Continuing from the previous post discussing the extra day Moshe added “me’da’ato”, whether we learn like Tosfos or like the Maharal, Moshe’s interpretation of Hashem’s command was accepted by Bnei Yisrael. R’ Elchanan in Koveitz Divrei Sofrim asks why this should have been the case. Since the command of “lo tasur”, which grants authority to Chazal, had not yet been given, there seems to be no basis upon which to accept the authority of Rabbinic interpretation, even coming from Moshe Rabeinu!
As discussed in the past, R’ Elchahan suggests that the authority for Rabbinic interpretation is not rooted in “lo tasur”, but is rooted in our assumption that Chazal have the ability to intuit the will of Hashem. It naturally follows that if one is privy to Hashem’s will, one should seek to fulfill it.
R’ Elchanan offers a number of proofs for his thesis, among them: 1) the fact that takanos and gezeiros existed before matan Torah, before “lo tasur” was commanded; 2) the fact that a katan is obligated in mitzvos derabbanan as part and parcel of chinuch even though a katan is not bound by “lo tasur”; 3) the punishment of Balak for participating in the attempt to curse Bnei Yisrael even though there was never a formal command from G-d for him not to go to Bila’am.
I would like to suggest a possible additional proof based on a question R’ Elchanan himself raises elsewhere but which he does not connect back to this discussion. The gemara (Gittin 56) relates that before the churban, the Emperor sent a korban to the Mikdash to be offered. A traitor had caused a blemish in the korban rendering it unfit, knowing that if the korban was not offered it would arouse the anger of the Emperor against the Jewish people. The Chachamim were at first willing to offer the korban despite the blemish because of “shalom malchus”, the need for peace. However, R’ Zecharya ben Avkolus argued against bringing the korban lest people think a defective korban can be brought. The gemara concludes that because of R’ Zecharya’s unwavering position the Mikdash was eventually destroyed. R’ Elchanan (Koveitz He’Oros #48) questions the sevara of R’ Zecharya. Concern lest people think a blemished korban is acceptable is a chashash derabbanan. Weighed against pikuach nefesh, there would seem to be no doubt that the saving of life should take precedence and the korban allowed. Why then was R’ Zecharya insistent that the chashash derabbanan be upheld despite the danger? R’ Elchanan seems unable to arrive at a firm answer to this question, but what R’ Elchanan was unwilling to say is actually spelled out by someone else. Sha’arei Yosher has a table of contents summarizing each chapter of each sha’ar. In the content table for the last chapter of sha’ar #4, the editor snuck in a chiddush (I assume this is the editor’s own summary and not R’ Shimon Shkop’s chiddush). He writes that the lav of “lo tasur” clearly must override pikuach nefesh. Since Chazal take the license of explaining the parameters of halachos that require ye’hareig v’al ya’avor, even extending the obligation to cases that are not apparent from the plain reading of the text, apparently one has no right to argue that pikuach nefesh overrides “lo tasur” undermining Chazal’s interpretive authority. The argument boils down to a reduction ad absurdum consideration, but missing is an explanation of why this should be so. Why indeed does pikuach nefesh not override “lo tasur” and undermine Rabbinic authority? I think the answer goes back to R’ Elchanan’s basic principle -- Rabbinic authority transcends “lo tasur” and stems directly from an intuition of the ratzon Hashem. If it is Hashem’s will that we sacrifice our lives, all pikuach nefesh bets are off. Obviously not all scenarios are equal in this regard, as pikuach nefesh does usually override dinim derabbanan. I cannot formulate a rule that would clarify why a case like R’ Zecharya ben Avdolus’s scenario is an exception and other cases not, but I think this approach does shed like on the operative mechanism behind how such exceptions work.
See, I told you there would be new stuff to this topic… more yet to come.