Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How the Days of Creation Were Understood by Our Sages

Current academia depicts the world as having existed for aeons, rather than merely six millennia, and to man as a creature evolved from others. Although many Torah scholars object that these claims are in contradiction to the teachings of the Mesorah, others have claimed that one can find support among the earlier Torah authorities for accommodating the Torah to academia’s depiction. This essay takes issue with this claim.

It is not implausible that despite one’s endeavors to make a point clear and simple─despite one’s striving to expunge any ambiguities and to prevent any misconstruing of what he means─there will still be some who will construe from [his very words] the very opposite of the point he wished to convey. This has happened even with the words of Hashem Yisborach: He stated that He is One and that there is no other; and, in order to remove from our souls the corrupt ideas believed by the Dualists, clearly stated regarding this point, "Hear O Israel, Hashem our G-d, Hashem is One." Yet the Christians use this very verse as a "proof" that the Alm-ghty is a trinity, and they say, "It says, ‘Hashem,’ then ‘our G-d,’ and then, ‘Hashem.’ Behold: these are three Names; and it then says ‘One’─a proof that they are three and the three are One"!

                                               Rambam, introduction to his Ma’amar T’chiyyas HaMeisim

 

The Rambam wrote the above lines in response to accusations that in his Mishneh Torah he denied the principle of techias ha-meisim, the future resurrection of the dead. Despite his teaching this very concept as a fundamental of Judaism, some took his statements in other contexts to be "hinting" that he "really" did not believe in it. Some attacked him for this phantom position, while others gleefully cited him as an authoritative source for their kefira, their denial of a fundamental doctrine of Judaism. The Rambam reacted pointing out that even the Torah’s clear words cannot escape distortion by those whose agendas contradict the Torah’s intended message.

 

The Rambam’s words quoted above should come to mind when one is confronted by the strange interpretations people suggest to avoid the clear premise Hashem sets up for us in the Torah─the premise that the world was created in six days.1 Hashem details this in Breishis. He repeats it in Sh’mos 20:11 ("For six days G-d made the Heavens and the Earth"), and again in Sh’mos 31:17 ("Between Me and B’nei Yisrael this will be a sign forever, that in six days Hashem made the Heavens and the Earth..."),2 and Chazal have instituted our referring to this fact every Shabbos and Yom Tov. What could Hashem say to make His intent clearer? Yet despite all this, some suggest that we ignore these clear words in deference to an ever-morphing alternative to Creation.3

 

Our mesorah insists that the six days of Creation, counting from the first creative act, were six literal days.4 It does not allow one to insert the evolutionary explanation into the p’sukim by claiming that the days were actually billions of years. Even the idea that Creation was anything less than a totally miraculous process, not conducted through natural processes at all, ─accelerated" or otherwise─is rejected by the Maharal (Ba’er HaGolah, p. 83, Ba’er Four):

 

Know that He, May He be blessed, brought out these creations, all of them, to physical reality during the six days of Breishis by Himself, in His Own Glory─not by means of an agent, meaning Nature. Creation was contrary to the way things are after the conclusion of the six days of Breishis, wherein Hashem Yisborach conducts His world by means of the agent, i.e., Nature."

 

Indeed, as elaborated upon by the Maharal, if anything bothers Chazal, it is the mesorah attributing the extra steps Hashem took (and time involved) in creating the world through His "ten ma’a’maros (declarations"), instead of creating everything in one "ma’a’mar" (and in one fraction of a second).5

 

The Age of the Universe

Our ba’alei mesorah have always understood and insisted that the six days of Creation were regular days, not eons, and that the first day of Creation began less than 6,000 years ago. Even kabalistic passages, if taken literally as referring to physical worlds preceding ours, in no way conform to the world’s history as portrayed in academia’s current versions (as of this writing).

 

Rabbaynu Saadia Gaon (Sefer Emunah V'Dei’os, end of first chapter) is very clear about his understanding of how long the universe has existed:

And the third opinion [is] the opinion of the fools... [who] say, 'How can the intellect accept that the world has existed for only 4,693 years?' And we will answer [in defense of that] that once we accept that the world was created, it is impossible for it not to have had a beginning."

 

In fact, he states (Emunos V’Dei’os 3:8) that if someone professing to be a prophet suggests that Hashem took a year to create the world, he is a false prophet!

 

Rabbeynu Yehudah HaLevy, in HaKuzari (Book One) as well, states clearly that Judaism has always considered the world to have been created in six regular days, and has consequently existed merely thousands of years:

 

(42) The Khazar King: What could be more erroneous, in the opinion of the philosophers, than the belief that the world was created, and that it was created in six days? ...

 

(43) The Rabbi: ... Our prophet  ... revealed the hidden things, and told how the world was created...and the years of the world from Adam until now.

 

(44) The Khazar King: It is astounding, too, if you have a clear counting from the creation of the world!

 

(45) The Rabbi: With it we count, and no Jews exist from Hodu to Cush who contest this.

 

(46) The Khazar King: And what is your count today?

 

(47) The Rabbi: 4,500 years....

 

(60-62) The Khazar King: Does it not weaken thy belief if you are told that the Indians have antiquities and buildings which they consider to be millions of years old?....And what will you say of the philosophers (read: scientists--ZL) who, as a result of their careful researches, agree that the world is without beginning? This is not a matter of tens of thousands of years, nor even millions of years, but of something that has no beginning or end at all!

 

(63) The Rabbi: The philosophers─we can’t blame them. Being Grecians, they inherited neither wisdom nor Torah....

 

(64) The Khazar King: Does this obligate us not to rely on Aristotle’s philosophy?

 

(65-67) The Rabbi: Yes. Since he did not possess a kabbala through the reporting of a person he could trust, he exerted his mind, deliberated about the beginning and end of the world, and found it difficult to envision it [both as] having a beginning as well as it being infinite. However, through his unaided thought processes, he concluded by accepting his logical structures that inclined towards the theory of a world with an infinite past. He did not see fit to ask about the correct count of years from anyone who came before him, nor about the chronology of the human race. Had the philosopher lived among a people possessing widely known traditions, which he would be unable to dismiss, he would have applied himself with his logic to strengthen the viewpoint that the world came about through Creation.

...Heaven forbid that the Torah would contain anything that actual proof or demonstration would be able to contradict! But the Torah does record, in its account of Creation, the occurrence of miracles and different behaviors in nature, and the changing of one thing to another, to demonstrate that the Creator of the world is able to accomplish what He wants, when He wills it. The question of eternity and creation is deep; the arguments would be evenly balanced; but the prophetic tradition of Adam, Noah and Moses resolves the question in favor of Creation. For prophecy is undoubtedly more reliable than conjecture. And if a Torah-person would find himself compelled to believe and concede that matter is eternal, and [to believe in] the existence of many worlds prior to this one, this would not be an impairment to his belief. For he would [still] believe that this world was created from a certain time, and that Adam and Eve were the first human beings.

 

Three strands intertwine among the commentators: the Torah teaches that the world was created less than 6,000 years ago; the earth’s state of tohu va-vohu followed immediately upon earth’s creation; and the "days" of Creation are regular 24-hour type days. Each of the meforshim explicitly state one or more of these ideas, and implicitly vouch for all of them; and virtually all6 agree that the earth’s state of tohu va-vohu began and ended during the first day. We have already noted the disposition of the Maharal, Rav Saadia Gaon, and Rabbeynu Yehudah Halevy. The Rambam’s son, Avraham,(Sefer Milchamos Hashem, ed. Margolios, Mosaad HaRav Kook, pp. 57-58 and 59): continues the legacy of our mesorah:

 

The Torah was given to Israel twenty-four hundred years after the creation of the world. And if anyone mumbles to you, "Haven't the Chachamim darshonned that the Torah was created a thousand years before the world?" ─you should answer him: That drash needs many payrushim to answer it (l'taretz osso), and it is impossible that it should be understood literally. And even if it were meant literally, the subject under discussion is when it [the Torah] was given [and not when it was created]....Behold, their [the philosophers'] belief is that that world is old (yashan), and it has no beginning. And we disagree with them, through the emunah of the Torah, and we can present teshuvos and establish many proofs to make the Torah emunah clear, that the world is new (chadash), and created; and nothing exists that is rishon and acharon except for HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

 

We should note that both Rabbeynu Yehuda HaLevy and the Rambam’s son acknowledge an esoteric teaching about time and/or worlds preceding our world; but they both do so reluctantly and go out of their way to hold themselves aloof from it as a mainstream mesorah literal, physical depiction of history.

 

The Rambam himself, in Moreh Nevuchim, makes it clear that when confronted with Aggadic statements that contradict the p’shat and/or logic, the Aggadta must not be taken literally. Thus, he too rejects the literal meaning of even talmudic statements that assign the concept of time to "before" Creation. Rav Yosef Albo (Sefer Ikkarim), the Ramban, Rabbeynu Saadia Gaon, and the Maharal (for one instance, in Ba’er HaGolah, Amud 82-3, Ba’er HaR’vi’vi) all follow this approach. These ba’alei mesorah either reject or reinterpret such Aggadta so as not to conflict with the simple understanding that Creation began and ended within seven literal days.

 

A Day is A Day

Long before the Gaonim and Rishonim, the Talmud (Chagiga 12a) set the record straight:

 

Said Rav Yehudah in the name of Rav: Ten things were created on the first day: Heaven and Earth, tohu va-vohu (Emptiness and Formlessness), Light and Darkness, Ruach and Mayyim, middass yom and middas layla (the length of day and length of night).

 

This talmudic passage clarifies two things regarding our subject:

 

            1. Even if the sun, moon and stars were not operating as they do at present, whatever conditions necessary for time passage were already operating normally the first day, which saw the creation of Heaven and Earth, Earth’s condition of tohu va-vohu, and Light and Darkness.

 

            2. The length of day and night was determined and put in effect that first day. Without any further qualifications, it is obvious that the measurement of the day and night refer to the length of day and night to which we are accustomed (—certainly for the days following the first). Indeed, Rashi explains, "middass yom and middas layla means the length of day and the length of night: 24 hours combined."

 

We will see that not only Rashi, but all the classic mefarshim understand the Creation days to be no longer than 24-hour type days. Whereas in some other instances the word "yom" may refer to longer periods of time, the meforshim treat such instances as exceptions, and point out when they occur.1 They do not do so regarding the days of Creation.7

 

Ibn Ezra:

"Yom echad" is a reference to the turning of the sphere ... And after it said that the Light should be called Day, it is not possible to call the evening "Day." The only payrush is: it was evening, and [then] it was also a morning of one day.

 

Even the Ramban, renowned kabbalist that he was, indicates impatience toward any tampering with the meaning of the word "day" in the Creation account (Breishis 1:3):

 

Know that the days mentioned in Ma’aseh Breishis were, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, literal days, composed [not of years and millennia, but] of hours and minutes, and they were six, just as are the six days of the work-week,

 

The Ramban (ibid.) even rejects the thesis that the original light initially shined bright for one moment, and then immediately waned to produce a twelve hour night, and then shined for twelve hours. The Kuzari (II:20) suggested this to explain the sequence in Scripture of evening preceding morning. The Ramban rejects it "because they would be adding an additional, albeit short, day, onto the specifically six days of Creation."

In a private communication, Rabbi Dovid Gottleib has pointed out that the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (2:30) invokes the unanimous position of --

[a]ll our Sages…that all of this [the creation of Eve from Adam, the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge, and the account of the serpent] took place on the sixth day…. None of those things is impossible, because the laws of Nature were then not yet permanently fixed.

For the Rambam's problem and solution to make sense, he must be presupposing 24-hour days. If the "days" of creation were unspecified "periods" actually consisting of the passage of numerous 24-hour days, there would be no difficulty of containing all the events mentioned in the pesukim within one such period, and no need to invoke the fact that the laws of Nature were not yet fixed.

Even those commentators who do not directly explain the length of the Creation days in their comments on the verses mentioning those days do reveal their assumption (no doubt based on p’shat and Chazal) that they were 24-hour type days when they deal with another issue: The question arises as to how the first three days of Creation could be measured if, as a simple reading of the verses indicates, the sun was first created on the fourth day. Without a sun, what determined the first three days, and how could they be measured? Defending the mesorah that the first three days of Creation, just as the last four, were regular days as we know them, the mefarshim offer solutions:

Rambam, in the same chapter of Moreh Nevuchim cited above (2:30) posits as follows:

If [as the p’shat appears] there were [as yet, before the fourth day] no [celestial] sphere and no sun, how was the first day timed [as a day]?

... The foundation of the entire Torah is that Hashem brought the world into being from out of nothingness. [This was] not "at the beginning of Time," because Time [itself] is a created thing. For time depends upon the movement of the [celestial] sphere and [although the sun and stars were not yet put in their positions], the sphere itself is one of the created things. …[Although the Torah speaks of the sky emerging on the second day and the sun emerging on the fourth day, for example], our Sages have explained that … all things [including the celestial sphere] were created together [with heaven and earth on the first day], but were [merely] separated from each other successively…. According to this undoubtedly correct interpretation, the difficulty …is removed, which…consisted in the question as how the first day, the second, and the third were determined. [ZL: I.e., the 24-hour revolution of the celestial sphere or, in our parlance, the 24-hour rotation of the earth, was in effect from the moment of Creation.]9 [Indeed,] in Breishis Rabbah, our Sages, speaking of the light created on the first day according to the Scriptural account, say as follows: these lights [of the luminaries mentioned in the Creation of the fourth day] are the same that were created on the first day, but were only fixed in their places on the fourth day. The meaning [of the first verse] has thus been clearly stated.

Rabbeynu B’chaya gives the same answer:

"Evening" is the declining of light, and "morning" is the shining of light. Yet the Torah speaks of the first three days experiencing evening and morning, even though "Let there be light-bearers in the Firmament" was not stated yet. This is because regarding the first three days, "evening" and "morning" were not spoken of in the aspect of light, but in the aspect of the rotation of the sphere. But from the fourth day and on, when the light-bearers (the sun, moon and stars) were created, it speaks of "evening" and "morning" with the [effects of] light in mind.

 

Ralbag gives the same answer.

Abarbanel offers another explanation, which still illustrates the presumption that the days spoken of are 24-hour type days:

How were the first days timed, if there was still no revolving the celestial sphere? [The answer is that] that first Light was an entity spread through space through the will of the Creator, for an allocated time, in which was the day; and it disappeared an allocated amount of time, which was night; and that Light came in gradations of morning and evening and noon. Through this, then, were the days timed in hours and minutes [not years and decades and millennia--ZL] just as the latter, natural days were [later] timed by the revolution of the celestial sphere. (Malbim gives the same explanation.)

 

Seforno combines the two ideas:

Even though He separated the Light and the Darkness, so that that they would serve at different times without means of the sphere’s revolution, He still separated them in such a way so that between them there would be a time of evening [gradually] developing into night, and a time of morning [gradually] developing into [full] daylight.

 

Rabbeynu Ovadiah MiBartenuro answers in a way that presumes time as a reality independent of the movement of objects:

"And there was morning and there was Evening--One Day."--The causes of day and night is the movement [or, as we would say, the apparent movement--ZL] of the sphere. But since the sphere was not created [until the fourth day], how could the Torah state [already on the first day], how could there have been a morning and an evening? Answer: Hashem told Moses that the amount of time over which this took place was the same amount of time that [the passage of] morning and evening takes nowadays.

Ralbag (Breishis 1:1) offers this as one of two answers as well:

By what was the first day, second day, and third day timed, since the light-bearers [sun moon and stars] were not in existence until the fourth day? The answer is clear according to the first explanation [I had given, that all was actually created the first day]: The diurnal sphere was in existence the first day, and each revolution it made was about one day’s time.

He then adds:

And it is not bizarre to suggest that it was known to Hashem the measurement of time without the sun and stars. And this is self-explained. 

 

Between Initial Creation and beginning of Tohu Va-vohu

State

 

Certainly by now, one perceives the spirit in which our mesorah approaches the Torah’s description of Creation. All the commentators, while they were certainly aware that there are deep secrets and humanly incomprehensible aspects to Maaseh Breishis, still primarily understood whatever the Torah does reveal in its plain meaning. Following the plain meaning, different explanations are offered. All agree that anthropomorphisms, as throughout the Torah, must of course be understood properly. ("The sound of Hashem going through the Garden" refers to the traveling of the sound Hashem created, not to the sound of Hashem walking.) Some attribute to the terms Earth, Heaven, Wind and Darkness the four elements. First-glance impressions are sometimes modified (as concerning the machlokess over whether the creation of "the heavens and the earth" means that the heavens were created before the earth, rather than after or, the meaning most meforshim prefer, simultaneously; or precisely what part of the heavens the words "shamayim" and "rakiah" refer to). But, as we have seen, "days" is never reinterpreted, and the sequence of events is accepted as presented.9 We can therefore anticipate how the mesorah understands the Torah’s meaning of the state of things between Breishis 1:1, which reports that Hashem created the universe, and the following verses that speak of the earth’s state of tohu va-vohu (emptiness and void), the creation of Light and everything else.

Did a long period of time pass between the moment of Creation and the earth’s state of tohu va-vohu─allowing for the creation of landscapes and creatures and prehistorical histories untold─or did the earth’s state of tohu va-vohu follow immediately upon the earth’s creation?

 

According to several mefarshim, including Rashi,10 Rambam and Ramban, everything was actually created the first day, and the other days consisted of further miraculous extracting, forming and positioning of that which was already created. All agree that no significant time elapsed between Breishis 1:1 and 1:2, and certainly no swamps and evolving dinosaurs and other forms of life existed during that period, and almost needless to say, the origins of vegetable, animal and human life appeared only afterwards, and in fully developed form:

 

Seforno on Breishis (1:2) "and the earth was tohu va-vohu" directly addresses and dismisses such a possibility:

And that earth created then was a thing composed of [tohu va-vohu]. (I.e., tohu va-vohu was the first state of the universe upon the universe’s creation. No time passed between "Breishis bara" and "V’ha’aretz hayssa so-hu va-vohu."

 

Ibn Ezra does the same:

The meaning is that at the beginning of the creation of the sky and the land, the earth was uninhabited.

 

─as does the Rashbam:

Do you think that this world has always been fashioned as you see it now--full of all goodness? No, it was not so. B’raishis bara Elokim, etc." Meaning, at the beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth, meaning, at the time the heavens above and the earth [that you see now--ZL] were already created--then, whether for a long or short time, the world was tohu va-vohu.

 

One should not attempt, based on the words, "whether a long or short time" to attribute to the Rashbam the idea that between the beginning of "tohu va-vohu" and "Yehi Ohr" passed millennia of evolutionary processes, leaving physical evidence of plant and animal development which evolutionists have discovered. For the Rashbam, along with all the others, define "tohu va-vohu" as a state that admits no developments:

 

Tohu Va-vohu means that there was not in them anything whatsoever  ... They were desolate, with no inhabitants.

 

The Abarbanel makes the same point:

After Scripture clarified the fact of the creation of the heavens and the earth, it comes to clarify how their situation was now, in their being created ... and regarding this it says that the earth was tohu...

 

─as does Rabbeynu B’chaya:

And all these great ikkarim (fundamental principles) are clarified from this parashah: It tells us first, that the world is created m’chudash, ex nihilo. After its first being tohu va-vohu, He created all the existing things in six days, and on the sixth day He created Adam....

 

And the Hizkuni addresses the potential error head-on:

This is not to be explained as meaning that before its creation it had been tohu va-vohu...

 

Thus, all the commentators speak plainly, if not pointedly, of the absence of any vegetation or animal life before the first of the six days, and of six days in a natural sense.11 There is no room to suggest that the p’sukim’s words mean anything other than a normal day, and/or that the tohu va-vohu state consisted of millennia filled with evidence-leaving, aging, physical entities, and that the origin of the life-forms we have today are with life-forms that were immediately created fully-formed. All such contortions of the biblical text do violence against both its letter and spirit, and are contradicted by the conventional sense presumed and accepted by our meforshim.

 

The mesorah we have is a reliable, historical transmission from Adam, Noach and Moses of the factual account of how the world came to be. It is more reliable than speculations based upon the assumption that nature always ruled, always acting as it does now. Indeed, Midrash Shemos Rabbah (30:9) records Onkelos’ marveling the fact that the youngest Jewish children know "how the Holy-One-Blessed-be-He created the world.─They know what was created the first day and what was created the second day, how much [time] there is since the world was created, and what [good deeds] sustain the world. And their Torah is true." And the Ramban cites this Midrash to illustrate that "the Torah ‘opens one’s eyes,’ for it reveals to us the secret of the Formation, the subject of Maaseh Breishis, the Creation and Formation of the Universe."

 

May our eyes be opened to the truths taught by the Torah.

 

__________________________

ENDNOTES

 

1  The commentaries, including Rabbeynu Saadia Gaon’s Emunos V’dei’os and Rav Yosef Albo’s Sefer HaIkarrim, teach us that a word’s primary conventional meaning is the proper way to initially understand a given word in the Torah. Only if contradicted by sensory perception, logic, or other verses—data available to the reader since the time of the Torah’s revelation—are we to understand the word in a less conventional usage. Thus, as will be demonstrated in this article, Chazal and the commentaries all understood the word "yom" in our context to be a 24-hour type day.

 

2  Note that the testimony we are commanded to declare is focused not on the implicit Creation-from-nothing, but on the time period of six days.

 

3 They fail to recognize the circular nature of their thinking: Evolutionary explanations of how the world came into existence are propelled by a discipline which, in principle and by self-definition, arbitrarily refuses to accept the possibility of a meta-natural (outside-of natural, i.e., miracle-based) explanation of the world’s origins. But meta-natural processes are the very bedrock of the six-day Creation our testimony, as explained by our mesorah.

 

4 And the mesorah is not beginning its count just from the time of Adam’s creation, a suggestion some have made in order to insert millennia of earth’s existence before his creation. Nor, in a rather odd interpretation sometimes touted, is it beginning its count just from Adam’s "ensoulment," after his having been a soul-less creature born from a millions-of-years-old line of creature ancestors. For "all of creation was created fully formed."─At ma’aseh b’raishis the ox was created not as a calf but as an adult [Rashi in Rosh HaShonna 26a s.v. shor sheh-hu par]; and Adam was likewise created as an adult, the Talmud reports, within the same 24-hour period─standing erect.

 

5 Pirkei Ahvos (5:1).

6 Rashbam, the sole exception, says that the first day only began at the creation of Light, and therefore the earth’s period of tohu va-vohu (emptiness of visible life-forms), and the heaven’s period of Darkness, lasted an indefinite time prior.

 

7     For example, Maimonides’ son, Avraham, comments on the verse (Breishis 2:4) reading "…the day Hashem fashioned the Heavens and the Earth." He says that here the word "day" cannot be taken in its conventional way, because the fashioning of the Heavens and Earth took place over a period lasting six days, not just one. (Needless to say, if he thought the six days of Creation were already not meant as conventional days, the contradiction would not have arisen.)

 

9 The Ramban elaborates on the first created thing, the "tohu," being the equivalent of the formless matter of Greek fame. He assigns no time frame to the phase of "tohu," but there is no basis to suggest that he disagrees with the Gemora that explicitly includes the "tohu" phase among those things created within the first day (of 24 hours), as the poshut reading of the posuk implies.

9 The Ralbag understood Chazal to be holding that almost everything was created simultaneously and instantly, all in their fully developed form. Except for the growth of vegetation on the fifth day, there was no creative or formative activity left to be done following the first day. Thus, he concludes, Chazal were telling us that the report of events on the ensuing days, until Shabbos, is not meant literally, but is meant to relay the hierarchical relationships between all created things.

Some have understood the Ralbag to be saying that this was the Rambam’s view as well, but this is untenable. The Ralbag himself states that none of his fellow rishonim before him "realized" that this was what Chazal were saying. (And he was very aware of the Rambam’s writings on the subject.) And the Moreh Nevuchi, just as other rishonim [such as Rashi—see note 10], cite the Chazal that teaches that most things created the first day still needed to be extracted, more fully formed and permanently positioned on the following days. And the Moreh Nevuchim invokes the fact that Nature was not yet fixed on the sixth day, in order to defend the possibility of so many events occurring on that one day.)

 

However, at any rate, the Ralbag’s position (dismissed by the Abarbanel and other commentators) would not be helpful to those who would like to extend the existence of the world to billions of years. On the contrary, according to the Ralbag the world existed six days less than the time stated by the other commentators! And as just demonstrated, the approach of the Ralbag is to build the understanding through the teachings of Chazal, and not through rejecting them on the basis that they differ with the science of the day.

 

10      Rashi clearly states on 1:14 (see also on 1:6, and Sifsei Chachamim ad loc) that everything was actually created on the first day, but each created thing was brought out, fashioned, positioned and/or perfected on the day the Torah declared. Some have made much ado about Rashi’s comment on verse 1:1, where he states that we are forced to say that the mikreh is not describing the chronological order of events. They translate "mikreh" as "Scripture [in general]" and take Rashi to mean that throughout the entire account of Creation, Scripture does not intend to describe the chronology. This posits the absurd idea that when Scripture says one thing happened on day two, and another on day one, it does not mean to tell us the order of occurrence, and it may really have happened in a different order. The Rashi on 1:14 shows this is wrong. "The light-bearers [sun, moon and stars] were created from the first day, but on the fourth He commanded them to be hung in the sky. And likewise all the tolodos of the heavens and earth were created back on the first day, and each one was set in its permanent state on the day decreed for it. This is why [when describing their creation on the first day,] "ess" is written before the word shamayim and before the word "ha-aretz

ם

" to include their "offsprings"

 

Rashi’s comment about the mikreh not describing chronological order is in reference to the first verse (see Radak Breishis 1:1:

"...וכן דעת רבינו שלמה ז"ל שלא בא לזכור סדר הבריאה בזה הפסוק."

The focus of this mikreh, this verse, is not to tell you the chronology of the creation of the earth in its narrow sense (i.e., sans water and the other elements) in relation to heaven or the elements. The first verse, based upon grammar and information we have from Midrashim, Rashi holds, must be read not "The first thing G-d created [before water or fire or Light or the vegetation and creatures] was the heavens and the earth." It must be read, in conjunction with the following verse, "During the start of G-d’s creating heaven and earth…G-d said, ’Let there be Light!’"

12 And with the exception of the Rashbam, all the meforshim include the tohu va-vohu period within, and not prior to, the first day. (See note 6.)

68 comments:

  1. Rabbi Lampel-
    "What could Hashem say to make His intent clearer? Yet despite all this, some suggest that we ignore these clear words in deference to an ever-morphing alternative to Creation."


    Is this what you are accusing Rav Hirsch, Rav Kook and Rav Nadel of?
    Another strange thing is that Rabbi Gottlieb posted this article on his blog, yet he taught me that the days of creation do not have to refer to 24 hour periods

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here is what Rav Carmell had to say

    "...The time that has elapsed from the beginning
    (once called jocularly by Fred Hoyle “the big bang” — but the name stuck) until the
    present time has been calculated as around 15 billion years. This, compared with
    eternity, is indeed very small. But compared with six days it is pretty large.
    Are we bound to the literal meaning of the verse, or is there room for
    interpretation? No halachah is involved here so in principle the road to reinterpretation
    should be open. One more element is required: compulsion. As we have seen many
    times above, we reinterpret only if we see a compelling need to do so. Those who have
    studied the matter and are convinced that a good case may be made for the conclusions
    reached, may certainly feel that reinterpretatio is needed.

    There is no lack of hints that the “days” of Bereishit are not to be taken in a literal
    sense. Sefer ha-Bahir calls them “powers”; Ramban calls them “sefirot..."

    All I am saying is that there are other opinions that can be respected.

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  3. David -

    All I am saying is that there are other opinions...

    Rabbi Lampel knows that there are other opinions. That's why he wrote:

    Although many Torah scholars object that these claims are in contradiction to the teachings of the Mesorah, others have claimed that one can find support among the earlier Torah authorities for accommodating the Torah to academia’s depiction.

    that can be respected.

    If by "respect" you mean that we need to treat the possessors of these opinions with derech eretz, Rabbi Lampel would surely agree with you. However, if by "respect" you mean that we need to take their opinions into consideration, he obviously disagrees. That's why he concluded his abstract with the words:

    This essay takes issue with this claim.

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  4. Clarification -

    I wrote: However, if by "respect" you mean that we need to take their opinions into consideration, he obviously disagrees.

    To be clear, what Rabbi Lampel is taking issue with is the claim that one can find support for the current academic view in the writings of the earlier Torah authorities.

    It goes without saying that he understands that certain (post-evolutionary) individuals actually reject these writings.

    Rabbi Lampel, if I am misrepresenting your view, please don’t hesitate to set me straight.

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  5. Dear Rabbi Coffer,

    Thank you for your concise reply on my behalf.

    For the record, I decided to reproduce this essay in response to an exchange I was having in the Comments section on the blog entry, "Strange Parallelism." Seeing that exchange will put this essay in context.

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  6. Rabbi Gottlieb posted this article on his blog, yet he taught me that the days of creation do not have to refer to 24 hour periods.

    Maybe, after further consideration of the facts, Rav Gottleib changed his mind? Which of these two opinions is his most recent?

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Rav Zvi -

    Do you have any comments on RNS's recent blog?

    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/11/how-firmament-was-understood-by-our.html

    It seems to be a counter-point to your well researched essay here.

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  9. Yeah, but you see very clearly that Rabbi Slfkin agrees with Rabbi Lampel and with Rabbi Michael (I just gave myself smicha) that "all" the rishonim believed in a recent briya. Rabbi Lampel holds that this is very relevant and Rabbi Slifkin holds it is very irrelevant but on the basic shitos, they both agree.

    Not like R' Yitz, R' Nachman and R' E-Man, Rabbi Micha, amongst others.

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  10. Not like R' Yitz, R' Nachman and R' E-Man, Rabbi Micha, amongst others.

    I personally have not delved into the subject. I rather accept the above presentation at face value, and perhaps RNS does as well as Michael suggests. In any case, I see that many of our present day sages suggest if not demand a similar approach to "understanding the days of creation." Who am I to agree or disagree?

    My personal issue is what to do with this information.

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  11. Yitz -

    My personal issue is what to do with this information.

    Dear Yitz,

    Please explain your issue. If you were told that our universal mesorah is that yetzias mitzraim happened, or that the esser makos happened, or that matan torah happened, or that Yehoshua stopped the sun at mid-day, would you beleive it? And if so, please explain your issue with adopting our messorh regarding maaseh bereishis.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Dear Rabbi Coffer,

    I'd rather not, thanks. I have offended you enough already.

    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  13. So, nu? How come no response to R. Slifkin's post? Aren't you going against our Sages with regard to the firmament? And if it's okay to do that with regard to the firmament, why not with regard to the six days?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yitz asked,

    Do you have any comments on RNS's recent blog?

    ...It seems to be a counter-point to your well researched essay here.

    November 23, 2010 9:21 AM


    Thank you Yitz, for your compliments.

    Bli nedder, I hope to comment on the broader issue where Rabbi Slifkin and I diverge.

    Those who know me know that I am continuously stamina- and time-challenged, (nothing unhealthy or abnormal, B"H) so I'll have to ask you not to hold your breath.

    I also still owe a re-do on the post I had taken down.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Aren't you going against our Sages with regard to the firmament? And if it's okay to do that with regard to the firmament, why not with regard to the six days?

    Funny, you posted your question while I was writing (interrupted by distractions) my reply to Yitz.

    Again, I hope to get to it.

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  16. Yissacher -

    Rabbi S is still in the middle of actively pushing his agenda but fear not; a post is coming bl'n. I have one more post to do and then I will turn my attentions to his monograph and his comments on the Kolmus. All this i qualify with a big huge gigantic bl"n!

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  17. Good, I'm glad to hear that you're still actively pushing your agenda, too!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Aren't you going against our Sages with regard to the firmament? And if it's okay to do that with regard to the firmament, why not with regard to the six days?

    The Rambam tells us the difference. He says that astronomical matters were matters for which there was no mesorah, and therefore matters of debate with the gentiles.

    The talmudic and midrashic sources that discuss the path of the sun are exceptional in that they are presented as scientific disputes between the "chachamim" of the Jews and the "chachamim" of the gentiles.

    All that is known about the "rakia" the Torah talks about is that it is something originally related to "water" that is seen to stretch high above the earth. The commentators naturally identified it with what they thought were the realities, relying on the science of the day, and possibly teaching future generations that such reliance may be short-sighted.

    On the other hand, the Rambam teaches, the fact that the process of creation was a meta-natural one--occurring within 6 regular days (or less), producing, among other things, a fully-formed man sans any live ancestors--is the mesorah:

    Moreh Nevuchim 2:17
    שאנחנו--עדת הרודפים אחר משה רבינו ואברהם אבינו, עליהם השלום--נאמין שהעולם נתהוה על צורת כך וכך, והיה כך מכך, ונברא כך אחר כך.

    (see http://press.tau.ac.il/perplexed/chapters/chap_2_17.htm, note 6, for a compilation of translations of this passage.)

    For we, the community following in the footsteps of Moshe Rabbeynu and Avraham Avinu, aleihem hashalom, believe that the world came into being in such-and-such a form, and became such-and-such from such-and-such (haya kach mi-kach), and such was created after such.

    What specific, existing Jewish belief of things coming onto being (in full form--as in MN 2:30, where the Rambam also says that all was created simultaneously, and then one-by-one "set apart") should we suppose the Rambam was referring to, when writing of things becoming "such-and-such from such-and-such"? To my mind, it is clear that he meant that part of the belief the Jewish community received from Moshe Rabbeynu is the meta-natural formation of, say, an ancestor-less Adam from the adamah, and not from the beheima.

    The Rambam (2:17) immediately continues:

    . ויבוא אריסטו לסתור דברינו, ויביא עלינו ראיות מטבע המציאות הנח השלם ההוה בפועל; אשר נודה לו אנחנו, שהוא, אחר התישבו ושלמותו, לא ידמה דבר ממה שהיה בעת ההויה, ושהוא נמצא אחר ההעדר הגמור - ואי זו טענה תעמוד עלינו מכל מה שיאמרהו? ואמנם יתחיבו הטענות האלה על מי שיאמר, שטבע זה המציאות הנח יורה על היותו מחודש; וכבר הודעתיך, שאני לא אומר זה.

    And Aristotle would attempt to topple our words, and would bring against us evidence from the nature of the set, actualized, complete metsius as it acts regularly. But we concede to him that once it was established and reached completeness, it was not one iota similar to what it was at the time of its being generated, and that it was brought into existence after being absolutely absent. What argument in all he says holds up against us? These arguments are indeed compelling against one who claims that the fact that the world’s being mechudash can be proven by the way the world is now, in its permanent nature. But I already let you know that I am not saying this.

    As mentioned several times, the first Shabbos marked the end of a process of development of all things and life. The processes now in effect are not the ones that produced the first features of the universe or the first man.

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  19. (Continuation)

    There is more to say, and perhaps I will post a blog on this. But I would also like to call attention to the fact that the Rambam depicts the firmament as consisting of something similar to, but not identical to, water. And he describes the spheres as consisting of a weightless, colorless, unearthly matter (perhaps what we would call some sort of force field?). Yet Rabbi Slifkin repeatedly refers to the "solid" spheres. I cannot help but think that this false depiction is intentioned to increase incredulity and ridicule--just as is his choosing a cartoonish graphic to depict the ancient theory of the sun's path.

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  20. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱ־לֹהִים יְהִי רָקִיעַ בְּתוֹךְ הַמָּיִם וִיהִי מַבְדִּיל בֵּין מַיִם לָמָיִם:

    Moshe did not understand the meaning of this verse?

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  21. Yitz -

    By All that is known about the "rakia" Zvi merely meant to say "all the received information we currently possess from the tradition". Obviously Moshe himself knew what it meant and surely many other people knew too.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I meant, by the time of the statement-makers in the talmudic and midrashic texts.

    Thanks, Yitz, for alerting me to the need for this clarification. And thanks, Rabbi Coffer, for your comment.

    ReplyDelete
  23. But then can't we also say that Moshe was aware that the universe came into existence 14.4 billion years ago, that the opening persukim of the Torah are allegory, and all of Chazal and the rishonim mentioned in Rabbi Lampel's essay lost that mesorah as well?

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  24. Nachum, what do you mean by, "then"?

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  25. Rabbi Lampel:

    I retract my last question, which is unclear to me as well.

    I do have a different question. The Rakia is the subject of the entire Day 2 of creation as related in the Torah. It is also mentioned numerous times on Day 4. Although the Rakia is also an astronomical topic, it is first and foremost a Torah topic, comes from the Torah, and is an important part of Creation.

    In light of the above, why do you accept that issues regarding the Rakia fall solely under the category of "astronomical matters" (in which mistakes can be made by Chazal) when the Rakia mainly falls under the category of "Torah" and therefore, presumably, "Mesorah"?

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  26. Looking forward to the response to Nachum's question and RNS's post.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Rabbi Lampel - it has been almost a full week. Do you have an answer to Nachum and RNS?

    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/11/firming-and-flattening-of-firmament.html

    ReplyDelete
  28. Dear Nachum and Yitz,

    Some data of the mesora have been lost over the generations, even if they were essential to understanding the meaning of Torah passages. The Rambam informs us that matters of the motions of the heavenly bodies were among these, and the Sages (as well as he himself) analyzed pesukim and the wisdom of their day in attempt to find out what the facts are. The “chachmei Yisroel” did not blindly accept the theories of contemporary non-Jewish scholars, came up with their own, but willingly discussed and debated the issue on the merits of available evidence; and Chazal even conceded to them.

    It should also be noted that (as per Rambam, Ramchal and others) Chazal figuratively cloaked profound concepts they thought too valuable for the masses to hear in statements that were manifestly incredible—working with the reasoning that the fools, who imagine themselves philosophers, would heap scorn on the profound truths intended by the Sages. Better they think the Chazal was meant literally and let them ridicule that. (One of the Rambam’s examples (Moreh Nevuchim II:30).) is the Midrash about the Tree of Life's trunk extending over an area of 500 years’ journey.)

    On top of this, is the Rambam’s understanding (ibid.) that in treating the firmament, the Torah itself is atypically keeping the meaning very hidden (Friedlander translates: mysterious), and is not giving a physical description (albeit that where pesukim or ma’amarei Chazal seem to be supporting physical facts, the Rambam takes them at face value.) I suggest that it is therefore likely that any given Chazal about the rakia’s nature may be building on those mysterious ideas, not the sky’s physical description:

    Why is the declaration "that it was good" [found on all the other days of Creation] not found in the account of the second day of the Creation [the day of the rakia’s production]?..[The answer is as follows:] The meaning of this “rakia” and the thing above it termed “water” is, as you can see, of a very hidden character. For if taken literally with coarse analysis (גסות העיון), it would be [describing] something not in existence at all. For there is no physical body besides the [four] elements between us and the lower heavens; and there is no water above the air.... But if the account be understood in a figurative sense--and according to its true meaning—it is still more mysterious, since it was considered necessary to make this one of the most hidden secrets, in order to prevent the multitude from knowing it. This meaning of this is, how could it be said [of the creation of the second day] that “it was good"? This phrase would tell us that it is perfectly clear what share the thing to which it refers takes in the permanent existence of the Universe. But what good can people find in a thing whose real nature is hidden, and whose apparent nature is not real?

    So, whereas the factuality of a week-long meta-natural creation process is clear as day, the nature of the rakia is up in the air.

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  29. Dear Rabbi Lampel can you please explain how you can write “astronomical matters were matters for which there was no mesorah, and therefore matters of debate with the gentiles.”
    When this opinion was banned by the gedolim.

    As Rav Feldman writes “Slifkin uses explicitly and implicitly in his books. This theory goes as follows. The Sages based their wisdom on the medical knowledge of their times. This would seem perfectly legitimate, for why should they not rely on the experts of their time on issues not directly addressed by the Written or the Oral Law?”

    Rav Feldman concludes “Thus, on the issue of the credibility of the Sages as well, the signatories to the ban were correct in terming Slifkin’s books as perversions of the correct approach to the Sages’ words.”

    It seems that you and rabbi Slifkin are not that different, maybe is can be a sign that the two sides can stop all the fighting and be an example of peace, harmony and forgiveness, is that not what Hashem wants?
    Every day in the “shim Shalom” I daven that all this terrible fighting will end.
    I know that the gates of heaven are never closed for tears, so it is just a matter of time.

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  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  31. Rabbi Lampel:

    You said: “Some data of the mesora have been lost over the generations, even if they were essential to understanding the meaning of Torah passages. The Rambam informs us that matters of the motions of the heavenly bodies were among these, and the Sages (as well as he himself) analyzed pesukim and the wisdom of their day in attempt to find out what the facts are.”

    I haven’t learned the RMBM, but if your description is accurate, then RMBM’s statement regarding “matters of the motions of the heavenly bodies” has nothing to do with “the definition of Rakia.” You are extending RMBM’s statement regarding Chazal’s lack of Mesorah with regard to astronomy to “the definition of Rakia.” Why? Because of your scientific belief that there is in fact no dome covering the universe. You’re willing to throw the Mesorah regarding the Rakia under the bus, due to your scientific beliefs.

    Consistent with your statement, perhaps parts of the Mesorah other than astronomy were lost as well, to wit, Big Bang cosmology, physics, carbon dating, evolution, geology, micro genetics, etc., even if they were essential to understanding the meaning of Torah passages.

    You said: “It should also be noted that (as per Rambam, Ramchal and others) Chazal figuratively cloaked profound concepts they thought too valuable for the masses to hear in statements that were manifestly incredible—working with the reasoning that the fools, who imagine themselves philosophers, would heap scorn on the profound truths intended by the Sages. Better they think the Chazal was meant literally and let them ridicule that. (One of the Rambam’s examples (Moreh Nevuchim II:30).) is the Midrash about the Tree of Life's trunk extending over an area of 500 years’ journey.)”

    Again, I admit I haven’t learned the RMBM or RMCHL. However, according to your synopsis of their statement, they themselves did not allegorize Chazal with regard to the Rakia. You are extending their general statement regarding the allegorization of Chazal to “the definition of Rakia.” Why? Because of your scientific knowledge. If Rabbi Lampel is allowed to allegorize Chazal (and the Torah!) with regard to “the definition of Rakia” when he has a scientific reason to do so, despite this going against all of Chazal and the overwhelming majority of Rishonim, why can’t others do the same?

    You said: “On top of this, is the Rambam’s understanding (ibid.) that in treating the firmament, the Torah itself is atypically keeping the meaning very hidden (Friedlander translates: mysterious), and is not giving a physical description (albeit that where pesukim or ma’amarei Chazal seem to be supporting physical facts, the Rambam takes them at face value.) I suggest that it is therefore likely that any given Chazal about the rakia’s nature may be building on those mysterious ideas, not the sky’s physical description.”

    Which “any given Chazal” are you referring to? Aren’t there Rishonim that explain Chazal? Are you substituting Rabbi Lampel’s understanding of “any given Chazal” for the Rishonim’s understanding, because Rabbi Lampel has certain scientific beliefs?

    You said: “So, whereas the factuality of a week-long meta-natural creation process is clear as day, the nature of the rakia is up in the air.”

    The nature of the Rakia is “up in the air” to you, because you don’t believe there is a dome covering the universe. The nature of the Rakia was not “up in the air”, but was “clear as day” to Chazal according to the Rishonim who explained Chazal.

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  32. Nachum, despite your angry tone and reckless accusations, I hope to respond to your comments this time, but not if you continue in this vein. You can present the same arguments civilly. Please take it easy.

    Good Shabbos.

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  33. Rabbi Lampel:

    You are right. I apologize.

    Good Shabbos.

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  34. You're a good man, Nachum. Let's start from scratch and rephrase your comment, okay?

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  35. Rabbi Lampel: Let's take it one step at a time. All the Rishonim, without exception, held that the Chachmei Yisrael believed the sun to go behind the sky at night. Do you agree with them that the Chachmei Yisrael held this way?

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  36. Rabbi Lampel: Here’s my second attempt. I just want you to know that my previous post wasn’t meant to attack you personally, but was meant to attack your position. Since “attack” seems too harsh, I will change it into questions.

    Also, I am changing my user profile to reveal my true name, in the hope that this will tame me in my future discussions. This, despite the fact that doing so may also dampen my willingness to be as open as I would like.

    continued

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  37. You said: “Some data of the mesora have been lost over the generations, even if they were essential to understanding the meaning of Torah passages. The Rambam informs us that matters of the motions of the heavenly bodies were among these, and the Sages (as well as he himself) analyzed pesukim and the wisdom of their day in attempt to find out what the facts are.”

    I haven’t learned the RMBM, but if your description is accurate, then RMBM’s statement regarding “matters of the motions of the heavenly bodies” has nothing to do with “the definition of Rakia.” You are extending RMBM’s statement regarding Chazal’s lack of Mesorah with regard to astronomy to “the definition of Rakia,” which RAMBM specifically does not do. What right do you have to do that, and what is your motivation for doing so?

    (Consistent with your statement, perhaps parts of the Mesorah other than astronomy were lost as well, to wit, Big Bang cosmology, physics, carbon dating, evolution, geology, genetics, etc., even if they were essential to understanding the meaning of Torah passages.)

    You said: “It should also be noted that (as per Rambam, Ramchal and others) Chazal figuratively cloaked profound concepts they thought too valuable for the masses to hear in statements that were manifestly incredible—working with the reasoning that the fools, who imagine themselves philosophers, would heap scorn on the profound truths intended by the Sages. Better they think the Chazal was meant literally and let them ridicule that. (One of the Rambam’s examples (Moreh Nevuchim II:30).) is the Midrash about the Tree of Life's trunk extending over an area of 500 years’ journey.)”

    Again, I admit I haven’t learned the RMBM or RMCHL. However, according to your synopsis of their statement, they themselves did not allegorize any specific maamar Chazal with regard to the Rakia. You are extending their general statement regarding the allegorization of Chazal to “the definition of Rakia.” What right do you have to do that, and what is your motivation for doing so?

    You said: “On top of this, is the Rambam’s understanding (ibid.) that in treating the firmament, the Torah itself is atypically keeping the meaning very hidden (Friedlander translates: mysterious), and is not giving a physical description (albeit that where pesukim or ma’amarei Chazal seem to be supporting physical facts, the Rambam takes them at face value.) I suggest that it is therefore likely that any given Chazal about the rakia’s nature may be building on those mysterious ideas, not the sky’s physical description.”

    Which “any given Chazal” are you referring to? Aren’t there Rishonim that explain Chazal? Do any of the Rishonim explain that any given maamar Chazal was meant to be allegorical? If not, what right do you have to do that, and what is your motivation for doing so?

    You said: “So, whereas the factuality of a week-long meta-natural creation process is clear as day, the nature of the rakia is up in the air.”

    It seems to me that the nature of the Rakia is “up in the air” (pun intended) to you, because you don’t believe there is a dome covering the universe. The nature of the Rakia was not “up in the air”, but was “clear as day” to Chazal according to the Rishonim who explained Chazal. So again, why would you kvetch to change to meaning of Chazals’ discussions regarding to the Rakia, and what gives you the right to do so?

    I hope you don’t take this personally, but it seems to me that you do with the Rakia the same as R. Slifkin does with regard to the Sheishes Y’Mei Breishis, and for the same reason: You both believe that science has rendered the classical interpretations of your respective sugyos as untenable.

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  38. If I may be so bold as to step up to the plate, I believe that it is Rabbi Slifkin who has completely ignored what Chazal had to say directly about the biblical rakia.
    He has focused almost exclusively on the conversation in Pesachim which made references to the rakia in the coloquial sense and not in the biblical sense.
    Although these conversations may imply a understanding of a solid dome over the earth (but it is by no means explicit) they do not reflect on Chazal's understanding of the bilical rakia whatsoever.
    For great elaboration of these problems see these posts:

    http://slifkinchallenge.blogspot.com/2010/12/rabbi-slifkin-propagator-of-popular_14.html

    http://slifkinchallenge.blogspot.com/2010/12/rabbi-slifkin-propagator-of-popular_8140.html

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  39. Rabbi Dovid Kornreich (aka FKM) has done a magnificent job in the above-referenced blog entries, saving me a tremendous amount of work in gathering sources in response to questions and comments addressed to me. Nevertheless, I do still hope eventually to respond to them independently and add some points.

    Readers, please let the blog know if you would like English translations of the sources Rabbi Kornreich provided.

    Perhaps both parts of Rabbi Kornreich's presentation can be posted as a blog entry?

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  40. R. Kornreich certainly appears to raise a good question with regard to whether the "Rakia" discussed as part of the sun's path at night in Pesachim is the same "Rakia" created on Day 2 and refered to on Day 4 in Maaseh Breishis.

    It is disturbing to me that R. Slifkin is completely silent about all other discussions about Rakia throughout Shas and the Rishonim, leaving (me with) the impression that "Rakia" in Pesachim is the only "Rakia" there is.

    The substantive issues raised by R. Kornreich need to be hashed out, as I haven't reviewed the Gamaras and Rishonim inside, and R. Kornreich's writing style is a bit dense for me.

    For example, when Resh Lakish says that there are 7 "Rakias", the second of which is actually called "Rakia" does he mean that the "Rakia" of Day 2, or Day 4, or both or neither is Rakia No. 2 in his list? Or that all 7 Rakias are the Rakia mentioned in Maaseh Breishis? Or something else?

    Perhaps R. Kornreish's essay can be cleaned up and organized (i.e. edited) and then be reposted here?

    I feel misled by R. Slifkin. All I can say to be Melamed Zchus is that his series on the Rakia is a work in progress, and perhaps he was going to get to the part where he discusses the various views regarding the Rakia.

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  41. Thank you Rabbi Kornreich for adding other relevant sources into the discussion.

    Nonetheless, we still need a basic understanding of Pesachim 94. Here the חכמי ישראל posit that the sun goes behind the rakia at night.

    Rabbi Kornreich dismisses that the notion that this source indicates an understanding by our Talmudic sages of a solid rakia.

    Rabbi Kornreich: After all, our atmosphere is not solid and nevertheless we can't see behind it during the day!

    His statement certainly bears explanation. The sun is well beyond our atmosphere and we certainly see it in the day.

    So what does Pesachim 94B mean?

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  42. I wasn't saying anything so profound. But in order to avoid redundancies I will continue to respond to any comments you have on my posts on my blog.
    See you there.

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  43. Dear rabbi Lampel, Please answer my question :

    Can you please explain how you can write “astronomical matters were matters for which there was no mesorah, and therefore matters of debate with the gentiles.” When this opinion was banned by the gedolim.

    As Rav Feldman writes “Slifkin uses explicitly and implicitly in his books. This theory goes as follows. The Sages based their wisdom on the medical knowledge of their times. This would seem perfectly legitimate, for why should they not rely on the experts of their time on issues not directly addressed by the Written or the Oral Law?”

    Rav Feldman concludes “Thus, on the issue of the credibility of the Sages as well, the signatories to the ban were correct in terming Slifkin’s books as perversions of the correct approach to the Sages’ words.”

    Secondly I think you need to apologize for accusing R’ slifkin of cartoonish pictures when the picture on your book is even more cartoonish, or at least explain the difference between R Slifkin’s picture and yours.

    Ps thank you for writing your book “dynamics of disputes” I found it very informative and helpful.

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  44. Having reviewed R. Kornreich's essay, and having communicated with R. Slifkin and R. Kornreich about it, I must say the following:

    R. Slifkin's work on the Rakia is very much a work in progress. He is writing a book about it and was certainly aware of the gemara in Chagiga. He feels that it does not pose a challenge to his position. That's all I will say about R. Slifkin. He can make his own case.

    I frankly don't see that R. Kornreich raised any issue that would weaken R. Slifkin's position re. Chazal in Pesachim.

    R. Kornreich's point that the Rakia does not have to be solid in order to hide the sun is moot. The sun is not embedded in ANYTHING, be it solid, liquid, gaseous, a mix of fire and water, etc.

    Also, R. Kornreich writes:

    “It is possible that Rabbi Slifkin is reading the solid state of the rakia into this gemara on the basis of other statements of Chazal.”

    What other statements of Chazal is he refering to? If Chazal in another Gemara consider the Rakia which houses the luminaries to be solid then it becomes almost irrelevant whether the Chazal quoted in Pesachim thought the Rakia was solid, no? Even if, arguendo, Chazal in Pesachim (wrongly) believed the Rakia housing the luminaries to be gaseous or whatever, we have other Chazal who (wrongly) believed it to be solid!

    R. Kornreich writes further:

    “It cannot simply be taken for granted that all references to the rakia are identical, because there are in fact seven rakias identified by Chazal! (And all seven are called shomayim as well.)”

    But we’re not talking about “all” references to the Rakia. We’re talking about the one in Pesachim, which appears to be Resh Lakish’s Rakia No. 2, which is (at least one of) the Rakia(s) mentioned in Maaseh Bresishis.

    In Chagiga, Resh Lakish refers to Rakia number 2 as “Rakia” and identifies it as the place the Torah says the luminaries were placed on Day 4. This is a physical location and is obviously not meant metaphysically. It flows from this that the Gemara in Pesachim describing the sun physically going behind the “Rakia” was referring to Resh Lakish’s Rakia number 2 - the Rakia referred to in Maaseh Breishis.

    R. Kornreich writes:

    “Furthermore, Reish Lakish's is one of many views we find in aggados and midrashim regarding the identity of the biblical rakia: some describe it as solid, and some as a mixture of fire and water—neither being solid.”

    I don’t see how any of this affects our view of Chazal as quoted in Pesachim, who clearly held that the sun was embedded in a physical Rakia – whether solid, gaseous, a mixture of fire and water, atmosphere, etc. Rebbe obviously agreed with the Chachmei Yisroel that the sun is embedded in a physical Rakia. R. Kornreich has not brought a single source which says the opposite – that the luminaries are not embedded in anything physical. It’s understandable why - all of Chazal held like the Torah’s description of the luminaries being placed inside a “Rakia” on Day 4. However, we now know that all of the luminaries are in a vacuum, unconnected to anything. There is no physical Rakia housing the luminaries.

    R. Kornreich tries to kvetch that Chazal in Pesachim held that the Rakia is the earth’s atmosphere, which, just as it hides the stars during daytime due to Rayleigh scattering, Chazal thought it hides the sun at night.

    However, the relationship between the luminaries and the Rakia is clear from Resh Lakish and Maaseh Breishis, which hold that the luminaries are EMBEDDED IN IT. However, we know that the sun isn’t embedded in the earth's atmosphere but is 93 million miles above it.

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  45. Again, stepping up to respond to this question in R' Lampel's absence:

    Can you please explain how you can write “astronomical matters were matters for which there was no mesorah, and therefore matters of debate with the gentiles.” When this opinion was banned by the gedolim.



    Please see this post:
    http://slifkinchallenge.blogspot.com/2010/12/rabbi-slifkin-propagator-of-popular.html

    Note this is a different post than posted above. It addresses Rav Feldman's essay as well.

    Secondly I think you need to apologize for accusing R’ slifkin of cartoonish pictures when the picture on your book is even more cartoonish, or at least explain the difference between R Slifkin’s picture and yours.

    I believe the difference was adequately explained by Akiva's comments to Rabbi Slifkin's post comparing the two.
    For the cognoscenti, its like comparing Bill Sienkiewicz's work:
    http://www.billsienkiewiczart.com/gallery.asp?sc=BSDGN
    To Archie comics:
    http://www.cafepress.com/archiecomics

    All the colors and hues of R/ Lampel's book cover are dark and rich. R' Slifkin's are "bright and happy and a bit childish"
    See this comment in particular:
    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/11/ridiculing-chazal.html?showComment=1290934276036#c1807677195893182910


    To Nachum" I've responded to all your questions on my blog...

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  46. R. Kornreich -Your answer in inadequate,
    There are two issues chazals actual knowledge of modern science and what was actually written down.
    Rav Feldman uses both,

    Regarding chazals actual knowledge Rav Feldman writes “….all the knowledge of the Sages is either from Sinaitic tradition (received at the Giving of the Torah) or from Divine inspiration. That they were in contact with such sources in undeniable. How else could we explain numerous examples where the Sages had scientific information which no scientist of their time had?”

    The point “that the definitive statements of Chazal which were undisputed in the Talmud can be identified today as being in error (due to our improved knowledge of the natural world) is deemed to be heretical.” Is a separate issue. Rav Feldman makes this clear by starting a new paragraph and saying “furthermore”
    “Furthermore, the Talmud is not a mere compilation of the sayings of wise men; it is the sum total of Torah- she-be-al-peh,… It is therefore inconceivable, to these opinions, that G-d would have permitted falsities to have been transmitted as Torah She-be-al-peh and not have revealed His secrets to those who fear Him.”

    R. Kornreich, it seems that you disagree with Rav Feldman regarding point 1 and agree with him on point 2

    R Lampel seems to disagree with R Feldman on both points, because he uses the rambam to answer yitz’s question above I may be mistaken but the Rambam he refers to also states
    “their statements on these matters are not based on prophetic tradition but on what was available to them at that time”

    And your answer About R Slifkin’s picture being cartoonish because of the color is ridicules. “dynamics of disputes actually displays the sages themselves. To me they look like confused old wizards in a lot of pain.

    R Lampel- If I have misrepresented your view I apologize, again I that you for your book, I found it informative and helpful.

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  47. Rabbis Lampel and Kornreich. I prefer to keep the conversation on this blog. It's easier for me to keep track of the conversation and it’s not moderated. You can repost our conversation on your blog if you like.

    With all of the sources you have cited, you have not addressed the main point, or, if you have, I'm missing something.

    Let’s do this slowly. The Gamara in Pesachim speaks of the Chachmei Yisroel’s belief that “during the day the sun travels below the Rakia. At night the sun travels above the Rakia.”

    2 points: (1) The sun travels, but the Rakia stays still. (2) The Rakia here cannot be referring to the earth’s atmosphere, inasmuch as we know that the sun never changes its location vis-a-vis the earth's atmpsphere. The sun is always approximately 93 million miles ABOVE (or behind) the earth’s atmosphere, even during the day.

    Therefore, the only way to understand this Gemara is that the Chachmei Yisroel believed that there is a physical dome which they call a “Rakia” (be it solid, gaseous, or something else,) in the sky that stretches in all directions, under which the sun travels during the day, which the sun pokes through at nightfall and travels above at night.

    There are 2 problems with this (1) There is no such dome. Thus, Chazal got science wrong.

    A much bigger problem from a Mesorah standpoint is (2) Chazal in Pesachim got the Mesorah regarding an aspect of Maaseh Bereishis wrong! They thought that the “Rakia” created on Day 2 and referred to in Day 4 refers to (at least among other things) a dome in the sky, when we now know that it CANNOT mean that, because there is no such dome!

    I’m not sure how you address problem 1.

    To answer problem 2, you take the position that the dome, which the Chachmei Yisroel in Pesachim call “Rakia,” is not (one of) the “Rakia(s)” referred to in Maaseh Breishis. How you arrive here seems very convoluted to me, but it may just be that I don’t understand.

    You cite a Gemara in Chagiga which brings the opinions that there are more than one “Rakia.” It seems to be your position is that some of these “Rakias” are not the “Rakia” referred to in Maaseh Breishis. Likewise, you claim, the “Rakia” that Chazal allude to in Pesachim is not the Rakia in Maaseh Breishis.

    I have 2 problems with this position.

    (1) Although I’m not very familiar with the Gemara in Chagiga, the context of that Gemara seems to indicate that ALL of the Rakias listed there are the Rakia of Maaseh Breishis. You have not cited even one Chazal that refers to “Rakia” in any term other than the one(s) referred to in Maaseh Breishis. (You do cite 2 Rishonim who say that the earth’s atmosphere can also be called Rakia, but that is irrelevant to this problem.)

    (2) Even if I’m wrong with regard to problem 1, and some of the Rakias listed by Resh Lakish are not the “Rakia” of Maaseh Breishis, Rakia No. 2 (the one with the luminaries) in Resh Lakish’s list is most definitely (one of) the Rakia(s) in Maaseh Breishis. Resh Lakish says this explicitly. As such, it only makes sense that it is this Rakia (Resh Lakish’s No. 2) that Chazal are referring to in Pesachim when they say the sun travels in front of it by day and behind it at night. (The fact that Resh Lakish differs from Chazal as to whether the sun is inside the Rakia or travels around it is irrelevant.) Again, your citation of 2 Rishonim who refer to the earth’s atmosphere as Rakia, is irrelevant to this problem.

    ReplyDelete
  48. David and Nachum - I would be pleased to correspond with you privately by email. Contact me at yitz99@gmail.com.

    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  49. Yitz:

    The only problem I have with contacting you is that I am a hermit, and by my very nature do not contact anyone. Rarely do I even pick up the phone when it rings.

    But be assured that if I was the type of person to contact people, you would be on the top of my list.

    Now, if you have something specific you would like to discuss, then by all means feel free to email me at nmichael.boehm@gmail.com.

    I would be happy to hear from you!

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  50. December 19, 2010 7:31 PM david posted...

    Can you please explain how you can write “astronomical matters were matters for which there was no mesorah, and therefore matters of debate with the gentiles.” When this opinion was banned by the gedolim.
    ...


    Far be it from me to endorse one approach of our past and present Torah greats over another. Rabbi Slifkin is invoking the Rambam's shitta to support his approach. My point is that the Rambam himself, as a matter of principle, explicitly drew a line between those matters whose mesorah is not extant--which he himself says includes astronomy and the explanation of the mechanism of the stars' movements--and those matters whose mesorah are extant--which includes the meta-natural nature of Maasei Breishis including the emergence of man sans live ancestors.

    Note that all the classical authorities hold either that something is an extant mesorah and is true, or that it is not part of the extant mesorah and it can be false. They do not hold that something that is an extant mesorah can be false.

    ...Secondly I think you need to apologize for accusing R’ slifkin of cartoonish pictures when the picture on your book is even more cartoonish, or at least explain the difference between R Slifkin’s picture and yours.

    I hope to post a blog entry on this in which I will include illustrations. But in short, the illustration Rabbi Slifkin chose for his essay is cartoonish. The illustration on the cover of Dynamics of Dispute is not.

    I had remarked that I could not think of any reason to choose a cartoonish illustration if not for purposes of ridicule. I did not write "ridicule of the Sages." I meant reinforcing or planting into the head of the reader a mindset of ridicule to the idea.

    If it is true that Rabbi Slifkin and his fans lack the sensitivity to see the blatant difference in art genres and their fonts, perhaps I have hit upon another explanation.

    I had preceded my note about the illustration with two criticisms of substance, yet this illustration thing was the only point taken up by those who objected.

    I'm curious as to Rabbi Slifkin's source for the illustrarion he chose, and what other illustrations were available from that source.

    Ps thank you for writing your book “dynamics of disputes” I found it very informative and helpful.

    Thank you so much for your compliment. Was your favorite chapter, "Errors On the Receiving End"? (;-)

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  51. FWIW, I agree that RNS's color scheme for the illustration is "cartoonish". Someone on his blog pointed this out to him as well.

    Nonetheless, Rabbi Lampel and all of us would do better by refraining from diversions and speculations. A private note to RNS would have served the you and everyone better, rather than speculating about his intention and dragging us into a comical debate about cartoonish colors.

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  52. "Note that all the classical authorities hold either that something is an extant mesorah and is true, or that it is not part of the extant mesorah and it can be false. They do not hold that something that is an extant mesorah can be false."

    Terrific! You should then have no problem with R. Slifkin's and similar approaches, of a non-literal understanding of Maaseh Breishis.

    According to your statement above, to the extent one believes that science has shown the universe to be billions of years old, and that therefore a literal reading of Maaseh Breishis is wrong, one can conclude that a literal understanding of Maaseh Breishis is not part of the Mesorah!

    Of course I am familiar with the answer that HKBH created the universe 5,771 years ago with physical properties indicating that it is billions of years old. Although that answer can possibly be true, you must admit that very very few science-minded people find it satisfying.

    What’s wrong with simply accepting the physical evidence at face value, and concluding that all statements of Chazal that are contrary to the evidence we now have are not part of the Mesorah?

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  53. Rabbi Lampel -“Far be it from me to endorse one approach of our past and present Torah greats over another”

    Someone asked you the question “Aren't you going against our Sages with regard to the firmament?”
    And you answered with the Rambam, now if this opinion is banned, how on earth can you answer by saying
    “The Rambam tells us the difference”?!

    Can you please answer this; the gemorah in pesachim concludes that the non Jewish scientists were right. However today we know that those non Jewish scientists were wrong. You even admitted this. Therefore scientific conclusions written down in the gemorah can be based on the science of their time.

    Now please explain how you can have this view when this view was banned?

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  54. David, Regardless what any ban may or may not say, Rabbi Slifkin is invoking the Rambam's shitta to support his approach. That's why I answered with the Rambam. As I wrote:

    My point is that the Rambam himself, as a matter of principle, explicitly drew a line between those matters whose mesorah is not extant--which he himself says includes astronomy and the explanation of the mechanism of the stars' movements [the subject of Pesachim]--and those matters whose mesorah are extant--which includes the meta-natural nature of Maasei Breishis including the emergence of man sans live ancestors. (See my posts, How The Days of Creation Were Understood by Our Sages, and We, the Followers of Moshe Rabbeynu.)

    ReplyDelete
  55. I wrote:
    "Note that all the classical authorities hold either that something is an extant mesorah and is true, or that it is not part of the extant mesorah and it can be false. They do not hold that something that is an extant mesorah can be false."

    Nachum commented:

    Terrific! You should then have no problem with R. Slifkin's and similar approaches, of a non-literal understanding of Maaseh Breishis.

    According to your statement above, to the extent one believes that science has shown the universe to be billions of years old, and that therefore a literal reading of Maaseh Breishis is wrong, one can conclude that a literal understanding of Maaseh Breishis is not part of the Mesorah!


    As I wrote in my post: Along with all the Geonim and rishonim, the Rambam--whose shitta Rabbi Slifkin is invoking--makes it clear that the fact that the process of creation was a meta-natural one--occurring within 6 regular days (or less), producing, among other things, a fully-formed man sans any live ancestors--is the mesorah:

    Moreh Nevuchim 2:17
    שאנחנו--עדת הרודפים אחר משה רבינו ואברהם אבינו, עליהם השלום--נאמין שהעולם נתהוה על צורת כך וכך, והיה כך מכך, ונברא כך אחר כך.

    (see http://press.tau.ac.il/perplexed/chapters/chap_2_17.htm, note 6, for a compilation of translations of this passage.)

    For we, the community following in the footsteps of Moshe Rabbeynu and Avraham Avinu, aleihem hashalom, believe that the world came into being in such-and-such a form, and became such-and-such from such-and-such (haya kach mi-kach), and such was created after such.

    What specific, existing Jewish belief of things coming onto being (in full form--as in MN 2:30, where the Rambam also says that all was created simultaneously, and then one-by-one "set apart") should we suppose the Rambam was referring to, when writing of things becoming "such-and-such from such-and-such"? To my mind, it is clear that he meant that part of the belief the Jewish community received from Moshe Rabbeynu is the meta-natural formation of, say, an ancestor-less Adam from the adamah, and not from the beheima.
    [end quote]

    The view that the universe and its inhabitants originated through the same natural processes in effect now, to deny that man appeared sans ancestors, to insist that the fully-developed species developed only over eons of time, is fundamentally at odds with the mesorah's point of a meta-natural, 6-day or less Creation.

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  56. Nachum, I am working on answering you're re-phrased comment; but it's a long one that I plan to post as a blog entry.

    Thank you for your patience.

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  57. R. Lampel. You clearly are very familiar with the works of the RMBM. I clearly am not. So I ask these questions not as challenges. Can the above quoted passage of the RMBM be understood to mean that “the Jewish people believe . . .” without meaning that this belief is based on the Mesorah? To answer this you would have to compare it with other times RMBM use the phrase “followers of Avraham and Moshe.”

    Another question: There are 2 alternate translations which do not carry the connotation that the forming of matter into its present form was in the manner and order described in the Torah:

    פינס: "שהעולם הֻוָּה באופן כזה וכזה ונתהווה במצב מסוים ממצב אחר, ונברא ממצב מסוים שבא לאחר מצב אחר"
    (My translation: “[t]hat the world exists in such and such manner, and was brought into its present state in a unique manner (במצב מסוים) from a different situation (ממצב אחר), and was created from a unique situation (ממצב מסוים ) which came after a different situation (מצב אחר).)

    . וייס: "שהעולם נתהווה בצורה זאת וזאת, שמצורה זאת וזאת הוא נעשׂה כך וכך, ושהוא עכשיו נברא כך וכך, לאחר שמקודם היה כך וכך".

    (My translation: “[t]hat the world came into existence in such and such shape, that from this and this shape it was made so and so, and that it is now created so and so, after it was in the beginning it was so and so.”)

    In other words, the RMBM simply means that the world was created in a unique manner, had a unique germination period, and now functions according to the present laws of nature.

    With regard to the meaning of Rakia, R. Kornreich takes the position that the Rakia of Day 4 (the one referred to in Pesachim and Resh Lakish’s Rakia No. 2 in Chagiga) is not the Rakia of Day 2. This seems forced and doesn’t really make sense, for a number of reasons. One obvious problem is: When was the Rakia of Day 4 created? The only choices are Day 1, 2 or 3. Wouldn’t the most obvious conclusion be that it was created on Day 2, when the Torah says the “Rakia” was created? Also, Resh Lakish lists the Rakia of Day 4 in his list of 7 Rakias. It seems obvious that Resh Lakish was referring to seven “layers” of the Day 2 Rakia. Otherwise Resh Lakish was simply making a semantical point (“There are seven things that are called “Rakia”) rather than a cosmological point (“there are seven layers to the Rakia created on Day 2”). The rest of that sugya is dealing with cosmology (e.g. how pillars hold up the world, maaseh merkava, maaseh bresishis).

    Also, what IS the Rakia of Day 4?

    Another related point is that even if your reading is correct, Chazal’s error in Pesachim is much bigger than R. Yehuda thought. The error was not simply in believing that the sun travels behind the Rakia, but it was in their belief that there is any Rakia that the sun can travel behind!

    In the absence of any meforshim explaining that the Rakia of Day 4 is not the same as the Rakia created on Day 2, it is extremely Dachik for you to learn it that way.

    Am I correct in surmising that the only reason to give this extremely forced p’shat is because of your scientific conclusion that there is no solid Rakia near the sun? And if so, are you at least conceding that Chazal in Pesachim(including R. Yehuda) learned Day 4 wrong?

    ReplyDelete
  58. Nachum Boehm said...
    …. Can the above quoted passage of the RMBM be understood to mean that “the Jewish people believe . . .” without meaning that this belief is based on the Mesorah? To answer this you would have to compare it with other times RMBM use the phrase “followers of Avraham and Moshe.”

    Nachum, there is no need to look elsewhere. The Rambam right here is asserting the fundamental difference Judaism has with Aristotle—that the universe was created ex nihilo. The Rambam (and his son) does this repeatedly, and here he even states that were Aristotle’s position true, we would have to abandon the Torah (Torah being by definition Torah as understood by Chazal). What is noteworthy with this particular reiteration of the fundamental principle of Creation ex nihilo, is that he bundles together with it the whole matter of Maasei Breishis—how, essentially, the world developed following the instance of creation.

    Besides, by saying “We, those who follow Moshe Rabbeynu and Avraham Avinu,” it is obvious that he is invoking what we were taught by these greats, not some belief that came externally. And even had the Rambam not mentioned Avraham Avinu and Moshe Rabbeynu, but only said, as you phrase it, “the Jewish people believe,” it would still mean that this is an essential part of Jewish emunah. Believing otherwise would be believing in something other than Judaism.

    Another question: There are 2 alternate translations which do not carry the connotation that the forming of matter into its present form was in the manner and order described in the Torah:

    פינס
    שהעולם הֻוָּה באופן כזה וכזה ונתהווה במצב מסוים
    ממצב אחר, ונברא ממצב מסוים שבא לאחר מצב אחר

    (My translation: “[t]hat the world exists in such and such manner, and was brought into its present state in a unique manner (במצב מסוים) from a different situation (ממצב אחר), and was created from a unique situation (ממצב מסוים ) which came after a different situation (מצב אחר.)


    Pines is a translation from the Arabic into English, so for us English speakers there is no need to translate from a Hebrew translation of Pines. Pines (p. 296) himself reads:

    For we, the community of the followers of Moses our Master and Abraham our Father, may peace be upon them, believe that the world was generated in such and such manner and came to be in a certain state from another state and was created in a certain state, which came after another state.
    Continued

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  59. Continuation:

    Nachum Boehm writes:

    . וייס: "שהעולם נתהווה בצורה זאת וזאת, שמצורה זאת וזאת הוא נעשׂה כך וכך, ושהוא עכשיו נברא כך וכך, לאחר שמקודם היה כך וכך".

    (My translation: “[t]hat the world came into existence in such and such shape, that from this and this shape it was made so and so, and that it is now created so and so, after it was in the beginning it was so and so.”)


    The word, “צורה”, is a philosophical term whose standard translation is “form,” although “shape” would not be wrong if taken in that sense. By changing my translation from “form” to “shape,” you’re not suggesting, are you, that the Rambam is insisting that, in opposition to Aristotle, the Jewish people have a belief that the world was created in a different shape than what Aristotle thought? Round? Flat? Spherical? Cube?

    In other words, the RMBM simply means that the world was created in a unique manner, had a unique germination period, and now functions according to the present laws of nature.

    You are repeatedly using the word “unique,” and I sense you’re making a point with that which I don’t grasp. I don’t see how it changes what I’ve been saying. However you translate it, the Rambam is obviously naming more stages than Creation ex nihilo as part of what Judaism believes. Again, this time using the word “unique” rather than my word, “specific,” I ask,

    What unique, existing Jewish belief of things coming into being (in full form—as in MN 2:30, where the Rambam also says that all was created simultaneously, and then one-by-one "set apart") should we suppose the Rambam was referring to, when writing of things becoming "such-and-such from such-and-such"? To my mind, it is clear that he meant that part of the belief the Jewish community received from Moshe Rabbeynu is the meta-natural formation of, say, an ancestor-less Adam from the adamah, and not from the beheima.

    Do you think the Rambam held that the Jewish belief since Avraham Avinu and Moshe Rabbeynu was that the world developed according to the natural laws now in effect, over eons of time? That man actually evolved from animals?

    Once you agree that nature during the “germination period” behaved differently/uniquely from how it behaves now, you are siding with me against the position that the earth’s creatures and man developed through so-called natural evolutionary forces allegedly in effect today.

    With regard to the meaning of Rakia, R. Kornreich takes the position that the Rakia of Day 4 (the one referred to in Pesachim and Resh Lakish’s Rakia No. 2 in Chagiga) is not the Rakia of Day 2. This seems forced and doesn’t really make sense, for a number of reasons. One obvious problem is: When was the Rakia of Day 4 created? The only choices are Day 1, 2 or 3. Wouldn’t the most obvious conclusion be that it was created on Day 2, when the Torah says the “Rakia” was created?

    Yet, as Rabbi Kornreich showed in black-and-white, some mefarshim identify the rakia of day 2 as the earth’s atmosphere! Doesn’t make sense! For on day 4 we are told that Hashem placed the sun, moon and stars in the rakias shamayyim! The sun, moon and stars were always understood to be far beyond the clouds!

    The Seforno and the Ramban, sensing this question, explain that on the fourth day, Hashem did not locate the heavenly bodies inside the rakia, but produced the situation in which the heavenly bodies are seen through the rakia that is below them. So the fact remains that according to these mefarshim, what is said about the rakia of the pesukim—the atmosphere—does not necessarily apply to the Resh Lakish's rakia, and vice versa.
    Continued

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  60. Continuation
    The fact remains that the mefarshim, who were experts on the pesukim, Gemoros and Midrashim, did not have a common opinion on the specific identities of the shamayim of day one, the rakia of day two, and the rakia of day four—concerning whether they were or were not the same, and whether and how they were different. The Ramban himself offers various possibilities.

    But let’s stick with Rambam (MN 2:30), who states that the words rakia and shamayim are sometimes used interchangeably. Focusing on the Rambam’s view, the rakia of day 2 is the atmosphere but also something mysterious, and the rakia of the 4th day is the multi-layered, clear, colorless and weightless (and not impenetrably solid) galgal of unearthly-like composition which, he holds, based on Aristoteliean astronomy, and for which he found support in the posuk, forces the mazalos to move as they do.

    Also, Resh Lakish lists the Rakia of Day 4 in his list of 7 Rakias. It seems obvious that Resh Lakish was referring to seven “layers” of the Day 2 Rakia. Otherwise Resh Lakish was simply making a semantical point (“There are seven things that are called “Rakia”) rather than a cosmological point (“there are seven layers to the Rakia created on Day 2”). The rest of that sugya is dealing with cosmology (e.g. how pillars hold up the world, maaseh merkava, maaseh bresishis).

    Also, what IS the Rakia of Day 4?


    The mefarshim have various opinions about this, as mentioned above. There may also have been different opinions among the Sages of the Midrashim and Talmud and, as is obvious, certainly by the time of the rishonim there was no agreed-upon extant mesorah as to what part of the area above earth the rakia or shamayim of any given day, in any given posuk, is specifically referring to.
    Continued

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  61. Continuation

    Nachum Boehm writes:
    Another related point is that even if your reading is correct, Chazal’s error in Pesachim is much bigger than R. Yehuda thought. The error was not simply in believing that the sun travels behind the Rakia, but it was in their belief that there is any Rakia that the sun can travel behind!

    As I understand it, Rabbi Kornreich’s reading does not imply that there is no rakia. I would say that even assuming that the discussion in Pesachim is on a literal and physical plane (something to which, both Rabbi Kornreich and I noted, not all mefarshim agree), whether the rakia in Pesachim is the atmosphere or whether it is a higher sphere, it is something that they could have described the sun as traveling above or below, and having the effect (without being solid) of hiding the sun.

    In the absence of any meforshim explaining that the Rakia of Day 4 is not the same as the Rakia created on Day 2, it is extremely Dachik for you to learn it that way.

    I hope I clarified the confusion. The rakias of both days may be the same, but the physical location of the heavenly bodies is not necessarily in the rakia of the posuk--the rakia in which the sun, moon and stars are located, is a different rakia. The galgal Pesachim describes as the thing within or upon which the mazalos move, and the rakia in the front and back of which Pesachim describes the sun traveling, are not necessarily the same thing, and not necessarily the rakia Hashem said the sun, moon and stars should “be in” on day 4 of Creation.

    Yes, it is clearly confusing, and one cannot assert a simplistic mesorah on this subject, contrast it to current thought, and conclude that Judaism holds it is legitimate to contradict the mesorah of the meta-natural Maasei Breishis..

    Am I correct in surmising that the only reason to give this extremely forced p’shat is because of your scientific conclusion that there is no solid Rakia near the sun? And if so, are you at least conceding that Chazal in Pesachim (including R. Yehuda) learned Day 4 wrong?

    I hope you see I am not giving a forced peshat. I am reporting what our mefarshim say, and I don't see that what they say is dochek at all;

    there is no basis to say the rakia is a solid. This is so whether it would identified, as it is by some mefarshim, as the earth’s atmosphere, or whether it would be identified with the weightless, colorless spheres described by the Rambam;

    and what the pesukim say about the sun, moon, stars and rakia of day 4 is not necessarily connected to what’s in Pesachim about the sun’s movement vis a vis the rakia, or about the mazalos and galgalim.

    But according to the Rambam and others, both the ”Chachmei Yisrael” and Rebbi Yehuda (the latter who, don’t forget, was one of Chazal) and the commenting Amoraim—who defended the Chachmei Yisrael’s conclusion against Rebbi Yehuda’s—could have been wrong about what they were discussing in Pesachim, since their discussion and machlokess was a matter of human theorizing upon which there was no extant mesorah to shed light).

    --As opposed to the meta-natural nature of Breishis, and the special creation of an ancestor-less man within 6 regular days.

    Zvi Lampel

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  62. "The Rambam (and his son) does this repeatedly, and here he even states that were Aristotle’s position true, we would have to abandon the Torah (Torah being by definition Torah as understood by Chazal). What is noteworthy with this particular reiteration of the fundamental principle of Creation ex nihilo, is that he bundles together with it the whole matter of Maasei Breishis—how, essentially, the world developed following the instance of creation."


    Dear Rabbi Lampel,
    You have now very clearly shown how my whole life I have been living a lie.
    For years I took Rav Carmells word for it that the age of the universe does not contradict Torah.
    The more science I studied the more awe I felt in the presents of the infinite creator I studied the laws of science the formation of stars and planets and I marveled at my very own consciousness.
    I was inspired by the beautiful understanding rav kook had on evolution
    But as beautiful and meaningful all this may be, you have shown me that it is not authentic Judaism.
    Unfortunately I believe that the universe is billions of years old, I cannot lie to myself and pretend I don’t have these views, if I can’t be sincere even to myself then who am I?

    I will have to follow the Rambams advise and “abandon the Torah” I am sure that if the Rambam was alive today, and had the same beliefs about the age of the universe as I do he would do the same.
    The Rambam does not say that if Aristotle’s position was true it would simply mean Hashem created the universe in such a way that it merely looks like Aristotle’s position, he says instead have the intellectual honest to leave Judaism.

    Unfortunately if I want to be honest I will have to follow the Rambams advice instead of trying to make the Torah fit in with my beliefs.

    If only Rav Carmell and Rav Nadel would have listened to the Rambam, and “abandon the Torah” instead of giving me false hope.

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  63. Unfortunately I believe that the universe is billions of years old, I cannot lie to myself and pretend I don’t have these views, if I can’t be sincere even to myself then who am I?

    Perhaps you are being provocative in order to make a point?

    In any case, I would suggest an edit to the above statement. I suggest that your epistemology that leads to the old universe conclusion has nothing at all to do with "belief". You are rather weighing in the evidence as reported by the scientific community and are drawing the conclusion that best fits the evidence. Belief is belief because it is NOT built upon evidence.

    Take this point for whatever it is worth.

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  64. R. Lampel:

    Having reviewed that portion of MN, I concede that RMBM appears to allude to a literal understanding of Maaseh Breishis, because he appears to speak of a germination period after creation ex nihilo.

    I am questioning whether RMBM was asserting that such literal learning of Maaseh Breishis is part of the Mesorah, that is, passed down to us through Avraham Avinu and Moshe Rabeinu, rather than something that the Jewish people believe as a result of their own interpretation of the Maaseh Breishis narrative. (Similar to the way Chazal in Pesachim understood that the Rakia is a physical entity above the sun during the day, which you appear to be conceding was their belief, albeit based on their interpretation of pesukim and not based on any mesorah. I think.)

    “And even had the Rambam not mentioned Avraham Avinu and Moshe Rabbeynu, but only said, as you phrase it, “the Jewish people believe,” it would still mean that this is an essential part of Jewish emunah.”

    Not necessarily. I agree that RMBM held creation ex nihilo an essential part of Jewish emunah. But I don’t think you can compare that to a literal reading of maaseh breishis. Perhaps RMBM conflated the two because he was comparing the Aristotelian view of the eternal universe to the Jewish view of creation as narrated in the Torah. This would not mean that the Jewish view of creation as narrated in the Torah is “an essential part of Jewish emunah.”

    continued

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  65. With regard to the Rakia:

    I’m really trying to understand this Rakia business, but after reading what you and R. Kornreich have to say I only feel more confused. Usually this is an indication that what I’m reading is not making sense. I may be wrong in this case, perhaps you are making sense and the problem is me.

    So let’s take this slowly.

    In Pesachim, Chazal believe that there is a rakia that the sun could, conceptually, travel behind, which would result in the sun not being seen from earth.

    Will you please explain (1) what is this rakia? And (2) when was it created?

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  66. "Perhaps you are being provocative in order to make a point?"


    It seems that there are two “davids” on this blog, I am not the david that is having the heated debate with SC.

    I am not trying to be provocative, rabbi Lampel is right, if I am convinced that the universe is billions of years old, there is no place for me in the Torah world.
    The Rambam understood that religion is not blind belief, he accepted that if he happened to be convinced that the universe is old he would have to leave the Torah way of life. One cannot have ones cake and eat it.

    Rav Lambel has shown me that is incoherent to keep the Torah and at the same time make up interpretation for the first chapter of the Torah. It is like someone claiming to keep a meaningful Shabbat but believing that Hashem is not real.
    It is going to be rather difficult for me to stop keeping the mitzvot but this is what I have to do.

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  67. David is making quite a strong statement! Rabbi Lampel - you surely do no want such a Pyrrhic victory.

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  68. Please go to this link:

    http://www.aishdas.org/asp/2010/12/when-science-and-torah-conflict.shtml

    Regarding the issue of the days of Creation, Rabbi Berger and I disagree; but his approach (detailed in other places, included in his Avodah website) remains within the framework of loyalty in principle to the mesorah. He understands the Maharal and Ramban as understood by Rav Dessler and Midrashim to include Time as one of the things during the Creation process that worked meta-naturally, and therefore there could have been some sort of coexistence of a 6-day and 15-billion-year period. (This does not address the evolution process, only the time issue.) My understanding of the sources does not support this, but David may find some solace in this approach.

    Rabbi Berger’s approach is unlike Rabbi Slifkin’s. Rabbi Slifkin's approach promotes saying that the mesorah can be wrong. It advocates that contra the mesorah, the Creation process (except for the first moment of Creation) was a natural one, following the same processes of nature in effect today.

    Rabbi Berger insists that legitimate interpretation must be backed by mesorah and Chazal. He insists that the mesorah cannot be wrong. He insists that the Creation process was meta-natural. We differ in what is plausible interpretation of the mesorah, specifically regarding whether Chazal meant to include Time within those things that were meta-natural in behavior.

    There are other writings by Rabbi Berger where he expresses his ideas about Time during Maasei Breishis, and his view that we have an utter inability to comprehend what went on, and that both science's version, and my version, are off the mark.

    I agree with him half-way.

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