Wednesday, May 25, 2005

No one thinks Chazal were infallible. But some do think the following...

Were Chazal infallible? No one says they are. In fact, people who hold views that in effect make Chazal infallible say that Chazal were not infallible. So what do they believe? In a word, they make some mental acrobatics and put forth the following.

They would say they definitely do not agree that any human, including Moshe and including any of Chazal were infallible. But they insist that their view of them isn't that they were infallible but rather that all that they said that was recorded for posterity in the Talmuds and Midrashim are faithful recollections of Torah that God said to Moshe at Har Sinai. Thus, they are not infallible. But their words which we have -- on any subject, be it halakha, history, medicine -- came from God's mouth, kavyachol, to Moshe's ears and to our ears.

In fact, there is a prevalent opinion that Torah she-b'al peh and the chain of masorah means that any chiddush said by any respected rabbi who ever lived was said by Hashem to Moshe. Thus, for example, if the Malbim said a peshat that would mean that he heard it from his rebbe who heard it from his rebbe in a chain going back 135 generations or so and was literally said over to Moshe by Hashem. That the peshat was first published in the nineteenth century? No bother. That is definitely a view some people have.

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