Thursday, March 22, 2007

more on parshas parah, Rabbi Eliezer, and Moshe Rabeinu

I discussed in a previous post the Midrash that Moshe desired a son named Eliezer when he heard R’ Eliezer, the tanna, cited in Mishnayos Parah, and Josh weighed in on the same at parshablog. I happened across a R’ Tzadok that touches on the issue, but he does not elaborate in detail. From what I am able to gather, R’ Tzadok draws a dichotomy between the development of torah she-ba’al peh through human reasoning, which demands that we draw our own conclusions, and the giving of torah she-b’ksav which comes with pre-packages “right” answers. In the famous story of tanur shel achna’i (B.M. 59), the Chachamim argue with Rabbi Eliezer based on their interpretation of torah sheba’al peh, and declare “lo bashamayim hi”, that the process of interpretation guided by human intelligence, is supreme. Rabbi Eliezer, however, called on miraculous signs from Heaven to try to prove that his position was correct – he looked toward pre-packaged “right” answers, duplicating the torah sheb’ksav process. This story exposes the affinity between the “soul” of Rabbi Eliezer, and that of Moshe, the primary giver of torah sheb’ksav. Parah Adumah is the paradigm of the “chok”, a law which is unfathomable, which seems to prove that as great as man’s intellect is, there is a limit beyond which torah sheb’al peh cannot take us and we must rely on Heavenly revelation alone. Moshe Rabeinu saw all of Torah through the lens of the torah sheb’ksav process. When Moshe Rabeinu heard the shiur of Rabbi Akiva he was discomforted until hearing that all is really based on “halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai”. When Moshe Rabeinu heard the laws of Parah Adumah, especially as expressed by Rabbi Eliezer, who also typified that same torah sheb’kav approach, he wanted to preserve this paradigm of limud for future generations, and therefore called his son Rabbi Eliezer as well.


  1. Very nice. it is an interesting point as we have in all generations conservatives vs mechadshim. You can also note that R. Eliezer never said anything shelo shama mirabo in contrast with R. Akiva that was doresh al kol tag vetag.

    However Moshe told us al pi hatorah asher yorucha etc...

    He himself was mechadesh tens of thousands of new halachot as Rambam notes based on the gemara that 3000 were forgotten during his evel.

    Thus it is not so simple.

  2. >>>You can also note that R. Eliezer never said anything shelo shama mirabo

    hadn't thought of that gemara, good point

  3. Anonymous1:29 AM

    Just catching up on your blog, and wanted to wish you and yours mazel tov on your son's bar mitzva and much nachas from him and all your kids.