The Mesora

Reader: I think much of your site is commendable in disproving anti-Torah methodologies. However, the usage of the word "Mesora" as the name of your site is a bit misleading, as you constantly suggest that people decide about religion for themselves, and not follow anyone else. That is not what Mesora means. Mesora is t
For this, I am sorry to offend you, but I rely on my father, who relied on his father, and so back in a golden chain that stretches to Matan Torah. There is no other nation on earth that claims a mass revelation, other than Klal Yisrael. The only way we can accept this revelation as true, and not as "mob psychology", is if we trust that our forefathers who kept the Mesora through all these years did not lie about the original incident. For this reason, disputing the chain of Mesora is anti-Torah.
I do indeed learn on my own, but keeping in mind: "Shema B'ni Mussar Avicha, V'al Titosh Toras Imecha". And "She'al Avicha V'yagedcha, Z'keinecha V'yomru Lach". Right now, you do not qualify in my book of "Z'keinecha". Both because you are afraid to accept any achronim (perhaps excepting the Gr"a, I'm not sure, as you always insist on going back to only Rishonim), and because you don't seem to accept a Kabbala dimension of the Torah, for which several Tannaim come to mind, amongst them Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. So for now, I enjoy the service you give the Torah community in disputing charlatans, but do not accept your word as necessarily Torah-based.
This is possibly even in accordance with the philosophy you espouse on your site, where you suggest everyone find the truth for themselves. I haven't found, in your cutting off of Jewish chachamim of a 500-year period, a philosophy true to the Torah. Do you quibble with the Baal Shulchan Aruch? He was an Acharon. I think it is presumptuous of you to do this, even if you do not follow a specific Acharon's philosophy or approach to Limud HaTorah.
There are still some people around today that have the good sense to realize that just as they may not have Einstein's mind and be able to build an atom bomb, so too, they may need a teacher in plumbing the full depths of the Torah. There is nothing wrong with this, and from Moshe Rabbeinu, leaders have been accepted by the Jews to teach them. While I do not dispute that Torah can be learned by any individual, if you want the correct conclusions based on the hermeneutical principles, it can take more than a lifetime, and part of why we need to learn is so that we can practice halacha before we are dead.
Your lack of respect for Talmidei Chachamim goes against the Torah, in which we learn that we are required to give precedence to a Talmid Chacham-mamzer over an Am Ha'aretz-kohen, and in which we learn "Mipnei seivah takum v'hadarta p'nei zakein". Zakein is "zeh she'kanah chachmah", certainly a title for which a Talmid Chacham is qualified. "Hiddur" of a Talmid Chacham is not the feeling one gets when reading some material on your site.
Your philosophy of judging prior generations of giants brings to mind the Gemara: "Im Harishonim k'malachim, anu ki'vnei adam. Im Harishonim ki'vnei adam, anu kachamorim. Velo kachamoro shel Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair..."
Mesora: I do not see where we lack respect for chochamim.
Accepting what our minds tell us is precisely the Mesora we received - not to blindly accept whatever the previous generation teaches. This is not how the Rishonim and Acharonim acted. They disputed their opponents positions regardless of the Mesora of the position. This is because the Mesora is not to simply accept everything one hears, even in the name of the greats. This point is stated clearly in the gemara, "even if Joshua the son of Nun said it, I wouldn't accept it....". (Talmud Chulin 124a, at the very bottom). This statement from the Gemara teaches us a valuable lesson: Reputation is not preferred when it counters reason. We do not follow an "authority", even one who was under the direct tutelage of Moses. What do we follow? The answer: "Reason."
Do you respect Ramban any less because he argued on Maimonides? Why don't you feel Ramban should have simply accepted Maimonides unquestioned? We do not answer that they were on the level to argue, but we cannot. We do not see them defending that position. This right of dispute is a God given right to all mankind. This is precisely why each man possesses a critical faculty. God's will is that each of us think for ourselves, and guide our lives based on our conclusions. Otherwise, we must say that God's gift of reason to all members of mankind was a mistake. This we cannot say.
The bottom line is that we certainly abide by the Mesora. But this acceptance in no way permits us to follow a Mesora from another person if that very Mesora is incorrect, like the Gemara I quoted.
Regarding Kabballa, and other texts, again, an idea must make sense. Maimonides' son taught us that if an idea makes sense, we follow it regardless of the source. If the idea is nonsensical, we abandon it. Please see my article on the Ibn Ezra where he teaches that we abandon an idea - even a Mitzvah - if we cannot understand it. This was the Ibn Ezra talking.
Thank you for taking the time to write me.
Moshe Ben-Chaim

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