Friday, April 07, 2006

The Frustrations of Learning Torah with a RWY person

I want to share with you a moment of extreme frsutration I experienced this winter while attempting to learn a piece of chumash with one of the local RW Yeshivish people. First, though, I have to say that the guy is brilliant, with a command of rabininc literature that puts me to shame. Trouble is, he was never taught how to think.

We were discussing the appearance of the three angels to Abraham, our forefather, at the start of Parshas Vayerah. The verse tells us that Abraham instructed Sarah to "Hurry! Three se'ahs of meal, fine flour! Knead and make cakes" but, according to someone who's name I forget, Sarah had begun menstruating that morning and therefore was forbidden to touch dough. So how could Abrham have asked Sarah to prepare bread? (I should note that I am relying on my RW Yeshivish friend for these details. I don't recall ever being taught that a niddah must not touch dough, or that Sarah's menses returned before the angels arrived at Abrham's tent.)

When I tried to address my friend's question in the obvious way, my answer was waved off. The idea that the laws of Niddah were not known to Abraham could not be accepted by my friend even as a possibility and he clenched his teeth angrily when I accused him of thinking ahistorically. In return, he accused me of dismissing the question, by which he meant only that I was refusing to indulge in speculative weavings about what may have happened 4000 years years ago in Abraham's tent, when it seemed perfectly obvious to me that whatever it was that happened, Abraham certainly would not have reacted to it like a post-Talmudic Jew.

Suffice it to say, the whole conversation was a dead end.

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