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Shabbat Parashat Vayeilech | 5769

Excerpts from the Introduction to Ein Ayah part III

Ein Ayah

(from the writings of Harav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, z.t.l.)


Excerpts from the Introduction to Ein Ayah – part III


[We learned that it is necessary in certain historical periods to expand the regulations and otherwise protect the Torah.] 


The section of the Torah that discusses seeking answers for unknown questions (Devarim 17:8) mentions two Torah authorities: “You shall come to the Kohanim-Leviim and to the judge who will be at that time.” There are two ways to come to answers about specific issues. One way is to derive matters by comparing issues to other individual cases. However, a much more difficult method is to arrive at answers on specific questions by understanding the deep reasons behind the general spirit of the Torah. That is why two authorities are mentioned. The Kohen is one who is steeped in spirituality; he alone is able to derive matters from their general roots, whereas the judge is able only to derive matters on an individual basis.

We are required to listen to both the Kohen and the judge, but each is appropriate at a certain time. At the time that Israel is set in its land, it is preferable to decide matters according to the profound insight of the Kohanim. When there is a strong Torah center, such as the Sanhedrin, which spreads Torah throughout the world, there is less concern about mistakes that the more ambitious system may be vulnerable to. However, when a time of exile and dispersion develops, the quality and quantity of great authorities decrease, and it is necessary to rule through the more external system of the judge. That is why from the time of Moshe until that of Ezra, the expansive approach of bi’ur was employed, where people would arrive at ideas based on certain fundamental principles that leaders could master and apply elsewhere. Ezra was afraid that building onto the covered Torah would be too difficult when the “hearts of the generations” would decrease in prominence and so he used more of an approach of peirush, where one based himself more on explicit statements and rulings.

This is how things remain in regard to the practical, halachic elements of the Torah. However, regarding aggada (homiletics and philosophy), which are more connected to one’s heart than to his intellect, the natural internal rules are more accessible through the individual texts, and we are still able to learn them expansively as a bi’ur. In that way, one can learn through the system of “the open letter,” applying general principles to the related specific matter, understanding a rabbinic statement as something Divinely inspired that contains a planted seed of light.

The roots of the aggadot of Chazal relate to the moral side of the Torah, of beliefs, ideas and a variety of spiritual concepts. This realm of learning required strengthening in every generation more than the practical area of halacha. The giants of all generations urged their generation’s scholars to pay attention to the spiritual part of the Torah, to ethics, and the obligations of the heart, which are found in the storehouses of the aggadot of Chazal. It takes much effort to release their pure ideas through the approaches of peirush and especially bi’ur. One can hit the target in expounding on these sources only with the type of intensive work scholars use on halacha with Divine Assistance. These matters cannot be reserved for the light-witted among the nation. Rather, the great leaders of the nation must get together and expand and glorify the Torah, especially in the realm of ethics and ideas, by deeply and logically contemplating the verses of Tanach and Chazal’s aggadot. First one must absorb material and then apply logic, just as one grows into a scholar in the area of halacha. We cannot expect good new books of aggada to be produced as long as the classical books on ethics, philosophy, and obligations of the heart are left unstudied.



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