Thursday, October 25, 2012
The Law (Halachah)
Halachah is so involved and so complicated to figure out, there is no way that we can ascertain final Halachic ruling by studying the Talmud. The Talmud argues every aspect of the law to show how Hashem wanted the Torah to be interpreted. It is very rare that you see the word opinion in the Talmud; but, instead, the arguments are almost always what information was handed down over the years by the Rabbaim. Most statements are said as "Rabbi So-and-so said in the name of Rabbi So-and-so." In other words, the Rabbi heard from his Rabbi. That is telling us that the information traces back to when we were in Bamidbar (the desert) for forty years where the Jews first learned it from Moshe Rabbeinu. Most of the information was not just remembered since they were living the details every day. When you live the Torah on a daily basis the information is very fresh in your mind and is easily transmitted to the next generation. That is what has happen for the past 3325 years since we learned the Halachah from Moshe Rabbenu.
I have said that figuring out the fine details from the Torah is the most difficult subject in the world making subjects like Nuclear Physics, Brain Surgery, Business Law, etc child's play. No one in the world can derive final Halachic ruling from the Talmud which is why Hashem gave us codification over the millennia in the Shulchan Aruch, Mishna Berurah, Rambam commentary, Arizal commentary, etc. The Talmud serves to teach us how we derived much of the final ruling; but, it is far beyond our human capability to draw the proper conclusions. Studying Talmud serves other very important purposes that I have already talked about such as helping to keep the universe running (we are partners in the creation). Learning is also a very important part of our development and reaching Tikun. The benefit that our soul derives from learning Hashem’s ways is invaluable and perhaps the greatest gift mankind (and womankind) has ever received.
Talmud is not just learning the law but is a discussion of every aspect of life. There is nothing missing about life on Earth. If it is missing from the Talmud, it doesn’t exist. I am not talking just outright information since I have already talked about the Pardes (the four levels) that one could study. Just be aware that since the Talmud includes everything (including all of science and mathematics as I have talked about), it is the most difficult text in the world and the most challenging (I am talking both the written and oral Torah).
I once told the story about my son at the time our immediate family was becoming observant. My son was about 21 year old at the time and was a college student. He came to me one day to ask if he could drop out of college and go to yeshivah. I was very proud of his feelings towards Hashem and Judaism and consented immediately – sending him to a yeshivah in Jerusalem – an experience that completely changed his life and mine (I went to visit him and discovered that Israel was my true home). Thank you, Hashem. Happy children very much enhance the joy of life. We made this bold change even though he was lacking only four college credits to complete his degree. After a year at yeshivah, I investigated the possibility of him getting college credit for his yeshivah studies. There is an organization in New York that will evaluate and accredit studies. The yeshivah was familiar with this practice and constructed a transcript of my son's efforts for the year. The yeshivah gave him 18 credits in such subjects as general studies, philosophy, history and language. When presented to the organization for accreditation, out of the 4 credits that he needed for that college, they gave him 36 credits. They also told us how much credit would be acceptable at Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania and Hebrew University. They explained to us that they are totally aware of the intensity of study that occurs at yeshivahs. They were also aware of the devotion and willingness to learn that yeshivah students have. There is probably no match in the world for intensive learning than that of a yeshivah. I attended college full and part time for 16 years including graduate level studies. I have never seen the level of devotion towards studies as I have in yeshivahs with which I have been associated. By the way, my son received his degree. The most important point is the extremely high level of scholarship that is derived from the study of Torah and scriptures in general. All subjects are covered and to a greater level of understanding than could ever be achieved in college. That may be hard to believe but the most important aspect of learning is learning how to think. So many colleges offer cookie-cutter solutions to problems making memorization the tool to achieve a degree not understanding of the material. Torah study requires a much deeper level of concentration and evaluation causing a much more comprehensive level of intelligence to be developed. When I started university studies back in the Stone Age, there was much more thinking since I am talking pre-computer. Now, if we want information, the library and books are passé, we can Google or Wikipedia almost any subject and avoid the horrible concept of “thinking.” Welcome to the 21st century. Yeshivot and Kollelim (for adult study) still us books and still require arduous thinking. B”H
Today, however, most Jews are computer non-thinkers and are always looking for the easy answers. The problem is (and I have seen it on my blog and every other blog) the people who have an opinion of what Judaism is and what the Torah says about this or that. An analogy that comes to mind is the difference between a cook and a chef. Someone who prepares a meal by just following a simple recipe is obviously not of the stature of a great chef who studied the culinary arts for years. The tremendous attention to detail that is needed in preparing a sumptuous meal such as picking the proper, fresh ingredients, combining those ingredients in the proper sequence and proportions, proper seasoning, proper moisture level, knowing your cooking or baking equipment and exactly how to use them (timing, temperature, etc), knowing portion control for the size group that you may be serving, keeping things at the proper serving temperature, an appetizing appearance being presented to your guest, etc, etc, etc. It sounds complicated and it is, in fact it is an art; but, it is a far cry from just following a simple recipe. Or, as I do which is take the wonderful leftovers that my wife prepared last night, microwave it, serve it and then tell everyone that I prepared dinner. No I am not a chef, I am not even a cook but I do operate a mean microwave.
My whole point is the detail at which I learn Hashem’s word can result in a sumptuous meal fit for a king or a fast food serving fit for no one. What is the best recipe for life, success and happiness is not cookie-cutter learning but years and years of deep and dedicated hard work. I’ve said it before, what we come out of this life with is measure-for-measure what we put into it. We have the greatest opportunity to excel for all eternity. Why not take it? One last note: Hashem is not interested in what we learn, but how we live our lives – in other words, how we apply what we learn. A brilliant Torah scholar does not make a Tzadik; but, a Tzadik makes a brilliant Torah scholar since he is obviously putting his learning into action.
Posted by The Absolute Truth at 11:48 AM