Monday, January 21, 2013

Lice: response to NS


B”H
Dear Natan
A few days ago I published a very short version of my approach regarding the biological characteristics of lice as related to the Talmudic statement in Masechet Shabbat 107b (http://www.toriah.com/pdf/Betech-MesechtaShabbos-On-Lice.pdf).
In your blogspot you said that the four refutations you wrote on your website refute my approach.
I will copy your four claims verbatim (emphasis mine) and I will try B”H to analyze them by interspersing my comments:


NS: Some have attempted to defend the notion of the scientific infallibility of the Talmud, or at least the applicability of this ruling, by reinterpreting this statement about lice. A popular argument is that the Sages actually meant only that the eggs of lice are halachically insignificant due to their small size, not that they do not exist.

1.1. IB 20/Jan/13:
I did not claim that.

NS: Similarly, some claim that the life-force of a louse is not halachically classified as an animal life-force (just as a plant is alive and yet is not classified in a halachah as a living creature). An alternate claim that is advanced is that since the eggs or larvae require this particular environment in which to develop, it can be said that they are generated from there.

1.2. IB 20/Jan/13:
Although these are not my claims, some could think that my approach can be categorized together with the two above. Thus, I will try to analyze the continuation of your “refutations” as they could theoretically apply to my approach. Please continue reading.

NS: However, there are numerous problems with such explanations, notwithstanding their obvious appeal.

1.3. IB 20/Jan/13:
I agree that “appeal” is not enough.

NS: First, there is no independent evidence for these explanations; they are presented simply on the grounds that there could not be a scientific error in the Talmud.

1.4. IB 20/Jan/13:
Although absence of “independent evidence” is not an evidence that Chaza”l did not mean that particular suggested explanation on their statements about lice, nevertheless I want to present the following that could be an independent evidence.
I have found three[1] [2] [3]  Rishonim that clearly spoke about the “nits” (the eggs of lice), so they understood that there are lice and additionally there are egg-lice (besides the “betze kinim” a type of organism which is called eggs of lice).

NS: Yet, as we discussed in the introduction to this work, most authorities understand that the Sages of the Talmud did make a scientific error in believing that the sun passes behind the sky at night.

1.5. IB 20/Jan/13:
Undoubtedly this is an important issue I have also written about; but by now, it is beyond the scope of this short analysis on the reproduction of lice.

NS: And since the Sages spoke of a mouse that grows from dirt, they clearly did believe in spontaneous generation.

1.6. IB 20/Jan/13:
I do not agree that it is so “clear” in the case of the mouse that you have mentioned.
I will write B”H my view on this specific case you mentioned. But it should be clear that a detailed discussion of the mouse, is beyond the scope of this short analysis on the reproduction of lice.
In the case of this Talmudical “half-mouse” we are not discussing inanimate matter transforming into animate matter, but soil that is already an integral part of a preexisting living entity, which transforms (by an unidentified process) to organic material.
In this soil, maybe there were already organic residua, or certain organic material migrated from the flesh-part to the soil-part, and then became flesh.
Today we know from the cloning of Dolly, that from a single cell, we may obtain a complete organism, not only from a zygote, but even, a differentiated cell may recover its totipotentiality.
Therefore the case of the half-mouse is not a “clear” case of spontaneous generation (ד"ע).

NS: Thus there is no reason to accept that they could not have believed that lice generate this way, which was the common belief in their era.

1.7. IB 20/Jan/13:
We have found some cases where Chazal “scientific” statements were independent from which was the common belief in their era.

NS: Second, the words of the Talmud say nothing about the eggs being halachically insignificant, or about the life-force of lice not being like that of other animals. It simply states that they do not reproduce sexually.

2.1. IB 20/Jan/13:
I could not find the latter in Chazal writings.


NS: While it is not impossible that this could be a shorthand reference for something else, the burden of proof is certainly upon those who would make such a claim. Especially since, in Talmudic times, the entire world believed that lice spontaneously generate, it is highly unreasonable to state that when the Sages spoke of lice as not reproducing sexually, they intended a different meaning entirely.

2.2. IB 20/Jan/13:
See above 1.7 and 2.1

NS:
Third, such explanations are inconsistent with the views of the traditional Talmudic commentators. Rambam, Rashba, Ran, Tosafos and others all state that lice spontaneously generate from sweat or dust. True, it is not impossible that they misunderstood the nature of the Talmud’s ruling—indeed, we posited similarly in the case of mermaids. Yet in the case of mermaids, there was compelling textual evidence that the Talmud was referring to dolphins instead; here, no such evidence exists. Furthermore, those who posit that the Talmudic statement about lice must be scientifically correct are usually the same people who are reluctant to posit that the traditional commentators all erred in their understanding of the Talmud.

3.1. IB 20/Jan/13:
The apparent inconsistency between my approach and the Rishonim’s commentaries is addressed in the Hebrew expanded version of my article on lice.
Please see the linked document.
http://www.toriah.com/pdf/Betech-MesechtaShabbos-On-Lice3.pdf

NS: The final objection to such reinterpretations of the Talmud’s statement is that there is a straightforward refutation from the continuation of the Talmud: 
Abaye said: And do lice not reproduce? Surely it was said, “God sits and sustains from the horns of aurochsen to the eggs of lice” (which shows that lice come from eggs)? — That refers to a type [of organism] which is called eggs of lice (but not that lice actually hatch from these).
If the Sages were not denying the existence of lice eggs, why do they reject the simple meaning of the statement that speaks about God sustaining the eggs of lice, and resort to difficult explanations instead? Let them simply state that although lice do hatch from eggs, these are too small to be halachically significant! It therefore seems that they did not consider this possibility. (I am aware that some claim that the Talmud means that since the eggs are halachically insignificant, they cannot be the subject of the statement about lice eggs. However such a reading is highly contrived, lacks any evidence, and is certainly not how the Rishonim and Acharonim understood the Talmud.)

4.1. IB 20/Jan/13:
The apparent inconsistency between my approach and the Gemara-text is addressed in the Hebrew expanded version of my article on lice.
Please see the linked document.
http://www.toriah.com/pdf/Betech-MesechtaShabbos-On-Lice2.pdf

P.S. IB 20/Jan/13:
I am ready B”H to analyze comments directly related to our issue:
(http://www.toriah.com/pdf/Betech-MesechtaShabbos-On-Lice.pdf).



[1] ע' רבינו חננאל על שבת דף ק"ז עמוד ב' (נמצא בדף ק"ח.)
[2] ספר הרוקח הגדול, רבינו אלעזר מגרמיזא. הלכות שבת, ס' ע"ח וע"ט
[3] ראבי"ה (רבי אליעזר בן יואל הלוי) ח"א - מסכת שבת סימן רל"ו

97 comments:

  1. Dear Isaac (apparently you don't believe in using titles)

    Your novel reinterpretation of the Rishonim (only available as a Hebrew pdf) is very similar to the way in which non-Orthodox strands of Judaism reinterpret "uncomfortable" sources to fit with their agenda. It is a very dangerous path to start reinterpreting the words of the Rishonim so that they no longer mean what they have been understood to mean for hundreds of years. I assume you know this, which is why you did not put it in your English blog post.
    To change the meanings of the Rishonim in matters of halacha is not part of normative Orthodox Judaism.
    This attempt to change the meaning of Chazal and Rishonim is essential to your approach.
    If anyone reads this blog with an open mind, please be aware that such an approach threatens to undermine the foundations of Orthodox Judaism.
    Btw, I see that you still do not want to share your sources with us.

    ReplyDelete
  2. B"H
    Dear R. Sedley
    Thank you for your comments.
    As Natan wrote a few days ago:
    “You are welcome to prepare a comprehensive response, and post a link to it.”

    You wrote:
    Btw, I see that you still do not want to share your sources with us.

    IB:
    All the sources will be published B”H in the forthcoming book.
    Meanwhile if you find any source contradicting what I stated, please let me know that source.
    Waiting for your comprehensive response to my last two posts.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dr. Betech:

    Whether one would choose your approach, on the one hand, or that of all the Rishonim cited by R. Slifkin on the other, hinges on the question of whether one believes that [the statements of]Chazal [as cited in the Gemara] are, [i]without exception,[/i] infallible.

    If one believes that they are, then one [i]must[/i] kvetch a novel p'shat such as yours, which was never proposed or discussed by a single Rishon.

    However, if one believes that Chazal, [i]at least on occassion,[/i] relied on the erroneous beliefs of the experts in the given fields, and/or occassionaly could have held beliefs that were common yet erroneous, then the pshat as learned by all the Rishonim cited by R. Slifkin is a much simpler and easier way to learn the gemara.

    ReplyDelete
  4. B"H
    Dear Nachum:
    Thank you for your comment.

    You wrote:
    ...hinges on the question of whether one believes that [the statements of]Chazal [as cited in the Gemara] are, [i]without exception,[/i] infallible.

    IB:
    My academic education brought me to dislike the use of the word "believe" when we are on the first stages of any broad discussion, so at this moment I ask you to please just discuss if my suggested explanation on the lice issue is possible or impossible, compatible or incompatible.
    I am pretty sure that B"H with time and many Scientific related Sugiyot discussed with a rationalist approach, we will be able to arrive to knowledge and not just believe.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dr. Betech:

    I am not in any position to argue the merits of your suggestion. I am a simple student of Talmud, who naively thinks that generally text is meant to convey what it’s meant to convey in a literal interpretation, unless it makes no sense literally.

    And, your suggested interpretation just does not convey what is likely to be meant by the Gemorrah’s expression that lice do not reproduce sexually. Nor further in the text, when the Gemorrah must resort to referencing a creature called “lice eggs” to reconcile a question posed..

    But, I have another issue and I would appreciate if you would answer me the following:

    Do you believe that a frum Jew has a responsibility to show the world that practitioners or students of Judaism are not foolish people. Otherwise, not doing so, is a form of “chillul Hashem”?

    In this context, last year, I showed guys in my shiur, during a discussion of Pesachim 94b, this link
    http://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.ca/2011/07/nature-of-rakia-part-eight-superior.html
    as a possible interpretation of what the Gemorrah meant, and most thought I was kidding because it was so silly. Some practically fell out of their chairs laughing. I actually felt embarrassed for the author.

    What is with this obsession to believe, against all indications, that Chazal were super-intelligent?

    The fact is, despite all your and your colleagues attempts at explanations, Chazel did not have some superhuman knowledge of science. It remains a fact, until you can demonstrate otherwise. Not just find “pretzel-like” excuses for the apparent scientific errors, but solid evidence that they knew substantially more than the scientists of their time. And, if they did, kindly explain, why they made no effort to make use of this knowledge for the betterment of mankind.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. B"H
    Dear Elemir
    Thank you for your comment.
    Please let me write that by now I will not address your second point which is not directly related to my post on lice reproduction, sorry.
    Regarding our post:

    You wrote:
    I am not in any position to argue the merits of your suggestion...

    IB:
    I am open to agree that my suggestion has no merit (keshem shekibel sechar al hadrisha kach yekabel sechar al haprisha) but please take the time to read what I wrote and point to the mistakes, otherwise what can I do?

    BTW although NS insisted that I would write a comprehensive refutation to his 4 arguments against my position, when I did it, he wrote some isolated ideas and when I sent him a comment:

    Dear Natan,
    Thank you for posting the link to my comprehensive refutation to your four "refutations".
    As you wrote:
    “You are welcome to prepare a comprehensive response, and post a link to it.”

    He did not accepted my comment on his "moderated" blogspot.

    But anyway, dear Elemir, please write a comprehensive respond and B"H I will try to answer, if I can answer, otherwise I am ready to retract myself.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dear Dr Betech (it now seems that you do value titles, except when they belong to Rabbi Slifkin)

    I remember almost twenty years ago, speaking with Rav Nachman Bulman zatzal. We were discussing how to refute responsa from the Conservative movement. He said (and I may be misremembering, but it was something along these lines) that although their responsa appear valid, they are outside of Orthodox Judaism because they do not believe in the mesorah of p'sak, nor in the hierarchy of Rishonim over Acharonim.
    This is exactly the problem with your approach to Torah. Despite having several people on this blog point out to you that your words do not fit with the words of the Gemara and Rishonim, you keep insisting that people should debate with you.
    The thing is, Dr Betech, that as long as you keep redefining the words to fit with your agenda, it will be impossible to defeat you in debate. But that does not mean that you are right. I means that you are not part of the Orthodox tradition.
    For example, the Hebrew words "puru u-revu" which have the traditionally accepted meaning of "be fruitful and multiply", according to you mean "be a parasite". The words of the Rishonim which say "created from sweat", according to you mean "are parasitic". Etc.
    The only real difference between your approach and that of the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism is that they present their sources, and (to my mind) make stronger and clearer arguments.
    I do not expect that you will change your mind based on my comments here. You have too much invested in this. (It is ironic that in your attempt to defend Chazal from an imagined slight, you have perverted their words and left the mesorah completely).
    I do feel the need to make a macha'ah on this blog (which is the only reason that I am writing here), because Torah is an inheritance for all of klal yisrael. Yet you have twisted and perverted it to your own personal agenda. And then have the gall to claim that others who do not hold like you are wrong.
    Therefore, I object to this abuse of the Torah, Gemara and Rishonim. I will not debate with you, because that would be to admit that there is validity to your methodology (which I reject completely).
    Anyone reading this blog with an open mind should understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion about anything they want. But not every opinion is acceptable to Orthodox Judaism.

    ReplyDelete
  9. one point that might be a Refutation of your suggestion is simple and straightforward.
    According to the way you explain the Gemorrah, you are saying that the Gem. knew that lice produce eggs. If so, what then is the question several lines later about lice eggs.
    The very fact that the question is asked implies that the Gem. did not think that lice produce eggs.

    You need to explain this part of the Gem.

    ReplyDelete
  10. B"H
    Dear R. Sedley
    I read your comment.

    You wrote:
    For example, the Hebrew words "puru u-revu" which have the traditionally accepted meaning of "be fruitful and multiply", according to you mean "be a parasite".

    IB:
    Could you please tell me where I wrote that?

    PS.
    I hope to receive an answer to the seven comments I wrote to you.

    ReplyDelete
  11. B"H
    Dear Elemir
    I explained the gemara in the attached document:
    http://www.toriah.com/pdf/Betech-MesechtaShabbos-On-Lice2.pdf

    Please read it and let me know your opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  12. thank you for the link to your explanation, but my limited ability to read Hebrew restricts my clear understanding of your explanation. either, trouble yourself to clarify (in english) what you wrote or we are at an impasse.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I quote from your Hebrew teshuva (http://www.toriah.com/pdf/Betech-MesechtaShabbos-On-Lice3.pdf)

    (translation mine)
    The Rishonim wrote that "the lice come from sweat" or "come from human sweat" or "swarm from the flesh of a person" or "swarm from the flesh of a person through sweat" or "swarm from a person's sweat".
    We can say that the Rishonim wrote this because the eggs of lice are completely dependent for their growth on the warmth of a living person and his sweat.

    None of this is sourced, so I can't even comment as to whether any of it is correct. But you clearly reinterpret the words of the Rishonim to mean what you want them to say. You have taken them out of their simple meaning completely.

    Or the following (from the earlier exchange with Rabbi Slifin)
    Dr. Betech's approach goes beyond that. Dr. Betech's post starts with the following biological fact that the blood-sucking lice are regarded by entomologists as being the most parasitic of all insects. This would explain why Chazal select the louse as the exemplar for the halacha that lice are not para verava like the eilim in the mishkan whereas fleas, for example, are para verava

    Therefore, "not para verava" means "not the most parasitic of all insects", i.e. parasitic.

    Is that clearer now?
    Now I'm sure your readers will understand why it is impossible to debate with you. The words (according to you) mean something that they have never meant before in history. Debating without a shared language is like knitting fog!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Typo clarification. "not para verava" means not the most parasitic of all insects. Therefore, by inference, "para verava" means parasitic, or somewhat parasitic. This clearly is not the intent of the gemara.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've mamash got it the other way around to how I read it:

      He is learning "not para verava" as meaning something along the lines of: something which cannot be said to independently (Without third party assistance) breed offspring.

      Hence: para verava is a type of reproduction requiring just the happy couple with no aid from for example: your scalp.

      lice: which are being described as "the most parasitic of creatures" as they rely on their host more than any other creature, are thus said to match the above definition.

      I would suggest to you that (your other critiques not with standing) one is not forced by textual constraints to learn that the opposite of para verava is spontaneous generation.

      Delete
  15. Dr. Betech:

    Why would you contrive a p'shat, when there is a much simpler way to read the Gemara, vis, when the Gemara says that lice are conceived from sweat, they actualy mean that lice is conceived by sweat. The Gemara then asks, if lice is conceived by sweat, then what are nits? This way of learning the Gemara is smooth, it works, and is the approach that has always been adopted.

    Why contrive your new pshat, iother than a motivation to show that the Chachamim did not err?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. B"H
      Dear Nachum
      The Gemara did not say that lice are conceived from sweat.

      Delete
  16. B"H
    R. Sedley

    Initially you wrote:
    For example, the Hebrew words "puru u-revu" which have the traditionally accepted meaning of "be fruitful and multiply", according to you mean "be a parasite".

    After I asked: Could you please tell me where I wrote that?

    You answered:
    …Therefore, "not para verava" means "not the most parasitic of all insects", i.e. parasitic.
    Is that clearer now?

    Then, two hours later, you decided to correct yourself and you additionally wrote:
    Typo clarification. "not para verava" means not the most parasitic of all insects. Therefore, by inference, "para verava" means parasitic, or somewhat parasitic. This clearly is not the intent of the gemara.

    IB: Sorry, but I think that I did not write explicitly or even implicitly what you wrote in any of your 3 posts.


    ReplyDelete
  17. You have ignored my translation of the Rishonim, where you have clearly changed their original meaning.
    I did make a mistake in my typo correction, and put in an extra "not". I'll try again (because it seems that I was not clear enough)
    "Not para verava" means the most parasitic of all insects.
    Therefore, "para verava" means parasitic (e.g. fleas in your example) but not the most parasitic.
    How that fits with goats is beyond me.
    I have already said that I don't want to debate. I think I have made my point clearly enough (albeit with a typo twice).
    If you wish to defend yourself, please show that the Rishonim actually mean what you say, rather than something entirely different (as per my partial translation of your Hebrew document).
    Good night

    ReplyDelete
  18. B"H
    R. Sedley

    Although your forth intent in re-presenting my ideas is still imprecise (it would be easier if you just copy my words from my article), nevertheless by now, I will skip this point, and go to your conclusion:
    “How that fits with goats is beyond me.”

    You can check how that fits with the Gemara and Rishonim in the following links:
    http://www.toriah.com/pdf/Betech-MesechtaShabbos-On-Lice.pdf (brief summary of my position)
    http://www.toriah.com/pdf/Betech-MesechtaShabbos-On-Lice2.pdf (conciliation with the Gemara-text)
    http://www.toriah.com/pdf/Betech-MesechtaShabbos-On-Lice3.pdf (conciliation with the Rishonim-text)

    If you happen to disagree, please present a comprehensive refutation. After each of my paragraphs please intersperse your comments, (as I did in this blogspost with the four purported refutations NS published against my position.)

    PS.
    I hope to receive an answer to the seven comments I wrote to you.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Your link reconciling the Rishonim with your p'shat is the same one again. In it, you simply say (and I quote your words)
    אפשר לומר שהראשונים כתבו כך כי ביצי כינים זקוקים לגמרי בשביל גדילתם לבשר אדם חי
    "Perhaps we can say that the Rishonim wrote this because the eggs of lice depend completely for their growth on the flesh of a living person"

    In other words, "perhaps the Rishonim say the same as what I am saying"
    On the other hand, perhaps they don't. Or more specifically, their words do not indicate that they agree with you, and nobody else (as far as I know) has ever interpreted their words in this way.
    So it is far more likely that the Rishonim do NOT mean this. But rather they mean that lice spontaneously generate from sweat, which is both what they say, and how they have traditionally been understood.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Sorry to butt in on your argument, but I'd like to throw this out to you.

    Suppose you are correct and the expression not pera vereva means spontaneous generation. The question then I think is a most curious one: What did the ancients (including chazal) indeed what did the rishonim understand when they saw lice emerging from sweat?

    You may want to say that they thought that the lice just appeared from the inert and lifeless sweat spontaneously - which would create a contradiction between chazal and observable nature.

    I do not believe that this is clear cut though, for several reasons:

    1. lice copulate which each other and this has been observed by eye. It is a known fact and there is no reason to assume the ancients didn't know this too. (see wikipedia!)
    2. lice lay eggs that are visible, but the cute little baby louse that emerges is just too small to see by the naked eye. After a while their growth permits examination by eye alone.
    3. As far as we are aware in nature creatures usually copulate to produce offspring and for no other reason (there are exceptions in higher mammals monkeys, whales and of course... people). (ps- let me know if you ever discover reports of insects in non-reproductive copulation and I'll ditch this part of the argument)

    Given these facts it seems reasonable that "not pera vereva" in the case of lice at least, may have had a more nuanced understanding to the blanket one you are suggesting.

    Also, to specifically suggest "non pera vereva" means "pera vereva plus an outside agent helping" in the case of lice certainly is not as strange it may seem as it fits in with the observable evidence at their disposal.

    ReplyDelete
  21. B"H
    R. Sedley
    Thank you for your answer and for your partial translation.
    The main point is that you seem to agree that at least my explanation is not contradicted by the Rishonim.
    Of course, you also wrote:
    “…their words do not indicate that they agree with you…”

    But if you followed what I wrote above:
    I have found three[1] [2] [3] Rishonim that clearly spoke about the “nits” (the eggs of lice), so they understood that there are lice and additionally there are egg-lice (besides the “betze kinim” a type of organism which is called eggs of lice).

    Then I have some support from Rishonim that lice do not appear through spontaneous generation but from eggs, and apushe palugta la mafshinan afilu ben gabra legabra.

    ReplyDelete
  22. B”H
    Dear Marcus,
    I appreciate very much your posts, yeyasher kochacha.
    In the last one you wrote something that I am not sure if you are right, i.e.
    "…but the cute little baby louse that emerges is just too small to see by the naked eye."
    Please check again.
    Kol tuv

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you meant the "cute" adjective used to describe the nymph? I concede the point.

      As regards to the size of the nymph, what I should have said was that the hatching was not visible.

      Delete
    2. B"H
      Dear Marcus
      Maybe even the hatching is visible, if at this moment this point is important to you, would you like to check?

      Delete
    3. I'll spend some time seeing what I can see - or NOT see.

      Delete
  23. Marcus, your comment is completely invalid. However unreasonable you think spontaneous generation to be, with your 21st century mindset, the fact is that in the times of Chazal and the Rishonim, THE ENTIRE WORLD believed in spontaneous generation. Thus, anyone claiming that Chazal and the Rishonim did not believe in spontaneous generation - even though they used the same terminology as everyone else, and it is terminology that led everyone except Dr Betech to accept that they were talking about spontaneous generation - would have to bring extraordinary proof. Dr Betech has brought none.

    Incidentally, Dr. Betech's comment about "Rishonim who speak about eggs of lice" is irrelevant, for a similar reason. Aristotle also spoke about nits in that way; yet he nevertheless believed that lice spontaneously generate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. B"H
      Dear Yissacher
      Welcome again.

      Your central point, i.e. "THE ENTIRE WORLD believed in..." was already addressed above by me.

      You (as well as NS) are invited to write a comprehensive response to this post (please do not forget that NS on January 18, 2013 at 9:45 AM refused to discuss isolated points).

      Delete
    2. "Your central point, i.e. "THE ENTIRE WORLD believed in..." was already addressed above by me."

      No, it wasn't.

      See the following link for further evidence that spontaneous generation was a standard belief:

      http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Journals/TAPA/51/Spontaneous_Generation*.html

      Or, you can look at the numerous Rishonim and Acharonim who talk about it. E.g. Rambam, Rabbi Yitzchok Lampronti, Rav Dessler, etcetera.

      But in any case, I was addressing Marcus, not you.

      Delete
    3. Furthermore, Dr. Betech, please do not interrupt, if you haven't got anything to say other than claiming that you have already addressed things, inviting people to debate with you, etc. It's very irksome that you keep on writing endless comments of that nature instead of making actual points. It leads one to suspect that you are aware that you are incapable of convincing people of the merits of your position, and choose instead to frustrate people and wear them out.

      Delete
    4. Now, after that pointless distraction, let me repeat my response to Marcus:

      Marcus, your comment is completely invalid. However unreasonable you think spontaneous generation to be, with your 21st century mindset, the fact is that in the times of Chazal and the Rishonim, THE ENTIRE WORLD believed in spontaneous generation. Thus, anyone claiming that Chazal and the Rishonim did not believe in spontaneous generation - even though they used the same terminology as everyone else, and it is terminology that led everyone except Dr Betech to accept that they were talking about spontaneous generation - would have to bring extraordinary proof. Dr Betech has brought none.

      Incidentally, Dr. Betech's comment about "Rishonim who speak about eggs of lice" is irrelevant, for a similar reason. Aristotle also spoke about nits in that way; yet he nevertheless believed that lice spontaneously generate.

      Delete
    5. B"H
      Dear Yissacher
      Now that I have the honor of being addressed by you, I apologize for interrupting and for reminding to everyone that neither you nor NS have published a comprehensive response to this post (please do not forget that NS on January 18, 2013 at 9:45 AM refused to discuss isolated points related to the reproduction of lice, so I wrote this comprehensive post).
      Sorry again.
      P.S.
      Regarding your second comment also directed to me, please consider that the same could be written about you or NS on this topic.

      Delete
  24. Reb Isaac,

    As I commented over at RJ blog, your interpretation does not conform with the Gem.

    all the links and all the concocted explanations on this topic are irrelevant. Even if you showed me another page of Gemorrah that stated that 99.9% of the Ammoraim knew that lice produce (procreative) eggs, it does not change the fact that the author of these 1/2 dozen lines on Shab 107b, clearly and unambiguously implied that HE believed that lice do NOT produce eggs.

    I know you pointed me to a Hebrew link explaining yourself, but my Hebrew is not strong enough to clearly understand what you were saying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. B”H
      Dear Elemir
      Your first line:
      …your interpretation does not conform with the Gem.

      Your bottom line:
      I know you pointed me to a Hebrew link explaining yourself, but my Hebrew is not strong enough to clearly understand what you were saying.

      Please explain!

      Delete
    2. >>>> please explain.

      do you purposely act dumb? is this some kind of conversational methodology that i don't get?
      i now understand what many say about having a dialogue with you. it's obviously just a waste of time.

      i wish you well.

      Delete
    3. B"H
      Dear Elemir
      Sorry if did not explain enough my point.
      My question is if you acknowledge that your Hebrew is not strong enough to clearly understand what I said regarding the gemara, then how can you write that my interpretation does not conform with the Gem?

      Delete
    4. because
      (a) the plain interpretation of the Gem. is so clear that the author of those lines believed that lice do not procreate. it is up to you to show otherwise.
      (b) in the world in general, when one has a dispute/discussion with someone, and responds in a different language, not acceptable to one's opponent, then that opponent has a right to assume that one is simply obfuscating.

      Delete
    5. B”H
      Dear Elemir
      Thank you for your clarification, now I understand your position.
      We will try B”H to go step by step.
      First I will try to summarize in English the Gemara, please let me know if you agree.

      Let’s see what Chazal stated (or did not state) in the Oral Torah (Shabbat 107b) regarding insect reproduction.
      (1) Rams fructify and multiply.
      (2) Fleas fructify and multiply [in a similar “way” as rams].
      (3) Lice do not fructify and multiply [in a similar “way” as rams].
      (4) There is certain species called “betze kinim”.
      (5) In Shabbat it is forbidden to kill (1) and (2).
      (6) In Shabbat it is permitted to kill (3).
      (7) Chazal did not specify the reproductive singularities of (1), (2) and (3).

      If I missed or inaccurately described any point, please let me know, I am ready B”H to review my summary list.

      Delete
    6. >>>>> (4) There is certain species called “betze kinim”.

      While it is true that the Gem. makes this statement, it still does not fit with your suggestion (that “not procreative” also includes “very parasitic)

      To explain: the author of this ½ dozen lines is apparently “forced” at the end of the small exchange into stating that there exists a species called “betze kinim” to answer the question posed to him by the Gem..

      Why do I use the term “forced into”, because his response to the Gem’s query in explaining the phrase that the Gem. presented in its question which loosely translated said “Hashem nourishes, from the “horns” of the “ra-ai-im” to the ““betze kinim”. Normally, when someone uses a phrase such as “from X to Y” to indicate breadth, then X and Y must correspond to type. So since “horns of Ra-ai-im” is not a type of creature, but parts of a creature, then logically speaking the second end of the phrase, “betze kinim” would also NOT refer to a creature but some aspect of the creature. However, because the Gem. did ask from this phrase, the author must conciliate, and how does he do this, he states that “betze kinim” is a creature different than “kinim”. Now, according to your interpretation of “procreativity” and that this author believed that kinim have eggs except that the parasitic level allows them to be considered as non-procreative, he would have answered exactly that using your view of the meaning of procreativity. Since, he didn’t, but allowed himself to be backed into a corner, it is obvious (to most) that he did not believe kinim have eggs. QED.
      And not like your suggested explanation.

      Delete
    7. B"H
      Dear Elemir
      Thank you for clarifying your position.
      I good like to express some thoughts trying to explain the Gemara, since as per your request it will be B"H in English I need more time, hopefully on Sunday.
      Shabbat Sha-lom

      Delete
    8. BH
      Dear Elemir.
      Sorry for the delay.
      Shabua tov!

      You wrote:
      So since “horns of Ra-ai-im” is not a type of creature, but parts of a creature, then logically speaking the second end of the phrase, “betze kinim” would also NOT refer to a creature but some aspect of the creature.

      IB:
      If you see the origin of this Talmudic statement in Avoda Zara 3b, on Rashi you will see that he understood that “karne-reemim” is the name of a big undomesticated animal. Rashi did not explain that the Gemara is speaking about Hashem nourishing the horns of reemim, but the “karne-reemim” itself.
      According to this there is no question.
      Best regards.

      Delete
    9. do you plan to explain why the Gem. doesn't answer its question on the Betei kinim as per you interpretation of "non-productive". it seems to me that if your interpretation of pru u'revu is good/correct wouldn't this be an important revelation for the Gem. to make, instead of saying that its another species??

      Delete
    10. B"H
      Dear Elemir
      Sorry for the delay. I have been very busy; nevertheless today I finished the translation from Hebrew to English of the text I think answers your question. I will paste it below.
      Any comment on it is welcomed.

      Question:
      How do you read the Gemara-argument according to your explanation on lice?
      Answer:
      Certainly there is a species called “betze kinim”. Nevertheless there are also eggs procreated by lice (nits). The latter are macroscopic and anyone can see them by the naked eye.
      Furthermore, remnants of lice and nits (with size and shape similar to the organisms we know today), have been found together on combs at caves dated from the time of the Second Temple. The latter fact fits well with the Talmudic mention of special combs for killing lice.
      Regular eggs of different species find everything they need for their growth in the egg itself and/or in their progenitors, therefore their name includes the name of their progenitors (like chicken eggs).
      Lice eggs (nits) are different; they are completely dependent on their host throughout their whole life cycle.
      Since lice eggs (nits) are not regular eggs, their name in Talmudic language does not include the name of their progenitors. They are not called “lice-eggs”. In this aspect they are different from the elim (rams) of the Mishkan.
      This is the question of Abaye in the Gemara: We have found elsewhere that they are called “betze kinim”. Since the Gemara named them in relation to their connection with their progenitors, therefore lice should be categorized as “parim verrabim” (creatures that reproduce) in a way similar to the rams of the Mishkan.
      Then the Gemara answers that it is not so. Rather, the Talmudic statement at issue is about an extant species called “betze kinim”. The common lice-eggs (nits), in contrast, are not called “betze kinim” (“egg-lice”), but something else, such as simply “eggs” or “human-eggs”, or “eggs with the potential of hatching a louse” (if properly hosted by the human being upon which they sit).
      Lice are confined to a restricted location; in this they are similar to plants, which are also restricted to their location. As it is known, plant life is also procreated by male and female.
      A similar case is found on Leviticus 26:4 where it is written: ...and the ground will yield its crops. We see that crops are called “ground’s crops” (and not seed’s crops) despite the fact that the ground needs the vegetation’s seed (parallel to the nit deposited on the human’s body) despite the ground is only helping in its growth.
      According to this definition, nits should not be called “betze kinim”; and this is Abaye’s question.
      According to this, since Chazal knew the facts (as mentioned in the addendum), they ruled that it is permitted to kill lice on Shabbat, because they are not completely similar to live-animals on this aspect.

      Delete
    11. So where is the "beitzei kinim" species today? Did they go extinct? Did they evolve into something else (nishtaneh hateva)? Is it really simpler to posit that "beitzei kinim" does not refer to what we know today (and the ancient world knew) as eggs of lice (nits), rather than make up a new (non-existent) Gemara name for nits, and kill off a species called beitzei kinim?
      Also, since you called me back from Rabbi Slifkin's blog to answer your 7 points (which I've done), I'll remind you again that you have not yet presented a single Rishon or Acharon who learns the Gemara in way in which you suggest. Not a single source to say that the reason the Gemara considers lice to be not pareh u-reveh is because they are the most parasitic of all insects.
      Furthermore, if Marcus is correct, that Ravyah translates beitzei kinim as lentes which means nits, then Raviah would seem to be a direct contradiction to your p'shat in the gemara, rather than a support for it.

      Delete
    12. B”H
      Dear R. Sedley.

      RS wrote:
      So where is the "beitzei kinim" species today?

      1.1 IB:
      I do not know, may be in any place.
      But I do not understand if you think that that species must be identified for validating their existence or for validating the Talmudical statement or my suggested explanation.
      If you think so, please explain.

      RS wrote:
      Did they go extinct?

      1.2 IB:
      May be yes, may be not. See my previous answer.

      RS wrote:
      Did they evolve into something else (nishtaneh hateva)?

      1.3 IB:
      I have not seen any scientific proof demonstrating that any known species have evolved in a different one.
      (Nishtane HaTeva in the Rabbinical literature does not mean evolution of the species).

      RS wrote:
      Is it really simpler to posit that "beitzei kinim" does not refer to what we know today (and the ancient world knew) as eggs of lice (nits), rather than make up a new (non-existent) Gemara name for nits, and kill off a species called beitzei kinim?

      1.4 IB:
      No, it’s not simpler.
      Your “non-existent” Gemara is in Aboda Zara 3b, so there is not any make up.

      RS wrote:
      Also, since you called me back from Rabbi Slifkin's blog to answer your 7 points (which I've done),

      1.5 IB:
      Please specify to which comment on Rabbi Slifkin's blog you are alluding, and where you have answered the seven points.

      RS wrote:
      I'll remind you again that you have not yet presented a single Rishon or Acharon who learns the Gemara in way in which you suggest. Not a single source to say that the reason the Gemara considers lice to be not pareh u-reveh is because they are the most parasitic of all insects.

      1.6 IB:
      Even if what you say would be true, that does not make my explanation a faulty one.
      If you want to demonstrate that my explanation is faulty, you have to refute my explanation of the Gemara according to my approach (as presented in this comment thread).

      RS wrote:
      Furthermore, if Marcus is correct, that Ravyah translates beitzei kinim as lentes which means nits, then Raviah would seem to be a direct contradiction to your p'shat in the gemara, rather than a support for it.

      1.7 IB:
      Please explain why.
      Shabbat Sha-lom lekol Am Yisrael.

      Delete
  25. I'm really confused because I entered a reply earlier and it did not appear...

    It went something like this:

    Greetings and salutations Yissacher and thank you for your thoughtful comments on my post. I had two thoughts about the matter.

    1.Though the entire (educated) world may have believed in SG the exact parameters of SG may have been more variable than we assume. Perhaps it is we with our 21st C glasses who view the ancients as simple and unsophisticated that have an overly simplistic understanding of how our ancestors understood SG. I'm not saying all ancients viewed SG in the way I am suggesting (e.g. Aristotle seemed to view SG as you suggest) but perhaps some did - including chazal and maybe some rishonim too - maybe.

    2. you seem very confident the SG is consubstantial with "not fruitful and multiplying" and is equally so with analagous terminology used by other contemporaneous cultures e.g. Greeks. Please demonstrate this.

    Thanks

    2.

    ReplyDelete
  26. שלושה הן הכופרים בתורה:... וכן הכופר בפירושה, והיא תורה שבעל פה, והכחיש מגידיה, כגון צדוק ובייתוס
    There are three [categories of people] who are deniers of Torah... And those who deny its explanation, which is the Oral Law, and those who contradict those who explain it [i.e. Chazal], for example Tzadok and Baitus.
    Rambam, Hilchot Teshuva 3:17

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. B"H
      R. Sedley
      Thank you for the important comment you posted on “Cofer” definition, it will help us to have some perspective and see if someone in this comment thread could be categorized as that.
      “… and those who contradict those who explain it [i.e. Chazal]…”

      Let’s see what Chazal stated (or did not state) in the Oral Torah (Shabbat 107b) regarding insect reproduction.
      (1) Rams fructify and multiply.
      (2) Fleas fructify and multiply [in a similar “way” as rams].
      (3) Lice do not fructify and multiply [in a similar “way” as rams].
      (4) There is certain species called “betze kinim”.
      (5) In Shabbat it is forbidden to kill (1) and (2).
      (6) In Shabbat it is permitted to kill (3).
      (7) Chazal did not specify the reproductive singularities of (1), (2) and (3).

      Yitzchak Betech (Mexico City) accepts the 7 points above mentioned.
      Do you?
      P.S. If I missed or inaccurately described any point, please let me know, I am ready B”H to review my list.

      Delete
    2. ok so far, please continue and then i'll comment on point (4) particularly

      Delete
    3. B"H
      Dear Elemir
      Thank you for your answer.
      I think that you wrote in the comment thread where I am discussing with R. Sedley and not where I am discussing with you, but anyway I ask you to please post your comment on point (4) so we can further discuss this issue.

      Delete
  27. And just because (unfortunately) I can't keep quiet, even though I know it is pointless to debate with someone who refuses to answer any issues in a serious manner (as pointed out above):
    I have looked at 2 of the 3 sources cited above (which apparently support Rav Betech's postiion - and by "apparently" I mean that he claims that they do but i am about to challenge that).
    Rabbeinu Chananel does cite RabbiYehuda Gaon who mentions "eggs of lice". But he does not mention anything about lice being the most parasitic of animals (or anything even remotely similar).
    Raviah can be found here and does not mention the fact that lice are the most parasitic either.
    However, he does contrast lice with fleas. And explains that it is permitted to kill lice, but not fleas. He then brings an alternative view, which permits killing fleas as well, "because they grow from the ground like the verse states, "all the ground of Egypt was lice", like with "frogs grew from the Nile" because it is their way to be created there.... Raviah rejects this in terms of fleas, but accepts it as halacha in terms of lice.
    Bli Neder I won't comment again on this post unless Dr Betech provides a statement of Chazal and/or Rishonim which states clearly that the reason it is permitted to kill lice is because they are the most parasitic of all insects (because his claim is that ALL Rishonim held that, since we try to avoid argument between Rishonim). Failing that, it is simply heresy, as I pointed out above.
    Oh - and btw, don't bother with answering "I already answered above" or "please debate with me" or "NS hasn't answered me..." or any of those things. Simply quote the source (in English or Hebrew) which says that the reason it is permitted to kill lice on Shabbat is because they are the most parasitic of all insects.
    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  28. Dear Dr Betech,

    In this response: http://www.toriah.com/pdf/Betech-MesechtaShabbos-On-Lice2.pdf

    There are no mekorot.
    Could you please post them?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. B"H
      Dear Elias
      This is only an extract, all the sources will be published B”H in the forthcoming book.
      Meanwhile if you find any source contradicting what I stated, please let me know that source.

      Delete
  29. One more comment, because I just looked at the Rokeach
    He says "One who kills a flea or beitzei kinim (lice eggs) is liable (to bring a sacrifice for transgressing a Torah prohibition).
    In other words, he learns the Gemara as every other Rishon, that beitzei kinim is a separate species, not related to lice.
    This is in no way any kind of support for Dr Betech's thesis. Rather, it supports the view (of Rabbi Natan Slifkin and every Rishon and Acharon that I have seen who discusses the issue) that lice do not hatch from eggs (i.e. reproduce), because the eggs are a separate species than the lice.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Listen my fellow red sea pedestrian, you are doing a good job of claiming the moral high ground and accusing your opponents of timtum halev and of not having a proper debate with you. You have depicted them as going against the entire mesorah and as such have deemed their views to be heretical and you have insinuated that they have lost their helek in the next world.

    It should be obvious though, to anyone with an "open mind" that people who label their opponents as heretics and suggest that they have tim tum halev are not interested in having a reasoned debate despite any protestations to contrary.

    You may accuse others of having tim tum halev - of only seeing what they want to see, but note the Ravyah that was brought as a proof that it was known by some at least that lice do have eggs. Indeed I checked your source and it gives the french word lentes as the translation for baitzai kinim. You and I both know that lentes translates to nits. Now either the Ravyah thought that nits where inanimate byproducts of lice copulation (as Aristotle so understood) or he thought that they were alive. Since he says it's "mutar" to kill them, which way do you believe he understood the situation?!

    It's very difficult to learn this in any other (reasonable) way - and I think you agree with this because your comment to the Ravyah was simply that he doesn't mention the parasitic aspect of lice.

    Seeing as we agree that Dr Betech has a source which clearly indicates that one important rishon seemed to understand that lice laid eggs, would you like to retract your accusation of heresy?

    Furthermore, once we see it was known that lice lay real live eggs we need to try to understand (at least according to the Ravyah) the meaning of "aino pera vereva". It obviously can't mean "reproduced without laying eggs", because they did! So what does it mean? Dr Betech has some interesting suggestions to explain this. You may disagree or not, but to accuse like you have is not gentlemanly.

    However if you truly believe that what is said is heresy then I would have expected you to make your point clearly and then depart, but you keeping hanging around for more arguing and more insults e.g. "Knitting in fog"?! Why are you here exactly? If you are so frustrated with you opponent than stop arguing!

    Finally I would like to praise Dr Betech for working to uphold the honor of chazal and of our mesorah. Rav Hirsch who (may have - it is debatable but let's assume it was him for now) wrote that chazal only received a mesorah regarding nature relevant to things they needed to know to keep the Torah - and therefore when discussing things such as mud mice were only doing so because non-Jewish scientists insisted that they existed - he still held of the mesorah regarding things that were essential to the Torah e.g. things to do with kashrus etc (this is clear from his commentary to the Torah).

    Meaning that even according to this opinion - it is not acceptable to any Torah Jew to embrace the idea that chazal transmitted errors regarding the behavior of nature in such a way that it is pertinent to halacha. Hence when it appears that there is a contradiction between p'sak and nature (that's observable nature not the consensus of atheist scientists and their hangers-on) we must do our up most to defend chazal and if we should fail we should just leave it as a question but not heaven forbid announce in our arrogance that chazal transmitted sheker to us. Now that really would be an attack on the very foundations of the Torah.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I don't think Raviah knew either Aristotle or Dr Betech's opinions. However I'm pretty sure he knew the Gemara (Shabbat 107b) which describes a species called "beitzei kinim" which are alive (and G-d provides for all their needs) and which are not related to lice.
    But your tactic is valid. Since Dr Betech has been unable to provide a single source to back up his claim that lice are not considered to reproduce because they are the most parasitic of all insects - the best defence of his position is to tell me to go away.
    And I will. Good bye.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Of course he knew the gemora, the big question is trying to understand how he learnt it. In the quoted source the Ravyoh paskins that it is permissible to kill something called beitzei kinim. We would presume that he means the very same creatures discussed in the gemora - a creature which is in fact a species of louse. However the Ravyoh indicates that this is not so, because he translates the term beitzei Kinim as "lentes" which is french for nit (a nit is a lice egg). The big question then is, how did the Ravyoh learn the gemora which says that lice DON'T lay eggs. Dr Betech has something to say about that, do you?

    "But your tactic is valid... the best defence of his position is to tell me to go away.
    And I will. Good bye."

    :-(

    ReplyDelete
  33. I've been called back by Dr Betech, who apparently has endless time for these games. I'll answer his 7 points of above:
    I agree with 1-6.
    I don't agree with 7 - I believe that the definition of puru u-revu is clear to all, and has never been disputed.
    Also, 4 needs the proviso that "beitzei kinim" are a living species (because they are sustained by G-d) and not related at all to lice or their reproductive system (because the Gemara says it is a different species).
    Now, will you agree with me on point 8:
    8. There is no explicit mention in Shas, Rishonim or poskim of parasitism as the reason that it is permitted to kill lice on Shabbat.

    If you can't answer point 8 (either 'yes' or 'no') then there is no point in my being here any further. But if 'no' (i.e. there is explicit reference) I expect you to provide the source.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. B”H
      Dear R. Sedley
      Thank you for your answer.
      First, let me state that your answer corresponds to what I wrote you a few days ago, above January 24, 2013 at 11:18 AM, and should be there for clarity considerations. Nevertheless I am answering you here.

      RS wrote:
      I agree with 1-6.

      IB:
      As you remember this comment thread you initiated, has the purpose of identifying who is coffer bedibre Chazal.
      Since I also agree with 1-6, you have to retract from your accusation against me.
      If you still think that the author of this blogspost, is coffer bedibre Chazal, you have to present about which dibre Chazal you are speaking.

      RS wrote:
      Also, 4 needs the proviso that "beitzei kinim" are a living species (because they are sustained by G-d) and not related at all to lice or their reproductive system (because the Gemara says it is a different species).

      IB:
      You have to clarify your position on this, because, as per your own words, whoever contradicts those who explain it [i.e. Chazal]… is called a coffer. So I think, as per your own words, that whoever denies the existence of a living species called “beitzei kinim” is also a coffer, so please clarify your position on this.

      Delete
  34. Dr. Betech,

    You seem to claim that the rishonim did not believe in spontaneous generation, even though that is what they clearly describe in multiple cases. Here is a more explicit example.

    In Sefer ha-Mitsvot, lo ta'aseh 177, the Rambam explains what Hazal mean when they say that a species is not parah ve-ravah:

    והמצוה הקע"ז היא שהזהירנו מאכול השרצים המתהוים מן העפושים אע"פ שאינו מין ידוע ולא יתהוה מזכר ונקבה. והוא אמרו ולא תטמאו את נפשותיכם בכל השרץ הרומש על הארץ. ולשון ספרא השרץ הרומש על הארץ אע"פ שאינו פרה ורבה. וזה הוא ההפרש בין אמרו השרץ השורץ על הארץ ובין השרץ הרומש על הארץ. כי השרץ השורץ הוא השרץ שיש בו הכח המוליד לדומה כי הוא ישריץ על הארץ והשרץ הרומש הוא השרץ המתהוה מן העפושים שלא יוליד הדומה לו. ומי שאכל ממנו גם כן כלום לוקה:

    It means that they "do not come about from male and female" and that they "do not give birth." In other words, they spontaneous generate.

    Everyone during the Rambam's time believed in spontaneous generation. Are we supposed to read this Rambam and think he meant something else?

    Kol tuv,

    Rafi

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. B”H
      Dear Rafi

      RM wrote:
      It means that they "do not come about from male and female" and that they "do not give birth." In other words, they spontaneous generate.

      IB:
      We may say that when the Ramba”m wrote “which do not come into existence from males and females” his intention is which do not come into existence from males and females exclusively”, i.e. they are completely dependant on an external media.

      RM wrote:
      Everyone during the Rambam's time believed in spontaneous generation. Are we supposed to read this Rambam and think he meant something else?

      IB:
      We have found several cases where Chazal “scientific” statements were independent from which was the common belief in their era.

      Delete
    2. We may say that when the Ramba”m wrote “which do not come into existence from males and females” his intention is which do not come into existence from males and females exclusively”

      We may also say that this is not a pipe.

      If that's what the Rambam meant, he forgot the key word "exclusively." He also said that these species do not have the power of reproduction.

      We have found several cases where Chazal “scientific” statements were independent from which was the common belief in their era.

      And in other cases, they shared the common belief.

      In this case, the Rambam expresses the common belief of his era in as explicit terms as possible. I have no reason to think he wanted me to stick in some words that invert his meaning, when no one during his time would have read him that way. I'm embarrassed to even rebut the idea.

      Delete
    3. B”H
      Dear Rafi:
      Before analyzing the contents of your last comment, please let me ask you a more fundamental question:
      The fact that you are only discussing with me the compatibility of my approach to Shabbat 107b with the Rishonim is to be understood as an acceptance of my explanation to the Gemara but not to the Rishonim?
      Or you also disagree with my reading of the Gemara?

      Delete
    4. The Rambam I quoted from Sefer ha-Mitsvot is not related to Shabbat 107b, except for the fact that he describes spontaneous generation in more explicit terms.

      Even more fundamentally, I disagree with your apparent premise that belief in spontaneous generation by Hazal, centuries before Louis Pasteur, would represent some kind of pegam in the wisdom of Hazal.

      But before we get distracted by דברים שברומו של עולם, let me reiterate: you have suggested a meaning in the Rambam that is totally at odds with the words of the Rambam.

      Delete
    5. B”H
      Dear Rafi:
      Please explain what are the דברים שברומו של עולם

      Delete
    6. I meant the philosophy behind our disagreement

      Delete
    7. By the way, I just noticed that this blog's tagline questions whether Rabbi Slifkin "is accurate in his interpretation of the Rambam." How ironic. Dr. Betech just distorted the Rambam beyond all reason.

      Delete
    8. B"H
      Dear Rafi Miller
      Sorry for not answering before, lately I have been very busy.

      RF wrote:
      [IB]We have found several cases where Chazal “scientific” statements were independent from which was the common belief in their era.

      [RM]And in other cases, they shared the common belief.

      IB:
      In the cases when Chaza"l shared the common belief in their era, those cases were cases where the common belief was right and Chaza"l were right?
      Or were cases where the common belief was wrong and Chaza"l were also wrong in the same point?

      Delete
    9. Hello again Dr. Betech,

      Let me start by reiterating for the fourth time that your distortion of the Sefer ha-Mitsvot is indefensible. I'm happy to continue reiterating that.

      Are you familiar with this website?

      To focus on the Rambam, OF COURSE the Rambam used the science of his time, even when it was wrong. Have you ever opened a Moreh Nevukhim? Or a Sefer ha-Madda?

      Just one specific example. Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah chapters 3–4 are straight out of ancient science. And here's one specific example from there, 3:10:

      ברא האל למטה מגלגל הירח גולם אחד שאינו כגולם הגלגלים. וברא ארבע צורות לגולם זה ואינן כצורת הגלגלים ונקבע כל צורה וצורה במקצת גולם זה. צורה ראשונה צורת האש נתחברה במקצת גולם זה ונהיה משניהן גוף האש. וצורה שניה צורת הרוח נתחברה במקצתו ונהיה משניהן גוף הרוח. וצורה שלישית צורת המים נתחברה במקצתו ונהיה משניהם גוף המים. וצורה רביעית צורת הארץ נתחברה במקצתו ונהיה משניהם גוף הארץ. נמצא למטה מן הרקיע ארבעה גופין מוחלקין זה למעלה מזה וכל אחד ואחד מקיף את שלמטה ממנו מכל רוחותיו כמו גלגל. גוף הראשון הסמוך לגלגל הירח הוא גוף האש. למטה ממנו גוף הרוח. למטה ממנו גוף המים. למטה ממנו גוף הארץ. ואין ביניהם מקום פנוי בלא גוף כלל:


      English from Chabad.org:


      Below the sphere of the moon, God created a [type of] matter which differs from the matter of the spheres. He created four forms for this matter, which differ from the forms of matter of the spheres.

      Each of these forms was fixed in a portion of this matter [as it exists in its totality]. The first of these forms is the form of fire. [When] it became connected to a portion of this matter, from the two there came into being a body of fire.

      The second of these forms is the form of wind. [When] it became connected to a portion of this matter, from the two there came into being a body of wind.

      The third of these forms is the form of water. [When] it became connected to a portion of this matter, from the two there came into being a body of water.

      The fourth of these forms is the form of earth. [When] it became connected to a portion of this matter, from the two there came into being a body of earth.

      Thus, below the sky there are four different states of matter, one above the other, each one encompassing the one below it from all directions, like a sphere. The first of these bodies, which is closest to the sphere of the moon, is that of fire. Below it is the body of wind, below it the body of water, and below it the body of Earth. There is no empty space without any matter between them at all.


      I.e., sublunary matter is composed of four elements, unlike the heavenly spheres, which use an entirely different form of matter. That comes directly from ancient science. And we now know that both the Earth and the heavens are composed of the same atomic matter, and that the heavenly bodies aren't embedded in special spheres, but obey the universal law of gravitation.

      And again, I don't fault the Rambam for using that science. I'm inspired, actually, that the Rambam considers contemporary science to be worthwhile, even the "path to loving Him and fearing Him" (ibid. 2:2), and gave it a place in the Laws of the Fundamentals of Torah.

      Delete
    10. B"H
      Dear Rafi Miller
      Thank you for your answer.
      As you can see, my last question was regarding Chaza"l, not about Rambam.

      Delete
    11. Well, I only commented here to talk about the Rambam.

      For the FIFTH time, Dr. Betech, no one living before Louis Pasteur would have understood the Rambam's lo ta'aseh 177 as talking about anything but spontaneous generation. I'm embarrassed that you suggest he meant otherwise. Do you still maintain that suggestion?

      For the record, I linked to this website in my last comment.

      Delete
    12. B"H
      Dear Rafi Miller

      RM wrote:
      Well, I only commented here to talk about the Rambam.

      IB:
      That may be your intention, nevertheless when I wrote the following:

      We have found several cases where Chazal “scientific” statements were independent from which was the common belief in their era.

      You answered:
      And in other cases, they shared the common belief.

      Then, related to your paragraph I asked:
      In the cases when Chaza"l shared the common belief in their era, those cases were cases where the common belief was right and Chaza"l were right?
      Or were cases where the common belief was wrong and Chaza"l were also wrong in the same point?

      On the latter I am expecting your answer.


      Delete
    13. OK, again, Chazal often made mistakes about the natural world. This is not a flaw in their wisdom. We are merely fortunate to live a few centuries after the Scientific Revolution, while they lived many centuries before it.

      For the SIXTH time, do you still maintain that the Rambam's lo ta'aseh 177 could reasonably be describing something other than spontaneous generation?

      Here it is again:

      והמצוה הקע"ז היא שהזהירנו מאכול השרצים המתהוים מן העפושים אע"פ שאינו מין ידוע ולא יתהוה מזכר ונקבה. והוא אמרו ולא תטמאו את נפשותיכם בכל השרץ הרומש על הארץ. ולשון ספרא השרץ הרומש על הארץ אע"פ שאינו פרה ורבה. וזה הוא ההפרש בין אמרו השרץ השורץ על הארץ ובין השרץ הרומש על הארץ. כי השרץ השורץ הוא השרץ שיש בו הכח המוליד לדומה כי הוא ישריץ על הארץ והשרץ הרומש הוא השרץ המתהוה מן העפושים שלא יוליד הדומה לו. ומי שאכל ממנו גם כן כלום לוקה:

      Here is Chabad.org's translation:

      The 177th prohibition is that we are forbidden from eating an insect which is created from decayed matter, even though it is not a particular species and is not created from a male-female relationship.

      The source of this commandment is G‑d's statement, "Do not defile your souls [by eating] any small creature that lives on land."

      In the words of the Sifri, "The verse, 'any small creature that lives on land' [comes to include an insect] even if it does not multiply."

      This is the difference between the phrase, "a small creature that is shoretz on land," and "a small creature that is romeis [on land]." "A small creature that is shoretz" refers to something that has the ability to produce offspring like itself and reproduces on land. "A small creature that is romeis" refers to something which is created from decayed matter and does not produce a creature like itself.

      The punishment for eating any of these is also lashes.


      Well? This question for you is the only reason I am here. I can't tolerate your distortion of the Rambam.

      Delete
    14. B"H

      RM wrote:
      OK, again, Chazal often made mistakes about the natural world...

      IB:
      Thank you for your link, but I could not find on it the answer to my question to you, which I copy again for your convenience:

      In the cases when Chaza"l shared the common belief in their era, those cases were cases where the common belief was right and Chaza"l were right?
      Or were cases where the common belief was wrong and Chaza"l were also wrong in the same point?

      Delete
    15. OK...my answer is all of the above. If U is the set of all claims about nature, and X is the subset expressed by Chazal, and Y is the subset expressed by the cultures that surrounded Chazal, and Z is the subset justified by modern science, then each of the eight sets XYZ, (UX)∩YZ, X∩(UY)∩Z, XY∩(UZ), (UX)∩(UY)∩Z, (UX)∩Y∩(UZ), X∩(UX)∩(UZ), and (UX)∩(UY)∩(UZ) is non-empty.

      What does that have to do with your distortion of the Rambam?

      I'll ask you for the seventh time in two weeks. Do you maintain that your distortion of the Rambam's lo ta'aseh 177 is reasonable? Would you please at least acknowledge my question?

      Delete
    16. B"H
      Dear Rafi Miller

      RM wrote:
      Would you please at least acknowledge my question?

      IB:
      I accept that the Rambam position as per your request requires further elaboration.

      RM wrote:
      What does that have to do with your distortion of the Rambam?

      IB:
      Regarding Rambam’s position, even you in your first comment in this comment thread, understood the importance of analyzing the issue in relation to ancient common beliefs.

      RM wrote:
      OK...my answer is all of the above…

      IB:
      Thank you for your answer, which includes also:

      Cases when Chaza"l shared the common belief in their era, included cases where the common belief was wrong and Chaza"l were also wrong in the same point.

      Please give me one example of the latter.

      Shabbat Sha-lom.

      Delete
    17. Thank you for finally coming back to the Rambam!

      I accept that the Rambam position as per your request requires further elaboration.

      What does that mean? The Rambam believed in spontaneous generation. It's both obvious and explicit! What is the need to elaborate?

      ...even you in your first comment in this comment thread, understood the importance...

      I connected what I said about Chazal directly to the Rambam. I didn't realize that by "Chazal" you didn't mean to include the Rambam, especially since the context was your claims about the other rishonim.

      Please give me one example of the latter.

      Sorry, I don't want to give you more sources to distort, as long as your outrageous distortion of the Rambam is still on the table.

      Is it not obvious that the Rambam believed in ancient Greek biology, just as he believed in Greek cosmology, chemistry, and physics? Is it not obvious that "does not come from male and female, does not multiply, does not give birth to its own kind" means spontaneous generation?

      The Rambam was one of the greatest minds of Jewish history. But he lived in the 12th century, not the 21st century, and he did the best he could with the best science of his time.

      Happy Purim from Jerusalem

      Delete
    18. B”H
      Dear Rafi
      Thank you for your answer and Happy Shushan Purim.

      RM wrote:
      … What is the need to elaborate?

      IB:
      If it is necessary or not to elaborate on this Rambam, depends on the results of our search of the background common beliefs of their time, as expressed in my other question to you.

      RM wrote:
      … I didn't realize that by "Chazal" you didn't mean to include the Rambam…

      IB:
      I am sorry that you did not realize that.

      RM wrote:

      [IB:] Please give me one example of the latter.

      [RM] Sorry, I don't want to give you more sources to distort, as long as your outrageous distortion of the Rambam is still on the table.

      IB:
      As expressed if this is a distortion or not, will be evaluated B”H after you answer my previous question, which will clarify the proper background.
      I copy again the question:

      Cases when Chaza"l shared the common belief in their era, included cases where the common belief was wrong and Chaza"l were also wrong in the same point.

      Please give me one example of the latter.

      Delete
    19. If it is necessary or not to elaborate on this Rambam, depends on the results of our search of the background common beliefs of their time, as expressed in my other question to you.

      Sorry, I don't agree. The Rambam here is clearly describing spontaneous generation no matter what "background" we may find. And the Rambam's personal background regarding the science of his time is clear.

      I've noticed that you like numbering things, so here is a numbered list of points supporting the fact that the Rambam believed in spontaneous generation:

      1. He used the phrase does not come from male and female.

      2. He used the phrase does not multiply.

      3. He used the phrase does not give birth to its own kind.

      4. He lived in the 12th century, when literally no one questioned whether spontaneous generation was a fact of nature.

      5. The Rambam embraced other areas of ancient science, including astronomy, chemistry, and physics, even when the ancient science was wrong.

      Do you have any reason to think that the Rambam did not believe in spontaneous generation? If you do not, why are you avoiding the obvious conclusion?

      Delete
    20. Dear Rafi Miller

      Please read again what I wrote on February 25, 2013 at 12:42 PM and please answer my question.

      Delete
    21. This is classic! Dr Betech claimed in his post that "The apparent inconsistency between my approach and the Rishonim’s commentaries is addressed in the Hebrew expanded version of my article on lice." And when asked about Rambam, he initially responded. So there is no reason why Rambam's view is not a topic for discussion.

      However, now that Rafi Miller has pointed out that Rambam definitely does not say what Dr Betech claims he says, Dr Betech has gone into lockdown mode. He cannot ever discuss Rambam's view, because then he will have to admit that he was wrong. So he is trying to sidetrack the discussion to another topic which he will string out indefinitely; he will never put himself in a position where has to address Rambam's words!

      Delete
    22. B"H
      Dear Yissacher
      Welcome again.
      Do you remember the questions you have not answered or do you want me to remind you?

      Delete
    23. See what I mean? Any excuse to distract from answering Rafi's question about Rambam!

      Delete
    24. B"H
      Dear Yissacher
      Answer your unanswered questions.
      Dear Rafi Miller.
      Please read again what I wrote on February 25, 2013 at 12:42 PM and please answer my question.

      Delete
    25. Dear Dr. Betech,

      In my comment on February 26, 2013 at 8:49 AM, I explained that your question to me from February 25, 2013 at 12:42 PM is not relevant to understanding the Rambam. If you want me to answer your question, you will have to respond to the content of that comment.

      I am embarrassed that you continue to maintain that the Rambam's lo ta'aseh 177 could possibly be describing something other than spontaneous generation.

      Delete
    26. B”H
      Dear Rafi Miller

      I previously wrote:
      If it is necessary or not to elaborate on this Rambam, depends on the results of our search of the background common beliefs of their time, as expressed in my other question to you.

      I will try B”H to explain further:

      If Chazal were definitely wrong on their science-related statements, then I think it not necessary to further elaborate on Rambam´s statements on these issues.

      If Chazal were correct on their science-related statements, then I think it is necessary to further elaborate on Rambam´s statements on the same issues to see if they were ambiguous or definitely wrong…

      I copy again the following request, based on what was previously defined and agreed:

      “Cases when Chaza"l shared the common belief in their era, included cases where the common belief was wrong and Chaza"l were also wrong in the same point”.

      IB to RM:
      Please give me one example of the latter.

      Delete
    27. If Chazal were correct on their science-related statements, then I think it is necessary to further elaborate on Rambam´s statements on the same issues to see if they were ambiguous or definitely wrong…

      This is where I disagree. Even if Chazal were always correct in their science-related statements (it happens that they were not), it is still the case that the Rambam is not at all ambiguous and is most definitely describing spontaneous generation, for the five reasons I explained at 8:49 AM.

      To be clear, there are two reasons I do not want to bring more sources:

      1. The Rambam's position is clear so no more sources are necessary for understanding him.

      2. If you are willing to distort such an explicit Rambam, I don't want to start giving you more sources to distort.

      Delete
    28. B"H
      Dear Rafi Miller:

      It seems to me that you have decided not to present the previously requested information.
      It's your choice.
      If in any moment you change your mind, please let me know.
      Best regards.

      Delete
    29. And it seems to me that you have decided not to simply read the Rambam and recognize what he is talking about.

      That is your choice, and I find it outrageous.

      Once again, you have offered no reason to doubt that the Rambam accepted spontaneous generation, and I have offered five reasons to think that he did:

      1. The Rambam used the phrase does not come from male and female.

      2. The Rambam used the phrase does not multiply.

      3. The Rambam used the phrase does not give birth to its own kind.

      4. The Rambam lived in the 12th century, when literally no one questioned whether spontaneous generation was a fact of nature.

      5. The Rambam embraced other areas of ancient science, including astronomy, chemistry, and physics, even when the ancient science was wrong.

      Best regards to you too.

      Delete
    30. B"H
      Dear Rafi Miller:
      I already explained why it is important to analyze the background information before further elaborating on the Ramba"m.

      You have decided not to support with an example your claims against Chaza"l statements on science-related issues.
      If you change your mind, let me know please.
      Best regards.

      Delete
    31. I already explained why it is important

      Right, and I explained at least twice why I disagree. The Rambam does not need "further elaboration," and the best possible background you can ask for is Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah, chapters 3 and 4.

      If you change your mind, let me know please.

      You haven't given me any reason to doubt that the Rambam believed in spontaneous generation, and I gave you five points supporting the fact that he did, which you keep ignoring. Analyzing other examples from Chazal won't change that, whatever the analysis may show.

      Thanks for more of your regards. Same to you!

      Delete
    32. B"H
      Dear Rafi Miller
      If Chazal were definitely wrong on their science-related statements, then I think it is not necessary to further elaborate on Rambam´s statements on these issues.

      If Chazal were correct on their science-related statements, then I think it is necessary to further elaborate on Rambam´s statements on the same issues to see if they were ambiguous or definitely wrong…

      Delete
    33. I'm glad we're both so patient...

      It isn't relevant whether or not Chazal were right or wrong in their science-related statements. In either case, the Rambam is unambiguous and definitely describing spontaneous generation. All you have to do is simply read him to see that.

      You had no problem reading the other rishonim in the excerpt from your book, and you read the Rambam in your first reply to me! Suddenly you can't proceed without going back to Chazal!

      Have you seen my five points, most recently reiterated in my last comment at 8:44AM? Do any of them seem less than obvious to you? They all seem obvious to me.

      Delete
    34. B"H
      Dear Rafi
      You have decided not to support with an example your claims against Chaza"l statements on science-related issues.

      Delete
    35. And you have decided to ignore the Rambam. So it goes. Be well!

      Delete
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