Shabbos 87 Personal autonomy versus blind obedience 

There is a general tendency to see Torah as a top down system , where instructions are given from the top , and followed blindly from the bottom.

Hashem instructs prophets, who in turn instructs people, and today, the place of the prophet is taken in part by the Chachamim.

In truth, it is somewhat more complex than that, and there is actually a system of multiple power centers, with a king ( or Nasi), Sanhedrin( supreme Court and legislature ) ,and prophets and Torah sages, each working separately and in tandem .

Notwithstanding the above, the system still seems very vertical, and little room or tolerance is given for individual dissent . 

In contrast, going against the word of the King (מורד במלכות) , the Sanhedrin ( in its most severe form , זקן ממרא ),  the Navi (עובר על דברי נביא ), or sages (העובר  על דברי חכמים) are all severe transgressions which could sometimes even be capital.

Even the wisest of all men , Shlomo haMelech , was heavily criticized for deciding that Torah warnings and prohibitions against having too many wives, horses, or too much silver and gold did not apply to him, and his subsequent sinful actions that and landed up causing a split in his kingdom . (See Sanhedrin 21b) 

The Torah stresses so many times how Moshe, Aaron, and Betzalel   fulfilled every introduction of Hashem precisely as he commanded .(See for example Shmos 39)

Yet, on today’s daf, we see  what appears to be a completely different approach.

The Gemara tells us how there are 3 decisions that Moshe Rabbeinu made on his own that Hashem agreed to, at a later stage .

These were 

1. Adding a day of seperation before the giving of the Torah, effectively making the date the actual giving took place 1 day later on 7 Sivan.

2. Separating from his wife for the long term now that he had achieved a higher level of prophecy ( a discussion in its own right , maybe for another post )

3. Breaking the tablets.

All  these 3 were rather serious decisions, with extreme ramifications .

The first, bypassed the day Hashem had set aside for the giving of the Torah, delaying it by a full day, the second caused great distress to his wife,  possibly bypassed the מצוה רבה of פרו ורבו ( the great mitzva of being fruitful and multiplying ) , and led to the later debacle with Miriam and Aharon, and the third, literally destroyed the Torah that has just been given , the ultimate holy of holies. 

We see a similar concept , though perhaps not quite as extreme, regarding Ruth and Shmuel.

The Gemara (Shabbos 113b) quotes the passuk תן לחכם ויחכם עוד (give to the wise man that he should become wiser )  (Mishlei 9/9)   and applied it too great people who used their own discretion to modify instructions given to them by their superiors.

Shmuel was told by his mentor , the prophet Elie, that when he heard the voice he had been hearing again, he should reply to the voice addressing him as Hashem  ( Elie knew that it was Hashem who had revealed himself to Shmuel and given him his first experience of prophesy.)

Concerned that it might be someone else calling, Shmuel replied without referring to the voice as that of Hashem.

Ruth was told by Naomi to prepare herself and make herself beautiful before going to the tent of Boaz.  

Yet, she changed the order , and first went to the tent , preparing herself there, in order that passers-by would not think that she was a prostitute. 

Although elsewhere, Shmuel is seriously criticized for even ruling on a halacha in front of his Rebbe (Brachos 31b ), here this is viewed as using the discretion given to him by Hashem to be even wiser , and be flexible with his Rebbe, the Navi’s instructions , apparently a compliment.

The same, though perhaps less risky , applies to Ruth’s second guessing of Naomi .

The cases on our daf, might be more easy to explain , given the special level of prophecy that Moshe head, but also appear even more severe , seeing as he seemingly  risked going against the will of Hashem himself, and in such serious ways!

When is such license permitted and even encouraged, and when is it forbidden , and sometimes severely punished ?

Stay tuned for part 2, when we reach Daf 113, Hashem willing. 

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