R’ Mendel Kessin; How to become a Godol – 6/6/2015

R’ Mendel Kessin; How to become a Godol – 6/6/2015 [Download]

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19 thoughts on “R’ Mendel Kessin; How to become a Godol – 6/6/2015

  1. I am trying to learn mishnayos as you suggested. However, I have a problem with this, which can be described with an analogy as follows:

    There are two approaches to physical science: 1) Physics 2) Chemistry.

    The physics approach involves lots of mathematical equations which can be used to predict the results of lots of different types of experiments. These mathematical equations are not too difficult to master if one is good at math; however, they are difficult to apply for complicated situations, as they become very complicated when the number of atoms is large.

    The chemistry approach is experimental. One does experiments with different types of chemicals and one memorizes the results of these experiments. Rules of thumb are developed to predict the results of experiments, but one cannot exactly predict the results of experiments without actually doing them.

    In summary, the physics approach to physical science is based on exact principles. The chemistry approach is based on memorization and heuristics. When I learn from books like Derech Hashem, I learn principles. In fact, Derech Hashem was the first book I read about Judaism before I became a baal teshuva. It was easy for me to grasp, because I like learning about principles. This is why I was always interested in physics but not so much chemistry. However, mishnayos is much like learning chemistry. It involves lots of memorization. My mind isn’t so good at remembering things that don’t make sense. I like to understand the principles behind facts. Mishnayos doesn’t give the principles behind Torah Law. In fact, I haven’t been able to find any book which explains the principles behind Torah Law. (Even Mishneh Torah, which is very logical, involves mostly memorization.) This has always frustrated me. I feel like I would be great at understanding halacha if only I understood the principles behind it. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. this is the subject on its own, and R’ Kessin spoke about it a few times. in a nutshell the answer is as follows.

      traditionally Torah is written on a level of details. principles are not recorded explicitly. this refers to Chumash, Neviim, Kesuvim, Mishnayos, Gemora, Mishneh Torah, Shulchan Oruch, etc. this is a very surprising fact, and is contrary to the “usual” ways [lehavdil] any other wisdom is collected and passed over from generation to generation. however, there are deep reasons why this is so. very deep.

      even though principles are not explicit – the beautiful harmonious structure of principles is implicitly present, and must be discovered. by whom? by you. by everybody who learns Torah. this discovery is a necessary element of learning Torah. this discover is not present in the ways the nations of the world learn science – as in science principles are explicitly recorded immediately on their discovery, and are passed over as given to the next generation. this makes Torah much more difficult to learn, if we may compare wisdom written in details VS wisdom written in principles. however this difficulty is very rewarding, not to mention its world-changing mystical implications.

      what does this practically mean in the context of your question? this means that when you learn mishnayos – you are to derive the principles, you are to raise the details to the level of brilliant ideas, as well as being able to take the abstractions down to earth and project them to the details the world is made of.

      if you learn a mishna on a level of details – this frustrates you, and rightfully so. it should. in fact, if it doesn’t – you’ve got a problem. it’s designed this way. to transform the frustration into joy you need to generalize the mishna accordingly. when you succeed – you are no longer on the level of details, you are no longer frustrated, your mind is happy and fully satisfied.

      this is exactly what we attempt to achieve in these lessons – recorded in the videos right here, in front of you (see THE METHOD section on the INDEX page). if you haven’t noticed it – slow down, pay attention, go over again and again, and you will notice it. there is no way out. it’s work. the work is not easy, but it’s VERY rewarding, and we are doing it right here, recording our efforts, enabling you to do the same.

      1. I like to listen to this at work. I cannot view videos at work. Some of the lessons have no audio. If they were put on audio, it would be easy for me.

        Anyway, why aren’t principles of halacha passed down explicitly? If they were, I could learn mishnayos so much easier, since they would make sense. Why should I have to reinvent the wheel and discover them on my own?

        1. most shiurim are available in both, video and audio.

          for those shiurim with no audio just use http://www.listentoyoutube.com/ or http://www.youtube-mp3.org/ to convert them into audio mp3 format (you have to use the youtube video for that, not the one from this site – youtube torahthinking channel is here: youtube.com/torahthinking).

          the subject of Torah being written on a level of details is vast and deep. not for now and not for here. R’ Kessin had the whole lecture on this, and mentioned it in a few other lectures too, but i can’t pinpoint which ones exactly. would just mention for now that the prohibition to commit Torah She’be’al’peh to writing is exactly this principle in action – that Torah is written and passed over on a level of details. principles and the world of interpretations, generalizations, novel applications of the principles, ideas – Torah She’be’al’peh – must be acquired through toil. obviously, this is a simplified version, not the full explanation, just to mention the idea. reinventing wheel is exactly what brings mashiach here, transforms our nature, and completes the work assigned to the humankind a few thousands years ago, so this reinventing wheel is exactly what makes us special, unique, and opens the road to greatness.

          1. So there are secret principles to understanding everything in the Torah, yet nobody will write them down since Torah must be acquired through toil?

          2. they are not secret. they are open to all. but you have to derive them. using your mind and dedication. there is a beautiful multi-dimensional multi-faceted structure of interconnected ideas – with the simple facts on the very bottom, with astounding incomprehensible Oneness of God on the very top. you are welcome to reconstruct it in its entirety to the best of your abilities. it’s all in front of you, no secrets are left out.

  2. I can believe that Hashem wants us to toil in Torah, but I can’t believe that Hashem would want us all to reinvent the wheel. There has to be a better way of learning the Torah than memorizing all sorts of details. I’ve tried it, and I forget it quickly. I used to have a great memory. Not anymore.

    1. you can’t believe that Hashem wants us to derive the principles again and again because you value the final knowledge of the principles, and you don’t give a distinct value to the process of derivation of the principles. for you as long as you’ve got the principle – it makes no difference how you’ve gotten it, so of course the faster and the easier the better. you are ready to tolerate the toil as long as it’s necessary, but you are not comfortable to tolerate the toil as long as there is an easy way out which is made unaccessible to you.

      Hashem has a different value system, if I may say so. He values the very process of the derivation of the principles based on the facts and details – this process is cleansing and life-changing. not so the knowing the final principles. just knowing them has no value on its own, it’s only a side effect of the process of arriving to this knowledge.

      this is exactly the difference between first luchos and second luchos, and as such it’s one of the consequences of chet ha’egel. Torah represented by the first luchos was exactly that – torah she’be’al’peh merged with torah’she’be’ksav. no toil would be neccesary, the Torah was understood immediately clearly, comprehensively, and deepely on the level of highest ideas and their relationships. the toil was not a part of a picture. if not for the chet ha’egel – this is the Torah we would have had, and you would have no complaints. but chet ha’egel happened, and the history and the whole experience of the Truth was altered – now you’ve gotten the details only, and you have to toil to derive the principles – and in this very toil there is a tikun of the creation. repeat: in this very toil, the one you call as reinventing the wheel and are unhappy about – is hidden the very mechanism of rectification of the creation after the chet ha’egel. this is the very IT, this is the center, this is the bottom line, this is where rectification actually happens. so this wheel reinventing is pretty precious, and you’d better upgrade the metaphor, otherwise you wouldn’t be too comfortable to do the work if you have such an outdated metaphor in place.

      as far as you don’t like to learn Torah by memorizing details – you are right. it’s not the way. you take a few details – and work them out, construct high level principles and ideas. you no longer work with details. no reason to memorize them at all. so you would never go too far with the details only – you must transform them, to build a structure of ideas based on the details, and only then to go further! of course, there is some value in going through details too – but not remembering them, rather getting a good overview, becoming familiar with the ocean of details overall, in order to start again – and this time to take just few details at a time, and to build on them, to raise a magnificent building.

      1. I found this https://jewishlaw.wordpress.com/the-halachic-system/, which says:

        “To a large extent the subject matter of ‘Talmud Torah’, from the time of the editing of the Mishnah onwards, is the attempt to uncover the underlying principles of the jurisprudence. This is done by closely analysing the cases brought in the various sources of the Oral Torah and by comparing different cases to each other. It is not unusual for cases to appear to contradict each other. Because of axiom 2 quoted above, it is assumed that the cases do not actually contradict, but rather, by identifying the different sets of circumstances they are referring to, a better understanding of the underlying principles can be reached.”

        Perhaps the reason why there are no texts which give the principles of halacha is because this matter is still not settled. It is still a work in progress. Does this make sense?

        1. you are looking in a wrong direction. consider the following, and you won’t be misled by this kind of statements you quoted.

          have you studied in the university? have you dealt with dazzling, brilliantly structured and outlined textbooks on math, physics, chemistry, etc.? have you ever wondered why Mishna and Gemora and the rest of the Jewish library is quite CONTRARY to such a brilliance of the form?

          you don’t have to look further. when you realize the difference fully, you should be shocked and unsettled for a long time. does it make any sense?

          no, it doesn’t. that is to say, it does not make any human sense. don’t try to stretch the logic to come up with an artificial answer.

          however, we know our Sages well. we have no illusions about their extreme superiority in the intellectual and in the spirituality. don’t you think R’ Yehuda Hanasi could come up with textbook MUCH GREATER than any textbook in math and physics, revealing brilliance and structure, building magnificent building of dazzling and interconnected principles? do NOT doubt, he surely could! so too Rambam, so too others. why didn’t they? They were NOT allowed. they had no choice but to pass the Torah to us on the level of details. the prohibition to write down Torah she’be’al’peh in action.

          so what does the quote mean? i am referring to the quote you referenced. it means that in all the generations multitudes of great jews studied Torah, came out with brilliant conceptual insights and built magnificent buildings, but… they recorded their results still on the level of details. they weren’t allowed to otherwise! that’s why you still have to work very hard even on the rishonim, even on the acharonim, even on shulchan oruch for that matter.

          you have no way out. get to work! arrive to concepts, begin building Your magnificent building of Torah! Torah is infinitely deeper and more exciting than any other area of wisdom known to men, but it takes work to experience it. and if you skip the work, or take it lightly – you are back to the ground zero, to the thousands and thousands unrelated details, and you are bored and frustrated, and you envy the dazzling light coming out from the universities, not realizing that their dazzling light is total darkness comparing to the amazing light of Torah hidden behind the simple facts and halochic details…

          1. Forget about mishnayos and gemara; I wonder why the Chumash was written the way it was written, in details and not as general principles. I also wonder why the style of writing is so different in different parts of the Torah – parts of the Chumash are stories, parts are history, parts are legal, and parts are construction.

            It would make more sense to me if the Torah were written as a giant computer program. I often wonder why it wasn’t written this way.

          2. the question is straight on the target.

            in fact, the Chumash should have been written in a style of Ramchal – like Derech Hashem and Mesilas Yesharim! And not in the style of “Bereishis…” 🙂

            and the answer is EXACTLY the same as before. the same very concept – and the same very answer – applies to the totality of Torah, whether it’s Chumash or Mishna or Gemora or anything else for that matter.

  3. So if the Ramchal was able to write Derech Hashem in a way that explains the basic concepts of hashgafa, why wasn’t he able to write a similar sefer that explains the basic concepts of halacha? Why did Hashem permit one but not the other?

    1. “to be able” is not a right term here. Moshe Rabeinu was also able to, as well as many others in between Moshe Rabeinu and Ramchal. Why didn’t they? Because they weren’t allowed to.

      as for Ramchal, don’t be misled by simplicity of his seforim. Derech Hashem, as well as Mesilas Mesharim, as well as his other seforim, are astounding. their depth is hidden from an eye behind their “simplicity”. the seforim are too brief. be sure, Derech Hashem the way you know it, it’s only a bunch of abbreviations; the concepts need to be revealed and explained. you hardly scratch the surface when you read it.

      the point is: whatever was allowed to be revealed, was revealed. what wasn’t allowed to be revealed – wasn’t revealed. most seforim of Ramchal didn’t survive till these days. they were burned and lost forever. MOST. we don’t know what was revealed in those seforim, but we do know that we haven’t had merit to have it revealed to us.

        1. the proper answer takes hours to explain, and R’ Mendel and R’ Shimon both had shiurim explaining this concept in depth, but if you want in a nutshell – just review this thread again. i touched on this “why” a few times (from an bird’s eye view).

  4. how do I find the audio tapes on Esau & Jacob by Mendel Kessin? And how come you never answered my previous email about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump & Jesabel, Jehu?

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