Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, the famed author of Nodah B'Yhudah, served as the rabbi of Prague from 1754 to 1793. Once a group of scholars who wished to contest his rabbinic qualifications presented him with a series of questions in Torah law. These fictitious "cases" were carefully constructed to be as complex and as misleading as possible, so as to ensnare the rabbi in their logical traps and embarrass him with an incorrect ruling.

Rabbi Yechezkel succeeded in resolving all the questions correctly — all, that is, but one. Immediately his detractors pounced on him, showing how his verdict contradicts a certain principle of Torah law.

Said Rabbi Yechezkel: "I am certain that this case is not actually relevant, and that you have invented it in order to embarrass me!"

"How do I know?" the rabbi continued. "Because I know that G‑d's Torah is true. You see, whenever a human being is called upon to decide a matter of Torah law, we are faced with a paradox: how can the human mind possibly determine what is G‑d's will? The laws of Torah are the wisdom and will of G‑d and the most basic laws of reality, preceding and superceding even the laws of nature. How is it that the finite and error-prone intellect is authorized to decide such Divine absolutes?

"But the Torah itself instructs that 'the Torah is not in heaven' but has been given to man to study and comprehend; and that whenever a question or issue of Torah law is raised, it is the human being, employing his finite knowledge and judgment, who must render a ruling. In other words, when a person puts aside all considerations of self and totally surrenders his mind to serve the Torah, G‑d guarantees that the result would be utterly consistent with His will.

"However," concluded Rabbi Yechezkel, "this 'guarantee' only applies to actual events, when a rabbi is called upon to determine what it is that G‑d desires to be done under a given set of circumstances; but not if his personal honor is the only issue at hand. Had you presented me with a relevant question, I know that I would not have erred, since I approached the matter with no interest or motive other than to serve the will of G‑d. But since your case was merely a hypothetical question designed to mislead me, my mind was just like every other mind, great and small alike — imperfect and manipulatable."

Note: This Friday - Iyar 16 on the Jewish calendar - marks the 217th anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Yechezkel Landau in 1793