The Silver Lining (Shabbos 138b)
The Gemarah states that in the future Torah will be forgotten from Yisroel. Generally Aggadah can be classified in one of several categories. There are Aggadah pieces that talk about the punishment for aveiros, the reward for Mitzvos, and the great things that are going to happen le’osid lovo, among other categories. There are practical implications that can be gleaned from each of these various types of Aggadah. This Aggadah, however, seems only to provide reason for depression concerning the future of Torah, but no other Nafka minah. What is the lesson to take from this?
Based on the Ben Yehoyadah, the fact that Torah will be forgotten is a kind of brocha. It will result in extra toil in Torah to recover lost understanding and to retain all the different shitos that will result from this process, as well as enable us to take Chumrah positions in the many instances that there will be safek in Halacha. The fact that Torah is asidah to be forgotten is in fact a havtacha for Klal Yisroel that our extra toil and stringency that will be necessitated will serve as a mailitz yosher for us in Shamaim.
Now what do we learn from R’ Shimon bar Yochai who says that it will not be forgotten, rather Torah will not be found in one place? The Shearim Metzuim Behalacha explains that Pesak Halacha is not based on one Chochem for all of the Torah. We find that the Halacha is like Rav beissuri and like Shmuel bedini, and even then it is not absolute. Similarly, Halacha doesn’t follow only the Rambam or the Rosh, the Gr”a or the Shulchan Aruch HaRav. He quotes the Yam Shel Shlomo “ ...Lo zu Haderech that each person or community picks one (person) to follow, thinking that Torah is a yerusha to families...”. This is RSB”Y’s lesson, that as machlokes compounds in the future, we should not take one Chocham as the sole authority on the Torah.
The context of these comments are very telling. They were said “When the Rabbonon entered Kerem Beyavneh”. This was the period in Jewish history that the Sanhedrin had finished its wandering and met finally in Kerem Beyavneh. The beginning of the long and painful galus had begun for Klal Yisroel in general and the Torah in particular. Through the journeys ahead the integrity of the Torah would be challenged due to machlokes among the Chachomim resulting from the “forgetting of Torah” enduced by the trials of Galus. At this time the Chachomim in Yavneh wanted to find the silver lining, possibly as described by the Ben Yehoyadah, in the coming tribulations.
RSB”Y wanted, as well, to advise that Torah will no longer be found in one place as it was by Moshe Rabbeinu, the Shoftim, the Neviim and the ensuing Rashei Sanhedrin. Rather it will be splintered from here on out among the Geonei Hadoros, but, selecting from the various shitos, the integrity of Torah will survive in its entirety.
(This was the lesson of the Kerem, as it seems Rashi explains somewhere that it was a semi-circle of rows of Chachomim, so that one Chochem is not to be taken as the authority in front of all others. It symbolizes a degree of equity amongst them. Hence, “When they entered Kerem...”)