Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Argumentum ad Verecundiam

R. Gil Student posted the following question on Hirhurim:
The Torah commands us to destroy the remembrance of Amalek (Deut. 25:19) as part of a permanent war against the nation (Ex. 17:16). The Mekhilta (to Ex. 17:16) states that, as part of this permanent state of war, God vowed not to accept converts from Amalek. However, the Gemara (Gittin 57b) states that Haman’s descendants (sons of sons) taught Torah in Bnei Brak. While this turn-about demonstrates the ironies of history and the ultimate victory over our enemy, it seems to violate the command to destory the remembrance of Amalek.
R. Student then proceeds to summarize 25 answers collected by R. Yerachmiel Zelcer in his sefer "Ner Le'meah" on Purim. One of the answers is as follows:
Rachav converted even though she was a Canaanite because her soul was a reincarnation of Tamar (Chida in the name of the Arizal). Similarly, the prohibition to accept Amalekite converts only applies to Amalekite souls and not reincarnations (31, Ner Le-Mei’ah).
In the comments, I took issue with this answer:

Rch”l, I’m מוחה on the גילוי פנים בתורה שלא כהלכה. Is this to say that we are not מצווה to kill Amalkites, but those who have Amalkites’ souls? Next you’ll tell me we’re allowed to accept Moabites into Klal Yisrael, because only those wiht Moabite souls are banned, אתמהה!
R. Student answered:
That’s Chasidishe Torah. Apparently, you don’t like it.
I countered:
No that’s not Chasidishe Torah. Chasidishe Torah [almost] never tries to limit halachic parameters based on kaballah. The slippery slope is so obvious here. Next thing I tell you is an Eishes Ish doesn’t mean literally an eishes ish but someone with the soul of an eishes ish.
R. Student:
It obviously was meant as an explanation and not practical halakhah.
Gil, an explanation that runs counter to normative halachic יסודות, is called גילו פנים בתורה שלא כהלכה.
R. Student:
Do you understand that you’re accusing the Arizal of this crime?
Classical Argumentum ad Verecundiam. I friend who saw the exchange remarked to me:
Who exactly is the Mishnah talking about when it mentions המגלה פנים בתורה שלא כהלכה? One שיש בידו תורה ומעשים טובים. It has to be a "big" person, otherwise there is no point to it. What's a זקן ממרא, a lesbian Reform rabbi who is patrilineally Jewish?  
 Great point. 

The truth is that there are a different interpretation of מגלה פנים בתורה in the commentaries, but here's what the Me'iri writes:
מגלה פנים בתורה שלא כהלכה - כלומר דמראה את עצמו כאילו יודע בסתרי תורה ויגלה אותן שלא כהלכה, והוא בצד שיכחיש הנגלה ממנה לגמרי, ואומר שלא היתה כוונת ה' לכך, אלא שהיא משל לענין אחר, והנגלה איננו כלל. וזהו שורש משורשי הכפירה, שהמצוות כולם, אע"פ שיש בקצתם נסתר, אין ספק שעצם המצווה הוא הנגלה ממנה.


  1. two points.
    1. Rachav was converted through a navi, who has they per to make an exception, the reason to the exception, the arizal gave.
    2. Is there a issur or lav to convert a descendant from amalek, or is it just a swearing of hashem? If the latter then an exception can be made.

    1. 2. Is there a issur or lav to convert a descendant from amalek, or is it just a swearing of hashem? If the latter then an exception can be made.

      Lol, Satmar would definitely disagree with you on that (think the three vows, Kesubos 111a).

  2. Chusidel, see the linked Hirhurim post for 24 great answers to the question. I only took issue with one of them

    I also want to clarify: I do not say that the Arizal was a מגלה פנים בתורה ch"v, but I would rather leave his words with a וצ"ע, than use it as a basis for an answer.

  3. An appeal to authority does not necessarily invalidate the argument, especially here. Of course the fact that the Arizal said so doesn't make it right, but since we can both acknowledge that he probably knew that there is something wrong with being מגלה פנים בתורה שלא כהלכה, and he was probably trying his best to do the right thing, and he was pretty smart; therefore before we dismiss what he says as shtusim we first must contemplate - what was he thinking? I mean, he was thinking something, no? To deny that would be downright pretentious. Sure, after that we can say we don't hold like him or whatever, but first try to figure out what he could have been thinking. I believe that is Gil's point.

    However, while I haven't seen the words of the Arizal inside wherever they may be brought, I suspect he meant something else entirely. We all know that the mekubalim say that all geirim are sparks of souls that were at Har Sinai (is that the Arizal too? maybe its in the Zohar), whatever that means. I'm sure they would say the opposite too, that there are souls that are pure evil, and belonging to that class would be Amaleik, and perhaps the Seven Nations. So maybe the Arizal was not answering how they halachically accepted Rachav as a giyores, but rather how is it that a soul such as hers came along and converted? To that his answer is that her soul was a reincarnation, etc. etc.

    Of course, if this is indeed p'shat in the Arizal then it provides no answer whatsoever to the current question, which is a halachic one. I don't know who was the one who decided to make this tzu shtell. And obviously l'halacha I agree with you that it is absurd to say that one is not obligated to kill an Amaleiki because he has a kosher soul.

  4. Dov, I pretty much agree with what you say. The tzu-shtell was made by R. Y. Zelcer in Ner Le'meah.

  5. Yeedle, like you said yourself, chalilah to think that the Ar"i was megaleh etc. How can anyone even comment on his view before seeing it in writing? Hevel yehegu pihem if this is anyones way of learning. Such questions (before seeing it inside) should be kept to one's self.

    In any event, ten l'chacham v'yechkam od, so here is the Chid"a that the Ner L'meah I believe is quoting (I don't have his sefer so I don't know which Chid"a he's quoting, though I'd guess it's this one) http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=40240&st=&pgnum=55 it starts from ois 4

    here is the Chesed L'avraham which the Chid"a quotes (sorry friends, it seems the Ar"i didn't say it in the context some thought he did. Either way, it's m'pi ha'ksav v'lo m'piv) http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=32451&st=&pgnum=73&hilite=

    Lastly, heres the Maharch"u whre he says that Rachav was mi'yisodo shel Kain (for clarification sake - he himself does not say that Rachav was a nitzuz of Tamar, from what I know, though perhaps someone else does) http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=33009&st=&pgnum=255

    For a more halachic reconciliation see the Chid"a here http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=19577&st=&pgnum=43&hilite= and see a Chazon Ovadia from R. O. Yosef shlit"a (Purim, pg. 11 and on).

    והכל יבא על מקומו בשלום

    1. Thanks; I guess my conjecture was incorrect. Though apparently this is the Chida's p'shat and not the Arizal's as Gil had asserted. All they said from the Arizal was that Rachav was a gilgul.