Friday, January 18, 2008

Our attitude towards the Gemara, Rishonim, and Achronim - R' Kook

There is an interesting exchange going on at Seforim on this topic. This is a fascinating topic and one I can literally write volumes on.

I will begin with a quote of R' A. Y. Kook Zt"l. On the well known Talmudic phrase אם הראשונים כמלאכים אנו כבני אדם אם הראשונים כבני אדם אנו כחמורים - ולא כחמורו של פנחס בן יאיר

A popular explanation is that if in our eyes the Rishonim are like Malachim then in truth we are people. But if we view the Rishonim as people on more or less the same level as ourselves then we are no more then donkeys who have no understanding.

R' Kook explained it otherwise, He writes if the Rishonim are like Malachim - that as much as we respect them and realize their worth - we don't allow them to affect our "Bechira" (free will) then we are in truth people. But if the Rishonim are in our eyes like people that we allow them to affect our free will (e.g. we do not question their explanations and methods) then we are no more then animals - who also have no free will.

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