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MISC-----mesorah and new approaches

duker Posted - 27 July 2001 18:51

I am unclear what it means for one to have a mesora.

Today is the hilula of the Arizal, his mesora is from Eliyahu Hanavi.

The Ba'al Shem had no more mesorah for any of his ideas than Rav Kook.

Likewise I can throw in many other names, (the Rambam's attempt to understand the Torah through the prism of Aristotelian philosophy, for example).

Even the Satmar Rav Zt"l himself's ideas were no less radical than Rav Kook, as he claims the State of Israel was started by the Other Side (see al' Hageeila).

So why are the Arizal, Rambam, Besht, and the Satmar Rav, all acceptable but only Rav Kook is posul?

MODERATOR Posted - 27 July 2001 19:29

Not so. The first difference between all of the above and Rav Kook is that all the others were able to successfully defend their positions from a traditional Torah point of view against their opposition.

There remain no unanswerable complaints against any of the above Tzadikim you mentioned, though legitimate disagreements remain.

Zionism has been unable to come close to answer the attacks leveled against it from a Torah point of view. The defenses are more emotional than rational, and the simple reasons to oppose it have not been anything close to answered by Rav Kook or any other Zionist rabbi, though they have tried.

Because of the weakness of the Zionist response and the lack of any ground to stand on, the Gedolim looked at this disagreement as simply a black and white rebellion against the torah rather than a legitimate dispute.

People WANT Zionism, since it appeals to the emotions on many levels, as well as promises (falsely) solutions to anti-Semitism and other Jewish "problems." Especially after the holocaust, it was difficult not to grasp onto any political straw that was available, even if it was dead against the Torah.

And it is very tempting to try to shove a square peg into a round hole by twisting and turning Torah to fit what you want. Our Gedolim recognized Zionism as simply that, as opposed to a simple mistake in pshat, which other, more legitimate disagreements are.

Secondly, a "new" idea is not radical or untraditional if it is actually a new application of traditional methodology and ideas, which is what the Baal Shem Tov and Satmar Rov did.

And the idea to look at Torah through the eyes of philosophy was not originated by the Rambam at all - Rav Saadia Gaon, the Chovos Halevovos (in his sefer Toros HaNefesh) and others who predated the Baal ShemTov did this as well. Philosophy is considered by these authorities to be simply the discipline of logic, and applying that to Torah is neither new nor radical.

The Baal Shem Tov's teachings are very well grounded in the Zohar and Arizal, and even in Shas and Rishonim - he was not even the first "Baaal Shem", although he was the most well known - and his ideas are "new" only in the sense that every generation needs to be treated according to its specific needs, and the Baal Shem Tov's generation needed that approach then. This idea itself is traditional and predates the Baal Shem Tov by a lot.

The Satmar Rav said nothing radical at all. He was not even the originator of any of those ideas, although he was most prominent about them in America. You will find identical thoughts all over the writings of the Minchas Elozor for instance, and the anti-Zionist position itself was mainstream Torah opinion among ultra-Orthodox Jews before the war, shared by Satmar, Lubavitch, Brisk, Rav S.R. Hirsch, and other leaders across the spectrum.

The concept of Maaseh Satan is nothing untraditional, and a lot less spectacular than it sounds. It means, simply, that the Satan - Yetzer Horah - creates Nisyonos for people to go against the Torah, and since Zionism is against the Torah, its attraction - i.e. the fact that it was successful in creating a Jewish State - is a Nisayon. Nisyonos come form the Satan, and that is what "maaseh satan" means.

It is merely a response to the Zionist claim that if G-d allowed the State to happen, this "proves" He wants it. The answer is, G-d allows evil to prosper as a Nisayon. This is nothing new.

The Arizal got his information - to a large extent - from Eliyahu HaNavi, but the idea of Eliyahu HaNavi being a reliable source of information is totally traditional and comes way before the Arizal. So the Arizal is merely an application of a traditional principal.

But Rav Kook's ideas have no traditional basis at all, as well as no known defense against the Torah charges leveled against it.

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