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Thought for the Day: Mitzvos By Decree, Mitvos By Deduction

There is a fundamental principle of monetary disputes known as "ha'motzi mei'chaveiro alav ha'raya" -- the one who claims he is owed money must prove his case.  For example, Reuven claims that Shimon borrowed $100 and he wants to be paid back.  Shimon agrees that he borrowed the money, but says he has already repaid the debt to Reuven.  The burden of proof will be on Reuven, since he is the motzi.  Shimon, being the chaveiro, can be passive.  In fact, even if Shimon readily admits that it is possible that he didn't pay (he keeps terrible records and its been awhile, for example) and Reuven (who uses Quicken) is certain he was never repaid, the burden of proof still rests completely on Reuven.

Chazal (Bava Kama, 46b) discuss how we know that principle.  You may not be shocked to know that it is a machlokes, but you may be surprised by the content of the machlokes.  R' Shmuel bar Nachmani says the source is a pasuk; its a g'zeiras a kasuv (written decree) and there is not (necessarily) any logic to it.  Rav Ashi says, "Why do I need a pasuk?  It's logical."  (lama li k'ra? s'vara hi!)  As R' Avigdor Miller, z"tzl was wont to note: What?!?  Why in the world would I willing to substitute a logical analysis for an open and clear statement in the Torah?  Actually, Chazal are not only willing, but actually prefer a s'vara to a pasuk.  Our gemara, in fact, goes on to use the proffered pasuk for a different halacha.  Just so we all have this clear: the halacha of "ha'motzi mei'chaveiro alav ha'raya" is without doubt d'oraisa.  The only question on the table is whether the source of that d'oraisa is the Torah or human logic.  Please read that again.  Maybe a few more times; let it sink in.

The human mind, with proper training and in a proper environment is an appropriate source from which to know Ratzon HaShem.  The Ramchal, in Sefer Ikarim, says even more.  The only difference, he says, between d'oraisa and d'rabanan is the rule that in case of halachic doubt, if the source is d'oraiso one must be stringent, but if the source is d'rabanan one may be lenient. The source of both, however, is HaShem Yisbarach.  Some halachos and principles were given at Har Sinai by revelation (those are called d'oraisa), while other halachos and principles were given through the efforts and debates of our Sages (those are called d'rabanan).  Straight logical inference, as already noted are actually also d'oraisa.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.


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