Two Ways for the Torah to Come on Aliyah
Translated from Zahav Ha-Aretz, written by HaRav Yehoshua Weizman, Rosh Yeshiva.
Two Talmud sages who made Aliyah from Babylonia to the Land of Israel referred to the relationship between the Torah of Babylonia and the Torah of Israel. These sages are R. Zeira and R. Yirmiya.
The Talmud (Baba Metsia 85) tells us that when R. Zeira came on Aliyah he fasted one hundred times in order to forget what he had learned in Babylonia. R. Zeira states (Baba Batra 158) that the air of Israel makes one wise. The Rashba explains that R. Zeira made an effort to change his previous point of view and attitude to reach a more truthful understanding.
In Nedarim (4a), R. Zeira states that the Babylonians were foolish for eating bread along with bread. This statement will be explained shortly.
R. Yirmia also came on Aliyah and became wiser as a result. Rava says (Ketubot 75) that a Babylonian who moves to Israel is twice as wise as one who was born in Israel. His proof is R. Yirmiya. R. Yirmiya when he was in Babylonia couldn't completely follow the sages' discussions. After he had moved to Israel, he called the Babylonians foolish.
The verse in Psalms (143:3) says "He has placed me in dark places as the dead of the world." R. Yirmiya said (Sanhedrin 29) that this verse refers to the Babylonian Talmud. He further stated: (Pesachim 34) "The foolish Babylonians say dark (unclear) statements because they live in a dark land."
Two Ways to Come on Aliyah
There are two ways to come on Aliyah. One is R. Zeira's way, and the other is R. Yirmiya's way. R. Zeira made an effort to forget what he had learned in Babylonia, wheras R. Yirmiya added on to what he had learned in Babylonia, thus making him twice as wise as the sages in Israel.
Two Approaches to the Torah in Babylonia
It would seem that R. Zeira and R. Yirmiya had different approaches concerning the sages of Babylonia, which led to their different paths of learning when they came on Aliyah.
R. Zeira said: The Babylonians are foolish because they eat bread along with their bread.
R. Yirmiya said: The Babylonians are foolish. Since they live in a dark land, their learning is dark (unclear).
R. Zeira's Approach
These two statements are based on the reality of life in Babylonia, but also reflect an intellectual point of view. The Babylonians used to eat bread along with a fine flour porridge which tasted very similar to bread. R. Zeira saw in this eating habit a reflection of their thinking. They believed that if one ate two foods with different tastes, both tastes would be cancelled out by the other and be ruined. This was their approach to different points of view. They cannot be put together, for one will cancel out the other.
R. Yohanan, R. Zeira's teacher, expounded as follows (Hagigah10 according to Rabeinu Tam's version in Teshuvot 48): "There is no peace from the enemy". This is the Babylonian Talmud.
This means that two approaches are seen to be as enemies. There can be no peace between them. Each threatens to cancel and destroy the other.
Similarly, the sages expounded (Sanhedrin 24): "I took two branches. One I called Noam (pleasantness) and the other I called Hovlim (damage)".
"Noam" - these are the scholars in Israel that pleasantly complement each other in their studies.
"Hovlim" - these are the scholars in Babylonia that fight each other in their studies.
Rav Kook also wrote in this vein in Orot HaTorah 13:4, that, at the time of the redemption, contradictions would be reconciled. Each approach which had seemed to be different will help one to understand and expand upon the other.
In Israel one taste does not cancel out the other. Just the opposite! Each taste adds to and improves the other. Those who believe that only similar opinions can be placed together are foolish. It was this foolishness that R. Zeira wanted to forget when he came on Aliyah.
R. Yirmiya's Approach
R. Yirmiya saw the limitation of the Babylonians in a different way. Living in darkness causes one not to see clearly. However, after one has managed to live in the dark, he will manage even better in the light.
King Solomon said (Ecclesiastes 2:13): I saw that the advantage of wisdom over foolishness is as the advantage of light over darkness.
The Zohar (III, p.47 in the Sulam) asks a very interesting question: Why did King Solomon emphasize that he saw the advantage, as if no one else could see it. Rather, he wanted to explain that only from study of foolishness can wisdom be understood. Light cannot be recognized without darkness.
Seeing the world in darkness helps one see it afterwards in the light. Darkness hides the general appearance but details can be perceived. One who learns the details and then sees the object in the light knows the object even better than one who only saw it in the light. The darkness of the Babylonians gives an advantage to one who goes from darkness to the light.
The Netsiv (Kidmas HaEmek 1:9) cites a Midrash in Midrash Kohelet: If one had to find his way out of a palace without any light, when he finally found his way, he would also be acquainted with the insides of the palace. With light he would quickly find his way out, but would not have the knowledge of the palace.
Continues the Netsiv: "Thus it was with the sages in Israel, where there was light, and they therefore did not have to exert themselves so much. The sages in Babylonia however, didn't find the light until they had made major efforts, and often erred on the way. But when they found the light, it was very bright".
This is what is meant by Isaiah (29):"The deaf on that day will hear the words of the book - and from the darkness and gloom the eyes of the blind will see". In other words, because of the darkness and gloom, the genuine light of knowledge will be seen, even more than for those who were not in the darkness previously.
Different Personalities, Different Approaches
It is possible that these two approaches have to do with one's personality. Some can come to Israel with the Torah they learned, and some have to forget it and start again.
If one needed to forget what he knew and did not, he might fail.
Thus writes R. Charlap in Hed Harim in the name of the Brisker Rav: "Rav Zeira fasted to forget his learning, and this was necessary. R. Aba, who didn't do this, was made fun of in Israel.(see Beitsah 38)"
Our approach is R. Yirmiya's approach
It would seem that our approach is closer to R.Yirmiya's than to R. Zeira's.
We didn't attempt to forget the Torah that was developed for thousands of years outside of Israel. Rather, we study this Torah, and we should try to elevate this Torah in the air and light of Israel.
This appears to be the meaning of the Talmud (Megillah 2a).
Rav Elazar HaKapar says: In the future the synagogues and study-houses in Babylonia will be re-established in Israel.
The divine service in the synagogues and the study in the study-houses of the Diaspora will not disappear from the world as the Almighty returns unto Zion. Rather, they will be re-established in Israel and they will be illuminated and uplifted in Israel.
From R. Elazar HaKapar, we see that not only scholars go from strength to strength when they come on Aliyah, but also their Torah.
And thus writes the Hatam Sofer at the end of a responsum whose destination was Israel (Responsa Y.D. 233): I am dwelling in a dark land and my words are at a relatively low spiritual level. Perhaps when my words arrive in Israel, they will be uplifted and sanctified. When the Babylonian Talmud is accepted and expanded in Israel, it will rise above the Jerusalem Talmud.