Monday, April 18, 2011

Chazon Ish - authority of Chazal is their superior knowledge of truth.

We have had several views of authority - Kesef Mishna - Talmud was accepted by the Jewish people as authoriative (bottom up). Rav Elchonon Wasserman - Majority of rabbis has status of Sanhedrin and thus Talmud was accepted by Sanhedrin authority (top down). Chazon Ish - authority is due to innate superiority and they also have the innate authority of truth and thus they are objectively right..

Chazon Ish[i](Letters 2:24): The truth is that the generation after the Mishna witnessed a decline in stature relative to the Tannaim. The new generation knew for certain that the truth was always with the Tannaim. Once they knew the truth of the matter that it was impossible for them to comprehend something that had not been understood by one of the Tannaim—it was no longer possible to disagree directly with the Tannaim on their own authority. Therefore, they only taught what they understood to be the teachings of the Tannaim. Similarly with the close of the Talmud, the words of an Amora, who was unaware of the teaching on that matter of a tanna, were null. The only exception being Rav who because of his greatness his words were not null. All their conclusions were reached with Divine guidance and ruach hakodesh which manifested itself. Their rulings were in agreement with G‑d as it says in Bava Metzia 86a — Rebbe and Rav Nachman were the end of the Mishna. Thus, it was at the conclusion of the Talmud as it says that Ravina and Rav Ashi were the end of hora’ah. While Rav Yosef Karo says that the authority came because the Jewish people accepted them as authoritative (Kesef Mishna Hilchos Mamrim), he did not do any kindness or good with the sages by this assertion. The fact is that their authority is because they had the truth. How could we simply go according to our opinion if we know that our understanding is limited and we don’t have the truth? How could we go against the sages? In fact, the entire Torah was given at Sinai — even that a student would “create” in the future. The Tanaim recovered that which had been forgotten and up to the time of Rebbe, not everything had been revealed. However, at the end of the Mishna, everything that was appropriate to reveal was revealed and henceforth nothing new was revealed. In fact, everything was hinted at in the words of one of the Tannaim. Thus, it was revealed the Mishna from the first generation of the Amoraim until the last generation of the Amoraim. Our portion is only what is mentioned in the words of the Amoraim. This was a tradition that they had as it says in the gemora Bava Metzia and Avoda Zara 9a that there were a period of 2000 years of Torah. This alludes to the Tannaim because this period ended shortly after them


  1. why then, are there so many cases where the Gemara rules differently from the Mishna?

  2. Eddie: The gemara only rules differently from the mishnah when they can find other tannaitic support. Normal talmudic discourse includes the hunt for such support, rejecting an idea because it's missing. Even questioning why an amora said something (or two amoraim argue something) if it's clearly what the tannaim held -- the words of tannaim are such a given, we assume an amora couldn't have meant something so redundant.

    As for the Chazon Ish, after having spent more time looking through his words, I'm less clear on what he meant. OT1H, the Chazon Ish talks about the list of what injuries makes an animal a tereifah is fixed -- regardless of subsequent science -- because the list was made during the 2 millenia of Torah. This seems to imply something metaphysical about the era that makes the decisions during it more binding.

    OTOH, when he speaks of the transition of tannaim to amoraim, the CI says that the end of the 2 millenia of Torah caused an end to the quality of Torah wisdom, which the next generation recognized in themselves. (Look at the 2nd sentence of the section translated in this post.) In this formulation, the authority comes from acceptance, as in the majority opinion. "Just" that something marked happened in 4,000 AM that caused the tannaim to get that public acceptance.


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  4. What I find difficult is where we cannot rely on Mishna as halacha, since often it is not the "accepted" halacha, eg turning off a candle on shabbat..
    But plenty of other cases.
    Re: other tannaitic sources, are these Baraitot? And do the baraitot have power over the Mishna? And the reasoning behind these departures is not usually one of superior knowledge or authority, but "strictness" etc, please correct me if I am wrong!

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