Wednesday, January 13, 2010

toras eretz yisrael vs. toras galus

There is an amazing Zohar on Parshas Shmos which darshens as follows:

Vayemareru es chayeihem b’avodah kasha
B’chomer – zu kal v’chomer
U’belveinim – zu libun halacha
U’b’chol avodas ha’sadeh – zu braysa.

R’ Nevenzal in his sichos on the parsha asks the obvious question: were the Egyptians throwing difficult gemaras and Rambam’s at the Jewish people? Is this the meaning of galus Mitzrayim?

In making the siyum on Yerushalmi I discussed some of the differences between the Bavli and Yerushalmi: 1) Differences in language: the Bavli refers to the language of the Yerushalmi as “lishna kelila” (B”K 6); 2) Corruption of the text: Rashba attributes the lack of study of Yerushalmi to the corrupt girsa and nusach; 3) Most importantly, there are differences in logic and methodology. The gemara (Sanhedrin 22) darshens “B’machshakim hoshivani” to refer to the Bavli; the gemara refers to the style of learning is Bavel as “makas chovlim” as opposed to the peaceful ways of the Yerushalmi. Many sugyos in the Yerushalmi leave off with unresolved questions; the gemara sometimes lets an Amora get off without explaining how his chidush fits with a Mishna or Braysa -- there is not the same sense of intellectual warfare in the Yerushalmi as there is in the Bavli. My brother-in-law commented in the same vein that we see the “darchei noam” of the Yerushalmi in one of the last halachos in the Yerushalmi, the case of a corpse which is rotten yet is still metamei (on a d’oraysa level!) because, explains the Yerushalmi, of kavod ha’adam. The entirety of the three Bava’s in Yerushalmi is barely equal in quantity of material to perek Chezkas haBatim in Baba Basra. The Bavli is concerned with sevara, intellectual debate and development of the halacha, while the Yerushalmi is far more concerned with derashos and mesorah, kabbalah of Torah in the sense of received knowledge. In contrast to Nezikin, Masechet Nazir with all its complex derashos and halachos that are not "sichli" is even longer in the Yerushalmi than it is in the Bavli.

Rav Kook in his Orot haTorah writes that the Yerushalmi is related more in its methodology to toras hanistar than the Bavli; he sees its roots in tefilah, direct engagement with G-d, rather than intellectual speculation. The Yerushalmi could develop only in Eretz Yisrael where the soil is blessed with the possibility of ruach ha’kodesh and nevuah. The Bavli, writes Rav Kook, is “torah hamishtameres”, which keeps us hanging in there in galus, but the Yerushalmi is “torah hamisbareches”.

Perhaps it is this distinction between the derech of learning unique to Eretz Yisrael and the derech of learning which developed as a result of our galus which the Zohar is trying to convey. The shakla v’terya, the layer upon layer of hava amina and maskana, the intellectual battles (and it’s interesting that the Zohar mentions kal v’chomer specifically, as this is the only one of the 13 midos that can be darshened based on logic alone without a mesorah) of the Bavli are all a result of the ohr of Torah being masked because of galus. Of course shibud Mitzrayim was all about physical hard work, but part of galus is also this intellectual shift, the demand for mental ameilus of a different kind to simply understand Torah.

The gemara relates that R’ Zeira fasted 100 fasts to forget what he learned in Bavel when he made aliya. (My son pointed out R' Zeira is highlighted in the last sugya in Horiyos as the exemplar of exceptional ability to be maksheh u'mefareik, so his transformation from a Bavli-Amora to a Yerushalmi thinker must have been a dramatic change.) The Talmud Yerushalmi is not simply another layer of learning, like starting to learn Tosfos on top of Rashi, or the Ran or Rashba in addition to Tosfos, otherwise why struggle to forget everything else? Talmud Yerushalmi in its ideal sense demands a different mindset, one that is fundamentally at odds with the galus-mentality thinking in learning that we are so familiar with.

v'Zhav ha’aretz ha’hi tov – zu toras Eretz Yisrael. Tzion b’misphat tipadeh = Talmud Yerushalmi in gematriya. The renewal of interest in the study of Yerushalmi, the Talmud of Eretz Yisrael, is a harbinger of geulah, as our intellectual kelim shift gears to once again absorb “torah hamisbareches” in a manner and form that can only be appreciated in Eretz Yisrael.

My brother-in-law noted that the first letter of the gemara and last letter in Yerushalmi (aleph and daled) spell aidv’aid ya’aleh min ha’aretz. We know that Eretz Yisrael is blessed first with the rains that then nourish the entire world, and so too, the bracha in learning comes first through Yerushalmi, the first layer of explication ever done on Mishnayos.

Nu, so today is the start of a new cycle, Brachos daf aleph (first thing to forget from the Bavli: all those vortlach you’ve heard about why the Talmud begins with daf beis) – dig in!


  1. Reb Chaim Zimmerman once told us that the reason Bavli says "ta shma" and Yerushalmi says "ta chazi" is because in Bavel, Torah is something that they heard from otehrs and which has to be analyzed and assimilated. In Eretz Yisrael, you don't just hear Torah, you simply look around you and you see the reality of Torah permeating the entire nof ve'ofek.

  2. chaim b.7:44 PM

    Nice vort. IIRC the Shem m'Shmuel says something like that. See here as well

  3. Reb Chaim Zimmerman didn't say nice vorts. He said "Ah shtarkeh vort," maybe, but not nice vorts.

    I hope you remember when you speak at many siyumim to come.