Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Marc B. Shapiro – Forgery and the Halakhic Process


  In The Limits of Orthodox Theology I quoted the following comment of R. Bezalel Naor, who was quoting his teacher, the Gaon R. Shlomo Fisher of Jerusalem: “The truth, known to Torah scholars, is that Maimonides’ formulation of the tenets of Jewish belief is far from universally accepted.” For those who don’t know, R. Fisher is one of the gedolim of our time, and you can see many of his shiurim on yeshiva.org.il. Many of these shiurim focus on Talmud (and he has published the great rabbinic work, Beit Yishai), but R. Fisher is also the only one of our gedolim who is an expert in Jewish philosophy. This explains why his Derashot Beit Yishai are very different than other collections of derashot. Professor Zev Harvey told me that from R. Fisher’s edition of Crescas’ Or ha-Shem, it is clear that he used Wolfson’s Hebrew text found in Crescas’ Critique of Aristotle.[1]

 Someone I know currently attends R. Fisher’s weekly shiur on Avnei Miluim, the last half-hour of which is devoted to issues of hashkafah. Interestingly enough, he reported to me that a few weeks ago R. Fisher declared that he believes the Rambam abandoned his system of 13 Principles, the proof being that they are never mentioned as a unit in the Mishneh Torah.[2] In my book, I noted that R. Shlomo Goren held the same view. R. Goren also makes another interesting point, that while in the Commentary on the Mishnah Maimonides requires one to actually believe in certain principles, in the Mishneh Torah he only requires you not to deny any principles. One who has never heard of a principle obviously does not believe in it, which makes him a heretic according to the Commentary on the Mishnah. But according to the Mishneh Torah, since this person does not actually deny the principle, he is not regarded as a heretic.

Getting back to R. Moshe, as is well known, he ruled that the Commentary of R. Yehudah he-Hasid was a forgery, as he could not imagine that a rishon would acknowledge that there were some post-Mosaic passages in the Torah.[3] Only after my book appeared did Rabbi Naor tell me that the comment I quoted above in the name of R. Fisher was stated precisely with reference to R. Moshe’s positon on this issue. After R. Moshe banned R. Yehudah he-Hasid’s Commentary, R. Fisher commented that R. Moshe assumes that R. Yehudah he-Hasid has to accept the Rambam’s Principles, but in truth there were many disagreements with the Rambam, and R. Yehudah he-Hasid’s position on Mosaic authorship is one of them.

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