Friday, November 26, 2010

Falsely asserting that Rabbinic law is Torah law - to ensure compliance

Daas Torah page 209


Chasam Sofer (Kovetz Teshuvos #58):
I wrote to you previously that “Innovation is prohibited by the Torah.” I did not write that Orlah or Kelayim…but innovation. That is because I understood from our Sages that it is required to be one who preserves the Torah. They warned against those who provide an opening and seek leniencies for the radicals of our people who desire them. If these radicals find a minute crack, they will greatly expand it into a breach…. Therefore, it is best to elevate and exaggerate the nature of the prohibition [and say that Rabbinic prohibitions are Torah prohibitions]… That is because due to our many sins there is a great increase today of people who say they have no concern with Rabbinic prohibitions since G-d did not command them… We find the wicked writing on Shabbos because they claim it is only a Rabbinic prohibition. They have no concern with anything which has been commanded only by our Sages and not by G-d Himself…


Maharetz Chajes (Darchei Hora'ah #6): I disagree with the Chasam Sofer’s ruling that one should say that a Rabbinic prohibition is a Torah prohibition i.e., to upgrade the nature of prohibitions. Even though we see our Sages viewed it permitted to frighten with their descriptions of the seriousness of prohibitions as we see in the Rambam (Sanhedrin 7:4)…They said that certain things are equivalent to murder and worshipping idols. Many other things they have described as deserving of the death penalty. All this is only to frighten and scare. However to say that a Rabbinic prohibition is really a Torah prohibition - the Rambam (Hilchos Mamrim 2:9) clearly states that this itself violates the Torah prohibition of adding to the Torah. Such a practice also violates the Torah prohibition of lying - even if it is done for a good reason. Our Sages were always very concerned to identify and keep separate that which is from the Torah and which are Rabbinical legislation - even if there were no practical halacha involved.

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Dibros Moshe Kesubos Tshuva 3:6): You assert that it is correct to describe something as a Torah prohibition - when in fact it is fully permitted or only a rabbinic prohibition. You make this claim even though you know that the Rambam (Hilchos Mamrim 2:9) views it as a violation of the Torah prohibition of adding to the Torah. You claim that it is permitted when there is an emergency need to establish something and have people accept its validity. Your justification is from the fact that extra-legal punishments are permitted in emergency situations. However, when you give such extra-legal punishments and claim they are from the Torah, the Rambam rules that this is a violation of the prohibition of adding to the Torah. Everybody would agree that there is a prohibition to falsify that which was given at Sinai - whether for a leniency or restriction. The Yam shel Shlomo (Bava Kama 4:9) rules that such upgrading of the prohibition is a form of rejecting the Torah itself and in fact he requires martyrdom rather than to alter the status of a halacha…Obviously he views it as much more serious a transgression than the sin of adding to the Torah…Furthermore even when extra-legal punishment is given for emergency situations it is required that it be openly stated that this punishment is extra-legal…


  1. Good exchange. I'm with Rav Moshe, the Rambam, et al. The Chasham Sofer's own words, Chadash assur min haTorah have themselves been expanded beyond their original intent. Four years ago, at the Aguda Convention, when the subject was blogs and abuse, a few months after the Kolko story broke out, the Monsey Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman thundered, "Chadash assur min haTorah...No blogs." I listened to him again this past Thursday night. At least he didn't repeat himself.

  2. Pasik - who the hell are you to take a side in a machlokes Achronim? And who the hell are you to critique HaRav Wachsman shlit"a?

  3. I must have missed this article first time round - but it is an excellent piece of chinuch, thank you, belatedly.


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