Thursday, August 18, 2005

Is everything really in the Torah?

I'll be brief. We all know the adage, hafoch bah hafoch bah dekulo bah. Delve in it for everything is in it. Yet it is surely self-evident that there is much that is not in it, nor is it meant to cover everything.

I could go on for hours, but what's your view on the issue?



At 8/18/2005 7:58 PM, Blogger DovBear said...

No chance

At 8/18/2005 8:20 PM, Blogger Chai18 said...

i don't understand what you are asking

At 8/18/2005 9:36 PM, Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...

wow, the heilige dov bear. my life is now complete!

my point was chai18 that there will still be those who claim that all knowledge is contained within the Torah, and I wanna know how they can argue that and how to find it.

At 8/18/2005 10:17 PM, Blogger dietgarage said...

Never understood that "Torah codes" ideology but I do think part of it is that study of Torah keeps the mind sharp and gives us the tools to think well and with purpose.... exercize for the brain?

At 8/19/2005 4:58 AM, Blogger Jak Black said...

The ideals and rules are there. The sages of each generation understand the details.
Sages, as opposed to am aa'aratzim like certain commentators above, who think they understand everything with a mere cursory glance.

At 8/19/2005 5:04 AM, Blogger Brian Hunter said...

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At 8/19/2005 5:43 AM, Blogger Karl said...

I think it means it applies to every situation - its all been thought of, accounted for, and a solution is in there.

At 8/19/2005 5:45 AM, Blogger Frank B. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8/19/2005 8:52 AM, Blogger Chai18 said...

i agree with karl, sure not everything in this world is spelled out in the Torah but it can all be seen through a Torah perspective, and improved and worked out.

At 8/19/2005 10:12 AM, Blogger Manny said...

If you learn the gemara, you can see the drashot, and the various information that they glean from the pesukim. Why were they worded THIS way, why did it say THIS information twice, and so on. That brings us to the entire gemara, which is an amazing logical work on its own, all of which is sourced in Torah.
Then there are the rishonim, achronim, sifrei mussar, and kabalah, all from Tanach and Gemara, with a little bit of common sense.
If youre asking the literal question of: How do we know the difference between a smooth endoplasmic reticulum and a rough endoplasmic reticulim is due the rhibosomes that create protein from DNA is form the Torah, then i'll give you a kabalistic answer.
But because of the Torah and gemara, the Torah covers everything, it has laws for everything.

At 8/19/2005 10:33 AM, Blogger Elster said...

In my (very uninformed opinion), I think I am in the camp which says that the Torah provides all of the guidlines for which to use all of the infomation there is out there. Airplane travel covered in the Torah? Of course not. But the rishonim and acharonim contemplated the issues of the international dateline, flying on shabbos, etc,

At 8/19/2005 3:40 PM, Blogger tmeishar said...

Rabbi Lamm discusses this mishna in "Torah Umadda."
According to the Gra, and I would suggest this is the most common interpretation, the Torah contains everything. Or as a certain Chareidi teacher I had said, 'The Rambam was a doctor because he learned medicine from the Torah. The Gmarah and Tanach contain everything that medical books contain.' (Talk about rewriting history, but I digress.)
Anyway, Rabbi Lamm quotes Ha-Meiri and seems to "hold" like him. According to him, this mishna teaches that all problems within Torah can be solved with Torah itself without having to rely on external sources. The mishna is not suggesting that the Torah contains all wisdom.
(ayen sham: pgs.46-47)

At 8/20/2005 1:36 PM, Blogger B2 said...

Piggybacking here -- from that which is in Torah, we can learn how to deal with most everything in our lives. And not always by following good examples, but sometimes by avoiding bad examples.

At 8/20/2005 8:54 PM, Blogger Jew Speak said...

While the penultimate mishnah of Avot teaches us, “Delve into the Torah again and again, for everything is in it,” Rashi comments that “everything is in it” in the sense “that everything that you desire you will find in it.” There are transcendent matters, outside the domain of that which one ought to desire in this world. Everything relevant to one’s life in this world, which one rightfully desires, can be found through the Torah’s guidance. However, reading our Torah — exoterically or esoterically — as a science book is folly.

origin: Counterpoint (Kabbalah & Science)

At 8/21/2005 10:46 AM, Blogger ClooJew said...

"Yet it is surely self-evident that there is much that is not in it, nor is it meant to cover everything"

Seems like you already made up your mind. But how do you say it is "self-evident." Give an example please.

I, for one, take the mishnah at face value. Until someone can say, "Well, I have learned the WHOLE Torah, and it's missing such-and-such," how can that person deny the mishnah's validity.

At 8/21/2005 11:16 AM, Blogger Chai18 said...

very good point cloojew

At 8/21/2005 8:30 PM, Blogger tmeishar said...

Cloo, this is probably not a proof, but how many talmidei chachamim do you know (non-MO) who know anything about anything that isn't Torah?

At 8/22/2005 2:28 PM, Blogger ClooJew said...

Tmeishar, There's no question that there are "talmidei chachamim" who are illiterate in certain areas--including MO ones, lulei demistafina.

But again, the WHOLE Torah is quite a bit. Just this past Saturday night I saw a teshuvah from Rav Moshe Feinstein where he says that to learn the entire Torah in depth is something almost no one person can accomplish--there are precious few people who have the ability in any given generation.

I will submit that the Gedolim (distinct from simply Talmidei Chachamim) that I know personally know a lot more than I imagined they would when I first began speaking with them.

The other thing to consider is that when the Torah says "everything" what does that include? TV trivia? the complete works of Shakespeare?

I think it's fair to say that everything WORTH KNOWING is contained in the Torah.

At 8/22/2005 2:45 PM, Blogger Elster said...

I am probably not disagreeing with you but:

The torah doesn't have directions for Brain surgery, MRI's or cancer treatments. Does that mean that these things are not worth knowing? rather, I would argue that it makes more sense to say that to torah prescribes how to use all the knowledge out there.

At 8/22/2005 5:24 PM, Blogger ClooJew said...


I'd still be careful, lulei demistafina, before making a statement like that. I'm no fan of Aish Hatorah by any stretch of the imagination, but the Codes do reveal things in the Torah that I'm sure none of us expected to find there.

The Gemara says that Rebbe Akiva was able to interpret the "tagim" of the letters of the Torah. What does that mean? What did he see there? I don't know. My point is that neither do most people.

Another--less metaphysical--way to look at it is that the Torah does contain the knowledge that might spur someone to dream up a particular approach to treating cancer , or the concepts that underlie the MRI. I think that may be what you were getting at.

At 8/23/2005 8:39 AM, Blogger Elster said...

I think your "less metaphysical" way of looking at it is the same point I was trying to make, though obviously not too well.

At 8/24/2005 9:34 AM, Blogger tmeishar said...

You know I have been mulling over this for some time. I had a thought, but it looks like Cloo beat me to expressing it:
"I think it's fair to say that everything WORTH KNOWING is contained in the Torah."

Maybe we should differentiate between Fact (a piece of information presented as having objective reality) and Truth (a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality). So, while Torah contains its healthy dose of Fact, what this mishna might be expressing is that all Truth is contained in it.

The reason I take issue with the idea that EVERYTHING is really in the Torah is because of "lo bashamayim hi." Of course it is difficult to truly master Torah, but I feel that it is necessary to assume that everyone has the potential to. If that is true, the cure for cancer would not be hidden away in the crown of a letter because all Torah is accessible to anyone who puts in enough effort.
Besides the whole drash with Rabbi Akivah is slightly more complex than people like to make it sound.

At 8/25/2005 1:01 PM, Blogger ClooJew said...


I agree. The point, lulei demistafina, is that the drash of Rabbi Akiva is so beyond our comprehension that we can't attest to what truly is or is not in the Torah.

I don't, however, think your interpretation of "Lo bashamayim hi" is on the mark. If anything, that phrase insists that the Torah can be expanded in many ways.

At 8/25/2005 3:03 PM, Blogger daat y said...

There are those who interpret it-there is knowledge that we know that as yet we haven't found in the Torah.
However,I think it all depends on the interpetation of 'dekulo bah.'

At 8/25/2005 3:03 PM, Blogger daat y said...

There are those who interpret it-there is knowledge that we know that as yet we haven't found in the Torah.
However,I think it all depends on the interpetation of 'dekulo bah.'

At 8/26/2005 7:16 AM, Blogger tmeishar said...


Good points.

This aggada aside, I don't think that you can find any place in the Gmarah that Rabbi Akiva actually used a crown as a proof. I haven't been through all of Shas, but I'm pretty confident on that one. I can't say I totally understand that aggada, but I think that there is a lot more to that statement than its literal meaning.

As far as "lo bashamayim hi..." I think you need to look at the context. I'm not sure where you got your understanding, but it doesn't seem to be pshat. Look: "This 'mitzvah' that I am commanding you today is not beyond you and is not far off. It is not in the sky (!) [to cause you] to say: 'who will ascend to the sky and take it to us and allow us to hear it and we will do it.' And it is not across the sea [to cause you] to say: 'who will cross over for us to the other side of the sea and take it for us and make us hear it and we will do it.' Because it is very near to you this thing, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it." (varim 30;11-14) The idea expressed here seems to be that the common Jew has the ability to grasp Torah and follow it. You do not need a specific individual to "bring it to you." Of course it is helpful - pygmies on the backs of giants and all. And of course, an individual like Rabbi Akiva can reach greater depth and breadth, but it is not beyond you or me. Hence, reading the crowns seems like a stretch, not "karov elecha hadavar me'od."

At 8/26/2005 8:38 AM, Blogger ClooJew said...


I'm really enjoying this discussion! I think my Shabbat, lulei demistafina, is going to be spent researching "Hafach ba," "Lo bashamayim hi," and that aggadata about Rebbe Akiva. So much for shluffing!

As for "L.B.H." I think we are talking about two different things. You are discussing the pshat of the pasuk which is essentially the comment that keeping the Torah is not all that difficult. But that doesn't preclude a larger complexity beneath the surface.

My comment was really regarding the drash that the Rabbanan have certain powers to interpret the Torah and establish halachah based on the precept of "L.B.H."

In any case, I expect you to do some of the hefty lifting as well (YOU TOO, TRK!) and we can reconvene after the weekend.

At 8/29/2005 10:05 AM, Blogger tmeishar said...

Ok, Cloo, I did some more research.

You said about "lo bashamayim hi:" "If anything, that phrase insists that the Torah can be expanded in many ways." I beg to differ, even in light of the Gmarah you cited. If anything that Gmarah only serves to support the use of that passuk as I did.
Take a look at what it says: "Ma'i lo bashamayim..." Rav Yirmiyahu says that once the Torah has been given it follows a set of laws which are in THIS world - right and wrong are subjected to the truth's of this world. They have to be interpreted and understood through human intellect through the framework that halacha sets.
It's not that there are multiple correct answers - there is only one, Rav Eliezer's. The point is that what is correct or incorrect is all relative. He is correct, but he is incorrect because he's not fitting his answer within the halachik framework.

Rav Hirsch on Chumash deals with those psukim the same way I did. On passuk 14 he says: "The teachings and actions which it has in view do not move in sphere in the supernatural or the heavens and nothing which was necessary for its being understood and accomplished remained in heaven in the Divine Revelation..." (ayen sham.)

In fact the connection between "lo bashamayim hi" an our mishna is more profound than I originally intended. The Meiri's posits that the mishna explains that Torah questions can be solved within its own set of rules and does not rely on anything else. The thrust of the mishna could then be Rav Yirmiyahu's answer to Rav Eliezer. The idea being that once the Rabbis must deal with realities that are not explicitely expressed in the Torah they must solve difficulties with a set of rules within the Torah. We could read the mishna as addressing a doubt that applying legal concept is possible. Therefore, "haphoch ba vehaphoch ba" - although it seems that not all is contained in it, all the guidelines for leading an halachik lifestyle are within it.

The only thing I am having trouble with is how this saying fits into its context. I'm working on it though.

At 8/29/2005 12:22 PM, Blogger Chana said...

It's there, but not necessarily literally.

You are able to come to the conclusion through following the paths the Torah sets you. The Torah is a stepping-stone, a spring-board...for your mind.

And from then onwards...everything can come to be.

At 8/29/2005 12:53 PM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

TRK: The GRA seemed to think it was all inclusive...including the math textbook he wrote. Thats enough for me. I havent written any math textbooks lately.

At 8/29/2005 3:16 PM, Blogger tmeishar said...

Jameel, that is what the GR"A said, but he's in the minority.

At 8/29/2005 5:24 PM, Blogger ClooJew said...

Because of his stature, it is difficult, lulei demistafina, to ever assign the GR"A to the minority.

At 8/29/2005 5:26 PM, Blogger ClooJew said...

Still working on your sources, Tmei. Got bogged down on some other things over Shabbos and didn't find a whole lot on "Hafach bah." Kind of disappointing actually.

At 8/30/2005 9:00 PM, Blogger tmeishar said...

Today I visited one of the greatest libraries I have ever been priveledged to browse. I found a Meiri and wanted to see what he says about the rest of the mishna, but I got distracted by the Rosh on Masechet Brachot. Oh well...

At 8/31/2005 2:32 AM, Blogger yingele said...

Tmeishar - 770 or Mir? ;)

Trk, if the mishne says so - so it is. No questions asked.

At 8/31/2005 7:05 AM, Blogger tmeishar said...

Actually yingele, it was a secular library on a college campus...but close really.

Also, we're not disputing the truth of the mishna, just what it specifically refers to.

At 9/01/2005 5:57 AM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Because of his stature, it is difficult, lulei demistafina, to ever assign the GR"A to the minority.

And yet we do it all the time. How many people really follow the minhagei ha-Gra? Shouldn't we all if there is some principle of the Gra trumping all? Obviously the Gra is a deah as is the Meiri. But until someone derives nuclear physics from the Torah, or better yet derives something of that magnitude from the Torah only before secular disciplines do it seems pretty shver to ascribe that meaning to the Mishna. There are certainly other valid interpretations that do not stretch credulity.

At 9/01/2005 6:47 AM, Blogger tmeishar said...


Re: the Gra, you took the words right out of my mouth. Except, I decided not to say them because I wasn't sure I wanted people attacking me for not agreeing with the Gra instead of staying on topic.

"There are certainly other valid interpretations that do not stretch credulity."
Care to share one of them?

At 9/01/2005 1:34 PM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Care to share one of them?

Sure, the aforementioned Meiri that you quoted.

Now, it is even a chiddush to say that "all Torah related problems" can be resolved without recourse to other disciplines, such as, at the very least, philology (although, of course, RSRH and others felt that only Hebrew can shed light on Hebrew). But that's certainly a far cry from suggesting that if only one turns the Torah over enough nuclear physics will shake out of it.

At 9/17/2005 11:08 PM, Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...

I love being zocheh to stimulate fascinating discussions - good work people

At 9/18/2005 7:10 PM, Blogger Mata Hari said...

if i remember correctly, the chazon ish was consulted in the case of a person who needed brain surgery, and was able to supply details and information on the actual surgery which amazed and impressed the surgeon (the surgery was successful). perhaps it takes the right "reader" to glean the knowledge.

At 2/06/2006 5:42 AM, Blogger the sabra said...

didnt read all the comments, just have an answer to your post title: yes.


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