Friday, March 17, 2006

Censorship by Chazal and Chachamim - when appropriate?

The Mishna at the end of the 4th perek of Pesachim tells us that the Chachamim approved of the "geniza" of Sefer Refuos by Chizkiyahu haMelech. Rashi explains that the Sefer Refuos was a book of remedies for sickness - in other words, a medical textbook - and the Chachamim were concerned lest people become overreliant on medicine and neglect tefillah and bitachon. (The Rambam has quite a different view - see Chazon Ish in Emunah U'Bitachon who has a careful analysis).
I am simply throwing out the question: when medicine, science, or "knowledge" of some type has the potential to lead people astray from halacha or belief, under what circumstances should there be censorship or "geniza"?
Is this the type enactment only Chazal could make, or is this in the hands of the chachamim of each dor to determine? What are the bounderies?
This concern was raised specifically in the times of Chizkiyahu haMelech, about whose generation the gemara in Sanhedrin tells us that even "tnok v'tinkoes" knew hilchos tumah v'tahara. Should we draw a kal v'chomer and be more concerned for our lesser dor, or could one argue that specifically because there was hightened religious awareness, the Sefer Refuos became "obsolete" (so to speak), but when science and secular knowledge is more prevelant, censorship is determental?


  1. Anonymous8:56 AM

    No one is allowed to go to college. Ever. See my comments to Meseches Kiddushin.

    - Rav Baruch Bear

  2. Anonymous11:36 AM

    Haven't there been times when even great men overstepped bondaries in their zealousness and burned books? I have been told that R' Yonah wrote his famous work on teshuba in part as his own teshuva for participating in burning the Rambam's seforim.

    Today the frum position seems to be that children and even adults should not be exposed to what may compromise their faith. Hence the Artscroll science text books which filter out anything objectionable -- much like the Artscroll Literature textbooks do. I understand why they do it, but the problem is what happens once the child grows up and drops his yeshiva-imposed blinder. (He doesn't have to go to college for that , only to pick up some books, periodicals, etc.)

  3. Anonymous10:30 AM

    We should remember what the CI told R Elchanan, that for every maamar chazal he brings in favor of a particular public policy decision, he can bring a proof to the opposite, and that the way to decide public policy issues is based on what seems right for that dor, not by bringing raayos from this or that aggadah.