Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chasam Sofer: Seek truth - don't be concerned to please others and win their approval

Rabbi Simcha Friedman (Emunat Hakhmim in Tradition 27:4): ... I model myself upon what I have learned from R. Moshe  Sofer in a responsum written after R. Zevi Hirsch Chajes had presented him  with a copy of his book, Torat ha-Nevi'im. In his introduction, R. Chajes ex­pressed the fear that critics will reproach him with the argument that he had innovated nothing new, and therefore there seemed no purpose in his writ­ing what he did. The Hatam Sofer, however, encouraged him to publish his  book, for his intention is to increase Torah knowledge. He found support  for his position in an incident involving R. Abba (Beitzah 38a-b). Prior to his aliyah to the Land of Israel, R. Abba uttered the prayer: "May it be Thy will  that I say things which are acceptable to the Sages of the Land of Israel. "  The Talmud explains, however, that his prayer went unanswered, for during  course of a certain encounter in a bet midrash in Israel, R. Abba was ridiculed for a particular proof he had brought. The Hatam Sofer drew a comparison between R. Abba's prayer which went unanswered and a simi­lar prayer of R. Nehunya ben ha-Kanah (Berakhot 28b), who also requested, prior to teaching Torah, that he not stumble in matters of halakhah and that  felIow scholars rejoice in him and which was granted. The Hatam Sofer exlained the difference between the two in the fact that R. Abba sought to  find favor on the part of those who would hear him and was therefore un­successful, while R. Nehunya ben Ha-Kanah prayed simply to be guided  toward the truth of the halacha, but was not concerned with the approval of his listeners – and therefore succeeded. The Hatam Sofer inferred from this that as long as the intention of the disputants is to determine the truth of their views, there is a chance that each side will act with intellectual honesty in order to clarify the matter. However, once their aim is purely to convince the other party of the validity of their position, the desire to win the argument is likely to result in the lack of objective judtgment and therefore they will be unsuccessful.[Chasam Sofer #208]


  1. The Chatam Sofer and Maharetz Chajes - if we had such shining lights today, I wonder how influential they would be upon Am Yisrael.

    1. Eddie, you would be criticising and belittling the Chasam Sofer for being small-minded and against modernity.

    2. No, I don't think i would. He did not forbid learning on Nittel, he just had an early night. He was also against new humras, eg a total ban on shaving. However, i think you would be writing nasty posts about R' Chayut.

  2. Intresting Pshat here


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