Saturday, 22 January 2011

Deifying Rabbis

Humans are selfish and when it comes down to it they won't do anything unless they perceive some sort of reward. (Of course the definition of a "reward" can be quite fluid)

Why follow halacha? What practical benefits will halacha bring to my life?
A. It will keep God happy and failure to keep halacha will make him mad
B. It will make my life better. After all God knows what actions lead to a good life.
C. God said so and he's really smart. Presumably he had a good reason.

All these reasons and variations thereof are all great reasons to keep the Torah. However there is the slightly inconvenient issue that most of Rabbinical Judaism is Rabbinical. In other words most of the rituals, blessings, and celebrations we practice did not come straight from God but rather were instituted by Rabbis.

And that brings us to a problem of incentive. It's all well and good to dedicate ones life to GOD's word. Because God knows best. But unfortunately this reason will only suffice to explain a small fraction of the large corpus of mostly Rabbinical halacha. What of the rest? Why keep it?

Well from a legal standpoint we have the famous derasha לא תסור מן הדבר אשר יגידו לך ימין ושמאל . This verse, according to the Gemara is a commandment from God to listen to the Rabbis. Their word is His word.

But perhaps that just doesn't cut it. Still Rabbis are humans. Correct? What if they make a mistake? Why would a wise God command us to follow a mistaken pesak, or takana? And why should I follow a halacha made up by a mortal man if I don't agree with that halacha? What makes Rabbi So and So cleverer than me?  

Perhaps it is these "dangerous" questions which led to another doctrine. A doctrine that makes the words of the Rabbis equivalent to God's not just legally but also literally.

Perhaps the Rabbis were more than human. Perhaps they were actually infallible "angels" with a direct line to God. They weren't speaking as humans but rather through Ruach Hakodesh. The Gemara is just as much the word of God as the Torah because the Rabbis were but mouthpieces for the almighty.

It follows that we should take the miraculous stories about them literally. After all people with a direct line to God surely can perform miracles. And it also follows that people with a direct line to God not only knew Torah but also knew all of science, history, and everything. If the Rabbis are but God's proxies on Earth then their word is God's word. And God can't be wrong.

The Chareidi "deification" of Chazal is not just naivete or literalism. It serves a fundamental purpose in religious incentive. We want to follow the dictates of the All-knowing Almighty - not the interpretations of mortal men - no matter how clever they are. Because man can be wrong but God cannot. Therefore a new "species" of men must be invented. Men who are angels is the most literal sense - literal messengers of God. Following these people is analogous to following God himself. 

And then one can sleep safely at night knowing that not only do the Rabbis want you to say Keriat Shma Al Hamitta. But also God בכבודו ובעצמו


Sshaas said...

You wrote on the Sabbath....big deal. The walls of Jericho were breached on the Sabbath also. Writing or typing is not work unless that is part of earning your living. Did you know that God told his followers to stay at home on the Sabbath because that was the one day of rest and family togetherness. There were no temples or synagogues! Maimonides said being a religious leader was a calling not a paid career! By the way, the Torah states that one can atone for one's sins by the giving of a shekel....whose idea was fasting? Religious belief is of the mind....not the body. The mind governs the body.......Rabbis take notice. By the by, The Torah we use today was not the Torah of yore. Check the Tanach for verification. Rabbis spout the line they were taught and dare not venture astray. God is with you because you dare to state the truth. We, you and I must stand against these false purveyors of man's laws using God's name to justify all their falsehoods. God should be your focus....not the writings and utterances of self-chosen religious fanatics.

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