June 19, 2020

Shabbat 10


Having previously noted (see Shabbat 9b) that one should not start a Torah tribunal just prior to the time for Mincha, today’s daf (Shabbat 10a) addresses a number of points concerning Torah tribunals while making specific reference to Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest of judges, who ‘sat to judge the people… from morning till evening’ (Shemot 18:13). However, the mere mention of Moshe was not merely meant to inspire Rav Chisda and Rabbah bar Rav Huna – who themselves had been sitting in judgement the entire day. Instead, it was meant to teach a profound and timeless lesson.

Noting the similarity between the phrase ‘from morning till evening’ (ibid.) used with reference to Moshe, and the words the Torah uses to describe God’s creating of the universe, i.e. ‘and there was evening and there was morning, one day’ (Bereishit 1:5), we are taught that ‘any judge who judges a true judgment of truth (אמת לאמיתו)… is considered to have become a partner with the Holy One in the act of Creation’.

Clearly this is a deep and exquisite idea. However, as numerous commentaries point out, the phrase ‘who judges a true judgment of truth’ appears tautologous. Given this, what is the difference between ‘judging a true judgement’ and ‘judging a true judgement of truth’? Among the many answers to this question is one offered by Rav Pinchas Zavichi in his Responsa Ateret Paz (Sec. 1, Vol. 3 Choshen Mishpat 3) who explains that while a ruling can be true according to the theory of Torah, it must also be true according to the reality it is ruling about.

Today is the 25th yahrzeit of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and perhaps one of the best ways to describe this great tzaddik and posek is that he ruled אמת לאמיתו. For example, in the hesped he delivered for R’ Shlomo Zalman, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein remarked how ‘he brought to the interpretation and application of Halakhah a profound sensitivity to the human dimension… [and how] some of his pesakim concerning Shabbat, for instance, were informed by the sense that the day should be experienced as pleasant, rather than as an obstacle course’.

This was R’ Shlomo Zalman. This is what it means to judge אמת לאמיתו. And this, ultimately, is how to strike the right balance when rendering halachic rulings in all matters, but especially in Hilchot Shabbat.

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