Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt ii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) Here, the guest attacks the idea that Chazal held that one who wears tefillin on chol haMoed is liable to death. He argues that Chazal in Yerushalmi held it was a mitzvah. And the fact that this is attributed to Tannaim in the Zohar means nothing, for who says the Tannaim wrote it? The author replies that the proof is within its pages, since it cites and attributes many statements to Tannaim, just as there is testimony from within for sifrei Tanach, and for the Mishna and gemara. The guest draws a distinction, claiming that for those, we believe they are authentic because of a continuous tradition of consensus from its time of composition until today. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And the man became enraged and said: One who performs the commandment of his God is liable to death? Woe to the ears which hear this! And how do you speak to put deviation of the Sages of the Mishna, to place in their mouths something like this, that one who puts on tefillin on a day of the days in liable to death? And is it not that even on Shabbat and Yom Tov they did not say that it is forbidden to put on tefillin, and that one who puts them on is liable to a punishment, neither light nor stringent, but rather they only said that Shabbat and Yom Tov are not the time of tefillin, for they themselves are a sign. And how is it forbidden to put on tefillin on chol haMoed? And do we not find in the Talmud Yerushalmi (brought down in hagahot Maimoniyot) that one of the Sages commended a scribe that he write tefillin on chol haMoed for his own needs, so that he will be able to give his tefillin to another person who lost his tefillin on chol haMoed? And if one who puts on tefillin on chol haMoed is liable to death, what will be the penalty of the scribe who writes them on chol haMoed to put them on himself, in order to lend his own to another Jew so that he too will put them on on chol haMoed?

I said to him: And how shall we deny that which is written in the sefer? And behold, our eyes are the ones that see that so is written in the sefer haZohar in the name of our Rabbis, that one who puts on tefillin on chol haMoed is liable to death; and if it is implied from the Yerushalmi that there is no prohibition in the matter {of putting them on}, sitting and doing nothing is better. {in a case of doubt}

And the man answered and said: And who are the witnesses of the sefer haZohar who testify about it that the Sages of the Mishna and Talmud wrote it?

I said to him: Its witnesses are within it, for it is written in it on each and every page, "Rabbi Shimon said," "Rabbi Eleazar said," "Rabbi Chiyya said," "Rabbi Abba began." And who are the witnesses of the Talmud? And who are the witnesses of the Mishna? And who are the witnesses of the Neviim and Ketuvim? And who are the witnesses of the Torah of Moshe itself? Rather, that it is written within the sefer, "and Hashem said to Moshe," "and Moshe wrote," "the vision of Yeshayahu," "the words of Yirmeyahu," "the proverbs of Shlomo," "a praise from David." And so too, "Rabbi Meir said," "Rabbi says," "Abaye said," "Rav Ashi said." And if you want to deny the sefer haZohar, deny as well in the Mishna and the Talmud, and after this deny also in the Torah and Neviim, and deny and say "I have no portion in the God of Israel."

And the man answered me and said: The matter is not as you have said, for our faith in the sefarim are not based on the sefarim themselves, for many, many books are forgeries, which are attributed to men who never wrote them. But we believe in sefarim upon which the tradition {kabbalah} has come upon them from generation to generation, from the time of their composers until today; behold, we believe in the Talmud, because it is clear to us that it was accepted by the entirety of our nation from its time of composition until today; and we trust that the matters written in it are in truth the words of the Sages mention in it, for we know clearly that even these hundred years, and even these 200, and even these 1000 years and more, such was accepted by all of Israel entirely, and so was the belief of the late and early geonim, and so was the belief of the Rabbanan Savorai, who were close in time and place to the Sages of the Talmud, and this tradition was widespread in all the congregation of Israel from generation to generation, from father to son and from teacher to student, and this is what drives out from our heart all worry of forgery in the matter of the Talmud.

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