Re: The Sacrifice of Isaac

Yosey & Sima Goldstein (
Mon, 03 Feb 1997 19:32:10 EST

Andy Kohlenberg <> wrote:
<< In response to Saul Oresky's thoughtful comments about the Akeyda
(binding of Isaac) Yosey Goldstein (tf 94) wrote: to offer answers,
viewpoints and opinions based on just a reading of the text and without
having read through the basic commentaries on the Chumash, is not the path
to real understanding....... I disagree quite strongly with what Yosey
Goldstein is saying here. I say that reading and working out the meaning of
the narratives of the Torah, Prophets and Writings without reference to the
commentaries is most definitely the first leg of "the PATH to real
understanding". Only someone who has first read the Torah carefully, with
close attention to its details and its themes, and with great emotional
receptivity to its values and sentiments will truly appreciate the genius
of scriptures and the great commentators like Rashi.>>

To which Marc Abrams Added:
<< Surely even Yosey Goldstein must believe that there is a spiritual
impact to reading the text directly and wrestling with it personally.
Commentaries are absolutely necessary to a full understanding. But putting
the Commentaries aside from time to time and just confronting the text
directly is just as necessary. >>

I would like to address these comments with some further explanation of the
need to use Commentaries, and when one is not required to use commentaries.
It is true that Gedolim (Sages) learn thru TANACH putting Rashi, the Ramban,
The Ralbag et al to the side and come up with a new and innovative approach
to the words of Hashem as written by Moshe in the Torah and by the neviim /
prophets in "NACH". However, EVERY commentator has learned thru Tanach USING
those commentaries and have used the Torah outlook acquired thru learning
through the entirety of Torah (Tanach, Talmud, Midrashim etc.) Even when
giving the innovative approach it is firmly anchored in the truth of Torah.
Even when one comes up with a new explanation on a Posuk one MUST verify
the pshat is true, running the Pshat past your Rov, or other knowledgable
Torah scholar! To come up with some explanation on a posuk that is not
rooted in the Torah truth is not just a waste of time, but it may be
dangerous. What happens if someone else takes the offered explanation and
expands on it and based on that Pshat come up with some theory that could
be totally contradictory to Torah thought, or it could even be heretical.

Again, I think everyone is aware of Bill Moyers' PBS special on Genesis
where he expounds on totally perverted explanation of Genesis. Bill Moyers
did understand that he was not an expert in Genesis so he went to a "Rabbi"
Unfortunately the "rabbi" had views of Genesis which were just as perverted
as those of Bill Moyers!

Andy continues:
<< After one has read "mikra", scriptures, he should then
turn his attention to "mishna" the teachings of the Rabbis, including
their interpretations of scriptures (Pirkey Avot 5:21). The first step on
the path to Torah knowledge is a direct encounter with the scriptures.
This makes scriptures meaningful on a subjective level It also prepares
him to be able to understand the great wisdom of the Sages including
their brilliant commentary on scriptures. >>

Only Without learning the Mishna with the proper commentaries can
one make such a comment - the Mishna never meant that one should read the
words of the Chumash without the proper commentaries! If one were to
look at the Mishna one would see that the Tanna says "At 5 years old one
should learn Mikra" Now who would think that a child could/should read
the scriptures and use his childish mind to explain the posukim, and that
should be the basis to learning Mishna? Everyone understands that chumash
needs a teacher, guidance and the proper understanding to teach a child
Chumash. The basis of "mikra" MUST be a basis based on the Commentaries!

Andy continued:
<< Yosey Goldstein continues: 'The Torah is not a story. It is not even
History. It is Hashem teaching us his divine will and the ONLY way to
understand what he meant to convey to us is learning the explanations of
the Torah.' I take exception to this comment as well.
Of course the Torah contains stories! Of course the Torah contains
historical narratives! Story telling in particular is one of the Torah's
most effective media for transmitting its brilliant teachings to its readers!
Therefore, is seems to me that the best way for beginners to begin to
learnhow to understand the Torah's brilliant teachings is to earn how to
read stories, which is exactly what Torah Forum readers like Saul Oresky
are trying to do.>>

While it is true that the Torah contains stories the purpose of
the Torah is NOT just to relate the story for the entertainment value.
The Torah uses the vehicle of the story to relate some occurrence that
will teach us something. To say the purpose of the Torah is to relate a
story degrades G-D's purpose in writing the Torah. If G-d wanted to tell
us stories then why isn't te story of Abaraham being thrown into the
Fiery furnace in the Torah? There are many Midrashim that relates stories
that happened to the Avos and other Torah personalities. However, the
Torah does not relate them, because the Torah is not a story book!