this week’s parsha and the gemara in Gittin do not in any way imply anything about derivation rules given to Moshe with the second Luchot.  In any case, we do not derive new theological principles from a rabbinic drash.   BTW, the nature of the second luchot is discussed extensively by the entire spectrum of Biblical interpreters.  Ben, I do not have anything beyond the 15 seforim I brought on vacation so I cannot read the sources you cite.  However, the Yud Gimmel middot are attributed to Rabbi Yishmael not Moshe in the gemara.  Halacha leMoshe miSinai does NOT mean given to Moshe at Sinai, certainly as used by Rambam.  There is thorough discussion of Ramban’s position vis-à-vis the yud gimmel midot in Halberthal’s recent book on Maimonides that I will not try to quote from memory.
        As I stated – al pi haTorah asher yorukha – does not need to reduce chakhmai hamesorah to users of a “rulebook.”  I believe their stature and humanity, perhaps assisted by special siyatoh diShemaya, is a perfectly cogent basis for the authority given to them by the Torah.

    • larry says:

      Eiruvim allow a person carry in a domain where the Torah permits them to carry but the Rabbis prohibited carrying lest they carry in a public domain and transgress a Torah prohibition.  We do not “interpret” Ayin Tachat Ayin.  We have a clear mesorah of what it means (See Rabeiniu Yonah Avot 1,1).  Slavery is not a mitzvah.  Divorce is not a mitzvah.  The Torah provides mechanisms for both slavery and divorce but does not encourage either.  Bamot, if I recall correctly, are probihited by the Torah (Chinuch 186).

      My attitude is unchanged, I hope we all merit to bring Korbanot when the Temple is rebuilt speedily in our time.

      • mycroft says:

        “IMHO, beliefs of this sort lead to a “my way or the highway” attitude that all is too often present in more right wing circles.”

        It is present as well in “centrist circles”

    • YbhM says:

      Your examples do not demonstrate what you seem to be wanting to claim, as the examples are all from the realm of halacha (whereas R. Gordimer is talking about “values” ie. moral teachings).  Pruzbul etc. do not stem from attitude changes, but pragmatic problems.  The fact that we no longer have slaves is in no sense a halachic innovation  – the Torah does not mandate us to have slaves but only to treat them in certain ways if we do have them.

      We also interpret ‘Ayin Tachas Ayin’ to mean Money. ….All because we have different attitudes.

      If your assumption is that the understanding of “ayin tachas ayin” meaning money is an innovation that stems from having “different attitudes”  (rather than a tradition from the time of Moshe) – then there is a likelihood that you are already operating outside of the framework of Orthodox Judaism.  If you would like a nuanced look at the issue, R. Medan has written about it.


    • Steve brizel says:

      All of the above represent sugyos where chazal applied means of interpretation that the Torah itself reserves to the chachmei hatorah in every generation especially in dinei mamamnos

    • Steve Brizel says:

      R Asher Weiss and R Rimon in their sefarim on Shemittah, write that Prozbul, which many Rishonim view as being based on based on Hefker Beis Din Hefker, is a unique power that it is rooted in the power of the Chachamim under Lo Sasur with respect to monetary issues.

  10. Dov says:

    I would echo a point made by Larry below. This is not a specific problem in OO there a many Rabbis in MO that share this same aproach to chazal.

    It might be worthwhile for Rabbi G to go through the public writings of popular MO rabbis in major cities and address part of the root of this issue. There are many tamidim of LWMO yeshivot that are breading the next generation of OO.

  11. Tz says:

    OO was created by Haredim. How so? Haredi Rabbaim act as if their “Gedolim” have equal authority and status as Hazal – if they say left,  and we think right, ts left. They fail to accept and firmly acknowledge the limits on their authority (as set forth by the Rambam in his introduction to Mishne Torah). Consequently, a new movement has arising that believes they too have the power and authority of Hazal.

    • R.B. says:

      Is this comment in the spirit of Adar? Because I can’t see any other basis for your writing this.



      • mycroft says:

        One could make a sociological argument that OO in the US arose as a result of harsh tone against those who did not follow the turn to the right in RIETS following the end of the Ravs tenure.

      • larry says:

        Yes that is exactly correct.  OO arose not out of any desire to learn Torah, serve God or help one’s fellow man.  It is the abortation of a perceived micro aggression.  Someone was offended and instead of showing humility, they took their ball off the field and created a new game on they can play.

        Personally, I do not believe REITS is even capable of a harsh tone.

      • mycroft says:

        ” OO arose not out of any desire to learn Torah, serve God or help one’s fellow man. ”

        I am not bochein kliyot valev and thus have no way of judging the truth or falsity of your statement-of course one could easily have written ” the attacks against OO  did not arise not out of any desire to learn Torah, serve God or help one’s fellow man, but rather for political reasons”

        Here again since I am not bochein kliyot valev have no  way of judging the truth or falsity of such statement. It would be far better if all attacks against motivation ceased-attack on the halachik merits.

        “It is the abortation of a perceived micro aggression. ”

        Assume you meant abortion of perceived aggression. Not perceived aggression-when the attackers of OO are willing to atttack the legitimacy of  decades old gerusas a by product see we got in new procedures RAW there is a problem.

        “Someone was offended and instead of showing humility, they took their ball off the field and created a new game on they can play.”

        Maybe the lack of humility is from those who challenge the positions of the Rav and his talmidim for decades.

        “Personally, I do not believe REITS is even capable of a harsh tone.”

        RIETS is an inanimate object and thus incapable of a harsh tone-certainly there are RY inRIETS who are capable of a harsh tone. Whether or not it is justified is a question that clearly bloggers disagree on.

  12. Steve brizel says:

    Dr bill

    Take a careful reading of ramban netziv meshech chachmah and beis halevi

    There is no doubt that based on the Kabalas luchos shniyos as understood by the gemara in Gittin that the whole process of transmission of Torah changed via the ongoing transmission of TSBP which Moshe Rabbeinu received and transmitted including the tools of interpretation which was never meant to be written but was reduced to writing solely out of a historical necessity


    • dr. bill says:

      Stay on topic.  TSBP lechud and tools of interpretation lechud.  If you want to discuss yesterday’s parsha, first address what the pshat is; that alone is not easy.  Once you appreciate the pshat, we can discuss what led to other interpretations.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Trying to understand the immense importance of Parshas Ki Sisa and the events therein on a so-called “pshat basis” is an exercise in futility. I think that based on the words of the Midrash ( B.R. 9.2) and Targum as explained in “The Rav on the Parsha” Breishis Pages 8-9) ( may the author R D Holzer and his brothers be comforted among the mourners of Jerusalem for the loss of their esteemed father ZL, and may R D Holzer continue to publish more sefarim based on the teachings of RYBS)  that just as HaShem creates worlds and destroys worlds in the Maaseh Breishis, so too many parshioyos and  episodes in Chumash can be understood in this manner. A small list would include the descriptions of the generations between Adam HaRishon and Noach and from Noah to Avraham Avinu, the recounting of the demise of the Shevatim at the end of Sefer Breishis and the repeated countings of Klal Yisrael-especially in the wake of the Maaseh HeMeraglim-the generation that would enter EY was simply not the generation that left Mitzrayim. I think that the underlying message in these parshiyos is the creation and destruction of worlds, and HaShem’ search for individuals and people who will accept and follow His Divine Will,  as opposed to merely relating genealogy and historical events. IMO,The Mishkan, Klei HaMishkan and Bigdei Kehunah  described in Vaykhel and Pkudei may seem identical to the Mishkan, Klei HaMishkan and Bigdei Kehunah but that is a simplistic view that ignores the cataclysmic nature of the  events in KI Sisa. Parshiyos Terumah and Tzaveh describe how a Mishkan was to serve as a replication of Maamad Har Sinai with all of the bells and whistles and Shabbos being mentioned only in Ki Sisa as an afterthought. Vakahel/Pekudei emphasizes the importance of Shabbos as forbidding the building of the Mishkan. The Meshech Chachmah in Vayakhel explains that before the Chet HaEgel, Binyan HaMishklan was in fact part of the Avodas HaKarbanos and was doche Shabbos-that is why Shabbos follows the Parshiyos of Terumah Tzavah. However, after the Chet HaEgel, Binyan HaMishkan could not be seen as a mitzvah that superceded Shabbos because the unity of Torah Shebicsav and TSBP that existed before the Chet HaEgel was rendered asunder by the episode of the Egel, and the covenant between HaShem and Klal Yisrael could only be reestablished by Moshe Rabbeinu’s intercession and receipt of the Luchos Shniyos.  Similarly Netziv in many places states based on many statements of Chazal that TSBP is inherently part of Torah Shebicsav.

        Gaining an understanding of the significance of the  destruction of the Luchos Rioshonim  which contained both Torah Shebicsav and TSBP, and the creation of a Bris Chadasah in the words of Ramban (who states that you cannot understand such events  on a superficial level ) which was effectuated by Moshe Rabbeinu’s learning Kol HaTorah Kulah and the dissemination of the content of the Luchos Shniyos from rebbe to talmid only via the transmission of TSBP either via the Chahchemei Mesorah with  the definition of some Mitzvos of a Torah nature known only to Moshe Rabbeinu in the words of the Beis HaLevi ( Tefilin, Mitzvos, Lulav, etc) is the key dimension of the Bris Chadasha  together with a mitzvah that was first given in the wake of the Maaseh Egel, namely the mitzvah of Teshuvah,which was established via the TSBP,   I stand by the understanding of Gittin 60 and the Mefarshim that I quoted above and invited anyone interested to learn the Mefarshim themselves to understand why the term “The People of the Book” is a misnomer-we are the nation of a Bris Chadasha rooted in TSBP-which was offered to and accepted by no other nation.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        You are on vacation-so I will limit this to a brief comment. When the Talmud derives any principle from a hekesh or a complete gzerah shaveh or even an irrefutable kal vachomer, such is presumed to be a Din Doraissa. Rambam in Shoresh Sheni holds that a mitzvah, isssur of halacha that is explicitly stated is a higher level of Doraissa because it is explicitly stated, but one must learn Hasagos Ramban on both Shoresh Rishon and Sheni to see the ramifications of such a position.

  13. Ben Bradley says:

    Dr Bill – Not quite sure where to start with the way you’re understanding the yud gimmel midos. Did you think R Yishmael made them up just because the gemara attributes them to him? Then how did you understand the fact that the they’re used consistently throughout shas by all, with no one arguing on the basic use of this methodology, just on the local application in each sugya? More basically, how could they have been invented by one or more sages ex nihilo when several of them are not based on any kind of logical reasoning – eg gezeira shava .

    That’s all apart from the fact that the assumption of those Rishonim and Acharonim who discuss this is that the rules were from mesora to Moshe, ie part of the original Torah sheb’al peh. I haven’t come across anyone who seems to have your understanding. As a side point, your  statement that ‘Halacha leMoshe miSinai does NOT mean given to Moshe at Sinai, certainly as used by Rambam’ is patently incorrect. He says clearly and explicitly that that is precisely what it means, in his hakdama to the mishna. In fact he says it it even more strongly, that plenty of other halachos were also given to Moshe on Sinai but that those called halacha l’moshe are those about which there was no machlokes.

    No one’s saying that having masoretic tools means that Chazal were just reading from a rulebook. The process of drash involved intensive use of the intellect, and resulted in new halachos, and also in machlokos throughout shas, but they were still working within a given system. Not sure why you think that’s negative.

    Further questions according to your understanding. Why do halachos learned by drash have the status of deoraisa if they were nothing to do with the original God given system, just Chazal doing their thing? If you want to say it’s because of ‘al pi hatorah asher yorucha’, then what’s the difference between such deoraisas and the derabanans?  Also, what do you think Chazal mean when they said that Otniel ben Knaz, in the generation of Yehoshua, restored thousand of forgotten halachos by his pilpul

    • mycroft says:

      “As a side point, your  statement that ‘Halacha leMoshe miSinai does NOT mean given to Moshe at Sinai”

      Since much of the Torah was given to Moshe Rabbeinu in the midbar after Sinai-probably it would have been easier to understand as Torah min hashaamayim ,Torah mi pi hagvura than misinai.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        The CI at the end of Hilcos Sefiras HaOmer has a fascinating discussion entitled “Maamad Matan Torah.” It warrants careful review by anyone interested in understanding how the totality of the Torah that Moshe received was transmitted to Klal Yisrael in the Ohel Moed ( which was still at Sinai) and at Arvos Moav, and why certain mitzvos such as Kiddushin and Gittin were first transmitted at later junctures than Maamad Har Sinai.

    • dr. bill says:

      Let’s start at the beginning.  Abaye and Rava did not make-up Yiush shelo midaat; Rambam did not make up the yud gimmel ikarim.    Both were first formalized by them from previous intellectual and/or mimetic endeavors/behavior.  The Brisker derech or R. Yishmael rules of derivation were not created ex nihilo, but to refer to them as “given at Sinai’ is equally misleading. (The Marcheshet was only joking.)  The Torah gave rabbis the right to establish new categories via which halakha develops.  Some turn out to be incorrect and/or less useful and are eventually abandoned;the vast majority are refined over time and become mainstays of the halakhic process.  To assert that all was given to Moshe at Sinai should be understood to refer to the principle of rabbinic interpretation and legislation, the abiding principles of Rabbinic Judaism.
      You are absolutely INCORRECT.  HLMS is used in reference to RABBINIC rules; I remember hearing that point the Rav ztl (as well as many other (academic) sources.) (For example, certain areas adjacent to EY are subject to the laws of sheviit DERABBANAN, HLMS.  QED)
      As to what is labelled DeRabbanan versus DeOraytah would require a long essay covering many arguments between Rishonim.  Not a subject for a blog comment.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Explain what HLMS means to you in understanding Menachos 29a=b.

      • Ben Bradley says:

        ‘You are absolutely INCORRECT.  HLMS is used in reference to RABBINIC rules’

        I have no idea where you get that from. Please quote a source.  I brought a very clear Rambam on precisely this issue. The exact location is the mosad harav kook edition of the Rambam’s hakdamos to the mishna page 31. I quote, for clarity, (my translation)

        ‘If  (all) these are the explanations of the written Torah…received from Moshe himself as we quoted from Chazal “The whole Torah was stated with all its clalim and pratim and dikdukim from Sinai” (Toras Kohanim) then what are the specific halachos we call HLMS? This fundamental must be clearly understood, namely that these (specific) explanations which were received from from Moshe, as we quoted from Chazal, are not disputed in any way at all.’

        There nothing more to say until you can show some evidence for your assertions.

        As for your claim that the halachos of shveiis derabanan involve HLMS, please give at least some sort of maarei makom, direct quote, anything similar. Until then its just another unfounded assertion.

      • dr. bill says:

        Ben and Steve,  Look at shiurim lezecher avi mori  –  i am not certain but I seem to recall the shiur – shenai minai masoret.  i assume academic sources would not carry the day for either of you.  when i return home in about 2 weeks and have access to my library, i will be more than happy to help both of you.

      • Ben Bradley says:

        Well an academic source certainly wouldn’t trump an explicit Rambam in explaining how the priniciples of TSBP work, if that’s what you mean. You’d have to show either a convincing way  of explaining the Rambam differently, which seems highly unlikley given his lack of ambiguity there, or other rishonim who fundementally disagree with him which would at least make it a machlokos rishonim.  But I give less credence to an academic sevara than you give to a latter day rabbinic drosh, because the basic assumptions underlying the sevara are usually foreign to the world of talmud torah. If they’re in tune with Torah, or at least solidly logical in their own right, then I’m listening.

        Back to R Yishmael, another question for you. Once you accept that R Yishmael was the organiser of these principles, not the author, who do you think did author them, when, and on what basis? And why do you not think that that Moshe couldbe the original source?

      • dr. bill says:

        Ben Bradley, I gave you a non-academic source – the Rav ztl.  IIRC< Rambam is explicit that HLMM applies to certain rabbinic laws in either shiviit or terumot umayserot.   R. Ishmael formalized the yud gimmel midot; they do not necessarily have a single source (or author.)   Ask that question about the Yud gimmel ikkarim! The nature of the yud gimmel middot is a fundamental machloket Rambam and Ramban; another topic too complex for a blog discussion.

      • Ben Bradley says:

        Dr Bill- you didn’t give a source, you mentioned that RYBS might talk about it somewhere, possibly in the shiur you mentioned. That’s far too vague to be helpful. I realise you don’t have access to seforim currently. However, I’m so certain that the Rambam doesn’t actually say what you claim and indeed that RYBS doesn’t either, that I’m going to wait patiently until you eventually provide a relevant quote, or at least accurate paraphrase. One reason I’m that certain is that whenever I’ve come across a reference to HLMS in the gemara, the context is referring to exactly what it sounds like, ie a halacha known by direct transmission from Moshe. For example, there are more HLMS about tefilin than any other mitzva – the colour, shape, and a bunch of others. I don’t believe any authority thinks those details are derabanan. The Rambam seems to just be clarifying this.

        I’m puzzled that you’re clinging on to your assertion in face of the direct quote from Rambam above, on the basis that you vaguely remember something otherwise. What do you with this Rambam?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I will look at the shiur in question, but I will await your answer in the meantime re Menachos 29a-b. IIRC, there are certain HLMS that we follow Lkulah such as Safek Orlah B Chutz LaAretz, but that has nothing to do with the fact that the HLMS is in fact a HLMS , as opposed to a Din Drabanan as understood  by Chazal by other means.   In the interim, both Ben Bradley and I await your answers upon your return. As far as Sheviis is concerned, CI posits in many cases ,as noted by R Asher Weiss in his sefer on Sheviis, that even though Sheviis is assumed to be of a Rabbinic nature, there is enough of a Torah basis within that Din Rabanan to warrant different rules and even chumros applying even on a Din Drabanan.

      • dr. bill says:

        Think of the term HLMM as meaning an ancient tradition of potentially unclear origin.  It may be apart of TSBP or it may not.  I know you are skeptical, but prepare to be enlightened.

      • Ben Bradley says:

        Dr Bill – I appreciate your offer to become enlightened because darkness is a terrible thing to walk in. However I’ve taken the opportunity to peruse the encylopedia talmudit on HLMS which is, as expected, thorough in its treatment of the subject.  Hopefully we can close on this summary: HLMS does clearly refer to laws given to Moshe and handed down through the generations. All rishonim understand the gemaras this way and no dissenting opinion is recorded on this in the footnotes to the entry. There is however a machlokos rishonim as to whether the term divrei sofrim can be used to refer to HLMS. This, I presume, is the source of your memory that it has something to do with derabanans. However, even those, like the Rambam, who hold that HLMS can be called divrei sofrim, do not mean that that they source is post-sinaitic. This is clear from their own words. Thus speaks the encyclopaedia talmudit.

        Please see the entry there for lots more detail.

        Hopefully that puts that to bed. There is nothing unclear about a HLMS, in fact that’s exactly the point of the name, as understood by all authorities.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Dr Bill wrote in part:

        “Think of the term HLMM as meaning an ancient tradition of potentially unclear origin.  It may be apart of TSBP or it may not.  I know you are skeptical, but prepare to be enlightened.”

        That definition runs contrary to the accepted definition as a Halacha whose definition was known only to Moshe Rabbeinu and transmitted in that manner throughout the generations with no dispute whatsoever-think of the definitions of  Arba Minim and many other similar examples.  Why should anyone think that a HLMM is not part of TSBP simply because it is not subject to debate as to its ramifications. At the worst, a HLMM is considered a Chidush from which nothing else can be derived therefrom, but why should that factor per se remove a HLMM from the rubric of TSBP?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I reviewed very thoroughly the shiur ( Shnei Sugei Mesores Shiurim LZecer Abba Mori Vol 1-220-239) in which RYBS sets forth based on Rambam in the Yad and Perush HaMishnah that there we have Halachos whose definitions were given to Moshe Rabbeinu and upon which there is no Machlokes-regardless of whether they are called Halacha LMoshe MiSinai or MiPi Shamuah or Divrei Sofrim, as well as establishing beyond doubt that Limud HaTorah of Dinim Drabanan is a Kiyum of Talmud Torah on a Torah level, and other isolated Halachos that have the same force as a Halacha LMoshe MiSinai which have a Kabalah ( tradition upon which no questions can be asked) which RYBS describes as Meosrah Shel Maaseh. That is similar in some ways to RYBS describing the two traditions of Shabbos that he received from his parents-the intellect and the atmosphere-but it does not in any way contradict the accepted meaning of a HLLM.

        The ET also has an exhaustive entry on Halacha LMoshe MiSinai. The view of the Rosh that you quoted is IIRC set forth as a minority view in a footnote in the ET article. If you learn Shoresh Rishon and Shoresh Sheni of the Sefer HaMitzvos LHaRambam with the Hasagos HaRamban, the machlokes between Rambam and Ramban centers over the nature of what is a Din Min HaTorah, how Safek Doraissa LChumra is defined and the meaning of Lo Sasur. I do not think that the aforementioned shiur of RYBS or the ET entry support an exclusive  definition of  for “ancient tradition of potentially unclear origin” precisely so many other HLLM are understood as such because the term is simple-the meaning of a particular Halacha  was given without dispute to Moshe Rabbeinu without having any explicit source in the Torah. 

      • dr. bill says:

        Steve Brizel, I am happy that you have made me feel good about my memory.  I wish I can say the same of your ability to read; I cannot say definitively how well you read until i scan the shiur.  I also heard the shiur in person (perhaps as a teenager) and remember being startled by what the Rav ztl said; more on that when I have a copy to read. As I already mentioned, I have not read the ET yet. If shtikah kehodaah, I take your silence on the two sources I quoted from Rabbi Google as meaningful.

    • dr. bill says:

      Ben Bradley and Steve Brizel, Thank God for Rabbi Google.  Just typing in halacha le’moshe misinai gave the following entries (first and fifth):
      Halachos l’Moshe miSinai are typically introduced by the words “b’emes omru” (“in truth, they said”), though the phrase does not necessarily always indicate a halacha l’Moshe miSinai. Furthermore, the phrase “halacha l’Moshe miSinai” is sometimes used to identify laws that are ancient and universally accepted like actual halachos l’Moshe miSinai. Even in the Rambam’s list, at least two of the “halachos l’Moshe miSinai” (#28 and #30) appear to refer to rabbinic enactments.
      The medieval commentators point out that on occasion the term, halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai, is used of much later enactments and is not always to be taken literally, but refers to a halakhah which is so certain and beyond doubt that it is as though it were a halakhah given to Moses at Sinai (Asher ben Jehiel Hilkhot Mikva’ot, 1 (at the end of his Piskei ha-Rosh to Niddah) and his Commentary to Mishnah, Yad. 4:3). In most cases, however, they explain it literally, i.e., that these halakhot were transmitted by God to Moses at Sinai.
      The first quote is from than known den of iniquity, the OUJ.   ( In it’s list 2 of 31 are derabbanan)I seem to remember another example; but these should suffice.  I do not have access to an ET, but I will check there as well.

      • Shai Meyerson says:

        Nonetheless, you are twisting the concept. The phrase itself means just what it says: laws given to Moshe at Sinai. This is true even according to Rav Soloveitchik’s approach (which is quite novel; see Ramban [Shevuos 16] and Rashba citing Raavad [Eiruvin 15], who clearly avoid this approach). He only suggests that (according to Rambam) it may be used, as a borrowed term, to refer to rabbinic axioms that are not subject to the give-and-take of halachic reasoning. The Rosh you cite is explicitly using it as a borrowed term.

        Rav  Soloveitchik does NOT say that Rabbi Yismael’s 13 middos – which de’oraisah laws are learned from – were developed later; nor does his understanding allow for that. Please don’t blame your views on Rav Soloveitchik or Rambam!!!

      • dr. bill says:

        It is good to see that bias allows you to reinterpret explicit statements.  Your assumption that X originally meant Y and when used differently is a borrowed term, is a nice theory, certainly correct in some/many instances, but requires proof.  It would be a bit too disturbing to most to learn how many terms used today in rabbinic discussions had different meanings during other periods.  I did not deign to claim how HLMM was used by the talmud, restricting myself to how some Rishonim used the term.  BTW, Rishonim certainly deserve to be read independently; citing Ramban and Rashba to claim an interpretation of Rambam is novel would get you a odd look from my rabbeim.

      • dr. bill says:

        Shai Myerson, I forgot to comment on your second paragraph.  First, I made NO COMMENT about the Rav ztl’s view about the Yud Gimmel Midot.  Second, unlike your claim about the Yud Gimmel Middot, I strongly assume the Rav (apparently unlike you) knew that Rishonim differed (SIGNIFICANTLY) on the status of the Yud Gimmel Middot.

  14. Steve Brizel says:

    dr Bill-you mentioned Dr Moshe Halbertal in passing. Take a look at the reaction that his writings on military ethics received at a law school in the US. I don’t think that the supporters of either Hamas or the PA who engaged in such conduct could care less about the ethos of Tohar HaNesek as refined by Dr Halbertal. Being kind to one’s enemy strikes me as unrealistic and ignoring the fact that civilian populations support their citizens who bear arms on their behalf until they are made to pay the cost of such support.

    I have always thought that such a sense of ethics if applied in past military conflicts would have resulted in a military stalemate in the Civil War where the US blockaded the South by sea, burned Atlanta , marched to the sea and torched the Shenandoah Valley, and in WW2 where the Allies bombed Germany around the clock even in cities where a civilian population was present around a contributing factor to the Nazi war effort ( Vonnegutt to the contrary-Dresden was the home of a substantial contribution to the Nazi war effort) ,where America practiced unrestrained submarine warfare ,shot down Admiral Yammamato in a surprise raid on an unescorted transport ( in a raid personally approved by FDR because Yammamoto was the architect of Pearl Harbor and Japan’s supreme strategist)  and then dropped two atomic bombs to save American lives. In conrtrast, look at the human cost of  such rules being applied in Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan where it can be argued that   the IDF and the US wound up  fighting their foes with one arm tied behind their back. ( For those interested in seeing the equivalent of what the IDF was fighting in Gaza, go buy or rent a copy of “American Sniper.”)  I wonder what such generals as Grant, Sherman, Patton and MacArthur would have thought about fighting a war under such circumstances.

    • dr. bill says:

      Steve Brizel, A number of points to consider.  First, Prof. Halberthal’s overall approach has significant support from Israeli military and political leaders.  He provides the halakhic/ legal rationale and details that are to apply in real-life situations.  Second, often Israel is engaged in highly asymmetric warfare which is very different from many of the cases you cite.  Third, Israel maintains a unique ethical role in strong contrast to its enemies.  Fourth, despite arguments for objectivity, Israel takes cognizance of the criticism the world of nations unfairly delivers.  Fifth, outside of some nationalistic and/or religious quarters, Israel’s policies governing warfare have broad public support; it is often a basis of deserved pride.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        William Tecumseh Sherman remarked that war is hell. Nothing has changed since that remark other than the means and tactics of waging war. If the goal of war is defeat of the opponent’s military forces and subduing a civilian population that supports the opponent, as opposed to a PC result, I remain unconvinced of the need to take into consideration the points of view of such biased  forums as the UN and the ICC. I would question how much “broad public support” exists for such policies outside of the leftist media and secular universities.In the aftermath of the Six Day War, the Arab population cowered in the face of the IDF. Today, the Arab world laughs at a country that fights with one arm tied behind its back by left leaning academics because the Arab world knows that Israel will consult its law professors , rather than its generals in determining how and when to fight terror.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        IIRC, most “civilized” countries pre WW2 subscribed to the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of POWs. That did not stop the Japanese from using POWs as slave laborers ( i.e. “The Bridge Over the River Kwai”) and the Nazis from executing escapees and Vietnamese from torturing American POWs. I stand by my point-war is far too important an instrument of national policy to be determined by lawyers.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I wonder what widows of soldiers and wounded soldiers and casualties of terror think about a set of rules that sacrifices the lives of its citizens and soldiers in a search for approval that will never be forthcoming either from the EU, the UN or leftist media, academic and political elites.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        In 2014, we saw evidence of Hamas tunnels that were aimed at infiltrating Israel in its backyards. The notion that such was “highly asymmetric warfare” or even relevant to Israel’s “unique ethical role” or that Israel worries about PR , strikes me as irrelevant to the primary goal of any country-protection of its national security and that of its citizens. No life of any IDF member or any citizen of Israel should be sacrificed on the false altar of PR or appearing PC in the eyes of the EU, the UN or the leftist academic, media and political elites in Israel, or elsewhere. It is highly ironic that Halbertal was booed and jeered at an American law school by those who would be and are the beneficiaries of his misplaced sense of benevolence. 

      • Steve Brizel says: For those interested take a look at how, why and who Professor Habertal’s views find favor with, aside from his being the architect of the code of ethics for the IDF and a noted philosopher. It is tough enough for the IDF to fight with one hand  tied behind its back, but its task of protecting the Jewish People is clearly made more difficult when an “ethicist” has expressed public positions that are occupy the far left, demand negotiations with those who seek and continue to seek the destruction of Israel and would deny the IDF the right to defend itself and for Israel to retreat to what Abba Eban called the pre 1967 lines-“Auschwitz borders.”

      • dr. bill says:

        Steve Brizel, No need to defend this noted scholar.  Believe what you wish; those who know little about his writings/talks may find your continued reflections of interest.  My 5 points above are all that I have to say.  In addition to being a Professor of Philosophy at Hebrew University and a Professor of Law at NYU, he is a first-rate talmid chacham.  Those who wish to get a sense of his breadth, without reading his numerous works including his recent masterful work on Maimonides, listen on u-tube to his lecture on being a democratic and Jewish state and his lecture in Hebrew on belief at BGU, also given in English at the Hartman Center.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        “Noted scholars” throughout history have  advocated appeasement of Nazism, Communism, and Islamofascist terror, and deserve to be viewed as tenured radicals, despite their noted academic accomplishments. I stand by my assessment of “military ethics” , and in this case, his views expressed in the street. Perhaps, Professor Halbertal should try to be mkayem Bilur Cholim by examining the results of his POV on the IDF and innocent victims of terror

      • dr. bill says:

        i assume you do not have more than rudimentary (news report level)  familiarity with Prof. Halberthal’s POV.  If you listen to him talk about his approach, you might be able to reason more constructively.  there are a number of u-tubes to choose from;  the one at JTS is very good.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Perhaps Professor Halbaetal should offer his condolences to the students of Vanderbilt U, one of whom was savagely and fatally attacked not too far from where VP Biden was meeting with Israeli officials.

      • dr. bill says:

        A principle that applies both to Talmudic study and conflict resolution, as well as many other types of disagreements, is to be able to formulate both opposing opinions.  I pride myself in being able to often express an opposing viewpoint better than the opponent can.  Sadly tonight I must admit failure; no matter how hard I try I cannot formulate the (il) logic of your view linking the stabbing of a Vanderbilt student to Prof. Halberthal and/or his position on ethical combat.  Even the assumption of likely elimination does not seem to reduce the level of violence. But, BH, chazal’s wisdom that chochmah bagoyim timzeh, was again proven by Biden, who correctly called on the correct person who should condemn this act.

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