Shelach 5754

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  1. I wonder how R Hirsch uses the Rambam’s shitta about the Techeiles being the eighth (or equally the first) thread, when he’s a daas yachid, the alternatives being four or two. Somehow, it bothers me that homiletics is so loose, there is so little accountability. But I guess that with the idea of ayin panim, one could say that the Rambam’s shitta was intended as one of the inherent possibilities of the Torah, so its symbolic portent matters, irrespective of the numerous and disparate alternatives.

  2. micha says:

    Unfortunately, while Collected Writings III is on Google books with massive previews, the page I needed pg 130, isn’t available. But now I’m home, opened the book, and can quote R’ Hirsch.

    He just spent pages discussing the meaning of 8 and of tekheiles. He then closes the subsection פתיל תכלת with a mention of the Rambam:

    In view of the foregoing, there is no need for future explanation to show that the interpretation of the רמב״ם, according to which only the eighth thread was of תכלת color, accords fully with the symbolic significance of both the number eight and the תכלת color.

    So he really just gives meaning to the Rambam’s shittah, rather than meaning to the mitzvah.

    As for your suggestion, it would imply a more ambitious project — to propose a meaning for tzitzis that shows how all three positions highlight different aspects of the mitzvah.

    However, I would take it in a different direction, and I believe in 19 Letters, Rav Hirsch does as well. Rav Hirsch criticizes Wissenschaft des Jundentums (Scientific Judaism, by which he means the dominant Reform variant) as being more of an alchemy than a science. In alchemy, one has a theory of how the world ought to work, and performs “experiments” based on that theory. In science, one starts with experiments to collect data, and from that forms a theory. Similarly, a real W-chaft would not be reshaping halakhah based on philosophy. Rather, it would take the data of pesaq and find a hashkafah that explains it. As Chazal say, “ein doreshin taama diqera — we do not learn out halakhah from the reasons behind the verses.” Halakhah drives aggadita, not the other way around

    R YB Soloveitchik who refers to his exercises in taamei hamitzvos as homiletics (as you do) would demote them even further. They aren’t theories about meaning that are consistent with the halakhah, they have no causal connection at all. Rather than being proposed reasons, they are lessons one can take from the experience.

    I am not sure I personally would go that far. But then, that’s just one man’s taste.

    Anyway… I would say that if multiple positions are equally viable on a halachic-legal level, then why not lean in the direction of the one you understand better aggadically?

    And that’s not just me, that’s every ruling we have based on the Zohar, as well as numerous specifically Chassidic rulings.

    You imply that the Rambam’s 1/2 string tekheiles isn’t all that viable from a legal process perspective when you call it a daas yachid. But once we get past the rishonim, the mechaber (Kesef Mishnah on Tzitzis 1:6 — although since the KM predates the SA, R Yosef Caro might still be counted as a rishon) and the Chasam Sofer (shu”t 1:1) hold like the Rambam.

    It would also seem the Gra would hold like either the Rambam or the Raavad, depending on how you resolve his comments on Safra deTsniuta (chr 5, “shiv’ah rehitin”) vs those on the Zohar, (Pinechas 228b).

    The Tif’eres Yisrael (Menachos 4:1) explicitly narrows the field down to those two opinions.

    And kayadua, Radzin also follows the Rambam.

    So, I would not say the book is closed. I don’t think it could be this soon after the dispute took on a pragmatic (halakhah lemaaseh) dimension. I don’t think we count opinions on theoretical statements. Maybe I’m wrong. Still the acharonim show willingness to salvage the Rambam from marginalized “daas yachid” status.

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