Thursday, May 31, 2012

Challenging our predecessors

This is a new experience for me: An entire night of inability to sleep, with a full day of meetings and shiurim ahead. I am going to be an absolute joy today...

In any case: Here's a piece that caught me eye, in preparing for a Pirkei Avot shiur. It's from Rav Chaim of Volozhin's Ruach Chaim to Avot 1:4, on the counsel, "יהי ביתך בית וועד לחכמים הוי מתאבק בעפר רגליהם," "Make your home a meetingplace for the sages, and wrestle [הוי מתאבק] in the dust of their feet":

The word מתאבק is like "And the man wrestled [ויאבק] with him," a battle, for this is a mitzvah war.

And so are we opposite our rebbeim, the holy ones who lie in the ground but whose souls are in the heavens, the famous authors whose texts are with us. Via the texts in our homes, our homes become meetingplaces for these sages.

We are instructed, too, and given permission to battle verbally and answer their questions, and not to show favour to anyone but to love truth. However, one must be careful for his life, lest he speak arrogantly and with haughty heart when he finds room to argue, imagining he is as great as his rebbe or the author of the text he is challenging. He should know that many times he doesn't understand the words and intent of the author, and so he should only be very humble, saying, "If I am inadequate, still, it is Torah, etc." This is "Wrestle," as we have said, but on the condition that it is "in the dust of their feet," meaning in modesty and humility, arguing on the ground before them.

And the original Hebrew:
"והוי מתאבק" מלשון "ויאבק איש עמו", שהוא ענין התאבקות מלחמה כי מלחמת מצוה היא. וכן אנו נגד רבותינו, הקדושים אשר בארץ ונשמתם בשמי מרום המחברים המפורסמים וספריהם אתנו - הנה ע"י הספרים אשר בבתנו בתינו הוא בית ועד לחכמים אלה. הוזהרנו ג"כ וניתן לנו רשות להתאבק וללחום בדברים ולתרץ קושיתם ולא לישא פנים לאיש רק לאהוב האמת. אבל עכ"ז יזהר בנפשו מלדבר בגאוה וגודל לבב באשר מצא מקום לחלוק, וידמה כי גדול הוא כרבו או כמחבר הספר אשר הוא משיג עליו. וידע בלבבו כי כמה פעמים לא יבין דבריו וכוונתו, ולכן יהיה אך בענוה יתירה באמרו "אם איני כדאי אך תורה היא וכו'" וז"ש "הוי מתאבק" כנ"ל אך בתנאי "בעפר רגליהם", ר"ל בענוה והכנעה ולדון לפניהם בקרקע.


1 comment:

  1. it is nice to see the areas when the Gra's disciples disagreed with him. [most of the time it looks like they were not aware that the Gra had a different approach because his approach was contained in notes that were not public at the time.] But even in areas where it seems they must have known that they were disagreeing with him you see this. [often it does seem to me that the Gra had a better approach than his disciples. but it certainly raises my interest when I see them disagreeing with him.] What conclusion to draw from this?
    [one main places you can see this difference between the gra and his disciples is in kialim. also in the subject of the excommunication on the chasidim. also in fact come to think of it in general pesak halacha.] I am not sure what to make of it all.