Divrei Torah

The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs

Back to Shiurim List

Innovative Torah Thoughts

By: Rav Yoel Amital
Ram in Yeshivat Sha'alvim

"And these are the commandments that Hashem commanded Moshe.." (Vayikra 27:34). The gemara in Masechet Shabbat (104a) derives from this verse that a prophet is prohibited from innovating halacha subsequent to what He conveyed to Moshe. Apparent innovations (such as the letters mem, nun, tzadi, pheh and chaf when they appear at conclusion of words) were actually previous halachot that were forgotten and re-established via the prophets (chazru veyisdoom).

 In the ninth chapter of Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, the Rambam marshals a different source for this halacha. "It is clear and stated explicitly in the Torah that a mitzvah is eternal. There is no change, subtractions or additions, as it says 'all what I command you today, you shall keep, do not add on to it, and do not subtract from it' (Devarim 13:1), and it says "the revealed items are for ourselves and for our children forever, to fulfill all the words of this Torah' (ibid, 29:28). Thus you learn that we are required to obey all the words of the Torah for eternity; and it says 'a precept for you for all the generations' (Vayikra ), and it says 'it is not in heaven' (Devarim 30:12). Thus you learn that a prophet may not innovate halachot".

Thus the verse in Devarim 30:12 (not in heaven) constitutes the source for this halacha as opposed to the verse recorded in Masechet Shabbat (these are the commandments). The continuation of the words of the Rambam clarifies why the Rambam did not quote the verse mentioned in Masechet Shabbat.

"Therefore, if a person, Jewish of gentile, performs signs and announces that he has been sent from Hashem to add or deduct a mitzvah, or to describe a mitzvah with an explanation that diverges from the explanation that we received from Moshe, or he claims that the mitzvoth are not of an eternal nature- this is a false prophet, for he denies the prophecy of Moshe; his death is via strangulation, for he has brazenly spoken in the Name of Hashem something that Hashem did not command him. For He, blessed be His Name, commanded Moshe 'for ourselves and for our children forever' and 'He is not a human who will not fulfill his word' (Bamidbar ).

According to the Rambam, a prophet is not merely prohibited from innovating a halacha. Stating the halacha correctly, but attributing to prophecy is the act of a false prophet. For this is an impossibility- for "it is not in the heaven!". Thus, the Rambam quotes the verse from Devarim to reveal this specific halacha.

In the introduction to his commentary on the Mishnayoth, the Rambam writes: "You should know that prophecy is ineffective in explaining the Torah and in deriving halachot from the 13 principles of exegesis. What Yehoshua and Pinchas learned was accomplished via in-depth learning and utilizing logical analysis- which is precisely what Ravina and Rav Ashi did".

This concept resolves the following apparent contradiction raised by the Pnei Yehoshua (Masechet Megila 3a). A number of gemarot mention that Prophets re-established halachat that were forgotten (such as the gemara in Masechet Shabbat quoted above). Yet, the gemara in Masechet Temura (16a) states in the name of Rav Yehuda who quotes Shmuel that 3000 halachot were forgotten during the mourning period of the death of Moshe. Yehoshua refused to inquire from Hashem the halachot, for "it is not in heaven". The prophet Shmuel declined to ask for it is written "These are the commandments"- a prophet is forbidden to innovate the halachot. This passage implies that prophets must refrain from the re-establishing of halachot, in addition to the innovation of halachot.

There is a distinction between halachot that a prophet grasps via prophecy as opposed to those deduced as a result of toil and logical analysis of the Torah. The former constitute a violation of "it is not in heaven" and of "these are the commandments"-even if the purpose of this prophecy is to re-establish forgotten commandments!The gemara in Masechet Temura refers to such a case. However, when Yehoshua and Pinchas arrived at the halacha as a result of in-depth study of Torah this is equivalent to the actions of Ravina and Rav Ashi and is halachically legitimate.

This sheds light upon the concept of novel Torah interpretations (chiddushei Torah). Chiddushei are not necessarily concepts that have never been previously mentioned in the history of the world. Clarification of concepts that were comprehended to previous generations, that subsequently required explanation, qualifies as chiddushei Torah- chazru veyisdoom! The re-establishment of the comprehension of Torah concepts is not achieved via prophecy- rather through toil in the sea of the Talmud.


Categorized under: 1: Parshat Shavua > Behar
Uploaded: 5/16/2006 11:10:25 AM