Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Kuzari: Commonsense is subordinate to Tradition

Kuzari (3:49): If a person relied entirely on his logic and commonsense in these matters he might in fact arrive at a very different conclusion. Therefore, it is best not to rely entirely on logical reasoning concerning the observance of the Torah commandments because it is likely just to create doubts which can lead to heresy. Furthermore, since people often have different opinions of what is commonsense, it will lead to significant disagreement with others who are relying entirely on their commonsense. Consequently, it is best to have one’s understanding rooted in traditional understanding and what is in the texts. With these as his starting point, he can then successfully apply logical reasoning - no matter where it leads - even if the conclusions are against one’s rational understanding and intuition… There are in fact many things in the physical world that reality conflicts with appearance or common understanding. Furthermore that which our Sages said is permitted, it was not because they followed their personal opinion or preference. Rather it was the conclusion of the inherited wisdom that had been transmitted to them by Tradition. It is exactly the same thing concerning that which they prohibit. A person who is unable to comprehend their wisdom and yet judges their words according to his own limited understanding will view their words as bizarre. This is comparable to the fact that the ignorant masses think that the words of philosophers and scientists are bizarre. The sages, when they ascertain the parameters of each Halacha and determine what is permitted and prohibited, do it entirely according to the objective principles of the law...


  1. The context is tum'ah and qedushah and from there extends into some matters that are chuqim. He's ruling out the use of common sense WRT halakhah, since not all halakhos fit within human comprehension. Nothing really surprising in that.


  2. Having just read R' Treibitz's essay on Yashrus in your new book, this post made for an interesting comparison.

    R' Berger: looking forward to reading your essay next.

  3. A refutation of many MO postulations.

  4. Kuzari is wrong for a number of reasons:

    a) The Torah itself holds an objective factual truth, rather than the infallible reasoning of the rabbis or Judges. The issue of special korbanot for shogegot / horayot is a Torah mandate. Hence, Kuzari, is unwittingly, denying the Torah.

    b) Rambam, in his intro to the Mishna commentary, points out that sometimes an individual vie can be so clear and rational, that it can reverse the majority held view of the Rabbis. He repeats a similar idea in Mishna Torah.

    c) It is logically false, as well as empirically. An example: Chabad claimed they have a tradition that the Messiah will come from their group , and in the 7th Rebbe's rule. For anyone who respects Chassidic rebbes, denial of this matter would be very difficult.
    There are many other examples, which I prefer not to go into at this point.

  5. I would have to believe "logic" here is a mistranslation. Because the gemara repeatedly asks "!למי לי קרא? סברא היא" If something was logical, a prooftext is redundant. So, clearly logic is at least as good as Mesorah. The issue with logic is where one's givens come from. Logic can tell you how to combine ideas, but one always starts with postulates to combine.


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