Undermining the Rabbis
Moshe Ben-Chaim
Question: Would you not rationally accept that the "doctors of the Talmud" were human beings, like you or I, who could have been (and most likely were) influenced by the culture, geographic location and historical time frame in which they lived ? Would this not therefore influence their ideas and therefore interpretations? Why is the situation different today? Have Jews at any period of time been able to isolate themselves from the outside" world?
Mesora: We cannot attribute the teachings of the Rishonim or the accepted "baaley hamesora" (masters of tradition) as functioning with anything other than reason. The prohibition of "mak-chish magi-deha", "denegrading the Torah's teachers" teaches us not to undermine their authority with suppositions of influence other than their own minds. We must respect that as they accepted each other based on reason, and never accused each other of ideas based on their environmental influences, we too follow greater minds and discuss Torah content based on content alone. If an idea is sensible or nonsensical, it is on its own merit that we accept or dismiss it. This is clearly the mode of operation of the teachers in the Mishna and Talmud.
Question: When can you say that a "posek" of today has the validity of the Rishonim?
Mesora: No posek today has that authority. But as the Talmud teaches, courts may overrule previous decisions when they are greater in chochma and numbers.

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