Sunday, January 15, 2012

Full of Torah but ...

The great Talmudist, R' Pinchas Horowitz, author of the monumental Talmudic commentary, Haflaah, heard of the chassidic master, the Maggid of Mezeritch, and was curious to investigate Chassidut. He visited the Maggid, and was unimpressed by what he observed. When he took leave of the Maggid, the latter suggested that he engage R' Zusia in a scholarly discussion.

R' Zusia kept his erudition a secret. No one ever saw him studying. Rather, he was sweeping the floor or stoking the fire, or otherwise tending to the needs of the house of study. When R' Pinchas approached him, R' Zusia said, "There must be some mistake. I am not a scholar and there is nothing you can discuss with me." At R' Pinchas' insistence, R' Zusia said, "I can only tell you something I overheard the others say."

"I heard the students reading a portion of the Talmud where R' Huna says, 'Nine men and the aron kodesh (the ark containing the Torah) can constitute a minyan.' R' Nachman challenges this, saying, 'Is then the ark a person?' (Berachot 47b). Now what kind of a question is that? R' Huna knew full well that the ark is not a person, yet he felt that it could be counted toward the minyan. If R' Nachman wished to disagree with him, he should have simple said so. To ask, 'Is the ark a person?' makes no sense. R' Huna made the statement even though he knew very well that the ark was not a person. Perhaps you can explain that to me," R' Zusia said.

R' Pinchas was taken aback. In spite of his enormous erudition, he had no answer to such an obvious question.

R' Zusia shrugged his shoulders, "Maybe the Talmud meant it this way," he said. "R' Huna was of the opinion that since the ark was full of Torah, it could contribute to a minyan. R' Nachman's challenge was, 'Granted, the ark is full of Torah, but can you can be full of Torah and still not be a mentsch.'"

This is taken from Rabbi Twerski's Visions of the Fathers.

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