Moshe Ben-Chaim Responds to Critiques on His Article, "Deification of Man"
Having read the critiques on my article, "Deification of Man", I would
like to offer the following response:
My response to Rochel Keller,
You state that "there is room for my opinion as long as neither harms
other Jews in anyway, nor incites one against another". Have you not
seen numerous gemoras, Rishonim, and commentators on the Chumash
vehemently arguing with each other? Hillel and Shammai. Rambam and
Ramban. The list is endless. They did not feel that since another held
an opinion, that this rendered it a proper theory. If they saw an idea
which they felt was "invalid", they spoke out, and correctly so. The
goal of Torah is not to insure that other's opinions have equal
acceptance, but rather, the goal is to defend that which one feels is
the truth. If this means that one must oppose another, even one greater,
this person is in accordance with Torah and with the aforementioned
sages by doing so.
They are not inciting and neither am I. My intent is as theirs, to show
what I see as the truth.
You have incorrectly projected motives onto my actions.
My response to Rabbi Avraham Stone,
On Total Reverence: I mentioned the gemora where an individual stated
that he wouldn't even follow Joshua the son of Nun. This does not show
"total reverence" as you suggest. This is one of many cases which
emphasizes that one should follow his own mind. How did Aaron argue with
Moshe Rabbeinu? Where was his total reverence? There was a high level of
respect of course, Moshe being the great man he was. But to go against
one's mind is patently against the Torah. Aaron was correct in
questioning the greatest man ever, and Moshe admitted so. If one may
question Moshe Rabbeinu, certainly one may question one lower in status.
The Torah clearly does not hold of your opinion of "total reverence" to
the point of disregarding one's intellect.
On Rabbis and Miracles: I understand that the forefathers had miracles
performed by Hashem on their behalf. However, aside from the prophets in
T'nach, I don't see where they, or later individuals such as King
Solomon or King David, for example were known to perform miracles. You
must agree that King Solomon and King David were both on a higher level
than any rabbi today. Yet you claim that rabbis today are "endowed with
Divine power". This is false. How is it that these two great kings, the
authors (not the followers) of our mesora didn't perform miracles, yet
you claim that individuals of lower stature today have greater powers
than they? Again, Avraham referred to himself as "dust and ashes". Yet
you see fit to raise someone lower, to a higher level of a miracle
worker? I have never seen a Rishon write that rabbis are endowed with
divine power.
The answer is that miracles are in Hashem's hands. Rabbis don't perform
miracles. It is their followers who concoct these fables to raise
their memories to angelic proportions. What these stories accomplish is
a grave crime. They cause the unlearned to assume a false essence of
Judaism, i.e., amazing stories. What do you think happens to the
misguided Jews when they don't see these so called miracles occurring
today? They question their heritage, and eventually, many times, leave
Judaism. When reality falls short of one's expectations, one seeks
something else which affords the false emotional support they were
incorrectly taught to seek. All because people taught Judaism as
something which it is not.
Interestingly, I have never heard someone say (as prophecy has left us)
"I SAW such and such a miracle". People say, "I HEARD that so and so did
a miracle". Never first hand knowledge. No one ever claims that they saw
a miracle with their own eyes, because if they do, they know they will
be asked for proof, and won't be able to offer any. This is why
miraculous stories are never in the form of first hand knowledge. Did
you ever see a rabbi performing miracles yourself? I don't think so.
Ascribing greatness to one for miracles performed is, as Rambam states,
no proof of one's level.
We should also note that these fables have sprung up relatively
recently. Prior to certain movements, (not included in the Torah Hashem
gave Moshe), talmudic discussions and appreciation of rational thought
were the focus of talmidei chachamim. Tragically, today people have been
trained to accept people instead of concepts, fantasy instead of truth,
popular opinions in place of those taught by Chazal.
I will not offer a critique without a solution. What should we do? We
should teach our children, friends and students the true ideas of
halacha and hashkafa in the rational light it was meant to be taught,
just as the Rishonim had done. Did the Rishonim get involved in amazing
stories? No. Aren't they in fact discussing gemora and halacha?
Understanding principles of shabbos, kashrus, t'filah and the like? They
did not engage in discussions about their rebbe's miracles. This
obviously was not their value or focus. They were not interested in the
'person'. They desired one thing, to draw closer to Hashem by delving
objectively into Torah study, not in idolizing people through fables.
What did Moshe Rabbeinu teach us? All of his attempts at teaching the
Jews were to follow Hashem and His Torah. Not once did he talk about his
or another's miracles, to make a mere human the focus.
Respect and honor is due to those who follow the Torah strictly.
However, focusing on personalities as the value, removes one from
focusing on Hashem.
Anyone in a position who can assist his fellow Jew by teaching the right
ideals based on our mesora, earns in my mind the highest honor. The more
one can teach, the greater the good realized.
On Mezuza: Your sources do not show that the mezuza has a protective
quality. On the contrary, as you stated, "Hashem protects...." This is
accurate. The physical object of the mezuza however has no more power
than a rock. Hashem is the One who protects, it is not the physical
parchment. If one perfects himself in other areas, here too Hashem
provides His Providence over that person. The sources you quoted can be
understood in this light, without resorting to your assumption that a
mezuza has its own power. Rashi on Yuma 11a, describes that in the town
of Mechuza, the rabbis refrained from mounting mezuzot on the city's
gates so the king would not suspect the Jews of witchcraft. Why did they
refrain from mounting a mezuza if it protects? Evidently, it doesn't. It
is to function as a reminder of the correct ideas written thereupon.
These ideas, when reflected upon, are the perfection of man. It is upon
this perfected soul which Hashem bestows His providence.
Rambam clearly holds the opposite of your opinion, and I quote him
again, (Laws of
Tefilin 5:4) "....but these (people) who write on the inside of the
mezuza the names of angels or sanctified names or passages or seals,
they are in the category of those who have no world to come. Because it
is not enough that these fools have taken a command and nullified it,
but they rendered a great command - the Unity of G-d, the love of Him
and the worship of Him - as if it's an amulet for personal benefit and
they assume in their foolish hearts that this will give them pleasure in
their futilities of this world." Rambam clearly shuns the notion that
physical objects are anything more than mere matter.
In summary, as the Rishonim urged us, one must use their mind to
determine whether an idea makes sense. There are many views circulating
today which oppose each other. They cannot then all be true. Hillel and
Shammai would be first to admit this to us. All we have to do is open
the gemora to see that each rabbi followed what he felt was true, and
fought for their view, unless they were proved wrong through rational
The system of Torah was given to man who has a mind, so that we should
use this mind and not blindly follow the masses, or a person's
reputation. Be not impressed with how many people do something, or who
says something. Be only impressed with wisdom. As Rambam states, one
should follow the idea, not the speaker. One should not be afraid of
acting in accordance with the truth, even if it opposes others.
We are not here to impress man, or be impressed with him.
Moshe Ben-Chaim

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