Biblical Faith – with Shmuel “Sam” Peak
Weekly series with new shows available every Tuesday.
The Men of the Great Assembly flourished prior to the Second Temple and in early days. The “things” that they said are mussar (advise). Mussar is distinct from Torah, which is a system of law, and it is different from mitzvos, which are the practice of Torah law. It is advice that supports both the study and the practice of Torah. Mussar strengthens the ability of mere human beings to live within a Divine system.
During the thousand years in which the Torah was transmitted from Moshe to the Men of the Great Assembly, none of these bearers and transmitters of Torah gave the mussar to the nation. The pronouncements they issue were restatements of Torah, not the advice of mussar. What prompted the Men of the Great Assembly to dispense mussar?
In the time of the Men of the Great Assembly, persecution and exile had taken their toll on scholarship and the intellectual fabric of the nation was starting to wear thin. Intellect, sechel (translated as intellect), had declined with regard to the power of its presence and influence. Since Torah is conceptual in nature, the gasp of Torah was weakening and was in need of reinforcement. From that time on, rabbinical leaders found it necessary to give advice on how to deal with the changes that were taking place in society.
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This program is dedicated to Madra Polk in her loving memory.