Sunday, 14 November 2010

Naaseh v'Nishma 5 - Torah Lishmah 1

R Hershel Grossman [RHG] has advocated a dichotomy - one to which I also have subscribed to for a long time. Namely that Talmud is for theory and that Shulchan Aruch [and similar codes] are for practical Halachah

In Yeshivishe this is stated "we don't pasken from the G'mara"

And as my daughter brought back from Israel - if you want to UNDERSTAND the principles of a Halachah the older the book - the better! If you want to know modern/current practice the newer the book the better. Or as the Talmud says: "hilcheta k'batrai"

In the cognitive dissonance arena there are two similar illustrations. One comes from the Right-wing of Orthodoxy and the Other from Left-wing Orthodoxy

This post will focus upon the Right Wing case of Brisker Torah.


Brisker Torah modernized "pilpul" and dialectic into an almost laboratory replicable analytic system. By using dichotomies such as "gavra cheftza" distinctions or "tzvei dinim in X" it revolutionized analysis of Talmud and Rambam. So far so good.

As such Brisker Torah was originally a breath of fresh air in the Yeshiva World and injected Talmudic Learning with new enthusiasm.

In this sense, Brisk can produce that "spiritual high" suggested by RHG. It sets up incredible elegant solutions that at times can make a Litvak kvell with ecstasy.

Halachah l'Maaseh:

The problem? While RHG realizes that Talmudism is not about halachah p'sukkah - Brisk ignored that boundary and produced a system that could seriously revise Halachic practice and undermine trust in Mesorah.

This comes in two main flavours

The "Vanilla" flavour is that Brisk - following the GRA - DOES pasken directly from g'mara! As such, all this new sophisticated casuistry could pose a challenge or threat to all current practice - a right wing form of revisionism.

The secondary flavour - "Chocolate" - is about embracing the Rambam for practical Halachah, something neither the SA of RY Karo nor the Mappah of Rema did regularly. Only Teimanim do this regularly. And so Imposing a Maimonidean platform for PRACTICAL Halachah undermines the entire Halachic Mesorah in Ashkenaz.
Reductio ad absurdum If you want Brisker P'saq, read Rema or Kitzur SA and do just the opposite and there you have it - so to speak!

My Rebbe "muvhaq" R Yeruchem Gorelick was an arch-brisker, but he refused to teach us Hullin. At first he said ONLY if we do NOT learn it Halachah l'maaseh. Later he even backed off from even this and went back to Bava Kama and I went to the Rav's Shiur.

He did not articulate his reservations, but imho he didn't have to. AISI - he simpy realized that applying Brisker Torah to Hullin would clash with Yoreh Dei'ah as we know it and set up a case of cognitive dissonance that he felt was dangerous for us students to deal with.

More Dissonance

The oddball in this is that several "lefty" Rabbis I that I know regularly embrace the Rambam and oftentimes the GRA - as opposed to current mainstream practice. And in a sense - Brisk is but an amalgam an embrace of Rambam and GRA.

But these Rabbis vehemently oppose Brisk. I suspect they don't mind the revisionism at all - rather they don't like the Right-Wing Political Tilt


1 comment:

Unknown said...

If a conclusion drawn from close, seemingly rigorous analysis is not supposed to be applied and may even contradict the widely accepted psak, can this be taken as pointing to a flaw in the analysis?