THE WORDS OF THE WISE ARE LIKE GOADS, AND LIKE NAILS WELL PLANTED [ARE THE SAYINGS] OF THE MASTERS OF ASSEMBLIES, GIVEN FROM ONE SHEPHERD [Ecclesiastes 12:11]. WHY ARE THE WORDS OF TORAH LIKENED TO A GOAD? TO TEACH YOU that JUST AS THIS GOAD DIRECTS THE COW ALONG ITS FURROWS IN ORDER TO BRING FORTH LIFE TO THE WORLD, SO TOO, THE WORDS OF TORAH DIRECT THEIR STUDENTS FROM THE PATHS OF DEATH TO THE PATHS OF LIFE. IF the words of Torah are likened to a goad, one might think that JUST AS THIS GOAD IS MOVABLE, SO TOO, THE WORDS OF TORAH ARE MOVABLE. To teach otherwise SCRIPTURE STATES: like NAILS. But IF the words of Torah are likened to nails, one might think that JUST AS THIS NAIL DIMINISHES AND DOES NOT INCREASE the object or wall into which it is driven, SO TOO, THE WORDS OF TORAH DIMINISH AND DO NOT INCREASE those who observe them. To teach otherwise SCRIPTURE STATES: WELL PLANTED. That is, JUST AS THIS PLANT IS FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLIES, SO TOO, THE WORDS OF TORAH cause one to be FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY.
R'Elazar ben Azaryah continues to expound upon the verse Ecclesiastes, which now speaks metaphorically: THE MASTERS OF ASSEMBLIES -- THESE ARE THE WISE SCHOLARS WHO SIT IN VARIOUS GROUPS AND OCCUPY themselves WITH the study of TORAH. There are THOSE scholars who DECLARE a thing ritually CONTAMINATED AND there are THOSE who PRONOUNCE it CLEAN; THOSE who PROHIBIT AND THOSE who PERMIT; THOSE who DISQUALIFY AND THOSE who DECLARE FIT. PERHAPS A MAN WILL SAY: HOW CAN I EVER LEARN TORAH and understand it precisely, when every issue is subject to debate and disagreement? To allay this concern, SCRIPTURE STATES that ALL the various Rabbinic opinions are GIVEN FROM ONE SHEPHERD. ONE GOD GAVE THEM; ONE LEADER PROCLAIMED THEM FROM THE MOUTH OF THE MASTER OF ALL MATTERS, BLESSED IS HE, AS IS WRITTEN, AND GOD SPOKE ALL THESE WORDS. Hence, YOU TOO MAKE YOUR EAR LIKE A MILL-HOPPER, AND ACQUIRE FOR YOURSELF A DISCERNING HEART TO HEAR intelligently THE WORDS OF THOSE WHO DECLARE a thing IMPURE AND THE WORDS OF THOSE WHO PRONOUNCE it PURE; THE WORDS OF THOSE WHO PROHIBIT AND THE WORDS OF THOSE WHO PERMIT; AND THE WORDS OF THOSE WHO DISQUALIFY AND THE WORDS OF THOSE WHO DECLARE FIT.
Just a few lines later is this wonderful question from R' Eliezer:
WHAT NOVEL TEACHING [HIDDUSH] WAS expounded IN THE STUDY HALL TODAY?
These fabulous words from Chagigah 3b are seemingly 1400 years ahead of their time as they seemingly present a postmodern view of multiple meanings. But I belive that the Talmud is able to walk this fine line far better than the postmodern philosophies that emerged in the 20th century. Most of these philosophies have left of with a seemingly meaningless world, while the Talmud intends and succeeds to leave us with an infinitely meaningful world.
Rav Michael Rosensweig in his essay, Personal Initiative and Creativity in 'Avodat Hashem, discusses this passage from Chagigah and the Maharal's discussion of this issue and he writes:
Happy New Year -- May your 2009 be filled with peace, love and joy and many new discoveries and hiddushim.
In essence then, what emerges from the Maharal once again, is the doctrine of multiple truths, significant especially outside the area of pesak, and related to individual intellect and the capacity of each individual to discern the complexity and subtlety which exists in every aspect of life.
Still, how is it possible for there to be multiple truths, but only one pesak? The Maharal argues that while there may be multiple truths, all truths are not equal. Life is complex and everything created does obtain of more than one combination of different components. So, for example, it is possible for an object to possess a sense of tum'ah, but its sense of taharah overwhelms the tum'ah.