by Eli Clark / Why is there so little Tanakh study in the Orthodox world? If you read Kinot closely, you should have noticed the authors’ comprehensive knowledge of Tanakh. Who has that kind of knowledge today? Very few Gedolim in recent times studied Tanakh seriously. The most recent running commentary on Nakh from a recognized Gadol is that of Malbim, which was published in 1867. That situation is starting to change in Israel, where Herzog College (next to Yeshivat Har Etzion) has led a resurgence in high-level Orthodox Tanakh study.

The Retelling of Matan Torah

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Guest post by Rabbi Eli D. Clark

Rabbi Eli D. Clark lives in Bet Shemesh, Israel. He served as Halakha editor of the Koren Sacks Siddur and also practices international tax law.

Why is there so little Tanakh study in the Orthodox world? If you read Kinot closely, you should have noticed the authors’ comprehensive knowledge of Tanakh. Who has that kind of knowledge today? Very few Gedolim in recent times studied Tanakh seriously. The most recent running commentary on Nakh from a recognized Gadol is that of Malbim, which was published in 1867.

That situation is starting to change in Israel, where Herzog College (next to Yeshivat Har Etzion) has led a resurgence in high-level Orthodox Tanakh study. Last week Herzog held its annual Tanakh Study Week. Over 5 days more than 4,200 people attended 205 different shiurim. The teachers hail from both academia and yeshivot; all are frum. Attendees range from teenagers to nonagenarians, students, teachers, Rabbanim, professionals and retirees. They come for one reason – to learn Torah.

It is difficult to convey the range of the shiurim (the Hebrew list is here – PDF). They cover specific stories, halakhot, personalities and chapters in Tanakh, specific commentators, and such diverse topics as anti-Christian commentary in the Renaissance, vegetarianism before Noach, Rashi’s use of Old French and the inclusion of Megilat Esther in Tanakh.

It is impossible to convey the quality and creativity of the shiurim. As a sample, I will summarize a shiur from last year that relates to this week’s parasha. The ideas are those of R. Dr. Avraham Shama. They are provocative in the best sense of the word. The summary and any errors are my own.

What is the essence of the Sinai experience? In Shemot, there is no advance indication that the revelation at Sinai will involve the giving of mitzvot. “God said to Moshe: ‘Behold I come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you, and also that they may believe in you forever’” (19:9). The goal is experiential, establishing Moshe’s religious authority. The content is secondary.

It may even be that the people do not actually understand the words God speaks at Sinai. Immediately after the revelation in Shemot, we read: “And all the people perceived the thunder and lightning, the sound of the shofar and the mountain smoking; the people saw it and trembled and stood afar off. They said to Moshe: ‘Speak you with us and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.’ Moshe said to the people: ‘Fear not; for God comes in order to test you, and in order that His fear may be upon you, that you sin not.’” (20:14-16).

In Devarim, on the other hand, it is clear that Sinai is part of the transmission of laws. “Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances …” (4:5). “And what great nation is there, that has statutes and ordinances so righteous such as all this Torah” (4:8). “And God commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances” (4:14). In addition, in Devarim, the people are commanded to transmit what they receive to future generations. “Only take heed to yourself …, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children” (4:9). “And that they may teach their children” (4:10). This idea is absent from Shemot.

Thus, in Shemot, the stated purpose of the revelation at Sinai is to serve as the religious foundation for the Israelite who was taken out of Egypt, the covenant, the reason to serve God. Devarim “translates” the covenant into concrete laws and ordinances; it translates a visceral religious experience into a set of legal obligations that can be transmitted to future generations.

What was written on the tablets? Strangely, Shemot never answers that question explicitly. “God said to Moshe: ‘Come up to Me to the mountain and be there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, and the Torah and the mitzvah, which I have written, that you may teach them’” (24:12). What is the specific content of “the Torah and the mitzvah”? Shemot never says; all it tells us is who wrote them. “He gave to Moshe, when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God” (31:18). “And the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, inscribed on the tablets” (32:16).

Only in Devarim is the explicit connection made between the tablets and the Ten Commandments. “He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the ten statements; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone” (4:14).

Admittedly, in the case of the second tablets, Shemot provides: “He was there with God forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten statements” (34:28). In light of Devarim, we know that the phrase “the ten statements” refers to the words revealed at Sinai. But, based only on what appears in Shemot, you would not readily conclude that the words revealed at Sinai constitute “ten” statements. There are 14 verses (counting “Anokhi”). There are 15 imperatives. In only one sense, the number of paragraphs, are there ten, and “lo tachmod” is spread over two paragraphs.

Devarim also contains ten paragraphs, but instead of repeating the phrase “lo tachmod” twice, Devarim begins the last paragraph with the words “lo titaveh,” clarifying, so to speak, that each of the ten paragraphs represents a separate commandment.

Perhaps this also explains why Devarim changes the order of the items one is forbidden from coveting. Shemot states: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (20:13). As noted, the command not to covet the house of one’s neighbor is a separate paragraph, but there is no clear reason why coveting his house should be a separate command from coveting his other property. In Devarim, on the other hand, the command not to covet the neighbor’s wife appears as a separate paragraph, followed by the command not to covet his house, servants, livestock and other property.

Thus, both in language and in the order of items listed, Devarim emphasizes that the two final paragraphs are two separate commandments, clarifying the identity of the ten paragraphs with the “ten statements” mentioned at the end of Ki Tisa.

We see that Devarim does not merely repeat the story of Sinai as it appears in Shemot, but presents the episode from a different perspective and in a subtly differently manner.

About Eli Clark

116 comments

  1. It’s pretty hard to master it all, because we keep enlarging the Torah corpus. It’s this or that.

    See pg. 1117 in Making of a Godol:

    “It is also said that when R’ Yisrael Salanter met his coeval the Malbim after a long absence, the former cried out, “Our dear R’ Meir Laibush, what happened to you? You had been our hope that our
    generation would have a gadol like the Gra in his time!” R’ Yisrael
    seems to have meant that the Malbim’s putting aside the Talmud
    and dedicating himself to Tnakh was a major disappointment
    for Klal Yisrael – and even the Salanter, for whom concern with
    the Haskalah was paramount, as above, was disillusioned.”

    The next page continues with a legend about “why” the Malbim was “unable” to excel in halacha; he sat in Rabbi Akiva Eger’s seat as a young man and/ or he sat in the Chasam Sofer’s seat.

    MOAG continues that the Malbim actually avoided discussing halacha with talmidei chachomim, feeling he was out of the parashah, perenially being involved in Tanach studies.

    Point is, among the lomdim in Lita his concentration on Bible was seen as a certain deficiency. Some might have even felt that he sacrificed himself, fell on his own sword – an averah lishmah even. So what, that’s their opinion, we might say. But it speaks volumes, and there is some truth that you can’t do it all, and most Orthodox Jews and rabbis therefore pick Talmud. This is in fact a pity, since as per recent discussions on Hirhurim about the Masorah, we see that scholars generally don’t master it all, and we wind up assuming that the Talmudist/ halachist also knows the rest.

    The traditions and attitudes about the Malbim might help to answer your questions at the beginning of the post.

  2. > Very few Gedolim in recent times studied Tanakh seriously.

    Source? I’m sorry, but this sounds overly general; do you have anything that supports such a statement? The absence of contemporary literature does not necessarily indicate that our talmidei chachamim – certainly not those who have earned the title “Gadol” – haven’t studied Tanakh seriously; it can simply mean that there is a dearth of contemporary material. Why they felt they were better suited to other realms of Torah writing is another discussion – perhaps they felt more comfortable with the abstract, theoretical discussions of Talmudic analysis; maybe they were loathe to delve into the canonical writings for fear of treading erroneously or “reinventing the wheel”…

  3. the malbim is the author of artzos hachaim, a halacha work, and was a rav in a number of cities and is not typically accused of not being expert in halacha.

    besides, what of the meshech chochma, the netziv, r yosef zecharia stern?

  4. S.: I agree that the corpus of Torah keeps growing, but even 1,000 years ago, one finds only a small number of Rishonim who wrote commentaries on both Talmud and Tanakh (Rashi, Ramban, Ralbag). And we see a clear distinction between Ashkenaz and Sefarad in terms of interest in Tanakh (and dikduk and philosophy, but that’s a different topic). So I think the bias in favor of Talmud is more rooted in the intellectual culture of the time and place than the size of the Torah corpus.

    Shmuel: It is entirely possible that the Gedolim of the past 200 years were secretly studying Tanakh (or perhaps the novels of George Eliot). But if they never taught it publicly or wrote down their insights for posterity, then we are justified in assuming otherwise.

    Huh: The Meshekh Chokhma is a perush on the Chumash. As is Ha-Amek Davar. Neither of those authors wrote a running commentary on Nakh. Nor, to the best of my knowledge did R. Stern who, in any case, is hardly a household name and is not exactly an influential figure today.

  5. R. Clark — your response to Huh is revealing. I was surprised after reading the 1st four paragraphs of your post about this important point, that you then illustrated it with an example from the Chumash.

    I think your point (in the 1st 4 paras) is correct, but is really more about Nach than TaNach. The Chumash is familar ground.

  6. R. Clark,

    To be fair, just how much did Rabbis invest in Nach in general? I distinctly remember when learning Torah and Navi in school that Navi had less interpreters, people who I was not familiar with.

  7. Also, why is there no mention of the co-opting of the Tanach by Haskalah/Secular Zionism/Reform (to say nothing of academia)? Perhaps 20th century gedolim figured it best to abandon the playing field rather than risk defeat?

  8. R. Moshe Feinstein reportedly learned a perk of Tanach every day. But that is beki’us rather than iyun. R. Ya’akov Kamenetsky demonstrates in his commentary on Chumash a remarkable expertise in Tanach. But he may be an exception.

  9. IH: Beli neder I will post a summary of a Nach shiur.

    aiwac: The establishment of the haftarot speaks of the importance Chazal attributed to Nevi’im. The gemara in Kiddushin speaks of dedicating one-third of one’s learning to mikra. Rambam brings this as halakha pesuka in Hilkhot Talmud Torah. R. Tam famously held that, since the Talmud Bavli contains mikra and mishnah, we fulfill all our obligations by learning Gemara. And his approach has been the dominant one over the centuries, especially in Ashkenazic circles.

    But I think it is clear that recent generations have lost even a basic fluency in Nach, in my view, to our detriment.

  10. R. Clark,

    Reading an haftara is not the same thing as commentary and intense study. You still haven’t addressed my argument that Tanach was avoided because of its co-option by other segments of Jewry.

    In any event, why no mention of the people responsible for the revolution (R. Bin-Nun, R. Breur and R. Amital)?

  11. aiwac: Regarding Haskala and heterodox movements, the Torah world (especially in Ashkenaz) moved away from intensive Tanakh study long before the 20th century.

    At the time of Chazal, the reading of the haftara was different than it is today. Nobody in the audience had a printed text. In fixing the weekly Torah reading, Chazal were establishing a weekly, public Talmud Torah experience. And the fact that they expanded this to include a weekly Navi reading — including special berakhot — is significant.

    Two of the people who helped lead the Tanakh revolution are R. Yoel Bin Nun and R. Yaakov Meidan. R. Mordechai Breuer pioneered a unique mode of biblical study, but his focus was on Chumash. There was also some developments from other directions — after a century of source criticism of the Bible, biblical academics opened up to literary study of the Bible, which was much more welcoming to Orthodox thinkers.

  12. a. “The most recent running commentary on Nakh from a recognized Gadol is that of Malbim, which was published in 1867.”

    Yes, the abandonment of NaCh study in the Chareidi world is embarrassing, but a running commentary is hardly a good example. What modern gedolim authored a running commentary on Mishna, Talmud Bavli or the Shulchan Aruch?

    b. The development of traditional cheder and yeshiva curriculum needs to be mentioned. Also the famous Tosafos stating that we learn Mikra (Tanach) from the Gemara (Bavli = Balul), used today as a main argument by those opposed to changes to the curriculum.

  13. >It is entirely possible that the Gedolim of the past 200 years were secretly studying Tanakh (or perhaps the novels of George Eliot). But if they never taught it publicly or wrote down their insights for posterity, then we are justified in assuming otherwise.

    I respectfully disagree. As I wrote earlier, I think you reasoning is a little hard to follow – we don’t know why more recent Gedolim chose to focus their output on other realms of Torah, but that does not indicate that they didn’t take Tanakh seriously. Quite the opposite, in fact.
    It seems to my mind that if these people we are referring to have earned the title Gedolim, then we would be justified in assuming that anything they learned would be studied with the same tenacity, reverance, and diligence as anything else they put their minds to, including tikkun hamiddot, etc. I do not think that it is farfetched to say that we certainly believe that anyone worthy of the honorific “Gadol” has learned all of Torah, which most definitely includes Tanakh.

    And, as far as pirushim on Chumash goes, there have been very few original works in the past two centuries – perhaps they felt that there was more need for “chiddush” in the ever expanding area of Talmud.

  14. R. Clark:

    Your review of Shmos and Devarim reminded of a Brisker Rov (there may be others who said something similar) on the Haggadah. In Dayenu we say Ilu karvanu lifnei Har Sinai, velo nasan lanu es ha Torah, Dayenu. Asked the Brisker Rov, what would have been the point of Har Sinai if not for Mattan Torah? He answered, based on psukim in Mishpatim and various Rambams, that the experience of Maamad Har Sinai is the foundation of our emunah. That has immense value regardless of whether we were given certain commandments.

    Perhaps the different perspectives reflect these two purposes of Maamad Har Sinai: as the Experiential Basis of Emunah, and as Mattan Torah. (You’d have to change your title to The Retelling of Maamad Har Sinai.)

  15. Rabbi Joshua Maroof

    I think this is an excellent post, and that the neglect of Tanach is a serious problem. One possibility why “gedolim” have not focused their energies on Tanach is that our definition of “gedolim” is individuals who have dedicated their energies to Talmud and Halacha, as opposed to Tanach and Machshava. Hence, it is a tautology. Based on the writings of luminaries like Rambam, Ramban, Maharal, Ramchal, Gr”a, etc., it seems that the ideal is a person with an integrated knowledge of all areas as opposed to a mastery of one to the exclusion of others.

  16. I suggest that the “revival” of Tanach in Religious Zionist circles is partially due to secular Zionism’s rejection of traditional Jewish texts in favor of the Bible. Religious Zionism adapted this emphasis into its religious framework.

  17. “we learn Mikra (Tanach) from the Gemara (Bavli = Balul), used today as a main argument by those opposed to changes to the curriculum”

    Just wondering how normal, or not, it is for teachers of Gemara in the Yeshivish velt to insist their students follow the mareh makom to Nach and understand the context of the pasuk being quoted in the Gemara?

  18. “I suggest that the “revival” of Tanach in Religious Zionist circles is partially due to secular Zionism’s rejection of traditional Jewish texts in favor of the Bible. Religious Zionism adapted this emphasis into its religious framework.”

    …and what, may I ask, is wrong with that?

  19. >>Just wondering how normal, or not, it is for teachers of Gemara in the Yeshivish velt to insist their students follow the mareh makom to Nach and understand the context of the pasuk being quoted in the Gemara?

    In YRSRH (aka Breuer’s), every student was (is?) expected to have a TaNaCH on his desk during shiur to be able to view/understand each quoted pasuk in context.
    (and also filling a secondary role of giving you something to learn when the Rebbe tries to put you to sleep with a boring shiur.)

  20. aiwac: Nothing wrong. I just wouldn’t give all the credit to R. Bin-Nun and R. Breuer (nor to Nechama Leibowitz and Cassutto).

  21. Gil – Perhaps it is also attributable to the relative lack of interest in high-level Talmud study in certain areas of the RZ world in Israel – note that this is not the case in American MO – YU probably fields as many high-level talmudists as vast swathes of the RZ world in Israel, despite its relative small size. As an example, it is well known that the level of the top shiurim for the chutznik programme in Kerem Beyavneh is higher than that of the Israelis – this is a result of different emphases in chinuch. As another illustration of this, take a look at the teshuvot of the current generation of many of the RZ poskim in Israel (e.g. Sheilat Shlomo) and compare them with those from say, the Chevron trained R. Avraham Shapira. Whether or not the current RZ poskim are capable of writing lengthy discourses on theoretical topics (undoubtedly many are), they are obviously catering to their audiences in generally not doing so. Tanach is more interesting, and has more resonance with people brought up to see the land of Israel as the centre of their religious universe.

  22. If you read Kinot closely, you should have noticed the authors’ comprehensive knowledge of Tanakh. Who has that kind of knowledge today?

    In the times of Chazal, and to a lesser extent for long afterwards, Jews were expected to memorize Tanach as a precondition for studying tora shebeal peh. That’s why Kinot and so on can contain so many allusions to tanach. This memorization is of course not sufficient to produce new “iyun” ideas and insights.

    Herzog College and so on do little better on the memorization front than any other Orthodox group nowadays. But they have different methodology. Some of their methods, such as “tanach begova einaim”, are quite controversial, and most of the Orthodox world chooses consciously to reject them. If you reject the method, then of course you won’t come up with whatever interesting ideas follow from it.

  23. “the “revival” of Tanach in Religious Zionist circles is partially due to secular Zionism’s rejection of traditional Jewish texts in favor of the Bible.”

    In both cases, this was a function of returning to the land described in the Tanach. On a tiyul, a Tanach was as essential as a canteen.

  24. >the malbim is the author of artzos hachaim, a halacha work, and was a rav in a number of cities and is not typically accused of not being expert in halacha.

    I know this, and so did R. Yisrael Salanter, and so did the gossips of Lita, and so does R. Nosson Kamenetsky. Read it again.

  25. Rabbi Clark

    >S.: I agree that the corpus of Torah keeps growing, but even 1,000 years ago, one finds only a small number of Rishonim who wrote commentaries on both Talmud and Tanakh (Rashi, Ramban, Ralbag). And we see a clear distinction between Ashkenaz and Sefarad in terms of interest in Tanakh (and dikduk and philosophy, but that’s a different topic). So I think the bias in favor of Talmud is more rooted in the intellectual culture of the time and place than the size of the Torah corpus.

    This is true, but I was specifically replying to your point that it seems to have gotten worse, illustrated by the last complete commentary, from the Malbim, 145 years ago.

    Whether it has or not, it may as well have. To give but one small example, can there be a talmid chochom who doesn’t know the Mishnah Berurah well? Not that it takes years to master it, but 100 years ago a profound talmid chochom didn’t have to know even a single word of the Mishnah Berurah. Every additional must-know addition to the Torah library makes it harder and harder to do other areas, and if you do the other areas then you are neglecting Talmud and halacha.

    What would we call a Talmudist who masters the Talmud with Rif and Rashi, roughly a curriculum of 1000 years ago? We would call him a nut, I suppose, and certainly not a talmid chochom. The corpus keeps growing larger and is becoming unwieldy. To seriously master anything means to seriously neglect something else.

    You are of course correct that the Rabbanite Jews seem to have always, in some general sense, prioritized Rabbinic learning, rather than Biblical learning. But if it keeps getting worse, there are reasons, and one reason is that people want to become a talmid chochom, and you can become a talmid chochom without mastering Tanakh.

    aiwac

    >Also, why is there no mention of the co-opting of the Tanach by Haskalah/Secular Zionism/Reform (to say nothing of academia)? Perhaps 20th century gedolim figured it best to abandon the playing field rather than risk defeat?

    Many believe this, but it just isn’t true. The maskilim/etc. were interested in Bible for very logical reasons, and gravitated toward an already neglected field – which the traditional society had neglected (with important and major exceptions of course). By the mid 19th century you already have traditionalists giving this as an excuse, but there are also logical reasons why the traditionalists had neglected Bible in the first place. So we can’t conflate cause and effect, although it is true that traditionalists often do believe that they are following some sort of tradition to neglect Tanakh and dikduk because people of little faith stole it. So to that extent they are, at this point, sort of doing it as a self-fulfilling prophecy. But in reality, who’s stopping them? I know of someone from a rebbeshe family who was a ne’er do well, and kind of a bum. He once went crying to the Satmar Rav, his cousin, that he wanted to do teshiva. So the Satmar Rav replied: Who’s stopping you?

    So, knock it off already. If the traditionalists think and agree that in reality it is important to learn Tanakh and dikduk and so on and so forth – no one is making them not do it. Put away the Reb Chaim for a little bit, and just do it. The Gates of Grammar remain open.

  26. > R. Tam famously held that, since the Talmud Bavli contains mikra and mishnah, we fulfill all our obligations by learning Gemara. And his approach has been the dominant one over the centuries, especially in Ashkenazic circles.

    We’ve also misunderstood him (probably on purpose). It is obvious that Rabbenu Tam, as well as the Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, knew Tanakh just fine and they knew it from Tanakh. Rather, once you know Tanakh and have learned it in one’s youth, his view was that you don’t need to set aside a third of one’s learning time for Tanakh. It may well be that this approach is also bad for cultivating good Tanakh study, but is a far cry from the way the world takes it – that you literally could learn Tanakh from the handfuls of pesukim cited in the Gemara. I don’t think I’m deviating too far from pshat in Rabbenu Tam. It seems almost certain this is what he meant.

  27. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard R. Hershel Schachter say that R. Tam’s (and the Rema’s) leniency is only after you already know Tanakh. You don’t have to learn it every day but can focus on Gemara.

  28. Does that mean that RHS holds that until you know Tanakh then you takka are supposed to divide learning time into thirds?

  29. He holds you are supposed to learn Tanakh (and all of Torah — Tanakh, Mishnah, Tosefta, Bavli, Yerushalmi, Mekhilta, Sifra and Sifrei). I don’t know that he takes the one-third division literally.

  30. One of my long term chavrusas, (with whom I have been learning a variety of Halacha related sefarim of a wide range for many years), and I have been learning Nach ( we are on our second cycle now) for almost 10 years before davening each morning. We work through a few Psukim with Rashi, Mtzudos, Malbim when appropriate, as well as relevant entries from Daat Mikrah. The most important spiritual message that we have noticed is the spiritual decline from Sefer Yehoshua in Shoftim, that none of the Neviim arrested until the arrival of Esther HaMalkah, and the pivotal role of David HaMelech.

    Unfortunately, all too often, what passes for shiurim in Navi in the Charedi world are drashos, sichos and shmueezen based on one Pasuk, and a Medrash. R E Clark is correct-we have a dearth of good recent Mfarshim on Navi, as opposed to Chumash, where anyone with access to the works of Nechama Leibowitz ZL, can find a bibliography of excellent commentaries, modern and classical, that would be well worth any serious student’s interest. Again, with respect to Chumash-there is a world of diffference between classical Mfarshim on Chumash and Seforim that authored by the Baalei Chasiduse, Baalei Musar or Acharonim who compiled wonderful and serious drashos.

  31. I’m not sure I understand. Rabbenu Tam’s leniency is that you can “neglect” Tanakh study only after you already know Tanakh. How does one come to know Tanakh? “You don’t have to learn it every day but can focus on Gemara.”

    So he holds that you don’t have to learn Tanakh every day in the pursuit of coming to know Tanakh; you can focus on Gemara. And by this means, not learning Tanakh every day, once you know Tanakh then at that point you can rely on Rabbenu Tam and the Rema’s leniency (to focus on Gemara, which you were already focusing on).

    Sounds to me like you’re already relying on it before you know Tanakah, or am I not getting something? I get not taking thirds literally, but how is he advocating knowing Tanakh first in order to rely on R. Tam?

  32. Many who post here will recall a famous discussion re Aliyah at LSS between R B Wein and R S Riskin-it was actually a debate that R Riskin won, because not too long after R Riskin made aliyah, R Wein also went on aliyah. IIRC, R Wein quoted none other than RYK that we “lost” Ivrit,Nach, and The Land of Israel to the secular Zionist and heterodox movements. R Riskin’s eloquent response was something to the effect that we had noone to blame but ourselves in that regard.

  33. FWIW, although R Clark points to Herzog as a model for learning Nach, for those of a more traditional orientation, you can learn Nach with Rashi, Mtzudos, Malbim, Ibn Ezra and Daat Mikrah as well, and grasp quite easily the spiritual decline of the Jewish People, the unique nature of each Navi, and the pivotal role of David HaMelech as well. All it requires is time and effort.

  34. S: Meaning, the leniency of learning only Gemara is specifically for mature scholars.

    Steve Brizel: I find it hard to beleive that R. Baruch Wein quoted R. Yisrael Kaminetsky in a debate with R. Saul Riskin.

  35. Saul Riskin?

    I was pretty sure SB meant Rabbi Shlomo (Steven) haKohen Riskin.

  36. never-mind my last comment

  37. R Gil wrote:

    “I find it hard to beleive that R. Baruch Wein quoted R. Yisrael Kaminetsky in a debate with R. Saul Riskin”

    Actually, R Berel Wein quoted R Yaakov Kaminetsky ZL-listen to the taped shiur.

    Perhaps, the answer is that TSBP was always seen as the lodestar of importance as a means of scholarship and commentary for a simple reason- The Talmud in Gittin states explicitly that TSBP is one of the unique aspects of the covenental relationship between HaShem and Klal Yisrael. Just see RYBS’s comments to Shaalei Srufah and Arzei HaLevanon as to the importance of TSBP if you need more proof.

    R Gil’s point that both both secular Zionism and RZ, to a lesser degree, emphasize Tanach, at the expense of knowledge of Talmud and SA, is a fascinating and provocative POV. I would ask R Clark the following question-does Gush offer a Yarchei Kallah for Baalei Batim to engage in learning TSBP with the same seriousness that Herzog is organized for learning the intricacies of Nach? If not-why not? One of my closest friends whose brother lives in Alon Shevut, used to spend his summers learning in the Gush Beis Medrash. However, my query is whether a Yarchei Kallah type progam exists in Gush? FWIW, aside from DY and weekly shiurim given by prominent RY and Rabbanim, YU’s Kollel Yom Rishon and the many programs of communal learning of TSBP on legal holidays as well as a lay organized program of learning in BMG during the summer strike me as opportunities that we should all try to avail ourselves in our spare time.

    Rambam at the end of Hilcos Megilah states that when Bayis Shlishi is a reality, we will only need to study Chumash, Yeshoshuah and Megilas Esther. However, one should also note that Rambam also writes in Hilcos Shabbos and elsewhere, that many Torah rooted Mitzvos were explained in detail by the Neviim.

  38. Gil – Even the Rambma agrees that a mature scholar need not devote a third of his time to mikra. As he writes in Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:15:
    במה דברים אמורים, בתחילת תלמודו של אדם; אבל כשיגדיל בחכמה ולא יהיה צריך לא ללמוד תורה שבכתב, ולא לעסוק תמיד בתורה שבעל פה–יקרא בעיתים מזומנים תורה שבכתב ודברי השמועה, כדי שלא ישכח דבר מדברי דיני תורה, וייפנה כל ימיו לתלמוד בלבד, לפי רוחב ליבו ויישוב דעתו.

    If the explanation you are quoting in the name of Rav Schachter is correct, then Rabbeinu Tam agrees with the Rambam, which is not how the poskim have traditionally understood his position. See the Shulchan Aruch Harav for example:
    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=15605&st=&pgnum=211

  39. Steve Brizel: Actually, R Berel Wein quoted R Yaakov Kaminetsky ZL-listen to the taped shiur.

    I think RB Wein is the universal acronym for R. Baruch Wein. Maybe we should be more clear next time.

  40. R Clark noted in part:

    “What is the essence of the Sinai experience? In Shemot, there is no advance indication that the revelation at Sinai will involve the giving of mitzvot. “God said to Moshe: ‘Behold I come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you, and also that they may believe in you forever’” (19:9). The goal is experiential, establishing Moshe’s religious authority. The content is secondary.

    It may even be that the people do not actually understand the words God speaks at Sinai. Immediately after the revelation in Shemot, we read: “And all the people perceived the thunder and lightning, the sound of the shofar and the mountain smoking; the people saw it and trembled and stood afar off. They said to Moshe: ‘Speak you with us and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.’ Moshe said to the people: ‘Fear not; for God comes in order to test you, and in order that His fear may be upon you, that you sin not.’” (20:14-16).”

    WADR, a simple survey of the classical Mfarshim indicates much conflict as to the exact content of which of the Aseres HaDibros were heard and comprehended, as opposed to what was merely being heard by the Jewish People. However, the above quoted langauge unnecessarily divorces the Aseres HaDibros from both its prologue Shmos 18 ( re the Divine Selection of the Jewish People, and their adherence to Mitzvos) , as well as the subsequent educational experience and component in Parshas Yisro ( the Aseres HaDibros), Parshas Mishpatim, and the non Mishkan related sections in the remainder of Parshas Shmos.

    Perhaps, if as R M Lichtenstein argues,in his superb book on Moshe Rabbeinu, Drash is as valid a means of Parshanut as Pshat, one can see the interrelationship between all of these Parshiyos, as opposed to a solely Pshat based (and ironically Daas Torah tinged )argument that the purpose of Maamad Har Sinai was to establish the authority of Moshe Rabbeinu and the content was secondary. (Obviously, the issue of whether the Mishkan and Karbanos were lchatchilah or bdieved, and the related issue of the role of the Maaseh HaEgel HaZahav , is a major issue in Parshanut, especially among the classical Mfarshim, but is not relevant to and beyond the subject of this post. )

  41. I agree with R. Gil that the renewed interest in Tanakh in RZ circles has an ideological aspect; but I think the influence of secular Zionism on this development is small. The rebirth of Tanakh studies began in the late 70s, early 80s, more than a generation after secular Zionism had lost interest in Tanakh.

    Moreover, it is enough for some teachers to decide that they want to teach Tanakh, one also needs a receptive audience. The phenomenon at Herzog College’s Tanakh Study Week testifies to a lot of interest at the popular level. Here I agree with J. that certain segments of the RZ community in Israel are looking to supplement Gemara study with Tanakh, philosophy, chasidut, etc.

    I disagree with Guest’s statement about Chazal’s study of Tanakh being limited to memorization. In Vayikra Rabba and Midrash Tehillim, for example, Chazal demonstrate a keen grasp of Tanakh. I think that Kinot also reflect a deep understanding of Tanakh, more than rote memorization.

    Gush does not hold Yarchei Kalla for anyone. The Tanakh shiurim are a project of Herzog College, which specializes in Tanakh, not Gemara. I am not aware of any Torah institution in Israel, haredi or RZ, that holds Yarchei Kalla in Gemara.

  42. Steve: Nowhere in Shemot 18 do I find any references to “Divine Selection of the Jewish People, and their adherence to Mitzvos.” All I see is Yitro advising Moshe about creating a judicial organization. Nowhere in Shemot 19 do I see the word Mitzvot.

  43. Rabbi Clark,

    I have to ask:

    What about the perception of Tanach in Herzog?

    A big (and legit) fear of the “Tanach Begovah Ha’eynayim” was that Tanach would cease to be Holy Scripture and the reverence would be lost, to be replaced with the same self-important, coldly critical approach seen too often in academia.

  44. R Eli Clark wrote in part:

    “The teachers hail from both academia and yeshivot; all are frum”

    What are their views on Torah Min HaShamayim and what transpired at Maamad Har Sinai?

  45. For more discussion about different means of learning Tanach, see the discussion in the annexed link. https://www.torahmusings.com/2010/01/moshe-suburban-liberal/

  46. Eli Clark wrote:

    “Steve: Nowhere in Shemot 18 do I find any references to “Divine Selection of the Jewish People, and their adherence to Mitzvos.” All I see is Yitro advising Moshe about creating a judicial organization. Nowhere in Shemot 19 do I see the word Mitzvot”

    Yisro’s advice is the content at the beginning of Shemos 18. The last section of that Perek clearly sets forth the notion of Am Segulah and Bchiras Yisrael, as expounded on by the classic Mfarshim that one can find in the Toras Chaim Chumash and many others as well. IMO, you are using an overly Pshat oriented methodology in discussing whether the term “Mitzvos” is used. The prelude to the Aseres HaDibros clearly establishes that HaShem spoke all of these “Devarim” to Moshe Rabbeinu-what else and other than Mitzvos was included in the content-the belief in Anochi, the rejection of AZ, observance of Shabbos, respect for parents, prohibition against adultery, robbery and jealousy, which were stated in a general form and expanded on throughout the Torah.RSG and Rashi both state the 613 Mitzvos were fully included in the content of the Aseres HaDibros.

  47. R Elie Clark wrote:

    “Gush does not hold Yarchei Kalla for anyone. The Tanakh shiurim are a project of Herzog College, which specializes in Tanakh, not Gemara. I am not aware of any Torah institution in Israel, haredi or RZ, that holds Yarchei Kalla in Gemara”

    For many years, Mossad HaRav Kook sponsored a Kinus LTSBP that featured great Talmidei Chachamim from Israel and the US. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been held for a long time.

    I seem to recall reading that Ponevezh had a Yarchei Kallah, and that Agudah sponsors the same both in the US and Israel. YU’s Kollel Yom Rishon is a welcome addition to the US scene and complements the work that many rabbanim and lay activists had been doing for decades in bringing leading RY to their communities on legal holidays. I am amazed that no RZ yeshiva sponsors the same in Israel in Talmud and Halacha, especially given the wide number of contemporary halachic issues facing the RZ community rooted either in technology, military service, Shabbos, medicine, etc.

  48. aiwac: There are legitimate concerns about a style of literary analysis of Tanakh that treats biblical figures as normal human beings. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein does not approve. That said, one can find precursors to that approach in certain Rishonim, like Ramban, and Aharonim, like Tosefet Berakha.

    But the larger point is that Herzog College offered 205 shiurim in the space of five days, only a handful of these shiurim could be categorized as “Tanakh be-Gova Enayim.” So I think this issue is a bit of a red herring.

    Steve: I find your question about the faith commitment of the Tanakh teachers slightly offensive and very ridiculous. There were more than 50 different speakers and I personally know only a handful. Two of the speakers were R. Aharon Lichtenstein and R. Moshe Lichtenstein; I assume they would meet your frumkeit test.

    I suspect all would fit comfortably with the range of the authors of the Daat Mikra series, which you seem to accept.

  49. Steve: Mosad HaRav Kook last held a Kinus TSBBP in 2008. Not such a long time.

  50. I agree that “Tanach Begovah Ha’eynayim” is a small part of a larger issue, and that is the general attitude towards Tanach. The fact that certain Rishonim endorsed or supported such a view is neither here nor there. They had reverence toward them, even when they criticized.

    My fear is not the treating and understanding of Biblical Figures as human. Quite the opposite. I oppose “David never sinned” type stuff.

    My problem is the cold, detached and often smugly superior sense people who adopt modern categories tend to have toward religious figures, Biblical included. The issue is not whether they can be criticized or whether the Tanach can be coldly, ‘objectively’ analyzed, but whether that’s all they do.

  51. R Eli-My mistake-please explain Shemos 19:6. Are you seriously maintaining based on a Pshat only guided reading that the same is devoid of any meaning of Am Segulah and Bchiras Yisrael?

  52. Steve: On Yitro, I wonder if we are working from different texts. You write “Yisro’s advice is the content at the beginning of Shemos 18.” In my Chumash, Yitro’s words end in pasuk 23, exactly four pesukim before the end of the chapter.

    In Shemot 19, the word “devarim” appears in pesukim 6 and 7 and refers back to what Hashem has just said, not to what he is going to say three days later.

    Peshat!

  53. >IMO, you are using an overly Pshat oriented methodology in discussing whether the term “Mitzvos” is used.

    There’s no such thing as “overly Pshat oriented.” Mixing pshat with drush and so forth means that it’s not pshat (‘though it may still be drush). We’ve been down this road before, but I will say it again: insisting that en mikra yotzi midei drush, even when you’re talking about the pshat, is nothing more than the attempt to delegitimize pshat altogether.

  54. R Eli Clark wrote in part:

    “aiwac: There are legitimate concerns about a style of literary analysis of Tanakh that treats biblical figures as normal human beings. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein does not approve. That said, one can find precursors to that approach in certain Rishonim, like Ramban, and Aharonim, like Tosefet Berakha.

    Steve: I find your question about the faith commitment of the Tanakh teachers slightly offensive and very ridiculous. There were more than 50 different speakers and I personally know only a handful. Two of the speakers were R. Aharon Lichtenstein and R. Moshe Lichtenstein; I assume they would meet your frumkeit test.

    I suspect all would fit comfortably with the range of the authors of the Daat Mikra series, which you seem to accept”

    R Eli-I hold no brief for the ArtScroll Charedi view of how to learn Tanach. Certainly, Chazal, Rashi, Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Sforno, Netziv and Meshech Chachmah did not use that derech. I would hesitate to classify the same as “literary”, but rather as intellectually courageous and with an open view towards Medrashim that were close to Pshat, while rejecting those did not enhance Pshat. Like it or not, you seem to assume that contemporary approaches to Parshanut can range from RAL and RML to the authors of Daat Mikrah to others whose Neemanut on issues of Torah Min HaShamayim and Maamad Har Sinai would be seen by many, not just myself, as suspect. I do object as Aiwac did to a “cold, detached and often smugly superior sense people who adopt modern categories tend to have toward religious figures” which denudes our understanding from any overriding moral and inspirational value. Such an approach, IMO frankly elevates the head at the expense of the heart.

  55. R Eli Clark wrote:

    “In Shemot 19, the word “devarim” appears in pesukim 6 and 7 and refers back to what Hashem has just said, not to what he is going to say three days later”

    How are you so confident in the meaning of Am Segulah and Mamleches Kohanim in Shemos 19:6 being retrospective in manner, when a less tortured reading of the same clearly refers to a life governed by “Devarim” or mitzvos ? WADR, please name one of the classical Mfarshim who supports your POV.Merely pronouncing the same as “Peshat” WADR, does not answer my query.

  56. > Like it or not, you seem to assume that contemporary approaches to Parshanut can range from RAL and RML to the authors of Daat Mikrah to others whose Neemanut on issues of Torah Min HaShamayim and Maamad Har Sinai would be seen by many, not just myself, as suspect.

    If I may, I think that Rabbi Clark’s point is that you don’t need to be frummer than R Aharon Lichtenstein, who knows who to associate with, thank you very much.

    As an aside, I happen to think an outer limits of “acceptable” must exist. It is a philosophical necessity,. In fact it is impossible for an outer limit not to exist. If you want to move the boundaries of the outer limits to mean yourself (it’s nice to think you’re the avant garde, I guess), that can be done, but in the end people will be hunting and accusing you if you are the one residing at the outer limits of acceptable.

  57. S wrote in part:

    “We’ve been down this road before, but I will say it again: insisting that en mikra yotzi midei drush, even when you’re talking about the pshat, is nothing more than the attempt to delegitimize pshat altogether”

    Actually,if one reads the linked discussion re RML and R C Angel’s review of RML’s book, R Gil pointed out that the advocates of “Pshat only” freely engage in an attempt to view Drush as illegitimate.

  58. >Actually,if one reads the linked discussion re RML and R C Angel’s review of RML’s book, R Gil pointed out that the advocates of “Pshat only” freely engage in an attempt to view Drush as illegitimate.

    That doesn’t mean that drush people don’t do the same thing to pshat. Two wrongs, etc.

    Actually, from the point of view of the respective positions it isn’t two wrongs at all, but presumably each type of proponent feels that delegitimizing the other approach is a necessity. How else to explain people who claim that there is PaRDeS, but in practice always attack the P and try to strangle it? You can ask the same thing in the other direction if you want. I suspect, as I said, that they view it as necessary to promote a healthy version of their approach and make sure that it takes root.

  59. R Eli-Like it or not, I would not want my children or grandchildren taught Tanach by someone whose view of Tanach is a “cold, detached and often smugly superior sense people who adopt modern categories tend to have toward religious figures”.

    S-I have often stated that Drush only or Pshat only are equally unhelpful means of Parshanut and that Parshanut, providing that one is working within the Mesorah, is far more horizontal in nature than Psak or Lomdus. I do think that drawing the line at Neemanus in Torah Min HaShamayim and Maamad Har Sinai is hardly my innovation.

  60. S-I for one believe that Pshat and Drush definitely coexist, and that each appeals to different people, as do Chasidus and Musar.However, to assume that one derech is always right, IMO, whether it is Drush or Pshat IMO, makes no sense whatsoever.

  61. S wrote:

    “That doesn’t mean that drush people don’t do the same thing to pshat”

    IIRC, there was a very heated discussion in a recent issue of Tradition that discussed the pros and cons of this method of studying Tanach.

  62. Let me try again. It’s not to assume that one is always right, but that if you are osek in pshat, mixing it with drush makes it not the pshat at all – it makes it drush.

  63. S-see R Kupperman’s essay at the end of his edition of Meshech Chachmah. It is not so easy to say that there is a Chinese wall between Drush and Pshat, when in fact as R Kupperman points out, the key to understanding many Drashos Chazal is whether the same are Pshuto Shel Mikra Al Pi Chazal or operating on a different or more profound level of Drush.

  64. I disagree with Guest’s statement about Chazal’s study of Tanakh being limited to memorization. In Vayikra Rabba and Midrash Tehillim, for example, Chazal demonstrate a keen grasp of Tanakh. I think that Kinot also reflect a deep understanding of Tanakh, more than rote memorization.

    I did not mean that Chazal’s understanding was limited to memorization. Rather, Chazal conveyed their insights in a medium whose comprehension did not require study beyond memorization. Any kid can understand that God held the mountain over our heads at Sinai, but many adults are unaware of the arc of events in Tanach that Chazal based that midrash on. Contemporary Jews who base their study on Chazal’s medium are perhaps condemned to study Tanach at a low level. Conversely, those who avoid that medium must deal with the resulting disconnect from our tradition.

    The issue is not whether they can be criticized or whether the Tanach can be coldly, ‘objectively’ analyzed, but whether that’s all they do.

    When they are quoted out of context, typically that’s all that’s in the quote.

  65. S. pretend the making of a gadol is a work of the tannaim and you will develop some skepticism about the veracity of its claims.

  66. Guest-in many instances, you can find Mishnayos that are formulated in a manner to aid the memory.That does not mean that memorization was the sole content of TSBP.

  67. Steve: Regarding Shemot 19, I find you to be constantly shifting positions. Rather than continue to chase you around the field, I will reiterate R. Shama’s original point: nowhere does Shemot 19 speak of mitzvot or chukkim and mishpatim, in stark contrast to Devarim 4.

    In Shemot Hashem does tell Moshe to say to Bnei Yisrael that IF they keep his Berit, they will be his segula. This is followed by the famous statement about mamlechet kohanim and goy kadosh. That is the message (devarim) which Moshe is to tell the people. The next pasuk says that Moshe said these things (devarim) over to the ziknei ha-am.

    There is nothing tortured in pointing out that the language of law (hukkim, mitzvot) is absent. We agree that Hashem gave mitzvot at Sinai; He just didn’t mention that fact in advance.

    aiwac/Steve: When you talk about “cold, detached” and “smugly superior,” I have no idea whether you are thinking about specific individuals or a stereotype of some academic-type figure. From the small sampling of speakers that I heard (less than 5% of the total), there were only passionate and inspiring teachers who revere Tanakh as devar Hashem.

  68. >S. pretend the making of a gadol is a work of the tannaim and you will develop some skepticism about the veracity of its claims.

    Cute, but despite the manifold flaws of the book (applying lomdus to history?) if you think that RNK sat down in 1999 and made up the stuff about the Malbim and so forth, as opposed to recording actual traditions regarding ways in which people in Lita thought about the Malbim, then you are mistaken. A lot of people probably don’t want to know this stuff, or if they already knew it don’t want other people to know it. I mean, with the old Litvaks almost all dead, these things almost went down to the grave with them, but RNK put it all in English.

  69. I heard the story about the Malbim and the Chasam Sofer (that’s how I heard it) multiple times. The Malbim went to get a haskamah for Artzos HaChaim, sat in the Chasam Sofer’s chair, the Chasam Sofer told him to remain there and that’s why he never progressed. Artzos HaChaim is brilliant but only goes through about 30 simanim in Shulchan Aruch.

    I also heard that R. Chaim Soloveitchik held that the Malbim was one of the three Gedolim of his time, which surprised me (the others were the Beis HaLevy and R. Yisrael Salanter). Very strange story.

  70. R. Clark,

    Thank you for answering my question.

  71. I don’t think he meant specifically that. In general, I get the point, the criticisms of MOAG. But a lot of it clearly is not fanciful at all. A lot of it is exactly what the lomdim circles in Lita schmuessed about 70, 100, and 150 years ago and the point is that you could not know this stuff from a book – except only that now you can.

  72. lawrence kaplan

    Gil: I confess to my being slow on the uptake, but your 12:42 pm comment was very funny. Steve, take note.

  73. R Eli Clark wrote in part:

    “In Shemot Hashem does tell Moshe to say to Bnei Yisrael that IF they keep his Berit, they will be his segula. This is followed by the famous statement about mamlechet kohanim and goy kadosh. That is the message (devarim) which Moshe is to tell the people.”

    WADR, what is the content and condition of the Bris Sinai which is the condition of being a Mamleches Kohanim and Goy Kadosh if not Shemiras HaMitzvos as set forth in general terms in the Aseres HaDibros?

  74. Back to the issue of recent Nach beki’im, there’s Rav Chaim Dov Rabinowitz (Daas Soferim) and Rav Avigdor Miller (Behold A People).

  75. Larry Kaplan-listen to the tape of the debate. R Riskin clearly prevailed in the debate,

  76. Re strange stories about the Malbim. According to Otzar Yisrael, toward the end of his life, he was invited by the community of New York to be the Chief Rabbi of the United States. But his followers would not let him risk the journey at his advanced age (69).

  77. I also read the story about the Malbim in MOAG.

    Zvi Lampel-WADR, Bekius is not the same as publishing a running commentary.

  78. Regarding the Malbim and New York, some may be interested in the following

    http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2009/12/malbim-suggested-for-new-york-as.html

  79. lawrence kaplan

    Steve: You missed my point and Gil’s. He was making lighthearted fun of your acronyms by purposely getting all the first names wrong. I hate to explain and thereby ruin the point of a joke, but, alas, you have made it necessary

    On a more serious note: A good example of a contemporary figure who has crossed the boundaries between Rabbinics and Tanakh is Rabbi Avraham Shoshanah the head of Machon Ofek. He is in the process of finishing a very important annotated edition of of the Sifra, with all the traditional commentaries, has edited many other works of Rabbinics, and withal has written a quite fine commentary, al derekh ha-peshat, on Sefer Shoftim. IIRC– forgive the acronym!– Rabbi Mordecai Gifter notes this unusual aspect of Rabbi Shoshanah’s activity in his haskamah to the commentary.

  80. I have always been a huge fan of Daat Mikra. It opened up the world of Nach for me in a big way, guiding me through difficult language and unfamiliar geographical and historical terms. I first “discovered” it when I needed to study for the exceptionally difficult Tanach Iyun Bagrut.

  81. Daat Mikra would have a 2nd life, perhaps, if they sold a PDF version of the books (a shelf of traditional books is neither cheap to produce, distribute or buy).

  82. “Cute, but despite the manifold flaws of the book (applying lomdus to history?) if you think that RNK sat down in 1999 and made up the stuff about the Malbim and so forth, as opposed to recording actual traditions regarding ways in which people in Lita thought about the Malbim, then you are mistaken. A lot of people probably don’t want to know this stuff, or if they already knew it don’t want other people to know it. I mean, with the old Litvaks almost all dead, these things almost went down to the grave with them, but RNK put it all in English.”

    Some of the stories he recounts are real traditions that reflect the historical reality and some are not. The fact that RNK heard this story from someone doesn’t mean it reflects historical reality. The fact that you believe it and also believe it reflects a general attitude to the malbim absent any external evidence reflects your own biases, not that the story ever happened or if it did, that it reflects the general perception of the malbim in his time. Some of what is related in making of a gadol is material that is well-attested to (or in keeping with what is well-attested to )that some people don’t want to believe, and some of it is agenda-driven post-hoc interpretations of intepretations of something someone maybe once heard.

  83. Regarding crossing boundaries: in the Torah world today, it may be important to establish one’s bona fides as a talmid chakham in Talmud, before publishing on Tanakh.

    I once heard it said — and this may be apocryphal — that this is the reason R. Meir Simcha of Dvinsk published the Or Sameach first, and only later published the Meshekh Chokhma.

  84. Larry Kaplan-a number of years when I decided to learn Mesilas Yesharim, I purchased R A Shoshanah’s edition. It is truly a superb work.

  85. R Eli wrote in part:

    “aiwac/Steve: When you talk about “cold, detached” and “smugly superior,” I have no idea whether you are thinking about specific individuals or a stereotype of some academic-type figure. From the small sampling of speakers that I heard (less than 5% of the total), there were only passionate and inspiring teachers who revere Tanakh as devar Hashem”

    Thanks for an enlightening discussion. One means of reducing the concerns expressed by Aiwac and myself would be simply by using such terminology as Avraham Avinu or Moshe Rabbeinu, which show appreciation for the Avos, Imahos and the Rabban Shel Yisrael.

  86. huh >The fact that RNK heard this story from someone doesn’t mean it reflects historical reality.

    It means it reflects historical reality that some people said/ believed/ thought this.

    What possible bias do I have against the Malbim? Did I say that I believed he was somehow a lesser talmid chochom because I believe that some people in Lithuania 100 years ago thought that, which was of course reflective of their own attitudes – which is the whole point of the story, and why I brought it up in the first place? Now you say he didn’t make it up, but his informants (he mentions his father here) did? Kindly prove that assertion please.

    I made distinctions between the author/ compilers pilpuls and what he is commenting on. If his informants told him X, Y, and Z – and they were there and you were not – then there is a very good chance that they did not make it up on the spot. “They used to say this” doesn’t mean that “this” happened, but it probably means “they used to say this.”

    Taken together these things, as well as with their confluence with other sources, means just what I said: much of it is true. You yourself say this, so I don’t know what your problem is. No one treats the book like its from the Tannaim, not to take it literally and not to be an apikores and skeptical toward it. The one inescapable thing is that the book is full of plenty of things that are true because that’s how they happened, or true in the sense that it’s what people said and believed about things in those times and places. It’s also true what I said that many of these things were out in the air and not revelations, but you couldn’t find it in a book.

  87. R Eli Clark wrote:

    “Steve: Regarding Shemot 19, I find you to be constantly shifting positions. Rather than continue to chase you around the field, I will reiterate R. Shama’s original point: nowhere does Shemot 19 speak of mitzvot or chukkim and mishpatim, in stark contrast to Devarim 4”

    If one accepts the idea that the purpose of Sefer Devarim is TSBP and that it operates under a completely different set of rules in terms of interpretation than the other books of the Chumash, I think that the original question is answered quite well. I think that a strong case can be made that the only logical meaning of Devarim is is that the same is shorthand for “mitzvot or chukkim and mishpatim”.

  88. Re MOAG-ask yourself a simple question-which gives the reader a better picture of the milieu-MOAG or any of the overly santizized hagiographies out there?

  89. “It means it reflects historical reality that some people said/ believed/ thought this. ”

    It means he heard this story. A- it’s completely unclear the story ever happened. More importantly, even if it did, and we take this to be R Yisrael Salanter’s opinion, B- the story is not necessarily a reflection of the general opinion of the malbim in his time or in times in which the story circulated.

    “Now you say he didn’t make it up, but his informants (he mentions his father here) did? Kindly prove that assertion please”

    My point is both that there is reason to be skeptical of stories heard from someone who heard from someone, and that these stories, even if true, need to be put in context, including the context of other stories that someone heard from someone. You take the story to be reflective of a general attitude to the malbim and I see no evidence for that.

    I’ve heard that the malbim himself complained that writing this pirush was a drain on his time. I’ve also heard that R Elyashiv complains that communal involvement is a drain on his time, and therefore sharply limits the amount of time he devotes to discussing communal issues. I’m willing to believe both men complained of distraction. But the general perception of R Elyashiv is not that he is someone whos learning is suffering from devoting X amount of time to the tzibur, or would suffer much if he devoted X plus time, and the general perception of the malbim was that he was one of the gedolei hador… and the malbim was a man beset by enemies, such that if they wished to denigrate his learning and there was much basis to, they would have.

    “Taken together these things, as well as with their confluence with other sources, means just what I said: much of it is true.”

    I see no confluence with other sources. You haven’t brought any external evidence that the malbim was viewed as someone whose halachic expertise suffered due to his devotion to tanach study. If all the evidence for this perception is from MOAG, surely the stories in MOAG need to be put in context; the stories themselves are not the context.

    My original comment may have been harsh, but you are treating MOAG as though it is the only source of information on the general attitudes of past generations. this is hardly the case.

    As an aside, R Yaakov Kaminetsky tended on occasion to be idiosyncratic in his view of famous figures. Just as an example, someone told me that R Yaakov Kaminetsky told him (i.e. this story is second-hand, that I happen to believe b/c I know the person, though you probably shouldn’t) that it’s a great shame that R Boruch Ber became a talmid of R Chaim because he was a big illuy and it stunted his growth to absorb his derech. Now maybe one can make an argument for this and maybe not, but its hardly a representative view of members of R Yaakov’s generation of talmidei chachomim. Similarly, it’s possible that R Yaakov took an idiosyncratic view of a story from R Yisrael Salanter. I’ve heard other views from RYKaminetsky both second- and first-hand that were quite idiosyncratic and atypical of his generation. I doubt I’m alone in thinking that any number of his views were idiosyncratic – I don’t mean to say wrong, simply atypical for his generation. His generation tolerated deviance from the general consensus much better than ours, but part of understanding that means understanding that any given personality’s view was not necessarily the general view.

    It’s certainly possible that I’m simply unaware that there was a perception of the malbim as someone whose learning suffered due to his devotion to tanach. But I’d like to see some other evidence for this – that’s all. Otherwise, I continue to think that you are placing weight on a story that it simply can’t bear.

    Regarding this:
    “What possible bias do I have against the Malbim?”

    Don’t all maskilim hate the malbim?:-/ I don’t think you are biased against the malbim at all. I think you are biased toward the assumption that people of his time thought he traded off talmud study for tanach study.

  90. “I don’t think he meant specifically that. In general, I get the point, the criticisms of MOAG. But a lot of it clearly is not fanciful at all. A lot of it is exactly what the lomdim circles in Lita schmuessed about 70, 100, and 150 years ago and the point is that you could not know this stuff from a book – except only that now you can.”

    that artzos hachaim is a work that deals with limited material is an entirely different claim than that the malbim was “unable to excel in halacha.” What version of the story circulated 70, 100 and 150 years ago? From whom did RNK hear “unable to excel in halacha” or is that his own interpretation?

  91. On good information,I was told that Rav Moshe would learn from 4:45 am t 5:30 am everyday Nach.He was a Baki in Nach and all its meforshim.

  92. Just for edification. Harav Ahron Lchtenstein,Shlit”a is the Rector of Herzog College and has final say on who and what can be taught and what lectures are given during Shavua HaTanach.
    Obviously there is wide latitude, within limits, with regard to Parshanus.

  93. Eli Clark,
    The Mir and Ponovezh(the originator) have a Yarchei Kallah.

    The CC gave the Malbim (many years his senior)mussar for spending so much time on Nach.

  94. On a softcopy Da’at Mikra, btw, this is still an active link on the web: http://faculty.biu.ac.il/~barilm/daatmikr.html. Not sure whether to laugh or cry…

  95. R Rli Clark-WADR to R Shama, I don’t think that his reading of Shmos 19:6 is supported by Rashi ( see also Mosif Rashi in the Meor Chumash op cit) one interpretation of Ramban ( not Bris Avos, but rather separation from the nations) , Ibn Ezra ( Laasos Mitzvosa)l Seforno ( Lkabel aleihem HaTorah vHaMitzvos)or Rashbam ( Vcol Haamim sheli, vloa Bcharti Im Eschem Lvadchem). I understand that R Shama is basing his approach on the repetition of the word “Devarim”, but IMO, asserting that per se without the surrounding context or any other view IMO is not persusasive.

  96. “The most recent running commentary on Nakh from a recognized Gadol is that of Malbim, which was published in 1867. ”

    I believe R’ Zalman Sorotzkin was a recoginized gadol. He wrote the Oznaim Latorah on Tanakh

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zalman_Sorotzkin

  97. Steve Brizel (August 11, 2011 at 5:28 pm): Zvi Lampel-WADR, Bekius is not the same as publishing a running commentary

    Steve, the sefarim I mentioned are published running commentaries on Nach.

  98. R. Yitzchak Sorotzkin wrote Rinas Yitzchak on all of Tanakh, although he focuses on halakhic issues related to the verses.

  99. R. Clark: “Re strange stories about the Malbim. According to Otzar Yisrael, toward the end of his life, he was invited by the community of New York to be the Chief Rabbi of the United States. But his followers would not let him risk the journey at his advanced age (69).”

    Rabbi Rakeffet reports (link below, at 6:40 ff.) that the Malbim did accept the offer to become Chief Rabbi, and even commenced the journey to New York. However, he died en route in Romania in 1879, before he could make it to the German port from which he was planning sail to the U.S. (I am not questioning the Otzar Yisrael, just flagging this alternate account.)

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/751273/Rabbi_Aaron_Rakeffet-Rothkoff/2010-10-11_JH_06_-_Mordechai_Kaplan_and_Yeshiva_University

  100. A brief scan of books.google.com supports the view that the Malbim refused the position (and subsequently fell ill and died). See e.g. http://tinyurl.com/3bqgdfp.

  101. I believe that the cited lecture of Dr Shama, as summarized by R. Eli Clark, in emphasizing the difference between the recounting of the theophany at Sinai in Exodus and Deuteronomy is overdrawn. Certainly there is a difference in perspective between a contemporary account of that seminal event and a recounting of the same event some 40 years later to a new generation. However, the idea of mitzvot was certainly a key factor in the original account, as well. Striking a covenant with GOD entails accepting the obligation to follow His commands. Nor are those commands limited to what was written on the tablets, but included, initially, also the content of parshat Mishpatim. The official covenant was made after hearing Moshe’s reading of the mitzvot in that parsha. Moreover, the evident understanding of the text – particularly in Deuteronomy is that the people heard and understood all of the aseret hadibrot, i.e., there was no intermission – the people fearfully spoke to Moshe only at the end. As to some differences in wording between the aseret hadibrot and the reaction of the people in Exodus and Deuteronomy, that is a result of Moshe using the opportunity before his death to inculcate themes and messages that he considered vital for the people about to enter the Promised Land. Moreover, it is characteristic of the torah’s narrative that the several accounts of the same event complement one another and lead to a greater understanding of the event.

  102. Y. Aharon, I agree with you. I sometimes wish someone would go through the effort of removing the mitzvot from Shemot, and the details of the Mishkan, so that people could more easily see the variety of descriptions of Matan Torah within Shemot itself.

    Moses says in Chapter 15 regarding the people not listening to his laws and statues, in relation to Shabbat. Chapter 19 we are told the begining of Matan Torah. Then Chapters 21 – 23 are ‘random laws’, and then starting in chapter 24 Matan Torah is partially described again, (or is finished being described) Then Chapters 25- 30 is all about the Mishkan… then Chapter 31 talks about Moshe coming down the mountain and the golden calf. Then the Story continues until chapter 35, where we again are told about the Mishkan until the end of the sefer.

    That both Mishpatim and the Mishkan are sandwiched between the Matan Torah narrative I believe is neglected. To me, the significance is obvious, but it seems I am in the minority with that view.

  103. How many running commentaries are there throughout history on Nach vs. Gemara/Halachah? Can anyone list 15 running commentaries on all of Nach from any time in history that don’t appear in a contemporary Mikraos Gedolos?

    If you take the Netziv’s commentary in all areas (especially, but not limited to, Haamek and Harchev Davar) on verses in Nach, you can easily compile a brilliant Peirush on Nach. (Besides that there is a volume of the Netziv’s commentary on Nach.) The Rinah Shel Torah on Shir Hashirim is a classic in its own right.

  104. Moish: here are 15 running commentaries, listed in no particular order. Admittedly, I broke the rules by including things that appear in the Mikraot Gedolot.

    Rashi, Radak, Metzudat David and Metzudat Tzion (both by Rabbi Yechiel Hillel Altschuler), Ralbag, Ibn Ezra, the Gra,
    Abarbanel, Alshich, R’ Moshe David Valle (a talmid of the Ramchal), Me’am Loez, Da’at Mikra (modern), Da’at Soferim (modern), Nechama Leibowitz (modern), Mussar Hanevi’im (modern, but only on nevi’im rishonim).

    There’s also Torah She’Beal Peh on NACH by Rabbi Menachem Zev Stern, which collects midrashim and gemaras on nach.

    Maybe by looking through hebrewbooks.org, I we can find more that have been forgotten about, and maybe if we include things that cover only a few books, we can get more coverage as well.

  105. Ken, my point is that throughout history there has been a glaring paucity of running commentary on all of Nach. So proving that today we Orthodox are not engaged in Nach by dint of a lack of a running commentary is not much of a proof.

  106. “I believe R’ Zalman Sorotzkin was a recoginized gadol. He wrote the Oznaim Latorah on Tanakh”

    No, only on Chamisha Chumshei Torah.

    “R. Yitzchak Sorotzkin wrote Rinas Yitzchak on all of Tanakh, although he focuses on halakhic issues related to the verses.”

    But its not a running commentary the way the Malbim is. Regardless, I love it!

    What about Nachalas Shimon al Nach? I don’t think its meets the criteria of being a running commentary – similar to Rinas Yitzchak.

  107. It is a bit ironic that R. Clark asks why there is a dearth of Tanach (with an emphasis on Nach, we can only assume) study in the Orthodox world– and then proceeds to devote a column to (rather insightful) parshanut. The topics from Herzog college range from Isaiah 9 to Psalm 30 and Daniel, but nothing that exotic was reported on in the column.

    My peers, after spending their pre-College year in Israel some 10 years ago, returned from the various yeshivot with troves of Torah- but none of them studied Nach. Young adults I talk to at shul do not report having learned Nach while in Yeshiva for their post-high school year.

    In 2008, I heard one prominent talmud teacher at a Jerusalem Yeshiva remark about what kids study on their year in Israel. He spoke quietly about how most of his peers would rather teach Rambam’s Moreh than teach Nach (and that no Yeshiva in Jerusalem that he knew of taught Moreh Nevuchim).

    I think the question of the paucity of Nach study is a complex one. I think that it is a dangerous one to ask as well, since it gets to the very core of what lessons Nach teaches and how those lessons may be at odds with parts of Orthodox thought today. But that’s just a guess; I’m certainly open to hearing other ideas.

  108. “I think the question of the paucity of Nach study is a complex one. I think that it is a dangerous one to ask as well, since it gets to the very core of what lessons Nach teaches and how those lessons may be at odds with parts of Orthodox thought today.”

    Dov,

    How exactly could Nach be dangerous?

  109. never read it, have you? it’s all zionist propaganda. Israel this and Jerusalem that. It postulates an eternal cosmic connection between the Land of Israel and the Jews, and even intimates that it is a mitzvah to live there! It pictures Jews doing very un-Jewish things, like farming, fighting in the army, falling in love. Despite all the medrash on these topics, you simply can’t find specific reference to the Bet Midrash of Shem v’Ever, David Hamelech’s Bet Din, stuff like that. It’s just not a very Jewish book.

  110. Um, the Torah is no less guilty of this, with all its stress on “entering the country” and establishing a permaenet home for God, the promise to the Patriarchs to give the land &c.

    Seriously, what are you going to do, ban the whole Tanach?

  111. you’re right! you’re right! the torah too!!! from now on, the kitzur shulchan aruch on mondays and thursdays and the “real thing” on shabbes!

  112. As disparate as R’E.Henkin and R’Dr.Breuer were of the view that one should not study Nach until he is thoroughly grounded in
    Halacha and TSHB”P.
    It should not be ironic that R’Dr.Breuer,masterful though he was in Nach, chose to have never visited Is.

  113. aiwac-
    “How exactly could Nach be dangerous?” That is exactly the question at hand, and an excellent one at that. I don’t have an answer I can cite based on facts, I only have a few guesses.

    That it is dangerous seems to be the verdict within contemporary Orthodoxy- as evidenced by a pronounced lack of studying Nach. If it isn’t so, why is it not studied at more Yeshivot?

  114. Dov,

    “That it is dangerous seems to be the verdict within contemporary Orthodoxy- as evidenced by a pronounced lack of studying Nach. If it isn’t so, why is it not studied at more Yeshivot?”

    Uh, it wasn’t really studied in yeshivot for centuries before. It just wasn;t considered important enough.

  115. awaic-

    If you are correct about Nach study in Yeshivot in previous eras, then perhaps the appropriate response to R. Clark is a respectful “What are you worried about? We never studied Nach all that much in previous eras. It’s not a lack at all.”

    Respectfully, even if that was the attitude in past eras, I find it difficult to accept the notion that Nach is not important enough to merit serious study on the Yeshiva level in our day. Too many students know of Tanach, as one kollel member put it to me, as “that book where all the quotes in the Gemarah come from.”

    From my perspective, I don’t think the modern lack of Nach study is accidental or based on prior patterns of pedagogy. I think that Nach has powerful stories and concepts that are found threatening by those portions of Orthodoxy that teach every midrash as literal truth and that discourage evaluative, independent and synthetic questioning in students. That’s certainly not the entire frum world, of course. But it is enough to make Nach seem suspect, or in other words, not important enough to be studied in Yeshivot today. This attitude of treating Nach for most talmidim as a set of books best left closed is why Herzog College’s Tanach event remains the exception and not the rule.

  116. Dov,
    R’Dr.Breuer held of the Hirschian ‘Esezestrau’-not to take midrashim literally,and opposed teaching of Nach in the system.

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