Let My People Know

"Everything that the distinguished scholar creates anew has already been said to Moses on Sinai"


Not every scholar is capable of independent interpretation. 

The solitary scholar who makes his own discoveries will very often find that his views have already been recorded by the scholars of previous generations. 

But, unlike other spheres of knowledge, talmudic study does not insist that interpretations be original and innovative. 

To a certain extent every scholar tries to prove that his own revelations are not totally new but are implied in the remarks of his predecessors. 

There is no greater glory for a scholar than to find that the thought he has developed independently has already been formulated by others before him, since this constitutes sound proof that his methods of study have not exceeded the bounds of true knowledge and are a continuation of talmudic thought itself. 

The talmudic saying that "Everything that the distinguished scholar creates anew has already been said to Moses on Sinai" was not aimed at discouraging the scholar but rather at stressing that all true innovations are inherent in the Torah itself and merely need to be uncovered. 

Here too the analogy of Torah study with scientific methods is valid. 

The man who studies the nature of the material world feels that he is not seeking new facts, but rather unveiling existing reality. 

This is also true of the talmudic scholar who strives to uncover, develop, and emphasize aspects already present in the Talmud. 

The predilection of the great scholars throughout the centuries for seeking similarities between their theories and those of other scholars is expressed in the saying: 

"Blessed is He that I have expressed the same view as the great scholars." 

Innovation and substantiation are therefore complementary rather than conflicting, and each scholar tries, in his own way, to arrive at "Torah from Sinai."

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From The Essential Talmud by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz