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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Time Consciousness and the Mesorah

"Thus a situation has developed which is quite paradoxical in human terms: The barriers of the past have been pushed back as never before; our knowledge of the history of man and the universe has been enlarged on a scale and to a degree not dreamed of by previous generations. At the same time, the sense of identity and continuity with the past, whether our own or history's, has gradually and steadily declined. Previous generations knew much less about the past than we do, but perhaps felt a much greater sense of identity and continuity with it."
Hans Meyerhoff, Time in Literature. Quoted in Zachor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory, p 79 by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi
"When I sit down to learn, the giants of the masorah are with me. Our relationship is personal. The Rambam sits to my right, Rabbenu Tam to my left. Rashi sits at the head and explains, Rabbenu Tam asks, the Rambam decides the halakhah, and the Rabad objects. All of them are with me in my small room, sitting around the table…. Learning Torah is the intense experience of uniting many generations together, the joining of spirit to spirit, the connecting of soul to soul. Those who transmit the Torah and those who receive the Torah are invited to meet one another at the same historic juncture."
Rav Soloveitchik, U-vikashtem Mi-Sham, p. 232


Micha Berger said...

From my post "Postmodernism and Mesorah" (

Mesorah is a living tradition of a development of ideas. The Oral Torah is oral, a dialog across the generations. If we see a quote in the gemara from Rav Yochanan, we might be curious about the historical intent of Rav Yochanan. But in terms of Torah, important to us than what R’ Yochanan’s original intent is what R’ Ashi thought that intent was, which in turn can only be understood through the eyes of what the Rosh and the Rambam understood R’ Ashi’s meaning to be, which in turn can only be understood through the eyes of the Shaagas Aryeh and R’ Chaim Brisker. That is the true meaning, in terms of Torah, of Rav Yoachanan’s statement.

Definitionally, talmud Torah is entering the stream. Not seeing a statement as a point to isolate in time and space, but as a being within current that runs through history from creation to redemption.

Yona said...

Thank you Micha. I had in mind your post when posting this. I also had in mind Dr Hayim Soloveitchik's Rupture and Reconstruction (which is currently featured on Torah Musings)

Micha Berger said...

I recommend R/Dr Moshe Koppel's treatment of the same themese as "Rupture". If you can get his Meta-Halakah, I would. (Especially if you have interest in computer theory.)

If not, try his English as a First Language, behind a free membership wall on Azure.