Monday, February 14, 2005

What do you know? Not the quiz show

When I go to professional meetings or teach courses, people usually listen to what I say because I actually do know what I am talking about. And, I am confident in what I know. Not arrogant or overweening, and certainly respectful, but I have spent a lot of time and effort to be good at what I do. I would love to have the same confidence when talking about Torah stuff, but I don't. Unfortunately, I have not spent the equivalent amount of time and effort in Torah study, and therefore not only are there gaps in my knowledge, but unless I have researched something exhaustively, I am not as confident as I want to be in my pronouncements. I always have a worry that somewhere there is a rashi, or a tosfos, or some rishon known to all but me that blows my position out of the water. The answer, of course, is to study more, and I that I have been doing, but it is slow going, and my brain doesn't seem to accept more stuff the way it used to. Also, when one is on the MO side of things, as opposed to chareidi, or even the right wing of the MO, usually the first question in response is to question how much I know, not the rightness of my arguments. And I realize that this is what I do when confronted with some responsa from the conservative or reform, my reflex is.."Well, what do they know?" sometimes it is not so much, sometimes it is a whole lot more than I do. Obviously arguments need to be made on the merits of the arguments, not on the merits of the arguer. Sometimes it is hard to make that distinction.

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