encountering torah

There are many statements made in the context of Chazal (Our teachers) that catch one off guard. Often our first reaction is to ascribe these statements or foreign understandings to superstitions or cultural beliefs of their era.

This is a major mistake in Torah learning. In fact it is a major mistake in any and all learning. The first rule in learning must always be to assess the internal consistancy of any teaching. If the teaching agrees with its own understandings and premises then it passes the first and most crucial test. This test is a real challenge in the learning process because it is often easier to assume poor internal consistency than it is to thoroughly explore all the possible ramifications of what is said such that there might be found a consistent underlying framework.

Once we have established the internal veracity of any teaching, then it is our responsibility to find an analog within our own understanding which would render the idea in a contemporary context. If we fail here we must assume it is due to our own limited mental flexibility.

We must of course thoroughly test this modern analog to see that it doesn't add or remove too much from the premise of the teaching. Once we have a modern analog sufficiently close to the original teaching, we can rest assured that the teaching is itself applicable in our day and age just as we originally thought.

Since we have seen the teaching is applicable we can then assume that perhaps it is our grasp of reality that is flawed. And we can approach the teaching with the assumption that it is objective truth. (Or at the very least, it is more objective (or more accurate) than our own reference frame)

[With God's help, in a future post I will explore this learn style with examples.]


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