Thursday, January 6, 2011

Backtracking

Rabbi Slifkin responded to my post, Not-So-Solid Proof About The Spheres. Because my response to this entails much special formatting that is tedious to insert in the Comments section, and because I feel the subject is so important, I’m transplanting the discussion to a blog post.

Rabbi Slifkin wrote, responding to my point that the sources show that despite his claims, it is very uncertain that the ancients entertained a belief that the “spheres” by which they described the stars movements were solid entities:

It's not entirely clear how to define the medieval view -but it is largely irrelevant. My point was NOT that Chazal, or Rambam, held the spheres to be solid in the scientific sense of solid as opposed to liquid or gas.

I see. You were not using the word “solid” in the “scientific” sense…

Rabbi Slifkin, I’m afraid you’re backtracking. In the very post to which you are replying, I included your mention of “the question of how we would penetrate the solid crystalline sphere in order to get [past them]!” You have repeatedly stated many times and emphasized the claim that Chazal unanimously held that the rakia is a solid dome And you meant solid, as opposed to liquid and gas, and as opposed to unknown ethereal substance, and as opposed to gravitational or other force fields..

You have done this because

a. the rakia is an object mentioned in the pesukim, and

b. by convincing your readers that there was a mesorah about it, and that the mesorah was that it is a solid dome,

c. you led them to believe that we are forced to say a mesorah can be wrong; and

d. therefore there is license for you to dismiss—in favor of the evolutionary natural process paradigm—the mesorah attributing to the Creation process a fundamentally meta-natural character, including the creation of Adam sans biological ancestors

At least, this is how your readership who commented on this blog understood you. Step two, establishing (falsely) that there is a mesorah that the rakia is solid, is essential to your thesis.

Are you now retracting?

Rather, it was that the sphere is something with substance i.e. it is not the atmosphere, or outer space.

The atmosphere does not have substance?? Outer space cannot have substance that would have been described as a non earthly-type of substance that is colorless and weightless, accordingly lacking any mass (basically making the theory un-falsifiable, and perhaps therefore unscientific, but by no means proven false)??

The point is that, as Chazal make clear in Pesachim, the sun moves on both sides of it surface and it is opaque such that the sun cannot be seen when it is behind it.

The opinion of the Chachmei Yisrael in Pesachim is one opinion among others in Chazal. Our girsa in the Gemora—as some understand it—has Rebbi supporting the gentiles’ model. Rebbi is also part of Chazal. Rav Yehudah [bar Ilai] in Chagigah 12b holds that the sun, moon and stars are all embedded in the 2nd  of seven rakias—which differs with the description of the sun independently boring through the rakia of the stars and traveling anywhere not within it. R. Shimon bar Yochai (Breishis Rabbah 1:8) disagreed with the entire model of spheres, and declared one cannot know how to explain the stars’ movements.

So how do you justify your claim about what “Chazal” make clear about the opaqueness of the rakia?

And in fact, the opinion of the Chachmei Yisroel in Pesachim itself is very difficult to understand internally. I would like to understand, for instance, how the Chachmei Yisroel accounted for seeing the moon at night, when its visibility is dependent upon the sun’s influence on it—even according to the ancient Babylonians—if the sun at night is blocked by an opaque rakia.

You have a lot to learn to understand the all the talmudic and midrashic passages, both internally and how they interreact, before you can build your case that—despite the vast Torah literature that makes it clear that the mesorah is that the Creation process was a meta-natural one—you have the license to reject that mesorah. And even if you declare that you feel it is more likely to find a way to mix and match sources in a way that results in disagreeing with the mesorah, you are choosing an iconoclastic approach that is in opposition to the behavior of Torah scholarship throughout the millennia that strove instead to defend it.

Moreover, Chazal in the Yerushalmi certainly held it to be "firm" in some sense.

Need I elaborate on the senses in which “firm” can be taken, without it meaning that it is literally a solid, especially when used in reference to the atmosphere—as the Rambam explicitly understands it? (And, by the way, there you went again intimating the idea that you just backed away from, that the rakia was understood to be a solid object…”in the scientific sense.”)

And for the life of me I can't figure out why you're claiming that I'm proving what Chazal held about the rakia from the writings of a 6th century monk.

I’m claiming it because you wrote:

As we shall later demonstrate from both general history as well as the

interpretations of the Geonim and Rishonim, the view of the Sages of Israel was that

of ancient Babylonian cosmology. They believed that the earth is a roughly flat disc,

and the rest of the universe is a hemispherical solid dome fixed above it. The stars

move around the surface of this dome; hence, “the [hemi]sphere is fixed and the

constellations revolve [within it].”

“The rest of the universe,” besides the earth, “is a hemispherical solid dome fixed above it” refers to the rakia, or the spheres, or shamayim, no? You set out to prove that, no?

There are those who doubt whether the dispute between the Sages of Israel and the sages of the nations was as we have described it. However, if we look at the very next lines of the Talmud, we will be able to show that this is clearly the case.

“as we have described it”—the “it” is that, for one thing, “the rest of the universe is a hemispherical solid dome,” no? “we will be able to show that this is clearly the case”—“this” being the “it,” being that “the rest of the universe [besides the earth] is a hemispheric solid dome,” no? And the next of the Talmud shows that “this is clearly the case” because, why?--

This is because it [the Talmud] presents a set of arguments which we find elsewhere

Where’s “elsewhere”? You explain:

The Sages of Israel say, During the day, the sun travels below the firmament, and at

night, above the firmament. Cosmas Indicopleustes [the 6-th century monk] uses the same terminology as the Talmud…

Since the identical arguments are used, we can see that the Jewish and gentile sages were indeed involved in the dispute between the ancient Babylonian cosmology and the newer Ptolemaic model. The Talmud immediately continues to relate another difference of opinion between the Jewish and gentile scholars: The Sages of Israel say, During the day, the sun travels below the firmament, and at night, above the firmament….This is a corollary of the first dispute. Consistent with the ancient Babylonian cosmology, the Jewish Sages believed that…

So the fact that a 6th-century monk (who was plausibly familiar with the talmudic passage in question) took it and interpreted its arguments a certain way (or, otherwise, came up with them on his own), is the “elsewhere” from which know that “it is clearly the case” that “the dispute between the Sages of Israel and the gentile sages were indeed involved in the dispute between the ancient Babylonian cosmology and the newer Ptolemaic model,” and that Chazal “believed that the rest of the universe [besides the earth] was a hemispherical solid dome.”

So how do you now claim that “for the life of me I can't figure out why you're claiming that I'm proving what Chazal held about the rakia from the writings of a 6th century monk”?

and in I only quoted him with regard to some particular aspects of that discussion. And incidentally, Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam and others explain those aspects in exactly the same way.

Okay, so exactly what aspects are you deducing, and what aspects are you not deducing, from the 6th-century monk, Chazal’s beliefs about the rakia? And if Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam and others explain the same aspects to you were referring, in exactly the same way the 6th-century monk did, why did you resort to the Christian monk’s opinion as proof to what the Talmud means, rather to that of the rishonim? Because he lived earlier? Because the monk was less biased than Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam and others when it comes to understanding the true meaning of Chazal’s words?

But the fact of Chazal believing the rakia to be an opaque, substantive dome is the UNIVERSAL view of the Rishonim.

This may be the first sentence you’ve written that does not put the word “solid” near the words “rakia” and “dome.” Congratulations on finally retracting! Regardless, I already explained why your claim is wrong. And, as I will explain, is largely irrelevant.

It's odd that you are ignoring the big issue - Chazal's view of the rakia - and instead talking about Rambam's view of the rakia, which is not particularly relevant

It is very relevant because it demonstrates the falseness of your mantra that the spheres were thought of as solid objects, which until now you saw cause to constantly repeat. The Rambam upheld the model of the spheres, yet he distinctly describes them as not being solid. And as I’ve shown, many Greek philosophers as well did not think they were solid. And I doubt you have evidence that the Babylonians thought they were literally solid.

Wikipedia, “Ancient Mesopotamian Astronomy”

Crude Celestial Concepts

(Source: S. Toulmin and J. Goodfield. The Fabric of the Heavens)

In any case, to be honest, we do not know for certain whether the [Babylonian] astronomers had any theoretical ideas about the heavenly bodies or not. All we can say is that their practical achievements did not require any theoretical insight, and that scarcely a trace has survived of any theories they may have had. One of the rare pieces of evidence, and a very indirect one at that, is contained in the following passage from Vitruvius…  At first sight this may seem to discredit our generalization about Babylonian astronomy—namely, that it was purely computational, and that theoretical speculation played a negligible part.  On closer examination, however, the passage rather seems to bear out rather than to falsify this claim

Yet you write with such confidence that “the view of the Sages of Israel was that of ancient Babylonian cosmology. They believed that the earth is a roughly flat disc, and the rest of the universe is a hemispherical solid dome fixed above it.

This is the big issue because you’ve built your case on the claim that there was a mesorah that the rakia is an opaque solid, and since we know this isn’t so, you see that the mesorah is not reliable, and therefore you have license to dismiss as well the mesorah that Creation was a not a natural, but a meta-natural process.

But you are right that the solidity or non-solidity the Chochmei Yisrael attributed to the spheres is ultimately not so relevant. Indeed, even your false claim that Chazal unanimously attributed opaqueness to the rakia is irrelevant.

Because your next mistake is that you invoke the Rambam’s et al shitta--that when it comes to astronomy, etc., Chazal may have been wrong—for license to dismiss the mesorah of the meta-natural creation process, when that very shitta makes a clear and fundamental distinction between matters known through mesorah and matters such as the substance of the spheres and the movements of the stars.

But the fact is that the Rambam et al, and all Torah scholarship throughout the millennia, do not countenance disagreeing with a matter recognized as the mesorah. This is clear to anyone who studies the millennia of Torah literature with an unbiased and un-agenda-inspired attitude. If the Rambam et al thought that talmudic statements about astronomy were meant to be taken at their surface meaning as part of the mesorah they would never countenance disagreeing with it. The Rambam et al held that the rakia’s makeup, and the path the sun takes at night, is not a matter of mesorah. And the Rambam himself admitted that he really felt it beyond his ability to know for certain what in the world the causes of the heavenly bodies’ motions or what their makeup are—because there is no mesorah about that.

מורה נבוכים ב:כב

ואמנם כל מה שבשמים לא ידע האדם דבר ממנו אלא בזה השעור הלמודי המעט, ואתה תראה מה שבו. ואני אומר ע״צ מליצת השיר, "השמים שמים לה׳ והארץ נתן לבני אדם," ר״ל שהשם לבדו ידע אמתת השמים וטבעם, ועצמם, וצורתם, ותנועותם, וסבותם על השלמות, אמנם מה שתחת השמים נתן יכולת לאדם לדעתו, מפני שהוא עולמו וביתו אשר ירד בו והוא חלק ממנו וזהו האמת, כי סבות הראיה על השמים נמנעות אצלנו, כבר רחקו ממנו ונעלו במקום ובמעלה. והראיה הכוללת מהם שהם הורונו על מניעם, אבל שאר ענינם הוא ענין לא יניעו שכלי האדם לידיעתו, והטריח המחשבות במה שלא יניעו להשגתו ואין כלי להם שיגיעו בו, אמנם הוא חסמן דעת או מין מהשגעון, אבל נעמוד אצל היכלת ונניח הענין כמה שלא יושג בהקש, למי שבאהו השפע האלהי העצום עד שיהיה ראוי שנאמר עליו פה אל פה אדבר בו, זה תכלית מה שאצלי בזאת השאלה, ואפשר שיהיה אצל זולתי מופת יתבאר לו בו אמתת מה שסופק אצלי, ותכלית בחירתי לאמת שאני בארתי בלבולי אלו הענינים, ואני לא שמעתי מופת על דבר מהם ולא ידעתיו

MN 2:24

What I said before (2:22) I will repeat now, namely, that the theory of Aristotle, in explaining the phenomena in the sublunary world, is in accordance with logical inference. Here we know the causal relationship between one phenomenon and another; we see how far science can investigate them, and the management of nature is clear and intelligible.

But of the things in the heavens man knows nothing except a few mathematical calculations, and you see how far these go. I say in the words of the poet," The heavens are the Lord's, but the earth He hath given to the sons of man" (Ps. cxv. 16): that is to say, God alone has a perfect and true knowledge of the heavens, their nature, their essence, their form, their motions, and their causes; but He gave man power to know the things which are under the heavens: here is man's world, here is his home, into which he has been placed, and of which he is himself a portion. This is in reality the truth. For the facts which we require in proving [anything about] the existence of heavenly entities are withheld from us: the heavens are too far from us, and too exalted in place and rank. Man's faculties are too deficient to comprehend even the general proof the heavens contain for the existence of Him who sets them in motion.

So, the Rambam does not only say that the mechanics of the stars’ movements—something not specified in the pesukim of Maasei Breishis—is something for which there is no extant mesorah (—and by the way, the Rambam was not the first to declare this: Rav Saadia Gaon said this as well—); he also says that we do not really know what causes the stars to move—despite his tentatively following Aristotle in attributing this to some spheres--and that we do not really know the composition (nature, essence, form) of the heavenly bodies—despite his confident description of the same.

By the way, I am still waiting for you to retract your baseless charge that I depicted the rakia in a cartoonish manner in order to ridicule Chazal. Which was especially ironic in light of your cartoonish depiction of Chazal themselves on the cover of your book.

I already addressed this in the comments section to another post, but b”n I will address it on this one again in a separate comment.

48 comments:

  1. Rabbi Lampel, you are very confused about this topic. You keep trying to prove what Chazal held about the rakia from what Rambam held about the rakia! But one has nothing to do with the other!

    Second, the main point of my citing the monk Cosmos was with regard to establishing the framework of other discussions in the Gemara, such as with regard to the stars/spheres. It has no bearing on Chazal's view about the basic nature of the rakia, which is taken as I said it by ALL the Rishonim. I keep saying this, but you keep waving the red herring of "the monk" rather than dealing with the Rishonim or with what the Gemara actually means.

    I notice that you do not cite a single Rishonic source about Pesachim 94b. In fact, I've noticed that despite writing hundreds (thousands?) of words of this topic, you still haven't actually addressed the meaning of Pesachim 94b, except to make some confusing and contradictory implications that Chazal may have
    been talking about the sun moving on both sides of the atmosphere or some sort of force field.

    You cite Rav Yehudah [bar Ilai] in Chagigah 12b and R. Shimon bar Yochai. None of them are disputing the idea of the rakia as a solid substance. RSBY is NOT disagreeing with the concept of the rakia - he is just unsure of the nature of the sun's interaction with it. Have you even read his words? Perhaps you can quote the entire paragraph.

    The only reason why I am qualifying my use of the word "solid" as not a scientific term is that one view in Chazal was that the rakia is made out of water, which congealed. "Congealed water" is not ice, and is not a scientifically-acknowledged phenomenon, so it can be misleading to describe it as a "solid." But it is substantive, by which I mean it is firm. Unlike the atmosphere, which while being substantive in the modern scientific sense of being made of molecules, is not firm and is not what Chazal were describing when they spoke of the rakia, which the sun travels on both sides of.

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  2. R. Slifkin, can you provide the precise words of the Rishonim where they explicitly write that Chazal as a group believed that the rakiya discussed in Pesachim 94b is literally a solid dome?

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  3. The words of Chazal in the Bavli, Yerushalmi, and Midrash about the nature of the rakia and the sun's passage on both sides of it are explicit, and none of the Rishonim claim that Chazal were not speaking literally. Perhaps you would like to discuss the different sugyos, and the words of all the Rishonim that I cited in my monograph, and give your own explanation of all these sources?

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  4. R. Slifkin, I don't see how you have answered my question. Can we start with at least one Rishon? I.e., can you provide the precise words of one Rishon who explicitly states that Chazal as a group believed that the rakiya discussed in Pesachim 94b is literally a solid dome?

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  5. That's like, lehavdil, asking for one piece of evidence that proves the Holocaust. There isn't one. Rather, there are many, many pieces of evidence, each of which proves a different aspect, and together which prove the Holocaust. Likewise here; there are many statements of Chazal and the Rishonim, which taken together prove that Chazal believed in a firmament. You haven't disputed, or even analyzed, a single piece of the evidence.

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  6. The opinion of the Chachmei Yisrael in Pesachim is one opinion among others in Chazal. Our girsa in the Gemora—as some understand it—has Rebbi supporting the gentiles’ model. Rebbi is also part of Chazal.

    Rebbi supported the gentiles' model of the sun passing below the earth and not above the rakia, not because he held that the rakia wouldn't obscure the sun if the sun was behind it, but because Rebbi felt he had evidence that the sun actualy passes under the earth.

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  7. I would like to understand, for instance, how the Chachmei Yisroel accounted for seeing the moon at night, when its visibility is dependent upon the sun’s influence on it—even according to the ancient Babylonians—if the sun at night is blocked by an opaque rakia.

    I don't have a gemara in front of me, but I believe that Tosafos in Chagiga 12b addresses the question of how we can see the moon and stars which are within the second layer of the rakia, when there is a first layer of rakia in front of them. I don't recall how he answers that question and therefore don't know if the answer to that question would answer your question though. I'll try to look it up over Shabbos.

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  8. I have twice asked R. Slifkin for the precise words of Rishonim (or at least one Rishon) who explicitly confirm R. Slifkin's solid dome thesis: that Chazal as a group believed that the rakiya discussed in Pesachim 94b is literally a solid dome.

    In both his responses we find no such quote from the Rishonim (or, from even one Rishon). I wonder if R. Slifkin can confirm that he does not have the explicit source requested for his remarkable thesis--other than the opinion of the 6th century monk Cosmas.

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  9. Nachum wrote,
    Rebbi supported the gentiles' model of the sun passing below the earth and not above the rakia, not because he held that the rakia wouldn't obscure the sun if the sun was behind it, but because Rebbi felt he had evidence that the sun actualy passes under the earth.

    January 7, 2011 9:16 AM


    As I understand it, the whole reason for ascribing opaqueness to the rakia was to explain why the sun cannot be seen at night. Once you give a different reason for not seeing the sun, as the gentile model does, there is no reason to invoke an opaque rakia.

    Furthermore, as I have shown, the Rambam and secular sources I've cited explain the Aristotelean spheres to be not opaque, but colorless. So unless you want to limit Rebbi's concession to the gentiles' model, his conclusion denies an opaque rakia.

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  10. As I understand it, the whole reason for ascribing opaqueness to the rakia was to explain why the sun cannot be seen at night.

    That's a stretch. Chazal in Pesachim, including Rebbi, don't "ascribe" opaqueness to the rakia; they assume it. The gemara is about that sun's path at night, not about the rakia. If the assumption was that the rakia is not opaque and Chazal were saying a chiddush about the rakia, wouldn't we expect the gemara to say so?

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  11. Furthermore, if Rebbi disagreed with Chazal's "chiddush" that the rakia is opaque, wouldn't we expect Rebbi to say so explicitly?

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. I have twice asked R. Slifkin for the precise words of Rishonim (or at least one Rishon) who explicitly confirm R. Slifkin's solid dome thesis: that Chazal as a group believed that the rakiya discussed in Pesachim 94b is literally a solid dome.

    The same question can be asked about Maaseh Breishis: Where are the precise words of even one Rishon who explicitly confirms that Chazal as a group believed that maaseh breishis as described in the Torah was meant to be understood literally.

    The answer to that question is that there is no Rishon that states explicitly that Chazal as a group believed that maaseh breishis as described in the Torah was meant to be understood literally. Nevertheless, it is a reasonable conclusion based on the survey of the Rishonim in R. Lampel’s essay “How the Days of Creation Were Understood by Our Sages."

    Likewise, as R. Slifkin stated, there is no single source that Chazal as a group believed that the rakiya discussed in Pesachim 94b is literally a "solid" dome (solid = opaque). Nevertheless, it is a reasonable conclusion based on the survey of the rishonim in R. Slifkin’s monograph “The Sun's Path at Night.”

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  14. Dear Nachum,

    Rambam on meta-natural creation (MN 1;67): רמב״ם מ״נ א:סז בכל יום מן הששה היו מתחדשים בו חידושות מחוץ לטבע הזה המצוי עתה בכללותה‚ וביום השביעי התמיד הדבר ונתיצב כפי שהוא עתה
    On each day of the six day creation week, novel entities were formed outside of the system of nature currently in operation and, on the seventh day (Shabbos), the state of the world become lasting and established just as it is at present.

    Rambam MN 2.30: "The account of the six days of creation contains, in reference to the creation of man, the statement: “Male and female created he them” (1:27), and concludes with the words: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them” (2:1), and yet the portion which follows describes the creation of Chava from Adam, the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge, the history of the serpent and the events connected therewith, and all this as having taken place after Adam had been placed in the Garden of Eden. All our Sages agree that this took place on the sixth day, and that nothing new was created after the close of the six days. None of the things mentioned above is therefore impossible, because the laws of Nature were then not yet permanently fixed.

    Abarbanel, Commentary to Beresishis p86, with reference to MN 2:30: Thus it is clearly evident from the aforementioned statements that the opinion of the Rav [Rambam] was … that all which is mentioned regarding the activity of the six days, from the creation of the heavens and the earth, and all of their phenomena, and the creation of Adam and his wife, up until [the passage of] va'yechulu posses no allegory whatsoever for everything was understood by him as literal [אין בהם משל כלל כי היה אצלו הכל כפשוטו]. Therefore, you see that the Rav has ... made a concerted effort to support the principle of absolute creation [חידוש המוחלט] and accepted all of the verses literally.

    Rambam MN 2.31: רמב״ם מ״נ ב:לא ולפיכך נצטוינו בקידוש היום הזה כדי שיתבסס יסוד חידוש העולם ... וכאשר ישאלו מה טעם הדבר‚ תהיה התשובה כי ששת ימים עשה ה׳
    Therefore, we are commanded in the sanctification of this day (Shabbos) in order to establish the foundational principle of novel [meta-natural] creation … if it is asked what is the the cause [for our resting on Shabbos] the answer is “for in six days Hashem made [heavens and earth](Ex. 20:11).

    Abarbanel to MN II:31: “And the Rav (Rambam) with this, elaborates what he stated at the end of chapter 29 and chapter 30 of this section [section II of Moreh Nevuchim], which is that the true chiddush [i.e. meta-natural creation] is what is described in the verses regarding the six days of creation … and it is meant entirely literally and therefore the seventh day is the day of rest to demonstrate that after all was completed on the sixth day, nothing more was created … and in order to testify to this great thing, Shabbos was established as the seventh day to hint at and make known that absolutely nothing was created after the sixth day.

    In Challenge of Creation, R. Slifkin writes that he is following the approach of the Rambam. As the quotes indicate, this statement is reflective of shoddy scholarship. But this is not my topic now.

    I really would like to obtain a clear answer to my question. I wonder if R. Slifkin can confirm that he does not have the explicit source requested for his remarkable dome thesis--other than the opinion of the 6th century monk Cosmas?

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  15. Fair enough. You have quoted a Rishon that very strongly implies that all of Chazal learned Maaseh Breishis literaly. Rambam MN 2.30. I concede the point.

    Nevertheless, having reviewed R. Slifkin's survey of the Rishonim's interpretation of the sugya in Pesachim, it is very clear that ALL the Rishonim (1) learned that sugya literally, (2) with the understanding that Chazal believed the rakia to be opaque. This is the simplest way to understand the gemara and Rishonim. R. Lampel concedes that Chazal in that sugya appear to have understood the rakia to be opaque. (R. Lampel and I are discussing whether Rebbi agreed with Chazal in that regard.)

    I don't know if you've been following the discussions on this venue, but I believe your blog mates will attest that I'm a fair minded individual who is open to dropping an initial position. I am not very dogmatic. In this case as well, I am open to the idea that my impression is wrong, and that Chazal in Pesachim did NOT understand the rakia to be opaque. Please quote one Rishon who does NOT learn the sugya literally. In the alternative, please quote one rishon who explains the gemara in a way that leaves open the possibility that the rakia is not opaque.

    To me it seems that you're asking R. Slifkin for sound bites, which if R. Slifkin is unable to provide, you use that as your own sound bite. That may be a good tactic for convincing uneducated people that you've won an argument, but it's no way to dissect a sugya or get at the truth.

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  16. Dear Nachum, I do appreciate your open mindedness. Yashar kochacha. Based on the Rambam's clear statements, I hope you see why the claim appearing in R. Slifkin's preface to Challenge of Creation is baseless. In no way does his book reflect the true opinion of the Rambam. Now R. Slifkin's article on the path of the sun also starts off with one of these dramatic claims. I am naturally cautious of his claims. I do hope to look into the cumulative argument for it, but I first want to establish what the explicit sources are saying.

    So back to my question. I"ll wait for R. Slifkin to confirm that he does not have an explicit prooftext for his remarkable solid-dome thesis--other than the opinion of the 6th century monk Cosmas.

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  17. R. Slifkin answered that a few hours back.

    That's like, lehavdil, asking for one piece of evidence that proves the Holocaust. There isn't one. Rather, there are many, many pieces of evidence, each of which proves a different aspect, and together which prove the Holocaust. Likewise here; there are many statements of Chazal and the Rishonim, which taken together prove that Chazal believed in a firmament. You haven't disputed, or even analyzed, a single piece of the evidence.

    So let's stop beating the explicit proof-text dead horse, (of what you call the "solid-dome thesis" but should call the "opaque-dome thesis") and actually search for the truth of the sugya!

    I'll be reviewing the introduction to COC over Shabbos to C what R. Slifkin meant when writing that he is "following the approach of the Rambam." That is, whether he means that his conclusions are same as the RMBM's, his general methodology is the same as the RMBM's, his methodology to (re)interpreting Maaseh Breishis is the same as the RMBM's, or something else.

    Good Shabbos.

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  18. Dear Nachum, R. Slifkin explicitly mentions his solid dome thesis right at the beginning of his article in very strong terms. If he would have said an opaque dome then I would have other questions. But right now I am asking for a simple confirmation on the issue of a solid dome. Please allow R. Slifkin to confirm for himself that he does not have the required prooftext--other than the opinion of the 6th century monk Cosmas.

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  19. We now know that there is no firmament near the sun, be it solid, gel, liquid, gaseous, or what have you, that would obscure the sun if the sun traveled behind it.

    WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE WHAT R. SLIFKIN CALLED IT?!?!?

    ReplyDelete
  20. As I understand it, the whole reason for ascribing opaqueness to the rakia was to explain why the sun cannot be seen at night. Once you give a different reason for not seeing the sun, as the gentile model does, there is no reason to invoke an opaque rakia.

    No. The reason for ascribing opaqueness to the rakia was that that was what the rakia was understood to be - something that has substance, and therefore conceals things that pass behind it. As per all the explicit statements of Chazal in the Yerushalmi, Midrash Rabba and Bavli about the substance and density of the rakia, themselves in turn based on pesukim such as that in Iyov and others which use the root רקע in other contexts. (Which I notice that neither you nor Jonathan Ostroff have addressed.) Nowhere do any of Chazal dispute this model, and nor do any Rishonim claim that Chazal's statements were not intended literally.

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  21. I have not published an article on the challenging sugya of Pescahim 94b yet, so I am under no obligation to answer questions on my views. But R. Slifkin has published on this sugya and he considers this one of the most important articles he has ever written. So, I think it is in order to clarify what evidence he has for his claims.

    The Slifkin-solid-dome-thesis claims that the Rishonim understood that Chazal as a group believed that the rakiya discussed in Pesachim 94b is literally a solid dome. This is my third requests for R. Slifkin to back his claim with prooftexts from the Rishonim, or to confirm that he has no such proofs.

    ReplyDelete
  22. The words of Chazal in the Bavli, Yerushalmi, and Midrash about the nature of the rakia, in terms of it being a firm substance with a particular thickness, in turn based on pesukim such as that in Iyov and others which use the root רקע in other contexts, and the words of Chazal concerning the sun's passage on both sides of the rakia, are explicit. The Rishonim discuss various aspects of all this, but none claim that Chazal were not speaking literally. Nowhere in Chazal or the Rishonim is there anything to indicate that any of Chazal held differently. The prooftexts are all in my monograph and blog. This isn't some radical idea that is novel to me, or even to academia; it's explicit in the words of Chazal, and it's the normative understanding of Chazal-as-viewed-by-Rishonim. ArtScroll, Machon HaMaor and all such Gemara-aids present it the same way, so your constant mention of a monk is a complete red herring.

    Now you are issuing the fantastic claim that Chazal did not mean what they plainly appear to mean and what the Rishonim understood them to mean and what everyone acknowledges the Rishonim understood them to mean, or that there were other members of Chazal who held differently. Please back this up with a prooftext. Present even a single contrary source from Chazal or from the Rishonim (concerning Chazal's views), or stop with your silly diversions which make you sound like an obfuscating fundamentalist idiot.

    ReplyDelete
  23. It seems that Rabbi Lampel is offering a counter-proposal which accounts for many of the characteristics of the rakia ascribed to it by Chazal and rishonim:
    I.e. A field of force. (I'm switching the order of the words to make it sound less science-fiction and less subject to childish ridicule by Rabbi Slifkin.)

    A field of force can posses all the necessary qualities:
    1) it has thickness
    2) it can be considered "firm"
    3) it may have been thought to obscure or seriously distort the view objects of either side of it (as water does with light despite its transparency)

    It would seem that burden of proof in upon Rabbi Slifkin to show, with textual support, that the rakia conforms to his description better than Rabbi Lampel's.

    One advantage Rabbi Lampel's description has over Rabbi Slifkin's is that this "field of force" description actually conforms better to ancient understandings of the spheres--as demonstarted by Rabbi Lampel in his previous post:
    http://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.com/2011/01/not-so-solid-proof-about-spheres.html

    ReplyDelete
  24. One major issue that Rabbi Slifkin's criticisms have not addressed is this:
    The nature of the rakia as described in somewhat detail on day two of creation does NOT seem to be the rakia under discussion by the gemara in Pesachim, nor the rakia referred to in passing on day four of creation.

    There certainly is a mesorah for the particular creation of rakia of day two--which the Torah actually describes-- and it was always understood to be a meta-physical entity by Chazal and rishonim.
    So it simply doesn't follow that a common misconception held by all Chazal and rishonim about an aspect of the solar system --an aspect NOT described by the creation story but merely referred to in passing-- constitutes a mesorah from Chazal about the meaning of the Torah's concepts.

    It's just about the meaning of a single word in Tanach. Many of which were not understood by Chazal--as they themselves attest to. (see Megilla daf 18a)

    ReplyDelete
  25. A field of force can posses all the necessary qualities:
    1) it has thickness
    2) it can be considered "firm"
    3) it may have been thought to obscure or seriously distort the view objects of either side of it (as water does with light despite its transparency)


    I think that all of these are a stretch. Plus they don't incorporate Chazal's statements about the rakia being made of some sort of congealed water. But aside from that, it doesn't help your case at all, because there is no force field up there.

    It would seem that burden of proof in upon Rabbi Slifkin to show, with textual support, that the rakia conforms to his description better than Rabbi Lampel's.

    No, since Rabbi Lampel's idea is completely novel, whereas mine is the normative understanding of Torah according to Chazal and Chazal according to the Rishonim, the burden of proof is on him - and in addition, because he is ignoring Chazal about the water component.

    One advantage Rabbi Lampel's description has over Rabbi Slifkin's is that this "field of force" description actually conforms better to ancient understandings of the spheres

    It MAY conform better to ONE VIEW of MEDIEVAL understandings of the spheres. But it certainly does not conform better to Chazal's idea. And it doesn't even help at all, because there is no "field of force."

    ReplyDelete
  26. One major issue that Rabbi Slifkin's criticisms have not addressed is this:
    The nature of the rakia as described in somewhat detail on day two of creation does NOT seem to be the rakia under discussion by the gemara in Pesachim, nor the rakia referred to in passing on day four of creation.


    It most certainly does. They are all described as the rakia on which the luminaries are placed.

    There certainly is a mesorah for the particular creation of rakia of day two--which the Torah actually describes-- and it was always understood to be a meta-physical entity by Chazal and rishonim.

    Not true of most of the Rishonim, and certainly no evidence that this is true for any of Chazal.


    It's just about the meaning of a single word in Tanach.


    It's more than a single word. It's the very nature of the sky above us, as described in Bereishis, Iyov and elsewhere, and of the relationship of the luminaries to it (i.e. being in/on the sky above us rather than many light-years away).

    ReplyDelete
  27. It seems that, in light of the questions about the rakia posed by R. Slifkin, you can choose one of two options:

    (1) Accept the pshat in the gemaras at face value, and concede that Chazal were mistaken in their understanding (not only of the workings of the movements of the heavenly bodies as Rebbi concedes in Peasachim, but also) regarding the nature of the rakia, or

    (2) Read extremely dachik science fiction pshat into Chazal due to the scientific untenability of the pashtus of the gemara and rishonim.

    Option (2) is intellectually dishonest and harmful inasmuch as it not only robs you of the opportunity to understand Chazal, but is also disrespectful to them. To opt for it also must cause lots of cognitive dissonance.

    I ask this question in all sincerity: Why would you choose option (2)?

    ReplyDelete
  28. B"H
    Natan
    You wrote yesterday:
    "...or stop with your silly diversions which make you sound like an obfuscating fundamentalist idiot."

    IB:
    I am really amazed by your words.
    Are you planning to apologize?

    ReplyDelete
  29. I think that all of these are a stretch.

    Given the secular sources Rabbi Lampel cited to the establish that the spheres were thought to consist of a fifth element-- totally beyond our experience-- I don't consider it a stretch. They were completely unsure what it was.

    Plus they don't incorporate Chazal's statements about the rakia being made of some sort of congealed water.

    This challenge comes from a fundamental mistake you are making. You are trying to fit all the characteristics about rakias mentioned by Chazal as a description of "THE rakia".
    The falacy of your entire approach is that there is no single "the rakia" which all the characteristics are describing. See next comment for more elaboration.

    But aside from that, it doesn't help your case at all, because there is no force field up there.

    How do you know?
    I'm afraid you are thinking "science fiction". Rabbi Lampel opined that:
    >>"A field of force—say, magnetic, or gravitational—need not be impenetrably solid to have some objects “embedded” in it while allowing others to pass without an impression being made on either."<<


    No, since Rabbi Lampel's idea is completely novel, whereas mine is the normative understanding of Torah according to Chazal and Chazal according to the Rishonim, the burden of proof is on him -...
    ...It MAY conform better to ONE VIEW of MEDIEVAL understandings of the spheres. But it certainly does not conform better to Chazal's idea.


    Please substantiate your claims. YSO has repeatedly challenged you to provide it and you are ignoring this most basic demand for adequate substantiation for any of your claims.

    ReplyDelete
  30. >."The nature of the rakia as described in somewhat detail on day two of creation does NOT seem to be the rakia under discussion by the gemara in Pesachim, nor the rakia referred to in passing on day four of creation."<<

    It most certainly does. They are all described as the rakia on which the luminaries are placed.


    It most certainly does not. Chazal in a number of places assign the second rakia to be the specific one in which the luminaries are placed.
    תלמוד בבלי מסכת חגיגה דף יב עמוד ב
    אמר רבי יהודה: שני רקיעים הן, שנאמר: +דברים י'+ הן לה' אלהיך השמים ושמי השמים.
    ריש לקיש אמר: שבעה, ואלו הן: וילון, רקיע, שחקים, זבול, מעון, מכון, ערבות.
    וילון - אינו משמש כלום, אלא נכנס שחרית ויוצא ערבית, ומחדש בכל יום מעשה בראשית, שנאמר +ישעיהו מ'+ הנוטה כדק שמים וימתחם כאהל לשבת. רקיע - שבו חמה ולבנה כוכבים ומזלות קבועין, שנאמר +בראשית א'+ ויתן אתם אלהים ברקיע השמים.

    פסיקתא דרב כהנא (מנדלבוים) נספחים ב - פרשה אחרת
    וכל צבאם, היכן צבאו של הקב"ה נתון, הוי אומר בשמי השמים, להודיעך שלא נתן הקב"ה אלא ברקיע שני. שיני למה, שאם נתון ברקיע הזו שאנו רואים היה יוצא חמה על תקופתו ושורף את הביריות, אלא נתנו ברקיע שני

    This leaves the rakia of day two to be open to be identified with any of the the other 6 or 7 or 9 rakias depending on your count.

    >>"There certainly is a mesorah for the particular creation of rakia of day two--which the Torah actually describes-- and it was always understood to be a meta-physical entity by Chazal and rishonim."<<

    Not true of most of the Rishonim, and certainly no evidence that this is true for any of Chazal.


    I see the Rambam and Ramban considered it metaphysical. I don't know which majority you refer to.
    The Ramban based his approach to the metaphysical rakia on explicit statements of Chazal in Chaggiga.
    see these posts for all relevant texts:

    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

    Chazal clearly understood the Torah to be referring to A metaphysical rakia.
    This is undeniable.

    It's more than a single word. It's the very nature of the sky above us, as described in Bereishis, Iyov and elsewhere, and of the relationship of the luminaries to it (i.e. being in/on the sky above us rather than many light-years away).

    Same fallacy as above.
    The sky/rakia above us was described by rishonim as air and atmosphere on the one hand, and described the luminaries as residing wihin another rakia, specifically refered to as a galgal and not air or atmosphere.
    These are clearly two separate entities being discussed by both Chazal and rishonim.
    There is no single rakia.

    No one is asking Rabbi Slifkin to take our word for it.
    All our claims have authoritative texts explicitly supporting them.

    I don't see why we need to accept Rabbi Slifkin's numerous claims at his word without any substantiation.

    ReplyDelete
  31. To Nachum:

    (2) Read extremely dachik science fiction pshat into Chazal due to the scientific untenability of the pashtus of the gemara and rishonim.

    Option (2) is intellectually dishonest and harmful inasmuch as it not only robs you of the opportunity to understand Chazal, but is also disrespectful to them. To opt for it also must cause lots of cognitive dissonance.


    Re: science fiction pshat, see two comments prior.
    Furthermore, I see it as an an honest approach-- and the Rambam considered it so as well in Moreh III chapter 14:

    You must, however, not expect that everything our Sages say respecting astronomical matters should agree with observation, for mathematics were not fully developed in those days: and their statements were not based on the authority of the Prophets, but on the knowledge which they either themselves possessed or derived from contemporary men of science. But I will not on that account denounce what they say correctly in accordance with real fact, as untrue or accidentally true. On the contrary, whenever the words of a person can be interpreted in such a manner that they agree with fully established facts, it is the duty of every educated and honest man to do so.

    Rabbi Slifkin has often quoted the first part of this paragraph but has consistently failed in living up to the second half.
    Indeed, his professional life has been devoted to oppose it.

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  32. I have asked R. Slifkin at least three times for a prooftext from the Rishonim (or at least one Rishon) who explicitly confirm R. Slifkin's solid dome thesis: that Chazal as a group believed that the rakiya discussed in Pesachim 94b is literally a solid dome.

    R. Slifkin has consistently refused to confirm that he has no prooftext (I mean even one?), and in his last response R. Slifkin wrote: stop with your silly diversions which make you sound like an obfuscating fundamentalist idiot.

    Personally, I always thought that it was reasonable (even rational) to ask for evidence when presented with a claim that I was unaware of until now, and that fundamentalists are the ones who balk at a request for evidence. Of course, I recognize that it is also possible to build a cumulative case based on indirect evidence, once the lack of explicit prooftexts is resolved.

    I am very interested in this sugya and really would like to understand R. Slifkin's views, given that he has stated that it is "one of the most important things that I have ever written". So a prooftext would be an important type of evidence for his views.

    Can I take it that R. Slifkin has no prooftext (other than the opinion of the 6th century monk Cosmas, who does not quite make it into the club)?

    R. Slifkin may I take it that you would welcome my next question?

    ReplyDelete
  33. FKM:

    RNS: . . . there is no force field up there.

    FKM: How do you know?


    Me: If there was any field of force near the sun it would have some effects. (Otherwise it wouldn't have much "force," would it?)

    I'm not aware of any solar physicist making any claims of a field of force near the sun, nor am I aware of any such findings from NASA's solar dynamics observatory.

    These facts make me skeptical of your claim that there is a field of force near the sun which would obscure the sun if the sun was to travel behind it.

    Am I being unreasonable?

    ReplyDelete
  34. NB: I'm not aware of any solar physicist making any claims of a field of force near the sun, nor am I aware of any such findings from NASA's solar dynamics observatory.

    Any accelerated motion requires some force to account for the acceleration. According to GR, if you feel gravity that is equivalent to acceleration. So to account for the acceleration of the moon around the earth or the earth around the sun (or vice versa as per GR) you need some kind of force/gravitational field (or in GR, spacetime bending). The bending of light around the sun at the solar eclipse of 1919 was taken as evidence for GR. Whenever you feel acceleration (or gravity) that means that you are not at rest w.r.t. to spacetime and something has to be there to account for that acceleration.

    We have the same problem today accounting for the movement of the heavenly bodies that the ancients had, despite our increasingly accurate models. And what we have is incredibly accurate -- and at the same time not yet fully satisfactory! There are many phenomena still unexplained and even in contradiction to our best theories.

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  35. As I understand it, the whole reason for ascribing opaqueness to the rakia was to explain why the sun cannot be seen at night.

    Nachum Boehm said...
    That's a stretch. Chazal in Pesachim, including Rebbi, don't "ascribe" opaqueness to the rakia; they assume it.

    Rebbi does not talk about the nature of the rakia. As you say next:

    The gemara is about that sun's path at night, not about the rakia.

    Agreed.

    If the assumption was that the rakia is not opaque and Chazal were saying a chiddush about the rakia, wouldn't we expect the gemara to say so? ... Furthermore, if Rebbi disagreed with Chazal's "chiddush" that the rakia is opaque, wouldn't we expect Rebbi to say so explicitly?


    As you said, the Gemora is not about the rakia. The Chachmei Yisroel introduce the idea that the rakia plays a role in our inability to see the sun at night. It looks like they are ascribing opaqueness to it. But we don't know what Rebbi held about it. And if we are to ascribe, to the rakia, the ideas about the spheres of the Babylonians, or of the Greeks as described by secular sources and the Rambam, opaqueness is denied. But as I've mentioned, I find the Gemora Pesachim and gemoros elsewhere very difficult to understand on this whole matter--internally and in relationship to each other. I mentioned the issue of the moon. You have pointed out Chaggigah 12b, where it is not the rakia but the "vilon" that is responsible for the darkness of night, and Tosefos wonders about how then the stars are seen. And as we can see, the rishonim and acharonim cannot come to a satisfactory explanation, either.

    I have a lot to learn. But I am confident that it will become far from compelling to conclude that despite what the Rambam teaches us, Chazal had a mesorah that the rakia is a solid, which would show that the mesorah can be wrong, and that we can therefore dismiss its depiction of the Creation process as a meta-natural one.

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  36. As you said, the Gemora is not about the rakia. The Chachmei Yisroel introduce the idea that the rakia plays a role in our inability to see the sun at night. It looks like they are ascribing opaqueness to it. But we don't know what Rebbi held about it.

    But we do have Chazal's comments about the nature of the rakia earlier in Pesachim, as well as in the Yerushalmi and MIdrash. And there is no reason to believe that Rebbi disagreed with them.

    But as I've mentioned, I find the Gemora Pesachim and gemoros elsewhere very difficult to understand on this whole matter--internally and in relationship to each other.

    So you have some questions, big deal. That doesn't entitle you to reject the clear meaning of Chazal's words, as universally agreed amongst the Rishonim.

    And as we can see, the rishonim and acharonim cannot come to a satisfactory explanation, either.

    But they agreed that Chazal held the rakia to be a solid dome.

    But I am confident that it will become far from compelling to conclude that despite what the Rambam teaches us, Chazal had a mesorah that the rakia is a solid, which would show that the mesorah can be wrong, and that we can therefore dismiss its depiction of the Creation process as a meta-natural one.

    In other words, it is a matter of religious faith for you that the mesorah cannot be wrong. Hence you will grasp at any straw to avoid acknowledging that Chazal universally understood the rakia of the Torah to be a solid dome, as described in Iyov and elsewhere.

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  37. R. Lampel:

    I am confident that it will become far from compelling to conclude that despite what the Rambam teaches us, Chazal had a mesorah that the rakia is a solid, which would show that the mesorah can be wrong, and that we can therefore dismiss its depiction of the Creation process as a meta-natural one.

    You've bundled lots into that last sentence, which needs to be unbundled.

    You are confident that it will become far from compelling to conclude that

    (1) Chazal had a mesorah about the rakia, and/or
    (2) Chazal, via mesora, believed the rakia to be solid, and/or
    (3) even if you are wrong regarding the above points, we can therefore dismiss the mesora's depiction of the Creation process as a meta-natural one.

    Perhaps you can address each point above methodically in separate blog postings.

    ReplyDelete
  38. R. Slifkin on his solid dome thesis: "So you have some questions, big deal. That doesn't entitle you to reject the clear meaning of Chazal's words, as universally agreed amongst the Rishonim ." (emphasis added)

    R. Slifkin, may I remind you that I am still waiting for a prooftext from Rishonim to your grandiose claims. Your pominent quotes from the 6th century monk Cosmas, does not cut it. Or you can concede that you have no explicit prooftexts and I'll go on to my next question. And yes we will get to see what Chazal meant once your claim about the Rishonim is resolved.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Nachum wrote: Perhaps you can address each point above methodically in separate blog postings.

    See my Jan 2 post, "Not-So-Solid Proof About The Spheres."

    ReplyDelete
  40. YSO, I did not prove Chazal's beliefs about a solid dome from the monk Cosmas; he never even discussed Chazal. I proved it from Chazal and the Rishonim. The words of Chazal in the Bavli, Yerushalmi, and Midrash about the nature of the rakia, in terms of it being a firm substance with a particular thickness, in turn based on pesukim such as that in Iyov and others which use the root רקע in other contexts, and the words of Chazal concerning the sun's passage on both sides of the rakia, are explicit. The Rishonim discuss various aspects of all this, but none claim that Chazal were not speaking literally. Nowhere in Chazal or the Rishonim is there anything to indicate that any of Chazal held differently. The prooftexts are all in my monograph and blog. This isn't some radical idea that is novel to me, or even to academia; it's explicit in the words of Chazal, and it's the normative understanding of Chazal-as-viewed-by-Rishonim. ArtScroll, Machon HaMaor and all such Gemara-aids present it the same way, so your constant mention of a monk is a complete red herring.

    Now you are issuing the fantastic claim that Chazal did not mean what they plainly appear to mean and what the Rishonim understood them to mean and what everyone acknowledges the Rishonim understood them to mean, or that there were other members of Chazal who held differently. Please back this up with a prooftext. Present even a single contrary source from Chazal or from the Rishonim (concerning Chazal's views), or stop with your silly diversions which make you sound like an obfuscating fundamentalist idiot.

    By the way, I was intrigued by you comment above arguing for the existence of a force field. Why don't you submit a paper to the Journal of Astrophysics? "Evidence for a hitherto undetected force-field, based on the eccentric and desperate re-interpretation of a 6th century text by a 21st century Charedi fundamentalist."

    ReplyDelete
  41. R. Slifkin, the monk Cosmas is not a red herring as he appears prominently right at the beginning of your article directly after your Pesachim 94b quote to which you write: "Cosmas Indicopleustes uses the same terminology as the Talmud ... since the identical arguments are used, we can see that the Jewish and gentile sages were indeed involved
    in the dispute between the ancient Babylonian cosmology and the newer Ptolemaic
    model." There is also a further quote from this monk.

    You keep mentioning my claims about Chazal. But this is a red herring. I have not yet mentioned how I understand the Talmudic consensus on the path of the sun at night and the nature of the rakiya. In fact, I am trying to understand the sugya better and your article has some nice sources to help with the process.

    Now the Slifkin's solid dome thesis is: that Chazal as a group believed that the rakiya discussed in Pesachim 94b is literally a solid dome. And your thesis also claims that all the Rishonim testify to this being the opinion of Chazal taken as a group.

    Perhaps you could kindly answer the very simple question I have asked. I am unsure how to take your repeated replies such as when you write "your silly diversions which make you sound like an obfuscating fundamentalist idiot". Is this your way of saying that you do not have an explicit prooftext from the Rishonim for your solid dome thesis? A simple yes/no will suffice.

    By the way, do you believe that a body in accelerated motion can be explained without the need to resort to a net force acting on it? If so, may I invite you to submit to the Journal of Astrophysics?

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  42. R. Slifkin, the monk Cosmas is not a red herring as he appears prominently right at the beginning of your article directly after your Pesachim 94b quote

    You apparently missed my first comment to this post. I will cut-and-paste it:

    ...the main point of my citing the monk Cosmos was with regard to establishing the framework of other discussions in the Gemara, such as with regard to the stars/spheres. It has no bearing on Chazal's view about the basic nature of the rakia, which is taken as I said it by ALL the Rishonim. I keep saying this, but you keep waving the red herring of "the monk" rather than dealing with the Rishonim or with what the Gemara actually means.

    Next:

    I have not yet mentioned how I understand the Talmudic consensus on the path of the sun at night and the nature of the rakiya. In fact, I am trying to understand the sugya better and your article has some nice sources to help with the process.

    So if you have problems with the standard, normative explanation, you can share those objections. Tell me if you have a single prooftext that counters anything that I wrote, or a single argument against it. Do you have a single source or argument against what I wrote? A single no will suffice, or a "yes" accompanied by said source/argument.

    See? I can play your games too.

    ReplyDelete
  43. R. Slifkin, I don't see how you have addressed your use of the explicit quotes (p6 and p7 in your monograph) from the 6th century monk Cosmas who as you explain adhered to outdated Babylonian cosmology. Nor do I see any answer to my question of whether you think accelerated motion can be explained without the need to resort to a net force acting on it (I invited you to submit your theories to the Journal of Astrophysics).

    And the answer to your yes/no question is that in the Rishonic sources you quote I do not see them discussing whether the rakiya is a solid dome (or not). So I do not find them saying anything against what you wrote (so the answer to your question w.r.t to your sources is "no"); nor do I see them supporting your solid dome thesis. This is why I asked you whether you have explicit prooftexts. And to that the answer is either yes (and then produce them) or no (and then we can move on).

    Let me expand my question so as to give you maximum latitude.

    The Slifkin solid dome thesis is --- that the Talmudic consensus on the rakiya discussed in Pesachim 94b is (a) literally a solid dome (b) the earth is literally flat and (c) the direction of the sun at night is literally up (not down). And your thesis also claims that all the Rishonim testify that this is the Talmudic consensus, i.e. the consensus of Chazal.

    Now looking though your sources, I find that you do have R. Tam in support of #c because he appears to take the model of the "Chachmei Yisroel" literally and he has Rebbe agreeing with them. But since the Gaonim and many Rishonim disagreed with R. Tam, I do not yet see explicit prooftexts that all the Rishonim took this to be the Talmudic consensus.

    So again, my first question is do you have explicit prooftexts from the Rishonim for your solid dome thesis #a and a second question is do you have explicit prooftexts from the Rishonim (other than the unusual case of R. Tam to #c) that the Talmudic consensus is #b and #c? A simple yes/no on each of these questions will suffice.

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  44. Rabbi Sifkin said:
    The words of Chazal in the Bavli, Yerushalmi, and Midrash about the nature of the rakia, in terms of it being a firm substance with a particular thickness, in turn based on pesukim such as that in Iyov and others which use the root רקע in other contexts, and the words of Chazal concerning the sun's passage on both sides of the rakia, are explicit.The Rishonim discuss various aspects of all this, but none claim that Chazal were not speaking literally. Nowhere in Chazal or the Rishonim is there anything to indicate that any of Chazal held differently.

    This is yet another example of what Rabbi Zucker dubbed: "Absence of evidence is actually evidence of presence!"
    See here for classic examples of this unique approach to textual evidence from Rabbi Slifkin:
    http://corporealismdiscussion.com/slifkin.pdf

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  45. the main point of my citing the monk Cosmos was with regard to establishing the framework of other discussions in the Gemara, such as with regard to the stars/spheres. It has no bearing on Chazal's view about the basic nature of the rakia

    Okay, so you did not mean to prove, from the similarity of the monk’s set of arguments, the part about the Sages believing in a solid dome. You only meant to prove that the dispute between the Chochmei Yisroel and the Chochmei Umos HaOlom was between the Babylonian view and the Ptolemaic view.

    But you did write:

    As we shall later demonstrate …, the Sages of Israel …believed that the earth is a roughly flat disc, and the rest of the universe is a hemispherical solid dome fixed above it.

    Where in your paper, then, do you provide evidence that the Chochmei Yisroel believed in a solid dome?

    Especially considering the fact that we don’t even know whether the Babylonians (or Ptolemy) thought so?

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  46. I’ve been following this thread (on and off) with fascination. The gemara in Pesachim is difficult. RNS has composed a paper detailing his opinion and the authors of this blog have taken him to task re his pshat. Unfortunately, I still haven’t seen an explication, by either side, which sits well with me. Furthermore, there is an aggravating element to all this. The tiff between RNS and JSO is beginning to wear thin, in my uniformed opinion.

    RJO would like RNS to provide an explicit source in the Rishonim supporting his contention that the Rishonim felt that Chazal related to the rakia as a solid dome. RNS feels that the pashtus of the gemara and the pashtus of the rishonim fulfils this request. RJO counters that this amounts to a cumulative argument rather than one which appeals directly to an explicit statement.

    I think I know what’s going on here. RNS does not want to supply a plain yes/no answer because he feels it would oversimplify the issue and leave him open to unwarranted attack. Nonetheless, I wish he would just reply with a yes/no so we can move along to the next stage. For my part, I’d like to gain some clarity regarding this sugya. This bickering is not helping. Furthermore, for better or for worse, RJO’s request is indubitably valid. This is a debate. RJO has the right to ascertain the precise parameters of his opponent’s sources. As such, RNS is “obligated” to respond.

    Nosson, you can respond with an explanation. But for heavens’ sake, just respond with a yes or no so we can move on.

    Here’s the question (I think). Do you have any explicit sources in the Rishonim which aver that Chazal, as a group, adhered to a solid dome scenario?

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  47. "Unfortunately, I still haven’t seen an explication, by either side, which sits well with me."

    Actually, you haven't seen any explication at all by the other side.

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  48. R. Slifkin wrote that "Actually, you haven't seen any explication at all by the other side". This is true, because right now we are trying to see to what extent we can defend R. Slifkin's solid-dome thesis (see here). But in so doing, a number of very simple simple questions have arisen that R. Slifkin has so far consistently refused to answer.

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