This essay brings several sources for the concept of daas Torah.
The Rebbe of Orzhov, in the seventh part of his encyclopedic sefer,
Eish Dos deals with the concept of da'as Torah at great
length, writing that the general meaning of the term "da'as,"
understanding, is the ability to differentiate between the good and
bad elements in situations where a less subtle grasp will see only
one or the other. A lack of da'as can lead to grave errors in
judgement, as something which in essence is bad is judged as
good, or vice versa.
In massaches Sotah, daf 49, Chazal,
referring to da'as as Torah, said, "The only thing which is
considered da'as is Torah." This means that only through a
thorough knowledge of Torah can true understanding be achieved. Only
the use of that reasoning which is an application of Torah knowledge
can reveal the essential nature of the forces at work in a situation.
The gemoro in Bava Basra (in the context of describing Torah as the
antidote to the yetzer hora) calls the Torah "tavlin," spices.
This is because the level of da'as which Torah can impart enables
the subtlety of a situation to be clearly seen, in the same way that
spices bring out the full flavor of a food, with all its subtleness
of taste. The posuk in Tehillim (119:66) is a request to
"Teach me good reasoning and understanding" (Tuv Ta'am Vo'da'as
Lamdeni), juxtaposing "ta'am" with "da'as" for, as we have
explained, depth of understanding makes subtle differences clear to
the point where they can almost be sensed.
The Rebbe of Orzhov
continues with the observation that a man who has achieved this level,
and is imbued with this keen understanding, can make valid conclusions
on the basis of his discernment without needing to resort to external
proofs or the scrutiny of logic (while there will obviously be a
logical connection between the conclusion and the observation that
prompted it, here we mean to say that the conclusion does not have to
be a necessary logical consequence of the starting point). A man of
"understanding" can decide that this or that will ultimately be good
or bad using his discretionary sense alone.
HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz expressed a similar principle in his
hesped on the Brisker Rav. Reb Chaim brought the Medrash Eichah,
1:4 where the story is told of four Yerushalmis who travelled
to Athens where they found accomodations at an inn. After being shown
to their rooms they retired to sleep, while the landlord, who had
heard about the Yerushalmi reputation for wisdom, arranged himself so
that he would be able to overhear their conversation without them
being aware that he was listening. One of the guests said, "I have
been given a broken bed.
Although the ba'al habayis has tried to arrange it so that I
wouldn't notice, I can still tell."
"He is telling the truth," thought the landlord to himself.
The second guest then commented, "The
meat which we were given here had a taste of dog's flesh."
landlord heard this he said to himself, "Lies and slander! It was meat
like any other!"
The third guest then said, "The wine we drank had
the smell of the grave."
To this the landlord's reaction was, "Untrue!"
Finally the fourth Yerushalmi said "You are commenting
only on the food and drink? I tell you that the landlord himself is a
"How can that be? I know it not to be the case!" thought the landlord.
He didn't completely dismiss what he had heard
though, as he knew his guests to be extremely sharp, and he decided to
check things out for himself. At the shop where he bought the meat he
found out that his sheep had suckled from a dog. Where he obtained the
wine he was told that the vine which the wine was made from stood over
a grave and after receiving confirmation of the comments of three of
his guests, he assumed the last one might also be true and indeed, when
he made his enquiries, he was correct.
It certainly required wisdom to
detect that the meat tasted of dog, that the wine smelt of the grave
and that the landlord was a mamzer, commented Reb Chaim, but what
great wisdom was needed to feel that the bed was broken? Anybody would
have felt the discomfort, so how did this serve as an example of the
wisdom of the bnei Yerushalayim?
He explained that what Chazal are
pointing out here is that just as it is immediately obvious to anyone
if a bed is broken, a chacham who posesses daas can easily
sense if something wrong with a situation or person.
In the light of the above, it is easier to understand how the
chachamim who guide each generation may come to look unfavorably
on particular aspects of Jewish life which, to the less sensitive eye,
seem worthy of support (and vice versa). Even if they did not explain
their position to us, we should rely on their understanding of
matters, in the knowledge that they, with their familiarity with the
Torah and its principles, are equipped with the
da'as and the wisdom to be able to make such judgements.
This can also
be illustrated by the law of hashovas aveida. The halacha
provides two ways for returning a lost article to it's owner. One way
is for the finder to announce that he has found something, and to ask
those who come to him to provide simanim as a proof that they are
the true owner. When a talmid chacham comes though, and recognizes
the article as his own, even if he cannot give any siman it is
returned to him. "A talmid chacham does not need to furnish
Chachmei Yisroel have always had the ability to discern
the essential nature of events and their significance in the wider
context .This discernment is not based on their having amassed large
amounts of information from which they then argue on the basis of
probabilities, but on their appreciation of the true nature of the
situation in all it's depth and in all aspects.
The gemoro (Sanhedrin 93:) explains the posuk in Yeshaya
"Va'haricho beyir'as HaShem...", which is describing melech
haMoshiach, to mean that the Moshiach will be able to judge with
certainty using his sense of smell alone.
"What does this mean?" asks
Reb Moshe Feinstein (in Dorash Moshe, parshas Tetzave). The gemoro
does not seem to mean that Moshiach will use the power of prophecy
to judge, and besides, it is not even clear whether or not something
known through prophecy may be used in making a judgement. Reb Moshe
explains that the gemoro refers to a particular quality of being able
to feel what is in opposition to Torah, and what is not. In fact,
writes Reb Moshe, this ability is possessed by each and every true
talmid chacham, with Moshiach being on the highest
Reb Moshe expands on this idea, explaining that the avodos of
lighting the menora and of burning the ketores represent two
complementary facets of the task of the teachers of Torah. The light
shining from the menora on the one hand, signifies the Torah's
light which shines from the mishkan to illuminate the world and
which is taught by the leviim and cohanim (Devarim 33:10). In
addition to the teaching of Torah, the talmid chacham has the
ability to discern which things will be beneficial to the cause of
Torah, and which will be harmful, in the same way that a person uses
his sense of smell to help him decide whether a food is still fresh or
if it has gone bad and may be harmful to him. It is this function of
the Torah teachers which the ketores represented and this is why
these two avodos were performed together.
Were it not for the fact that every true talmid-chacham and
yerei shaamayim has this quality to a degree, the melech
hamashiach would not be able to use this intuition, as it would be
considered akin to prophetic knowledge, lacking as it does a
demonstrable basis and would be unfit for deciding a question of
din, which the Torah requires to be decided by the logical process
of halachic debate. Since though, it is a factor common to all who
learn Torah in truth, and the moshiach will have simply a keener
awareness of fundamentally the same nature, it becomes an admissable
factor in considering questions of din.
Reb Zadok HaCohen (in his sefer, Tzidkas HaTzadik) explains
another posuk in this way. The tribe of Yissachar is
described (in Divrei HaYamim I, 12 ) as "knowing (the) understanding
for the times, knowing what Yisroel should do." The Torah scholars of
Yissachar, who shouldered the burden of Torah, and served Klal
Yisroel as morei hora'ah, says Reb Zadok HaCohen, are the ones who
know the needs of the times as they relate to the course to be taken
by Yisroel. They are the ones who can appreciate what each new set of
circumstances calls for from Klal Yisroel.
In explaining why it is only the talmidei chachamim who understand
what the correct course is for the generation, Reb Moshe brings the
posuk at the end of parshas Mishpatim dealing with the ascent
of Moshe Rabbenu to receive the Torah. Rashi comments on the words
"and Moshe came into the midst of the cloud" (Shmos 24:18) that this
cloud was of a similar consistency to smoke and HaShem made a pathway
so that Moshe could enter it. The pathway into the cloud symbolizes
the transmission of the correct understanding of the Torah from one
generation to the next. We are not able to acheive clarity in
appplication of halacha, even in the years since the Torah
SheBa'al Peh was committed to writing, by mere possesion of the
texts, even with their perusal and study, unless we receive the
traditions of the generation's chachamim. The Torah was given in a
thick cloud and so that we can find the path of the true
understanding of Torah, we have to be taught how to understand
correctly and the path into the cloud must be shown to us as well as
devoting the necessary toil and labour to the task. if we stray from
Moshe Rabbenu's path into the cloud, the path which the chachmei
hadoros have followed, in spite of all our calculations, we will be
in danger of losing our way in the cloud's darkness.
Awareness of the existence of the beacons who light our path today
will bring us the security of the knowledge that the path they
indicate for us is a sure one. We beg HaShem to preserve among us the
Chachmei Yisroel through all the time which remains until the
arrival of Moshiach.