Despite my widespread renown on Mi Yodeya, I am actually not a talmid chochom: I can only read Gemara in English.

Sometimes a yeshiva person or even rabbi will hold a philosophy or action to be righteous when I hold it to be wicked.

Naturally, I am tainted by participation in secular society so I may blinded from what is right but

Is there a mechanism In Judaism for an ignoramus to have a moral opinion that is not dismissed when it differs from that of a learned person.

  • How does this relate to Mi Yodeya? What are you asking? – ezra Aug 5 '16 at 15:01
  • 1
    Independent of Judaism, if everyone else disagrees with you about something, you ought to think twice about believing it. If you're talking about something where 75% think one way and 25% the other, don't sweat it. – Double AA Aug 5 '16 at 15:22
  • The main difference between "ignoramus" and "non-ignoramus" is that an "ignoramus" think that he is not "ignoramus" and can easily judge negatively the words of Chachamim, and a "non ignoramus" knows that he is and "ignoramus' and cannot easily judge negatively the words of Chachamim. – kouty Aug 8 '16 at 21:33

Rav Kook z"l offers a fascinating perspective. In his view, one has a natural moral compass which can be corrupted even by the excessive legalism common among talmidei hakhamim (and no doubt can be corrupted by external influences as well).

Far from the normal disregard on the part of the scholars, for the sentiments of the laymen,

R. Kook saw matters differently, and recognized that there was an element of natural Jewish morality in the masses that was no longer to be found among the scholars, and the scholars ignored this to their own detriment. And let us not forget that the masses that R. Kook was referring to were not like many of our masses who go to day school, yeshiva in Israel, and attend daf yomi before going to work. The East European Jewish masses never opened a Talmud after leaving heder. They were pious and recited Psalms and came to a shiur in Ein Yaakov or Mishnayot, but without having studied in yeshiva, and lacking an Artscroll, the Talmud was closed to them.

To quote him in Shemonah Kevatzim 1:463:

האנשים הטבעיים שאינם מלומדים, יש להם יתרון בהרבה דברים על המלומדים, בזה שלא נתטשטש אצלם השכל הטבעי והמוסר העצמי על ידי השגיאות העולות מהלימודים, ועל ידי חלישות הכחות וההתקצפות הבאה על ידי העול הלימודי.

The natural people who are not learned have an advantage in many things over the educated, in this that their natural thoughts and basic ethics have not been removed from them through the mistaken notions that arise through learning, and through the weakening of one's abilities, and the rage that one acquires through the burden of learning. (translation my own).

Source: http://seforim.blogspot.com/2010/10/marc-b-shapiro-new-writings-from-r-kook.html.

  • 2
    This doesn't explain how to know which ideas are of that nature and which aren't. Certainly not everything a 'basic person' thinks is on target. – Double AA Aug 5 '16 at 16:21
  • 1
    @mevaqesh Love the quote. In other places Rav Kook compared these 'natural people' to the covering of the 'tachashim' in the Mishkan. Essential in the beginning, but temporary. It gets carefully stored away at the time of the Mikdash. The OP shouldn't think of himself as an'ignoramus'. He's just at a different point on the road that we all travel. His opinion isn't 'dismissed' even if the 'final ruling' isn't in agreement with his own. That is also the general structure of the Talmud. – Yaacov Deane Aug 5 '16 at 16:47
  • @YaacovDeane The OP shouldn't think of himself as an 'ignoramus'. Agreed one hundred per cent. I certainly hope no one thought I meant as much. – mevaqesh Aug 5 '16 at 17:13
  • 2
    rav kook is a minority view here – michael Aug 7 '16 at 12:09
  • 1
    @m.r. If true, so what? – Double AA Aug 7 '16 at 13:46

In Shaarei Kedusha (If I recall correctly) by R Chaim Vital there is an explanation to "derech eretz kodma latorah" that may be relevant to your question.

In this context he uses the term derech eretz to refer to character or midoss or morality. He explains that the reason why precious few (in quantity) of the 613 commandments deal with basic human decency, and those that do are broad generalizations like viahavta lireyacha kamocha,( do unto others.... ) etc.... is because the understanding of human decencies can be recognized by people even without the torah. It is readily apparently to people that kindness is good and being hurtful is bad.

Your opinion on morality is significant in Jewish Philosophy and should never be dismissed by yourself or others based on comparisons of self perceived scholarly status or lack thereof.


according to the Mesilat Yesharim the way to have clear moral view is to be free of sin and this comes through torah study. otherwise one is trapped by rationalizations induced by desire. some sources

ch.5 So too in our case, for no one recognizes the illness of the evil inclination and its powers except for the Creator who created it. And He Himself cautioned us that the only remedy for it is Torah. Who then will abandon it, take something else instead and expect to live? Certainly the darkness of the physical will advance and strengthen over him level after level, without his realizing it until he finds himself sunk in evil, so distantly far from the truth that even thoughts of seeking the truth will not enter his mind .

ch.10 But the man who was completely purified from this affliction and has been cleansed of all trace of evil which lust leaves behind it, behold his vision will be perfectly clear and his discernment will be pure. He will not be swayed by any desire. He will recognize anything which is a sin. Even for the most minuscule, he will see its evil and will distance from it. On this our Sages referred regarding the men of Sheleimut (Wholeness) who purified their deeds to such a great extent as to leave not even a stirring of evil - "the clean minded men of Jerusalem" (Sanhedrin 23a).

see also Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman paper on Daas Torah

...In simple people it is mixed with all types of influences and ideas from the street, or the like. And according to how great the mixture is, so too will be the diminishing of the percentage of "daas torah" . Therefore a man who is fit to be a reliable advisor is obligated to prepare in his heart "daas torah", 100% clean, with no trace of mixture of other daas whatsoever... see https://judaism.stackexchange.com/a/28786/1857

and chovos halevavos gate 5 ch.5

be careful to not rely on your intellect nor to take counsel only with yourself. Do not reason on your own. Do not distrust your forefathers in the tradition they bequeathed to you as to what is good for you. Do not reject their advice in what they taught you because none of the plans you can think of were not previously known and their good and evil consequences were already weighed.

UPDATE:some invoke the gemora of Eruvin 100b where Rabbi Yochanan says if the torah had not been given we would have learned modesty from the cat, chastity from the dove, etc. but these inferences are based on the premises that there exists a God who created the world and He did so for man, hence we can learn to draw lessons from how He did it. but obviously without such knowledge (which comes from torah) one will not only not draw the lessons from the cat, on the contrary he will come to say the cat and even the human mind is merely a result of random mutations.

  • 1
    ray, so according to this, if the Torah hadn't been given, we'd never know things like not to have adultery or to be modest? – Double AA Aug 5 '16 at 16:33
  • 1
    @DoubleAA you'd find ways to rationalize it and other worse things. similar to what is happening to the secular western world today right b4 our eyes – ray Aug 6 '16 at 21:02
  • 1
    @ray I guess you don't believe in the Gemara then as it directly contradicts what you just said. Awkward. I'm afraid your answer is just wrong. – Double AA Aug 7 '16 at 1:18
  • 1
    @DoubleAA care to explain which Gemara you are referring to? – ray Aug 7 '16 at 11:36
  • 2
    @DoubleAA never claimed every detail of moral concepts must have torah. conscience also is a general compass. just saying overall without torah, a person's general outlook is inevitably warped and he will be led astray by his desires – ray Aug 7 '16 at 21:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .