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Friday, June 07, 2013

Korach. How are We Supposed to Know?

I saw an interesting thing in Volume 4 of Rav Shach's letters.  He asks on the Gemara in Bava Metzia 85b
אמר רב יהודה אמר רב מאי דכתיב (ירמיהו ט) מי האיש החכם ויבן את זאת ואשר דבר פי ה' אליו ויגידה על מה אבדה הארץ דבר זה אמרו חכמים ולא פירשוהו אמרו נביאים ולא פירשוהו עד שפירשו הקב"ה בעצמו שנאמר (ירמיהו ט) ויאמר ה' על עזבם את תורתי אשר נתתי לפניהם אמר רב יהודה אמר רב שלא ברכו בתורה תחילה 

When the second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, the question was asked, what precipitated this terrible tragedy?  The question was asked to the Chachamim, and they did not explain it, the question was asked to the Nevi'im and they did not explain it, and finally Hashem told them that the terrible destruction had taken place because they had lost respect for the Torah.

Rav Shach asks, if the wise men and the Neviim had no idea what the problem was- (there were many problems and the Neviim and Chachamim had been warning the people for decades, but evidently none of those issues explained the terrible destruction and exile)- how can the people be blamed for this sin?  How can you expect the people to regret a sin that no human being, not even the wisest or the most spiritual,  recognized?

A similar question can be asked in Parshas Korach.  Korach and the two hundred and fifty men were the greatest of the Dor Dei'ah.  They must have presented a strong argument.  How can the rest of the people be blamed for not knowing who was right?  In the parsha of the Meraglim, how are we supposed to know who to trust?  The other meraglim were at least the equals of Yehoshua and Kaleiv, and they decided ten to two that they should stay in the Midbar!

It appears, says Rav Shach, that when it comes to one's personal moral decisions, he knows more than all the chachamim and all the neviim.  We have an innate spiritual compass that enables us to know right from wrong, no matter how hidden it is from the rational mind.

Unfortunately, access to this innate ability requires the utmost honesty and sincerity, a real Catch 22.  Every sheigitz in the street can easily say that he doesn't care what anyone says, he's doing what he knows in his heart is right.  This is true.  But the Ribono shel Olam knows if a person is honestly and humbly recognizing the wisdom of his Chelek Eloka Mi'Maal or just wiping his hands on it.

gU cited Reb Elchonon's assertion that faith is the natural state of man, and only because of his unwillingness to forego his pleasures and sense of freedom does man throw away his awareness of and faith in God.  His words:
ם שאיננו בכלל שוטה. אשר אי אפשר להסתפק באמיתתם, אמנם רק בתנאי שלא יהא האדם משוחד: היינו שיהא חופשי מתאוות עולם הזה ומרצונותיו. וא"כ סיבת המינות והכפירה אין מקורה בקלקול השכל מצד עצמו, כי אם מפני רצונו לתאוותיו המטה ומעור את שכלו ומעתה מובן היטב מה שהזהירה התורה ''ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם'' - זו מינות, היינו שהאדם מוזהר להכניע ולשעבד את רצונותיו כדי שיהא השכל חופשי מנטיות הרצון - וממילא יכיר את האמת המוכרחת לכל בן דעת שהקב''ה ברא את העולם, כמאמר רבי עקיבא שהעולם מעיד על הקב''ה שבראו והכפירה אין לה שום מקום בשכל האדם, כי אם ברצונותיו ותאוותיו ואילו לא הגיעו תאוותיו למדרגה גסה לא היה אפשר בשום אופן לבוא לידי טעות של כפירה או עבודה זרה. ע''כ גדול עוונו מנשוא שהגביר תאוותיו על שכלו כל כך עד שלא יכיר אמת פשוטה כזאת 
והמצוה להאמין היינו שלא יגביר תאוותיו על שכלו, וממילא תבוא האמונה בהכרח. ואין צורך להשתדל להשיג אמונה, אלא להסיר את הגורמים להפסידה, והיא תבוא מאליה 

Similarly, Rav Dessler says 
מעולם לא היה מי שהוא אפיקורוס באמת. כל מי שפקר יודע בפנים קרב לבו שמתעלם הוא מן האמת, ומה שטוען שאינו
רואה ואינו שומע היינו שאינו ר ו צ ה לראות ואינו ר ו צ ה לשמוע 

Not exactly the same as what we're talking about, I think, but close.

15 comments:

Eli said...

Needless to say, I identify with your main point. But I think the examples are not convincing.

Regarding על מה אבדה הארץ: many ask the obvious question, that many many psukim in Navi describe explicitly the many Chataim (with chataf), and they were not as obscure and refined as שלא ברכו בתורה.

There are few famous answers (e.g. that the question was to the Shoresh of their fall, or that the question was what is the reason for Galus, why they were not punished in EY). Whatever it is, not knowing the answer to these questions is in no way an excuse for their actual aveiros, which were severe and known to all.

As for Korach, Rambam (YH 8) goes out of his way to explain the problem there was nothing but questioning Moshe's authenticity as delivering Dvar Hashem. So the people should not have had to decide between (for example) philosophical arguments as to preferring the spirituality of the individual on communal spirituality, or whatever we explain the discussion there to be. The only had to know one thing - Moshe Rabbenu delivers us Dvar Hashem, so no one can overrule him. How would they know it? They heard it themselves, as the Rambam put it: "הקול מדבר אליו ואנו שומעים: משה משה לך אמור להם כך וכך"

What about disputes among Gedolim for none of which we have such an endorsement, that's the question.

great Unknown said...

Or, perhaps worse, what about disputes about what a particular gadol said?

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

I don't know what happened in the time of Korach. I just want to understand what Rav Shach was talking about. I haven't seen it inside, but I have mamosh no idea what he means. I understand that we pasken that someone that is somech on Sanhedrin in Lishkas Hagazis and they later said they were wrong, that you don't have a petur oneis. Nobody made you follow their psak. But culpability? Beyond my comprehension. Why would he even say that?

great Unknown said...

Because the GR"A is quoted as saying the same thing.

Chaim B. said...

I heard this vort of R' Shach said over by R' Tuvia Lieff once. The way he reported it is that R' Shach was respondsing to a bachur who asked for advice on how to work on himself during Elul. R' Shach answered that if the bachur looks within himself, he will know what to do -- it's not something R' Shach can dictate to him. (http://divreichaim.blogspot.com/2010/08/shoftim-personal-justice.html).

great Unknown said...

Reb Yitzchok Elchonon, in the first ma'amar of Kovetz Ma'amarim, uses the same principle to explain Reb Chaims' "nebach an apikores" aphorism.

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

I'm sorry, this is hilchesa limshicha. Yes, if one was absolutely honest and knew himself and was humble and wise, he would be able- and obligated!- to know the right path. If one is slightly imperfect, he absolutely cannot trust himself. So who are they talking to?People like Chaim Goldberg? Maybe.

Chaim Goldberg: Dovid Leib Cohen's partner in running a multi-million dollar chesed in Yerushalayim. Learns all day when he's not running after poor people. Fought with my father zatzal about whether he could take a few dollars to help pay for his own daughter's hachnasas kallah. Currently suffering from advanced prostate cancer. Last I heard he needed rachamei shamayim.

great Unknown said...

Do you have his name for tefillos?

great Unknown said...

BTW, your comment may leave people thinking that he fought to take the money. It was precisely the opposite: he felt it would be inappropriate for himself to take anything. And he fought very strongly against pressure by people who were trying to give him the money.

His lifestyle, BTW, is very modest even by Geulah standards.

great Unknown said...

Given who and who did not participate in the demonstration today, this post is most propitiously timed.

Eli said...

Wouldn't you agree that in a case of הורו בית דין ששקעה חמה, אין זו הוראה אלא טעות someone who knows for sure that he see's the sun will be called Meizid? Even in cases of הוראה בהלכה, it seems clear from Horayos 2b that one who knows BD are wrong is called Shogeg only if he mistakenly thinks he has to listen to Gedolim in such a case. Otherwise, he is Meizid regardless of what the he heard from them.

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

Again, using the Gemara in Horyos, it's clear that although Rav Yehuda in the Mishna calls an innocent person that accepts Beis Din's psak an Annus, and pattur from a Chatas, we pasken like the Chachamim there on Amud Beis, that he's not called annus. But that's incomprehensible! Of course he's an annus! He's not smarter than the whole Sanhedrin, so why isn't he entitled to rely on them, to assume that they know more than him and acharei rabbim etc?

The only answer I know, and I know it's inconsistent with the Noda Beyehuda in EH II 96, is that since you could have learned and known better than the Sanhedrin, you're not called an annus. You're a shogeig. Even though right now there's no way you can know more than them, you could have been like Moshe Rabbeinu if you had properly applied yourself. So you're not called annus, but rather shogeig.

Maybe that's what they mean. If you had been a tzadik gammur, and a navi, and a Moshe Rabbeinu, you would have known the right thing to do. You weren't, so you didn't, and that's your fault. It's like the discussion we had about shikor, who is so drunk he doesn't know what he's doing, but he knew, when he got drunk, that it's likely that he'll do something awful. Like Lot the second night, where the Torah criticizes him for drinking again.

Chaim B. said...

Since you mention the Noda b'Yehudah, can you explain why you don't like his answer? Your approach works for the case of beis din, but he also asks from the case of a women who marries based on the testimony of eidim who them prove to be liars - why in that case is she chayeves a korban. The Torah allows you to rely on testimony -- how can you be chayav a korban for doing so?

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

Chaim, I was just talking to someone that noticed that a recent likut sefer quoted a tshuva from the Mahari Bruna that an akum doesn't have kinyan agav, only a Yisrael. He looked up the teshuva and found that it's there, but that was the opinion of the guy asking the question. The Mahari Bruna himself says the opposite.

You can't trust anyone. I think that it's because someone reads the teshuva, and something there appeals to him, and that's what sticks in his mind.

On that topic, the NB I mentioned does say there's a difference between relying on a Psak where they were simply mattir something for you, and relying on a psak where the Beis Din told you davka to do it their way, and they told you that you davka should not be machmir. But that was something the man who wrote to him proposed. He says this is a good svara, but then he goes on to say the chiluk you mentioned.

Whenever I think of the NB, I remember the first chiluk, because the second one, the first time I read it, made my head spin. Who cares whether the cause of the oneis is a sheker, or a ta'us? By Lanaara lo saaseh davar the cause of the oneis is also a sheker- the beheima that was me'aneis her.

In any case, I was referring to the first chiluk. I'll be more careful in the future.

Also, it's in YD 96, not EH, as, obviously, you realized.

Eli said...

I understand your point regarding shogeg vs Oneis, but at least for someone's who knows BD are mistaken it's clear why he's Meizid. This is the case in korach, as they knew first hand MR was endorsed by Hashem