Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Mussar from a Discussion List

R Dov Kaiser of Avodah graciously permitted me to reprint his post.
I'm selecting one passage to make 2 separate points. Yet the two points are related as we shell see.

R. Dov Kaiser:
Point #1
«You are certainly entitled to read the Gemara and SA differently from R. Dovid Oppenheim, the Nesivos and R. Akiva Eiger, but others might choose to favour their reading over yours. As we have discussed many times, when it comes to psak halacha (as opposed to lomdus), there is something slightly unorthodox (even unOrthodox) about jumping from the Gemara to the SA to psak halacha, while ignoring the voluminous halachic literature written since then, especially when it emanates from such greats as R. Akiva Eiger. And even if you think it is a legitimate approach to disregard Acharonim in formulating halacha, you certainly can't accuse those who follow the mainstream approach of making things up. »
Here we have a defense of Halachic precedent over revisionism. It's perhaps OK to look back to original texts such as Talmud and SA and to understand them in a novel manner.
However there are two issues here
A. Revising Halachah based upon a novel [revised] understanding of the key texts - in opposition to the classic, Traditional Understanding
B. Even if the above were OK, it's egregious Impose this POV as THE nomrative p'saq when objecting to the mainstream understanding.
This constitutes
C. Ish kol Hayashar b'einav Yaaseh
D. Ki chol ho'eidah Kullam Q'doshim umau'a titnas'u on Q'hl Hashem?
These Hashqafot are not acceptable
Shoymie: so what do YOU think IS acceptable given people sincerely dispute a traditional read of a text?
RRW: I would propose stating "I see the text differently and it appears to have been an early mis-understanding that has been perpetuated - IN MY HUMBLE OPINION [IMHO] or l'fi aniyat Da'ati [lfad]. However, consult YOUR poseiq as how to proceed...
Shloymie: so re you saying that one should raise the flag of objection, but not go further and repeal the law as it is?
RRW: yes along those lines. Remember that we may have a good "law" and a bad source. So revising an understanding is often insufficient weight to overturn the practice. BE"H I will post about Laws agreed to, but whose sources may be "flaky".
And also note, while some such as the M'harshal felt entitled to overrule Posqim by appealing directly to Shas - still AFAIK, he never ignored the Posqim. Also note that in very few instances did M'harshal win the day against the mainstream.

Point #2
«Language such as *How can you possibly imagine that this law allows the public to move the grave and build the road?* appears just a bit over the top when great Acharonim imagined just such a thing. Also, as I have pointed out before in this forum, I think this sort of language on [this list] creates more heat than light, to use a cliche, and lowers the tone of discussion.»
Here we have the great pitfall of the internet used for Torah. Bad manners may prevail and snide tones may turn off readers from valid points. Frequently even excellent points may be compromised by hubris or condescension. I know that I have been guilty of condescension myself especially when I perceive antagonists vehemently arguing with me AND I've perceived that they have failed to comprehend my point..
So this Mussar certain applies to me
The valid WHAT's of making a point do not justify inappropriate HOW's. Derech Eretz Qodmah l'Torah. Tone counts.
Shoymie: Nu what's that common denominator you alluded to before?
RRW: a kind of azzut, or hubris, or hutzpah. Thus, the common denominator is
  1. "Since I think I'm right I may ignore the opinions of all other"
  2. "Since I think I'm right I may ignore having derech eretz towards all others"
The common flaw is a kind of "egotism"
Shoymie: so what about the egotism of objecting? Shouldn't that also be shunned?
RRW: Lav davqa. In milhemet haTorah, we need honesty, sincerity, and good analysis. But it must be couched respectfully and strong "rayot brurot" must be brought to bare. Condescension compromises the nobility of trying to fix something, and may transform it into being egotistical or one upsmanship.
Question away! Challenge away! But couch it "halo limadtanu...?"

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