Shabbat Parashat Vayechi| 5767
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Going from Strength to Strength - Excerpts of an Address on Rav Kook's Yahrtzeit, 5750 - From Dabar L'dor, pp. 66-72
How does one solve a difficult dilemma in a matter of Jewish law? “You shall go up to the place that Hashem shall choose … and you shall act based on that which they will tell you” (Devarim 17:8-10). The strict rules of zaken mamreh deal with a member of the Sanhedrin who rebels against its decision. This, though, is after the final decision has been reached. What precedes that decision?
The gemara at the end of Berachot says: “Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as it says: ‘All of your sons,’ read as your builders rather than sons, ‘will be students of Hashem, and great will be the peace of your sons.’” Why does it say, “increase peace” and not “make peace”? Rav Kook, in his commentary, Ein Aya, explains as follows: “There are those who mistakenly think that world peace will be built only on one type of opinions and characteristics. If so, when one sees Torah scholars investigating matters of wisdom, and through that investigation there become more approaches and opinions, there are those who think that they are causing dispute, as opposed to peace.” We must recognize that every page of the gemara contains differences of opinion. On all of them, we say, “These and those are the words of the living G-d.”
Rav Kook continues: “The proliferation of peace occurs when all of the angles and opinions that exist in wisdom are seen, and it will be clarified how each one has a place, each according to its value, place, and matter… When there is a compilation of all the parts, details, and opinions that look different … specifically through them will be seen the light of truth and justice, the understanding of Hashem and the fear and love of Him. Therefore, Torah scholars increase peace in the world by widening, explaining, and “giving birth” to new words of wisdom with different facets. In that way, they increase peace in the world, as it says, ‘All of your sons are students of Hashem.’ All will understand that all of those with apparently opposing approaches and views are all those who study Hashem.”
This approach, which encourages studying all aspects and opinions and not sufficing with the “bottom line,” is crucial for the study of halachic topics. A decision of two judges is invalid when three are required. Yet ostensibly, when two agree, they constitute a majority of the court of three. The explanation is that until the two have heard the third’s approach, their opinions do not have the status of the court’s opinions. One must hear the differing opinion and decide otherwise.
The gemara tells of Rav Yochanan’s despair when Reish Lakish died, leaving him bereft of his intellectual counterpart. People suggested that he study with Rav Elazar, but Rav Yochanan did not consider him a replacement. He explained that whenever he stated an opinion, Reish Lakish would counter with 24 questions, to which he would respond with 24 answers. This caused the matter “to be expanded.” In contrast, Rav Elazar simply agreed with and brought support for Rav Yochanan, which he did not consider helpful.
The above refers to the process of arriving at halacha. What causes a certain approach to be accepted? The previous passage in Berachot explains the pasuk: “They shall go from strength to strength, they will be seen by Hashem in Zion” (Tehillim 84:8). This refers to one who exits the hall of prayer and enters the hall of study. It is important to go from one hall to the other because each contains a special element. The laws of zaken mamrei exist only when Sanhedrin’s ruling was made at its special place, beside the Holy Temple. The ruling must be accompanied by the Divine Presence to be considered complete. The combined intellect of the Sanhedrin is insufficient. Neither is the Divine Presence sufficient alone, as we cannot base a ruling on prophecy. Rather, it is the intellectual decision arrived at within the background of the spiritual which reaches the ideal level.
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