Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rav Kook suggested studying kabbala in Telz Yeshiva

Making of a Godol page 979. Sometime after the Hasman tenure - probably before R' Katz took the post and certainly before R' Luft did - R' Laizer tried to strike out in a direction other than Musar by offering the post of mashgiah to R' Avraham-Yitzhaq Kook, then serving as Rav of Boisk. The latter spent several days in Telz before turning down the position because the post of Rav of Jaffa, in Eretz Yisrael, was offered him at the same time - but not before making the revolutionary suggestion to R' Gordon that "the yeshiva institute classes in Tnakh, Midrash, Zohar, Kuzari, שמונה פרקים and the like ''. (Regarding the suggestion that yeshiva bahurim study Zohar, cf....  where, in a letter to .... dated Rosh Hodesh Elul 5673 (September 3, 1913), about a decade after R' Kook's visit to Telz, he defends studying Kabala before being "full with the bread and meat" of Talmudic studies.)

46 comments:

  1. This approach eventually became the teaching in his own Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva. Until today, they study these various areas. Kuzari is very much part of their sylalbus, as is Kaballah, Rambam etc.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 15, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    "Rav Kooks suggested studying kabbala in Telz Yeshiva"

    RaP: Rav Kook is a "da'as yochid" and was rejected by the leaders of Torah Jewry, just as his attitude to Zionism was more positive, no one in the Litvish yeshiva velt does this, to this day. One of Rav Kook's parents was Lubavitch, and this influence permeated his life. Rav Kook studied Chasidus and was himself a known mekubal. As such he surely did not advocate teaching Ma'asei Breishis and Ma'asei Merkava berabim to every chaim yankel?! Rav Kook's writings are not studied in Litvish yeshivas, just as Kabbala, Zohar and even Midrash are not part of any Litvish yeshiva curriculum, that is based purely on Gemora, with even the Agadeta sections of the Gemoras skipped over.

    "Eddie said...This approach eventually became the teaching in his own Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva. Until today, they study these various areas. Kuzari is very much part of their sylalbus, as is Kaballah, Rambam etc."

    RaP: They study Kabbalah in Mercaz Harav yeshiva? Is that so? Do they use the Zohar? Or the Bahir? Or the Sefer Yetzira? Or the Etz Chaim? This must be very interesting. When do they have time to learn regular masechats and meforshim? Kuzari is Jewish philosophy and also not studied in yeshivas. As for RAMBAM, of course everyone uses the RAMBAM's Mishneh Torah, as a key text needed for Halachic and Talmudic learning. But the RAMBAM's Moreh Nevuchim is still in a virtual "cherem" and no one goes near it (perhaps some of the biggest lamdonim, but not the average scholars.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @RaP - "But the RAMBAM's Moreh Nevuchim is still in a virtual "cherem""

      Moreh Nevuchim is an incredibly brilliant sefer that should be taught in all yeshivos. It is more relevant today than ever. It promotes pure monotheism using philosophical/scientific language, and it is NOT an attempt to reconcile Torah with any non-Jewish ideas that conflict with the Torah.

      Learning Moreh Nevuchim involves no danger of exposing oneself to polytheistic-pagan ideas that seem to be present in certain kabbalistic shitos.

      I highly recommend these shiurim:
      http://hashkafacircle.com/shiurim/category/moreh-nevuchim/
      http://hashkafacircle.com/shiurim/category/creation/

      Delete
    2. Many yeshivos and certainly Mercaz Harav learn Kuzari.

      Since Rav Kook ztt"l was a chavrusa trio with the fathers' of Rav Elyashiv and Rav SZ Auverbach,, i would hereby worry about the 'daas yachid' torah, that these families absorbed and inculcated.

      Delete
    3. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 16, 2013 at 12:26 PM

      "EmesLeYaacov said...@RaP - "But the RAMBAM's Moreh Nevuchim is still in a virtual "cherem""

      Moreh Nevuchim is an incredibly brilliant sefer that should be taught in all yeshivos"

      The Moreh Nevuchim is brilliant (naturally, since it is the product of the RAMBAM's ultra brilliant mind!) but that is not the point of this ongoing discussion. Yet the fact remains that it is NOT taught in yeshivos, never has been and never will be, because it's core is based on Aristotelian philosophy which was the reason it led to the original cherem again the RAMBAM and all his works by the Chachmei Tzarfas/Provence-Askenaz, something that one as great as the RAMBAN (Nachmanides)tried to mediate with little success! It's context was the Greek rationalism that the RAMBAM was trying to counter among the assimilating Spanish-Iberian Jews who were very philosophy oriented, under the influence of enlightened Arabian Muslim Aristotelianism! Unlike the French-German Jews who were Talmidically-scholastically oriented, living in more conservative "orthodox" Catholic Europe. Two different weltanschaungs and the scholastic French-German scholars-Talmudists wanted to wipe out the rationalistic philosophic view and approach and they succeeded. It was a North vs. South European split of the Middle Ages that later became the East vs. West split in Europe of the Early Modern period. Only much later in modern Germany and in modern American, such as with Rav Dr. J.B. Soloveitchik and Yeshiva University that introduced full secular academics combined with Torah studies was this approach revived, especially for Modern Orthodoxy but NOT among Charedi Jewry. Eventually the personal cherem against the RAMBAM was lifted but a de facto, if not de jure cherem still remains against the Moreh Nevuchim. Only yechidei segula, highly worthy very advanced and seasoned mature Torah scholars, are entitled to learn it, and even then, few venture to actually do so.

      Delete
    4. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 16, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      "cvmay said...Many yeshivos and certainly Mercaz Harav learn Kuzari."

      RaP: Which yeshivas do so formally? None of the big-time mainstream Litvish ones that's for sure where the learning of Mussar is the greatest "concession" that's added to the full-time curriculum of Gemora with meforshim learning (except in Brisk-influenced yeshivas, since Brisk is anti-Mussar too!) Otherwise, machshava. ("Jewish thought-philosophy"), as represented by the Kuzari is totally ignored (perhaps in some Baal Teshuva yeshivas it is taught to lure the students in to the yeshivish velt).

      There is a famous story that after Rav Eliyahu Dessler was niftar, since he was a famous ba'al machshava and even knew Maharal and kabbalah, his successor at Ponevezh as mashgiach ruchani, Rav Chatzkel Levenstein openly stated that he was going to be "oker" (uproot) the work and approach of Rav Dessler in favor of the classical teaching and preaching of Mussar, and that is exactly what happened, as Rav Dessler's approach was forgotten at Ponevezh yeshiva.

      Posthumously Rav Dessler's thoughts were published as "Michtav Me'Eliyau" and they were very popular for a while. But the English publishing was then done by the more enlightened Feldheim publishers, it was not something the Charedi ArtScroll would do because they are Mussar oriented per the "yeshivisha derech" which is anti-philosophical and is only machshiv Gemora lomdus (Talmudic erudition) alone.

      "Since Rav Kook ztt"l was a chavrusa trio with the fathers' of Rav Elyashiv and Rav SZ Auverbach,, i would hereby worry about the 'daas yachid' torah, that these families absorbed and inculcated."

      RaP: None of these represent what goes on in any mainstream Litvish yeshivas and none of them have had any impact within them. In fact the roshei yeshiva and mashgichim of the Litvich yeshivas, from the time of Volozhin to this day, have done a great job of insulating the yeshivas and the Talmidim they control from any overt and covert Kabbbalistic influences, even if coming from famous names. Even the word "Kabbalah" is taboo and not to be mentioned in the dalad amos of any conventional Litvish yeshiva.

      Delete
    5. And after Rav Chazkel came Rav Chaim Friedlander who used RaMCHaL (Derech Hashem) and Rav Dessler as his foundations and is quite popular.

      Delete
    6. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 18, 2013 at 1:23 PM

      "BR said...And after Rav Chazkel came Rav Chaim Friedlander.."

      And you compare and equate Rav Chaim Friedlander with Rav Chazkel Levenshteyn??? Good joke. No one knows how to learn or give, or take, Mussar today. It is a dead field really, Chaisidism on the other hand has won. You see this is part of the problem, it's called "YERIDAS HADOROS" ("the decline of the generations") pure and simple. Just as the secular world wants "Kabbalah Centres" and "Chabad Houses" that give out "placebo information" that goes nowhere and does nothing and has no tachlis (well it does raise lots of money for the people who run them promising "miracles" with waters and red strings and visits to graves), likewise, "azoy vie es kristalt zach azoy yidelt zach" ("the way it goes with the goyim-Chritsina, so it also goes with the Jews") meaning "monkey see-monkey do" and this is not a "ma'aleh" it is a "chisaron" in the dor, our own DOR YOSOM full with yesomim who are ignorant about what the mesorah is!

      Another factor is that the growth of the Chasidisha velt has impacted the Litvish yeshivisha velt in all ways. The wearing of dark suits, the growth of more beards, taking on of more chumras, making rosehi yeshiva into "chasidisha rebbes" so it is no wonder that some talmidim want "Chasidus" like spoiled kids who are not happy with hunting for a piece of dry bread and water like in the old days but now neeeeeeeeed sugary cereals and hot cocoa spoon fed to them.

      Yeridas Hadoros my friend!

      Then you have all sorts of kids from ba'alei teshuva families, and non-conformists, dreamers and seekers in the bais hamedrash who are BORED they just don't get the mental stimulation they need from regular Gemora learning that in past generations lasted for a lifetime. Now in the era of 1,000+ channel TVs and I-Phones with instant access to the speedy Internet, people, including yeshiva bochurim want ENTERTAINMENT, instant gratification for them is just as much a need as it is for the world outside, and they think they can get it from "Kabbala" or such things when they are deluding themselves. By way of example: Just like you will always need a CONVENTIONAL education and degree from a top university to become a great and competent lawyer, doctor, accountant, scientist etc (would you go to a doctor who went to a university that taught only poetry and music? or to lawyer who only studied botany and lived on a farm for his training? or an accountant who is not good at math?), you will always need the CONVENTIONAL education from good yeshivas to become a top rov, maggid shiur, posek, dayan and even a great daf yomi balebos! And all the other hocus-pocus won't help you because its' basically VAIBISH!

      Of course, you can choose to live like a Chasidisha Yid, but then why are you going to a Litvisha yeshiva?!

      Delete
  3. I think the title of this post overemphasizes (sensationalizes?) the Zohar aspect of R' Kook's suggestion. The essence of R' Kook's idea was to broaden the formal yeshiva curriculum to include more philosophical material. This actually fits fairly well with the general approach of Telz (in Europe, which was always known for a being a bit more broadminded). The likelihood is that any such class in Zohar (or Midrash, for that matter) would not be working from cover to cover (which would be somewhat pointless anyways), but would use carefully chosen selections from the work appropriate for such a class. I would argue that it is perfectly possible to study many selections from the Zohar without ever actually studying Kabbala per se (teaching it may be a different question).

    ReplyDelete
  4. torah hee v'lilmod ani tzarickJanuary 15, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    I'm trying to figure out the daas torah in this post.

    All Gedolim in Eretz Yisroel (one assumes that this is "daas torah" par excellence) banned this this book. So how can a site calling itself "daas torah" quote or cite from it?

    ReplyDelete
  5. 1) it was not banned by all gedolim in Eretz Yisroel
    2) Rav Sternbuch not only did not ban it but he actual read it and liked it and said the ban was improper since the author was not called to a din Torah to defend himself.
    3)Rav Eliashiv did not ban it either - but he didn't protest the ban or the wall posters against it either.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Can I get your copy when you finish reading it (here its unavailable).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is available from Amazon , Levines' and ebay

      http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/9659037929/sr=8-1/qid=1358274643/ref=olp_tab_all?ie=UTF8&colid=&coliid=&me=&qid=1358274643&seller=&sr=8-1


      http://levinejudaica.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=38

      Delete
    2. Very available and very worthwhile through AMAZON.

      Delete
  7. This essay might interest you, showing all the Shitot that allow learning Kabbala at early ages:

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_XwtW-OvSn4d1I0YlFOeVk3TmM/edit

    ReplyDelete
  8. A few different comments above but there is an interesting thread:

    @RaP: But the RAMBAM's Moreh Nevuchim is still in a virtual "cherem" and no one goes near it (perhaps some of the biggest lamdonim, but not the average scholars.)

    Moreh is a banned book, just as Making of a Gadol is. These are both iconoclastic books, ie they shatter certain myths in their own times.

    I have heard that R Nachman of Breslov called the Guide a work of evil. This appears to be because of its anti mystical ideas.

    whereas the Guide is banned, Kabbalah is not banned but there is also a rite of passage for Jews to become "real men". Not a barmitzvah, but being allowed into the circle of Kabbalists, so there is a lot of prestige in this.

    Books are banned because often people are unable to accept new ideas.




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eddie,

      In all fairness the GR"A kept a copy of the Moreh on shelf next to a copy of Mesilat Yesharim, because he thought both were misunderstood Tzadikim.

      The Ari, and those that followed in the Ari/Rashash school of thought have done a lot to rehabilitate the Moreh, in what I believe was it's originally intended context, as a rationalist approach of simple faith. The Leshem even does a drash on the Gemarra in Chagiga(What is above you, what is below you), where he says that if one finds something in Kabbalah that one thinks contradicts the simple faith taught by the Rambam in the Ikkarim and the Moreh, then one must stay with one's simple faith, and leave that inyan alone until you have learned more, and can reconcile it with one's simple faith(i.e. the Moreh).

      On the flip side, there were Mekubalim(Abulafia and his school, still somewhat alive today) that believed the Moreh was a Kabbalistic text. Abulafia actually wrote I believe three Kabbalistic commentaries on the book, "showing" the Rambam's real and hidden intention.

      So honestly it wasn't, from what I can tell, his views on mysticism that ran him into trouble. It was his elevation of Aristotle and Aristotelian philosophy that got him into trouble. Whether or not that has faded is a bit beyond my current knowledge.

      Delete
    2. RMT raises some interesting points:

      What exactly was the "offense" of the Rambam's Moreh? Perhaps this too is a mystery, depending on an individual's understanding of this Sefer. (I have sometimes unwittingly insulted people by referring to a Book rather than a Sefer).

      Do you refer to Abraham Abulafia? There are others too who claimed that the Guide made Kabbalistic allusions, including Habad, and Margaliot.

      But you forget the point that RaP has made a few times, and that I am in agreement with. Maimonides attacked Pan/panentheism, and also corporeality. The Shiur Komah story is well known, and the Ramban's letter to french Rabbis is perhaps less well known.

      I believe Rav Kook must have had some kind of synthesis between the two, just as he did between his Habad and Litvish sides. It is these particular issues where I am in disagreement with R' Kook's system of thought.

      Delete
    3. @R. Tzadok - "It was his elevation of Aristotle and Aristotelian philosophy that got him into trouble"

      I like most of your comment about the Moreh. However, the Rambam was an incredible genius who actually challenged many erroneous Aristotelian ideas in Moreh Nevuchim.

      In the Moreh, Rambam strongly opposed Aristotle's idea of an eternal Universe, an eternal Universe being a concept that most scientists today would consider impossible for various reasons.

      Ironically, many of the fundamental points in the Rambam's cosmology in II 13-30 are quite consistent with modern cosmological theories, for example:

      "time belongs to the created things...the foundation of the whole Law is the view that Hashem brought the world into being out of nothing...everything was created simultaneously, then gradually all things became differentiated."
      MN II:30

      Delete
    4. there is a machlokes between R Reuven Margoliot, and Prof Scholem. R Margoliot notes that the Zohar contains the theory of avodah zara presented by rambam, and hence Rambam was initiated in Kabbalah. Prof Scholem argues the other way - that this is proof of the Zohar being made up after the time of Rambam. Now, Scholem may have been an apikores, (in every respect), but his Lomdus is still quite apparent. I wonder how great a Gadol he would have been, had he the good fortune to be raised frum.

      Delete
    5. Eddie - having spent some time studying the works of gedolim I can assure you that being a good debater is not a prerequisite for being a gadol.

      Delete
    6. @Eddie
      Do you refer to Abraham Abulafia? There are others too who claimed that the Guide made Kabbalistic allusions, including Habad, and Margaliot.

      But you forget the point that RaP has made a few times, and that I am in agreement with. Maimonides attacked Pan/panentheism, and also corporeality. The Shiur Komah story is well known, and the Ramban's letter to french Rabbis is perhaps less well known.


      Yes I do refer to Rav Avraham Abulafia. I know that there were others after, but he was a Rishon who lived a mere 40yrs after the Rambam's death. A big part of what got him(Abulafia) in trouble was that he was trying to reconcile Kabbalah with the Rambam. That along with his claims of receiving actual prophecy had him run afoul of the Rashba, and his attempt to convert the Pope didn't help. Though I do have to say that either he was really lucky or HaShem protected him in that endeavor, since the pope, who ordered him burned when he arrived, died just hours before he did of a sudden stroke, thus averting the death sentence on Abulafia.

      Delete
    7. I like most of your comment about the Moreh. However, the Rambam was an incredible genius who actually challenged many erroneous Aristotelian ideas in Moreh Nevuchim.

      In the Moreh, Rambam strongly opposed Aristotle's idea of an eternal Universe, an eternal Universe being a concept that most scientists today would consider impossible for various reasons.


      Like I said my current knowledge is weak on the subject. I only know that the GR"A held that the charges against the Rambam were false. It may well be that the simple mention of anything Aristotelian at the time was enough to get the Rambam in trouble, despite him tossing out the things that did not jive with Judaism.

      You seem to be rather Baki in the Guide so I defer to your superior knowledge there.

      Delete
    8. I wonder how great a Gadol he would have been, had he the good fortune to be raised frum.

      As Pinchas Geller writes in his book "Shalom Shar’abi and the Kabbalists of Beit El" Scholem, despite his upbringing was initially accepted as a student at Beit El, where, given the time frame he would have been a co-student of greats such as Rav Yitzhak Kaduri, Rav Mordekhai Sharabi, Rav Attiah, Rav Ovadiah Hedayya and numerous others who's names are currently lost on me. This was also the time when the Chazon Ish praised their Amkut as being greater than his own.
      However he despised their method of learning, felt them fools, and left. So it wasn't about being raised frum, it was about good middot and realizing when you are out of your depth.

      Delete
    9. If I recall correctly Gershon Scholem wrote that the study of Kabbbala was an act of rebellion against his secular upbringing. He was very much interested in mystical experiences- as Prof. Moshe Idel mentions in his introduction to New Perspectives. But he just couldn't attain it. So he turned to text based academic approach to the subject. Scholem mentioned he had the opportunity to study with real kabbalists but the condition was that he had to be silent and not ask questions until he achieved a certain level - and that he refused to do so he left for a text based academic world devoid of mesora and feeling.

      Delete
    10. see new post

      http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2013/01/kabbala-prof-scholem-ask-no-questions.html

      Delete
    11. Re: Gerhardt Scholem: I am suggesting that had he benefited from having rabbinical upbringing, he may have been a Gadol. There are members big Rabbinical familes who became either secular or entered academic life, and became professors. I remember a story that Rav Shach had great hope for his son to be a big Talmid Hacham - since he obviously had the intellectual capacity. Instead he became Professor Shach. Had he become a Rosh Yeshiva, he may have been a successor to his father.

      Delete
    12. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 16, 2013 at 1:22 PM

      EmesLeYaacov said...@R. Tzadok - "It was his elevation of Aristotle and Aristotelian philosophy that got him into trouble"

      I like most of your comment about the Moreh. However, the Rambam was an incredible genius who actually challenged many erroneous Aristotelian ideas in Moreh Nevuchim."

      Not sure what the percentages were, but supposedly the RAMBAM approved of close to or even more than 99% of what Aristotle wrote about (maybe a bit more or less) and yes, the RAMBAM did refute some of Aristotle's contentions, the greatest one being that the RAMBAM totally rejected the notion of a "removed" God from Nature in keeping with the Torah view that Hashem is not some "force" that has created the universe that then lets' the universe run on "automatic pilot" with hardly any intervention from the Divine. Unlike Aristotle, the RAMBAM insisted on what we would call "hashgocha pratis" (exactly what kind is disputed between rationalists and mystics) but nevertheless this was probably the key difference with Aristotle's views, otherwise almost all else that Aristotle wrote about, based on his incredible powers of logic and reason -- i.e. as the embodiment of CHOCHMA (viz: yesh chochma bagoyim!) and the culmination of "the beauty of Yefet dwelling in the tents of Shem" per the Torah's brocha in Breishis "יַפְתְּ אֱלֹהִים לְיֶפֶת, וְיִשְׁכֹּן בְּאָהֳלֵי-שֵׁם" Genesis 9:27, the RAMBAM not only agreed with but also adopted, adapted and tried to popularize to show that Judaism and the best of Greek philosophy as expressed by Aristotle were in harmony and agreement.

      Delete
    13. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 16, 2013 at 1:22 PM

      Re: RAMBAM:

      In fact there is an old mesorah that the Greek philosophy of Aristotle was actually nothing but plagiarized from the "Sefer Chochma" as well as other Seforim of various chochmas that were lost when the First Bais HaMikdosh and Eretz Yisroel were looted and pillaged and that had belonged to Shlomo Hamelech, who was the wisest of all men ever, even greater than Moshe Rabbeinu. There are interesting discussions about Shlomo's Sefer HaRefuah as well. That was also part of his great effort to bring that long lost heritage back to life and thereby win over the hundreds of thousands of assimilating Jews who were leaving Judaism to join the Islamic Aristotelian ruling classes and aristocracy that ruled Spain and North Africa during the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain (711-1492 CE), see interestingly the partial list on Wikipedia of some Notable figures of this golden age:

      *Abu al-Fadl ibn Hasda, philosopher, vizier at Zaragosa
      *Abu Ruiz ibn Dahri fought in the war against the Almohades.
      *Amram ben Isaac ibn Shalbib, scholar and diplomat in the service of Alfonso VI of Castile
      *Bahya ibn Paquda, philosopher and author of Chovot ha-Levavot
      *Bishop Bodo-Eleazar; according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, "a convert to Judaism ... [who]... went to Córdoba, where he is said to have endeavored to win proselytes for Judaism from among the Spanish Christians."
      *Dunash ben Labrat (920-990), poet
      *Isaac ibn Albalia, astronomer and rabbi at Granada
      *Jekuthiel ibn Hasan, king's minister at Zaragosa, fell from favor, executed
      *Joseph ibn Hasdai, poet, father of Abu al-Fadl ibn Hasdai
      *Joseph ibn Migash, diplomat for Granada
      *Maimonides, rabbi, physician, and philosopher
      *Menahem ben Saruk
      *Michael Servetus, Jewish converso, astronomer, physician, theologian, cartographer, translator, poet, mathematician and humanist, at Tudela.
      *Solomon Ibn Gabirol, poet and philosopher
      *Moses ben Enoch
      *Yehuda Halevi, poet and philosopher
      *Abraham ibn Ezra, rabbi and poet
      *Moses ibn Ezra, philosopher and poet
      *Benjamin of Tudela, traveler and explorer
      *Samuel Ha-Nagid ibn Nagrela, king's minister and poet
      *Hasdai ibn Shaprut, royal physician and statesman
      *Judah ben Saul ibn Tibbon"

      P.S.

      The debate of what keeps in the fold "FFB" Jews, as well as "brings back" lost assimilated Jews is still with us today, some would say it is rationalism and philosophizing-machshava, as found in the Kuzari type arguments, others say it has to be scholasticism and Talmudics-lomdus and other says it must be mysticism, Kabbalah and Chasidism. There is no resolution at the present time. Time will tell.

      Delete
    14. Many different issues will bring back assimilated or secular Jews. Note that Chabad / Breslov work on mystical stuff; Litvish yeshivot attract many to Talmudic studies; Dati Leumi/Kook type yeshivot work on things like nationalism, zionism as atchalta d'geula, settling our own land; some people are frustrated with evil secualr (zionism) so they choose to be the opposite, eg Satmar, NK types; Shas works on restoring the former glory of Sephardic heritage, and brings back many that way. A famous story of Rav Soloveitchik about 2 agnostics who came to hear him deliver a shiur, were so impressed by his genius, they decided to do teshuva.

      Delete
  9. @eddie It is my understanding that Professor Scholem was rejected from the kabbalistic Yeshiva Beit El

    ReplyDelete
  10. I feel a need to comment here. It appears to me the Eddie's familiarity with Mercaz Harav is second hand. I spent most of a decade there, and I doubt much has changed in regard to limud emunah since I left Yerushalayim in '89. So a few points.

    Regarding the Zohar in general, let's not ignore that the Zohar is a far more common item in the Sefardi communities. What's more, if one actually reads the proclamation of the Vaad Arbah Artzot, the Zohar is one of the four *permitted* works of the kabbalah. Finally, it was not encouraged to learn Zohar systematically in Mercaz Harav; neither was it discouraged. It certainly was NOT promoted the way that the writings of the Maharal or the Kuzari are.

    It probably should be pointed out, too, that in some Sefardic communities a good knowledge of Moreh Nevuchim was considered basic for anyone who wanted to be considered learned.

    Rav Tzvi Yehudah Hacohen Kook had a well-articulated approach that was the legacy from his father. For one thing, we didn't learn 'philosophy' or 'mahshevet' or whatever other terms you might use. In Mercaz Harav we learned *emunah*. The whole point, according to Rav Tzvi Yehudah, to this learning was to clarify and articulate and strengthen one's emunah. There was a suggested order to his learning. Kuzari as the absolute foundation, to be learned repeatedly from time to time. Mesillat Yesharim was highly valued. Shmoneh Prakim was fundamental. Maharal was to be learned systematically, starting with Netivot because it is easier and has an immediate benefit, continuing with G'vurot, etc. There was a whole list that stretched over the years. Moreh Nevuchim was considered something to learn 'later on', as was the Tanya. Rav Kook's Orot Hateshuvah and Orot and Musar Avicha were emphasized early on and repeatedly, with his other writings being learned later as one went on. Many of us learned Rav Harlop's writings, and of course what is available from the Nazir.

    One was expected to have a short seder emunah, which we often fit in by hearing a shiur in place of part of breakfast time so that we would be prepared for a full morning seder on gemara and poskim.

    'Kabbalah' qua kabbalah, whatever that means, was not learned as part of the yeshiva program; but of course it could and did come up in learning many things - Maharal (who Rav Tzvi Yehuda charactized as a מקובל א-להי בעל סיגנון פילוסופי), Rav Kook's writings, Rav Harlop's writings, Ramban, etc. And certainly some people learned Zohar and other works because they were up to that point. I would say the *presence* of the kabbalah was evident in much of the learning related to emunah and musar; but it was not a 'curriculum item'.

    Other philosophical works from the geonim or rishonim were learned as the talmidim or ramim desired. Rav Shaul Yisraeli, who was a rosh yeshiva at Mercaz Harav in my time, edited an anthology to be used in Bnei Akiva Yeshiva High Schools called Perakim B'mahshevet Yisrael.

    Rav Kook himself established the standard that students coming to the yeshiva had to have a good working knowledge of Tanach, Mishnah, and some gemara as prerequisites to learning in his beit midrash.

    I hope this helps clarify things a bit regarding the spirit and program of Mercaz Harav. It sounds to me like the suggestion for Telz was very likely the same program that Rav Kook promoted in his own batei midrash. I think the title of the original post here is really misleading.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mordechai, you are quite right. My point was -and you have confirmed this - that the proposed system of learning for telz was actualised in RAY Kook's own Universal Yeshiva.

      Delete
    2. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 16, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      "Mordechai Y. Scher said...I feel a need to comment here...I spent most of a decade there, and I doubt much has changed in regard to limud emunah since I left Yerushalayim in '89. So a few points..."

      Yasher Koach for your very informative and very special first-hand description of what you experienced and what went on. Very, very helpful and much appreciated. Thank you so much.

      Delete
  11. "@RaP: But the RAMBAM's Moreh Nevuchim is still in a virtual "cherem" and no one goes near it (perhaps some of the biggest lamdonim, but not the average scholars."

    i've learned the moreh. no one goes near it because the aristotelian philosophy is out of sync with modern thinking and has been for hundreds of years. people barely learn the ramban, you expect them to learn the guide? its long, it isn't a feel good book, who today is going to read something like that?

    rebbe nachman had lots of problems with the guide and with philosophy in general. rebbe nachman believed in a personal relationship with God, hashgacha pratit; the rambam thought that was almost unobtainable. the differences in thought between the two are legion.

    how a relatively minor admor like rebbe nachman (WADR) can be used as a source against the rambam, gadol of all the dorot, by anyone seriously versed in Torah, is beyond me.

    years ago, an acquaintance wrote to rav shach tz"l, asking him why they don't learn the kuzari in ponovich. the rav's answer: they didn't learn in in the european ponovich. ze hu.

    ReplyDelete
  12. There are many things I appreciate about Rav Kook's derekh, including the need for a diversified seder halimud.

    To understand emunah and what we believe and why is absolutely essential. This is why all literate Jews must be read in the classics of machshava, such as Mesillat Yesharim, Moreh Nevuchim, Sefer Ohr HaShem, Sefer Rosh Amana, Kuzari, Sefer haIkkarim, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 16, 2013 at 2:11 PM

      "Ben Waxman said...i've learned the moreh. no one goes near it because the aristotelian philosophy is out of sync with modern thinking and has been for hundreds of years."

      RaP: You mean to say that the general language and presentation as well as the Aristotelian philosophy in the Moreh Nevuchim is hard to study, just as astrophysics or neurosurgery is tough to study, but it's not "out of sync" with modern times. What you mean to say is that modern minds are basically pea-brained and lack the core brainpower needed to study and understand a serious work of religious philosophy that is also quasi-mystical.

      "people barely learn the ramban,"

      RaP: Indeed dthey do, in the yeshiva velt the RAMBAN is referenced to and learned all the time. While many of the kisvei RAMBAN are not studied, especially his debates against the apostate Jew Pablo Christiani and his work to bring peace between the Maimonidean rationalists of Spain and the scholastic Talmudists France, or his aims about making Aliya as the first modern Zionist -- and yes, the RAMBAN is one of the first modern Mekubbalim as well as is well known -- yet, the RAMBAN's Talmudic commentaries are part and parcel of every-day learning in the Litvish yeshiva velt and his commentaries on the Chumash are part of learning and divrei Torah related to any serious learning conncted to Parshas HaShavua. Most Rabbonim quote the RAMBAN in serious droshas and shiurim berabim on Shabbos and during the week, while no one quotes the RAMBAM's Moreh Nevuchim (if they did it would raise eyebrows!), only the RAMBAM's Mishneh Torah is allowed to be part of the seder halimud hayomi.

      "you expect them to learn the guide? its long, it isn't a feel good book, who today is going to read something like that?"

      RaP: the fact that the Moreh Nevuchim is in a virtual "cherem" has no connection to what is the accepted norm with regards to the RAMBAN, and it has NOTHING to do with being a feel good or feel bad book or what people want to read or not.

      Delete
    2. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 16, 2013 at 2:13 PM

      "Ben Waxman said...rebbe nachman had lots of problems with the guide and with philosophy in general. rebbe nachman believed in a personal relationship with God, hashgacha pratit; the rambam thought that was almost unobtainable. the differences in thought between the two are legion.

      how a relatively minor admor like rebbe nachman (WADR) can be used as a source against the rambam, gadol of all the dorot, by anyone seriously versed in Torah, is beyond me."

      RaP: Rebe Nachman had his own reasons for objecting to the RAMBAM's Moreh Nevuchim, and its in keeping with ALL Chasidus that utterly REJECTS a philosophic approach and method to thinking and expressing Torah ideas.

      What we are talking about here is that way before Rebbe Nachman and the Chasidim came along in the 1700s, four hundred years earlier, it was the scholastic Talmudist Chachomim and Rabbonim of France-Provence-Askenaz who decided to fight an ideological war against the philosophic Aristotelian-loving Rabbonim of Spain-Iberia-North Africa, that exploded in the early 1200s.

      Among others the famous Raabbeinu Yona was involved, first as an opponent of the RAMBAM, then seeing the extremes he changed sides, but this is just a fragment of what transpired: (From Wikipedia): "Yonah Gerondi came from Girona, in Catalonia. Gerondi was the most prominent pupil of Solomon of Montpellier, the leader of the opponents of Maimonides' philosophical works, and was one of the signers of the ban proclaimed in 1233 against the Moreh Nevukim and the Sefer ha-Madda. According to his pupil, Hillel of Verona, Gerondi was the instigator of the public burning of Maimonides' writings by order of the authorities at Paris in 1233, and the indignation which this aroused among all classes of Jews was mainly directed against him. Subsequently (not forty days afterward, as a tradition has it, but in 1242; see note 5 to H. Grätz, Geschichte, vol. vii.), when twenty-four wagon-loads of Talmuds were burned at the same place where the philosophical writings of Maimonides had been destroyed, Gerondi saw the folly and danger of appealing to Christian ecclesiastical authorities on questions of Jewish doctrine, and publicly admitted in the synagogue of Montpellier that he had been wrong in all his acts against the works and fame of Maimonides."

      Delete
    3. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 16, 2013 at 2:14 PM

      To Ben Waxman:

      See also: "Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier: Conflict with Maimonides When Ibn Tibbon's translation of the Moreh Nebukim became known in southern France, it was freely accepted by the liberal Jews; but the strictly orthodox, who adhered firmly to the Talmud, regarded it askance and secretly condemned it. No one, however, dared to express open disapproval of the study of this book until Solomon threw down the gauntlet to the Maimonists. It would be natural to infer from this proceeding, which divided Judaism into two hostile camps, that Solomon had had a philosophical training which enabled him to recognize the import of Maimonides' ideas, and the contradictions existing between the latter's conception of Judaism and that of the Talmud.

      Luzzatto argued that Solomon, while a prominent Talmudic authority and of pious, upright character, took up the quarrel with the best intentions but was unable to comprehend Maimonides' views correctly, and had no idea of a philosophical conception of Judaism. He attacked Maimonides on minor, incidental points, e.g., for his refusal to take the aggadic opinions of the Talmud in their simple, often offensive, literal sense; for his explanation of many miracles by means of natural processes; for his description of paradise and hell in other than aggadic colors; and for his conception of the Godhead on other than anthropomorphic lines...Solomon knew enough, however, to understand that single-handed he would be powerless to make headway against Maimonides' great authority, which prevailed even after his death, and against his numerous adherents. He therefore sought allies; but his demands for the interdiction of scientific studies found little support among the scholars of southern France, only two of his pupils, Jonah ben Abraham Gerondi (Nahmanides' relative) and David ben Saul, joining him. These three pronounced (in the beginning of the year 1232) a sentence of excommunication on Maimonides' works, on those who studied them, and on those who construed the Scripture otherwise than literally and interpreted the Aggadah at variance with Rashi. Several rabbis of northern France subsequently confirmed this sentence...."

      "years ago, an acquaintance wrote to rav shach tz"l, asking him why they don't learn the kuzari in ponovich. the rav's answer: they didn't learn in in the european ponovich. ze hu.
      Reply"

      RaP: You have provided the greatest expression for the fact that the mainstream Litvish yeshivas do not learn Kuzari, nor do they learn Moreh Nevuchim, nor Tanya no any works of Chasidus.

      Very few even allow the learning of Maharal but it has krept in, mainly due to the influence of Rav Yitzchok Hutner's multi-volume Pachad Yitzchok works, but even that is not part of any mainstream yeshiva curriculum. Even in Rav Hutner's own yeshivas, the study of his works the Pachad Yitzchok is not encouraged for the majority of talmidim but rather left to the most senior and seasoned experts to delve into, let alone expound.

      So Rav Shach was being brilliant because when you don't give ANY "reasons" and just state it is PRECEDENT then that is the true MESORA and there is nothing to argue or debate about. It is what it is, and the the fact remains that the Kuzari is not part of any mainstream yeshiva curriculum, just as Tanach is not part of that curriculum either, and the Tanach is greater than the Kuzari, yet the mesorah is NOT to learn it as part of a seder. Feel free to learn it on your own, or as part of a special group, but it is not part of the everyday learning that focuses on Gemora and its meforshim as found today in the various "kovetz' volumes!

      Delete
    4. i have no doubt that rav shach would have given an entirely different reason as to why tanya isn't learned.

      Delete
    5. "RaP: the fact that the Moreh Nevuchim is in a virtual "cherem" has no connection to what is the accepted norm with regards to the RAMBAN, and it has NOTHING to do with being a feel good or feel bad book or what people want to read or not."

      truth be told, i have little inside knowledge as to what goes on inside litvishe yeshivot or chassidic or sefardi. i can't comment on them. i can say that very few guys in hesder or stam srugi ba'al habatim, people who min ha'stam couldn't care less about some ancient cherem (like moi), don't learn the guide. and IMO, it is for the reasons i stated.

      Delete
    6. @RaP - "the RAMBAM approved of close to or even more than 99% of what Aristotle wrote"

      As far as Moreh Nevuchim, your statement is very much in error. MN disputes Aristotle on many fundamental issues.

      On the contrary, when one learns Moreh Nevuchim nowadays, its astounding how some of the most advanced modern cosmological principles, (completely unknown to Aristotle and the medieval scientists), will leap off the pages of a sefer written in the Middle Ages.

      MN is an extremely profound hidden treasure that a modern Jew can use effectively to understand Torah monotheism, Torah ethics, and advanced cosmological principles from a Torah perspective.

      I also believe, based on my understanding of Rav Triebetz's shiurim on hashkafacircle.com, that MN is the foundation for the Vilna Gaon's kabbalistic - rationalist philosophy.

      See
      http://hashkafacircle.com/shiurim/category/vilna-gaon-shiurim/

      Delete
  13. The third part of the MN ( reasons of mitzvot) is sometimeslearned... the ishbitzer rebbi wrote a פירוש al pi kabbalah
    2) r kook wore תפילין all day at volozin yeshiva even though the RY rav chaim soloveichik told him not to.
    3) at first g scholem held the זהר drom the תנאים... only later. He changed his mind.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I see somebody stated that the Morech Nevuchim is in Cherem. Now, it is true that Rabbeinu Yona and other French gedolim did attack the sefer HaMoreh of the Rambam and I think they wrote on his grave "MIN" but after the government of France burned all of the Seforim in France, Rabbeinu Yona realized his error and wrote Shaarei Teshuva. I have a sefer about Reb Elchonon that quotes him when he quotes from Moreh Nevuchim. A Mekubol in the past generation told me that there are three phases of Cabala, and the Moreh Nevuchim is the first level, followed by the two Cabalists in Tsevas, Reb Moshe Kordeveero and then the Ari z"l. In Olam HaBo someone said that everyone learns Cabala like the Ari z"l.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Rabbi Abraham Abulafia affirms the possibility of the Guide and Sefer Yetzirah being brought into synthesis by exploiting Maimonides resort to Hebrew letter permutation in his exegesis:

    Wonderful... is the intimation aroused through the use of a certain term whose letters are identical with those of another term; solely the order of the letters is changed; and between the two terms there is in no way an etymological connection or a community of meaning... Through this method very strange things appear, which are likewise secrets... If you carefully examine each passage in your mind, they will become clear to you - after your attention has been aroused - from the gist of what has been set forth here (2:43, Pines translation p.392-3).

    Indeed Maimonides seems to be giving a directive to employ this technique elsewhere as he has done (cf. 3:2, Pines p.417-22).
    Rabbi Abulafia does claim in the introduction to Sitrei Torah, his most important commentary on the Guide, that he is privy to an oral tradition concerning the number of chapters contained in the Guide. Rabbi Abulafia states that the 177 chapters point toward the numerical value of גן עדן which Rabbi Abulafia understands as a psychological state. He further subdivides the number 177 into 26, 65, and 86 which are each one the numerical value of the divine names YHWH, Adonai and Elokim.

    ReplyDelete

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED!
please use either your real name or a pseudonym.