Q. Does Dor Deah regard as invalid any position contrary to Mishneh Torah?
A. Our simple reply is no. This is but one reason why we do not accept the label Rambamist. The following, found on our About Us page, summarizes why we emphasize Mishneh Torah:
"Torah is a vast sea of knowledge. If learned improperly, one can invest years transversing its vastness without getting anywhere. This is why it is imperative that one study Torah in the proper manner, making sure that his learning will have a positive impact on his life and the lives of others. Introverted Torah learning is counter-productive. The Holy One bestowed His Torah to Israel as a guide for improving relationships and improving the world. We encourage a methodology of Torah study that enables the individual to acquire a holistic knowledge of rason HaShem (the Will of God) without necessitating years and years of study in yeshiva. True, extensive knowledge of the Talmudic source texts is an invaluable asset, but it is unrealistic to expect or demand that whoever wants to live a Torah observant life can acquire sufficient knowledge only through intensive study of the Talmud. It was for this very reason that Maimonides compiled his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah - to provide the masses, small and great alike, exposure to whole body of practical Jewish Law."
Now more than ever, myriads of Jews study full time in yeshivoth around the world, and yet religious confusion and all sorts of other problems among us are not decreasing. We must ask ourselves why. We believe that the difficulties and suffering of the Jewish People can be traced to an incorrect approach in learning Torah. If we were to learn Torah properly, we would be more likely to live Torah properly. If we live Torah properly, we have YHWH's promise that blessing will fall upon us, and not curse; and as a consequence, the entire world will find blessing and peace.
Despite that there are so many Jews devoted to full time learning, the bulk of their learning consists of disputations in the minutia of Talmudic discussion, not in memorization of our Maker's eternal guidance, the Torah, or in how His commandments should be implemented in our lives. It is for this reason that we emphasis Mishneh Torah as the solution. There is no other method by which the masses can acquire a holistic knowledge of YHWH's will.
Our emphasis on Mishneh Torah should not imply that we in some way regard the Rambam inerrant. That is contrary to our fundamentals. All men are fallible. Rather, it is better that a person be mistaken on a detail of Jewish law due to a hypothetical error in Mishneh Torah, than that the person have an extremely well investigated grasp of a few fine points of halakha while lacking even a basic knowledge of Jewish law as a whole. The same reasoning applies to the potential that an individual may misunderstand the words of the Rambam. The potential for an individual misunderstanding Mishneh Torah is less problematic than the potential for greater error as a result of lacking a holistic knowledge of YHWH's will.
1) Centrality of the Written Torah;
2) Memorization of the Written Torah;
3) Recognition of the sole legislative authority of the ancient Great Sanhedrin;
4) Learning of practical halakha according to the systematic layout of Mishneh Torah;
5) Personal development of a systematic theology centered on Torah and reason;
6) Emphasis on how Torah observance can and should have a positive impact on the world around us.
If a given law in Mishneh Torah is particularly perplexing to an individual, we are in no way opposed to investigation of that law for further clarification. We are not opposed to looking into the early sources, be they the Talmudic literature or the responsa of the Geonim. Nor are we opposed to consulting the explanations of more recent Talmudic scholars who have a rational approach to understanding the Talmudic literature. What we are opposed to, however, is that this become the substantial portion of one's Torah learning. History has proven that the large scale result of such methodology is a Dark Age like era of widespread ignorance of halakha and the creation of an atmosphere of religious moral relativism, where skill in hypothetical argumentation is more valued than humility and acts of kindness toward fellow man. Few people have the expertise or genius to make full time Talmudic investigation a fruitful endeavor with an observable positive impact on the world at large. We respect and appreciate those uniquely gifted individuals who do posses this ability.
R' Yosef Eliyah
* DorDeah.com is an independent organization. DorDeah.com is not affiliated with www.mechon-mamre.org, the "Torath Moshe Society," nor Chabad-Lubavitch. Though we are grateful for the contributions of these organizations in providing Mishne Torah resources, we do not endorse all the views espoused by these organizations.