In which you will find that
one who seeks correct truth
who checks his learning with honest investigation
from the roots of the matter, for him will truth raise its head
and he will know that Torah is not from the mouth of the Divine
In this pamphlet are citations of Torah verses and the words of Chazal
The month of Mar Cheshvan, 5760
“And I will give to you the stone tablets and the Torah and the commandment which I wrote to instruct you.” (Exodus 24:12)
Torah is the Written Torah and the commandment is the Oral Torah, so this says that all the commandments which were given to Moshe at Sinai were given with their interpretations, etc., and Moshe learned everything from G-d and gave it to Yehoshua and Yehoshua to the Elders, etc. (Rabbeynu Yonah, Ethics of the Fathers, chapter one, mishna 1)
After we proved, in the past seven pamphlets, that Chazal made many mistakes in reality and from that mistaken reality determined halacha and even matters of Torah (like the drusa which is the treifa written about in the Torah, see pamphlet no. 2) many letters were sent to us by scholars who are intellectually honest. Most of those who wrote us admitted that it was true Chazal knew no more of reality than the experts of those generations and possibly even less. Their conclusion was that while Chazal did not receive [their knowledge of] reality and science from Sinai but from their knowledge and wisdom alone, halacha itself they got from Sinai and it does not change. In the words of Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler OBM, volume 4, page 356, “Chazal knew halacha as received from past generations, etc., but in the matter of the natural explanations, the explanation does not obligate the laws, but the opposite; the law obligates the explanation and the reason mentioned in the Gemara is not the only possible reason for the issue. If they sometimes gave explanations which are according to their contemporary understanding of nature, we are obliged to seek other explanations through which the law will be held to its basis according to the understanding of nature in our days.”
It is as though he said: since we know the “truth” we will make reality match it. It is like the man who claims he’s good at archery—first he shoots the arrow and then he draws the bull’s-eye around it.
And in this pamphlet we, the speakers of true knowledge, come to prove that even the halacha which we are strict about did not come from Moshe at Sinai, but from the rational inference of the Sages who learned from their own knowledge, so that halacha is a human creation exactly as all laws and statutes in every land. Therefore G-d is not the one who obligates, but it is people who take upon themselves those law and statutes which they determined for themselves.
First we will say that the statement ‘halacha does not change because of new realities’ has an error at its very foundation. We will bring two examples, and from them an analogy will be drawn to many others like them. The Chazon Ish in The Laws of Treifot, chapter 5 section 3, contradicts himself. About thetreifot of animals he writes that the law does not change, even though we see that though they are defective (and Chazal determined that from this sort of defect it will die within the year), they remain alive. He reasoned that the sages were to determine treifot according to the Divine Spirit which appeared onto them, and it was required for these laws to be determined in the Two Thousand Years of Torah, as is written in Avoda Zara 9a “and we have no new Torah after them and the determination of treifot is as the providence of the Divine in that time.”
But what can we do when the Gemara in Yevamot 121a rules that a person whose leg has been cut from the knee joint upwards is damaged and after a year his wife is permitted [to remarry] as he is certainly dead? The Shulchan Aruch also ruled this in Even HaEzer chapter 17, section 32. We should have to determine, according to their Divine providence, may it be blessed, that even in these days his wife is permitted though we know that he lives, following the Chazon Ish on treifot, above.
But the Chazon Ish forbade it, as he writes: “But to the issue of marrying his wife, as long as medicine in his time may heal him, one does not wed his wife.” Just these words, with no explanation; he ignored the contradiction which results from comparing one law of treifa to another. And here, wise student, is how Chazal ruled according to reality in their time. Reality changed in regard totreifa in people and the ruling changed.
Another example is an infant born in the eighth month of the woman’s pregnancy. He is thought by the sages as a stillborn who will surely die, and therefore the sages in Tractate Shabbat 135a write, “one of the eighth is like a stone and one may not move him [on Shabbat, for he is muktze].” Rashi explains that he is like one dead, and so it was ruled in the Shulchan Aruch in the laws of the Sabbath, chapter 130. Today it is clear to all that one born in the eighth month lives and survives, and therefore we will obviously ignore the ruling of the Gemara, move him, and not say that halacha has been determined forever based on Divine guidance, as the Chazon Ish said.
And to strengthen our words, we will quote the words of the Yad Yehuda, who disagrees with Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler and with the Chazon Ish.
In the Laws of Treifot, chapter 30 section 3, “And what the ‘Tvuot Shor’ wanted to say, that nature had changed, as is said about the woman who gives birth in odd periods, is a thing which can not be said. One of these two: if it is held asthe halachic mesorah from Moshe who said that it will die, then how is it conceivable to say it will not; how could nature change regarding things G-d commanded for all generations? And if Chazal in their own wisdom determined the treifot which could not survive, on this it is said that since nature had changed, the law changed, too, as it is with a woman who gives birth in odd periods, etc., for at first its law was as a stillborn, etc., and after nature had changed, its law is no longer as a stillborn, and so, too, about an animal of whom it is said that nature changed, it is absolutely permitted to eat, etc. But he [the Yad Yehuda] had still to clarify why an animal was still forbidden as unkosher, even if we see that it lives, so he explained that “one of the commandments Jews took upon themselves was to stray neither to the right or to the left from the words of the Sages of the Talmud, etc. There is nothing more to look for, etc., for on this the Torah said, ‘according to the Torah which was given you’ end of quote” (and so he wrote in chapter 57, section 36). All we can do is recognize the strength of the question as opposed to the weakness of the answer.
Most of the halacha is based on the 13 ways in which the Torah is elucidated: gzeira shava (analogy), kal va’khomer (an inference from minor to major), etc. But from where do we learn them? Did Moshe give them to us or did Chazal learn them on their own?
The Rambam, in the Laws of the Disobedient, chapter 1, wrote: “The great religious court in Jerusalem is the main part of the Oral Torah and they are the pillars of instruction; law and judgement come from them for all of Israel, etc.Either those things were taught to them by the Divine, and they are the Oral Torah, or those things they learned on their own according to one of the ways in which the Torah is elucidated and it seemed to them that thus was the matter,” end of quote. And so wrote the Rambam in chapter two, “In the great religious court they used one of the ways in which the Torah is elucidated, according to what seemed to them appropriate, that the law is this way, etc.,” end of quote. He wrote also in the Second Root of Sefer Ha’Mitzvot that one should not count as part of the 613 commandments the things one learns using any of the thirteen ways of elucidating the Torah, and therefore in the Laws of Interpersonal Relations, chapter one, halacha two, he ruled that consecrating a woman with money is from the words of the soferim, even though it was learned through the elucidation method of gzeira shava(analogy). And in his introduction to Seder Zeraim the Rambam wrote thatanything which is controversial [in the Oral Law] is from the laws deduced through rational inference, to the point that he became a bulwark against those claiming that everything was given to Moshe at Sinai, and these are his words: But anyone who thinks that the laws on which they disagreed were also gotten from Moshe and think that there was a disagreement because of a halachic error or forgetfulness or that one had the correct received tradition and the other was mistaken, etc., all these are the words of one who has no sense and has no principles and damages the people from whom the commandments were received, and all this is for naught and is nullified, etc., for they [those in error] say that every acceptable interpretation is from Moshe and is true, and they did not differentiate between accepted principles and the history of the issue which brought them up for discussion,” end of quote. It is clear that the Rambam saw the 13 methods through which the Torah is elucidated as received from the sages, and all that is interpreted according to the 13 methods are the words of the soferim, aside from those few places where the sages explicitly said they were from the Torah. And so you see again that most of the laws which came from the Talmud are from the sages’ rational deduction, the words of flesh and blood.
And even though the Ramban disagreed with the Rambam and wrote in the Second Root, “but the main source of the Talmud is that all elucidated in the Talmud through one of the thirteen methods are words of Torah and they are the interpretation of the Torah which was told to Moshe,” he wrote further on “and know that though they said a man does not rule via analogies by himself, they did not mean to say that all analogies were explicated to them from Sinai and given to them from the mouth of Moshe Rabbeynu, to learn this word in this verse from that word in that one, and to equate the laws of the two to some issue, – this is not true, since we have found them always disagreeing in many places, etc., and were this received tradition from Sinai, etc., there would be no occasion for these questions and for the answers that were said in the Gemara, etc. But the intent of an analogy which is from Sinai is that they [the Sages] had received a tradition that a certain ruling is learned from an analogy, but from where exactly it is derived was not a part of the received tradition.” (We have summarized his words.)
And understand the words of the Ramban well; every place where the sages disagreed, they disagreed because of their own understanding and one need not say that learning the 13 methods is one of those things which make no sense and have no logic; we would never have ruled thus from our own knowledge.
The opinion of the Tosfot in Tractate Sukka 31a on the words “Rabbi Yehuda supposed” is that “a person can rule from all the methods except from analogy, [according to] which a man may not rule unless he learned thus from his rabbi.” And this you should know: according to all halachic opinions, a person may rule by himself through the method of learning by kal va’khomer (an inference from minor to major), and if you look carefully in the learning of inferences from minor to major by Chazal in the Talmud you’ll see and prove that they are so odd the mind cannot tolerate them. Go to the tractates Kidushin and Yevamot and prove it for yourself. In order to make this intelligible, we will bring an example from the tractate Derech Eretz Rabbah, chapter one, “Rabbi Yossi the son of T’dai, a man of Tiberias, asked Rabban Gamliel: ‘If, because of my wife who is permitted to me, her daughter is forbidden to me, then for a married woman who is forbidden to me, shouldn’t it be the law that her daughter is forbidden to me? etc., and Rabban Gamliel cast him out.” Of course he cast him out, for this instance of learning inference from minor to major would mean that all women would be forbidden to us. See the Ramban in Leviticus chapter 11, verse 3, who disagrees with the words of the Sifra. According to our rabbis, the 13 methods are from the reasoning and knowledge of the Talmudic sages; so look at the Talmudic sages and check their words to see if they make common sense or not. You will find that many times they are distant and odd to the point that one must ask what they were thinking, and there is no answer.
But on the other hand, the sages knew well how to turn their words into the word of Moshe from Sinai. And if you want to see how, with the wave of a pen, the Talmud Yerushalmi turns the words of the sages into the word of the living G-d, see Tractate Megillah, chapter one, halacha 5, “Rav and Rabbi Chanina and Rabbi Yonatan the son of Kapara and Rabbi Yehoshua the son of Levi said: the Megillah [the scroll of Esther] was told to Moshe at Sinai, but there is no chronological order in the Torah” (and see the Ramban, in the First Root of Sefer HaMitzvot). And so in Nedarim 37b we find that the Targum Onkelos (the Aramaic translation of Torah) is a tradition handed down from Moshe at Sinai, and so says the Mishna Brura, in chapter 185, section 6: “The Targum Onkelos has a merit that it was given at Sinai.” Here is a Gentile who converted and translated the Torah to the Aramaic language, which was dominant at that time, and it has been turned into something given to Moshe at Sinai.
And now we will explicate a great and wondrous thing which is one of the bases of the Jewish faith, that the commentaries on the Torah and determinations of halacha are made only by the sages and not because the Divine Spirit or the spirit of prophecy rested upon them, but just the opposite, they extracted halacha from study and deduction. The Rambam wrote in his introduction to the tractate Zeraim, “And know that prophecy does not help in explicating the Torah and in extracting the branches of commandments through the 13 methods, but what Yehoshua and Pinchas did in the matter of study and deduction is what Rabina and Rav Ashi did, etc., or there would be nothing changed (by the prophet) in received tradition, even if the simple meaning of the text would aid him, etc., this will also be liable to death by strangulation, etc., and it is said ‘but it is in your mouth and in your heart that you should do it,’ and the issue of commandments being ‘in your mouth’ is what is known orally and the matter of ‘in your heart’ is the deduction that they extracted from their study, which is one of the powers of heart’s understanding” end of quote. The words of the Rambam well explain that halacha is determined by sages from their study and deductions based on the study and from what attracts the heart, not from prophecy and not from the Divine Spirit.
And not only are halacha and the interpretations of Torah determined by the sages, but even the books included in the 24 Holy Writings were determined by sages from their minds alone, as it is stated in Tractate Megillah 7a, “Esther sent to the sages, ‘write me for the generations’,” that is, she asked for the scroll of Esther to be included with the rest of the Holy Writings. Though she was a prophetess herself, according to the Gemara in Megillah 14a, “Seven prophetesses prophesized for the Jewish nation, Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Channah, Abigail, Hulda, and Esther,” she needed the approval of the sages. And at first they rejected her request due to consideration of the verse “‘and did I write for you the three parts’ – three parts and not four,” until they found it written in the Scriptures, “Write this as a remembrance in a book.” And it is clear that the scroll of Esther was included in the Holy Writings because of the study and the deduction of the sages. Those sages who disagreed with including the scroll of Esther found [support] for themselves and deduced that the scroll of Esther should not be included in the holy writings: “Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said the scroll of Esther does not impurify the hands,” (see Shabbat 14a) “as Shmuel deduced that it was not said through the Divine Spirit, etc., it was said to be read, but not to be written.” And not only about the scroll of Esther were they divided, but also about Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs, “Rabbi Meir says, Ecclesiastes does not impurify the hands, and there is a controversy about the Song of Songs; Rabbi Yossi says that the Song of Songs impurifies the hands and there is a controversy about Ecclesiastes, Rabbi Shimon says that Ecclesiastes is a leniency of the Study Hall of Shammai and a stringency of the Study Hall of Hillel, but Ruth, the Song of Songs, and Esther impurify the hands” (Tractate Yada’im, chapter 3, mishna 5). [According to a Talmudical rule, any of the Holy Writings impurifies the hands.]
And the book of the prophet Ezekiel was saved from being filed away only because of Rabbi Chananya the son of Chezkiyah, as it is told in Tractate Shabbat 13b, “Rabbi Yehuda said that Rav Baram said: recall that man for good, Chananya the son of Chezkiyah is his name; were it not for him the book of Ezekiel would have been filed away, for its words contradicted the words of the Torah. What did he do? They raised to him three hundred measures of oil (for light) and he sat in the attic and explicated them.” So the book of the great prophet contradicts the words of the Torah. Therefore, without the consideration and settling of contradictions by Rav Chananya and without his human wisdom, the book written by the prophet would have been filed away and would not have been included in the Holy Writings.
In Baba Batra 14b it was written about the book of Job that Moshe Rabbeynu wrote it, and on page 15, “Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar both said Job was one of those who returned from [Babylonian] exile, and his house of study was in Tiberias.” According to them, Moshe did not write it, though they did not clarify who did. Even so, they determined that it was one of the Holy Writings—understand this.
And the Book of Ben Sira, which is not included in the Holy Writings, was apparently the source of some disagreement between sages in Baba Kama 92b, “The thing which was written in the Torah was repeated by the prophets and a third time in the Writings, etc., it was repeated a third time in the Writings when it was written: ‘Each bird will live with its own kind, and a man with those like him’.” And the Tosfot there wrote that “there is no such verse in the whole Scripture, and perhaps it is in the Book of Ben Sira,” end of quote. According to the Tosfot, Chazal must have considered the Book of Ben Sira as a part of the Holy Writings. And so in Tractate Eiruvin 65a, Rabbi Chaya the son of Ashi said that Rav said that anyone whose mind is not at ease should not pray, as it says “in sorrow do not contemplate,” and the Rashi wrote “I have looked for this verse in all the Scripture, and it is not in any of the Holy Writings; perhaps it is in the Book of Ben Sira” (and see the Tosfot there), while in Tractate Sanhedrin 100b, “Rabbi Yosef said that it is also forbidden to read the Book of Ben Sira.” In Midrash Kohelet Rabbah, parasha 12, verse 11, “anyone who brings into his house more than 24 books [of Scripture], such as the Book of Ben Sira, brings chaos into his home.” And see how they were divided about whether to introduce the Book of Ben Sira into the Holy Writings or not, and all the determinations of the sages are according to their understanding and consideration and need.
Therefore we know with absolute certainty that the words of the Oral Torah, its halachot and the rulings by which all Jews live, did not come from the Divine Spirit, nor from Heaven, and not from Sinai either. They are the words of wise and intelligent people, men of flesh and blood who understood the knowledge of their times at most, and no more than that, and determined law and judgment according to what their eyes saw, what their heads told them, and how their hearts were inclined. Sometimes they did their work well and sometimes they stumbled, even on small things. And if the times changed or nature changed or the outlooks or the knowledge of the man and the world changed, may sages knowledgeable in the law come and determine according to their knowledge and understanding and inclination, for this is how it had been and this is how it will be.
And we will conclude with the words of Rabbi Yom-Tov Lippman Milhousen in Sefer HaNitzachon, section 321, about the question of “how it is possible that divergent views are both the words of the Living G-d and how did Moshe get both from the Glory; if he was told that it was pure, he was not told that it was impure, and if he was told that it was impure, he was not told it was pure etc. Therefore it seems that the Holy One, blessed be He, gave the Torah and the 13 methods for each and every sage to elucidate the Torah according to his understanding, as long as he concerns himself and considers with all his might with no negligence etc., for He, the Holy One, blessed be He who gave us the Torah, coupled it with the wisdom of the sages according to what was seemly to them and about this it is said that ‘Torah will come out of Zion.’”
Until now we have spoken of the Oral Torah and of the Prophets and Writings; we still must consider the Written Torah, which is the Pentateuch, where it is from and who wrote it, and whether the tradition was not disrupted; all this in a future pamphlet which will have in it no fear or favoritism.
We will add as a side-note:
We receive many letters, some of them with additional sources for strengthening our words and we are gladdened by them; some are off-topic denunciations and curses. Most are attempts to explain and uphold the words of the sages so they should not be ridiculed, and they change the interpretation and the simple explanation and try to push an elephant through the eye of a needle. About this the Ibn Ezra said, in his commentary on the Book of Daniel 1:1, about a great Spanish commentator: “How is it possible that a man should say one word and mean another; one who says this would be thought mad, etc., and he’d better say he does not know rather than twist the words of the Living G-d.”
Write to us words of refinement and we will respond.