Should We Learn The Ibn Ezra's Commentary?
Should we learn the commentary of the Ibn Ezra on the Chumash?
After a e-mail conversation with Chabakuk Elisha earlier last month, I decided to look into this subject a bit further. To begin with, I remembered Sichos HaRan #223 which relates the view of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov:
"A number of people were once praising Rashi's commentaries in the Rebbe's presence. The gist of the conversation was that one should use only Rashi's commentary on the Torah and not those which follow the philosophers.
Some Torah commentaries occasionally abandon the traditional Talmudic and Midrashic interpretation in favor of one agreeing with philosophical teachings. These should be avoided. The only necessary commentary is that of Rashi.
The Rebbe then remarked, 'You may not realize it, but Rashi is like the Torah's brother. Every Jew, from childhood on, studies both the written and oral Torah with Rashi's commentary. Think of this and you will understand Rashi's unique greatness."
If there is any misunderstanding on who Rebbe Nachman is referring to when he speaks about "those which follow the philosophers", Chayei Moharan #410 states:
"One Rosh Hashana, the Rebbe spoke about the prohibition against studying Torah commentaries taking a philosophical approach (such as the works of Ibn Ezra, especially the commentary known as the Margalit and the works of the Ralbag which are well known to contain statements contrary to the Torah to the point that one should rend his garments on hearing a single word of them.) The Rebbe said that all their basic premises are taken from Aristotle and other well known atheists, some of whom came before the Talmudic period and some during it. When the teachers of the Mishnah and Talmud introduced the prohibition against studying works dealing with Greek thought they were aiming against these atheistic works, which were an intrinsic part of Greek culture."
Rebbe Nachman's view, however, was not universally shared in the Chassidic world. Midrash Pinchas, kuntres 8:7 (pages 181-182), quotes Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz as having said, "Ibn Ezra was an incarnation of the Tannaim, and he had every right to express a dissenting view." Rebbe Yaakov Shimshon of Shepetovka said, "All the words of Ibn Ezra are as sacred as a sefer Torah." Additionally, other Chassidic rebbes who supported learning his commentary include the Yismach Yisrael and Rebbe Simcha Bunim of P'shyscha, who regularly learned Ibn Ezra's commentary because he believed it was "conducive for attaining Yiras Shamayim."
While the Degel Machaneh Ephraim often quoted the commentary of Rashi, the Ohr HaChaim, and sometimes the Ramban, I don't recall him ever quoting Ibn Ezra and have not found anything definitive that reveals the Degel's view about the commentary of the Ibn Ezra.
I asked Rabbi Lazer Brody his opinion whether a person should stay away from this commentary and he replied, "Yes, because many of them were into "chakira". For that reason, we also don't learn the Rambam's "Guide to the Perplexed" nor chapter one of "Chovos Halevavos" - the Baal Shem Tov way (Degel, Breslev, etc) is pure and simple emuna."
Another Breslover chassid I asked about this replied, "After we win the battle against television in the frum community, we can start worrying about these intramural Jewish controversies!"