Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sinning for the Sake of Heaven

Most of the explanation of why Yonah ran away, assume that he did so for nobel reasons: i.e. he would rather sin than bring harm onto the Jewish nation. This type of action is generally refereed to as a "חטא לשם שמים" – literally “a sin for the sake of heaven.” (Rav Eliyahu Dessler explains the sin of אדם הראשון as another mistaken application of חטא לשם שמים.) Clearly, Hashem in this case felt that Yonah was wrong. Are there ever any circumstances where a person would be justified in violating the Torah for a noble purpose? If so, how are those circumstances different than the case of Yonah?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

How Does One Qualify for Nevuah?

Posted by Aviva

It's not so simple is it? How do you qualify for Nevuah? And why am I not qualified?

But before I attempt to answer that, I think I just had an epiphany! (Did I spell that right?) Do you guys realize that Moshe Rabbeinu was the only Navi to actually receive Mitzvot in his Nevuahs!!!!! Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can’t think of anyone else who also did. I also asked people about it and they couldn’t think of anyone else either. Now you might say "but Aviva, you're wrong because did not Avraham get a Nevuah for Brit Milah and kind of one for multiplying [you will be as numerous as the sand and the stars…]?" Well then I would tell you that yes he did, but it wasn’t technically a mitzvah because it was before Matan Torah. This might tie into what I have to say later, but as of now just keep it in mind.

Ok so anyway I know we discussed in class that a Navi usually has some aspect of spirituality in him, but what does that have to do with the quantity or the quality of his Nevuah? Again going back to Moshe, he was the most Anov (humble) of all our forefathers, and that justifies the fact that Moshe was so close to Hashem that he saw G-d’s back (whatever that means). But if a Navi is not as close to Hashem as lets say Moshe was, does that mean his Nevuahs by definition cannot be as meaningful or important?

I don’t really know the answer to that, so I’m going to look at it a different way.

Rambam mentions nevuah in his Moreh Nevuchim. He says that a person must prepare himself before receiving any type of prophecy, and even then its not guaranteed. So now what does this mean? If anything it just makes things more complicated! Is Rambam telling me that Neviim like Balak actually took the time out of their busy schedules to prepare themselves for Nevuah? And if it is true, how do you prepare yourself for Nevuah? Is there some kind contemplation ritual, or a prayer you say? But more importantly, didn’t we agree that a Navi cant decide whether he has nevuahs, so if he doesn’t know its coming (or does he?) how can he prepare himself for it?

Anyway, now I’ve got more questions than I started with. So lets say a Navi “prepares” himself for Nevuah, receives a few, and all of a sudden he just stops receiving them? What does it mean, is Hashem mad at him, did he do something wrong? Can anyone think of examples in the past where this has happened because I cant- so maybe that’s not the way it works?

So back to the original question- how do you qualify for Nevuah? I don’t know, but if you have the answers please, please contact me!!!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Bat Kol: The Oven of 'Aknai

The following story, quoted on Bava Metzia 59b, is perhaps the most famous, and certainly the most important, story about a Bat Kol. This philosophical implications of this story are well worth discussing:
It has been taught: On that day R. Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument , but they did not accept them. Said he to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let this carob-tree prove it!’ Thereupon the carob-tree was torn a hundred cubits out of its place — others affirm, four hundred cubits. ‘No proof can be brought from a carob-tree,’ they retorted. Again he said to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it!’ Whereupon the stream of water flowed backwards — ‘No proof can be brought from a stream of water,’ they rejoined. Again he urged: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the walls of the schoolhouse prove it,’ whereupon the walls inclined to fall. But R. Joshua rebuked them, saying: ‘When scholars are engaged in a halachic dispute, what have ye to interfere?’ Hence they did not fall, in honour of R. Joshua, nor did they resume the upright, in honour of R. Eliezer; and they are still standing thus inclined. Again he said to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!’ Whereupon a Heavenly Voice cried out: ‘Why do ye dispute with R. Eliezer, seeing that in all matters the halachah agrees with him!’ But R. Joshua arose and exclaimed: ‘It is not in heaven.’ What did he mean by this? — Said R. Jeremiah: That the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because Thou hast long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, After the majority must one incline.

  • What does it mean “תורה לא בשמים היא”?

  • Why would Hashem create a system whereby he could be “overruled”?

  • If most of B’nai Yisroel decides to ignore a particular halacha, why do we not apply the principle of “תורה לא בשמים היא”?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

. . . . but who is he?

You guys are doing great with this blog. I love the conversation!!

A number of responces to what you guys wrote come to mind, but I'll limit myself to one thought for now (and by making it a seperate post, we should be able to start a new thread.):
One point that few of you -- with the exception of Dasi -- focus on is the prophet himself. If some random guy comes up to you and tells you that God came to him in a vision, I don't think any of us would take him too seriously. On the other hand, think of the most honest, trustworthy, finest human being you know. Now add into the equation the fact that this person has already proven (we'll discuss how later in the year) that he/she receives legitimate prophesies. Now what if this person comes up to you with a message from God? Don’t you think we’d take it a little more seriously?