Machloket in Commentaries


Hope you’re doing well dear rabbi.

When I read the Chumash with a commentary, I see that rabbis have machloket all the time and they seem to ‘guess’ things, as if they’re not 100% sure on what they’re talking about. For instance; Rav A says “Oh, Jacob did this because of x”, and Rav B says, “No, that’s not the case. He did it because of y.” Now, this is an historical event we’re talking about. Both of them can’t be right at the same time. For instance:

Artscroll Chumash page 187:

“Why Deborah was with Jacob at this point is the subject of another dispute between Rashi and Ramban. Rashi cites R’ Moshe HaDarshan who states that she was the nurse Laban had given to Rebecca when she left to mary Isaac. (24:59). Rebecca — not knowing that Jacob was on the way — had sent Deborah to Haran to tell him that it was finally safe for him to return home, but the aged nurse died on the way home. Ramban maintains that it is unlikely that Rebecca would have sent an elderly woman on such a strenuous trip. He suggests that Deborah had returned to Paddan-aram after Rebecca’s marriage, but when Jacob left Laban, he took Deborah with him, so that in tribute to his mother Rebecca, he would support her childhood nurse in her old age.” end quote.

One of them is 100% wrong, no? So how am I going to trust the wrong side on everything else he says from that point on? And I’ve seen many times Rashi admit “I don’t know what this means”.

True, on some halachic issues they both can be right at the same time. But history is history. And it’s not like secular history. We’re not really sure what Napoleon did back in the day but we MUST be sure what patriarch Jacob A”H did.

Don’t Jews have the best mesorah in the world? An unbroken chain from Har Sinai? If yes, why isn’t everything crystal clear?

Thank you



  1. I am sending you some notes about the concept of Machlokes in the Torah which I hope you find useful. The basic thrust is that do we accept the fact that Hashem gave the entire gamut of the Torah to Moshe on Sinai, including every single possible scenario of every single possible situation, or did Hashem teach Moshe the methodology of Torah to be able to deal with every single possible scenario as they arise?

     1. Arguments Within Torah, Arguments Against Torah –
    a. Within – Hillel and Shammai. Against – Karaites, Hellenists.
    Ethics of the Fathers 5:17: Any argument that is for the sake of Heaven will in the end endure, and any argument not for the sake of Heaven will not endure. What is an argument for the sake of Heaven? Hillel and Shammai. What is an argument not for the sake of Heaven? Korach and his community.

      b. Exclusive use of Torah sources and methodology – e.g. Religious Zionism, but contrast Reform.

      c. Mutual respect. Attack on views, not on person.
    Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 14b: Even though the schools of Shammai and Hillel argued… they did not refrain from marrying women from the opposing school… to teach you that love and friendship prevailed between them, in fulfillment of the verse, “And they loved truth and peace” (Zechariah 8).

      d. Both recognized as genuine Torah views.
    Eruvin 13b: These and those are the words of the living G-d.

     2. Intensity – “A stiff-necked people” – Jewish stubbornness and cynicism – related to concern and importance of truth, and belief that there is an absolute truth. Maharal, Be’er HaGolah.
    Survival of Jewish people as a distinct nation, linked directly to Torah observance and Torah knowledge. Each side is fighting for the very survival of the Jewish people. Each side considers Torah as its life-blood – contrast arguments in literature and the arts.

     3. Why controversy? If the Torah has been transmitted accurately, why are there controversies?

    a. Different dimensions of reality. Maharal of Prague, Be’er Hagolah, Be’er Rishon : One can maintain that wood is related to the element of water and be correct and one can maintain that it is related to the element of air and be correct. The same is true of the Torah. Nothing is totally impure, without a pure aspect. If someone declares an item pure and presents his arguments to prove it, he has only demonstrated one aspect of reality. Similarly when one declares an item impure, he has only considered another aspect. One who declares something pure and one who declares it impure have both learned the Torah but each saw the item differently. However G-d created that item as a whole and He has the ability to create it in a manner that can be viewed in different ways.

    Best wishes from the Team

  2. I see. 70 faces of Torah. Thank you very much dear rabbi!

  3. It’s a pleasure. I am happy that Just Ask! was able to be of assistance.

    My sister-in-law told me a great idea in the name of Rav Sa’adiah Gaon, that seventy in Gematriah is “Ayin”. It’s not really Shivim Panim l’Torah, it is Ayin Panim l’Torah – Rav Sa’adiah Gaon explains that each “Ayin” (i.e. each person) sees and understands the Torah in their own way!

    Best wishes from the Team