Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Was Pinchas initially a kohen?

Someone, by email, called my attention to a dispute between the Zohar and the gemara as to whether Pinchas was initially a kohen, prior to his killing of Zimri and Cozbi.

Thus, towards the start of Pinchas, we read:

13. It shall be for him and for his descendants after him [as] an eternal covenant of kehunah, because he was zealous for his God and atoned for the children of Israel."יג. וְהָיְתָה לּוֹ וּלְזַרְעוֹ אַחֲרָיו בְּרִית כְּהֻנַּת עוֹלָם תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר קִנֵּא לֵאלֹהָיו וַיְכַפֵּר עַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:
והיתה לו: בריתי זאת:
an eternal covenant of kehunah: For although priesthood had already been given to the descendants of Aharon, it was only given to Aharon and his sons, who were anointed with him, and to their descendants who were born after their anointing.  But Pinchas who was born before this and was not anointed, he did not come into the category of kehunah until now. And so do we learn in Zevachim 101b, Pinchas did not become a kohen until he killed Zimri.ברית כהנת עולם: שאע"פ שכבר נתנה כהונה לזרעו של אהרן, לא נתנה אלא לאהרן ולבניו, שנמשחו עמו ולתולדותיהם שיולידו אחר המשחתן, אבל פינחס שנולד קודם לכן ולא נמשח, לא בא לכלל כהונה עד כאן. וכן שנינו בזבחים (קא ב) לא נתכהן פינחס עד שהרגו לזמרי:

That gemara in Zevachim reads:
דאר"א א"ר חנינא לא נתכהן פינחס עד שהרגו לזמרי דכתיב (במדבר כה, יג) והיתה לו ולזרעו אחריו ברית כהונת עולם רב אשי אמר עד ששם שלום בין השבטים שנאמר (יהושע כב, ל) וישמע פינחס הכהן ונשיאי העדה וראשי אלפי ישראל
However, if we read that gemara in Zevachim carefully, we see that it is actually a machlokes whether Pinchas only became a kohen then. See the Point by Point Outline: For there is
(f) Answer: R. Nechemyah holds that Aninus Laylah is mid'Oraisa. (R. Yehudah holds that this is true for all generations, but not at the time of the Milu'im.)
(g) (Beraisa - R. Yehudah): ...Pinchas was with them! (He could have eaten it.)
(h) Question: Seemingly, this refutes R. Nechemyah!
(i) Answer: R. Nechemyah holds like R. Elazar (or Rav Ashi);
1. (R. Elazar): Pinchas did not become a Kohen until after he killed Zimri - "v'Haysah Lo ul'Zar'o Acharav Bris Kehunas Olam."
2. (Rav Ashi): He did not become a Kohen until after he resolved the conflict between the Shevatim (when Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven built their own Mizbe'ach) - "va'Yishma Pinchas ha'Kohen..." (This is the first time he himself is called a Kohen.)
(j) Question: How does Rav Ashi explain "v'Haysah Lo ul'Zar'o..."?
(k) Answer: That was only a Brachah.
(l) Question: How does R. Elazar explain "va'Yishma Pinchas ha'Kohen"?
(m) Answer: That teaches that (all or most of) the future Kohanim Gedolim would descend from him.
Thus, at the least, there is Rav Ashi arguing with R' Eleazar. But further, there is an opinion that Pinchas was already a kohen, such that the gemara's question that Pinchas was with them, והלא פינחס היה עמהן, such that he could have eaten it, makes sense. Thus, there is certainly a dispute in place in midrash as to how to understand these pesukim.

Therefore, it would be no surprise if the Zohar presents an interpretation which differs from the one proffered by Rashi. Even without getting into early or late authorship, we can simply say that this reflects a competing midrashic understanding. 

The Zohar on Pinchas reads:
21. HE RESPONDS: come and see, any priest who kills a person is considered forever unfit for the priesthood because he has marred his own status, BECAUSE PRIESTHOOD IS THE STATUS OF CHESED AND KILLING A PERSON CONTRADICTS THIS. SINCE Pinchas HAD KILLED ZIMRI AND COZBI, he was legally barred from remaining a priest. But because he was zealous for the Holy One, blessed be He, He had to reinstate him, and also his seed after him for all time, into the priesthood. THIS IS THE MEANING OF THE WORDS, "BECAUSE HE WAS ZEALOUS FOR HIS ELOHIM." Rabbi Yitzchak said, Come and see: Pinchas is recorded above and below. 'ABOVE' MEANS before he came into the world. The reason his deeds were recorded BELOW is that he was among those who came out of Egypt.

At least according to the English translation here, it seems as if Pinchas was initially a kohen and lost that status, requiring reinstatement as a kohen. I am not so sure that we need to translate it like this. Nothing in the Aramaic original requires this interpretation. Thus, מן דינא פסיל לכהנא הוה does not mean that he was legally barred from remaining a priest. It could mean that he was legally barred from becoming a priest. So so, ליחסא ליה כהונת עלמין does not require a translation of reinstating.  We might be able to give a far-fetched haemonization.

Still, there is a reason they translated it as such. We are primed for such an interpretation from the law about someone who is already a priest who disqualifies himself.

But if the Zohar has him already a priest, does this not contradict Rashi? Why doesn't Rashi cite the Zohar? And why doesn't the gemara give this explanation?

I don't see these as questions. First, Rashi was not cognizant of the Zohar. Whether this is because it was not authored yet, or because he was not one of the yechidei segulah. As proof of this, consider the following Rashi on Kiddushin 71a:
שם - בן שתים עשרה ובן ארבעים ושתים לא פירשו לנו:

"The name of 12 letters and of 42 letters they have not explained to us."

Meanwhile, citing from elsewhere:
The prayer Ana-Bekoach contains 42 words, the first letters of which form the mystical 42 letter, Name of G-D. The Holy Divine Name of 42 letters is discussed extensively in the Kabbalah, and is described in great detail in the Zohar and the writings of the Ari z”l.
So how could Rashi not know the specifics of the 42 letter name, and claim that לא פירשו לנו? It must be that he was not one of the yechidei segulah who passed down the Zohar.

So much for Rashi. What about the gemara? Well, we will just revert to the assertion that this was a matter of midrashic dispute.


"That Someone" said...

Once again shkoich for posting this. I hope the readers will appreciate this. Now that I understand better I will go back and ask the person what he was so bothered by to begin with as seemingly like you point out it's only a dispute in the midrashim.

yaak said...

It must be that he was not one of the yechidei segulah who passed down the Zohar.

You're assuming that the Hida's quoted opinion that it was found buried in a box is not correct.

joshwaxman said...

right. but that would work also. rashi was pre-box discovery. it is strange if it would precisely parallel the Christian found book, in the similar time and place. (see here and then here.)

(it is funny how this goes against the Kuzari Principle.)

yaak said...

I'm not about to doubt the Hida.

Furthermore, this does not go against the Kuzari Principle as this is not a basis of belief in the religion. This is the mystical side of the religion which was not meant for all to understand.

joshwaxman said...

how many centuries later did the chida live?

yaak said...

How many centuries later did Shadal live?

joshwaxman said...


but he refers to a *contemporary* account in a book, and tells you where this book is listed.

i think there is a possibility of a contemporary account, alongside at least one other account of its discovery.

but why would you not doubt the Chida, to endorse this specific story over others. he heard it. it is not like he was there to actually witness it. it is not that he would lie, but how is he in a position to really know?

meanwhile, i would certainly doubt Shadal. that is why it is good that we can double check what he says.


yaak said...

And that's why it's called Emunat Hachamim.

joshwaxman said...

nope. people have different definitions of the phrase.

if you read it carefully, all the Chida says is that he saw this story in a rather old manuscript of the Zohar in R' Moshe Zacuto's possession. Not that he confirmed the story to be true.

I believe him that he saw the story printed there. And perhaps he even believed that story. But he was not in a position to confirm it.

So what is this business about 'doubting' him. The Chida says he saw a story, and therefore you must believe the story he saw was true?

What about the other Chachamim who believed a contradictory story of the Ramban finding it in Eretz Yisrael and sending it to Spain? Do you lack Emunas Chachamim in them?!

The Kav Hayashar believed that apocryphal story which reflects negatively on the Ramban. Does your Emunas Chachamim require you to believe that as well?

I really don't understand.

yaak said...

If the Hida would NOT believe it to be true, he would have rejected it, which he didn't.

My statement is that I have more faith in HaGaon Hida than Professor Shadal. I'm sure Shadal was a genius, and I'm not belittling him, except that I have more faith in widely-recognized Hachamim than others.

I also realize that Rav Yaakov Emden and others hold similar views to Shadal, if not exactly. My mesora tells me to stick with the fact that it is authentic based on an incredible amount of Rabbanim versus a select few doubters. This is what I mean by Emunat Hachamim.

joshwaxman said...

Are we talking about this particular story, or the authenticity of the Zohar in general here??

The Chida might not have known it to be true or not true, such that he would explicitly reject it. And even if he believed it to be true, he was NOT aware of the contemporary story of the parallel discovered Christian text. Were he aware of it, it is quite likely that he himself would reject the story as apocryphal.

All the Rishonim believed in spontaneous generation. Do you believe them over the professors? Would such be a lack of emunas chachamim?

I think Shadal had semicha, by the way.

yaak said...

I'm referring to the authenticity of the Zohar in general, but using this story as an example.

What you say about the Hida rejecting it if he knew the parallel story is pure conjecture. Maybe the Xtians got it from us!

Spontaneous generation is not comparable, as that is a matter of science, which the world did not merit to know yet.

If Shadal had semicha, the Wikipedia entry makes no mention of it.

joshwaxman said...

You seem to be referring to the authenticity of the Zohar in general.

See this definition of Emunas Chachamim, especially the paragraph beginning 'yes, indeed'.

kol tuv,

joshwaxman said...

in terms of Shadal's semicha, see S.'s comment on this parshablog post, the one beginning with LOL.

I would not make the distinction between knowledge and knowledge.

Yes, it is conjecture.

joshwaxman said...

In terms of them getting it from us, Shadal refers to it appearing in an early Italian work called Dittamondo. I think he is referring to the one my Fazio degli Uberti, who lived from (1305 – 1367).

Thus, the earlier mention he finds in print is admittedly a bit later than the discovery of the Zohar (late 13th century, meaning the late 1200s.)

yaak said...

I agree with Rav Schachter, Shlit"a. Pure nonsense should be rejected.

However, ideas with clear basis should be believed, and this is one of them, despite the numerous קושיות one could ask.

Regarding Shadal, thanks for linking to that comment. Interesting. However, the more I read about him, he's so far out of my line of thinking that it's hard for me to accept anything he says.

joshwaxman said...

Regardless of what should be rejected / believed, see his definition of Emunas Chachamim, and consider whether this falls under that definition.

Regarding Shadal, people could say the same about Rambam and Ibn Ezra, if only they understood what they were really saying. :)

S. said...

>If Shadal had semicha, the Wikipedia entry makes no mention of it.

Like I said on the other page, Shadal had semicha, and he was included among a group of famous rabbis to write a teshuva regarding how a father who refuses to circumcise his son is to be treated. The Minchas Yitzchak even quotes punkt this teshuva.

That said, as I have pointed out before, it doesn't matter if he had semicha or not. The Chafetz Chaim was a famous halachist before he received semicha, or perhaps he never even received semicha. Who gave the Vilna Gaon semicha? He didn't even have a rebbe, for crying out loud. The Gra's rabbeim were seforim. Incidentally, for people intereted in such things, Shadal's mesorah actually comes from the Chida, since Shadal's rebbe's (R. Eliezer Halevi) own rebbe **was** the Chida. The point is, was he a talmid chochom? Of course.

When all is said and done if you are personally incapable of evaluating arguments and evidence, there is nothing wrong with that, and you can indeed chose to be machria by casting your lot with someone (or the majority). If so, then why participate in such discussions? Leave them to those who when pushed against a wall will not say that they'll stick with the Chida, thank you very much.

yaak said...

I'm maskim that he could have had semicha, like you said. That is not what really matters, as you said. And I'm not casting doubts on his scholarship. I am casting doubts on his carrying down a mesora on some of his wild beliefs.

You ask why I participate in these discussions. Do you wish to silence me?

I realize that the majority of the jblogosphere is rationalist. However, the majority of Orthodox Jewry is non-rationalist. Do you wish to silence the majority which I represent?

I don't understand you at all.

S. said...

> I am casting doubts on his carrying down a mesora on some of his wild beliefs.

What wild beliefs?

As for the question of the Zohar, Shadal's whole point is that davka this has no mesorah (and 500 years of repeating something generation after generation with a big huge blank at the beginning is not a mesorah) and that's why it is subject to chakirah. In fact R. Ovadya Yosef even ruled that the Dar Daim cannot be considered epikorsim for their disbelief in the Zohar precisely for the same reason (its origin is murky). And R. Ovadya certainly does not agree with them.

>You ask why I participate in these discussions. Do you wish to silence me?

Of course not! And I could not even if I wanted to. But all I'm saying is that if you feel that you can't speak to the arguments themselves, then I don't see how you can participate in such discussions, which are an inquiry and examination of the Zohar's origin. No offense, but what does "I'm going to accept the Chida over Shadal" add to such *inquiry?*

Sorry if you were offended.

joshwaxman said...

In favor of a "yechidei segulah" approach is the various interpolations of Geonic material. Some people account for this as interpolations BY kabbalist Geonim. Also, the Ramban says things found in the Zohar. The (difficult) presumption is that he was one of the yechidei segulah.

How would this story, put forth by the Chida, account for either of these two, if it were locked in a box for centuries?

yaak said...


What wild beliefs?
I found plenty on his wikipedia page.

I also don't consider the "Zohar not written by Rashbi" as apikorsut, although I've seen many rabbis who consider not believing in the fourth part of the Pardes (Sod) as Apikorsut.

No offense, but what does "I'm going to accept the Chida over Shadal" add to such *inquiry?*

My point is there should not be an inquiry. It should be accepted at face value due to the traditionally held beliefs. I realize that this is part of a larger discussion and larger argument of Emunat Hachamim vs. Hakira.


I don't know. Perhaps, the Geonic material was added later to the text. Who knows? It doesn't bother me.

S. said...

>My point is there should not be an inquiry. It should be accepted at face value due to the traditionally held beliefs. I realize that this is part of a larger discussion and larger argument of Emunat Hachamim vs. Hakira.

Then see Shadal's argument that the provenance of the Zohar is not known through mesorah (unlike the Talmud). As I said, repeating something for 500 years is not mesorah if the beginning of the chain is unknown or murky.

Aside from this, the reason why there is an inquiry is because the questions do not stop coming; it practically demands an inquiry, at least from chakira-minded people. Even if one prefers emunah, and even if it really is better, this cannot be demanded of chakirah-minded people.

Jr said...

I know this might be an immature question, but I will bring it up again anyway.

Assuming the Zohar is nonsense/a"z, how does G-d let Judaism get distorted like that. It's not like you have a few rabbinic secret sabbatians where the mainstream leadership are hunting them down. I think we can safely say that zoharic Kabbala has conquered the minds of our greatest and crept into our customs in countless of ways (though not idolatrous practices). Where is the hashgocho?

Does this itself force someone to believe in it's truths?

yaak said...


OK, I guess it was a huge reach for me to assume (not demand) that you would accept an Emuna approach.

Let's try this: If you accept that the Arizal had a Gilui Eliyahu, shouldn't Eliyahu Hanavi have corrected him in his erroneous ways?

And the Gra...

And the Baal Shem Tov...

And the Or Hahayim Hakadosh...

Need I go on?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to disrupt the conversation here, but..

"(it is funny how this goes against the Kuzari Principle.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 4:37:00 PM"

This, and your conversation actually prove the kuzari principle.
There are clearly two camps in Judaism about the Zohar (maybe 3 camps?)(excluding non-traditional points of view) However, regarding Yetziat mitzrayim, and Mount Sinai there is only 1 camp. (excluding non-traditional points of view)

Even for the Talmud itself, there are multiple camps within traditional Judaism.

joshwaxman said...

"If you accept that the Arizal had a Gilui Eliyahu..."

what does a giluy Eliyahu mean, precisely? Shadal, indeed, asks this very question, about how one could say the Arizal had ruach hakodesh if he did not know this basic thing about the Zohar.

Did the *Gra* and the Arizal and the Besht really all have Giluy Eliyahu? How come Eliyahu did not tell the Gra that chassidus is really not forbidden panentheism, and that the Arizal was actually right in his kabbalistic innovations?

interesting point. (though please choose a pseudonym.) but who gets to choose which group is within traditional Judaism?

I haven't forgotten you.

kol tuv,

S. said...


>Assuming the Zohar is nonsense/a"z, how does G-d let Judaism get distorted like that.

90% of the Jews don't keep Shabbos, and don't think they are doing anything wrong. How does God let Judaism get distorted like that? הנסתרות לה' אלקינו. I don't think it is an objection that proves that everything which becomes widespread is valid.

If this is not good enough for you, consider that really Zoharic kabbalah is not front and center of much of Judaism at present. The approach many rabbonim took and take to the Zohar is to simply put it on the shelf, say "We don't understand it/ we are not concerned with sod" and go on, vayter. Yes, there's a couple of handful of practices and so forth that come from the Zohar. Big deal. Saying Brich Shemeh is not ruining Judaism.

At least that's the optimistic perspective from a contra-Zoharic position. Also, no one will say that the Zohar doesn't contain pearls too. Rabbi Meir took the good from Elisha ben Avuyah and discarded the bad.


>OK, I guess it was a huge reach for me to assume (not demand) that you would accept an Emuna approach.

Of course I accept that you take this approach. Believe me, I don't run around telling people the Zohar is a forgery. As I've explained before, I think the existence of some forums discussing these things is very desirable and that's why Josh should continue these posts. People with emunah peshuta who don't want to be aware of these issues can stay away. You don't stay away, so I speak frankly to you about it.

>Let's try this: If you accept that the Arizal had a Gilui Eliyahu, shouldn't Eliyahu Hanavi have corrected him in his erroneous ways?

If P then Q. What if I don't accept that the Arizal had Gilui Eliyahu? Or what if I say that I don't know if he did? Or what if I say that private revelations perhaps have a bearing on you, if you receive them, but not on me since I did not receive them.

(The Gra did not have Gilui Eliyahu; in fact the mesorah on the Gra is that he resisted such heavenly visitations. If some people have claimed otherwise, then what's to stop me from claiming that Shadal had Gilui Eliyahu? You can't prove any of this, so you can't expect anyone to consider such things to be front and center of Judaism. If you personally choose to believe them, I can't stop you.

Incidentally, you might enjoy this as trivia, Shadal writes in his autobiography that when he was 16 years old he had a vision on Yom Kippur night, the 'Torah' appeared to him as a woman dressed in shabby clothing. He was instructed to put nice clothing on her, and that this was a sign that he was destined to reinvigorate Torah literature. This was 3 years after he already concluded that the Zohar is false.

What makes Shadal so interesting is that he was not, I repeat NOT a rationalist. He writes in his Vikuach that he believes in the she'elat chalom, which his father often undertook and, in Shadal's opinion, he was able to find out the future. Shadal attributes it to his father's tzidkus. He even cites his own dream in his Torah commentary, Gen. 19:16. )

Jr said...


1. I don't see the comparison. People have free will and they choose to be nonobservant. They're not distorting Judaism, they're just ignoring it. Nobody with authority condones it as a legitimate way of judaism. By the Zohar, it's the opposite. The vast majority of Judaism's authorities have embraced it and approve it.

2. You might be right about the present time, but for literally hundreds of years, I don't get the feeling from my Jewish
history ( obviously not as good as yours) that it was shoved to the side. My impressions are the opposite. Just think about the tremendous amount of hours and years that many gedolim spent their precious time learning something which we're assuming now is nonsense. That extremely boggles my mind.
Furthermore, you can downplay the roll of the Zohar in
Halacha all you want, but you know that it's very much in there. How many times have poskim pulled out the rule that we use the Zohar to be machria when there's a machlokes. Nonsense/a"z is going to decide our sefeikos!?
And what is Judaism without Halacha?

joshwaxman said...

I don't see the comparison. People have free will and they choose to be nonobservant. They're not distorting Judaism, they're just ignoring it. Nobody with authority condones it as a legitimate way of judaism.
Conservative rabbis think that Conservative Judaism is the way to go, and indeed, some may think it is more optimal than Orthodoxy. So too Reform rabbis. Tikkun Olam, and all that. That is what is important, in their view.

Nobody with authority? Well, who do you consider an authority? In their view, they do indeed have authorities.

2) See for one example out of many the Shemesh Tzedaka, who takes a firm stand on kabbalah impacting halacha except personally for kabbalists. Rav Moshe Feinstein similarly made a firm divide between the two. So too the Chasam Sofer.

But I have an answer even if Zohar has influenced halacha. That would require a separate post.

In the meantime, here is a nice paper on how Aruch HaShulchan treats the Zohar:

Jr said...

Yes, from an orthodox perspective, conservative and reform leaders distorted Judaism. But, from an orthodox perspective, they are also not recognized in Halacha as legitimate expressions of Judaism. It's beyond me to understand the whole picture of this, but I imagine it has to do with G-d running the world naturally and the concept of free will.
But theoretically, suppose every last Jew started to abandon Judaism. At that point, wouldn't there have to be some divine intervention to preserve authentic Judaism along the lines of the promise of lo sishachoch mipi zaro.

If the Zohar reached the status of being machria our sefeikos in the halachik system, I would have thought it would require some divine intervention to eliminate
distortions. True, there might not be idolatrous practices necessarily, but what a strange and bizarre thing to have
a book full of " nonsense" be the decider btw the
arguments of the rishonim.
Just think of all the hours that were spent of rabbanim
studying, deciphering, analyzing etc. something which is
has no true significance. This doesn't bother you?

The link you provided is exactly what I'm referring to. You might have a handful of examples to the contrary, but the mainstream position quoted in a countless amount of sources is that the Zohar does play some role in Halacha.

Also, Shadal writes of the hundreds of years that we were
in darkness due to the influence of Kabbala on our Drashos of "dofi", instead of learning pshat.

Can you provide a specific source for the information about
Rav Feinstein?

Just to clarify, I understand that historically or even presently there are outside influences or even idolatrous practices that crept into the system, but I don't think that anything compares to this where its part of the halachik system and is upheld at that my the majority of authorities. I think that's why, I have a hard time with the hashgacho business, if it is truly nonsense or worse. When you observe Halacha, you want it to have meaning.

joshwaxman said...

Do you mean that Aruch HaShulchan is not mainstream? (Even for him, it plays a role, of course.)

I don't recall the exact teshuva from Rav Moshe. It was about intercourse specifically Friday night, as opposed to other times, because עונת תלמיד חכם משבת לשבת. I'll try to track it down, bli neder.

Is it really the case that the Zohar is always machria? I need more data. For instance, whether to put tefilin on on chol haMoed is a machlokes Rishonim. Zohar takes a position against, but I know plenty of people who put on tefillin on chol haMoed nonetheless.

The Chasam Sofer can be found in Orach Chaim, Siman 51. He says that mixing Kabbalah into Psak Halacha is creating kilayim or shaatnez. Of course, others will reinterpret him.

Even if Zohar is nonsense, it was written by a Rishon, and all those times it is 'machria', it is at the least based on a Rishon's understanding of the gemara. Maybe a Rishon who has undue influence, but still, this is not the same thing as utter nonsense...

At the very least, all these kabbalistic influences are documented, so we (meaning qualified posekim who agree with this) can (should?) undo them.

S. said...

>Even if Zohar is nonsense, it was written by a Rishon, and all those times it is 'machria', it is at the least based on a Rishon's understanding of the gemara. Maybe a Rishon who has undue influence, but still, this is not the same thing as utter nonsense...

I disagree with this. Ibn Ezra was a 'Rishon' too, but not one will say that he is a halachic authority.

In any case, I am troubled by the logic that the Zohar needs to be authentic otherwise Judaism got messed up, so it needs to be authentic, because Judaism couldn't get messed up.

Even with the frum world, many camps think others are messed up. So why isn't there the same kashya? If you're a Misnaged, why isn't the existence of Chassidus a big problem? How could Judaism get messed up? If you're a Brisker, why isn't Mizrachi a big problem? How could Judaism get messed up?

Presumably they don't think they themselves are messed up, and maybe that's the answer, much like you dismissed my point that 90% of the Jews don't keep basic Torah concepts and don't think there's anything wrong with that. You pointed out that a core group does keep the faith. So Judaism isn't really messed up. So maybe the existence of Zohar doubters within the frum world means that Hashem preserved a sheeris hapleta, and your question goes away? Who knows, maybe opposition to the Zohar will prevail in the end?

No, I'm not entirely serious. But I would caution against deciding what is true via a solution to a problem which may have been of your own making in the first place. It's not such a tight formula.

Jr said...


The aruch Hashulchan is the type of thing that bothers me. It is clear that his position of reconciling everything with the Talmud and normative Halacha was only bc he believed it was tannaitic and sacrosanct. I don't believe that would have been his position, if not for that.

The formulated law from the radvaz, kneses hagedola, mg"a, shaarei thuva, m"b siman 25, a"h etc. is that Zohar is machria btw poskim. I'm not saying it always works out that way, but this is always brought up and considered. I think RO"Y has somewhere a huge list.

My sense is, that considering the influence of Kabbala on general Halacha, minhagim, and a the amount it was studied, it has left a big impact on the way Judaism is practiced. I guess ita matter of perspective.


I just threw the question out there to learn how other people like you deal with this issue. Not that I think it's necessarily a good "proof".

I think this issue is different than you examples, because this is extremely widespread among vast vast majority of gedolim, and it's not just ideological differences . It's also part of the halachik system.

Oh, and it really makes me feel great that you, me, Josh, Shadal and a handful of others are the Shiaris hapleita. What an honor. Unfortunately, the gr"a, etc. were all led astray, nebech.

joshwaxman said...

A parallel place to grapple with this, by the way, is academic Talmud study.

S. said...

I would just say that someone who developed a critical mind to the point that they're willing to disbelieve the traditional view of the Zohar would do well for themselves to work on developing an accompanyingly different view of emunas chachomim.

Jr said...


Nu, have you developed one? Can you share it?

Yes, academic Talmud study is also something to grapple with. It's hard to find meaning in Halacha when parts are just based on corrupted texts.

S. said...

Everyone has to do it on their own, but a good place to start in my opinion is to that you'll be better off if you don't expect people in other times to know things they could not know. Do tree geese bother you? I hope not.

Jr said...

Why on my own? A fellow Jew is drowning in confusion and you don't offer help that you can?

I'll guess I'll wait for future posts. Thanks.

Good shabbos

joshwaxman said...

corrupted texts is a small part of it, yes, though I was not thinking of corruptions. though i would disagree that it is hard to find meaning in halacha, even so.

Tosafot presents the same concern, in my opinion. How do you grapple with consistent reinterpretations and analyses across Shas using an innovative methodology which overturns major aspects of halacha?

S. presumably does have his own resolution, but my sense is that there is a measure of subjectivity involved in terms of what you will accept as Emunas Chachamim and what you will accept as acceptable. As there is a large measure of introspection involved in determining this, such that you likely have to do it on your own.

Jr said...

It's clear that all poskim try to discover original intent, but it's also abundantly clear that many times they are not successful. Actually, I'm not sure that the pilpul method or the brisker method even claim to interpret original intent but they aren't represented in Halacha too much, except for tosfos.

I guess it has to do with lo bashamayim hee. With human minds it's inevitable that interpretations will be wrong, and the divine will is to keep Halacha as we humans interpreted it to the best of our ability.

It reminds me of a rashi in csubos 57. Everyone says eilu veailu to all arguments, but rashi says there that if there's a debate about what the rebbi said, then only one is right,
and the other is mistaken and there's no eilu veilu. I would say that app. 90% of halachik arguments are about original intent of chazzal or a rishon. So most arguments are not eilu veilu divrei elokim chaiim, bc there was only one original intent.

S. said...

>Why on my own? A fellow Jew is drowning in confusion and you don't offer help that you can?

I'm sorry that I didn't explain myself properly, but I think Josh understood what I meant to say. It's an internal process. What works for me may not work for you, and conversely. To give a moshol, take discrepancies in science between Chazal and modern science. Some people don't acknowledge such discrepancies exist. We're not talking about those people. Some people do not mind such discrepancies at all, and therefore there is no problem to be solved. But some people spend their whole life combing through the scientific literature and other sources to find hints and parallels to justify the scientific knowledge of Chazal, and evidently only through doing this can they maintain their respect for Chazal. I'm sure there are people who have Google Notify set so that one day they can read about someone in Thailand who wound up with brain tumor which slightly resembles a pigeon (or mosquito) and when this obscure news story turns up, they will breathe a sigh of relief because now the Titus aggadah works. If I am the one who doesn't need a new study to resemble something said by Chazal, then how can I make someone who needs it feel that he can respect Chazal sufficiently without such things? I don't think I can do that. I think this is an internal process and someone of that school may or may not succeed in changing his outlook.

So if you need the Gra to not believe things which you don't believe, or conversely if the fact that he accepted something means that you are unable to do anything besides accept it as well, then what can I tell you? If your emunas chachomim doesn't permit you to accept the notion that the majority of rabbis accepted the Zohar if it isn't exactly what they thought it was, but at the same time you yourself are convinced that the Zohar is not what they thought it was, my suggestion is that you develop another notion of emunas chachomim. Don't require things of the Gra or yourself which are unrealistic.

The same goes for your view of what halacha is. If it would be a crime for the Zohar to be machria in halacha, maybe your view of what halacha is needs retuning to come more into lockstep with your view of the Zohar. What if it's not a tragedy if some foreign matter unwittingly gets mixed in with halachic deciding? Lo bashamayim hi, just like you said.

What I'm saying is, no one can work it for you besides you. Maybe the stimulus of the points and discussions of others can point you in the right direction, but ultimately it's going to be you yourself who succeeds or fails.

yaak said...

Just FYI:

R' Ovadia's son, Rav Yitzhak Yosef, wrote in Ein Yitzhak vol. 3 about 30 pages talking about whether we follow the Pashtanim or Mekubalim.

He concludes that we follow the Pashtanim (and mentions that his father changed the mindset from the way it was 50 years ago, where many Sepharadim followed the Mekubalim, presumably, from the Ben Ish Hai's influence).

The only exception is in Hilchot Tefilla, where we follow the Mekubalim.

Joel said...

Resurrecting this thread 4 years later:

The gemara in zevachim on the very next amud also seems to reflect the opinion that Pinchas was a kohein earlier. It quotes a beraita about Elisheva bat Aminadav, who had 5 semachot on the day the mishkan was inaugarated. One of the 5 is that her grandson, Pinchas, was the mashuach milchama. This seems to imply that Pinchas was a kohein 38 years before the incident with Zimri.

See the Maharsha ad loc. who clearly reads the gemara like this.

menachem said...

A point to ponder. The Midrash Rabbah (Bamidbar 20:26) lists 12 miracles that occurred in the story of Pinchas and Zimri.

Two of them were that Pinchas did not become impure. 1) The blood did not drip on him 2) G-d kept Zimri and Kozbi alive, so as not to make Pinchas impure.

Perhaps this Midrash held that Pinchas was a Kohen. Otherwise, why would G-d make a special miracle not to make Pinchas impure?


Blog Widget by LinkWithin