Shivim Panim L'Torah
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Can both the Rambam and the Ramban be right on a specific point? Is
this possible? They themselves argued on each other, so they would be the
first to admit that both of them couldn't be right on a specific point.
What does "Shivim Panim L'Torah mean? Does this mean that one can say anything he wants about the Torah, and since there's a principle of Shivim Panim, he is right? This is an absurdity.
Are we then to say that when Hillel said "X" is non-kosher,
and Shammai said "X" is kosher, they are both right, but we are
just on such a low level and can't understand it?
Hillel and Shammai cannot both be right. As far as halacha goes, their respective students must follow each. But in objective reality, something cannot be both kosher and non-kosher simultaneously.
It would seem that when we say Shivim Panim L'Torah, we mean that there can be many explanations for a given topic. However, the explanation must makes sense. There was a point in history when there were no machloksim (disputes) over halacha (law). It was only after minds became less sharp than the original baalei hamesora, that we began to see disputes. Eventually, to keep one identity to the Torah, the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish law was written. Really, both Hillel and Shammai cannot both be right on the same point. But that doesn't matter, as the goal is not to determine what Moshe Rabbeinu knew, but to determine with one's own mind how one sees an area. Halacha is not based on what Moshe Rabbeinu would have said, but it's based on what a Rav determines today. There is a gemora where a certain individual stated that, "had Yehoshua bin Nun told me such and such,...I would not listen to him". What does this show? It shows that we are not looking for confirmation from the original baalei hamesora. This is not what makes a halacha. Rather, as the Torah states, "al pi hatorah asher yorucha", "in accordance with the Torah which they (the Rabbis) teach you". The rabbis today create halacha for us. When we are perplexed we consult our Rav. He determines the halacha.
The halacha is that if one has learned through an area in gemora, searched clearly through the rishonim, and sees the law different than how he was taught, he has the right to follow his own mind. He does not have to follow his Rav. He must not however teach this ruling to his peers - as his peers have not gone through the area as he did, they then must follow their Rav or posek.
But one must not be foolish and think that since someone said an idea, that it must be true. Or since one saw an idea in a printed medium that this validates it. Just because something is printed in a contemporary sefer, this doesn't mean it's true. One should analyze what he hears. Just as the students in the time of the gemora asked questions on their rebbeim, so must we. We should not blindly accept ideas. Chazal say that "lo a bayshan lomed", "an embarrassed person will not learn".
If we are not to ask questions, but we are to follow today's ignorant view of "we can't know...we are not on their level..." ..how then did Chazal say this statement of "lo a bayshan lomed"? Evidently, they were urging us to ask in order to learn. How can one learn the Torah and not have questions? That is simply ridiculous. To train people to don false humility and claim, "I am not on the level of the Rambam or Rashi, therefore I must not ask on their statements", will certainly lead to further ignorance, and the Sages and the Rabbis z"l abhor this approach.
"Aylu v'aylu divrei elokim chaim" means something similar. It means that as long as one is elucidating the Torah based on fact, and his opinion makes sense, then this opinion is also valid. There's not only one idea in a given area. Many ideas can be learned from a single pasuk or area of the Torah, "Shivim Panim l'Torah".
When one is in the pursuit of knowledge, as long as one is following their mind, this person is then functioning exactly as Hashem desired they act.
I feel that this approach of false humility is one of the causes for so many young students leaving learning. Teaching students and children that we can't question a Rashi or a Tosfos is basically telling them that the Torah just has to be followed without understanding. How can we expect our children to love learning if their minds are not stimulated by questions? If they aren't given the courtesy as equal human beings to receive dignified attention to their questions? We must all urge students to ask their questions. And if as parents or teachers we don't know the answers, we must tell them "I don't know". Compliment them as well on their questions. You will never see a student or child light up as much as when they have a great question, and they are told so. Teachers must be on their guard not to seek consistent reinforcement of their authority by squelching a students zeal. This ruins what might be a great student. What could be a greater loss? Conversely, if we urge honest inquiry, and show respect to our children and students, you will see that in no time, your students and children will be learning out of a true appreciation for wisdom. Leshma. Young people have natural inquisitiveness. You always see young children asking questions such as , "Why don't cats have wings like birds?" "What keeps clouds from falling?" And the like. These are humorous examples, but they make the point. This inquisitive nature can either be suppressed, or hopefully, encouraged. And when these children enter the world of learning Torah, they will again not be afraid to ask here, as you have encouraged this attitude.
We have the opportunity to create great students out of these children, to give them the true enjoyment of learning. Let us be careful not to dissuade them.