Monday, August 09, 2004

The Meaning of Mesorah

When people speak of having or lacking a "Mesorah" (tradition) they usually mean one of three things:

1) Mesorah in the grand sense as a chain from our generation back to Moshe Rabbeinu at Matan Torah. This is similiar to how Mesorah is presenting by the Rambam in his introduction to Peirush Ha-Mishnayos.

2) Mesorah is the most immediate sense: "This person has a mesorah." or "Baalei Teshuvah lack a mesorah". This means a complete Jewish worldview inherited from the previous generation, usually through osmosis.

3) Mesorah as tracable back through history. Most Yeshivos will claim a Mesorah back to the Vilna Gaon for their Derech ha-Limud (usually through Rav Chaim of Volozhin, then the Volozhin Yeshiva, and then, however that Yeshiva's history goes). This idea is applied to even contradictory Darchei ha-Limud. The essential point is to give yourself validity/Mesorah/authenticity.

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