Thursday, May 05, 2005

An Obligation to Believe in Agadata

A comment I made in the Avodah thread concerning whether there is an obligation to believe in Agadata:

In our generation, which has been zocheh to the illumination of the Maharal, Reb Tzadok, Rav Desseler and other giants, including ylct"a R' Shlomo Fisher, there can no longer be any excuse for a person not to believe in the veracity of Agadata.

29 comments:

  1. This comment seems to assume that we now understand Shas better than the Ramban, the Rambam and the Rashba did. Is that what you intended?

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  2. Not all of Shas, just the Agadata. And not "us" - the Maharal and Reb Tzadok et al.

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  3. I still don't understand. The Maharal and R. Zadok were greater than the Rambam? R. Avraham Maimuni was simply quoting his father.

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  4. In respect to Agadata, the Maharal and R' Tzaddok were clearly zocheh to giluyim that were not revealed (unless they were intentionally concealed) to earlier doros. In this respect they had a nekudah of greatness in which they surpassed the Rambam.

    I don't know why Hashem designed this to be the case, but clearly He did so.

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  5. I'm sorry, but I don't understand. The gaonim themselves wrote small parts of the gemara (ritva on B.M. and Rashbam in beginning of Kesubos--I realize that one's disputed--etc.) If they were of the opinion that aggadatah is not binding, then who could know better than they? Of course, I may be misinterpreting your intent with "veracity" in which case my question is irrelevant. I hope this doesn't sound rude, I would just like to better understand your intent.

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  6. http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=veracity

    ve·rac·i·ty Pronunciation Key (v-rs-t)
    n. pl. ve·rac·i·ties

    1. Adherence to the truth; truthfulness. See Synonyms at truth.
    2. Conformity to fact or truth; accuracy or precision: a report of doubtful veracity.
    3. Something that is true.

    [Medieval Latin vrcits, from Latin vrx, vrc-, true. See veracious.]

    Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
    Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
    Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved

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  7. There is a vast gulf between "not binding" and "not true."

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  8. Have you learned the sefer Ein Ayah by Rav AY Kook z"l ?

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  9. If you're willing to say that the opaque Aggadot and those that contradict science are to be understood metaphorically, I can accept your contention.

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  10. All Aggados of Chazal are metaphors (see definition #1 below).

    met·a·phor Pronunciation Key (mt-fôr, -fr)
    n.

    1. A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in “a sea of troubles” or “All the world's a stage” (Shakespeare).
    2. One thing conceived as representing another; a symbol: “Hollywood has always been an irresistible, prefabricated metaphor for the crass, the materialistic, the shallow, and the craven” (Neal Gabler).


    [Middle English methaphor, from Old French metaphore, from Latin metaphora, from Greek, transference, metaphor, from metapherein, to transfer : meta-, meta- + pherein, to carry; see bher-1 in Indo-European Roots.]meta·phoric (-fôrk, -fr-) or meta·phori·cal adj.
    meta·phori·cal·ly adv.

    Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
    Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
    Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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  11. ספר חדושי אגדות חלק רביעי עמוד קלא - מסכת בכורות
    כלל הדברים חכמי ישראל דברו על הדברים להכיר ולדעת הנמצאים במהות העצמי שלהם, ולא הביטו אל החומר כלל רק אל המהות. וחכמי האומות עיינו במוחש ולא ידעו המושכל, לכך חכמתם מחולק

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  12. I think this assertion is fundamentally wrongheaded. Just because eg the Rambam didn't comment on aggadata doesn't mean that he didn't understand them. One of the "giluyim" we were zoche to by these later commenters is that many rishonim deliberately commented only on halacha l'maase, which sort of puts a damper on your speculation. There is also the issue that chazal presumably meant for aggadata to be understood on numerous levels, and at least some of the time were deliberately leaving many who could only grasp the literal meaning in the dark about deeper explanations. I think that to this day, the primary way to gain a feel for aggadata is to go through many of them, rather than to immediately look for latter day explanations, and anyway who knew shas as thoroughly as these rishonim did, must have intuitively grasped the meaning of much aggadata. They probably aimed for people to gain a similar feel for them. Just as children tend to take midrashim literally, and gradually gain a feel for the metaphoric aspects (and it is generally speaking a mistake to overemphasize that much is metaphoric at a young age) so too for adults. Finally, much aggada has multiple levels of explanation.

    Your assumption that we've surpassed the rishonim in understanding aggadata is,, to me, a sign that our generation has utterly lost touch with the method and rythm of aggadata. It boggles my mind that a talmid chochom such as yourself can not appreciate that accepting any given interpretation(s) of aggadata limits understanding. As an analogy, it is like saying that a given pirush on shir hashirim has revealed new information about the metaphors, when in fact any given pirush is likely to focuss overall on only one aspect of many that was intuitively understood by earlier generations.

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  13. To Mat:

    1. The Rambam explicitly states in his Hakdama to Zeraim that there are extraordinary profundities in Agadata, and doubtless had a mahalach to which we were not fully zocheh. Perhaps he even knew what the Maharal et al introduced - but the giluy was certainly not his - aderaba, he was in favor of keeping it private. Perhaps, indeed, the statement of those Rishonim that one need not "accept" all Agadata is predicated on and linked to their "Kavod Elokim Hester Davar" approach.

    2. I have made the study of Agadata and the chiddush therein one of my major areas of focus. I would invite you to read the simanim of Agada in the Bigdei Shesh on BB and my sefer on Shoftim to assess whether your critique is applicable.

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  14. my critique is of the concept that the rambam et al didn't understand aggadata as well as later commentators. That is what I took your response to Gil to mean, though your point #1 above perhaps is a retreat from that? In any case, if I understood your response to Gil properly, my complaint is not with your not spending sufficient time on aggadata, but simply that it's my firm belief that anyone who thinks that the later commentators were making, as a rule (not any specific interpretation) giluyim that the great rishonim missed, they are missing the texture of aggada.

    "Perhaps he even knew what the Maharal et al introduced - but the giluy was certainly not his - aderaba, he was in favor of keeping it private"

    No, I think the "it" they kept private was much more encompassing than what the later interpretations reveal, and primarily, the derech of learning aggada was to intuit meaning over time, rather than being explicitly taught, because that is the only way to grasp full meaning.

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  15. As I wrote in a much earlier comment:

    In respect to Agadata, the Maharal and R' Tzaddok were clearly zocheh to giluyim that were not revealed (unless they were intentionally concealed) to earlier doros. In this respect they had a nekudah of greatness in which they surpassed the Rambam.

    I must remain in disagreement with your assertion that:

    anyone who thinks that the later commentators were making, as a rule (not any specific interpretation) giluyim that the great rishonim missed, they are missing the texture of aggada.

    We have no way of knowing what the great Rishonim did or did not know. All we can say is that the giluyim are greater in the Doros Acharonim. I do not understand why it misses the "texture" of Aggadata to note that fact.

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  16. it is apparent that the earlier generations, those who were learned didn't have need for these sort of gilyuim. that is these are only giluyim from the standpoint of those who feel agada is mystery without explicit interpretations - i dont think that in earlier generations, those who were learned would have considered them revelations.
    my own feeling is that even in our own times, overemphasizing specific meforshim on aggadata can get in the way of people absorbing the feel of them over time. I guess we just disagree.

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  17. Has anyone learned the sefer Ein Ayah by Rav AY Kook z"l ?

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  18. I can agree that earlier genrations did not need these giluyim, and perhaps that is indeed the reason we were zocheh to them if they were not. (Somewhat a la what R' Yisroel Salanter is said to have said upon hearing a shiur of Reb Chaim's: "HKB"H is preparing a gadol for the next generation" (i.e., when Reb Yisroel's own derech of charifus extending over the breadth of Shas would no longer be applicable).

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  19. I have not looked in an Ein Ayah any time recently. Isn't it only on Berachos?

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  20. Three nice-sized volumes of Ein Ayah in loshon kodesh came out. Two on brochos and one on the beginning of Shabbos. I found them quite interesting. I don't think they are so easy to get though.

    R. Bezalel Naor took a few pieces and worked them into English.

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  21. How does one approach the study of R Tzadok. It's not neraly as well organized as the Maharal?

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  22. I started with Tzidkas HaTzadik. I was advised to skip the first forty simanim and start from siman #40. I would add that if you are a Misnaged, don't get turned off by the Hotzo'as Zera simanim.

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  23. Misnaged? Nope, Chosid.

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  24. Great. So I am sure you will love R' Tzadok!

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  25. Well I have tried, but all I see is (what seems to me like) disjointed shtiklach. Are their any decent introductions to his ideas. I read Brills, but like you was unimpressed.

    I'm especially interested in RT's ideas of the unfolding of TSBP.

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  26. If you would like retzifus, you should start with Yisroel Kedoshim, or Machshavos Charutz. I like the short shtiklach in Tzidkas HaTzaddik because they give you "easily digestible" bites with which to start assimilating R' T's derech.

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  27. Start with the Torah being written by several men & being full of contradictions & inconsistencies. Then add more laws to this work of science fiction and get a bunch of rabbi's together to try and out-pious each other by adding restrictions, ludicrous superstitions, and archaic rituals and there you have Judaism. I'll just stick to the latkas, love of Israel, bagels and lox, and you guys can have all the rest.

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  28. Start with Torah she'b'Ktav being written by Moshe Rabbeinu conveying the word of God, and Torah she'b'al Peh being written by many great men of great wisdom, piety and sincerity. Then we can talk.

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  29. I should add after the second "being written," "based on core principles that God revealed to Moshe at Sinai and were then transmitted generation to generation.

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