WHY DO WE NEED RABBINIC GUIDANCE?


1. Written Torah + oral Torah = explicit, linguistically formulated Torah.

2. Evidence that the Torah contains non-linguistic component.

a. Ramban on Deut. 6:18 and Lev. 19:2 - not all behavior can be regulated via explicit legislation.

b. Mesilas Yesharim, chap 18 - concept of Chasid who does even what he is not explicitly commanded to do.

c. Mesilas Yesharim, chap. 20 - responsibility for longrange consequences of actions

3. Non-linguistic cognition - objective information

a. esthetics - sculpture, music

b. abilities - tying shoes, riding bicycle

c. perception - colors, fish/submarines

d. creativity in mathematics, science - compare social work

e. many dimensions of intelligence

4. The non-liinguistic Torah exists in the judgment and perception of Torah sages and is transmitted by observation and training like all such abilities. Only they act on 2a-c directly. Cf. Tiferes Yisroel on Kiddushin 1:10. Origin in prophetic experience which transforms character of prophet.

5. Interdependence of two dimensions: neither can be understood without the other. Experience without linguistic information cannot be classified; linguistic information without experience cannot be appreciated.

6. Moral expertise transcends legal scholarship and applies to all areas life.

7. Choice of a Rebbi by testing and experience, Genius.

Religion and Morality - The Sacrifice of Isaac

1. There are universally recognized moral standards, binding even on the atheist: (it is wrong to torture small children for fun); gratitude; property rights (e.g. wrongness of depriving the isolated farmer of his produce).

2. These standards create non-specific moral obligations: the benefactor is owed any (otherwise morally permissible) service he requests up to the limit of the debt of gratitude; the owner can set any (otherwise morally permissible) limits on the use of his property.

3. These standards can be applied to our relationship to G-d: we have a great debt of gratitude to G-d; G-d owns the universe (perhaps minus human beings - perhaps they cannot be owned in principle) since He created it. Thus His commands of service and His limits for use (up to the relevant moral limits) are morally binding.

4. The fact that there are limits to G-d's moral authority makes possible the problem of innocent sufferring. The problem is: if they are innocent, and if their suffering serves no moral purpose, then G-d is wrong to allow their sufferring. (The solution is that one or both of the if-clauses is false.) Since our moral debt to G-d is limited we can make this hypothetical judgment.]

5. There can be no distinction in principle between moral and ritual commandments: since we have a moral relationship with G-d - He has moral authority with respect to us - all His commandments (up to the limits of His authority) are morally binding. Eating pork is theft; not putting on teffillin is ingratitude.

6. How can G-d command Abraham to "murder" Isaac? Answer: Life is a continuous Divine gift; we have no right to more free life. The Provider of life has the moral prerogative to decide when the free gift shall terminate. We did not expect immortality! Even a perfectly led life cannot demand continuation.

Just as G-d can decide when life shall end "naturally," so He can order it to be terminated by human action. Abraham's action is not murder.


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