on binah vs. hochmah (vs. daath)

My friend YodaYid said [in a comment to my post about too much focusing on labels and self-definition] many varied things and I will try to address each one of them in an untangled manner. First of all, I'm going to avoid entirely the definitions and meanings of english words, both because I don't like to sound like an intellectual (I know, who knew?) and because whether or not an english word means something has limited bearing on how best we, as Jews(hey look! he labelled something), should focus our energies. [Also, because anything I'd have to say on the matter would probably be wrong.. stupid mongrel hard-to-understand languages. ;) ]
  1. Firstly, the Rebbe Nachman quote, "ability to tell one thing from another" is by my best guess (without knowing which story it was from? Master of Prayer?) an issue of translation. It almost certainly is a poor translation of l'havin davar m'toch davar (more closely translated: "To understand one thing from another.") which is related to the idea of 'width' of understanding. In any case it leads me to an explanation of Binah, which I will get to in a minute.
  2. Secondly, he touches on the concept of Machloket or a disagreement as to the proper determination of specific torah laws (halachot).
  3. Thirdly and lastly, he brought up the issue of different modes and transmission of Torah, itself related to machlokot. (Well, he might not have noticed he brought it up but he did.)
I will try to clarify these points from a top down approach:

The Torah has two major perspectives, and many many others that are out of my scope. The perspectives break down into the written Torah and the oral Torah.

We learn that the written Torah has its roots in Hochmah (loosely: Wisdom)
and that the oral Torah has its roots in Binah. (loosely: Understanding) Now the written Torah is more static and less fluid than the spoken Torah, just as the written word is more permanent and less ephemeral than the spoken one. In essence, the oral Torah involves the application of the written Torah in a particular place at a particular moment. There is a lot more to the oral Torah, namely the codification of what the written Torah means and the study of the jurisdiction of the various laws.

Here we arrive at a particular paradox because Hochmah is founded in the nature of being simultaneously all-inclusive, whereas Binah's nature is to cut away and narrow things down to their essence. Yet, it would seem that the oral Torah makes the written Torah more, not less, universal. This is a misunderstanding. In practice, the oral Torah takes the one-ness of the written Torah and whittles it down into the ruling appropriate to a particular instance. The oral Torah takes the written Torah out of its universal context and places it into a specific subjective context. The oral Torah metabolizes the unpalatable written Torah, making it digestible. This is their nature. [An important side note in this regard is that Kabbalah is essentially written Torah, not oral Torah as one might think. Don't take my word for it, the R'David Pinto's Pachad David was the first place I heard this idea. I asked my Rav and He explained it more.] If we stop to think about it for a second, the Kabbalah itself has none of the practical applicability of the oral Torah.]

Now lets apply these understandings a little. Machloket, a disagreement of the applicability of a particular Torah law is obviously oral and not written Torah, because it deals with applicability, with subjective hypothetical situations. This is why throughout the oral Torah, the Mishna and the Talmud as well as all the later poskim, there are arguments where one truth is uncovered and all other opinions refuted. In the written Torah, Midrash and Zohar, all opinions are offered without any care for contradictions as all opinions are allowed to stand at once, however much at odds they may seem to be. Perhaps we can understand this fundamental difference in the nature of Machloket itself. There are two kinds of Machloket, those for the sake of heaven and those for other selfish interests. The Machloket of Hillel and Shamai, mentioned in Yoda Yid's comment, is, we are told, for the sake of heaven; whereas we are given other examples of less self-less machlokot. (That of Korach is the foremost example.) We are told that Machloket for the sake of heaven (out of the objective desire to know and fulfill God's will) will stand forever, unlike subject/selfish machlokot that will fall. In essence, perhaps because all the 'Machlokot' of the Kabbalah are by definition objective, this may be why they stand without refutation. Whereas the nature of Machloket in the oral Torah is to apply to a specific subjective situation, and so, all but the correct or appropriate opinion must be pared away.

Now, let's understand all this and how it applies to YodaYid's question:
One issue I have similar to chaim g.'s first comment: the Talmud seemingly has no problem categorizing Jews - Tzedukim, Samaritans, Hellenists, not to mention "orthodox" groups following Hillel vs. Shammai etc. As soon as you start enumerating the differences between your beliefs and those of others, you are already moving in the direction of classification. ...In other words, I think Judaism places a very strong emphasis on finding and creating structure. It's the wrong structures we have to worry about.
The Talmud, as I explained above is specifically involved in a Binah mode of thinking, a paring down of many potential applications of Law to determine which law applies in a specific setting. The Talmud itself is a codification and generalization of such a style of thinking in order that any student could reconstruct this mode of Binah.

Classification serves a purpose in the determination of one's actions day to day. But the oral Torah, the Torah of Binah, is totally informed by and inspired by the written Torah, the Torah of the unity of creation with God, Chochmah.

This was my goal in my original post. Not to deny the importance of classification and application of ideas appropriate to a particular occasion, but to reconnect that power of classification to the source of everything, to one-ness with HaShem. Of course structure is not only important, it is vital. In my thoughts on Autism post I stated more specifically that there are two major modes of functioning, ratz (Running) and shav (Returning). The post to which you responded, is involved entirely in ratz, throwing aside all structure in order to unite with God's oneness. (Though if you re-read you will see that I did delineate between good and bad structure as you suggested I should) It is in the shav mode that it is vital to return into the structure in order to affect (ie. carry out God's will in) the created world. Unsurprisingly ratz corresponds strongly with Hochmah, and shav with Binah.


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