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From: Russell Hendel <RHendel@RO.HCFA.GOV> Date: Thu, 18 Apr 1996 13:06:45 -0500 Subject: Discipleship I would like to respond to David Riceman's question in Vol 23 # 63 and Jeff Mandin's response in Vol 23 #66 on discipleship. The question is: According to the Jewish tradition is a disciple best when they only learn what their teacher told them or when they deviate. I would like to suggest that the issue of IMITATING vs DEVIATING is not an issue in the PERSON but an issue in TIMING. Before I explain this, maybe an example would clarify it. The great Rambam started out in life by writing a PERUSH on the MISNAYOTH. He saw his goal as clarifying what was already there, not creating original halachoth. However in the Misheh torah which he wrote later he did several original or semi original things: He adjudicated in controversies; He also introduced several timed "It appears to me"; finally he is most famous for his comprehensive classification scheme (which of course DEVIATED from that of the Mishnah). Was the Rambam then an IMITATOR or a DEVIATOR? It seems to me he was both. Early in his life he was an imitator while later in his life he was a deviator. It is the time in ones development that legitimizes or prohibits deviation vs imitation. Returning to the main question let us examine sources: All rishonim agree that there are three components to learning: Learning TENACH, learning fixed halachah (usually mishnah), and learning Talmud, analysis and generalization of the fixed halachah. The rambam clearly identifies mishnah with FIXED HALACHAH and also clearly identifies TALMUD with: derivation from principles, perception of similarity and contrast, generalization etc. When MACHLOKETH does exist in the rishonim on this three fold approach it is only on timing (e.g. should you spend two days a week on tenach, two on mishnah, two on gemarrah, or should every day be broken up; when you know tenach and mishnah do you still spend three times a day etc). There is no controversy on requirement of three fold breaking up. But then the HALACHAH itself solves our problem: MISHNAH is an IMITATION stage. In fact: MISHNAH comes from SHANAH which means to IMITATE. The term undoubtedly comes from the famous SIFRE on VESHINNATAM LEVANECHAH...that the knowledge of halachah should be clear sharp statement summaries (like the sharpness of the TOOTH ---SHANAH--SHAIN). Clearly then every student is required to go thru this imitation STAGE when they learn the corpus of laws and minhagim and simply imitate their teacher. But halachah also encourages TALMUD. TALMUD includes GENERALIZATION which requires taking a fixed law and deviating from its fixedness and making a generalization. In fact all studies of reason involve classifications that imply chidusim (e.g other advocated reasons may differ in the case their is the "nafkah mina"). Since HALACHAH requires a TALMUD stage it is clear that all students must go thru this deviating stage. Note that even simply TALMUDIC activities like the derivation of fixed halachah from POSOOKIM may involve implications not found in the original halachah(and hence are deviations) Since both these aspects exist it becomes readily understanable how statements supporting each approach exist. However we emphasize that it is time not the person that causes the distinction. Any personwho has graduated from the MISHANAH stage should go to the TALMUD stage and create novelty. Since not everyone becomes a good talmudist we can understand why the IMITATORS will outnumber the DEVIATORS. Theoretically however everyone should go thru the two stages. There are certain statements in halachah which might indicate e.g. that a person should not enter a DEVIATING stage while his REBBE is alive unless he gives permission. This however does not contradict what we have said. It is true that the Rambam is the only rishon who EXPLICITLY states that after learning and Tenach and MIshnah one should learn Talmud all the time and only review tenach and mishnah when necessary....but the absence of an explicit statement in other rishonim doesn't mean they disagree. As a simple example, every BAAL KORAY knows that "the first year" one may spend 3 hours a day or 21 hours a week learning the PARSHAH. After doing this for 10 years or so it usually is sufficient to spend maybe a half hours or hour a day (3-7 hours a week) to get the same results. I don't know any POSAYK who would require someone to learn laining 21 hours a week independent of how well he knows the parashah. In conclusion: Everyone should spend the initial part of their life learning Tenach and fixed halachah. During this stage one should be an imitator. After one knows basic halachah one should concentrate entirely on talmud and make chidusim, generalizations, and distinctions as they see fit. Statements in the Talmudic literature supporting IMITATION vs DEVIATION should be interpreted to refer to a certain time in one's life and development and not as absolute statements. I hope the above discussion on Mishnah vs Talmud clarifies the matter sufficiently. Russell Jay Hendel Ph.d. ASA Dept of Math and COmputer Science Drexel Univ, Phil Pa rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu