Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Eilu v' Eilu: No disputes in the Talmud, Agada or Kabbala - Rav Dessler

One of the important issues when having a discussion is understanding the dynamics of what is going on. A particularly critical issue is understanding what it means when two different views are expressed concerning a particular issue. In other words what is a disagreement? Does it mean that only one side can be true and perhaps both are mistaken? Or is it merely a question of perspective or the parameters that are being disputed but that they are in essential agreement? Especially amongst kabbalists and those influenced by kabbala - the operating assumption is that there are no mutually exclusive views expressed in Aggada, kabbala or even gemora - as Rav Dessler expresses below and elsewhere. 

However I once had an extended discussion with with Rav Yaakov Weinberg - Rosh Yeshiva of  Ner Yisroel concerning this issue. I mentioned another statement by Rav Dessler who said that the disagreements are simply the result of perspective. Just as a piece of paper if viewed from the edge - is very thin while if viewed face on it is very expansive - so it is with apparent disagreements because we accept the concept of eilu v'eilu. Rav Weinberg - who was a talmid of Rav Hutner - looked at me in astonishment. "You can't tell me that an intelligent person would say such a thing". When I noted that most people that  I know accept this as true he responded, "Then words have no meaning!" It was clear he did not accept such a view.

Shomer Emunim HaKadmon(Second Introduction First Principle):… Included in our faith (emuna) is to believe in all the words of the Talmudic Sages – even if some of their words appear unlikely and against the laws of nature. We are to ascribe the problem to our understanding and not them. That is because all their words were said with ruach hakodesh that was within them. Therefore all those who ridicule any aspect of their words is severely punished as we see in Eiruvin (21b), Gittin (57a), “All those who ridicule the words of the Sages are punished in Hell in boiling excrement.” Bava Basra (75a) relates that a certain student ridiculed words of the Sages [and was turned into a heap of bones]. And this prohibition also applies in the case of midrashim where there is a dispute between the Sages. That is because there is nothing in the words of the Sages that is insignificant or meaningless. All that they say is true (eilu v’eilu) and therefore both sides are saying something of value… For example Rav and Shmuel have a dispute in Berachos (61a). One says that Eve was attached to Adam (like Siamese twins) while the other said she was simply an insignificant appendage like a tail. In fact both views are true from different perspectives as we know from the teachings of the Arizal. This is the way it is for all other matters which two Sages disagree – both sides are true and correct depending on the place and time or world and perspective. You should know that even those matters mentioned in the Talmud which appear to be unnecessary or imprecise – that is simply not true. In fact these matters have esoteric meaning or important allusions…  
Michtav M’Eliyahu (3:353): Concerning the dispute in Berachos (34b) whether a tzadik is greater than a baal teshuva… In truth, disputes are not relevant except concerning the practical Halacha. Concerning Torah matters such as theoretical Halacha there is in fact no dispute. Our sages describe this as eilu v’eilu—both positions are G‑d’s words. In other words, both positions are expressions of truth and are both true…. Concerning the dispute between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel—in the future the practical Halacha will be in accord with Beis Shamai even though it is now in accord with Beis Hillel. Their dispute involved which perspective to view the situation. They did not disagree as to the consequences of each perspective but simply which perspective was best for serving G‑d. It is stated openly in the Tikunei Zohar that there is no dispute concerning Agada and Kabbala. A similar statement was made by the Gra (Even Shleima) concerning Moshiach. There are two aspects of Moshiach. One is an extremely public manifestation of spirituality—Moshiach ben Dovid. The second is merely the freedom from being oppressed by the nations—Moshiach ben Yosef. Therefore, the apparent contradictory statements of our sages concerning Moshiach are the result of talking about the dual nature of Moshiach. At first glance, this explanation seems astounding and inconsistent with the language used in the Talmud. … “And this disagrees with Shmuel”… Therefore, we are forced to admit our explanation that in fact there are two distinct aspects of the redemption… Therefore, the language of “disagree” simply means separate and distinct from each other.


  1. Shomer Emunim HaKadmon is saying that all the words have a kabbalistic "true" meaning. Would he say that we are obligated to believe every fact as empirically or scientifically true? For example, the argument between Rav and Shmuel about hot food falling onto cold food - seems to be an argument about empiric reality.
    Does Rav Dessler really believe (against Rambam, Arizal and Ramchal) that the halacha will be like Beit Shamai in the time of Mashiach? Are there are Rishonim who say such a thing? (This is irrelevant to his argument that both sides of a halachic debate are valid, I am just curious).

    1. Don't know why you say this is against Arizal The Alter Rebbe and others said this in the name of the Arizal.

      Rav Moshe Shatz told me that he couldn't find that the Arizal said this but that it is claimed by later kabbalists that this is the view of the Arizal.


      Likkutei Torah (parshas Korah page 108 - top of right column)


      אכן האריז״ל
      פי׳ שלעתיד בזמן המשיח תהיה הל כה כבית שמאי כמ״ש המק״מ (פ׳
      בראשית די״ז ע״ב) וזהו ס ו פה להתקיים ממש.

      Mikdash Melech Bereishis (17a)
      וכמ״ש האל״י ז״ל
      על משכה זו שלעתיד 3זמן המשי׳ תהיה הלכה כבית שמאי ודבקי

      שניהם קיים ואמה וקדוש 3מך הוא אפריש בינייהו ואסכים לון י
      דא היא מחלוקת לט״ש כי טונת שניהם לקשט המ׳ נחלישי ודיני

      המולה ומ׳ נקלא׳ שם של שמים שהוא ת״ת דז״אנם לאה

      נקרא שם ונם היא תתוקן נמול׳ אמת

    2. Shomer Emunim HaKadmon is saying that all the words have a kabbalistic "true" meaning. Would he say that we are obligated to believe every fact as empirically or scientifically true?

      David, while it is impossible to know for sure, my guess would be that he wouldn't.

      The Mekubalim in general were pretty fond of the Rambam, and his words to that regard, in reference that the sages spoke scientfically with whatever knowledge that their generation had. You had some pretty big mekubalim following in that line, the Rashash, the Torat Hakham, the Ben Ish Hai... whether Rav Irgas himself held that way himself is hard if not impossible to say, but it definitely opened the door for others.

      However, Mekubalim have typically stated that all the words of Chazal were written with Ruach HaKodesh so they seek to find truth in them, thus they sought spiritual metaphor. However Kabbalists were also innovators of some ideas like old universe and such.

  2. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 24, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    "Rav Weinberg - who was a talmid of Rav Hutner"

    This in itself is a meaningless statement because just being a "talmid" of Rav Hutner does not mean much since Rav Hutner lived a long life and had hundreds of different types of talmidim and each had different perspectives.

    Rav Weinberg was pretty unique and had a mind of his own with his way of understanding and analyzing things and thus only spoke for himself, he did not speak for Rav Hutner or anyone else for that matter. he was a "da'as yachid" on most points. Even in the Ner Yiroel yeshiva in Baltimore, Rav Weinberg was regarded as not representing and true yeshivish view, they even tried to banish him to Toronto and later to Santa Clara California where his controversial son Matis was trying to set up a new yeshiva, but it feel apart, so Rav Weinberg returned to Baltimore where few followed his shiurim or his views. Only in Aish HaTorah was he respected by his brother Noach and the Aish people.

    It is important to note that Rav Weinberg's views were so controversial that after his own father in law Rav YY Ruderman passed away and Rav Weinberg officially succeeded him as the top rosh yeshiva of the Ner Israel yeshiva in Baltimore (only because his friends from Chaim Berlin days R Aron Shechter and R Yakov Perlow intervened and forced his nomination on everyone at Ner Israel), still, he was blocked from joining the vaunted Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudas Yisroel of America by Rav Elya Svei who under no circumstances would sanction Rav Weinberg's entry into that council due to Rav Weinberg's controversial and provocative unconventional views of most subjects. Rav Weinberg was a complicated man and it is not possible to bring "proofs" from him about any subject, and certainly it is outright wrong and misleading to turn him into some sort of authoritative voice for what Rav Hutner may or may not have said in private to him for whatever reasons.

    1. How does any of this (if true) demonstrate that R' Weinberg was wrong on any issue? The consensus has been wrong from time to time. Is going with the flow the only path to "respect"?

  3. A few comments on this fascinating post:

    a) anyone who has read my views, would be able to see I am more likely to follow R' Weinberg than R Dessler in Hashkafah.

    b) Rambam writes that any issue where there is a disagreement on by the Rabbis could not have been from Sinai. What exactly this means, and implies is enormous, and perhaps is deserving of a discussion or book to be written on the subject.

    c) We have the concept of 70 panim to the Torah - but the Arizal taught there are 600,000 panim to the Torah. These are words of a pure genius and manhig of Israel.

  4. >Bava Basra (75a) relates that a certain student ridiculed words of the Sages [and was turned into a heap of bones].
    I'm not sure this has been mentioned previously in this forum, but the Rambam (בפירושו למשניות פרק חלק) understands this story in precisely the opposite way: the talmid was turned into a heap of bones just because he had foolishly taken the aggadic statement literally!

  5. Actually the opinion of Rav Dessler can be seen explicitly in the gemara gittin 6b regarding the "dispute" (which is called a non dispute by the gemara) of the cause of pilegesh bgivah.
    ועוד הא ר׳ אביתר הוא דאםכים מריה על ידיה דכתיב
    עליו פילגשו רבי אביתר אמר זבוב מצא לה ר׳ יונתן אמר נימא מצא לה
    ואשכחיה ר׳ אביתר לאליהו א״ל מאי קא עביר הקב״ה א״ל עסיק בפילגש
    בגבעה ומאי קאמר אמר ליה אביתר בני כך הוא אומר יונתן בני כך הוא
    אומר א״ל ח״ו ״ומי איכא ספיקא קמי שמיא א״ל אלו ואלו
    הן דברי אלהים חיים
    זבוב מצא ולא הקפיד נימא מצא והקפיד

  6. Recipients and publicity

    Rav Matis Weinberg is probably one of the biggest geonim today in terms of baalei machshava. I would agree with Eddie - in terms of hashkafa, I would be more likely to agree with the Weinbergs that Harav Dessler.

  7. @RaP not sure whence this revisionist history and I would have to agree with Avrohom that Rav Matis Weinberg is one of the few people today producing true chiddushei torah in the realm of machshava

  8. Yeah, no disputes. The Tannur of Aknai was not a dispute, and the subsequent bloodshed was nothing. There was no dispute between R' Yochanan and Reish Lakish, and the death of one, followed by the madness of the other had no significance at all. No, there was no dispute between Akavya b. Mehalelel and the chachomim, who purged him after he refused their offer to be Nasi B.D. In fact, even when the mishnah states it was not Akavya, but someone else who was given nidui, it was still not a dispute, but just that he ordered the wrong flavour of pizza that night.


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