Thursday, November 25, 2010

Was Rashi dumber than a YouTube video? Or why do his defenders insist he was an idiot?

For me the most disturbing part of the Krum/YouTube controversy is the people who think they are doing God and Judaism a favor by advocating for a simplistic and unsophisticated understandings of Rashi. Who but a fool thinks Rashi believed Yaakov was aware of piskei halacha thousands of years before they were made?  Who but a fool thinks Yaakov actually kept all 613 miztvos when a good number of them are exclusively reserved for kings and kohanim?  As a non-king and a non-Kohen how could Yaakov have done them?

Rashi was certainly no fool, and he was certainly aware of these difficulties; therefore it is impossible to say  that he took this position. Unless you're prepared to make Rashi into an idiot, you are forced to say he meant something else.

And, luckily, his super commentaries do say he meant something else. I know for a fact that Maharal and Malbim did not ascribe this ludicrous view to Rashi and because I (apparently unlike R. Hoffman) have genuine respect for the achronim I refuse to accept that any of them could have possibly embraced such an absurd interpretation of Rashi.

I don't understand how R. Hoffman can think leaving people with an interpretation of Rashi that makes Rash susceptible to all the challenges raised by a YouTube video is respectful to Rashi or to the tradition.

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