Sunday, August 20, 2023

Rabbi Akiva Eiger - like all gedolim - needed to make a mistake to show he was human

This is a first hand report that was sent to me by someone I know
I am reporting a story I heard from Rav Avrohom Turin shlit”a, mashgiach in Yeshiva Bais Moshe Scranton. There is a known question from Reb Akiva Eiger in which he inquires how it is that a man can be together with his wife when she is pregnant, if she is carrying a girl, then he violates אשה ובתה. Reb Akiva Eiger poses an answer, but doesn’t accept it in conclusion.

When the bochurim in Telshe in Europe were learning a related sugya, they encountered this tshuvah, and were perplexed. Firstly, they considered the question foolish, then they wondered how he offered the teretz he did, then how he remained inconclusive at the end. The bochurim attacked this with a vengeance. How did Reb Akiva Eiger consider this a valid question, what is the real teretz, and why did he not consider that teretz, etc. Needless to say, the bais hamedrash was buzzing with this issue for days. The Rosh Hayeshiva  came in to say shuir, and immediately acknowledged that the preoccupation with this issue needed to be addressed. Here is what he said.

"Reb Akiva Eiger was pronounced dead by his doctors some 15 years before he actually died. During that time, he wrote voluminous chidushei Torah, tshuvos in intricate areas of halacha, and said great shiurim. Observing this, one might conclude that Reb Akiva Eiger was not a human but a malach! That, proclaimed the Rosh Hayeshivah, would not be good. One cannot consider a malach a potential role model. Only a great human can serve as a role model. Every Yid has the potential to achieve greatness, and use of role models for this is a critical aspect of Avodas Hashem. In order to recognize that a great human is truly human, they must be known to have erred. Imperfection is uniquely human. So HKB”H arranges that every tzaddik makes one mistake so that we should know he is human. This was that mistake for Reb Akiva Eiger."

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