Shabbat Parashat Vaeira 5770
Ein Ayah: Who May Criticize Great People
Gemara: [Last time, we saw a gemara that told how Akavya ben Mehalalel accused Shmaya and Avtalyon of ruling based on personal feelings, causing the rabbis to censor him. Now, we will see an opinion that rejects the possibility this occurred.] R. Yehuda said: Heaven forbid that Akavya ben Mehalalel was put in cherem, for when the gates of the azara (Beit Hamikdash’s courtyard) were closed, there was no one in
Ein Ayah: Regarding how to view one who criticizes talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars) and their ideas in a manner that seems to be an affront to their honor, one should consider the criticizer’s standing, particularly in three broad areas that include all of a person’s shleimut (completeness).
One area where the criticizer should be tested is wisdom. If he is a very wise man, then he is one who can stand among great people and say that he argues with his peers, even those who preceded him. However, when a person of simple intellect has the gall to speak down on the ideas of those much greater than he, speaking in a manner that is appropriate only for the accomplished, he will be punished for brazenness and removing morality from the world.
Another area where the criticizer must be worthy is purity of his heart. If he criticizes a great person for having been swayed by imperfect motivations, he himself must have the purest of hearts, so as not to be influenced. Otherwise, one who feels he can judge righteous people, although, they, as humans, may have erred, is one who harms the world and will be punished.
Even these two important attributes do not suffice. He must also have the highest level of fear of sin, so that we can be sure that if he were not absolutely convinced, with his great wisdom, that the criticism was correct and necessary, he would be afraid to utter it. If someone who we know is crowned with greatness in all of these positive qualities still feels the need to criticize a great person harshly, then we should not, Heaven forbid, think badly of him, nor should lowlier people try to copy his willingness to criticize.
These three attributes: wisdom, purity of the heart (the source of the emotion upon which the world of proper actions and service of Hashem is built), and fear of Hashem, which helps avoid bad things, are the basis of shleimut. These attributes are dispersed through the nation so that some people excel in great Torah wisdom, others in purity and service of the heart, and others excel in keeping away from actual sin. The confluence of these different people builds the House of Israel. Only the select of the select, a generation’s pillar of Torah, enjoys the highest levels of each of these attributes.
One of the nation’s unifying events was the bringing of the Korban Pesach. All of
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This week’s Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
Her smile and warmth are sorely missed.