Friday, March 03, 2006

R. Y. B. Soloveitchik and R. Saul Lieberman

Menachem Mendel posts about an article by Michael V. Fox about critical scholarship and personal religious belief.

Dan comments:
I heard the following story. There was a student at JTS who went to one of the Rav's shiurim. He was blown away when the Rav explained a slight difference in the text between two seemingly parallel passages in the Gemara. He was profoundly moved. He then went back and told this particular thought to R. Saul Lieberman who proceeded to show him manuscript evidence that the entire premise- that there was a textual difference - was not borne out from the manuscripts thus undermining the whole speech and leaving the student rather disappointed.
This reminded me of an incident recorded in R. Aharon Rakeffet's book The Rav (blogged about here). Here it is again:
I remind myself, I had an encounter quite a number of years ago with a representative of the so-called Hokhmat Yisrael. He was a very outstanding scholar. He told me that lately they had discovered a parchment, a megillah, in which it was stated unequivocally that a kohen is enjoined from defiling himself with a sheretz*.

So I said to him: "Do you take it seriously?"

"Of course," he answered, "very seriously." You know, they [the devotees of Hokhmat Yisrael] have the answer right away. It is a different kabbalah, a different tradition. They operate with "traditions" in the plural.

So I mentioned a name to him. The name was known to him, and I knew that he did not like the person. I asked him: "Do you know him?"

"Yes," he answered.

"Is he a scholar?" I asked.

"No, he is a boor and an am ha-aretz mide-oraita," he answered.

I said to him: "So only we have a monopoly on boors and amei ha-aretz mideo-oraita? Fifteen hundred years ago there were also boors and amei ha-aretz. Since there was no paper, the boor had to write on parchment. So you found a nice hiddushei Torah, so what!"
R. Rakeffet repeated this incident with a bit more detail in a lecture available on

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