Friday, November 24, 2006

The Seridei Eish - Perspective on Torah of the Greats

(Excerpted from the biography in the beginning of the 5764 edition of L'Frakim):
The Seridei Eish once answered a question that Rabbi Akiva Eiger left with a Tzarich Iyyun. One of the students asked him: Is it possible that Rabbi Akiva Eiger did not know how to answer what he (the Seridei Eish) did know?
He asnwered: There are many levels in understanding, and what I understood, with my limited intellect, in the meaning of the question of Rabbi Akiva Eiger, I was able to answer, but the true deeper meaning of the question of Rabbi Akiva Eiger's question we do not grasp at all, and, indeed, according to his great level, he remained with a Tzarich Iyyun.
On a related note, it is worthwhile bringing down the Shu"t Seridei Eish I:113 regarding acquisition of Torah:

"This is the way of Torah, to clarify and innovate even in opposition to the greatest of the Acharonim. And only regarding practical Halachah, it is forbidden for us to ignore the words of those greats, z"l, whose intellect/knowledge was broader than ours, and we are all as a garlic peel compared to them. But regarding logic and explication of the concepts, we have license to innovate and to say things that they did not relate to, for every person in Klal Yisrael whose soul was at Har Sinai received his share in the Torah and in Torah novellae and there is no challenging this.
I am accustomed to explain, that which Chazal in Pirkei Avos enumerate among the 48 ways that the Torah is acquired: Pilpul HaTalmidim and Emunas Chachamim. And, prima facie, they contradict each other. And, generally, what does Emunah Chachamim have to do with acquisition of Torah?
But this is the matter: If they do not believe in the Chachamim, then they go over their words with light-mindedness and arrogance of folly, to say with a detached haughtiness: they didn't understand, and then the person does not toil to try to delve and establish their words, and in the end it becomes clear that we made the mistake, and not them. And therefore it is among the ways of wisdom to believe that they did not err Chas VeShalom, only that we are myopic and lacking in Daas. But to believe, just like that, without exerting the mind with delving into the matter, and thought, just to say: they knew and we can rely on them without thinking - that is also incorrect, rather we should discuss the matter with contradictions and doubts as if (emphasis mine) they were people like us, and through that we reach a greater profundity and penetrating delving. So, both of these attributes, Emunas Chachamim and discussion to the nth degree, bring about acquisition of Torah."

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