Regarding a terrible threat to our Emuna: The book called “פשוטו של מקרא”
“Pshuto Shel Mikra” has snuck in through the cracks and is being used in many Batei Midrashim and by many Rebbeim, with most people having no idea that it is a book of Kefira with an awful agenda.
This article is being written to bring awareness to the American public about an extremely serious topic, which many Rabbonim in Eretz Yisrael have been speaking out about. This issue has the potential to affect the foundations of our Yiddishkeit. The critical nature of the following information cannot be overstated, because the problem has already reached almost every frum community. Here we bring you not our own words, but a summary of the words of our Gedolim, whose writings we quote and attach below.
A number of years ago, the Leshem publishing company put out a pirush on Rashi called Rashi Kipshuto, which has the haskamos of the Badatz and a few other choshuve Rabbonim. A couple of years later, they came out with a pirush on Chumash called Pshuto Shel Mikra, which explains the pesukim very differently than Rashi. Their implication is that Rashi is saying the “drash” and they are saying the pshat- the “basic meaning” of the pasuk. They even put their explanation above that of Rashi. Officially, they state that they “made a likut of Rishonim to explain the simple meaning of the pesukim, according to those Rishonim.”
Sounds nice, many think. What could be wrong?
ONE: What have our Gedolim said about making our own commentary on Chumash?
There is a strongly worded letter on this subject from Rav Shach and Rav Elyashiv. Rav Shach writes to this effect: “I must warn publicly about authors who allow themselves to print collections of commentaries on Chumash and Shas, to be equivalent to Rashi, using their own judgement to decide between opinions of Rishonim. This is so, even if they note which Rishon they took each piece from. In an orphaned generation such as ours, for the authors to pick a view among the Rishonim, using their own logic, and stand this up as a pirush on par with Rashi – and actually CONTRADICTING Rashi – and that this is RECOMMENDED to teach talmidim – is a terrible breach and should put trembling into the heart of anyone who hears it, for the end result is unfathomable.” Rav Elyashiv added to the effect: “It is beyond understanding that in our days, an author should allow himself to print a Shas, and along with the words of the angels – Rashi and the Rishonim – allow himself to print his own commentary.
Although the Chumash calling itself Pshuto Shel Mikra displays haskamos from the Badatz and other Gedolim, they are “borrowed” haskamos. They took the haskamos they had gotten on their Rashi sefer and put them onto the Chumash without asking permission. Subsequently, the Badatz issued a letter stating that there are many problems with the Chumash.
It is clear that the underlying idea of presuming to make one’s own pirush by choosing views among Rishonim goes against our Gedolim. But it gets much worse than this.
TWO: There are many disturbing problems that can be seen in this Chumash:
· There is a pattern that can be seen in their commentary, in which the authors consistently look for the most shallow explanation possible of each pasuk. If there is a lesson to be learned, a neis, or anything to do with emuna in Mashiach or in Techiyas Hameisim, they’ll always find one Rishon who says a different pshat and explain it that way instead.
They attempt to remove from the Torah, as much as they can, all mention of the importance of learning Torah, of Torah Sheba’al Peh, of miracles, of Techiyas Hameisim, of Olam Haba, of Ruach Hakodesh, and of the Midrashim that we were raised on and that our Emuna in Hashem and the foundations of our Yiddishkeit were nurtured on.
The authors of Pshuto shel Mikra seek an alternate meaning of the pasuk even when the Emuna lesson from Chazal IS the most simple reading of the pasuk.
If they cannot find a pshat in one of the meforshim which is “simple” enough for them, they’ll make one up on their own. Other times, they quote a pshat as being from a Rishon, but when you check, you find there is no such source. And then there are instances where the authors will quote only a PART of the commentator’s words, leaving out the part they don’t want, thereby distorting the meaning – or they’ll even CHANGE one of the Rishon’s words, giving a new meaning to the pirush.
· Another very concerning issue is that they downplay the kedusha and greatness of the Avos and the Shevatim, and minimize the wickedness of the Reshaim that the Torah teaches about.
· Worst of all, when the pesukim discuss Inyanei Emuna, the authors veer into saying explanations – unsupported by any source - that are at least bordering on kefira.
Here are just a few examples:
· When Yaakov Avinu sold the bechora to Eisav, the authors stress that Yaakov was “cooking the daytime meal”, not the meal to comfort mourners, as Rashi says. Then Eisav came from the field “worn out and tired from a hard day” – not from murder, as Rashi says. The bechora, according to them, was “not a real bechora” – not like Rashi says, that the Bechor would serve in the Beis Hamikdash – but just “a more important position in the family” – like the one to serve lunch. So obviously it follows in their pshat that the sale was also not a real sale, just a foregoing of his “older brother role in the family.” To support all the above, they quote an Acharon, cutting out the most important line he says, and quote from anonymous “meforshim”. Among their sources is also a “Bereishis Rabba” – but when you check, there is no such Medrash in existence.
· When the pasuk says “V’ruach E-lokim m’rachefes al p’nei hamayim”, Rashi says that it means the Kisei Hakavod. The authors of Pshuto Shel Mikra, though, say that it means “avir” – the air or the wind. Or, they say, “some explain that it is something more spiritual, and a hint to the Kisei Hakavod.” No sources necessary, none quoted.
· There is no mention of the miracles of the well water rising for Rivka, the twelve stones around Yaakov becoming one, or the kefitzas haderech that Eliezer and Yaakov experienced.
· When Yehuda told Yosef “If I do not bring Binyamin back to my father”, then “v’chatasi l’avi kol hayamim,” Rashi says that it means both worlds, including Olam Haba. The Pshuto Shel Mikra says “all the days of his life” – removing Olam Haba. In the original edition, they falsely quoted the Abarbanel, and this caused a tumul among Rabbonim in Eretz Yisrael. So, in the next printing, they simply removed the Abarbanel, and kept their crooked p’shat.
· We see at least four places where Rashi explains pesukim containing words such as “My chukim” or “My Torah” as “Torah sheba’al peh”and the Pshuto Shel Mikra excludes this basic explanation from their pirush.
· In the beginning of Parshas Vayeitzei, there are many Nissim mentioned and lessons to be learned, such as Yaakov Avinu davening at Har Hamoriah, Yaakov Avinu learning Torah for 14 years at Yeshivas Shem V’Eiver, (which Rashi mentions THREE TIMES), etc, and they delete them all.
The above are just a few of the countless examples we found. They aren’t coincidental; it’s a pattern. If you check, you’ll find that Pshuto Shel Mikra consistently takes the opportunity to undermine the kedusha of the Torah and contradict the Mesora we received from Chazal.
THREE: We have a Mesora of how to learn Chumash, and leaving out Rashi and Divrei Chazal, as Pshuto Shel Mikra does, is not an option:
Torah is meant to be learned with the teachings of Chazal. They are Torah Sheba’al Peh and are an inseparable part of learning Chumash. They teach us how to understand the Torah Sheb’ksav. We cannot learn Chumash without them.
To understand this, we must understand what Torah IS.
The Maharal says that Torah is “Morah” – it is a teacher, teaching us halachos, mitzvos, derech eretz, etc.
This can be seen from the first Rashi in the Torah, where Rashi asks, why the Torah doesn’t start with “Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem”, the first mitzva that we were commanded? From Rashi’s question, it’s obvious that the Torah isn’t here to tell us stories. The Brisker Rav would frequently say that the Torah isn’t a storybook. Yet, by leaving out Rashi and the Divrei Chazal he brings in his pirush, that is what the Pshuto Shel Mikra aims to have the Torah learned as, chas veshalom.
The attempt to create a Pshuto Shel Mikra type of Chumash has been tried before, generation after generation, and the Gedolim consistently and strongly opposed it. It is significant that the Chumash of Moses Mendelsohn was of this same type, and slipped through the cracks, appearing benign. Mendelsohn’s Chumash was banned by the Vilna Gaon, who said it should be burned as Sifrei Minim. The Haflaah, the Chasam Sofer, and others wrote fiery words against it, and the Haflaah reports that the Chumash was indeed publicly burned in Vilna. Tragically, though, it was still used for 100 years in Germany, wreaking havoc on Klal Yisrael, until it was finally recognized by one and all as leading to apikorsus.
What have our Gedolim throughout the generations taught us about the absolute requirement of learning Chumash according to the mesora we received from Har Sinai, WITH THE DIVREI CHAZAL (as Rashi teaches it to us)?
· The Mabit says that the ikar pirush of Torah Shbiksav IS Torah Shebaal Peh.
· The Netziv says to the effect: “Someone who tries to explain the pesukim of Tanach according to his own understanding, without having first studied how Chazal explain them, one must suspect that he is an apikorus.”
· The Chasam Sofer says that what separates us from the non-Jews is that we have Torah Shebaal Peh, and that we must not learn Chumash without the words of Chazal. He says “We have seen in this terrible generation that in many countries they have switched the order that the earlier generations established, (by starting off with “p’shat” before Divrei Chazal), and they stumbled (becoming kofrim in Hashem and in the Torah.)
· The Brisker Rav said in the name of the Chofetz Chaim that (just like we have Gemara as the explanation of the Mishna), Rashi is the “Gemara”, the explanation of the Chumash. There is a famous story, in which the Brisker Rav was told that a melamed translated a pasuk for the children according to the Rashbam. The Brisker Rav exclaimed that children should not be told “this is the teitch according to the Rashbam, or this is the teitch according to Rashi,” rather, they should simply be taught the teitch according to Rashi as the pshat of the pasuk.
· The Machaneh Levi, who was the son of the Haflaah, said to the effect: “In previous generations, they learned Chumash every week with Rashi, and therefore it was obvious to them that one cannot understand even one parsha without the drashos of Chazal – that Torah Shebiksav and Torah Shebaal Peh are one. But since they stopped learning Rashi regularly, the results have been many sinners who are kofer in Torah Shebaal Peh.”
· Rabbi Yosef Yedid HaLevi, Rav of the Halabi community in Yerushalayim about 100 years ago, said: “Anyone who teaches children Chumash NOT in accordance with the shita of the Rishonim, such as Rashi and the Ramban, and the other meforshim who followed the words of Chazal, is as if he taught them minus and apikorsus, and it would be better had he not taught them Chumash at all, for it is better to be an Am Ha’aretz than an apikores.”
· In the sefer Aliyas Eliyahu about the Vilna Gaon, there is a very instructive story in which a maskil relates how he went to visit the Gaon. The maskil took pains to disguise his identity, but the Gaon realized who he was anyway, and refused to enter the same room as him. After brilliantly answering up all the maskil’s questions, the Gaon asked the maskil how he explains the 10 leshonos of joy (as the maskil had written a “Pshuto Shel Mikra” type of work.) When the maskil claimed that Rashi and the Medrash are not the pshat, the Vilna Gaon turned away and closed the door. Later that day, the maskil received severe punishment and bizyonos in the main shul in Vilna, for having degraded the words of Rashi.
If all this was not enough to clarify why Pshuto Shel Mikra is treif, there is more.
FOUR: The publishing company, Leshem, has been infiltrated by elements whose Emuna has been compromised.
We are aware of someone on their staff, heavily involved in the planning of Pshuto Shel Mikra, whom we’ll call H., whose Hashkafos are very not good. It is obvious that he is an apikores from the kefira that he writes. He is part of a large group of kofrim, headed by someone who no longer is a Shomer Torah Umitzvos, whom we’ll call B. What is even more dangerous is that the head of this organization, B., still dresses as a very religious Jew – while privately deriding Torah and Mitzvos.
Leshem was asked by the Beis Din of Rav Nissim Karelitz in Bnei Brak to stop printing the Pshuto Shel Mikra, and they continually make false promises to stop, and then keep putting out apikorsus. (See attached letter.)
We have received a clear Psak that it is a mitzva to burn the book called Pshuto Shel Mikra.
It is clear as day that the authors are attempting to tear down the Emuna of Klal Yisrael. May HKB”H save us from their wicked designs.
There is a kuntres covering this topic in greater detail that is coming out, with the haskamos of chashuve Rabbonim. To receive a preprint copy by email, please send an email to email@example.com.
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