Friday, June 29, 2012

What Chazal Knew and What We Know – An Analysis of Rav Hirsch’s Letter

In the previous post we began discussing a letter which was ostensibly written by Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch in 1876. This post continues our discussion and provides a detailed examination of the first section of the letter, which appears under the sub-heading ‘What Chazal Knew and What We Know’. The purpose of this analysis is to provide the reader with a clear understanding of Rav Hirsch’s hashkafa on the issue of Chazal and Science. For the maximum benefit the reader is encouraged to read Rav Hirsch’s letter first before reading our analysis.

What was Rav Hirsch’s view regarding the scientific statements of Chazal? How did he approach contradictions to Chazal from current scientific attitudes? In order to arrive at a proper conclusion, the following two questions must always be kept in mind.

1) Is the ma’amar Chazal in question based on contemporary science or masoretic tradition?

2) If it is a science-based statement, what is the nature of the contradictory material? Is it a product of current observation/experimentation, or is it merely scientific speculation?

It seems clear from Rav Hirsch’s letter that he relates to Chazal as the authoritative receivers of our Torah traditions. These traditions originate at Sinai and comprise the very essence of our religion. Accordingly, if the ma’amar Chazal in question seems masoretic in nature (e.g. Noach’s flood occurred 1656 years after the creation of the world), the “contradiction” is automatically “resolved”. Current scientific attitudes simply play no role whatsoever when it comes to our mesorah. The only time Rav Hirsch feels the need to address the issue is in a case where the ma’amar Chazal seems to be a reflection of contemporary scientific thought. Such ma’amarei Chazal, says Rav Hirsch, are not part of the received tradition and are therefore open to future modification. An example of this would be the mud mouse in Mas. Sanhedrin.

An honest assessment of Rav Hirsch’s letter would seem to yield the conclusion that on occasion Chazal may have adopted certain scientific attitudes which are not necessarily accurate by today’s standards. And although this writer does not employ such approaches, it is difficult to deny that Rav Hirsch did appeal to them, at least in a limited sense. But is any of this really relevant? Rabbi Slifkin claims that “Rav Hirsch's letters were a powerful weapon in the great Torah-Science controversy of 2004-5”, but is this really true?

The answer is no. The controversy that exists between Torah and Science has very little to do with the question of whether Chazal accepted contemporary scientific attitudes such as, say, spontaneous generation. Rav Hirsch makes that clear. He explains that Chazal were simply responding to empirical science as it was presented to them, and only for the purpose of issuing halachic decisions. But Rav Hirsch also makes it clear that when it comes to the theories of the savants,

“only the masses who neither know nor understand the methodology of these disciplines believe all the boasts of our contemporaries”.

On the other hand,

"one who knows and understands how these disciplines function, knows and understands that while it is true that contemporary scholars deserve honor and glory in many matters that they have demonstrated… nevertheless the theories built upon these observations are for the most part no more than very shaky guesses… they all have no solid foundation”

The controversy between Torah and Science is an age-old controversy. In the olden days it was avodah zara. Later on it manifested itself in Greek philosophy, Roman decadence, and theological opposition from the Christians and Islamists. Today the Satan wears the guise of “rationalism” and manifests himself in organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences. It’s all the same thing. It’s opposition to the Torah, period. Like Rambam explains in Igeres Teiman, there are three kinds of opposition. Some come at us physically, some philosophically/theologically, and some combine both methods. And as Rambam concludes there, kulam yovdu, they will all go lost!         

The current controversy between Torah and Science is - as it always was - rooted in their mutually exclusive worldviews. The Torah espouses a Godly and spiritual worldview where as scientism adheres to a godless, materialistic view. Doctrines such as evolution, big bang, and ancient universe theories are diametrically opposed to the Torah’s idea of a recent, sudden, purposeful, meta-natural Creation. Attempts to reconcile the two are futile and Rav Hirsch understood this!

Rabbi Slifkin is guilty of improper conflation. He misuses Rav Hirsch’s principle (i.e. not all of Chazal’s science was received from Sinai) by extending it to all physical descriptions of Chazal, even those which are clearly masoretic in nature. This conflation results in a generally dismissive attitude towards Chazal as evidenced in Rabbi Slifkin’s books and blog writings. This is what the Torah-Science controversy of 2004-05 (otherwise known as “The Slifkin Affair) is really about. Rav Hirsch would never condone such attitudes and in fact was virulently opposed to them.  

This is not the first time this writer has accused Rabbi Slifkin of misrepresenting the issues. However, in Rabbi Slifkin's defense it should be pointed out that he has responded, at least somewhat, to our accusations. For instance, he was accused on this blog of being committed to “showing up Chazal”. To his credit he did not deny the accusation. Rather, he explained that due to the ban on his books he felt compelled to demonstrate that it is not kefira to maintain that Chazal erred in science. I am a bit skeptical of his explanation (his books evinced an attitude of dismissiveness before they were banned; that’s why they were banned!) but in the final analysis this blog is not about Rabbi Slifkin; it is about his publicly stated views. I am happy to accept his justifications but the bottom line is he continues to compare the well-substantiated facts of technological science with the unproven theories of the materialists. This distinction is made by Rav Hirsch in the clearest terms yet Rabbi Slifkin ignores it and instead chooses to misrepresent Rav Hirsch’s view in the service of apology.

As it turns out, Rav Hirsch is aligned with everything this blog has been saying about the unreliable nature of materialistic theories. There is absolutely no reason to imagine that Rav Hirsch is aligned with Rabbi Slifkin’s general views on Torah and Science. It goes without saying that Rav Hirsch would be enormously troubled by Rabbi Slifkin’s dismissive attitude towards Chazal. For an excellent presentation of Rav Hirsch’s real views on evolution and creation, see this post here by YSO.

Comments welcome… 

19 comments:

  1. “Doctrines such as evolution, big bang, and ancient universe theories are diametrically opposed to the Torah’s idea of a recent, sudden, purposeful, meta-natural Creation. Attempts to reconcile the two are futile and Rav Hirsch understood this!”

    I am sure you are aware of what Rav Hirsch writes “..Rather, Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus and one single law of “adaptation and heredity” in order to bring forth, from what seemed chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today, each with its unique characteristics that sets it apart from all other creatures…)”

    And I am sure are aware of YSO’s response “The Collected Writing essay was written in 1873 for a non-Jewish audience as required by the German Educational Authorities….”

    Assuming you agree with YSO I have to ask you, imagine Rav Hirsch lived in a very strange and decadent society, that believed that bestiality was acceptable, they firmly believed that it is very healthy for one’s mental wellbeing to engage in this practice. Would it even cross your mind (G-d forbid) to say that Rav Hirsch would write in an essay for the secular society about “the psychological value of Judaism” and explain the value and beauty in “Jewish bestiality”!

    On a different note, I would appreciated it if you could do a post about the authenticity of the Zohar, (I know this blog is dedicated to Rabbi Slifkins opinions, but R Slifkin has raised this issue on his blog and I even heard him talk about it on a shiur available online.)
    How can we rely on the testimony of one person, Moses de Leon? Etc
    If you have time I would really appreciate it.

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    Replies
    1. Danny, I apologize for this extremely tardy response to your post. I hope you will forgive me for this very late and uninvited interjection, which is partly the result of drinking too much cofffee and partly due to my interest in Rav Hirsch.

      Firstly I would heartily recommend, if you haven't already, reading the entire letter on the educational value of Judaism. It is really a fantastic read and very inspiring. Perhaps on reading it, you will agree with my analysis.

      Rav Hirsch writes that we are not demanded by Halacha to believe in a recently created universe. So, if you do, you are according to rav Hirsch (who is probably following the Kuzari section 1: 69.) categorically not a heretic. Note too, that in his commentary to Berayshis Rav Hirsch does explain the creation account kupashuto, along the way explaining things in such a way as too knock out evolution. So, he held of the mesorah in understanding the creation but also held that the alternative is not kefira. (Do you agree with me that this answers you 'bestiality' objection?)

      Then he tackles evolution and beautifully describes how we would need to praise Hashem even more if evolution was ever proven. Let us note that Darwin's theory was a new theory at the time and as such nowhere near as entrenched in the scientific community. So, I don't think he was forced by accomodationalist pressure to say his view. But look what he says in context of the whole letter. He says you can't shut out the creator from the picture by appealing to evolution. Evidently this was what some people at the time where trying to do. In effect he is giving musar to those that read his presentation and telling them there is no escape from G-d.

      Finally I'd like to suggest that you and I wouldn't like to be described as - not heretics. (Just like a hard working student wouldn't like to be described as - not failing the exam - instead he'd want to have aced the exam)

      Please let me know what you think.
      MF


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  2. Danny,

    I am sure you are aware of what Rav Hirsch writes “..Rather, Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God…

    Yes, I am.

    And I am sure are aware of YSO’s response “The Collected Writing essay was written in 1873 for a non-Jewish audience as required by the German Educational Authorities….”

    Ditto.

    Assuming you agree with YSO

    Don’t assume that. Here’s my position. Actually, before I discuss my position I must tell you that YSO knows a lot more about Rav Hirsch than I do. This is the first time I am investigating Rav Hirsch’s views with any depth. If YSO claims that this letter was for a non-Jewish audience, I’m sure he knows what he is talking about. However, I would take a different approach to this letter than the one you quote in his name. Here’s what I would say.

    In the 19th century, very little was known about evolution. Scientists didn’t know much about the theory and anti-evolutionists knew even less. So for instance, when Tiferes Yisrael wrote a whole apologetic for evolutionary geology (circa 1830), it was because he knew nothing about the theory! He assumed that whatever the scientists said were true and proven beyond a doubt and therefore felt compelled to write something that would keep his fellow Jews on the path of emunah. Te same thing applies to RSRH. He too did not know much about the theory and his comments on Chumash demonstrate that he didn’t believe in it. But he was hedging his bets. In case evolution turned out to be correct, he wanted to write something that would be michazek people to remain steadfast in their emunah in Hashem as Creator regardless of evolutionary theory which was specifically designed to eliminate the necessity of God as Creator. But if RSRH was living today, I could show him black on white that evolution is entirely unproven in which case he would surely lump it under the category of theories which “are for the most part no more than very shaky guesses… they all have no solid foundation”. He would summarily dismiss evolution like every gadol baTorah does today.

    Continued…

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  3. I’d like to add something else here. Evolution wasn’t nearly as bad then as it is today. You see, when Darwin proposed his theory in 1859 it was basically new. Evolution existed before that but it didn’t necessarily contradict Creation. Darwin’s innovation was that he supplied a materialistic mechanism which could rationally account for the evolution of new species from an old one. Now of course, his proposal only amounted to a partial explanation for evolution. It accounted for the survival of the fittest (Natural Selection) but it didn’t explain the arrival of the fittest (Variation). In his day the only explanation they had was Lamarck but it sounded too supernatural. Darwin kind of skirted this issue but it seems clear from later writings that he had no choice but to adopt Lamarck for the Variation component. Then came Mendelssohn (Gregor, not Moses) and the jig was up. Variation seemed impossible due to Mendelssohn’s discovery of heredity. Evolution almost died an ignoble death in the early 1900’s but it was revived by a bunch of scientists in the 1930’s who adapted Mendelssohn’s idea to fit evolution by invoking Hugo De Vries’ idea of random mutation. This was referred to as the neo-Darwinian synthesis and it claimed to provide a purely materialistic explanation for life on earth. Since then evolutionists have never looked back. For almost a hundred years academia has been touting this baseless theory and foisting it upon billions of students. Its wholesale acceptance has become almost universal in mainstream universities and is taken for granted by the vast majority of the media. Notwithstanding silly and misguided attempts at reconciling evolution with the Bible by individuals such as Kenneth Miller of Brown University or our very own Rabbi Slifkin, evolution is the single most powerful weapon in the hands of apikorsim today. Anyone who understands the theory immediately recognizes its patently atheistic underpinnings. RSRH wrote about evolution less than twenty years after Darwin’s book. Whatever influence Darwin’s theory may have had then, it is a hundred times worse today! If RSRH lived today and saw the damage this idiotic and atheistic doctrine has wreaked upon humanity, perhaps that nineteenth letter would look different than it does today…

    Continued…

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  4. I have to ask you, imagine Rav Hirsch lived in a very strange and decadent society, that believed that bestiality was acceptable, they firmly believed that it is very healthy for one’s mental wellbeing to engage in this practice. Would it even cross your mind (G-d forbid) to say that Rav Hirsch would write in an essay for the secular society about “the psychological value of Judaism” and explain the value and beauty in “Jewish bestiality”!

    You know Danny, I must congratulate you. The first time I read your question (I actually read it another two times after that!) I was stunned into silence. And that usually doesn’t happen to me; just ask my wife :-). Your question is excellent (in Yeshiva we would call it a bomb kasha!) and I had to think about it for several minutes before coming up with a response. I admit that my response is biased (I am trying to defend my thesis) but you are welcome to poke holes in it.

    In parshas Bo the Ramban states that the ultimate purpose of the Torah is that we should gain an awareness of the fact that Hashem created us (and the whole universe) and be grateful to Him for what he gives us. Hashem as Creator is the first thing the Torah discusses because it is the foundation for everything that ensues. Now of course the Torah would like us to relate to the Creator in a specific way. It wants us to understand that He created the world rapidly, He created it recently, He created it supernaturally etc. etc. But these are details, albeit important ones. Perhaps the reason Rav Hirsch felt he was able to tamper somewhat with the first Perek of the Torah was because the ultimate purpose would still be realized. We would still believe in Hashem as Creator. This, of course, does not apply to your example from bestiality.

    To be honest, I am not entirely satisfied with my response. I need more time to think about your question. Meanwhile, feel free to comment…

    Continued…

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  5. On a different note, I would appreciated it if you could do a post about the authenticity of the Zohar

    There’s a ton of material written on this topic. You don’t need my two cents. But since I cherish you (you are, after all, one of my readers… :-) I will give you the short version here in the comments section.

    First of all, we must define the parameters of the term “authentic” as it pertains to the Zohar. Presumably what you mean to ask is, can the Zohar be authentically attributed to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai? If so, there are several issues to consider.

    1) The Zohar quotes later tanaim and even amoraim making it impossible to have been written by RSBY.

    2) The Zohar is not alluded to in any of Chazal’s works post RSBY

    3) The Zohar makes its first appearance 1000 years after RSBY

    These are some of the issues which face the student of kabala when attempting to ascertain the authenticity of the Zohar.

    So, what is my personal opinion? Here it is.

    Since the Zohar includes sayings from subsequent sages, I think it’s obvious that RSBY could not have written the Zohar. What I believe is that the body of the Zohar (and Zohar Chadash) were revealed to RSBY in the cave and perhaps he wrote down what he received or perhaps he transmitted it orally to a select number of his students (such as R’ Pinchas ben Yair, his son-in-law). A few hundred years later, in the time of the amoraim, one of the sages decided to redact the Zohar. By “redact” I mean that he compiled all of RSBY’s revelations and appended some further teachings on kabala from subsequent sages and committed it all to a book called the Zohar.

    As far as what happened to that book, it is a matter of pure speculation. Perhaps it was passed down from generation to generation by a select few, or perhaps it went entirely lost until Moses de Leon found it. I have no idea.

    As far as why I choose to believe this version rather than the academic version, I have reasons; good reasons, not just bubba ma’asos. I have much more to write on this sugya but I told you I was supplying you with the short version. Now that you know my general shita in this matter (for what it’s worth), I think I have satisfied my obligation to respond. Unfortunately this is all I wish write on this topic for now.

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  6. “In case evolution turned out to be correct, he wanted to write something that would be michazek people to remain steadfast in their emunah in Hashem as Creator regardless of evolutionary theory which was specifically designed to eliminate the necessity of God as Creator. But if RSRH was living today, I could show him black on white that evolution is entirely unproven”

    If this is what Rav RSRH’s understanding is, and assuming you agree with Rav Hirsch, then this entire controversy shifts from a fundamental conflict to merely a machlokes in the metzius. Lets imagine for arguments sake that there was in fact compelling proof for evolution, and that Rav Hirsh lived today, then we could assume that Rav Hirsch would be writing books like the challenge of creation. Now the fact is that there are a lot of people today that believe that the evidence for evolution is compelling, even if we would say that they believe the proofs because they feel pressured by the global scientific world or whatever, the bottom line is that they believe, or think they believe that the evidence is compelling. Let’s assume R Slifkin is one of those individuals, now, put yourself in his shoes, imagine you thought evolution was true, it now becomes clear (at least in my mind) that R Slifkin is not misrepresenting Rav Hirsch, he is doing what Rav Hirsch would do if he also believed the evidence to be compelling.

    Now I understand that you don’t think Rav Hirsch would find the proofs for evolution compelling if he were around today, but I think it is incorrect to say “Attempts to reconcile the two are futile and Rav Hirsch understood this!” you yourself even said “In case evolution turned out to be correct, he wanted to write something that would be michazek people to remain steadfast in their emunah in Hashem”

    I do not really understand the first point you making in your second reply, are you saying that because in the old days there was no viable natural explanation for the arrival of the fittest, evolution was a theoretical acceptable approach, but today because today we have things like random mutation (which is real regardless of evolution) it is not acceptable?(I probably got that completely wrong)

    With regards to your other point “If RSRH lived today and saw the damage this idiotic and atheistic doctrine has wreaked upon humanity, perhaps that nineteenth letter would look different than it does today” a lot of secular people use the same logic to get rid of G-d, they say that belief in G-d has wreaked so much damage, death and destruction on this planet, that he can’t exist. And by the way, a thought occurred to me, would we not be a lot better off if all the Muslim extremists started believing in evolution, became atheist, lost there extreme beliefs and left us alone?
    If something is true it is true even if the truth causes damage. We are still the chosen people even though this truth has caused damage to us

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  7. “Perhaps the reason Rav Hirsch felt he was able to tamper somewhat with the first Perek of the Torah was because the ultimate purpose would still be realized. We would still believe in Hashem as Creator. This, of course, does not apply to your example from bestiality. “
    You seem to completely disagree with this http://toriah.org/Torah/RSC/ID-ResponseTo-R.Adlerstein.pdf
    “With all due respect, Rabbi Adlerstein may wish to reconsider his comfort level.
    Shouting “mah rabu” is a serious thing. In fact, it is the primary function of a Jew
    (Yehudi – one who praises). Shouting mah rabu (sincerely) is an expression of a
    deep-seated awareness that the endless wisdom and plan and purpose apparent in
    the beriah can only be attributed to Hashem. Anyone who believes that natural
    causes can account for the endless phenomenon of our universe is an insincere
    “shouter”. Saying that God front-loaded the imperatives of the universe such that
    they would naturally culminate in our present day universe is meaningless. It applies
    a pre-conceived notion (the belief in a Creator) to the universe rather than
    concluding the notion from an empirical observation of the universe. “
    Interestingly from your explanation of Rav Hirsch, it seems that Rav Hirsch fits in more with Rabbi Slifkin then with you regarding the long issue over here http://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.com/search?q=setting

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  8. Regarding the Zohar, to be brutally honest the reason I raised this issue is that for a long time I have been tormented by certain things that I was shown in it, this really negatively affected my relationship with Hashem. When I discovered that there is actually a controversy as to who wrote the Zohar, it was a great relief, it really seemed that I could dismiss and let go of my torment. But I needed to be honest and see if there was another side to the argument. That is why I asked you.

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  9. Danny the Zohar is supposed to be Talmudic era material at least in rough origin. As such rather than be tormented about its contents think of it as needing a commentary by definition that could perhaps clear up your questions in ways you didn't think of. In Talmudic times you wrote little of Oral Tradition and so needed more commentary. That's why it was oral.

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  10. Danny,

    If this is what Rav RSRH’s understanding is, and assuming you agree with Rav Hirsch, then this entire controversy shifts from a fundamental conflict to merely a machlokes in the metzius.

    No, it does not. First of all, Rav Hirsch is one of very few gedoley Torah who entertained the possibility of harmonizing evolution with maaseh bereishis. According to all the rest of the gedoley Torah, the controversy remains very real notwithstanding the supposed “metzius”. Second of all, he says nothing about the world being ancient. He was addressing the issue of common ancestry and posited that Hashem imbued in the first cell, or whatever, the power to evolve rapidly from one species to another. In other words, the evolutionary process was the mechanism by which Hashem caused all of the animals depicted in ma’aseh bereishis to appear. The term l’mino would then have to be reinterpreted according to him. But I see no reason to assume that Rav Hirsch meant to dismiss the account of ma’aseh bereishis in its entirety.

    Lets imagine for arguments sake that there was in fact compelling proof for evolution, and that Rav Hirsh lived today, then we could assume that Rav Hirsch would be writing books like the challenge of creation.

    If could have a nickel for every time I’ve heard this argument…

    Evolution began as an unproven theory and almost died out. It was revived again but still remains unproven. It falls squarely under Rav Hirsch’s category of theories that “are for the most part no more than very shaky guesses… they all have no solid foundation” Rav Hirsch makes it clear that only an ignoramus would lend any credence to such theories. What’s the point of imagining that there was compelling proof? We can do that with anything. Let’s imagine that there is compelling proof that Torah is not mi’sinai? Let’s imagine that there is compelling proof that the world exited eternally? We can imagine anything we want. My argument is based on the reality. Evolution is not proven and therefore Rav Hirsch would not write books like the Challenge!

    Now the fact is that there are a lot of people today that believe that the evidence for evolution is compelling, even if we would say that they believe the proofs because they feel pressured by the global scientific world or whatever, the bottom line is that they believe, or think they believe that the evidence is compelling.

    You’ve missed Rav Hirsch’s point entirely. Feeling pressured by the global scientific world into believing that there is evidence is exactly what Rav Hirsch was talking about. He was trying to explain that this pressure is baseless because their theories are shaky and possess no solid foundation. You need to resist caving in to the philosophies of the academic world, not write books reconciling their shekarim with the Torah! That was Rav Hirsch’s whole point.

    Let’s assume R Slifkin is one of those individuals, now, put yourself in his shoes, imagine you thought evolution was true, it now becomes clear (at least in my mind) that R Slifkin is not misrepresenting Rav Hirsch, he is doing what Rav Hirsch would do if he also believed the evidence to be compelling.

    This post is not about Rabbi Slifkin’s right to write his books. It is about him using Rav Hirsch as a justification for writing his books. In my opinion he is not doing what Rav Hirsch would have done so he is misusing Rav Hirsch as a source.

    Continued…

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  11. I think it is incorrect to say “Attempts to reconcile the two are futile and Rav Hirsch understood this!” you yourself even said “In case evolution turned out to be correct, he wanted to write something that would be michazek people to remain steadfast in their emunah in Hashem”

    Reconciling atheistic doctrines like Evolution (cosmological, chemical and biological) is indeed futile as the express purpose of these disciplines is to provide an exclusively materialistic explanation for anything and everything in the universe including the existence of the universe itself. Rav Hirsch’s chizuk pertained only to certain elements of biological evolution as I explained before.

    I do not really understand the first point you making in your second reply,

    My point is simple. During Rav Hirsch’s time evolution did not yet provide a fully materialistic explanation for the evolution of life on earth and was thus not as big a threat. In fact, many scientists of the time assumed that the theory required at least some assistance from an Intelligent Designer. Evolution had not yet developed into what it is today. Today evolution is the mainstay of atheism. It is by far its most important doctrine (more on this shortly in a subsequent comment). I’m not so sure Rav Hirsch would have given himself license to align the Torah, in any way, with evolution as it exists today.

    With regards to your other point “If RSRH lived today and saw the damage this idiotic and atheistic doctrine has wreaked upon humanity, perhaps that nineteenth letter would look different than it does today” a lot of secular people use the same logic to get rid of G-d, they say that belief in G-d has wreaked so much damage, death and destruction on this planet, that he can’t exist.

    Yup. And a lot of people say that Elvis Presley never died or that Mother Mary cries on Christmas. The difference between me and these people is that I can demonstrate my views rationally. For instance, the doctrine of Evolution heavily influenced Hitler and his idea of the master race. Evolution has introduced an unprecedented level of atheism into the world. Evolution is the scourge of society. It has tainted practically every single field of study in the universities and colleges. I can go on and on. I know rishaim like Richard Dawkins use the same argument as me to say that God has wreaked damage but what can I do if some idiot wants to use the same format of argumentation as I.

    And by the way, a thought occurred to me, would we not be a lot better off if all the Muslim extremists started believing in evolution, became atheist, lost there extreme beliefs and left us alone?

    Absolutely not! The only reason extremists are able to hurt us is because Hashem allows them to hurt us. Changing their views is meaningless. Look at the Germans. They were the most enlightened culture in Europe in the 19th century and yet when Hashem desired it, He pulled away the mask and they revealed themselves for what they really were; a nation of murderous animals.

    Continued…

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  12. I wrote: “Perhaps the reason Rav Hirsch felt he was able to tamper somewhat with the first Perek of the Torah was because the ultimate purpose would still be realized. We would still believe in Hashem as Creator. This, of course, does not apply to your example from bestiality.”

    You seem to completely disagree with this http://toriah.org/Torah/RSC/ID-ResponseTo-R.Adlerstein.pdf... “With all due respect, Rabbi Adlerstein may wish to reconsider his comfort level...Saying that God front-loaded the imperatives of the universe such that they would naturally culminate in our present day universe is meaningless. It applies a pre-conceived notion (the belief in a Creator) to the universe rather than concluding the notion from an empirical observation of the universe.”

    You’re making an error. What I wrote to Rabbi Adlerstein has nothing to do with my attempted defense of Rav Hirsch. What Rav Hirsch was saying is that if evolution did indeed turn out to be true, then it would not contradict our mesora of the Biblical Creator because we could assert that he front-loaded evolution. But Rav Hirsch was not naïve enough to say that if we made such an assertion we could then shout ma rabu at the top of our lungs. As I wrote Rabbi Adlerstein, ma rabu is an expression of the awareness of a Creator from an observation of creation alone without introducing pre-conceived notions of a Biblical Creator.

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  13. You are making an assumption that Rav Hirsch only tried to align evolution with Torah because there was no fully materialistic explanation for it. You can believe that, but the question is what proof do you have for this? In fact the simple reading of his letter does not imply this, firstly he does not mention it, surely he should have remembered that important point, he should have said something about the reverence of Hashem's supernatural powers involved? Furthermore his actual words themselves seem to davka be about life evolving naturally from the laws of nature "God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to
    bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus and one single law..." The only proof you have (correct me if I'm wrong) is that historically, when he lived there was no full materialistic explanation, but I don't think that's a positive proof, I could argue that Rav Hirsch would have included the big bang if it was around in his day.

    And yes Rav Hirsch was only talking biological evolution and not the big bang etc. But so what? All the slifkins of this world only take it a step further, but at the end of the day they are both saying that Hashem is using the laws of nature themselves to create wonders.

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  14. "What’s the point of imagining that
    there was compelling proof?"
    Because in the real world there are a lot of people that believe this and I wanted to show that if someone has this believe they are not then misrepresenting Rav Hircsh by reconciling Torah with evolution. You can't just bring random examples, like if the exodus was not accepted by the entire scientific world, someone can't claim based on rav Hircsh that the lack of an exodus is compatible with Torah because Rav Hirsch never said that!

    "You’ve missed Rav Hirsch’s point
    entirely. Feeling pressured by the
    global scientific world into believing
    that there is evidence is exactly what
    Rav Hirsch was talking about"

    You mean when he writes "Even if this notion were ever to gain complete acceptance by the scientific world,...Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God..."!

    Regarding your point "evolution did not yet provide a fully materialistic
    explanation for the evolution of life on
    earth and was thus not as big a
    threat" you seem to be missing my point just because something can be damaging, or threatening does not make it false. In any event I am sure you now that a lot of Jews have suffered in the name of G-d and religion, that does not mean G-d does not exits some atheists might want to claim that, but don't use their very logic to say evolution is a threat therefore it is false. I don't believe rav Hirsch would say this, he would care about truth. (I am aware that you are saying more than this and are saying that there simply is now proof for evolution, but a lot of people believe that their is proof as I have tried to explain)

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  15. Finally. With regard to rabbi Adlerstein's thing, when you quoted me quoting you, you left out the most important part! "Shouting “mah rabu” is a serious thing. In fact, it is the primary function of a Jew" so I really don't think the "ultimate purpose
    would still be realized" if the primary function is lost, what happens to the ultimate purpose? Or am I just confusing myself?

    I will stop now. Listen I have to take a very, very long brake from the internet, my chavrusa Who is like my rebbi had a long chat with me about how I am not making shacharis lately etc. (And its not about pornography, if that's what you were thinking, there is just an endless amount of information out there that just draws me in for hours) so I will not be responding to your next response. I hope you respond, I will check if you do, after which I will have lots of offline time to contemplate your response.

    Thanks for all your time and efforts.

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  16. Dear Danny,

    I’ve reviewed your comments and I believe I’ve responded adequately to all your remarks.

    I’d like to mention something. From your last comment it seems you are a yeshiva bachur. I used to be a rebbi in yeshiva (first year Beis Medrash) and I can tell you that I would never allow my bachurim to frequent the internet. Of course internet was not around in my days but books, newspapers, television, radio etc., all that was prohibited to bachurim. When you are in yeshiva, you need to be entirely immersed in the yam shel torah. Don’t allow the yetzer hara to drag you away from your gemara. Frequenting blogs, even “good” blogs, is a waste of time for a bachur. It constitutes bitul torah. Hashem is not happy if you are on the computer. If you are bothered by hashkafa questions, read hashkafa sefarim like Chovos Levavos and Kuzari. Also, you can read Rejoice O Youth by R’ Avigdor Miller, or Sing You Righteous (by the same author). Spending time on the computer is addictive and will cause you to waste the best years of your life.

    I wish you hatzlacha in your limudim…

    SC

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  17. Hi SC,

    My name is David. I'm a ben Noach from UK. Thank your for your great work. You put your criticism of the naturalistic speculation called "science" (i.e., the general theory of evolution and its cosmological and sociological offshoots) very well. Sometimes it seems as if I'm one of the few noahides who hasn't swallowed evolution propaganda, but it is refreshing to see a Jew like yourself show from the Torah and the sages the problems with the modern secular theory.

    Thanks for your work and this great series of articles.
    David

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  18. Hesediah,

    My name is David.

    Shalom Aleichem! Welcome to our blog.

    I'm a ben Noach from UK… Sometimes it seems as if I'm one of the few noahides who hasn't swallowed evolution propaganda…

    I’m floored! I didn’t know that there were binei Noach around, especially ones that are advanced enough to refer to themselves as “ben Noach” in lashon haKodesh (Hebrew)! I certainly never suspected that there is a whole community of them (you refer to Noahaides, plural). Are you all in the UK or are you spread out?

    I must say, this is very exciting. When the Jewish nation was at its apex (King David, King Solomon), one of our functions was to enjoin the surrounding nations to keep the laws of Noach. It’s amazing that there are people today that cling to these laws even without our influence.

    Thanks for your work and this great series of articles.

    Thank you for commenting here. In the Jewish Talmud there is a saying “as soon as one begins a mitzvah (good deed), we encourage him to finish it”. You and your community have certainly “begun a good deed” by resolving to keep the Noahide laws. Now it’s time for me to encourage you to “finish”. What I’m about to tell you is the most important thing you will ever hear in your life! It is a priceless gift. In fact, its value is infinite. Here it is.

    Gather together three of your Noahide friends and say the following words to them:

    “I hereby accept the seven laws of Noach and agree to fulfil them because Hashem (the Jewish God) commanded these laws in the Torah (the Jewish Bible) and informed Moshe (Moses) that these commandments were obligatory on all the descendants of Noach from the time of Noach and on.”

    In addition, every morning you should say the following words:

    “Any of the seven Laws of Noach that I happen to fulfil today are done so with the express intention of fulfilling the Will of God as expressed in the Torah”.”

    If you do this you cannot begin to imagine how lucky you are. I also encourage you to pass this message on to all your other Noahide friends and get them to do the same thing. Also, you should be in contact with a Jewish Rabbi in the UK who can teach you the seven Noahide laws properly. There is a lot to learn. If you wish you may contact me and I can spend some time teaching you.

    Once again, thank you for writing.

    Best wishes,

    Rabbi Coffer

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