Thursday, 28 January 2010

A Rational View of the Mishneh Torah

I find it ironic that so-called "rationalists" take the Rambam's Mishneh Torah as absolutely Divine Perfection, as the epitome of ultimate Emet, as the iconic Word of the Almighty.

These Rationalists have a completely irrational reverence for the Rambam's Magnum Opus. They eschew mysticism, but mystically revere Rambam! Go figure.

The Migdal Oz was an early apologist for the MT and - the joke in yeshiva went as follows.:

"What is the source for this Halachah?"

Migdal Oz: "right here - the Rambam himself says so!". ;-)

Makes it kind of hard to belittle EG Papal infallibility when we Jews ourselves assign it to Rishon - even if arguably the single greatest Rishon!

«Rabbi Wolpoe! You yourself learn tons of Rambam! You teach it. You've covered all of Sefer HaMitzvos, a bit of hs mishnayos, a lot of Mishneh Torah and a chunk of Moreh N'vuchim. So what's your beef with the Rambam!?»

Good question, and I have no beef with the Rambam per se, a few quibbles here and there - EG I don't buy Rambam's take against standing for asseret hadibrot - but overall I have no major issues with the Rambam.

My Beef really is with those who have made the Rambam into a Hassidic Rebbe or a quasi-Messianic hero.

«NU! So what ARE you saying is a rational way to perceive the Rambam?!»

Take the Maharam MiRothenburg's approach. He immediately perceived the genius of the Rambam's organization and the clarity of his teachings as superior to virtually any other work out there And he reverently requested his Talmid to author "hagahot Maimoniyyot" to bring the Mishneh Torah in line with Ashk'nazic M'sorah.

«So what?!»

Maharam was making a balanced rational and respectful statement:

1 That Mishneh Torah was a superior document to most. And would make an excellent limmud.

2 it was NOT perfected as is, but needed balancing with a "binocular" perspective. Thus came the Hagahot to help perfect the tome.

«So practically speaking what are you suggesting?»

Learn a lot of Mishenh Torah - IOW Kabdeihu

Also learn MT with a Peirush - IOW Hashdeihu

« For example?»

The best modern ones I've seen are Rambam La'am and the Moznayyim-Touger editions. Also R. Chavel on Sefer Hamitzvot.

«What about R. Y Kafih's edition of MT?»

Good point. I'm simply not familiar with it enough to comment. It's expensive and hard to get, but indeed may prove worthwhile.


At any rate the Tur himself did recitfy some of the one-way- only approach of the Rambam by quoting Rishonic disputes, and giving a more expansive Point of View [POV] to Halachic complexity.

But for learning simple principles, the Mishneh Torah cannot be beat. But a good peirush makes a good reality check

I hope this helps


1 comment:

robert said...

Rabbi Kappach's MT is available on the internet at Machon Mamre. It's run by his students who have continued his work refining it according to the best Yeminite manuscripts. They also have an online minukad version.