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Tiferet Yisrael on mishna: some claim he's controversial?


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Nisan 5, 5778
What did the TIFERET YISRAEL write that some people were not so happy about?
R. Yisrael Lifshitz (1782-1860/5542-5621), the author of the Tiferet Yisrael, is unquestionably a great orthodox rabbi and scholar, and his aforementioned commentary on the Mishna has been accepted as classic. There are several famous places where he deals frankly to reconcile issues of science and Torah, which bother some people who are against asking questions, but they are clearly not the mainstream. For example, in his sermon “Or HaChaim”, printed at the end of Nezikin vol. I (p. 8), he explains how there can be ancient Neanderthal and dinosaur fossils which date back much earlier than the 5,778 years we count since the creation of Adam, explaining that they are remnants of the previous worlds which our tradition says preceded the creation of Adam. Similarly, some criticize the story that the Tiferet Yisrael brings at the end of Kidushin regarding Moshe’s portrait which seemed to appear evil, and Moshe admits that he had to work hard to overcome his natural negative inclinations (this story is told about Socrates as well!). Here too, we are similarly familiar with simplistic biographical works (like Artscroll) which infer that all of the rabbis were born totally righteous, and which consciously omit anything which may sound slightly negative or even raises questions. This approach has been criticized by R. Yakov Kamenetzky and many rabbanim who oppose “whitewashing” the truth, and covering up the problems which face even the greatest of our sages. They feel that it’s davka good to publicize for us all, how they overcame problems and were built by challenges. Traditionally, Judaism has not only allowed but even encouraged (!) questioning, because only a religion that doesn’t have answers doesn’t like questions, demanding blind obedience and claiming its leaders are infallible (i.e. Christianity). We, on the other hand, see the search for truth as an ideal, even 1 of the 13 Godly attributes. .
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