A video has recently gone viral on the internet. In it an yeshiva guy gives a "vort" based on the fact that Avos kept all of the Torah and a respondent ridicules him for naivette and simple-mindedness. "How could Yakov have the entire Torah", he asks, " and not just look at it to find out what happened to Yosef, etc".
Several responses *R. Yair Hoffman) and commentaries have appeared in the blogosphere. They discuss what the "accepted" position is, what points the author had made erroneously and what is the "public" position that should be taught about Avos learning Torah. See here and here. Some responses are indignant, others are supportive; this is an improtant issue and it touched a sensitive nerve.
I have a minor issue with R. Hoffman's comment but I understand where he is coming from. There is no question that a Rav and teacher in Israel has a responsibility to teach that which strenghtens his congregants and charges and not what weakens them. As pointed out on another blog, he is not unique in this feelign of stewardship; a famed "rationalist" Jew felt the same way. Most peopel cannot abide rationalism and faith at the same time and the chosen few who can, must exercize stewardship and not "farshter" the faith of the many. The idea of necessary versus popular truth was already taught by Rambam and the Sages of the Talmud (halacha vlo morin ken). Here is an quote from Yosef Kaspi Amudei Hakessef Umaskiyot Hakessef, p. 8a: "If the people were to find out about this doctrine, they would not be able to tolerate this truth, and would grow wild and uncontrollable in their conduct." What should be the public position varies from generation and setting to generation and setting and should be determined by the "gedolim" and consensus. Blogwriters do not share the sense of responsibility of their rabbinically involved brothers and often do not realize that there words have an effect on others, far and wide.
The minor issue is that R. Hoffman concludes on the basis of his review of sources that the maximalist position is the more common one and should be the one publicly taught, except in the kiruv situation where all three positions can be presented. However, his review did not comprehensively include kabbalistic and chassidic surces and had they been included, the minimalist position would, in my opinion win by numbers.
I also, like R. Hoffman, find the mocking of simple faith and gedolm to be off-putting and unpleasant.
This is important not only as a "body count" but in esence and approach. I believe that the post-modern age demands a post-rationalist approach. The only sure way of transcending troublesome issues of philosophy, science and religion is by rising into the exalted sphere of feeling, imagination and direct mystical experience in which questions are answered in ways that cannot be communicated and probems become springboards for increased perception and growth.
For those schooled in this manner of religious expression, there is no disconnect between actual physical performaance of the mitzvos and their experiential, emotional, symbolic and spiritual effects. It is not that they lose interst in the narrow question of whether Avrohom put on tefillin or fulfilled the mitzva of writing Sefer Torah - it is that their mitzva experience transcends this question so much that it no longer even makes sense and the historical issues do not occupy them at all.
Some might see this as an excape into fantasy. To them I say, your are missing the heart of religion which is in the heart and not in the mind. You live in the improverished and limited world of sense-perception and experience. Do you not hear the Torah's clarion call to leave behind the body and its world of sense-percepton and, yes, even logic and thought, and enter a world of elevated feeling and Holy inspiration. The choice is clear. You can remain on the level of the physical and concrete or rise to the levels that cannot be expressed. The color of the sefira of Keter is black. Why? Because it so bright and so light that it cannot be perceived on lower levels. What some peopel think to be fantasy is other's spiritual bread. If you believe in Prophecy, believe then also in the world beyond, which is not concrete and graspable, and many of the questions that arise in the Great Void, of themselves dissappear, like vapor before Spirit.