Monday, October 15, 2012

thinking like Tosfos

1. Last post we discussed the significance of Adam's name coming from the word "adamah," dirt.  I just wanted to add that we can now better appreciate Hashem's words to Adam upon expelling him from Gan Eden.  Hashem tells Adam that he must now work "ha'adamah asher lukach mi'sham."  What is this dirt taken from Gan Eden that Adam had to labor over?  Answers the Sefes Emes: It was Adam himself.  

2. The Belzer Rebbe, R' Sar Shalom, has a wonderful psychological insight based on a careful reading of the pesukim.  When Hashem commanded Adam not to eat from the eitz ha'da'as, He specified the tree by its exact name -- "M'eitz ha'da'as tov v'ra lo tochal mimenu," "Do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil."  However, when Chavah  told the snake what Hashem had commanded, she does not name the tree, but instead only obliquely refers to it, saying that, "M'pri ha'eitz asher b'toch ha'gan... lo tochlu mimenu," she could not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden (3:3). 

Chavah was torn between the temptation to eat from the tree and the knowledge that Hashem had referred to the tree as "tov v'ra," as good and evil.  This created a horrible feeling of cognitive dissonance that Chavah tried to escape by avoiding naming the tree.  It was no longer the source of "tov v'ra," but just another tree in the middle of the garden. 
The snake recognized the significance of Chavah's inability to name the tree and immediately capitalized on the situation.  He told Chavah that once she ate, "V'hiyisem k'Elokim yod'ei tov v'ra," she would possess knowledge like G-d himself (3:5).  He reduced Chavah's cognitive dissonance even further by explaining away the troublesome phrase of "tov v'ra" as not being a description of moral confusion that would result from eating, but rather a description of the potential knowledge that Chavah would come to possess.  Chavah could now persuade herself that there was in fact nothing really wrong with eating and give into temptation.

Most of us know what's wrong is wrong, but we want to do it anyway, so we also work out our cognitive dissonance by avoidance, by explaining things away, and all kinds of other defense mechanisms to avoid facing reality.  Things don't change much in the battle with the yetzer ha'ra.

3. I apologize for most of the blogging being reduced to short stuff on the parsha -- I just don't have much time, so hopefully this is better than nothing.  I haven't had time to write an amazing pshat in a Rambam that R' Naftoli Jeager, Rosh Yeshiva of Shor Yoshuv, said in his leil hoshana rabbah shiur, but I want to mention something else he related which is easier to write over.  He said that once visited R' Elyashiv and the person he was with told R' Elyashiv a story about the Nachalas Dovid (I have heard the same story told about R' Chaim for whatever that's worth).  Someone quoted a chiddush from a  Tosfos to the Nachalas Dovid, but the Nachalas Dovid insisted that Tosfos said no such thing.  No matter how much the person protested that he remembered the Tosfos, the Nachalas Dovid would not listen.  Finally, they got a gemara and checked and sure enough the Nachalas Dovid was right.  The Nachalas Dovid told the person that he should not think that he, the Nachalas Dovid, knows every Tosfos in shas by heart.   What he does know is how Tosfos thinks.  Therefore, he was certain Tosfos could never say what this person was putting in Tos mouth.

RavElyashiv said that he does not believe this story is true.  It is impossible for us to fathom the depths of how a Tosfos thinks, how a Rishon thinks, how an Amora thinks, how a Tanna thinks.  A person can never be 100% sure that they know what went on in Tosfos' mind and therefore say it is impossible for Tos to have said something.  All we can do is try to analyze what we know they do say and try to arrive at some understanding of their words.  

R' Jaeger went on to give an example from a sugya in Sukkah of a gemara that is nearly incomprehensible on a level of pshat to illustrate how the amkus of Chazal is simply on a level that we cannot fathom.  No matter how sharp a person is, there is always something more that is unknown, proving that ultimately we fall short of truly thinking like the giants of the past.

If this is true of the Nachalas Dovid, if it's true of R' Elyashiv, need I say this is true for lesser folks as well?  

4. Looking ahead to Noach: I haven't really looked around too much yet, so this is just thinking out loud.  I don't know why the Torah tells us that Shem and Yefes placed the garment they used to cover Noach on their shoulders when they walked backward towards him to cover his nakedness (9:23), but what really bothers me is the hey hayediya in that pasuk -- they took "ha'simlah," the garment.  Is there some particular garment the Torah is referring to?  Why not a garment -- why the garment?  

Gut chodesh!


  1. I don't really understand the question in #1. You seem to be assuming "ha'adamah asher lukach m'sham" is referring to Gan Eden - the place he was taken from.

    But isn't the simple understanding that it is referring to the ground - which he was created from?

  2. I like #2 (not to the exclusion of the others).

    I imagine though that the dilemma facing Chava was more than just temptation vs. moral confusion upon eating fruit. I would think that G-D's command would be the deterrent, not the fact that there would be a negative result.

    As a side point, what was their understanding of "ra"? If they only got their Yetzer Hara, and understanding of tov v'ra, after the sin - then what did chava think tov v'ra was? How in fact did she know it meant moral confusion?


  3. Anonymous3:04 AM

    1. better to do mussar l'chatchillah, lest man come to sin--
    la'avode et-ha'adamah, 2:5

    4. "the" garment of adam ha'rishon that Noach received, that Shem & Yefes
    passingly render a secondary garment by draping it over their own clothed
    shoulders; secondary, because their father was 'not' naked to them, 'not'
    lacking primary clothing (they passed him an overcoat, as it were)...

  4. re: #4 -- I haven't looked at the מתנות כהונה over there in בראשית רבה לו ו but it could be that the השמלה is the reason chazal darshen שממנו זכה לטלית. It would actually explain the language of זכה לטלית and not זכה לציצית nicely.

  5. forgot to add the link for B"R

  6. >>>isn't the simple understanding that it is referring to the ground - which he was created from?

    Exactly why the Sefas Emes' reading is creative and insightful.

    Take a look at the Mizrachi or Gur Aryeh too. The talis is a beged of kavod; it is the reward for showing kavod by covering Noach with a beged. I am not sure how you would explain why Yefet was zocheh to kevurah (also a function of dignity) if it is all based on the hey of hasimla.

    I was thinking though that your diyuk answers a stira in Rashi. Rashi later writes that Avraham was zocheh to tzitzis because he said that he will not take m'chut ad seroch na'al. The meforshei Rashi (actually even earlier the Tur asks it) ask that we see already here that Shem was zocheh in tzitzis and Avraham was his descendent. Maybe you can answer that here he was zocheh to the beged; later he was zocheh to the tzitis strings.

  7. What gemara in Sukkah did R Jaeger say is incomprehensible?

  8. regarding the story with Adam's name- I remember a certain flaming baal gaava that was asked how he could say Nafshi Ke'afar lakol tihyeh in the end of shmoneh esrei. He answered that he has in mind the afar in midtown manhattan.

    As far as not being able to know what tosfos can or can't say, I would suggest that while it's impossible to anticipate what tosfos would say, you can always recognize a krumkeit and know what tosfos wouldn't say. Even if it's not 100% krum, it could be too krum for tosfos and still be fine for many achronim. My father told me that there was a talmid of Slabodka in Europe that was in love with the Rshba and knew every rashba available, and he would recognize after one sentence whether something was authored by the Rashba or not.

  9. chaim b.9:26 PM

    sass -- the example he gave was sukkah 36b R' Yehudah's kal v'chomer from 4 minim to sukkah to learn that schah must be made from the 4 minim davka.

    B - I assume that the N.D. (or R' Chaim) was speaking to someone who was also a bar hachi to know the difference between krumkeit and a Tosfos. There are plenty of difficult Tosfos in sha"s -- we know that it's Tosfos so we struggle to say some hesber, but if we were told the same sevara without identifying the source, would we work so hard to understand it? I doubt it.

    I remember once hearing R' Goldvicht from KBY saying in the name of the Brisker Rav to explain why it is that sometimes a Tosfos will say what sounds like a weak sevara to distinguish between two cases while some acharon says a chiluk that sounds like tremendous lomdus: We are like blind people feeling our way in a dark room. Sometimes the blind person will think he found the way out because he feels a huge opening, but he is actually just walking into the closet. The person who can see recognizes that what feels like a little crack in the wall is actually the door.

    1. Great analogy- one guy opens the door to a closet and thinks he found the way out, another sees a slim line of light on the floor and knows how to go.