Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

Chagigah 24: Degrees of Ignorance

On this daf, we find precise parameters when an am ha’aretz is believed.

The Chazon Ish said, “The term am ha’aretz also applies to people who have a degree of Torah knowledge that is broad but superficial, but lack a true understanding, since they have not invested energy into learning in depth. Because these people do have some understanding, they think they already possess full knowledge and arrogantly reject those who really know Torah. They don’t listen to them and place themselves above them.”

Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach always warned against a different form of am ha’aretz: “There are many yeshivos where they learn perhaps ten daf in a zeman. These people believe that the less material one covers, the more depth one gains. This is sadly untrue, since although we need to work on developing depth, a true scholar also accrues breadth. In earlier times, students would complete masechtos and grow great since they had the necessary broad base of knowledge. Today, many do not have a real arsenal of basic facts at hand and don’t understand anything. A bochur who only learns a few daf per masechta remains an ignoramus.”

One time, a certain talmid chochom argued in public with the Chazon Ish. When the Brisker Rov heard about this, he said, “He is an am ha’aretz.” When the person present looked surprised, the Brisker Rov said, “Since he doesn’t know how to treat someone much greater in Torah, this is a sign that, for all his learning, he is still an am ha’aretz!” Someone who argues disrespectfully with those who are unquestionably greater than they are merely exposes his own glaring ignorance (Ma’aseh Ish 2:69; Machsheves Mussar).

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