Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel Shlit'a

Last month Rabbi Slifkin wrote a post criticizing Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel’s position re Science and Torah as expressed in a haskama he wrote for a talmid. Following the link Rabbi Slifkin so graciously provided, I read Rav Wachtfogel’s haskama and for me it was a great chizuk in emunas chachamim. Unsurprisingly, it served as yet another target for Rabbi Slifkin’s ongoing smear-campaign against our gedolei Torah.

For the record, I do not claim to be aligned with every statement Rav Wachtfogel makes in his haskama but I certainly understand the thrust of his message and agree with it wholeheartedly. As such, I’d like to spend a few minutes responding to some of Rabbi Slifkin’s issues with the haskama.

Rabbi Slifkin writes:
Rav Elya Ber claims that every single utterance of Chazal was stated by Sinaitic transmission and/or by way of sod Hashem liyreyav
Actually, what he claims is that Chazal’s utterances were stated either by Sinaitic tradition or by ruach hakodesh. Ruach Hakodesh is a well known, universally accepted phenomenon in our traditions. Of course, Ruach Hakodesh does not equal infallibility. Even Moshe Rabbeinu was not infallible! (see Rashi, Vayikra 10:20). But the unanimous consensus of our Rishonim and Acharonim is that any statement by Chazal that made it to Talmud Bavli is sacrosanct. This notion has characterized all of the writings of the Geonim, Rishonim and Acharonim and has served as our derech haTorah since the chasimas haShas 1500 years ago! As Rav Yitzchok Isaac Halevi explains in Doros Harishonim, it is clear that Hashem granted Rav Ashi an especial measure of siyata di'shmaya (i.e. ruach hakodesh) when composing the Talmud. 

Rabbi Slifkin continues:
Astonishingly, in making this fantastic claim, he refers to Rambam's introduction to the Mishnah; he does not give a specific reference, presumably because Rambam said no such thing and in fact clearly held strongly otherwise.
Really? I think not. Here’s a snippet from the Pirush Hamishnayos L’Harambam that I am fond of quoting on this blog (my translation).

“And this fourth matter, that is, the exegetical sayings found in the Talmud, should not be considered trivial or of little benefit, for they are of enormous benefit in that they encompass within them the most profound allusions and wondrous ideas. When an appropriately deep examination of these sayings is conducted, the absolute good which cannot be surpassed can be gleaned from them. All of the lofty concepts and profound verities that the greatest of wise men concealed in their teachings, all of the conclusions that the philosophers toiled over throughout the generations, all can be revealed in their [Chazal’s] words…” (Kapach ed. pg. 19)

“And therefore, we must establish the truth of their (Chazal’s) words in our hearts. We must delve deeply into them and not hurry to dismiss a single saying of theirs. Rather, if something is found in their words which seems strange in our eyes, we must orient ourselves in the appropriate [corresponding] disciplines until we understand their meaning in this particular topic, assuming that we are even able to comprehend [their words] in the first place. For even our [latter] sages of blessed memory, despite the fact that they delved exceedingly into their studies, were clear of mind, were appropriately fit for the comprehension of wisdom, attached themselves to great people and entirely detached themselves from material pursuits, [and yet despite all this they] attributed a ‘lacking’ to themselves when comparing themselves to previous generations…so much more so ourselves…how can we not attribute a lacking to ourselves in comparison to them. And since they [the latter sages] knew that all of the words of the sages are well established from every angle, they were very protective of them and enjoined against slandering them and stated ‘whomsoever blandishes the words of the sages is judged in boiling feces’ and there is no worse ‘boiling feces’ than the foolishness that leads one to denigrate [the words of our sages]. And therefore, you will never find one rejecting their words but one who chases after lust, who favors materialism, who never enlightened his mind with any illumination whatsoever.” (Kapach ed. pg. 20-21)

So Rabbi Slifkin, this should clear up your “astonishment” with Rav Wachtfogel’s reference.

Rabbi Slifkin writes:
And Rav Elya Ber further claims that science has never attained the slightest insight into the universe compared to the insights that have been obtained from the Torah (alas giving no examples to support this extraordinary claim).
He doesn't need to. It’s obvious. But here are some examples. The Torah informs us that the universe was created. The Torah informs us that the universe is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Torah informs us that the universe is purposeful. The Torah informs us that there is life after death. The list is endless! Any universal insights garnered by scientists pale in comparison to the monumental significance of the Torah’s teachings about the nature of the universe. Rav Vachtfogel’s message seems clear. As he writes (my loose translation):
Scientists have been searching for information about the nature of the universe for thousands of years and they have still not managed to comprehend the smallest aspect of its phenomena. Whatever they have revealed is insignificant in comparison to the revelations of the Torah.
The revelations of the Torah are absolute. They are categorically true and are inherent to the nature of the universe whereas the revelations of science are transitory at best. Today margarine is healthy, tomorrow it’s not. Today time is constant, tomorrow its not. Today space is linear; tomorrow gravity seems to make it bend. Today the possible velocity of mass through space seems to max out at 300,000 kilometers per second; tomorrow there seem to be quantum events that result in spooky actions at a distance. The point is, science is an enterprise practiced by limited minds. It is mankind’s attempt to discover the truth of the universe. How can that compare to the revelations of the Torah which ARE the truth of the universe?

In any case, I don’t see Rabbi Slifkin’s issue. It’s not like Rav Vachtfogel is the first person to make this argument. Aish HaTorah has been holding countless seminars demonstrating the incredibly accurate descriptions of the universe depicted in the Bible. Why is Rabbi Slifkin picking on the Rosh Yeshiva?


Rabbi Slifkin makes several more comments in his post. Perhaps for another time…  

204 comments:

  1. Rabbi Slifkin writes: "Rav Elya Ber claims that every single utterance of Chazal was stated by Sinaitic transmission and/or by way of sod Hashem liyreyav."
    Actually, what he claims is that Chazal’s utterances were stated either by Sinaitic tradition or by ruach hakodesh.


    Let's at least get the quotations right. R. Wachtfogel says that all of Divrei Chazal were say B'Ruach Kadsham (not Hakodesh) *and* B'Sod Hashem Liyreyav and through them was the Torah of Moshe from Sinai revealed. Not sure that makes a difference, but R. Slifkin's summary is slightly more accurate than yours and certainly is enough to make his point.

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  2. But the unanimous consensus of our Rishonim and Acharonim is that any statement by Chazal that made it to Talmud Bavli is sacrosanct.

    Sancrosanct is ambigious in this context. If sancrosanct means "must be treated with respect", then all can agree, but then you are arguing against a straw man. For example, no one will remove Pesachim 94b out of its binding and, God forbid, step on it or otherwise treat it with disrespect not matter how they interpret the scientific statements contained therein.

    But if you mean by "sancrosanct", "cannot be argued with", or "are always scientifically accurate" then of course this is completely wrong. Even R. Feldman agrees that there there "many eminent authorities", including the Rambam, who maintained that the science of Chazal was based on the science of their times and could be wrong. From R. Feldman's article http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/SLIFKINARTICLE.doc:

    ... there is another opinion which [R.] Slifkin uses explicitly and implicitly in his books. This theory goes as follows. The Sages based their wisdom on the medical knowledge of their times. This would seem perfectly legitimate, for why should they not rely on the experts of their time on issues not directly addressed by the Written or the Oral Law? Therefore, when subsequently medicine indicates that these cures are ineffectual, there would be nothing disrespectful in asserting that the scientific knowledge of antiquity available to the Sages was flawed..

    This approach is mentioned by many eminent authorities in Jewish history. Rav Sherira Gaon mentions it with respect to cures. R. Avraham, son of the Rambam, mentions it with respect to all science and the Rambam with respect to astronomy. Pachad Yizchok says that statements in the Talmud which seem to uphold spontaneous generation are incorrect, even though we do not change any laws based on their words. Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch applies this argument to animals mentioned in the Talmud which do not seem to exist nowadays. Finally, a conversation with R. Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler recorded by Rabbi Aryeh Carmel indicates a somewhat similar approach.


    In fact the list is much wider than that given by R. Feldman and this was not a minority opinion among the Rishonim, but R. Feldman's position is enough to disprove your claim.

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  3. Rabbi Slifkin continues: "Astonishingly, in making this fantastic claim, he refers to Rambam's introduction to the Mishnah; he does not give a specific reference, presumably because Rambam said no such thing and in fact clearly held strongly otherwise."

    Really? I think not. Here’s a snippet from the Pirush Hamishnayos L’Harambam that I am fond of quoting on this blog (my translation).


    How about if we quote the part of the Rambam that is actually relevant to the discussion. First R. Wachtfogel:

    Rather, we must inculcate in ourselves that which was literally obvious at all times to all those who labor in Torah with purity and taste its holiness: all the words of our wise men of blessed memory (Chazal) including all laws and homilies, and all hermeneutics and indeed every word and letter of theirs are [to be considered as] holy of holies given in [letters of] fire at Sinai, and if they sometimes startle the intellect, we must bow our heads to the plain meaning of their words even when they conflict with the senses and that which plainly visible in the physical world. And all the conclusions of the scientists do not establish anything relative to the holy spirits in understanding the physical world.

    Now the Rambam:

    [With regard to the meaning] of the words of [the] sages, peace be upon them, people are divided in three groups.

    The first group [...] understands them [the words of our sages] in their plain meaning and do not explain them at all. For this group, the impossible must be true and factual. They only do this because of their foolishness in intellecual understanding and their distance from knowledge of the sciences. They they are so deficient that are not awakened to their foolishness on their own, nor did they find anyone to wake them. Therefore, they believe that the intention of the sages in all their wise saying is as they themselves understand them, which is to say, in their plain meaning. Even thought the plain meaning of some of their [our sages'] statements are so strange that if you that if you tell them over in their plain sense to the masses of the people, they will be surprised by them, and they will ask themselves how anyone could imagine such things and believe that they are true, and certainly they [these words] could never actually appeal to anyone.

    This pitiful group deserves pity for their foolishness, because they intended to elevate our sages according to their understanding. Instead they degrade them with the ultimate degradation, without realizing it. As God lives, this group destroys the splendor of Torah and darkens its luster. They make the Torah into the opposite of what it was intended for: God spoke of the wisdom of his Torah "when they [the other nations] hear all these statutes, shall say: 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'" But this group explains the judgments of the words of our sages such that those who hear them would say 'surely this small nation is a foolish and degraded people'.

    [...] Would that they simply be quiet since they do not understsand. 'O that ye would altogether hold your peace! And it should be your wisdom.'

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  4. And what does the Rambam advise when Chazal's words seem odd? R. Wachtfogel's haskama says that we should ignore our senses and believe in the plain meaning of the words of Chazal. Here is what the Rambam says:

    [To the third group who have the correct approach], it is clear to them what is impossible and what must be. And they know that they [the sages] peace be upon them did not speak foolish words. It is clear to them that their words have a plain meaning and a hidden meaning. And anything that they [the sages] said which are impossible were said by way of riddle and parable.

    In all this, the Rambam is speaking of divrei agadah. When it comes to statements where they intended to speak of actual science, you already know what the Rambam says, which directly contradicts the words in the Haskama that they came from Sinai or Ruach Kadsham:

    "You must, however, not expect that everything our Sages say respecting astronomical matters should agree with observation, for mathematics were not fully developed in those days; and their statements were not based on the authority of the Prophets, but on the knowledge which they either themselves possessed or derived from contemporary men of science."

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  5. The revelations of the Torah are absolute. They are categorically true and are inherent to the nature of the universe whereas the revelations of science are transitory at best. Today margarine is healthy, tomorrow it’s not.

    From R. Wachtfogel:

    And sometimes the Rishonim and Poskim wrote along the lines of "Nature has changed" and similar explanations, as is well known; for example, the ban by the early authorities on practicing medicine based on the Talmud.

    Do you therefore say "Today the gemara's medical advice is valid, tomorrow it's not."? That the revelations of the Torah are transitory at best?

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  6. David Ohsie,

    Hi David, thank you for writing. I read through your comments and although they are well-considered, much of what you broach here has already been discussed at length on this blog. Unfortunately my time is extremely limited. Nevertheless, I will spend some time responding. But I can’t promise to remain in the fray for any protracted period of time. (If memory serves, I still owe you a response to your comments re Shafan.)

    I will cut and paste your comments and respond in kind.

    Let's at least get the quotations right. R. Wachtfogel says that all of Divrei Chazal were say B'Ruach Kadsham (not Hakodesh) *and* B'Sod Hashem Liyreyav and through them was the Torah of Moshe from Sinai revealed. Not sure that makes a difference, but R. Slifkin's summary is slightly more accurate than yours and certainly is enough to make his point.

    Yes, I saw that and no, it makes no difference. As far as my summary, see the twentieth line of the haskama. REBW synopsizes his position as follows: “Chazal’s statements are not limited to mere human intellect and logic but are rather informed by Sinatic tradition combined with Chazal’s [personal] ruach hakodesh.” (ruach kodsham)

    My point was that REBW was appealing to a well known and well accepted concept in Jewish tradition, namely, ruach hakodesh.

    Sancrosanct is ambigious in this context.

    I think I was pretty clear. But let me try again. By “sacrosanct” I mean that any final conclusion in Talmud Bavli will never be characterized as “wrong” by the Rishonim. QED.

    In fact the list is much wider than that given by R. Feldman and this was not a minority opinion among the Rishonim, but R. Feldman's position is enough to disprove your claim.

    Not a minority opinion among the Rishonim? Enough to disprove my claim? Why my friend, I have no idea what you are talking about. You’ve decided to erect a straw man (you mean by "sancrosanct", "cannot be argued with", or "are always scientifically accurate") and then summarily box it to death. Not once did I ever claim that Chazal’s statements on nature “cannot be argued with” or "are always scientifically accurate". What I said is that Chazal’s final conclusions as documented in Talmud Bavli are sacrosanct. And by that I mean that subsequent Talmudic scholars (e.g. Gaonim, Rishonim, Acharonim) never imputed “error” to these conclusions.

    Continued…

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  7. How about if we quote the part of the Rambam that is actually relevant to the discussion.

    We did that already.

    Rabbi Slifkin quoted Rav Elya Ber that “every single utterance of Chazal was stated by Sinaitic transmission and/or by way of sod Hashem liyreyav”.

    He then commented that “Astonishingly… he refers to Rambam's introduction to the Mishnah; he does not give a specific reference, presumably because Rambam said no such thing and in fact clearly held strongly otherwise.”

    I responded by quoting the Rambam in pirush mishnayos and suggesting that my quote was the one Rav Elya Ber was referring to.

    The Rambam I quoted states that “we must establish the truth of their (Chazal’s) words in our hearts. We must delve deeply into them and not hurry to dismiss a single saying of theirs. Rather, if something is found in their words which seems strange in our eyes, we must orient ourselves in the appropriate [corresponding] disciplines until we understand their meaning in this particular topic,”

    This is most likely the quote Rav Elya Ber was referring to. What’s your problem?

    First R. Wachtfogel:

    I’m sorry David but I did not set out to defend every statement Rav Elya Ber made in his haskama. Rabbi Slifkin said what he said and I responded with my response. I clarified the shakla v’tarya above. If you have any issues with my presentation, by all means…

    Notwithstanding, I choose to respond to some of your remarks.

    Continued…

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  8. In your comments you contrast Rav Elya Ber’s dedication to the absolute veracity of the words of Chazal with Rambam’s statements in the hakdama to Pirush Mishnayos regarding the non-literal nature of some of the sayings of Chazal. Unfortunately your contrast is inappropriate. Yes, anyone who believes that every single word uttered by Chazal is literally true is a fool. But that’s not what Rav Elya Ber was talking about. What he meant to say is that any of the unambiguously factual type statements concluded by Chazal in the Talmud to be true cannot be dismissed as erroneous. And Rambam is 100% aligned with this sentiment as I demonstrated from my quote!

    Your quote is entirely irrelevant to the matter at hand. You quote the Rambam (regarding the first, pitiful group that takes everything Chazal say literally) that

    “they believe that the intention of the sages in all their wise saying is as they themselves understand them, which is to say, in their plain meaning

    and try and impute this position to Rav Elya Ber’s words! How ridiculous! Do you actually believe that Rav Elya Ber is not aware of the difference between ma’amarei Chazal that are meant literally and ma’amarim that are not meant literally?

    You are improperly conflating musagim in the Rambam’s hakdama and then asking kushyos based on your erroneous premises. The quote I provided is most likely what Rav EB was referring to and the quote you provided is entirely irrelevant.

    Continued…

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  9. In all this, the Rambam is speaking of divrei agadah. When it comes to statements where they intended to speak of actual science, you already know what the Rambam says,

    I sure do!

    which directly contradicts the words in the Haskama that they came from Sinai or Ruach Kadsham:

    They do not! Let’s look at your quote. It’s from the Moreh 3:14 I will quote it exactly as you did.

    "You must, however, not expect that everything our Sages say respecting astronomical matters should agree with observation, for mathematics were not fully developed in those days; and their statements were not based on the authority of the Prophets, but on the knowledge which they either themselves possessed or derived from contemporary men of science."

    Methinks it is like a weasel! (I hate giving Dawkins exposure but I couldn’t resist the retort) You highlighted the latter part of the paragraph and entirely ignored the former! Your quote from the Rambam begins “You must, however, not expect that everything our Sages say respecting astronomical matters should agree with observation…”

    Oops… forgot that, huh?

    I don’t feel like repeating. Please see this post and this post for a response to your issue and a proper explanation of the Rambam.

    Continued…

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  10. Do you therefore say "Today the gemara's medical advice is valid, tomorrow it's not."? That the revelations of the Torah are transitory at best?

    Once again, improper conflation. The “gemara’s medical advice” is not synonymous with “the revelations of the Torah”. The gemara is full of good advice. Advice for good health, advice for good marriage, advice for good business, advice for good study habits, advice for good interpersonal relationships, etc. etc. As the Rambam you quoted earlier states, some of the advice/statements of Chazal were based on contemporary attitudes. If it turns out that the science of the day was wrong, Chazal would be the first to modify their statements!

    Hmm… that’s too radical. Here’s an alternative response.

    Chazal’s statements re nature were indeed correct but they were reflective of the physical reality of the time. Subsequently the reality changed. This accounts for several statements in the gemara that seem inconsistent with our current physical observations. This approach is invoked with great frequency by the Rishonim. It is referred to as “nishtanu ha’tivim”, the laws of nature changed.

    Here’s yet another approach. Whenever Chazal utilized contemporary science, they only meant to do so as a means of illustrating their point. If the science turns out to be wrong, we need to search for alternative models that fit the reality as it is currently understood. But the actual halacha remains beyond reproach. (Rav Dessler)

    As you can see, there are a lot of approaches. But you know what the common denominator is? None of them dismiss Chazal’s statements as wrong or erroneous. This is the entire point I was trying to make in my post!

    Thanks for writing David. If you choose to respond to my comments, please forgive me if I don’t write back. I simply have no time!

    Be well,

    SC

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  11. R. Wachtfogel says that all of Divrei Chazal were say B'Ruach Kadsham (not Hakodesh) *and* B'Sod Hashem Liyreyav and through them was the Torah of Moshe from Sinai revealed. Not sure that makes a difference, but R. Slifkin's summary is slightly more accurate than yours and certainly is enough to make his point.

    Yes, I saw that and no, it makes no difference.

    But you claimed that R. Slifkins's summary was incorrect:

    Rav Elya Ber claims that every single utterance of Chazal was stated by Sinaitic transmission and/or by way of sod Hashem liyreyav

    Actually, what he claims is that Chazal’s utterances were stated either by Sinaitic tradition or by ruach hakodesh.

    There are an infinite possible number of summaries, but R. Slifkin's was not "wrong" or even "worse".

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  12. But the unanimous consensus of our Rishonim and Acharonim is that any statement by Chazal that made it to Talmud Bavli is sacrosanct.

    Sacrosanct is ambigious in this context.

    I think I was pretty clear. But let me try again. By “sacrosanct” I mean that any final conclusion in Talmud Bavli will never be characterized as “wrong” by the Rishonim. QED.

    ...You’ve decided to erect a straw man (you mean by "sacrosanct", "cannot be argued with", or "are always scientifically accurate") and then summarily box it to death. Not once did I ever claim that Chazal’s statements on nature “cannot be argued with” or "are always scientifically accurate". What I said is that Chazal’s final conclusions as documented in Talmud Bavli are sacrosanct. And by that I mean that subsequent Talmudic scholars (e.g. Gaonim, Rishonim, Acharonim) never imputed “error” to these conclusions.


    So when you say: "Any statement by Chazal that made it to Talmud Bavli is sacrosanct.", what you mean is that "Some statements of Chazal that I characterize as 'final conclusions' are never called 'wrong' or 'in error' although they *can* be argued with and *may not* be scientifically accurate. Other non-'final conclusions' are *not* sacrosanct and *can* be called 'wrong' or 'in error'".

    Not sure I agree with this, but it doesn't match at all with what the Haskama says:

    Rather, we must inculcate in ourselves that which was literally obvious at all times to all those who labor in Torah with purity and taste its holiness: all the words of our wise men of blessed memory (Chazal) including all laws and homilies, and all hermeneutics and indeed every word and letter of theirs are [to be considered as] holy of holies given in [letters of] fire at Sinai, and if they sometimes startle the intellect, we must bow our heads to the plain meaning of their words even when they conflict with the senses and that which plainly visible in the physical world. And all the conclusions of the scientists do not establish anything relative to the holy spirits in understanding the physical world.

    I'm also not sure where exactly what you say conflicts with R. Slifkin has said.

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  13. Simcha,

    When I was in yeshiva in Monsey, one of my rebbeim, who learned in Ponovezh, once mentioned in shiur that Rav Shach used to give out cigarettes to talmidim as prizes, but once it was learned that cigarettes cause cancer, he stopped. Do you think that one day people might say "chas v'sholom that Rav Shach didn't know that cigarettes cause cancer. It must have been that cigarettes used to be weaker, or it was shnat hatevah: human bodies changed and smoking started to cause cancer when it didn't before."

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  14. Rabbi Slifkin quoted Rav Elya Ber that “every single utterance of Chazal was stated by Sinaitic transmission and/or by way of sod Hashem liyreyav”.

    He then commented that “Astonishingly… he refers to Rambam's introduction to the Mishnah; he does not give a specific reference, presumably because Rambam said no such thing and in fact clearly held strongly otherwise.”

    I responded by quoting the Rambam in pirush mishnayos and suggesting that my quote was the one Rav Elya Ber was referring to.

    The Rambam I quoted states that “we must establish the truth of their (Chazal’s) words in our hearts. We must delve deeply into them and not hurry to dismiss a single saying of theirs. Rather, if something is found in their words which seems strange in our eyes, we must orient ourselves in the appropriate [corresponding] disciplines until we understand their meaning in this particular topic,”

    This is most likely the quote Rav Elya Ber was referring to. What’s your problem?


    Because the quotation doesn't support the claim in a number of ways:

    1) The quotation your bring is about specifically about Drashot. And the Rambam makes quite clear that in fact Drashot should not be explained according their plain meaning, that people should ignorant of science or overly obsequious to Chazal's plain words will make a mockery of the Drashot and Chazal by interpreting them a way that is utterly fantastic. The Haskama says that no attention should be paid to science and the words should be interpreted by their plain meaning despite the fact that they appear fantastic.

    2) The Rambam explicitly says that the Chachamim of each generation did their best using the 13 Midos to learn new halachos according to their understanding, and when they disagreed, there was an argument and they would go according to the majority. And also that there was little argument between Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel, but that "when the studies of their students were reduced, and the ways of deduction became weak in their hands compared to that of Shammai and Hillel their teachers, there arose among argument in the give and take of discussion on many topics because each of them deduced according to the strength of his knowledge and according the principles known to him." It's quite clear that the Rambam holds that the bulk of these Halachos were based on each great man using his intellect to the best of his ability to find the answer, and that there was disagreement and practical methodology (majority rule) for deciding Halacha. And that that argument was a result of a lower level of understading (relatively speaking) so that ambiguity crept in to a greater degree; ambiguity that would have been avoided if they knew more. This is clearly an intellectual process with human limitations playing a role.

    As an aside, this view of Chazal gives them greater respect, than the "everything was really given from Sinai but got to them in different ways," IMO.

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  15. In your comments you contrast Rav Elya Ber’s dedication to the absolute veracity of the words of Chazal with Rambam’s statements in the hakdama to Pirush Mishnayos regarding the non-literal nature of some of the sayings of Chazal.

    An aside: I should have said that the quotation from from the introduction to Chelek.

    Unfortunately your contrast is inappropriate. Yes, anyone who believes that every single word uttered by Chazal is literally true is a fool. But that’s not what Rav Elya Ber was talking about. What he meant to say is that any of the unambiguously factual type statements concluded by Chazal in the Talmud to be true cannot be dismissed as erroneous.

    There is not need for debate here. The haskama speaks for itself:

    all the words of our wise men of blessed memory (Chazal) including all laws and homilies, and all hermeneutics and indeed every word and letter of theirs are [to be considered as] holy of holies given in [letters of] fire at Sinai, and if they sometimes startle the intellect, we must bow our heads to the plain meaning of their words even when they conflict with the senses and that which plainly visible in the physical world. And all the conclusions of the scientists do not establish anything relative to the holy spirits in understanding the physical world.

    The distinction that you claim is not there.

    Also, the distinction that you propose to interpolate is quite weak. If in the course of a Drasha of Chazal you see a scientific statement, how do know whether or not this was a factual statement which just shows up in the Drasha to be taken literally despite the fact that it contradicts what the scientists say, or whether it is just part of the Drasha and is intended to be interpreted allegorically?

    And Rambam is 100% aligned with this sentiment as I demonstrated from my quote!

    Your quote is from a section which is talking about "Drashot" not factual statements. The section begins: "And the fourth [category], are Drashot that are appropriate to the subject matter of each perek where it happens that a Drash is applicable." He then goes on to explain that while these may appear to be simple or fantastic stories, one should take them seriously (although emphatically, not literally).

    Your quote is entirely irrelevant to the matter at hand. You quote the Rambam (regarding the first, pitiful group that takes everything Chazal say literally) that

    “they believe that the intention of the sages in all their wise saying is as they themselves understand them, which is to say, in their plain meaning…

    and try and impute this position to Rav Elya Ber’s words! How ridiculous! Do you actually believe that Rav Elya Ber is not aware of the difference between ma’amarei Chazal that are meant literally and ma’amarim that are not meant literally?


    I'm only judging the Haskama, not the author. Since the Haskama is in part a polemic, it is possible that it was exaggerated for effect. If so, of course, the parts that talk about science may also have been similarly exaggerated.

    You are improperly conflating musagim in the Rambam’s hakdama and then asking kushyos based on your erroneous premises. The quote I provided is most likely what Rav EB was referring to and the quote you provided is entirely irrelevant.

    Since you claim that the Haskama is only speaking of science, and your quote is speaking of speaking of Drashot, your quotation is irrelevant by your own criteria.

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  16. They do not! Let’s look at your quote. It’s from the Moreh 3:14 I will quote it exactly as you did.

    "You must, however, not expect that everything our Sages say respecting astronomical matters should agree with observation, for mathematics were not fully developed in those days; and their statements were not based on the authority of the Prophets, but on the knowledge which they either themselves possessed or derived from contemporary men of science."

    Methinks it is like a weasel! (I hate giving Dawkins exposure but I couldn’t resist the retort) You highlighted the latter part of the paragraph and entirely ignored the former! Your quote from the Rambam begins “You must, however, not expect that everything our Sages say respecting astronomical matters should agree with observation…”

    Oops… forgot that, huh?

    I don’t feel like repeating. Please see this post and this post for a response to your issue and a proper explanation of the Rambam.


    Your explanation is that the Rambam only felt this way about astronomy. There are many problems with this:

    1) If true (and it isn't), this is still in complete contradiction to the Haskama.

    2) The words of the Rambam are that they were wrong about astronomy because the sciences was not well developed. We know that neither was any other science as well developed as today (by far) so his logic would apply to pretty much every scientific statement of Chazal.

    3) Rambam was in that section of the Moreh speaking of astronomy, so he referenced astronomy. When medicine was referenced by other authorities, then they said the same thing. R. Sherira Gaon via "Torah and Science blogspot".

    ודשאלתון למיכתב לכון הני אסואתא דמי שאחזו קורדיקוס מן רב ושמואל עד פסאקא דמתניתין, האיך קיבלוהו ופירושו בלשון הגדים. צריכין אנן למימר לכון דרבנן לאו אסותא אינון ומילין בעלמא דחזונין בזמניהון וכחד חד קצירא אמרונין ולאו דברי מצוה אינון הילכך לא תסמכון על אלין אסותא וליכא דעביד מינהון מידעם אלא בתר דמבדיק וידע בודאי מחמת רופאים בקיאים דההיא מילתא לא מעיקא לה וליכא דליתי נפשיה לידי סבנה. והכין אגמרו יתנא ואמרו לנא אבות וסבי דילנא דלא למעבד מן אילין אסותא אלא מאי דאיתיה כגון קיבלא דקים ליה לההוא דעביד ליה דלית ביה עקתא. וכולהו מילי לא צריכינא לפרושנון וטעמי ליכא לגלואינון אלא מילי דחזיננא דעמיקן עליכון התם. עכ"ל

    We must inform you that our Sages were not physicians. They may mention medical matters which they noticed here and there in their time, but these are not meant to be a mitzvah. Therefore you should not rely on these cures and you should not practice them at all unless each item has been carefully investigated by medical experts who are certain that this procedure will do no harm and will cause no danger [to the patient]. This is what our ancestors have taught us, that none of these cures should be practiced, unless it is a known remedy and the one who uses it knows that it can cause no harm. [translation in "Freedom to Interpret", by Rabbi Aryeh Carmell]

    Repeating what R. Feldman wrote:

    This approach is mentioned by many eminent authorities in Jewish history. Rav Sherira Gaon mentions it with respect to cures. R. Avraham, son of the Rambam, mentions it with respect to all science and the Rambam with respect to astronomy. Pachad Yizchok says that statements in the Talmud which seem to uphold spontaneous generation are incorrect, even though we do not change any laws based on their words. Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch applies this argument to animals mentioned in the Talmud which do not seem to exist nowadays. Finally, a conversation with R. Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler recorded by Rabbi Aryeh Carmel indicates a somewhat similar approach.

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  17. Do you therefore say "Today the gemara's medical advice is valid, tomorrow it's not."? That the revelations of the Torah are transitory at best?

    Once again, improper conflation. The “gemara’s medical advice” is not synonymous with “the revelations of the Torah”. The gemara is full of good advice. Advice for good health, advice for good marriage, advice for good business, advice for good study habits, advice for good interpersonal relationships, etc. etc. As the Rambam you quoted earlier states, some of the advice/statements of Chazal were based on contemporary attitudes. If it turns out that the science of the day was wrong, Chazal would be the first to modify their statements!

    Hmm… that’s too radical. Here’s an alternative response.

    Chazal’s statements re nature were indeed correct but they were reflective of the physical reality of the time. Subsequently the reality changed. This accounts for several statements in the gemara that seem inconsistent with our current physical observations. This approach is invoked with great frequency by the Rishonim. It is referred to as “nishtanu ha’tivim”, the laws of nature changed.

    Here’s yet another approach. Whenever Chazal utilized contemporary science, they only meant to do so as a means of illustrating their point. If the science turns out to be wrong, we need to search for alternative models that fit the reality as it is currently understood. But the actual halacha remains beyond reproach. (Rav Dessler)

    As you can see, there are a lot of approaches. But you know what the common denominator is?


    Yes, they all contradict the approach of the Haskama!

    None of them dismiss Chazal’s statements as wrong or erroneous. This is the entire point I was trying to make in my post!

    If the point of your post is that when Chazal said something about science that turns out not to be factually correct that we realize that we would have said the same thing (or more inaccurate) if we were alive at the time, so that the word "wrong" is not a good way to describe the inaccuracy, then we can agree together, but we are then together in disagreeing with the Haskama.

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  18. When I was in yeshiva in Monsey, one of my rebbeim, who learned in Ponovezh, once mentioned in shiur that Rav Shach used to give out cigarettes to talmidim as prizes, but once it was learned that cigarettes cause cancer, he stopped. Do you think that one day people might say "chas v'sholom that Rav Shach didn't know that cigarettes cause cancer. It must have been that cigarettes used to be weaker, or it was shnat hatevah: human bodies changed and smoking started to cause cancer when it didn't before."

    At first, the Talmidim could be classified as "fools" since, relatively speaking, they had not learned enough. They were thus protected by God. As time passed, they gained in knowledge and lost that protection, so the cigarettes became dangerous.

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  19. Unsurprisingly, it served as yet another target for Rabbi Slifkin’s ongoing smear-campaign against our gedolei Torah.

    Yes, the smear campaign started by R. Slifkin! Writing blog posts disagreeing with the opinion of others is clearly beyond the pale. I mean, just because you are classified as an Apikores and Avaryan is no reason to speak up and defend yourself. And dealing with having your books banned and the worry about losing losing your community and perhaps even your Parnassah is really not so bad. Certainly not compared to the awful condemnation of being mowed down by machine gun burst of a reasoned blog post. That is beyond the pale. Certainly no one here would start a blog whose entire purpose was to attack another writer or host personal attacks. Come on, R. Slifkin, shape up!

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  20. David Ohsie,

    But you claimed that R. Slifkins's summary was incorrect:

    I did not mean to do that. I meant to point out that “sod Hashem lirayav” is synonymous with “ruach hakodesh” as Rav Vachtfogel goes on to clarify a few lines later. Clearly I misspoke. I acknowledge this. Let’s move on please.

    So when you say: "Any statement by Chazal that made it to Talmud Bavli is sacrosanct.", what you mean is that "Some statements of Chazal that I characterize as 'final conclusions' are never called 'wrong' or 'in error' although they *can* be argued with and *may not* be scientifically accurate. Other non-'final conclusions' are *not* sacrosanct and *can* be called 'wrong' or 'in error'"

    I’m not entirely satisfied with your synopsis of my view. I don’t like your blithe declaration “although they *can* be argued with and *may not* be scientifically accurate” as if I am saying that we can dismiss Chazal’s opinions out of hand in light of current knowledge. The reason the Rishonim do not refer to them as wrong is because they believed that Chazal were not wrong, either because of nishtanu hativim, or because they were only utilizing the science of the time as a simile, or because they didn’t mean it literally, or because we don’t understand what they are saying etc. etc. So no, we don’t argue on them per se. What we say is that their conclusions are not relevant to our current circumstances, or some such approach.

    I'm also not sure where exactly what you say conflicts with R. Slifkin has said.

    Rabbi Slifkin maintains that Chazal erred.

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  21. Johnny Marko,

    Dear Johnny,

    Shalom Aleichem and welcome to our humble blog. I hope your stay is fruitful.

    When I was in yeshiva in Monsey, one of my rebbeim, who learned in Ponovezh, once mentioned in shiur that Rav Shach used to give out cigarettes to talmidim as prizes, but once it was learned that cigarettes cause cancer, he stopped. Do you think that one day people might say "chas v'sholom that Rav Shach didn't know that cigarettes cause cancer. It must have been that cigarettes used to be weaker, or it was shnat hatevah: human bodies changed and smoking started to cause cancer when it didn't before."

    The concept of nishtanu hativim is used by the Rishonim to reconcile descriptions of nature in the Talmud with current observations. I am not aware of any Acharonim that use it to reconcile the descriptions of Rishonim or other Acharonim with current observations, are you?

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    1. The concept of nishtanu hativim is used by the Rishonim to reconcile descriptions of nature in the Talmud with current observations. I am not aware of any Acharonim that use it to reconcile the descriptions of Rishonim or other Acharonim with current observations, are you?

      Precisely. Yet the Haskama claims that R. Moshe said that if you question anything that the Rishonim says, you are a fool and and idiot. So apparently the Haskama *does* apply that approach to the Rishonim, and I don't see why it would cut off at the Acharonim.

      Of course that "quote" from R. Moshe is highly questionable, given that R. Moshe himself argues with the Rashba and says that it is possible for Treifos to live out full lives. He even says that the Rashba would agree with him today and is actually Modeh in Olam HaEmes. http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=921&st=&pgnum=305

      So R. Moshe would have to have considered himself to be a fool. This seems highly unlikely.

      Delete
  22. David Ohsie,

    Because the quotation doesn't support the claim in a number of ways:

    1) The quotation your bring is about specifically about Drashot.


    The Rambam divides the Talmud into four categories. The first three are purely halachic. The first is to identify the concepts discussed in the Mishna and to clarify them.
    The second is to determine according to whom we pasken.
    The third is to discuss new halachos which arise from the conclusions of the latter.
    The fourth is the drashot. Drashot in this sense means everything else that appears in Shas.

    And the Rambam makes quite clear that in fact Drashot should not be explained according their plain meaning,

    He does not! I already explained to you above that Rambam was referring only to some of the drashot, the ones that are fantastical and ought not to be taken literally. Your quote comes from his first category of persons. Check out his third category. He writes (online translation):

    “There is a third group… This group consists of men whom the greatness of our sages is clear. They recognize the superiority of their intelligence from their words which point to exceedingly profound truths…The members of this group understand that the sages knew as clearly as we do the difference between the impossibility of the impossible and the existence of that which must exist. They know that the sages did not speak nonsense, and it is clear to them that the words of the sages contain both an obvious and a hidden meaning. Thus, whenever the sages spoke of things that seem impossible, they were employing the style of riddle and parable which is the method of truly great thinkers.”

    Sound familiar? That’s exactly what I told you! One of the approaches of the Rishonim to reconcile scientific facts of the gemara with that of current observation is to explain that Chazal were using similes. All this is very pashut to the standard ben Torah. You are clearly misusing select quotations from the Rambam in a hit and run attempt to defeat my position.

    2) The Rambam explicitly says that the Chachamim of each generation did their best using the 13 Midos to learn new halachos according to their understanding, and when they disagreed, there was an argument and they would go according to the majority.

    Exactly! And this conforms perfectly with what I’ve been telling you. The final conclusions of the Talmud are sacrosanct. Rav Ashi sifted through the thousands of disagreements before him and chose the conclusions he considered correct and binding and recorded them in the Talmud. In this sense, he had ruach hakodesh. He was inspired to record only the conclusions of Chazal that were correct. (The fact is, he also recorded the opposing opinions. But he made it clear in the gemara which opinion should be followed.)

    ReplyDelete
  23. David Ohsie,

    This is clearly an intellectual process with human limitations playing a role.

    Yes, of course. But the Talmud Bavli is universally accepted by our nation as the final arbiter as to which opinion we need to follow. And although the redactors of Talmud Bavli were human themselves, it is accepted amongst all of our Torah sages since the chasimas ha’shas that the chosmei hashas enjoyed an especial level of siyata di’shmaya (ruach hakodesh) to identify and record the proper opinion.

    An aside: I should have said that the quotation from from the introduction to Chelek.

    I was aware of that but I appreciate your acknowledgement re the necessity of supporting one’s assertions with proper sources.

    There is not need for debate here. The haskama speaks for itself:…The distinction that you claim is not there.

    So let me get this straight. Do you believe that Rav Elya Ber Vachtfogel is not aware that some of mamarei Chazal are not meant literally? If so, you and I are on different pages. I doubt further interaction will yield positive results.

    BTY, I concede the possibility that others may have extended the mashmaus of his words beyond their intended meaning. But we’re not talking about them. We’re talking about REBW and the message he meant to convey.

    Also, the distinction that you propose to interpolate is quite weak. If in the course of a Drasha of Chazal you see a scientific statement, how do know whether or not this was a factual statement which just shows up in the Drasha to be taken literally despite the fact that it contradicts what the scientists say, or whether it is just part of the Drasha and is intended to be interpreted allegorically?

    I wish I knew the answer to that question. Ramchal (ma’amar al ha’hagados) states that one must possess the key to unlocking the meaning of Chazal in hagados. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced my copy…

    I'm only judging the Haskama, not the author. Since the Haskama is in part a polemic, it is possible that it was exaggerated for effect. If so, of course, the parts that talk about science may also have been similarly exaggerated.

    I like this comment. But I disagree with its conclusion. Just because the haskama was in part a polemic doesn’t mean that the parts that talk about science have also been exaggerated. You need to study the haskama without bias and determine the precise intention of its author.
    You’ve made some further comments but this is where my ink runs out…

    Be well,

    SC

    ReplyDelete
  24. David Ohsie,

    Dear David,

    I just looked over my responses to you and realized that I missed one important comment from you.

    Your explanation is that the Rambam only felt this way about astronomy. There are many problems with this:

    1) If true (and it isn't), this is still in complete contradiction to the Haskama.


    I disagree. Feel free to present an actual counter-argument to my contention.

    2) The words of the Rambam are that they were wrong about astronomy because the sciences was not well developed. We know that neither was any other science as well developed as today (by far) so his logic would apply to pretty much every scientific statement of Chazal.

    Nice try. Rambam says that mathematics was not fully developed, not “the sciences”. Note: Mathematics is precisely the science needed to make accurate predictions regarding the motions of the heavenly bodies.

    3) Rambam was in that section of the Moreh speaking of astronomy, so he referenced astronomy.

    Sorry but this is wrong. Both in the Yad and in the Moreh Rambam admits that it is odd that the sages did not have a clear tradition re astronomy. Rambam clearly related to Astronomy as a yotzey min haklal, not an example. Please re-read the sources.

    When medicine was referenced by other authorities, then they said the same thing.

    No, they didn’t When it comes to medicine, the Gaonim inform us that (some of) the medical advice in the gemara is not based on tradition. Rather, it is taken from contemporary science. The Gaonim and Rishonim are our massoretic link to a proper understanding of Chazal. If they tell us that regarding medicine the statements of Chazal were based largely on contemporary medicine, so be it. But you have no right to extrapolate to other categories of science, especially since the very same Gaon or Rishon you quote limits his comments to a specific category. (Rav Sherira limits his comments to medicine and Rambam to astronomy).

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  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I just looked over my responses to you and realized that I missed one important comment from you.
    [fixing one big typo and adding previously quoted material]

    Your explanation is that the Rambam only felt this way about astronomy. There are many problems with this:

    1) If true (and it isn't), this is still in complete contradiction to the Haskama.


    I disagree. Feel free to present an actual counter-argument to my contention.

    Again:

    all the words of our wise men of blessed memory (Chazal) including all laws and homilies, and all hermeneutics and indeed every word and letter of theirs are [to be considered as] holy of holies given in [letters of] fire at Sinai, and if they sometimes startle the intellect, we must bow our heads to the plain meaning of their words even when they conflict with the senses and that which plainly visible in the physical world. And all the conclusions of the scientists do not establish anything relative to the holy spirits in understanding the physical world.

    and here:

    The rule with regard to understanding the topics of Talmud and Poskim which deal with facts of nature and with all the detailed discussions, is that the plain meaning of what is written in the Gemara and Rishonim is well-established to us as factually true, and the explanations of the topic can only proceed from the sources themselves without mixing the profane [science] with the holy [Torah]. And after that [explanation], if the result matches what the investigators [scientists] explain, then it is well, but if not, then what the scientists have to say means nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  27. 2) The words of the Rambam are that they were wrong about astronomy because the sciences was not well developed. We know that neither was any other science as well developed as today (by far) so his logic would apply to pretty much every scientific statement of Chazal.

    Nice try. Rambam says that mathematics was not fully developed, not “the sciences”. Note: Mathematics is precisely the science needed to make accurate predictions regarding the motions of the heavenly bodies.

    This makes things worse for you theory since mathematics underlies *all* of the sciences. So this implies that all science of Chazal is suspect.

    In any case, the explanation that X was deficient, whether X=math or X=science does not square with your theory. He should have said that this was an exceptional area where Chazal didn't have a masorah.

    This is beside the point, but I don't think that the Rambam meant mathematics in the way you are thinking of it. Mathematics in ancient times was actually almost entirely correct and the incorrect parts had no practical effect. The problem with ancient astronomy were threefold:

    a) The unfounded assumption that uniform circular motion was the only motion that a heavenly body could participate in.

    b) Assumption that the Earth could not move.

    c) Insufficiently careful observation.

    3) Rambam was in that section of the Moreh speaking of astronomy, so he referenced astronomy.

    Sorry but this is wrong. Both in the Yad and in the Moreh Rambam admits that it is odd that the sages did not have a clear tradition re astronomy. Rambam clearly related to Astronomy as a yotzey min haklal, not an example. Please re-read the sources.

    When medicine was referenced by other authorities, then they said the same thing.

    No, they didn’t When it comes to medicine, the Gaonim inform us that (some of) the medical advice in the gemara is not based on tradition. Rather, it is taken from contemporary science. The Gaonim and Rishonim are our massoretic link to a proper understanding of Chazal. If they tell us that regarding medicine the statements of Chazal were based largely on contemporary medicine, so be it. But you have no right to extrapolate to other categories of science, especially since the very same Gaon or Rishon you quote limits his comments to a specific category. (Rav Sherira limits his comments to medicine and Rambam to astronomy).

    Your theory and comments do not fit the words of R. Sherira Gaon.

    1) He says that none of the medicine can be trusted and it all needs to be reverified.

    2) He says that they Chazal were not doctors and that is why the statements need verification. By his logic, they were also not physicists either so their physics should be wrong too. He did not say, "since we know that medicine was only thing withheld from Chazal, we don't trust the medicine".

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    1. But we can directly test your theory by looking at the statements of other Rishonim and Acharonim. Perhaps the Rambam's son z"l can clarify:

      דע כי אתה חייב לדעת, כל מי שירצה להעמיד דעת ידועה, ולישא פני אומרה, ולקבל דעתו בלי עיון והבנה לעניין אותו דעת אם אמת אתה אם לא, שזה מן הדעות הרעות, והוא נאסר מדרך התורה וגם מדרך השכל.
      ...
      לפי הקדמה זו לא נתחייב מפני גודל מעלת חכמי התלמוד ותכונתם לשלמות תכונתם בפירוש התורה ובדקדוקיה ויושר אמריהם בביאור כלליה ופרטיה, שנטען להם ונעמיד דעתם בכל אמריהם ברפואות ובחכמת הטבע והתכונה, [ולהאמין] אותן כאשר נאמין אותן בפירוש התורה, שתכלית חכמתה בידם, ולהם נמסרה להורותה לבני אדם, כעניין שנאמר "על פי התורה אשר יורוך" וגו'.

      Know that you are required to know that anyone that wants to support a given principle by respecting the person who says it, and to accept his opinion without investigation or understanding whether or not the principle is true is following a harmful opinion. This is prohibited by the way of Torah and also by the way of rationality.
      ...
      According to this introduction, we are not required because of the great elevation of the sages of the Talmud and their great character and the perfected nature of their explanation of the Torah and its details and the correctness of their statements explaining its principles and details, to be bound to them and to support their opinions in everything that they say about medicine, and natural philosophy, and astronomy and to believe them as we believe them in the explanation of the Torah whose ultimate wisdom is in their hands and to them it was given over to teach it to the people, as it says "according to the Torah that they will teach you".


      He does not limit his opinion to any particular science. He applies it to anything outside the Torah.

      Finally, R. Hirsch:

      "In my opinion, the first principle that every student of Chazal’s statements must keep before his eyes is the following: Chazal were the sages of G-d’s law - the receivers, transmitters, and teachers of His toros, His mitzvos, and His interpersonal laws. They did not especially master the natural sciences, geometry, astronomy, or medicine - except insofar as they needed them for knowing, observing, and fulfilling the Torah. We do not find that this knowledge was transmitted to them from Sinai."

      Again, your theory contradicts the sources.


      Delete
  28. This is clearly an intellectual process with human limitations playing a role.

    Yes, of course.

    OK, then we agree about this being off:

    Rabbi Slifkin quoted Rav Elya Ber that “every single utterance of Chazal was stated by Sinaitic transmission and/or by way of sod Hashem liyreyav”.

    He then commented that “Astonishingly… he refers to Rambam's introduction to the Mishnah; he does not give a specific reference, presumably because Rambam said no such thing and in fact clearly held strongly otherwise.”


    The Rambam is quite clear that some things are from Sinai, others from Prophecy and others from their own understanding, with weaker understanding (e.g. "mistakes") causing Machlokes. And in areas of p'sak, you aren't supposed to pay attention to Nevuah.


    Also, the distinction that you propose to interpolate is quite weak. If in the course of a Drasha of Chazal you see a scientific statement, how do know whether or not this was a factual statement which just shows up in the Drasha to be taken literally despite the fact that it contradicts what the scientists say, or whether it is just part of the Drasha and is intended to be interpreted allegorically?

    I wish I knew the answer to that question. Ramchal (ma’amar al ha’hagados) states that one must possess the key to unlocking the meaning of Chazal in hagados. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced my copy…

    The result being that even according to your method, statements Chazal should have little effect on our beliefs in science, since we have no way of knowing which statements were intended to be true. This doesn't sound like the haskama.

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  29. David Ohsie said: "2) The words of the Rambam are that they were wrong about astronomy"

    No the Rambam did not say Chazal were wrong about anything concerning their teachings. He said he will not say they are wrong. He said that where a statement of Chazal or a Medrash appears strange or wrong it is a parable hiding truth. He was saying they were forced into parables in astronomy from the inexact mathematics of the day. He says that there are no spaces between the heavenly spheres but Chazal when they spoke of spaces between them meant the thickness of the spheres. According to you there would have been no need for him to say that. Just say they were wrong.

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    1. David Ohsie said: "2) The words of the Rambam are that they were wrong about astronomy"

      No the Rambam did not say Chazal were wrong about anything concerning their teachings. He said he will not say they are wrong. He said that where a statement of Chazal or a Medrash appears strange or wrong it is a parable hiding truth. He was saying they were forced into parables in astronomy from the inexact mathematics of the day. He says that there are no spaces between the heavenly spheres but Chazal when they spoke of spaces between them meant the thickness of the spheres. According to you there would have been no need for him to say that. Just say they were wrong.


      You are misreading this source. Even the R. Coffer doesn't explain it the way you are explaining it.

      What he says is, that while not everything Chazal said about science is true, since they based their knowledge on what was known at the time they wrote, he will also credit them as correct when they are. In this case, the seeming fantastic distances are not so fantastic. That is why he goes into some detail to match up what Chazal says with what he believed to be true. He nowhere says to interpret their plain statements on science to be metaphorical.

      Also, the Rambam does in fact argue with the Midrash (as do other Rishonim) on non-halachic matters. Here is an example:

      In Breishis 18:3, we have the following:

      וַיֹּאמַר: אֲדֹנָי, אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ--אַל-נָא תַעֲבֹר, מֵעַל עַבְדֶּךָ.

      In Mishneh Torah, he paskens that such the Shem in the pasuk is Kodesh: (Yesodei Hatorah 6:9)

      כל השמות האמורים באברהם קדש אף זה שנאמר אדני אם נא מצאתי חן הרי הוא קדש

      However in the Moreh 1:61, he explains it as Chol:

      "An angel is also addressed as "Adonay"; e.g., "Adonay (My lord), pass not away, I pray thee" (ib. xviii. 3)."

      Although he doesn't change the halachah, he maintains that the Shem there is Chol.

      Another quote from the Moreh (introduction):

      THERE are seven causes of inconsistencies and contradictions to be met with in a literary work.
      ...
      Sixth cause: The contradiction is not apparent, and only becomes evident through a series of premises. The larger the number of premises necessary to prove the contradiction between the two conclusions, the greater is the chance that it will escape detection, and that the author will not perceive his own inconsistency. Only when from each conclusion, by means of suitable premises, an inference is made, and from the enunciation thus inferred, by means of proper arguments, other conclusions are formed, and after that process has been repeated many times, then it becomes clear that the original conclusions are contradictories or contraries. Even able writers are liable to overlook such inconsistencies. If, however, the contradiction between the original statements can at once be discovered, and the author, while writing the second, does not think of the first, he evinces a greater deficiency, and his words deserve no notice whatever.
      ...
      Contradictions occurring in the writings of most authors and commentators, such as are not included in the above-mentioned works, are due to the sixth cause. Many examples of this class of contradictions are found in the Midrash and the Agada: hence the saying, "We must not raise questions concerning the contradictions met with in the Agada." You may also notice in them contradictions due to the seventh cause.

      Delete
    2. David Ohsie said: ""2) The words of the Rambam are that they were wrong about astronomy"

      No the Rambam did not say Chazal were wrong about anything concerning their teachings. He said he will not say they are wrong. He said that where a statement of Chazal or a Medrash appears strange or wrong it is a parable hiding truth. He was saying they were forced into parables in astronomy from the inexact mathematics of the day.

      He says that there are no spaces between the heavenly spheres but Chazal when they spoke of spaces between them meant the thickness of the spheres. According to you there would have been no need for him to say that. Just say they were wrong.

      You are misreading this source. Even the R. Coffer doesn't explain it the way you are explaining it.

      What he says is, that while not everything Chazal said about science is true, since they based their knowledge on what was known at the time they wrote, he will also

      credit them as correct when they are. In this case, the seeming fantastic distances are not so fantastic. That is why he goes into some detail to match up what Chazal

      says with what he believed to be true. He nowhere says to interpret their plain statements on science to be metaphorical."

      Guide Book 3 Chapter 14
      "When you find that they say that between every two spheres there is such and such a distance, this refers to the thickness of the body found between the spheres and does not mean that there is a vacuum there. Do not ask of me to show that everything they have said concerning astronomical matters conforms to the way things really are. For at that time mathematics were imperfect. They did not speak about this as transmitters of dicta of the prophets, but rather because in those times they were men of knowledge in these fields or because they had heard these dicta from the men of knowledge who lived in those times. Because of this I will not say with regard
      to dicta of theirs, which, as we find, correspond to the truth, that they are incorrect or have been said fortuitously. For whenever it is possible to interpret the words of an individual in such a manner that they conform to a being whose existence has been demonstrated, this is the conduct that is most fitting and most suitable for an equitable man of excellent nature."

      First he interprets metaphorically and then he says that Chazal were forced to speak imperfectly about astronomy because of the imperfection of mathematics in their day. He will therefore be generous in interpretation and not say they were wrong. This is what he feels should be attempted with everyone but with Chazal he says it can and should be done not just attempted.

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    3. You wrote:"Also, the Rambam does in fact argue with the Midrash (as do other Rishonim) on non-halachic matters."


      We see he indeed says we interpret the Midrashim as metaphorical when they appear to contradict reality:

      Guide Introduction to Book 1
      "We had promised in the Commentary on the Mishnah that we would explain strange subjects in the "Book of Prophecy" and in the "Book of Correspondence"-the latter being a book in which we promised to explain all the difficult passages in the Midrashim where the external sense manifestly contradicts the truth and departs from the intelligible. They are all parables.However, when many years ago, we began these books and composed a part of them, our beginning to explain matters in this way did not commend itself to us. For we saw that if we should adhere to parables and to concealment of what ought to be concealed, we would not be deviating from the primary purpose. We would, as it were, have replaced one individual by another of the same species. If on the other hand, we explained what ought to be explained, it would be unsuitable for the vulgar among the people. Now it was to the vulgar that we wanted to explain trhe import of the Midrashim and the external meanings of prophecy."

      You wrote:"Also, the Rambam does in fact argue with the Midrash (as do other Rishonim) on non-halachic matters. Here is an example:

      In Breishis 18:3, we have the following:

      וַיֹּאמַר: אֲדֹנָי, אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ--אַל-נָא תַעֲבֹר, מֵעַל עַבְדֶּךָ.

      In Mishneh Torah, he paskens that such the Shem in the pasuk is Kodesh: (Yesodei Hatorah 6:9)

      כל השמות האמורים באברהם קדש אף זה שנאמר אדני אם נא מצאתי חן הרי הוא קדש

      However in the Moreh 1:61, he explains it as Chol:

      "An angel is also addressed as "Adonay"; e.g., "Adonay (My lord), pass not away, I pray thee" (ib. xviii. 3)."

      Although he doesn't change the halachah, he maintains that the Shem there is Chol."

      Elohim he also says is used as chol. You have proven nothing. It is chol when not used for Hashem but otherwise it certainly is a name of His and so we say Elokim same with your example.

      Delete
    4. You wrote:"Another quote from the Moreh (introduction):

      THERE are seven causes of inconsistencies and contradictions to be met with in a literary work.
      ...
      Sixth cause: The contradiction is not apparent, and only becomes evident through a series of premises. The larger the number of premises necessary to prove the contradiction between the two conclusions, the greater is the chance that it will escape detection, and that the author will not perceive his own inconsistency. Only when from each conclusion, by means of suitable premises, an inference is made, and from the enunciation thus inferred, by means of proper arguments, other conclusions
      are formed, and after that process has been repeated many times, then it becomes clear that the original conclusions are contradictories or contraries. Even able writers are liable to overlook such inconsistencies. If, however, the contradiction between the original statements can at once be discovered, and the author, while writing the second, does not think of the first, he evinces a greater deficiency, and his words deserve no notice whatever.
      ...
      Contradictions occurring in the writings of most authors and commentators, such as are not included in the above-mentioned works, are due to the sixth cause. Many examples of this class of contradictions are found in the Midrash and the Agada: hence the saying, "We must not raise questions concerning the contradictions met with in the Agada." You may also notice in them contradictions due to the seventh cause."

      I fail to see what you are writing that the Rambam disagrees with the Midrash. He says that they conceal contradictions. Who wrote the Midrashim? Chazal, the Sages.

      What does the Rambam write to be more exact? Not "Many examples of this class of contradictions are found in the Midrash and the Agada: hence the saying, "We must not raise questions concerning the contradictions met with in the Agada." You may also notice in them contradictions due to the seventh cause." but rather after explaining what he calls the sixth cause and then the seventh and then talking further he writes:"Likewise with the Midrashim and the Hagggadah there is to be found great contradiction due to this [sixth cause] cause. That is why the Sages have said: No questions should be asked about difficulties in the Haggadah." The seventh cause he gives which as you pointed out he says you also find in the Midrash and Aggadeta he says is:"In speaking about very obscure matters it is necessary to conceal some parts and to disclose others. Sometimes in the case of certain dicta this necessity requires that the discussion proceed on the basis of a certain premise, whereas in another place necessity requires that the discussion proceed on the basis of another premise contradicting the first one. In such cases the vulgar must in no way be aware of the contradiction; the author accordingly uses some device to conceal it by all means." In other words it uses allegory to conceal what it really is saying so
      that it is not to be understood literally. He says Chazal did say there are contradictions in the Midrash and Aggada because of his sixth cause. Who are the authors of Midrash and Aggada? Chazal. He says they concealed also because of the seventh cause Midrash and Aggada. He explicitly says they conceal in them expressing what externally is false behind what they are really trying to express.

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    5. Elohim he also says is used as chol. You have proven nothing. It is chol when not used for Hashem but otherwise it certainly is a name of His and so we say Elokim same with your example.

      YA, you missed the point. Everyone agrees that both names could be Chol or Kodesh. In the particular instance of Breishis 18:3, the halacha is that it is Kodesh (thus the name must written with proper intent and not erased) based on the interpretation that Avraham is speaking with God at that point. The Rambam holds he was speaking with the angels (the plain p'shat of the Pasuk).

      Delete
    6. He says Chazal did say there are contradictions in the Midrash and Aggada because of his sixth cause. Who are the authors of Midrash and Aggada? Chazal. He says they concealed also because of the seventh cause Midrash and Aggada. He explicitly says they conceal in them expressing what externally is false behind what they are really trying to express.

      Exactly, so some contradictions in the Midrash are intentional (seventh cause), and some are due to the limitations of the human brain not realizing the hidden contradiction because it comes only after a long chain of reasoning (sixth cause). In that case, one of the two statements really do contradict and one must be wrong.

      Delete
    7. Again, you read it wrong. There is not use of metaphor described here. He says that when Chazal get it right, the will not say that they were really wrong and accidentally said something right:

      Because of this I will not say with regard
      to dicta of theirs, which, as we find, correspond to the truth, that they are incorrect or have been said fortuitously.


      However:

      Do not ask of me to show that everything they have said concerning astronomical matters conforms to the way things really are.

      BTW, which translation is this?

      Delete
    8. David Ohsie said"

      ""He says Chazal did say there are contradictions in the Midrash and Aggada because of his sixth cause. Who are the authors of Midrash and Aggada? Chazal. He says they concealed also because of the seventh cause Midrash and Aggada. He explicitly says they conceal in them expressing what externally is false behind what they are really trying to express."

      Exactly, so some contradictions in the Midrash are intentional (seventh cause), and some are due to the limitations of the human brain not realizing the hidden contradiction because it comes only after a long chain of reasoning (sixth cause). In that case, one of the two statements really do contradict and one must be wrong."

      He didn't say that the sixth one has to be unintentional. He said it can be. In the case of Chazal it was not, since we see he said that they say because of contradiction number 6 "No questions should be asked about difficulties in the Haggadah."
      He's saying Chazal who made the Aggadeta said "No questions should be asked about difficulties in the Haggadah." because of contradiction number 6. So he is saying they were aware of the contradictions and did so purposely. He says as I pointed out that the Midrash is not expressing strange ideas but externally strange ones. I'll comment more later. I'll have time. I will say now though, that you read too much modern scientific thinking into the Rambam's vocabulary.

      Delete
    9. He didn't say that the sixth one has to be unintentional.

      If you think that, then reread it. The sixth category are inconsistencies undetected by the author; the seventh are intentional.

      Delete
    10. David Ohsie:"He didn't say that the sixth one has to be unintentional.

      If you think that, then reread it. The sixth category are inconsistencies undetected by the author; the seventh are intentional."

      I'll get back to you on the rest but two points on this. First again Chazal he says are saying don't talk of difficulties in Midrashim why? because of contradiction number six. Chazal made Midrashim. So he is saying they were aware of this contradiction but second a contradiction does not make one as having said something false. It makes one as having said something beyond the words in front of you. The Rambam is saying Aggadeta cannot have difficulties because it is allowed to be contradictory as he said explicitly it consists of parables wherever it presents things that externally do not conform to reality.

      Delete
    11. David Ohsie said:"Again, you read it wrong. There is not use of metaphor described here. He says that when Chazal get it right, the will not say that they were really wrong and accidentally said something right:

      Because of this I will not say with regard
      to dicta of theirs, which, as we find, correspond to the truth, that they are incorrect or have been said fortuitously.

      However:

      Do not ask of me to show that everything they have said concerning astronomical matters conforms to the way things really are."

      I see you are right and wrong. He is saying about things that are correct by way of observation that he will not say they are wrong but more than that he is saying that he will not say they are even accidentally wrong. Altogether though he says Maase Bereishis is natural science and that the Rabbis, Chazal, have taken their cue from the Torah to talk of it in allegory. So according to him it is not that they have made wrong statements. Mathematics were imperfect he says so it limited the amount of literalness in astronomical matters he is saying.

      "David Ohsie said:"Elohim he also says is used as chol. You have proven nothing. It is chol when not used for Hashem but otherwise it certainly is a name of His and so we say Elokim same with your example.

      YA, you missed the point. Everyone agrees that both names could be Chol or Kodesh. In the particular instance of Breishis 18:3, the halacha is that it is Kodesh (thus the name must written with proper intent and not erased) based on the interpretation that Avraham is speaking with God at that point. The Rambam holds he was speaking with the angels (the plain p'shat of the Pasuk)."

      But who says the Rambam is saying the halacha of that name is being Kadosh based on that posuk? He is referencing it. Even if he is basing the Halacha on a view that is different that is irrelevant to the discussion. In particular though even if he would be saying they were wrong about who Avraham addressed this has nothing to do with his viewpoint on their statements on the nature of the universe which is the discussion at hand or even theirs on metaphysics.

      David Ohsie said:"BTW, which translation is this?"

      Shlomo Pines'

      Delete
    12. "But who says the Rambam is saying the halacha of that name is being Kadosh based on that posuk?"

      Sorry, you are still not following. The status of chol or kodesh *in that passuk* changes the meaning of that passuk,

      Delete
    13. Well it turns out the commentators on the Mishnah Torah agree with you. But like you said the Poshut Pshat is that Avraham is talking to the angels. The rule is a posuk does not lose its poshut pshat and there can be many levels of meaning. In the Morah Nevuchim he is trying to make a grammatical point not explicate the meaning of the verse. As a result he is showing that there is a level in which it can be read as referring to an angel. Further it is not contradictory to have him talking to G-d and angel at the same time. It is not like G-d would not understand He too is being addressed. Still the question would be of the primary Pshat of the posuk ie. what it is trying to say at the most basic level. In the Moreh Nevuchim the Rambam is giving it there only the linguistic lesson.

      Delete
    14. The Halachic P'sak that the Shem is Kodesh implies that is the P'shat according to the Gemara, not a D'rash.

      Another example, look up the Rambam's translation of "Nakeh" in the 13 Middos (he translates as destroy). Chazal say, and our practice is that it means "cleanse" (so we cut off the pasuk at that point).

      Delete
    15. David Ohsie said:

      "The Halachic P'sak that the Shem is Kodesh implies that is the P'shat according to the Gemara, not a D'rash."

      I wasn't implying the Rambam viewed it as D'rash or not. I was saying the Rambam was talking in the Moreh Nevuchim of linguistics.

      "Another example, look up the Rambam's translation of "Nakeh" in the 13 Middos (he translates as destroy). Chazal say, and our practice is that it means "cleanse" (so we cut off the pasuk at that point)."

      Not good enough an example. The Gemorah gives etymologies that are not Pshat. That doesn't destroy the Pshat. The Rambam though does not say the translation of the word Nakeh is not cleanse. He says the meaning of cleanse there is cut off giving a similarity to Nikata in Yeshaya. The Rambam writes "And that will by no means clear the guilty. The meaning is: and He will not utterly destroy-an interpretation deriving from the words: And utterly destroyed, she shall sit upon the ground." Yeshaya 3:26

      Further you can't say Chazal said X and the Rambam said Y and then say see the Rambam said they were wrong. You have to ask what the Rambam said Chazal said.

      Delete
    16. "The Halachic P'sak that the Shem is Kodesh implies that is the P'shat according to the Gemara, not a D'rash."

      I wasn't implying the Rambam viewed it as D'rash or not. I was saying the Rambam was talking in the Moreh Nevuchim of linguistics.


      Rambam's P'Shat is different from the one in the Gemara that he paskens by. That is arguing with P'Shat in the Pasuk of the Midrash.

      "Another example, look up the Rambam's translation of "Nakeh" in the 13 Middos (he translates as destroy). Chazal say, and our practice is that it means "cleanse" (so we cut off the pasuk at that point)."

      Not good enough an example. The Gemorah gives etymologies that are not Pshat. That doesn't destroy the Pshat. The Rambam though does not say the translation of the word Nakeh is not cleanse. He says the meaning of cleanse there is cut off giving a similarity to Nikata in Yeshaya. The Rambam writes "And that will by no means clear the guilty. The meaning is: and He will not utterly destroy-an interpretation deriving from the words: And utterly destroyed, she shall sit upon the ground." Yeshaya 3:26


      Yes, this is a valid P'shat, but opposite to the one given by Chazal and that we use in our davening. They are both plain P'Shat, but they conflict (and are in fact have opposite meaning). If you look in a concordance, you'll find both uses in Tanach. Either could be right in this pasuk; Chazal says one and Rambam says the other.

      Further you can't say Chazal said X and the Rambam said Y and then say see the Rambam said they were wrong. You have to ask what the Rambam said Chazal said.

      In the first case we know what the Rambam held that Chazal held based on his P'sak in the Yad. In the second case, the explanation of "Nakeh if you do Tshuvah" has the opposite meaning. If Nakeh is destroy, there is not question to begin with and the explanation (and our practice to cut off the pasuk at Nakeh) is nonsensical.

      Delete
    17. David Ohsie said:

      "Rambam's P'Shat is different from the one in the Gemara that he paskens by. That is arguing with P'Shat in the Pasuk of the Midrash."

      The Gemara does not claim that it's Pshatim are the only ones. It gives plenty of them that are not the literal Pshat and yet it does not exclude them or other Pshatim. Only if a Rabbi writes a commentary on the Tanach meant to explain every verse's meaning can you begin to have an argument.

      Delete
    18. The Gemara does not claim that it's Pshatim are the only ones. It gives plenty of them that are not the literal Pshat and yet it does not exclude them or other Pshatim.

      You are speaking generalities that don't apply to this to this circumstance. The shem is Kodesh or Chol and the words Nakeh is "merciful" or "unmerciful". They are mutually exclusive.

      But it really makes no difference. According to what you are saying, the Gemara/Midrash is not the last word on a subject even when the subject is not allegorical. The only place where we don't provide a different path is P'sak (and even there we see exceptions). In other case, deference is smart since what you know compared to all your predecessors is small, but when appropriate, for example, when new scientific discoveries are made, it is completely appropriate to go in a different direction when needed.

      This is not the Haskama.

      Delete
    19. David Ohsie said in response to my saying:

      "The Gemara does not claim that it's Pshatim are the only ones. It gives plenty of them that are not the literal Pshat and yet it does not exclude them or other Pshatim."

      "You are speaking generalities that don't apply to this to this circumstance. The shem is Kodesh or Chol and the words Nakeh is "merciful" or "unmerciful"."

      You can talk to someone else and Hashem at the same for one thing, assuming that the Rambam was even saying that the Malach was being addressed as opposed to what he was trying to do which was to address linguistics in which case a literal Pshat not even accepted as correct would be good like making a linguistic point by quoting an eye for an eye literally.

      "They are mutually exclusive."

      Exclusivity is not an argument when you are not insisting on one Pshat.

      "But it really makes no difference. According to what you are saying, the Gemara/Midrash is not the last word on a subject even when the subject is not allegorical. The only place where we don't provide a different path is P'sak (and even there we see exceptions)."

      Are there no rabbis in later generations to learn from? The Gemara/Midrash is not the last word in the sense of not adding to them at least. Did they claim to be the last word? No. They claimed to be giving a part of their wisdom especially since they were written at a time in which only somethings because of necessity could be written of the Oral Tradition.

      "In other case, deference is smart since what you know compared to all your predecessors is small, but when appropriate, for example, when new scientific discoveries are made, it is completely appropriate to go in a different direction when needed.

      This is not the Haskama."

      Are you saying that that's the stuff I was saying?

      As far as the Rambam we have his statements from the Moreh Nevuchim. He says in it Chazal were right about science and expressed their statements on the subject in allegories because it is the branch of wisdom called Maase Bereishis and they were imitating the approach of the Torah to use allegory with it. He also says anything apparently strange not matching reality in the statements of Chazal are allegories. If you can give a good counterexample, fine but that would just make his generalities expressed still exist as generalities he adhered to. We certainly have good questions about how his approach works where Chazal had disputes but his approach to the collective Chazal is clear.

      Delete
    20. You can talk to someone else and Hashem at the same for one thing, assuming that the Rambam was even saying that the Malach was being addressed as opposed to what he was trying to do which was to address linguistics in which case a literal Pshat not even accepted as correct would be good like making a linguistic point by quoting an eye for an eye literally.

      He is proving that meaning of word can be Chol. There is no proof if this is not an example of it being Chol. He does not say he is talking to both.

      "They are mutually exclusive."

      Exclusivity is not an argument when you are not insisting on one Pshat.


      You have made the meaning "P'shat" meaningless.

      "But it really makes no difference. According to what you are saying, the Gemara/Midrash is not the last word on a subject even when the subject is not allegorical. The only place where we don't provide a different path is P'sak (and even there we see exceptions)."

      Are there no rabbis in later generations to learn from? The Gemara/Midrash is not the last word in the sense of not adding to them at least. Did they claim to be the last word? No. They claimed to be giving a part of their wisdom especially since they were written at a time in which only somethings because of necessity could be written of the Oral Tradition.


      Fantastic. They are not the last word. So if we find out new information based on sources that they didn't have, we can go with that. They used contemporary evidence, and we have more. We agree in disagreeing with the Haskama.

      Are you saying that that's the stuff I was saying?

      Can't parse this.

      As far as the Rambam we have his statements from the Moreh Nevuchim. He says in it Chazal were right about science and expressed their statements on the subject in allegories because it is the branch of wisdom called Maase Bereishis and they were imitating the approach of the Torah to use allegory with it.

      He says that Maase Bereishis is allegorical and that Chazal were not always accurate in science. He didn't say that when they are not accurate they are allegorical.

      He also says anything apparently strange not matching reality in the statements of Chazal are allegories. If you can give a good counterexample, fine but that would just make his generalities expressed still exist as generalities he adhered to. We certainly have good questions about how his approach works where Chazal had disputes but his approach to the collective Chazal is clear.

      Yes, it is clear. Value Chazal's words, but when dealing with science, they used contemporary source so don't try to defend it all.

      Delete
    21. David Ohsie said:

      "You can talk to someone else and Hashem at the same for one thing, assuming that the Rambam was even saying that the Malach was being addressed as opposed to what he was trying to do which was to address linguistics in which case a literal Pshat not even accepted as correct would be good like making a linguistic point by quoting an eye for an eye literally.

      He is proving that meaning of word can be Chol. There is no proof if this is not an example of it being Chol. He does not say he is talking to both."

      He can make a linguistic point about an eye for an eye on the basis of a literal Pshat without feeling that this is the Pshat at all.

      ""They are mutually exclusive."

      Exclusivity is not an argument when you are not insisting on one Pshat.

      You have made the meaning "P'shat" meaningless."

      Really? How do we have various levels of Pshat? We have Pshat (ie. Poshut Pshat), Remez, Drash, and Sod.

      ""But it really makes no difference. According to what you are saying, the Gemara/Midrash is not the last word on a subject even when the subject is not allegorical. The only place where we don't provide a different path is P'sak (and even there we see exceptions)."

      Are there no rabbis in later generations to learn from? The Gemara/Midrash is not the last word in the sense of not adding to them at least. Did they claim to be the last word? No. They claimed to be giving a part of their wisdom especially since they were written at a time in which only somethings because of necessity could be written of the Oral Tradition.

      Fantastic. They are not the last word. So if we find out new information based on sources that they didn't have, we can go with that. They used contemporary evidence, and we have more. We agree in disagreeing with the Haskama."

      You are implying what no one says. According to you what do the Rabbis have to do? Nothing. What we been having the Geonim and Rishonim and Acharonim for. They are not the Haskama? Lehavdil we have the U.S. Constitution and the records and decisions and legal theorizing of the ones who made it and had to establish it, what do we need the Supreme Court today for?

      "As far as the Rambam we have his statements from the Moreh Nevuchim. He says in it Chazal were right about science and expressed their statements on the subject in allegories because it is the branch of wisdom called Maase Bereishis and they were imitating the approach of the Torah to use allegory with it.

      He says that Maase Bereishis is allegorical and that Chazal were not always accurate in science. He didn't say that when they are not accurate they are allegorical.


      He also says anything apparently strange not matching reality in the statements of Chazal are allegories. If you can give a good counterexample, fine but that would just make his generalities expressed still exist as generalities he adhered to. We certainly have good questions about how his approach works where Chazal had disputes but his approach to the collective Chazal is clear.

      Yes, it is clear. Value Chazal's words, but when dealing with science, they used contemporary source so don't try to defend it all."

      Reread the Moreh Nevuchim's words.

      Delete
  30. R. Coffer, you seem unsure of yourself:

    RC #1: But the unanimous consensus of our Rishonim and Acharonim is that any statement by Chazal that made it to Talmud Bavli is sacrosanct.?

    DO: But if you mean by "sacrosanct", "cannot be argued with", or "are always scientifically accurate" then of course this is completely wrong.

    RC #2: Not once did I ever claim that Chazal’s statements on nature “cannot be argued with” or "are always scientifically accurate".

    DO: So when you say: "Any statement by Chazal that made it to Talmud Bavli is sacrosanct.", what you mean is that "Some statements of Chazal that I characterize as 'final conclusions' are never called 'wrong' or 'in error' although they *can* be argued with and *may not* be scientifically accurate.

    RC #3: I don’t like your blithe declaration “although they *can* be argued with and *may not* be scientifically accurate” as if I am saying that we can dismiss Chazal’s opinions out of hand in light of current knowledge.

    You seem to be flipping back and forth on this. Let's settle it now:

    1) If "sancrosanct" implies that the statements of Chazal are scientifically accurate, then there is no unanimous consensus of Rishonim and Acharonim that their words are "sancrosanct", because many (most?) maintain that they relied on the science of their day, which had mistakes (as does the science of our day).

    2) If "sacrosanct" does not imply that the statements of Chazal are scientifically accurate, then you are not agreeing with the haskama and your are also not really contradicting with R. Slifkin on this point. All of Talmud needs to be treated with respect.

    The reason the Rishonim do not refer to them as wrong is because they believed that Chazal were not wrong, either because of nishtanu hativim, or because they were only utilizing the science of the time as a simile, or because they didn’t mean it literally, or because we don’t understand what they are saying etc.

    Everything is correct here, except for when you conflate " they were only utilizing the science of the time" with "as a simile". The examples given by R. Feldman himself, as well as the ones that I quoted do not talk about simile. They simply say that Chazal used the science of their times and therefore, like all human beings in the history of the world, no matter how great, could make a scientifically false statement due to insufficient knowledge. There is no disrespect here.

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  31. David Ohsie

    Hi David,

    Sorry for the delayed response. My time is extremely limited. In truth, this thread has extended far beyond my initial expectation. I have no desire to debate the minutia of Rav Elya’s haskama. My post was intended as a means of supporting the validity of Rav Elya’s overall message (as I clearly mention in my post), that’s it.

    Note: I see that you and YA are ‘mixing it up’. I am grateful to both of you for taking the time and effort to expand upon this thread. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to review your respective comments. My remarks are directed in response to your final comment, made specifically to me. Also, I’ve added some of your previous comments and responded in kind.

    Previous comments:

    I stated (as you paraphrase) that:

    Rambam only felt this way about astronomy.

    You claimed that:

    There are many problems with this:

    1) If true (and it isn't), this is still in complete contradiction to the Haskama.


    I challenged you with:

    Feel free to present an actual counter-argument to my contention.

    You responded with:

    Again:

    and then quoted two passages from Rav Elya’s haskama regarding the absolute authority of every word of Chazal.

    I already responded to your objection in previous comments. But as I stated above, my goal here is to defend my own personal position, not that of Rav Elya. Your quotations from the Moreh and the Yad re astronomy are irrelevant, as I’ve already explained.

    This makes things worse for you theory since mathematics underlies *all* of the sciences. So this implies that all science of Chazal is suspect.

    This is false. Chazal’s observations of nature do not require advanced levels of mathematics. Other than astronomy, can you provide examples of scientific statements in Chazal that accord with contemporary (i.e. Chazal’s) notions of mathematics but are incompatible with the current state of mathematics? I doubt it… (please don’t broach Pi)

    In any case, the explanation that X was deficient, whether X=math or X=science does not square with your theory. He should have said that this was an exceptional area where Chazal didn't have a masorah.

    That’s precisely what he did! Check out Yad Hil. Kiddush HaChodesh 17:24

    Continued…

    ReplyDelete
  32. Continued from previous comment…

    New comments:

    R. Coffer, you seem unsure of yourself:…

    You seem to be flipping back and forth on this. Let's settle it now:

    1) If "sancrosanct" implies that the statements of Chazal are scientifically accurate, then there is no unanimous consensus of Rishonim and Acharonim that their words are "sancrosanct", because many (most?) maintain that they relied on the science of their day, which had mistakes (as does the science of our day).

    2) If "sacrosanct" does not imply that the statements of Chazal are scientifically accurate, then you are not agreeing with the haskama and your are also not really contradicting with R. Slifkin on this point. All of Talmud needs to be treated with respect.


    And this you consider “settled”?

    I propose a third alternative. By “sacrosanct” I mean exactly as I’ve explained in my previous email. Here’s the passage, cut and pasted.

    “The reason the Rishonim do not refer to them as wrong is because they believed that Chazal were not wrong, either because of nishtanu hativim, or because they were only utilizing the science of the time as a simile, or because they didn’t mean it literally, or because we don’t understand what they are saying etc. etc. So no, we don’t argue on them per se. What we say is that their conclusions are not relevant to our current circumstances, or some such approach.”

    I think I made it clear that my usage of the term “sacrosanct” was not meant to imply anything about the scientific accuracy of Chazal’s statements, per se. In fact, I assert that any such implications are entirely irrelevant to the matter at hand. If a physical description of Chazal accords with reality as we understand it, great! If not, we attribute it to one of a number of mitigating factors:

    (1) nishtanu hativim, 2) they were only utilizing the science of the time as a simile 3) they didn’t mean it literally, 4) we don’t understand what they meant... etc.)

    What we do not do is assert that Chazal were mistaken. This is a methodological principle of our mesora, and – notwithstanding Rabbi Slifkin’s ongoing attempts to undermine it – is widely supported in the works of our Rishonim and Acharonim.

    Gotta run… I hope to check back here next week.

    Good Shabbos to all!

    SC

    ReplyDelete
  33. I already responded to your objection in previous comments. But as I stated above, my goal here is to defend my own personal position, not that of Rav Elya. Your quotations from the Moreh and the Yad re astronomy are irrelevant, as I’ve already explained.

    You attacked R. Slifkin and claimed he was engaged in a "smear campaign" because he disagreed with R. Wachtfogel. But when callenged, then you say also disagree with R. Wachtfogel. You post becomes then just a random attack with no substance.

    Your quotations from the Moreh and the Yad re astronomy are irrelevant, as I’ve already explained.

    You explained that they apply only to Astronomy. But R. Wachtfogel doesn't make an exception for astronomy. You also ignore R' Sherira on medicine, R Avraham ben HaRambam on all science, and R. Hirsch on all science. (And the fact that R. Avraham seriously undermines your contention Rambam referes only to astronomy. But if, arguendo, you are correct, R. Wachtfogel is somewhere else).

    This is false. Chazal’s observations of nature do not require advanced levels of mathematics.

    This makes things worse for you theory since mathematics underlies *all* of the sciences. So this implies that all science of Chazal is suspect.

    This is false. Chazal’s observations of nature do not require advanced levels of mathematics.

    Here is one example: If you believe that they lost their supposed mesorah in mathematics and thus dropped down the level of ancient astronomy, then all of their practical medical knowledge would also be suspect because they would have also lost their supposed mesorah in statistics and could not quantify experimental error. Another example would be that their calculation of the age of the earth would be suspect, because their measurements, as you suppose, of the speed of light and radioactive decay, which they would have had from their supposed mesorah on these, would be off.

    This is all according your assumption that losing their supposed mesorah in modern mathematics is what caused them drop to the level of ancient astronomy. I already explained that this is false because the ancients had sufficient math to get at least to Kepler's level, and the Rambam claims they didn't necessarily get to Ptolemy but I'm answering according to your theory.

    In any case, the explanation that X was deficient, whether X=math or X=science does not square with your theory. He should have said that this was an exceptional area where Chazal didn't have a masorah.

    That’s precisely what he did! Check out Yad Hil. Kiddush HaChodesh 17:24

    No, in fact, he says exactly the opposite. He reasons, that despite the fact that *we* don't have copies of their books on calculating the new moon, that *they* must have had their own books written based on what was originated by B'nei Yissachar (not Sinai!) on how to do it. He doesn't say that they knew all of science (or any science) from Sinai, nor does he say that *they* lost the books written down based on the astronomy of B'nei Yissachar. He says that they must have had the tools to calculate this since it was a Mitzvah to do so, but we don't have a record of their techniques, so instead we take them from the Greeks, since in science all that matters is the evidence, not who said it! He doesn't say that their methods were perfect or infallible, or that they wrote textbooks all of areas of science.

    Again, all this is moot since his son states it as I stated it, and so did R. Hirsch: they relied on the science of their day for all science. R. Sherira Gaon affirms it for medicine as well.

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    1. David Ohsie said: "He reasons, that despite the fact that *we* don't have copies of their books on calculating the new moon, that *they* must have had their own books written based on what was originated by B'nei Yissachar (not Sinai!) on how to do it. He doesn't say that they knew all of science (or any science) from Sinai, nor does he say that *they* lost the books written down based on the astronomy of B'nei Yissachar. He says that they must have had the tools to calculate this since it was a Mitzvah to do so, but we don't have a record of their techniques, so instead we take them from the Greeks, since in science all that matters is the evidence, not who said it! He doesn't say that their methods were perfect or infallible, or that they wrote textbooks all of areas of science."

      If they were not perfect then why are we relying on the Greeks for the calculation when the Rambam says we rely on the Greeks because their calculations for this is perfect? If the calculations of the Bnei Yissachar were not perfect we would not rely on them according to the Rambam. If he considered the calculations of the Bnei Yissachar not complete then he is saying we were to go according to them because they must have had perfect insight on this nonetheless. The Rambam offers two choices here as to who we are to follow, either we are to follow one who a.demonstrates perfect calculation or b.has divine insight on this. The Rambam does not even say that we are relying on the Greeks as a source in an unbroken chain from them. Rather he says we lack the books of the Bnei Yissachar and so as far as books on this we now use that of the Greeks but only because their calculations are perfectly true through demonstration.

      http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/947935/jewish/Chapter-Seventeen.htm:"Halacha 24

      The rationales for all these calculations, and the reasons why this number is added, and why that subtraction is made, and how all these concepts are known, and the proofs for each of these principles are [the subject] of the wisdom of astronomy and geometry, concerning which the Greeks wrote many books.

      These texts are presently in the hands of the sages. The texts written by the Sages of Israel in the age of the prophets from the tribe of Yissachar have not been transmitted to us. Nevertheless, since these concepts can be proven in an unshakable manner, leaving no room for question, the identity of the author, be he a prophet or a gentile, is of no concern. For a matter whose rationale has been revealed and has proven truthful in an unshakable manner, we do not rely on [the personal authority of] the individual who made these statements or taught these concepts, but on the proofs he presented and the reasons he made known."

      Delete
    2. If they were not perfect then why are we relying on the Greeks for the calculation when the Rambam says we rely on the Greeks because their calculations for this is perfect?

      1) The Greek astronomy was not perfect.

      2) The Rambam did not believe Greek astronomy to be perfect. See Guide 2:11 as one example.

      3) The Rambam is justifying how he can write entire perakim on the Halachos of Kiddush HaChodesh without any Jewish source. The answer is that if you can discover and prove something without a Jewish source, it is just as strong.

      Delete
  34. You seem to be flipping back and forth on this. Let's settle it now:

    1) If "sancrosanct" implies that the statements of Chazal are scientifically accurate, then there is no unanimous consensus of Rishonim and Acharonim that their words are "sancrosanct", because many (most?) maintain that they relied on the science of their day, which had mistakes (as does the science of our day).

    2) If "sacrosanct" does not imply that the statements of Chazal are scientifically accurate, then you are not agreeing with the haskama and your are also not really contradicting with R. Slifkin on this point. All of Talmud needs to be treated with respect.


    And this you consider “settled”?

    Yes, A and "not A" covers the universe of possibilities.

    I think I made it clear that my usage of the term “sacrosanct” was not meant to imply anything about the scientific accuracy of Chazal’s statements, per se.

    Yes, so then if since sacrosanct doesn't mean that Chazal's statements are accurate, then this prong of what I wrote is true: "If "sacrosanct" does not imply that the statements of Chazal are scientifically accurate, then you are not agreeing with the haskama and your are also not really contradicting with R. Slifkin on this point. All of Talmud needs to be treated with respect.

    In fact, I assert that any such implications are entirely irrelevant to the matter at hand. If a physical description of Chazal accords with reality as we understand it, great! If not, we attribute it to one of a number of mitigating factors

    Again, complete contradiction to the Haskama. He says in cases of contradiction, he says: we must bow our heads to the plain meaning of their words even when they conflict with the senses and that which plainly visible in the physical world. And all the conclusions of the scientists do not establish anything relative to the holy spirits in understanding the physical world.

    Your approach is:

    (1) nishtanu hativim, 2) they were only utilizing the science of the time as a simile 3) they didn’t mean it literally, 4) we don’t understand what they meant... etc.)

    What we do not do is assert that Chazal were mistaken.


    I cannot argue with that. *You* do not assert that Chazal were "mistaken" and that they only utilized the science of their time "as a simile".

    However, R. Sherira, Rambam, R. Avraham ben HaRambam, R. Pimental, R. Hirsch, R. Carmel (and R. Dessler according to R. Carmel), R. Hershel Shachter and R. Slifkin think that they relied on the science of their time in general, and so could be "mistaken" if when contemporary science was mistaken, much like we are mistaken in some things and will corrected as science develops.

    ReplyDelete
  35. The revelations of the Torah are absolute. They are categorically true and are inherent to the nature of the universe whereas the revelations of science are transitory at best. Today margarine is healthy, tomorrow it’s not. Today time is constant, tomorrow its not. Today space is linear; tomorrow gravity seems to make it bend. Today the possible velocity of mass through space seems to max out at 300,000 kilometers per second; tomorrow there seem to be quantum events that result in spooky actions at a distance.

    Two can play that game: "Today Shabbos starts after Sh'kiah, tomorrow, you are an avaryan if you start Shabbos after Sh'kiah." Or how about this very relevant one from R. Feldman: "Today you may believe that the sages held of mistaken scientific beliefs based on the science of their times, tomorrow you cannot".

    In both Torah and Science, the underlying reality is "absolute" in some sense (not comparing the absolute nature of God with his creations). The state of human knowledge changes.

    If you are really serious about this, then the resolution to Pesachim 94b is simple: the earth is really flat and the science will catch up one day. But you don't really believe that because you know that there lots of conclusions in science that are solid. Which is why you go to the doctor and fly in airplanes.

    The point is, science is an enterprise practiced by limited minds.

    As is Talmud Torah (as you agreed to in a prior comment). The greatest poskim pray not to err, because they can err, and they don't always agree even on the big issues. Think "Get" for non-orthodox marriages.

    It is mankind’s attempt to discover the truth of the universe. How can that compare to the revelations of the Torah which ARE the truth of the universe?

    This is poetic and I won't try to ask a question on poetry. But practically speaking our knowledge is limited, wherever we get it from.

    In any case, I don’t see Rabbi Slifkin’s issue. It’s not like Rav Vachtfogel is the first person to make this argument. Aish HaTorah has been holding countless seminars demonstrating the incredibly accurate descriptions of the universe depicted in the Bible.

    1) The Aish "proofs" are not very good. I think that they stopped doing the absurd "modern" Torah Codes thing once it was fully debunked.

    2) He does give Aish their due when appropriate. For example: http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2011/03/hyrax-redux.html

    Why is Rabbi Slifkin picking on the Rosh Yeshiva?

    Is arguing with someone considered to be picking on them? Have you forgotten the URL of your blog?

    On your reasoning, why is R. Wachtfogel picking on the large number of Orthodox Jews who believe that the fundamentals of astronomy, geology, and biology are not hoaxes? We understand that you believe this, but not everyone does. Are you better than they are?

    ReplyDelete
  36. David Ohsie,

    You attacked R. Slifkin and claimed he was engaged in a "smear campaign" because he disagreed with R. Wachtfogel.

    This is false. I said no such thing. Rabbi Slifkin is engaged in a smear campaign because he’s engaged in a smear campaign. Period. Just read his blog and the comments of his supporters.

    Also, if you’re going to quote me, please be midayek in my words. What I said was that Rav Elya’s haskama was another target for Rabbi Slifkin’s ongoing campaign against our gedolim and anyone reading his post can see that. He writes that Rav Elya is “once again” on a tirade, claims that he out rightly perverted history, bemoans the fact that no one has the courage to “call him out” on his “offensive approach”, and concludes that Rav Elya Ber has “transmitted” a clear message about charedi Gedolim in general.

    But when callenged, then you say also disagree with R. Wachtfogel. You post becomes then just a random attack with no substance.

    Yet another mischaracterization! What I said in my post is that although I don’t necessarily agree with every statement in the haskama, I support the overall message. I then repeated this idea in my comments. The rest of my post is dedicated to defending the message of the haskama. This is what I wrote in my post! Anyone can see that. You need to pay closer attention to the material before firing off irrelevant and misleading responses.

    You explained that they apply only to Astronomy. But R. Wachtfogel doesn't make an exception for astronomy.

    Lovely. So what? I was trying to explain to you that your quote from Moreh 3:14 doesn’t contradict the general message of the haskama, to wit, that ma’amarei Chazal are from Sinai or possess a certain level of Divine inspiration. Rambam explains that even in astronomy they did have a tradition but it was lost. I don’t see your problem.

    You also ignore R' Sherira on medicine,

    No, I didn’t. I made a few comments about the medicine in Chazal in the comment section. But all this is irrelevant. I set out to discuss the Rambam in my post and that’s exactly what I did. I noted at the end of my post that Rabbi Slifkin made some other comments and that I might try and find time to address them in the future. Right now I am addressing the Rambam, not other Rishonim. One thing at a time please…

    And the fact that R. Avraham seriously undermines your contention Rambam referes only to astronomy.

    I’m glad you think so. Here’s the problem. I quoted the actual words of the Rambam. Rambam seems to feel that that astronomy is an exception to the rule, not an example of the rule.

    So, if you’d like to quote Rav Avraham’s words and demonstrate that he felt that his father felt that astronomy was only one example of many other scientific statements of Chazal that were erroneous, go for it! I don’t know if I will have time to respond but I’ll try to make time.

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    1. You attacked R. Slifkin and claimed he was engaged in a "smear campaign" because he disagreed with R. Wachtfogel.

      This is false. I said no such thing.

      Yes, right. You said no such thing. You did say that his disagreement with R. Wacthfogel is part of a "smear-campaign".

      Unsurprisingly, it [R. Wachtfogel's haskamah] served as yet another target for Rabbi Slifkin’s ongoing smear-campaign against our gedolei Torah.

      Whoops. I guess you did.

      Rabbi Slifkin is engaged in a smear campaign because he’s engaged in a smear campaign.

      Ah, now I understand. Argument by tautology. Your post is silly because your post is silly.

      Period.

      Darn, forgot that. Let me try again:

      Your post is silly because your post is silly. Period.

      Just read his blog and the comments of his supporters.

      You are slipping a bit. Before it was so obvious, it needed no evidence. Now you are relying on comments by his "supporters".

      But your suggestion is good. I'll read a blog post of his or two and see what I think. For now, though let's stick to your argument and this post.

      Also, if you’re going to quote me, please be midayek in my words. What I said was that Rav Elya’s haskama was another target for Rabbi Slifkin’s ongoing campaign against our gedolim and anyone reading his post can see that.

      My head is spinning. So now this *is* part of the smear campaign. We seem to be back on track.

      He writes that Rav Elya is “once again” on a tirade, claims that he out rightly perverted history, bemoans the fact that no one has the courage to “call him out” on his “offensive approach”, and concludes that Rav Elya Ber has “transmitted” a clear message about charedi Gedolim in general.

      Whoosh... Right over your head.

      Let me try to explain. R. Slifkin, in various places, including on this very blog, is called an "apostate" because he takes positions that correspond to a "minority" (probably actually a majority) of Rishonim that were "paskened" out of existence. He is pointing out the irony that when his intellectual opponents have to write down their own opinions, they themselves not only contradict the views of a large number Rishonim and Acharonim, they actually consider them heretical.

      R. Slifkin is not trying actually "ban" R. Wachtfogel or "condemn" him as a "heretic". He is pointing out the absurdity of such bans and condemnations.

      What is especially ironic is when the various banners contradict each other, as R. Wachtfogel and R. Meiselman do.

      But when callenged, then you say also disagree with R. Wachtfogel. You post becomes then just a random attack with no substance.

      Yet another mischaracterization! What I said in my post is that although I don’t necessarily agree with every statement in the haskama, I support the overall message.

      Which conveniently lets you sidestep any particular argument. You simply say that you don't agree with "everything".

      I then repeated this idea in my comments. The rest of my post is dedicated to defending the message of the haskama. This is what I wrote in my post! Anyone can see that. You need to pay closer attention to the material before firing off irrelevant and misleading responses.

      More of the same.

      Delete
    2. You explained that they apply only to Astronomy. But R. Wachtfogel doesn't make an exception for astronomy.

      Lovely. So what?

      So the Haskama is not correct. But I guess the "message" still is :)

      I was trying to explain to you that your quote from Moreh 3:14 doesn’t contradict the general message of the haskama, to wit, that ma’amarei Chazal are from Sinai or possess a certain level of Divine inspiration.

      And thus rationally relied on the science of the times (not tradition or "inspiration", but their God-given and supported intellects) and thus made, in the opinion of the Rambam, factually incorrect assertions.

      Rambam explains that even in astronomy they did have a tradition but it was lost.

      He asserts that they had written books on astronomy, now lost to us, based on B'nei Yissachar, not that it was a tradition from Sinai. His evidence is that you have to have that or you can't have "Laws of the New Moon" (at least as the Rambam has it). He does not assert infallibility in astronomy or any other subject.

      I don’t see your problem.

      I don't have a problem, but R. Wachtfogel's thesis does.

      You also ignore R' Sherira on medicine,

      No, I didn’t. I made a few comments about the medicine in Chazal in the comment section. But all this is irrelevant.

      It is yet another contradiction to the Haskama (and to your theory of the specialness of astronomy). But I guess you don't agree with that part either, just the general message, whatever is leftover after you take out the parts that you don't agree with.

      I set out to discuss the Rambam in my post and that’s exactly what I did. I noted at the end of my post that Rabbi Slifkin made some other comments and that I might try and find time to address them in the future. Right now I am addressing the Rambam, not other Rishonim.

      And the Rambam is in contradiction.

      And the fact that R. Avraham seriously undermines your contention Rambam referes only to astronomy.

      I’m glad you think so. Here’s the problem. I quoted the actual words of the Rambam. Rambam seems to feel that that astronomy is an exception to the rule, not an example of the rule.

      Here's is the problem. You need to back your theories with evidence. The Rambam doesn't explicitly say what you say and doesn't even align with what you say. But, for the sake of argument, we'll consider this somewhat ambigiuous. In this case, to help settle this, examining a closely aligned contemporary of the Rambam, who defended his views in other forums, provides strong evidence of what the Rambam meant.

      So, if you’d like to quote Rav Avraham’s words and demonstrate that he felt that his father felt that astronomy was only one example of many other scientific statements of Chazal that were erroneous, go for it! I don’t know if I will have time to respond but I’ll try to make time.

      This is a good summary of why you will never reach the right conclusions.

      Delete
  37. Here is one example: If you believe that they lost their supposed mesorah in mathematics

    I didn’t say they lost their mesora in mathematics! I said they lost it in astronomy.

    and thus dropped down the level of ancient astronomy

    I didn’t say they dropped down to ancient levels of astronomy! You’re confusing Rabbi Slifkin’s thesis re Pesachim (Chazal = Babylonian astronomy, Gentiles = Greek (Ptolemaic) astronomy). I say exactly what the Rambam says! Our nation had a tradition from the times of the prophets but lost it so now they rely on the books of the gentiles.

    Another example would be that their calculation of the age of the earth would be suspect, because their measurements, as you suppose, of the speed of light and radioactive decay, which they would have had from their supposed mesorah on these, would be off.

    I’m sorry David but this comment is absurd. Chazal didn’t have a tradition re the speed of light or radioactive decay! I highly doubt they knew anything about these things. Chazal’s belief in recent Creation was not based on scientific calculations. It was based on the pesukim of the Torah which clearly imply that it was recent! They believed in it because our nation in Egypt possessed a mesora which stretched all the way back to Adam haRishon who experienced a fresh new world with no other human being other than himself, just as the Torah states. (Yaakov, who was in mitztrayim and passed his tradtions to his sons, saw Shem who saw Mesushelech who saw Adam). Their belief is echoed by all the Neveim before them and all the Rishonim after them. This includes the Rambam too by the way! Rambam states openly in the Moreh that the reason the Torah bothers to count the generations of the first two thousand years is to prove that the world is recent. He mentions nothing about scientific calculations. In fact, he says just the opposite! He explains that a naïve observation of the world could easily mislead an observer into believing that the world was ancient. Check out Moreh 3:50. Also, check out Yad Milachim 9:1 and Shemita V’yovel 10:2 which clearly indicate that our nation in Egypt possessed a tradition stretching back to Adam.

    No, in fact, he says exactly the opposite. He reasons, that despite the fact that *we* don't have copies of their books on calculating the new moon, that *they* must have had their own books written based on what was originated by B'nei Yissachar (not Sinai!) on how to do it.

    I looked over the Rambam in Kiddush HaChodesh and your objection is valid. Thank you for pointing it out.

    When I first read your comment, I was a bit chagrined over my misquotation. I thought about it for a minute and I think I meant to base my statement on a combination of two sources in the Rambam, Yad Kiddush Hachodesh and Moreh 2:8. In Yad he states that our nation had a tradition re calculating the motion of the heavenly bodies during the times of the prophets. In Moreh he states that our sages accepted the Greek approach (i.e. after the prophets).

    He doesn't say that they knew all of science (or any science) from Sinai, nor does he say that *they* lost the books written down based on the astronomy of B'nei Yissachar.

    I never claimed that the Rambam in the Yad said that they knew all of science. My quotation re Chazal’s superlative knowledge was from the Pirush Mishnayos. And yes, I admit that he doesn’t say they lost the books. What I said is that they lost the tradition from the time of the prophets (i.e. Biney Yissachar). Nonetheless, I agree with your general objection and feel that I misquoted the Rambam (as I admitted in my previous comment).

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    1. "pesukim imply it was recent"

      Pesukim also imply the world is flat, and that the mabul waters came out of the blue sky which is in fact an upside down ocean being held up. There's a medrash that the Migdal bavel was built to hold up the rakia so it wouldn't crack and make another mabul. The torah says the earth is flat and floating on an ocean called mayim tachtonim and the blue sky is the mayim elyonim.

      Delete
    2. Forgot to add that this worldview is shared with cultures outside Israel, except that for the Israelites it was the one God Hashem who made it all instead of different deities. This is also the pshat of looking outside: the sun appears closer to us than the sky for example.

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    3. And this is how Hashem is able to take Avraham above the stars in the famous medrash quoted by Rashi on the parshah

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  38. You’ve written several more comments but this is where my response culminates, at least for the time being.

    Actually, I have one more thing to say. I’m skipping to the end. You write:

    On your reasoning, why is R. Wachtfogel picking on the large number of Orthodox Jews who believe that the fundamentals of astronomy, geology, and biology are not hoaxes? We understand that you believe this, but not everyone does. Are you better than they are?

    What do you mean by “better”? If you mean “holier” or “more dedicated to keeping the mitzvos” or “possessing a more refined character”, than the answer is no. But when it comes to Emuna, I am better than them because I believe in the truth of ma’aseh bereishis and they believe in a false depiction of ma’aseh bereishis.

    Oh, by the way, their belief is not the result of their acceptance of the “fundamentals” of astronomy, geology or biology. I too accept the fundamental principles upon which these sciences are based yet reject an ancient universe. Evolutionary theory does not play a functional role in operational astronomy (e.g. predicting the motion of the heavenly bodies), operational geology (e.g. mining) or operational biology (e.g. medicine). Evolution is an historical based theory which does not lend itself to verification (like operational science) and has in fact been disconfirmed by the empirical evidence. Evolution is a failed experiment, plain and simple.

    The bottom line is, “their” belief is based on, and influenced by, the overwhelming racket generated by academia combined with the enormous din created by the media. It is not based on the “fundamentals” of science. OTOH, my belief is based on the Torah and consistent with, and often times supported by the fundamentals of science.

    Of course, this is a whole topic onto itself, one that has been discussed at length on this blog. Ayin sham v’timtzeh nachas…

    Thanks for writing David.

    SC

    ReplyDelete
  39. IMPORTANT CORRECTION RE LAST COMMENT

    I wrote:

    But when it comes to Emuna, I am better than them

    I didn’t mean to write that. I’m not better than anyone in anything chs’v! What I meant to say is that my belief re ma’aseh bereishis is better than theirs and more consistent with the Torah and our mesora.

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    1. Sorry I have to disagree with you here, you ARE better then them, because you have emunah in the Torah and in the leaders of the Klal Yisrael, whereas THEY have enumah in scientists. So, yes, when it comes to emunah you are objectively better than they.

      Delete
    2. Sorry I have to disagree with you here, you ARE better then them, because you have emunah in the Torah and in the leaders of the Klal Yisrael, whereas THEY have enumah in scientists. So, yes, when it comes to emunah you are objectively better than they.

      1) I don't know "they" are, but science doesn't require emunah in scientists. The final arbiter of scientific truth is experience and experiment. Saying the science requires emunah in scientists is like saying that since you put on your raincoat to protect you from the rain, you must have emunah in your raincoat. (In case that wasn't clear, you wear a raincoat because you know based on past experience that if you don't you will get wet. Science is the same).

      If you don't believe me, take a look at a Rambam that was quoted above:

      ומאחר שכל אלו הדברים בראיות ברורות הם שאין בהם דופי ואי אפשר לאדם להרהר אחריהם, אין חוששין למחבר בין שחברו אותם נביאים בין שחברו אותם האומות. שכל דבר שנתגלה טעמו ונודעה אמיתתו בראיות שאין בהם דופי אנו סומכין על זה האיש שאמרו או שלמדו על הראיה שנתגלתה והטעם שנודע:

      2) By your reasoning, the Rambam must be one of "they".

      3) I won't compare people, but I would say that the emunah of who can only believe in the Torah if the fundamentals of the hard sciences are a hoax and a conspiracy is weaker than one who believes in the Torah regardless of the findings of science. I guess it all depends on your point of view.

      Delete
    3. I didn’t mean to write that. I’m not better than anyone in anything chs’v! What I meant to say is that my belief re ma’aseh bereishis is better than theirs and more consistent with the Torah and our mesora.

      Geocentrism is also "more consistent" with the Torah and our mesora. Until you check the facts and find that it is false.

      Delete
  40. David Ohsie you do realize I replied to your comment of November 3, 2013 that you gave at 1:59 AM?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I thought I had responded. Repeated my response.

      Delete
    2. David Ohsie said:

      "If they were not perfect then why are we relying on the Greeks for the calculation when the Rambam says we rely on the Greeks because their calculations for this is perfect?

      1) The Greek astronomy was not perfect.

      2) The Rambam did not believe Greek astronomy to be perfect. See Guide 2:11 as one example."

      You did not pay attention to what I wrote. I know he criticized Greek astronomy. I wrote:"the Rambam says we rely on the Greeks because their calculations for this is perfect?" Notice the words "for this."

      "3) The Rambam is justifying how he can write entire perakim on the Halachos of Kiddush HaChodesh without any Jewish source. The answer is that if you can discover and prove something without a Jewish source, it is just as strong."

      That was not the only thing he was saying as I pointed out.

      Delete
    3. 1) The Greek astronomy was not perfect.

      2) The Rambam did not believe Greek astronomy to be perfect. See Guide 2:11 as one example."

      You did not pay attention to what I wrote. I know he criticized Greek astronomy. I wrote:"the Rambam says we rely on the Greeks because their calculations for this is perfect?" Notice the words "for this."


      You are incorrect. He did say that he believes them to be perfect and in fact they were not perfect. If you know anything about the subject, you'll know that predicting the visibility of the moon is an approximation.


      "3) The Rambam is justifying how he can write entire perakim on the Halachos of Kiddush HaChodesh without any Jewish source. The answer is that if you can discover and prove something without a Jewish source, it is just as strong."


      This is his point.

      Delete
  41. David Ohsie said:"1) The Greek astronomy was not perfect.

    2) The Rambam did not believe Greek astronomy to be perfect. See Guide 2:11 as one example."

    You did not pay attention to what I wrote. I know he criticized Greek astronomy. I wrote:"the Rambam says we rely on the Greeks because their calculations for this is perfect?" Notice the words "for this."

    You are incorrect. He did say that he believes them to be perfect and in fact they were not perfect."

    You are now saying he believed them to be perfect? Is this a typo?

    "If you know anything about the subject, you'll know that predicting the visibility of the moon is an approximation."

    Yes I know but it will take a very long time before there is a single difference and by then if I am not mistaken the length of the day will be off too. All calculations are now known to be imperfect. The Rambam said their calculation for the new moon is perfect. This is not changed by the little off it is. It is perfect for the New Moon up to now which is all the Mishneh Torah has to mean. So far we are not off in the calculation of average lunation by even one day.


    ""3) The Rambam is justifying how he can write entire perakim on the Halachos of Kiddush HaChodesh without any Jewish source. The answer is that if you can discover and prove something without a Jewish source, it is just as strong."

    This is his point."

    He brings in more than his basic point when he is making his point.

    ReplyDelete
  42. You are incorrect. He did say that he believes them to be perfect and in fact they were not perfect."

    You are now saying he believed them to be perfect? Is this a typo?


    Yes, a typo.

    "If you know anything about the subject, you'll know that predicting the visibility of the moon is an approximation."

    Yes I know but it will take a very long time before there is a single difference and by then if I am not mistaken the length of the day will be off too.


    Sorry, you need to reread the section. He is not referring to the calendar, (which drifts by about 3 days per 800 years, since it leverages the Metonic cycle rather than using a precise value for the length of the solar year.)


    ReplyDelete
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    1. I said lunation period.

      Delete
  43. I said lunation period.

    He's not talking about mean lunation.

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    1. He's talking about the new moon as we see he is continuing from that topic which he dealt with in Halacha 23. For the new moon you need to know the mean lunation. You use it to calculate the Molad.

      Delete
    2. The mean lunation doesn't tell you when the new moon is. You need to study this more and come back.

      Delete
    3. The new moon is on the date that comes out by simply adding the molados but it can and usually is pushed off by the Dechiyos.The mean lunation is the average lunation period that comes out of the calculations of the various molados as if there are no Dechiyos.

      Delete
    4. The new moon is on the date that comes out by simply adding the molados but it can and usually is pushed off by the Dechiyos.The mean lunation is the average lunation period that comes out of the calculations of the various molados as if there are no Dechiyos.

      You have given a somewhat faulty description of the Jewish calendar currently in use. That is not what the Rambam is referring to. You need to learn Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh in a little more depth.

      Delete
    5. How's it faulty? I did not include the rules on long the year can be and when to have a leap year? Ok I do now. The point is the average length of lunation is important to the calendar and works for how to align the solar and lunar years. The Rambam says our calculation is using the Greek wisdom. Give more detail in any rebuttal on this issue.

      Delete
    6. How's it faulty?

      You wrote: "The new moon is on the date that comes out by simply adding the molados but it can and usually is pushed off by the Dechiyos.". This is generally untrue.

      The point is the average length of lunation is important to the calendar and works for how to align the solar and lunar years.

      This is also incorrect, the alignment of the lunar and solar years does not depend on molad duration.

      The Rambam says our calculation is using the Greek wisdom.

      I'm repeating myself, but this is false. You are referring to the Jewish calendar which is familiar to us, but that is not what he is talking about.

      Delete
    7. David Ohsie said:"How's it faulty?

      You wrote: "The new moon is on the date that comes out by simply adding the molados but it can and usually is pushed off by the Dechiyos.". This is generally untrue."

      Excuse but as a general rule it is pushed off by them. The exception in practice is the rule.

      "The point is the average length of lunation is important to the calendar and works for how to align the solar and lunar years.

      This is also incorrect, the alignment of the lunar and solar years does not depend on molad duration."

      It better depend on the length of the months and so when the molados come out or else how do we have any dates during a month? if there are no months we have nothing to reconcile between the lunar and solar years.

      "The Rambam says our calculation is using the Greek wisdom.

      I'm repeating myself, but this is false. You are referring to the Jewish calendar which is familiar to us, but that is not what he is talking about."

      The average length of the lunation does not depend on the change of calendar. The Rambam says it is a wisdom the Greeks have and we had.

      Delete
    8. David Ohsie said:"How's it faulty?

      You wrote: "The new moon is on the date that comes out by simply adding the molados but it can and usually is pushed off by the Dechiyos.". This is generally untrue."

      Excuse but as a general rule it is pushed off by them. The exception in practice is the rule.


      Your description does describe generally how Rosh Chodesh is determined in the calendar in the first place.

      "The point is the average length of lunation is important to the calendar and works for how to align the solar and lunar years.

      This is also incorrect, the alignment of the lunar and solar years does not depend on molad duration."

      It better depend on the length of the months and so when the molados come out or else how do we have any dates during a month? if there are no months we have nothing to reconcile between the lunar and solar years.


      An accurate molad does not prevent solar drift with the current calendar. An inaccurate molad in the right direction would reduce solar drift at the expense of the new moon drifting.

      "The Rambam says our calculation is using the Greek wisdom.

      I'm repeating myself, but this is false. You are referring to the Jewish calendar which is familiar to us, but that is not what he is talking about."

      The average length of the lunation does not depend on the change of calendar. The Rambam says it is a wisdom the Greeks have and we had.


      That is not what he is talking about. Here is a hint:

      זה החשבון בזמן הזה שאין בית דין לקבוע על פי הראיה שאנו מחשבין בו היום אפילו תינוקות של בית רבן מגיעין עד סופו בשלשה וארבעה ימים

      Delete
    9. David Ohsie said:"An accurate molad does not prevent solar drift with the current calendar. An inaccurate molad in the right direction would reduce solar drift at the expense of the new moon drifting."

      That's true but it is part of what is basic to the Hebrew Calendar of any period to have the solar and lunar calendars be reconciled. If it is not perfect in that regard that does not change the importance of it or the intent.

      "That is not what he is talking about. Here is a hint:

      זה החשבון בזמן הזה שאין בית דין לקבוע על פי הראיה שאנו מחשבין בו היום אפילו תינוקות של בית רבן מגיעין עד סופו בשלשה וארבעה ימים"

      But the Greek calculations do not know the difference. Average lunation doesn't change and is needed under any system to reconcile the solar and lunar years, a Biblical requirement. There were astronomical calculations used even before the fixed calendar. The tradition of the length of the lunations and the solar year did not suddenly start with the present calendar.

      Delete
    10. Sorry, I had a bad typo. I meant to write:

      You wrote: "The new moon is on the date that comes out by simply adding the molados but it can and usually is pushed off by the Dechiyos.". This is generally untrue."

      Excuse but as a general rule it is pushed off by them. The exception in practice is the rule.


      Your description does not describe generally how Rosh Chodesh is determined in the calendar in the first place.

      Delete
    11. David Ohsie said:"An accurate molad does not prevent solar drift with the current calendar. An inaccurate molad in the right direction would reduce solar drift at the expense of the new moon drifting."

      That's true but it is part of what is basic to the Hebrew Calendar of any period to have the solar and lunar calendars be reconciled. If it is not perfect in that regard that does not change the importance of it or the intent.


      You said the following:

      The point is the average length of lunation is important to the calendar and works for how to align the solar and lunar years.

      That is not correct.

      Delete
    12. But the Greek calculations do not know the difference.

      I can't parse that.

      Average lunation doesn't change and is needed under any system to reconcile the solar and lunar years

      This is true of neither the fixed calendar nor the previously used system.

      , a Biblical requirement. There were astronomical calculations used even before the fixed calendar.
      The tradition of the length of the lunations and the solar year did not suddenly start with the present calendar.


      The gemara mentions the solar year of the Julian calendar. Neither that nor the mean lunation is what the Rambam refers to here.

      I think that this conversation is past its shelf life. Study up the whole Hllchos Kiddush HaChodesh and then come back.

      Delete
    13. I'm talking astronomy and I don't know what you are talking of. I am an Onein now anyway.

      Delete
  44. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  45. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  46. David Ohsie,

    Yes, right. You said no such thing. You did say that his disagreement with R. Wacthfogel is part of a "smear-campaign".

    Wrong again. I have no problem with disagreements. What I said was that the haskama served as another target for RNS’s ongoing campaign against gedolim in general.

    Whoops. I guess you did.

    Your childish antics are not amusing. This forum is dedicated to serious dialogue. If you’re looking for attention, please look elsewhere.

    He writes that Rav Elya is “once again” on a tirade, claims that he out rightly perverted history, bemoans the fact that no one has the courage to “call him out” on his “offensive approach”, and concludes that Rav Elya Ber has “transmitted” a clear message about charedi Gedolim in general.

    Whoosh... Right over your head.

    Let me try to explain….


    Don’t bother. Your subsequent “explanation” is nothing more than an apologetic. If you feel RNS is justified in publicly referring to gedolim as going on tirades, perverting history, and espousing offensive approaches, well and good. But your opinion is inconsistent with the position of this blog and is bound to clash with practically everything written here. So instead of piggybacking on this blog, I think you should start your own blog and tell the world all about your convictions.

    Which conveniently lets you sidestep any particular argument. You simply say that you don't agree with "everything".

    Not “any” argument. Just the ones I haven’t discussed. I mentioned several particular arguments in my post and those I do not “sidestep”.

    The rest of your comments do not require a response, in my opinion.

    Please note: If you keep up the patronizing style your missives, I will ignore you entirely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Reb Simcha, I'm really enjoying your blog. Very interesting as usual, please keep up the good work. I have tried to follow the thread of the comments for this post but I'm finding it quite annoying. Someone is writing all these ridiculously long posts and I simply haven't got the time or inclination to wade through them, so I've more or less just been reading what you've got to say.

      Regarding the main issues brought up in the threads I have the following comments to make:

      1. The Gedolai Yisrael (rather then lehavdil the faculty of the Jewish studies department of any university) are the leaders of the Jewish people. We should listen to what they say, including not reading the works of those whom they have banned.

      2. The Torah is absolutely huge, even in a discrete section of Torah for example natilas yodaim, the work of mastering the entire section is not a simple matter.

      Learning rishonim is not as easy as simply reading them. And being machria (weighing up to make a decision) a machlokes rishonim is not for part-timers. Anyone with decent experience in in-depth learning of sugyas knows this - for example - try learning the first big Rash in Yadaim 1:1 and try to work out what's going on and then learn the Bais Yosef and try to understand how he learns that Rash and then see how the Chazon Ish has a different mahalach. When one puts himself into the learning only then does one come to appreciate and respect the gedolim like the Bais Yosef, Mishna Brura and Chazon Ish. It's a truly amazing experience by the way!

      And that's just one small aspect of one mitzvah darabbanan. To be holding beiyun in the whole Torah, Shas, Poskim and sifrai Musar is awesome beyond words. For anyone with only a few years of serious high level learning behind them to suggest that they understand Torah better then the gedolim is a joke. To look at oneself in the mirror and say "I can be machria halacha better then the gedolim" is a purim spiel. Only, no one is laughing, it's just sad.

      3. People have too much faith in scientists and therefore in the sciences themselves (Yoram Bogacz's book was an eye opener for me on this). Science is human knowledge about how the world works and there is a continuum within science ranging from what we know pretty well from experience and experiment all the way to unprovable conjecture about what happened in the past and what will happen in the future. To suggest that evolution has been proven in the laboratory is pathetic and almost embarrassing to listen to. If evolution means speciation (When one species divides into two) and the formation of new organs etc, then I don't believe anyone has come close to observing that. If evolution means small fluctuations in the species, as humans have been observing for thousands of years then, well, we knew that already.

      Delete
  47. R. Coffer, you are in no way obligated to respond. But let me try to make it clearer.

    When "ploni" calls someone Kofer, Avaryan and Liar, when "ploni" accuse someone falsely of being thrown out of his Yeshiva, when "ploni" bans a person's books and has him effectively removed from his community, when "ploni" accuses someone of engaging in a smear campaign rather than addressing their arguments, then "ploni" is involved in a smear campaign against an unfortunate fellow.

    When "Ploni" attempts to have a person removed from his or her community, school or Yeshiva, or does harrassment or violence against them or their children for the offenses of going to an unapproved but unquestionably orthodox shul, an unapproved but unquestionably orthodox school, or for voting for an unnapproved candidate then "Ploni" is engaged in what could be called a smear campaign or maybe a vendetta.

    When one of the targets of a "Ploni" has the temerity to point out either falsities or inconsistencies in their accuser's accusations or that their claims are actually contrary the bulk of Rishonim, this is defense against a smear campaign which you presumably laud given your claimed aversion to such campaigns.

    Yes, right. You said no such thing. You did say that his disagreement with R. Wacthfogel is part of a "smear-campaign".

    Wrong again. I have no problem with disagreements. What I said was that the haskama served as another target for RNS’s ongoing campaign against gedolim in general.

    You left out the word "smear". If you retracting that, then I have no quibble. R. Slifkin is engaging in an ongoing campaign against those who have branded him as a Kofer or his work as K'firah. I presume you would do the same.

    If the word "smear" remains, then we have the following elementary logic. You write: S criticized W for writing H. H "served as yet another target for S’s ongoing smear-campaign against W". This implies that S's criticism of W is part of a smear campaign and his argument is really a smear.

    Let me try to explain….

    Don’t bother. Your subsequent “explanation” is nothing more than an apologetic. If you feel RNS is justified in publicly referring to gedolim as going on tirades, perverting history, and espousing offensive approaches, well and good. But your opinion is inconsistent with the position of this blog and is bound to clash with practically everything written here.

    What this amounts to is that you can make personal attacks and then avoid backing them up or defending those attacks by saying that your accusation is simply self-evident and no backing is needed. Of course what I'm writing inconsistent with the position of your blog. That is why I'm writing to argue with you. It is of course up to you to decide if you want to allow anyone to argue with you in the comments or not. You seem to allow it in general.

    If you feel that the Haskama is consistent with the Rishonim, and you want your words to have substance, then explain how. Instead you repeat how good the Haskama makes you feel (I can't argue with you on that; it is a matter of taste) and decline to defend its inconsistency with the Rishonim because you don't agree with everything in the Haskama.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I too accept the fundamental principles upon which these sciences are based yet reject an ancient universe.

    I can't argue with your personal testimony, since it is possible for humans to accept contradictory assumptions. But, in fact your assumptions are contradictory.

    Just to bring some simple examples, we can measure the distances to stars and the time that light takes to reach us. It is a lot longer than 6000 years. There are whole sections of astronomy that deals with the classifying stars and their lifetimes and there are fairly precise calculations for age of the universe. It is a lot longer than 6000 years.

    To simplify even further, according to you, the entire astronomy textbook from beginning to end is a fraud and a hoax.

    The same applies to Geology. We can date rocks using a multiplicity of methods which are consistent with one another. Geology explains how the various features of the earth came to be over time and the timeframes are longer than 6000 years. Again, the entire geology textbook from beginning to end is a hoax by your theory.

    Evolutionary theory does not play a functional role in operational astronomy (e.g. predicting the motion of the heavenly bodies), operational geology (e.g. mining) or operational biology (e.g. medicine).

    You seem to be laboring under the false notion that biology is the only science that dates the universe. Astronomy and Geology also date the universe.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "operational" astronomy or geology. What you seem to be saying is that you that you label parts things that you agree with as "operational" and the rest is a hoax. Since the fundamentals of both contradict your thesis, you must label them a hoax as well.

    Evolution is an historical based theory which does not lend itself to verification (like operational science)

    That's not actually true, as evolution is ongoing and observable in the laboratory. But you seem to now be saying that all of history is a hoax. We don't know if George Washington was ever president, because this doesn't lend itself to verification as it is a historical-based theory. I won't bother to draw the implications for Jewish History of such an approach.

    However, you might realize that it possible to contrast various possible pasts and make predictions about what we expect to see today based on these theories and then make such observations. If you are simply asserting that we know nothing of the past, then you are farther off than I realized.

    and has in fact been disconfirmed by the empirical evidence. Evolution is a failed experiment, plain and simple.

    Untrue, but in fact irrelevant to this argument, since you don't need evolution to show the the universe is older than you think.

    The bottom line is, “their” belief is based on, and influenced by, the overwhelming racket generated by academia combined with the enormous din created by the media.

    Now we get to the conspiracy theory. Science becomes a "racket generated by academia". This was my point, when I mentioned that you have to deny the fundamentals of astronomy, geology and biology at least.

    It is not based on the “fundamentals” of science. OTOH, my belief is based on the Torah and consistent with, and often times supported by the fundamentals of science.

    The assumption that the universe is 6000 years old does contradict those fundamentals.

    In any case, you are confirming my point. Your personal beliefs are yours and I don't question them. What I question is the risk and audacity of claiming that the truth of the Torah depends on accepting your conspiracy theories. This is something to reconsider.

    ReplyDelete
  49. David Ohsie,

    R. Coffer, you are in no way obligated to respond. But let me try to make it clearer.

    When "ploni" calls someone Kofer, Avaryan and Liar… then "ploni" is involved in a smear campaign against an unfortunate fellow


    And let me try to make it clearer for you. I am not getting into this with you. I will not allow you to hijack my post by misdirecting the intended substance of the post to irrelevant topics. If you feel that the 50 or so gedoley Torah (Israel and America) are on a smear campaign against Rabbi Slifkin, so be it. But your personal feeling is irrelevant to the substantial matter at hand. This post is dedicated to a specific letter (haskama) and nowhere in the haskama is Rabbi Slifkin identified as a kofer, avaryan and liar. Besides, even if he is identified as such in the haskama, the only thing I am interested in discussing is the substantial material of the haskama, and only the particular elements specified in my post. I have no interest in engaging in politics.

    As far as your allegation that the term “smear” in my post is improper, I’ve already responded at length. If you do not understand my response, that’s too bad. I can’t be any clearer than I was. If you disagree with my response, well and good. Whatever the case, this is as far as I am willing to go on this topic.

    R. Slifkin is engaging in an ongoing campaign against those who have branded him as a Kofer or his work as K'firah. I presume you would do the same.

    I don’t know what I would do! I should hope that I would heed the call of the vast majority of contemporary gedoley Torah and cease my public dissemination of Torah approaches which they fiercely object to. But Rabbi Slifkin has written a lot of books and invested a lot of time and effort developing his approaches. Perhaps if I was in the same position I would fail the nisayon too. This is precisely why I stay away from personal attacks against RNS and instead focus on the substance of his material. Once in a while I might point out that his verbiage is disrespectful (as I did here by labeling his post a “smear”) but for the most part I stick to tachlis. Just read my posts. I probably have about a hundred submissions just on this blog alone.

    Don’t bother. Your subsequent “explanation” is nothing more than an apologetic. If you feel RNS is justified in publicly referring to gedolim as going on tirades, perverting history, and espousing offensive approaches, well and good. But your opinion is inconsistent with the position of this blog and is bound to clash with practically everything written here.

    What this amounts to is that you can make personal attacks and then avoid backing them up or defending those attacks by saying that your accusation is simply self-evident and no backing is needed.

    It amounts to no such thing! I provided the backing! I supplied several terms (tirade, perversion, offensive approaches) which are inherently denigrating and therefore justify characterizing their usage as a smear.

    If anyone is engaging in avoidance, it is you. I provided you with a clear explanation as to why I characterize RNS’s post as “yet another target for his ongoing smear campaign” but instead of responding to my explanation, you regale us with long sob-stories about “ploni” who unfairly attacks “poor fellow”, apparently with the intention of justifying “poor fellow’s” counter-attacks. As I wrote: “If you feel RNS is justified in publicly referring to gedolim as going on tirades, perverting history, and espousing offensive approaches, well and good.” What I should have continued to write is that you are clearly engaging in avoidance.

    Continued…

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  50. Of course what I'm writing inconsistent with the position of your blog. That is why I'm writing to argue with you.

    You miss the point. What I meant to say is that your general outlook (i.e. weltanschauung) on important issues such as “adherence to the consensus opinion of contemporary gedoley Torah” clashes with practically everything written on this blog. If you were to write in with an occasional disagreement regarding details, fine. But there are fundamental differences between you and this blog. Our respective points of departure are mutually exclusive. Consequently, I see nothing positive resulting from the interminable Blog/Ohsie debates which have dominated our comment section for the last 6 months.

    It is of course up to you to decide if you want to allow anyone to argue with you in the comments or not. You seem to allow it in general.

    Actually, I rallied the authors of this blog to censure (and even disallow) your comments. I was voted down. But in any case, the issue is not what I allow or not. I am making an argument to you! I am trying to convince you that this venue is simply not for you. However, as you write, we allow comments here so ultimately it is up to you to decide what to do with your time.


    I too accept the fundamental principles upon which these sciences are based yet reject an ancient universe.

    …your assumptions are contradictory.

    Just to bring some simple examples
    .

    This is neither the time nor place to engage in a discussion of ostensible contradictions between Torah and science. I have written extensively on this, including right here on this blog. All of the issues you broach have already been addressed at length. Nonetheless, I will make a few short comments in response.

    Continued…

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  51. we can measure the distances to stars and the time that light takes to reach us. It is a lot longer than 6000 years.

    ??? Surely you are aware that this issue has been broached many times before? I have discussed it at length on this blog and it is discussed at length in many other places. I suggest you run an internet search. You will discover that all of the reconciliations accept the distances of star worlds and the speed of light as a given, as do I.

    There are whole sections of astronomy that deals with the classifying stars and their lifetimes and there are fairly precise calculations for age of the universe. It is a lot longer than 6000 years.

    This too has been discussed by me at length on this very blog.

    To simplify even further, according to you, the entire astronomy textbook from beginning to end is a fraud and a hoax.

    Absolutely not. Historically astronomy was primarily a study of the motion of the heavenly bodies and how to predict said motion accurately. In addition, it discussed the nature of the material, or substance, of the stars. Only recently did Astronomy evolve to include theories about the origins of galaxies and star worlds and the time it takes them to develop. Most of the material in current astronomy textbooks relates to the former two categories and is subject to empirical observation and verification. The latter category is purely theoretical and does not lend itself to verification. My issue lies solely with the latter category.

    Furthermore, although I do believe that the theories of the evolutionists amount to nothing more than a sophisticated hoax, I do not believe that origins theories are actually an intended hoax. If I were a materialist, I too would endeavor to develop a material theory for the existence of the universe which is consistent with currently observable phenomena. But what you must understand is that universal origins theories such as Big Bang do not prove that the universe is ancient. They are merely academic attempts to describe the origins of the universe coherently using materialist assumptions. Unfortunately I do not have the time to demonstrate this to you now. But I have discussed it on this blog, somewhere.

    The same applies to Geology. We can date rocks using a multiplicity of methods which are consistent with one another. Geology explains how the various features of the earth came to be over time and the timeframes are longer than 6000 years. Again, the entire geology textbook from beginning to end is a hoax by your theory.

    I discussed this at length on this blog. I refuse to repeat. If you wish, you can read my series “The Hoax of Geology” on this blog. It encompasses 9 posts in total. I made reference to it in the comment section of my previous post and even provided hyperlinks

    Coninued…

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  52. You seem to be laboring under the false notion that biology is the only science that dates the universe. Astronomy and Geology also date the universe.

    I am laboring under no such assumption. In fact, biology doesn’t date the age of the universe at all!

    I'm not sure what you mean by "operational" astronomy or geology.

    I was quite clear. In fact, I even provided examples! (astronomy – prediction of motion, geology – mining).

    What you seem to be saying is that you that you label parts things that you agree with as "operational" and the rest is a hoax.

    Is that what it seems? Maybe to you…

    Evolution is an historical based theory which does not lend itself to verification (like operational science)

    That's not actually true, as evolution is ongoing and observable in the laboratory.

    Aha! So you do understand the distinction between operational science and historical based science!

    As far as your claim, I’ll wait for you to provide data from the published scientific literature documenting laboratory observation which verifies Darwinian evolution. If you could produce such a thing, you would be the hero of the academic world!

    But you seem to now be saying that all of history is a hoax.

    Nice try. History (as distinguished from the term “historical based sciences”) is verified by tradition. One generation passes the information down to the next and that’s how we know that George Washington existed. The American nation possesses a tradition (not to mention museum documents) and the tradition is verified in the records of countless other peoples on earth. Unfortunately no such tradition exists for the evolution of the species. In fact, the only historical tradition we actually have states that the world was recently created!

    All I mean by “historical based sciences” is science that deals with events that occurred in the past and cannot be verified using the standard “scientific method” required for operational sciences. If you don’t know what the “scientific method” encompasses, please run a Google search.

    Continued…

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  53. The bottom line is, “their” belief is based on, and influenced by, the overwhelming racket generated by academia combined with the enormous din created by the media.

    Now we get to the conspiracy theory. Science becomes a "racket generated by academia".

    Not “science”! The materialist theories of the academicians about the origins of the universe, chemical properties, and life.

    Unfortunately your understanding of the Philosophy of Science is woefully lacking. You need to familiarize yourself with the material if you want to carry on a meaningful discussion.

    Your personal beliefs are yours and I don't question them. What I question is the risk and audacity of claiming that the truth of the Torah depends on accepting your conspiracy theories. This is something to reconsider.

    Well, you know what I would respond to that. But let’s put aside conspiracy for a moment. Did it ever dawn on you that our uncontested mesora (uncontested until about 150 years ago with the advent of Darwinian Evolution after which there arose a handful of attempts at reconciling the verses of the Torah in opposition to our mesora) of 3300 years maintains that Creation is recent? Check out this paper I wrote 7 years ago. It documents our mesora through the ages. Perhaps something for you to reconsider…

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  54. I was reading your paper and noticed that you talk about how shamayim in bereishis refers to the vast endlessness of space? Where do you get this idea from? Vast space is a recent discovery, the Torah doesnt refer to it and the rishonim certainly had no idea of it. By accepting the existence of the vast endlessness of space you've already stepped outside the mesorah.

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  55. Johnny Marko

    I was reading your paper and noticed that you talk about how shamayim in bereishis refers to the vast endlessness of space? Where do you get this idea from?


    My Rebbi. The torah proclaims: “hein laShem Elokecha ha’shamayim u’shimey ha’shamayim” He interpreted these words to mean: shamayim = the visible heavens. shimey hashamayim = the vast universe.

    Vast space is a recent discovery, the Torah doesnt refer to it

    Perhaps “shimey hashamayim” is a reference to vast space?

    and the rishonim certainly had no idea of it.

    Granted.

    By accepting the existence of the vast endlessness of space you've already stepped outside the mesorah.

    According to this logic, I’ve also stepped outside the boundaries of mesora by accepting electricity.

    Your argument is based on a misconception. The Mesora comprises a comprehensive body of information passed down in the Jewish nation from generation to generation and is the defining element of our nation. But it does not purport to reveal every piece of information available to mankind. So if it turns out that the universe is vastly greater in size than we thought, great! If it turns out that biology is vastly more complex than we understood in the past, great! If it turns out that time is not a constant, so be it. The point is, none of these things are contradicted by our mesora.

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  56. It most certainly is contradicted. And it's absurd to think that shimei hashamayim can refer to the recently discovered vast universe, a concept which contradicts our mesora, unless you accept the idea of the Torah speaking in the language of man.

    So why did other cultures from the time of Tanach have the same understanding of the world (rakia, mayim elyonim etc)? They got their mesora from Adam or Noach I assume?

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  57. And why does that understanding of the sky happen to be the pshat of what the sky actually looks like? Like that the sun is closer to us than the sky? Namely, if you were to climb into the sky, you would reach the sun before the sky. Hence the midrash on the Anakim being so huge they made the sun a necklace.

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  58. Or the midrash of Hashem taking Avraham above the stars, or of the dor Migdal bavel building the Migdal to hold up the sky and to hold back the waters, to prevent another flood (the sky is a solid dome and the Migdal would serve as a support pillar like that in a building).

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  59. R. Coffer, you are in no way obligated to respond. But let me try to make it clearer.

    When "ploni" calls someone Kofer, Avaryan and Liar… then "ploni" is involved in a smear campaign against an unfortunate fellow


    And let me try to make it clearer for you. I am not getting into this with you.

    R. Coffer, I hope you won't take offense if I point out the humor in the fact that after that sentence, you continued for many more sentences :). Apparently, while we agree on almost nothing in this area, we do have the same compulsive behavior patterns. Please take that in the spirit that it was intended.

    I will not allow you to hijack my post by misdirecting the intended substance of the post to irrelevant topics. If you feel that the 50 or so gedoley Torah (Israel and America) are on a smear campaign against Rabbi Slifkin, so be it.

    Since, we're not going to agree, I'll let go whether or not your statement is justified. But understand that "ploni" statements above are from your website, not from the "Gedoley Torah". According to R. Feldman's interpretation of R. Elyashiv, many of R. Slifkin's opinion's deemed "problematic" by him where held by great Rishonim and Acharonim and thus he cannot be termed a "Kofer". And the ban itself along was organized by such "luminaries" such as Leib Tropper, not "Gedoley Torah".

    As far as your allegation that the term “smear” in my post is improper, I’ve already responded at length. If you do not understand my response, that’s too bad. I can’t be any clearer than I was. If you disagree with my response, well and good.

    Agree to disagree.

    If anyone is engaging in avoidance, it is you.

    Agree to disagree :).



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  60. Of course what I'm writing inconsistent with the position of your blog. That is why I'm writing to argue with you.

    You miss the point. What I meant to say is that your general outlook (i.e. weltanschauung) on important issues such as “adherence to the consensus opinion of contemporary gedoley Torah” clashes with practically everything written on this blog.

    I think that you overstate it a bit. You and I are among the (possibly) 0.03% of people in the world that think that avoidance of turning on the light one day a week is at all meaningful. I'm quite unconcerned about your belief system on the age of the universe; that would not make you unwelcome at my Shabbos table and we would simply discuss other topics.

    My only concern is that people not be fooled by your arguments into believing that they are an illegitimate part of the 0.03% or to avoid joining the 0.03% because they falsely believe that you have to avoid calling the sky blue if you want to join.

    If you were to write in with an occasional disagreement regarding details, fine. But there are fundamental differences between you and this blog. Our respective points of departure are mutually exclusive. Consequently, I see nothing positive resulting from the interminable Blog/Ohsie debates which have dominated our comment section for the last 6 months.

    I agree that *on the topics of the blog* there are fundamental differences. However, I would not bother commenting on, L'havdil, a Christian fundamentalist blog with the same positions. There is a surrounding context of agreement. Which is why my be worth it to bother writing, in order to provide a full accounting of the issues to people who otherwise agree and let people decide for themselves.

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  61. we can measure the distances to stars and the time that light takes to reach us. It is a lot longer than 6000 years.

    ??? Surely you are aware that this issue has been broached many times before? I have discussed it at length on this blog and it is discussed at length in many other places. I suggest you run an internet search. You will discover that all of the reconciliations accept the distances of star worlds and the speed of light as a given, as do I.

    I was not in anyway trying to bring up something novel. Quite the opposite, I was showing that your claim that you can maintain both a young earth hypothesis and the fundamentals of astronomy is completely wrong for simple reasons that anyone can understand. The less novel the better. I'm sure that you have "answers", all of which contradict fundamental conclusions of the hard sciences. The age of the universe is not some side factoid that can be discarded while maintaining the rest of the astronomy, geology and biology. It is not necessary to believe me. Open up any astronomy textboook!

    (As as an aside, the usual "answer" given by those that feel a need to "answer", is that from some relativistic PoV, you can consider there to be only 6000 or so years to have elapsed from the big bang. I don't particularly think that this is what the Torah means, but accepting this still leaves us with an old universe and all the claims of astronomy intact. So I know that is not what you are referring to.

    To simplify even further, according to you, the entire astronomy textbook from beginning to end is a fraud and a hoax.

    Absolutely not. Historically astronomy was primarily a study of the motion of the heavenly bodies and how to predict said motion accurately. In addition, it discussed the nature of the material, or substance, of the stars. Only recently did Astronomy evolve to include theories about the origins of galaxies and star worlds and the time it takes them to develop.

    1) This is not historically true. The eternity of the universe is a ancient topic of debate.

    2) The fundamentals of astronomy are not delineated by the ancients who where mostly wrong in their theories, despite the brilliance of outstanding man and women in every age, by God's beneficence. They are delineated by the great discoveries made, yes, using the scientific method. This is what you will find in the textbooks and you will have to decry as a hoax from beginning to end. Open one up!

    Most of the material in current astronomy textbooks relates to the former two categories

    Sorry to cut off your sentence, but this is not true. The past and ongoing processes to describe how each cosmological grouping got to the way it is now, is intertwined in all of the studies.

    and is subject to empirical observation and verification. The latter category is purely theoretical and does not lend itself to verification. My issue lies solely with the latter category.

    You are again claiming that scientific method cannot reveal anything about the past. This is completely false, but all I'll say is that you are here claiming massive fraud. Astronomers claim to be using empirical methods, publish papers based on this claim, and somehow agree on massive amounts of hard science that is actually poppycock. All the while, they continue to have disagreements about on the frontier of knowledge. They must somehow be betting together in a smoke-filled room to figure out which of the made-up things are to be agreed upon and which are still up to speculation.

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  62. The same applies to Geology. We can date rocks using a multiplicity of methods which are consistent with one another. Geology explains how the various features of the earth came to be over time and the timeframes are longer than 6000 years. Again, the entire geology textbook from beginning to end is a hoax by your theory.

    I discussed this at length on this blog. I refuse to repeat. If you wish, you can read my series “The Hoax of Geology” on this blog.

    Wonderful! We agree! Your theories depend on the notion that Geology is a hoax. This was my point! Most Orthodox Jews who know something of science will not accept your "resolution". As you say in your post "They have even managed to lead astray some of the greatest of our nation.". Perhaps it is you who have been led astray...

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  63. Johnny Marko

    It most certainly is contradicted.

    OK. But pardon me if I doubt your assertion. Kindly provide concrete examples.

    And it's absurd to think that shimei hashamayim can refer to the recently discovered vast universe

    Why absurd? The Torah was composed by the Creator of heaven and earth. He Knew about the “vast universe” all along seeing as He Created it.

    a concept which contradicts our mesora

    How?

    unless you accept the idea of the Torah speaking in the language of man.

    Why? I admit that this idea is well established in the Talmud but why do you need to invoke it here?

    So why did other cultures from the time of Tanach have the same understanding of the world (rakia, mayim elyonim etc)… And why does that understanding of the sky happen to be the pshat of what the sky actually looks like? Like that the sun is closer to us than the sky? Namely, if you were to climb into the sky, you would reach the sun before the sky. Hence the midrash on the Anakim being so huge they made the sun a necklace… or the midrash of Hashem taking Avraham above the stars, or of the dor Migdal bavel building the Migdal to hold up the sky and to hold back the waters, to prevent another flood…

    Sorry Johnny but I do not understand your questions. Please note: Ma’amarei Chazal of an aggadic nature are often meant non-literally.

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    Replies
    1. So the non-Jews of those days also meant stuff non-literally? (their views of the world are the same as Tanach and Chazal's). You're just saying it's non-literal because you can't admit that Chazal (and the Torah's) view of the world is based on an inaccurate view of the world. Hence the principle of language of man. All of these midrashim, as well as biblical texts, overlap to reveal this ancient and inaccurate view of the world and the sky which just happens to be the same as what the non-Jews believed. That's why it's so absurd to think that shimey hashamayim has anything to do with our modern understanding of outer space and the universe, and which goes to show that you are bending yourself into a pretzel by accepting this modern conception while claiming it's in the Torah, and saying all these statements are "non-literal". By the way, something can be non-literal, while also revealing what the author thought of the world. So for example Hashem taking Avraham above the stars: the story can be meant non-literally, or non-historically, while at the same time showing what the author believed about the structure of the sky.

      Delete
  64. You seem to be laboring under the false notion that biology is the only science that dates the universe. Astronomy and Geology also date the universe.

    I am laboring under no such assumption. In fact, biology doesn’t date the age of the universe at all!

    You brought up your objections to Darwinism. While biology does put a floor on the age of the earth, and the age of the earth puts a floor on the age of the universe, Darwinism is not needed to prove its antiquity. (Not that I agree with your critique of Darwinism, but it seems quite beside the point).

    I'm not sure what you mean by "operational" astronomy or geology.

    I was quite clear. In fact, I even provided examples! (astronomy – prediction of motion, geology – mining).

    Providing two examples of a muddy principle doesn't make the principle clear. There is not clear delineation between the aspects of geology that impact mining and those that don't. As in all sciences, theories are formed and then confirmed by evidence in the here and now. The fact that some of the things that they dig are of value doesn't change the theories on which they are based.

    What you seem to be saying is that you that you label parts things that you agree with as "operational" and the rest is a hoax.

    Is that what it seems? Maybe to you…

    What it seems like is that you can't deny the fact that the theories that you decry can be confirmed and some of the confirmations have practical effects in our daily lives. Since you can't deny those, you accept them but then try to separate the "practical" as unrelated to the theories behind them that led to their discovery.

    Evolution is an historical based theory which does not lend itself to verification (like operational science)

    That's not actually true, as evolution is ongoing and observable in the laboratory.

    Aha! So you do understand the distinction between operational science and historical based science!

    Actually, I was guess at the meaning of "historical" as "no longer capable of being directly observed". As it turns out, the evolution of stars, geological processes and biological changes including evolution can all be directly observed. And things that cannot be directly observed lend themselves to impacts today that can be observed that can distinguish between different possible theories. More on that in a moment.

    As far as your claim, I’ll wait for you to provide data from the published scientific literature documenting laboratory observation which verifies Darwinian evolution. If you could produce such a thing, you would be the hero of the academic world!f

    I wouldn't because Darwinism is already very well confirmed.



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  65. But you seem to now be saying that all of history is a hoax.

    Nice try. History (as distinguished from the term “historical based sciences”) is verified by tradition. One generation passes the information down to the next and that’s how we know that George Washington existed. The American nation possesses a tradition (not to mention museum documents) and the tradition is verified in the records of countless other peoples on earth.

    You are right that *part* of the reason that we believe various occurrences in history is due to tradition. Of course, you don't actually put much as much weight into tradition as you claim to do here, as the traditions of most of the worlds cultures, especially as to the origins of the universe and humanity would be quite contrary to your religious beliefs.

    For example, I'm sure that you put much more stock into what archaeologists can dig up about the founding of Rome that you do in the Roman stories of Remus and Romulus.

    Here are some simple examples where your theory of "history by tradition only" falls down:

    1) If a murder is committed, there are often no witnesses (or none willing to be interviewed). That doesn't stop us from using evidence collected after the fact to determine what happened. This commonplace is enough to show that your "operational" distinction is faulty.

    2) When I go outside and see that the ground is wet all around, I know that it was raining, even if know one tells me.

    3) We've managed to reconstruct dead languages including the Hieroglyph without any tradition as to what they mean. Instead we worked backwards from a few instances of translated document to eventually reconstruct the language.

    4) We have no human record of many kinds of animals (e.g. dinosaurs) existing, but we know that they existed because their remains are still with us.

    5) We can determine the age of some objects on the earth via radiometric dating. The decay of radioactive elements can be observed and measured in a laboratory. Of particular interest is uranium-lead because it gives two dates that can be cross-checked. This (among many other observations) puts the lie to the notion that at some point in the past, all of physics operated on some other principles that invalidated all possible measurements before year 'x'. If that was the case, you would not expect the two dating methods to produce consistent results.

    These are 5 of millions of examples that a relative ignoramus such as myself can produce with a small amount of research.

    Unfortunately no such tradition exists for the evolution of the species.

    Since Dinosaurs can't read or write, this is to be expected.

    In fact, the only historical tradition we actually have states that the world was recently created!

    I have not researched all the various human traditions on the history of the universe. But wikipedia says that Hindu human tradition says that the world goes back much farther. Also, as is quite obvious, human history only can go back to the history of humans and not farther.

    Let's be honest and say that you have a religious tradition that you believe strongly in and that you will ignore scientific evidence to the contrary of things that you believe that your tradition tells you.

    All I mean by “historical based sciences” is science that deals with events that occurred in the past and cannot be verified using the standard “scientific method” required for operational sciences. If you don’t know what the “scientific method” encompasses, please run a Google search.

    We're not going to settle this here, but your assertion that theories about events that occurred in the past cannot be verified using scientific method is another one of personal pet theories that no-one who understands science will share. You are again making the Torah depend on your idiosyncratic theories which is quite dangerous.

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  66. The bottom line is, “their” belief is based on, and influenced by, the overwhelming racket generated by academia combined with the enormous din created by the media.

    Now we get to the conspiracy theory. Science becomes a "racket generated by academia".

    Not “science”! The materialist theories of the academicians about the origins of the universe, chemical properties, and life.

    This is what people mean by science (and I mean "hard" science). You can come up with your own definitions and distinctions, but I think that my statement is clear. The parts of human knowledge most carefully confirmed (what most people call hard science) is considered by you to be a hoax. People understand that some statements of scientists are about the past.

    Unfortunately your understanding of the Philosophy of Science is woefully lacking. You need to familiarize yourself with the material if you want to carry on a meaningful discussion.

    Contentless argument.

    Your personal beliefs are yours and I don't question them. What I question is the risk and audacity of claiming that the truth of the Torah depends on accepting your conspiracy theories. This is something to reconsider.

    Well, you know what I would respond to that. But let’s put aside conspiracy for a moment. Did it ever dawn on you that our uncontested mesora (uncontested until about 150 years ago with the advent of Darwinian Evolution after which there arose a handful of attempts at reconciling the verses of the Torah in opposition to our mesora) of 3300 years maintains that Creation is recent? Check out this paper I wrote 7 years ago. It documents our mesora through the ages. Perhaps something for you to reconsider…

    It was also an uncontested "tradition" that some animals, including but not limited to lice, spontaneously generate. It was also an uncontested "tradition" that the earth does not move. When it was perceived that these traditions were not true, there were those that dug in their heels (and there are still those today that do so!!!), and called contrary belief "Apirkorsus". Those great authorities (and some no so greats) were incorrect. Someone can be greater than me and still think something incorrect in science.

    Others were correct and changed their beliefs from the tradition. When we gain new technical and scientific knowledge beyond what was possessed before, then our understanding of the natural world will change. That is not a revolutionary theory and can be found in various authorities, including the quite explicit statements in R. Avraham ben HaRambam and R. Hirsch, but also in many others in various contexts. In fact, the statements of R. Avraham ben HaRambam and R. Hirsch are so explicit as to cause some on your side of the issue to claim them, without evidence, to be forgeries.

    But you may be perhaps still be missing the point. If A->B, then (not A->not B). You assert that (Torah true -> astronomy, geology, biology hoaxes). The unfortunate logical inference is that if any of them is not a hoax (in the way that you state), then, by your reasoning, the Torah is "false".

    Here is a much better position for you: "my interpretation of the Torah contradicts much of science, so I must consider much of science to be a hoax. Here is my evidence. But if you don't like my evidence, by all means adopt a different reconciliation such as that proposed by R. Hirsch. I will think that you are very wrong, but I will accept that you accept the Torah."

    You still make your point, but you don't make statements at a higher pay grade than you are at.

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  67. David Ohsie,

    As usual, my comments are late in coming. I have a free night so I am writing as much as I can. Please note: I think the protocols of the site block comments older than 45 days. But not to worry. You can respond at leisure and I will check the moderation folder and activate your responses. I am not looking to get the last word here. If you don’t see your responses appearing, email me with a reminder and I’ll get it done.

    Since, we're not going to agree, I'll let go whether or not your statement is justified. But understand that "ploni" statements above are from your website, not from the "Gedoley Torah".

    This site possesses four contributing writers. Each writer is responsible for his own statements. Please keep this in mind when engaging the authors of this blog in discourse.

    According to R. Feldman's interpretation of R. Elyashiv…

    No means no. I’m not doing this.

    I'm quite unconcerned about your belief system on the age of the universe;

    All evidence to the contrary.

    My only concern is that people not be fooled by your arguments into believing that they are an illegitimate part of the 0.03% or to avoid joining the 0.03% because they falsely believe that you have to avoid calling the sky blue if you want to join.

    Your concern is truly touching. I suggest you create your own blog wherein you alert all potential ba’alei teshuva regarding the nefarious opinions of this blog.

    I'm sure that you have "answers", all of which contradict fundamental conclusions of the hard sciences.

    Lovely. I’ll wait for you to demonstrate your assertion. Until then, please excuse me if I do not take your criticisms re science seriously.

    The age of the universe is not some side factoid that can be discarded while maintaining the rest of the astronomy, geology and biology. It is not necessary to believe me. Open up any astronomy textboook!

    The only “necessary” thing here is for you to provide evidence for your statements. Just open up one of your precious astronomy textbooks and quote passages that theories regarding the age of the universe are indispensible to the science of astronomy, geology and biology. Good luck my friend…

    As as an aside, the usual "answer" given by those that feel a need to "answer", is that from some relativistic PoV, you can consider there to be only 6000 or so years to have elapsed from the big bang. I don't particularly think that this is what the Torah means, but accepting this still leaves us with an old universe and all the claims of astronomy intact. So I know that is not what you are referring to.

    Correct! Wow. We actually agree on something. To take it one step further, the plain meaning of the verses of the bible combined with the traditional record of our mesora of 3300 years support a young earth scenario.

    Continued in the following comment

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  68. Absolutely not. Historically astronomy was primarily a study of the motion of the heavenly bodies and how to predict said motion accurately. In addition, it discussed the nature of the material, or substance, of the stars. Only recently did Astronomy evolve to include theories about the origins of galaxies and star worlds and the time it takes them to develop.

    1) This is not historically true. The eternity of the universe is a ancient topic of debate.

    Yes. Philosophic debate, not scientific debate. The parameters of, say, Grecian astronomy remain the same whether one adheres to Plato, Aristotle, or any other philosophical view. So for instance, although Ptolemy was personally Aristotelian, his astronomical model in his seminal Almagest functioned equally well assuming Platonic paradigms. In ancient times, the eternity of the universe was considered an ontological topic, not an astronomical topic.

    The past and ongoing processes to describe how each cosmological grouping got to the way it is now, is intertwined in all of the studies.

    Agreed. But this does not detract from my point that in ancient times they were not intertwined. My issue is this very point. I am claiming that science improperly conflates two separate categories and presents their conclusions as if both were equally authoritative, both equally based on empirical, testable evidence.

    and is subject to empirical observation and verification. The latter category is purely theoretical and does not lend itself to verification. My issue lies solely with the latter category.

    You are again claiming that scientific method cannot reveal anything about the past.

    No, I’m not. What I am claiming is that when it comes to origins (Cosmological, Chemical, Biological), any conclusions are necessarily speculative, as opposed to operational science wherein the conclusions are expected to be empirically demonstrable.

    This is completely false, but all I'll say is that you are here claiming massive fraud.

    I never claimed that. I already explained that the academic establishment operates within the parameters of methodological naturalism and that this accounts for their improper conflation of empirical science with theoretical science. But you consistently ignore this distinction and misrepresent my opinion in a transparent attempt to support your view and delegitimize mine via reductio ad absurdum (scientists are all huddling in a corner conspiring to brainwash mankind with hoaxes and lies).

    Continued...

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  69. Astronomers claim to be using empirical methods, publish papers based on this claim, and somehow agree on massive amounts of hard science that is actually poppycock.

    Let me rephrase that for you. Astronomers appeal to certain empirical data and use said data to make huge extrapolations backwards in time based on untested (and untestable) assumptions while simultaneously creating hypothetical entities to account for the mathematical (and empirical) inconsistencies in their origin based theories, publish papers based on their claims, and agree that their conclusions should be taken just as seriously as those achieved via operational, testable, ‘able to be proven empirically’, methods of science.

    I don’t know how old you are but when I was a boy, the universe was 4 billion years old. This, by the way, on the heels of a steady state (eternal) universe. The 4b sum was achieved via “empirical data”. Subsequently, the “data” caused a huge recalculation to 15.2 billion (I remember Aryeh Kaplan arguing based on a 15.2b universe in the seventies). In the mid 1990’s it dropped to 10b for a short time and currently stands at 13.7 billion. I don’t know about you but these claims sound highly theoretical to me. Furthermore there are currently universal theories such as a Multiverse (think: Star Trek) and in fact even Steady State is making a comeback in some circles.

    Bottom line? The conclusions of astronomers regarding the age of the universe are obviously not on par with other branches of astronomy. Your belief that they are is clearly the result of your blind unquestioning faith in the pronouncements of the academic establishment. But don’t worry; you’re in good company. Rabbi Slifkin suffers from the same malady. When I call him on his belief in evolutionary common descent, he frequently appeals to the “consensus of science” as an immutable point of departure for any discussion on the topic.

    I discussed this at length on this blog. I refuse to repeat. If you wish, you can read my series “The Hoax of Geology” on this blog.

    Wonderful! We agree! Your theories depend on the notion that Geology is a hoax.

    I am beginning to suspect that you are willfully employing a disingenuous style of debate. If you’re simply looking to score debate points, let me know now and we can bring this discussion to a close.

    My “theories” do not depend on the notion that the science of Geology in general is a hoax. The title of my posts refers specifically to the branch of Geology that deals with evolution. Perhaps if you actually read the posts you might begin to understand why I chose such a title for evolutionary geology.

    Continued...

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  70. Most Orthodox Jews who know something of science will not accept your "resolution".

    How do you know? Have you taken a census? In any case, who cares? I am making an argument. All I am interested in hearing is a counter-argument from a specific Orthodox Jew, the one I am currently engaged in debate. If you have scientific arguments which disprove my claims in my posts on geology, great! Let’s hear them. But if all you can do is appeal to “Most Orthodox Jews”, don’t waste your time. Such arguments are meaningless to me.

    Perhaps it is you who have been led astray...

    Perhaps. But I’m in good company. For example; Yeshaya HaNavi, Rabbi Akiva, and Maimonides. Who do you have on your side?

    Providing two examples of a muddy principle doesn't make the principle clear. There is not clear delineation between the aspects of geology that impact mining and those that don't. As in all sciences, theories are formed and then confirmed by evidence in the here and now. The fact that some of the things that they dig are of value doesn't change the theories on which they are based.

    It has nothing to do with value. I am referring to methods of mineral extraction. In this sense, mining is a very precise science involving modern mining processes governed by mainstream principles of “mining” engineering.

    As far as your claim that “As in all sciences, theories are formed and then confirmed by evidence in the here and now”, I enjoin you to read my series of posts on Geology, “here and now”, on this blog. I demonstrate there that the conclusions of evolutionary geology are not based on the evidence and I appeal to the published scientific literature for verification of my claim. If you wish to disprove my assertion, you must also address the statements of the professional geologists I quote in my support.

    I wouldn't because Darwinism is already very well confirmed.

    Oh boy…

    Continued...

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  71. You are right that *part* of the reason that we believe various occurrences in history is due to tradition. Of course, you don't actually put much as much weight into tradition as you claim to do here, as the traditions of most of the worlds cultures, especially as to the origins of the universe and humanity would be quite contrary to your religious beliefs.

    Here we go again…

    Please refer to well-known, well-documented, internationally corroborated historical traditions of currently existing peoples that contradict our tradition re the origins of the universe and humanity. Please try and avoid making blanket statements. They are not helpful.

    For example, I'm sure that you put much more stock into what archaeologists can dig up about the founding of Rome that you do in the Roman stories of Remus and Romulus.

    Correct. The former falls under the category of history, the latter under the category of mythology. What’s your point?

    Here are some simple examples where your theory of "history by tradition only" falls down:

    1) If a murder is committed, there are often no witnesses (or none willing to be interviewed). That doesn't stop us from using evidence collected after the fact to determine what happened


    If there are no witnesses to a murder, we still need to “witness” empirical evidence that strongly implicates the suspect. This idea is distinct from the concept of “history by tradition” which maintains that the historical validity of past events consists primarily in the study and analysis of mankind’s received traditions. Note: Historical records are corroborated, and their validity reinforced, via ancillary methods such as archaeology and the like.

    2) When I go outside and see that the ground is wet all around, I know that it was raining, even if know one tells me.

    Of course. You have empirical evidence. The ground is wet. Somehow you keep on forgetting this crucial point.

    3) We've managed to reconstruct dead languages including the Hieroglyph without any tradition as to what they mean. Instead we worked backwards from a few instances of translated document to eventually reconstruct the language.

    The dead languages were reconstructed based primarily on human experience. Language is a form of human communication. If you study it in depth you will eventually develop a sense of linguistic patterns. Along with some outside sources, it makes sense that humans can reconstruct prior forms of communication. Language reconstruction is a branch of linguistics, not history.

    4) We have no human record of many kinds of animals (e.g. dinosaurs) existing, but we know that they existed because their remains are still with us.

    The branch of science which studies fossils of extinct life forms is called Paleontology, not History. To be sure, disciplines such as geology and paleontology help to corroborate the findings of History. But they are not “history”, per se.

    These are 5 of millions of examples that a relative ignoramus such as myself can produce with a small amount of research.

    Let’s start with one valid example please.

    Continued...

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    Replies
    1. What about ice cores? They are drilled out of the earth in Antarctica, and have layers forming every year, and we can go back hundreds of thousands of years and learn out from trapped air bubbles what the composition of the atmosphere was. Here's a recent article from scientific American:

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=scientists-close-in-on-planets-oldest-ice

      Also how do you explain geological formations on other planets? I once read an article debunking an attempt to link earth geology to a mabul by pointing out that the same things can be found on the moon, Mars, etc. Are you willing to say that the mabul affected all the other planets, even asteroids?

      Delete
  72. Unfortunately no such tradition exists for the evolution of the species.

    Since Dinosaurs can't read or write, this is to be expected.

    Snappy comeback. Unfortunately, the fact remains that our historical traditions refer to a Creation Event and are totally silent regarding evolutionary processes.

    I have not researched all the various human traditions on the history of the universe. But wikipedia says that Hindu human tradition says that the world goes back much farther.

    Hindu human tradition? There is no such thing! There is no one peoples or one nation that traces itself back to the beginnings of Hinduism. Hinduism is a belief system based on a wide array of historical beliefs. It is an evolving religion, no different than Christianity.

    Also, as is quite obvious, human history only can go back to the history of humans and not farther.

    Yes. And our human tradition tells us that Adam was the first human and that he saw that there were no other humans around. He knew that he was especially created, not a product of human evolution, and passed this information down to his progeny.

    Let's be honest and say that you have a religious tradition that you believe strongly in and that you will ignore scientific evidence to the contrary of things that you believe that your tradition tells you.

    This is false! Not once will you ever catch me “ignoring” scientific evidence in the service of apologetics! Just because you are entirely ignorant regarding the philosophical underpinnings of science doesn’t mean that I am ignoring “evidence”.

    If we’re being honest, here are the facts. You believe that the conclusions of evolutionary science (Cosmo, Chem and Bio) are based on precisely the same methods of scientific investigation as, say, electrical engineering and are thus equally valid. I have challenged this notion several times in this thread but thus far you have not provided even one shred of “scientific” evidence to support you claims. All you’ve done is to reiterate your faith in the statements of the scientific establishment while portraying the dissenting view as absurd. Not very convincing…

    Continued...

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  73. We're not going to settle this here, but your assertion that theories about events that occurred in the past cannot be verified using scientific method is another one of personal pet theories that no-one who understands science will share.

    No one? Are you sure? Ah well… And here I thought I understood science. Silly me.

    You are again making the Torah depend on your idiosyncratic theories which is quite dangerous.

    Forget Torah! We’re not talking about Torah. We’re talking about the parameters of science. Let’s focus on that and see if we can come to a mutual understanding regarding the philosophical/methodological underpinnings of modern science.

    Not “science”! The materialist theories of the academicians about the origins of the universe, chemical properties, and life.

    This is what people mean by science (and I mean "hard" science). You can come up with your own definitions and distinctions, but I think that my statement is clear. The parts of human knowledge most carefully confirmed (what most people call hard science) is considered by you to be a hoax. People understand that some statements of scientists are about the past.

    This conversation is going nowhere. It is clear that you have little if no exposure to the philosophy of science. It is also painfully clear that you do not understand the concept of scientific evidence, nor do you grasp the fundamentals of the scientific method. The fact that you characterize evolutionary science as “The parts of human knowledge most carefully confirmed” demonstrates your absolute ignorance regarding the parameters of scientific “confirmation”.

    Contentless argument.

    It’s not an argument. It’s merely an observation.

    It was also an uncontested "tradition" that some animals, including but not limited to lice, spontaneously generate.

    No such tradition! Not found in the Torah. Not found in the Neveim. Not found in the Kesuvim. The first time spontaneous generation appears in our literature is in the Mishna, circa 300 AD. That’s 1600 years after Sinai! Any reference to SG in the Talmud is most likely attributable to the Talmud’s utilization of contemporary scientific attitudes.

    It was also an uncontested "tradition" that the earth does not move.

    No such tradition.

    Others were correct and changed their beliefs from the tradition.

    Others? Which others? What are you talking about? What beliefs did the purported “others” change from the tradition?

    When we gain new technical and scientific knowledge beyond what was possessed before, then our understanding of the natural world will change.

    Good morning.

    That is not a revolutionary theory

    It sure isn’t. In fact, it’s not a theory at all. It’s a clearly demonstrable state of affairs. But you know what else? It has absolutely nothing to do with our discussion about the parameters of our Mesora (“tradition”).

    Here is a much better position for you:… You still make your point, but you don't make statements at a higher pay grade than you are at.

    Higher pay grade? Actually, your comments are offensive. I’m done. Find someone else to debate.

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  74. Here is a much better position for you:… You still make your point, but you don't make statements at a higher pay grade than you are at.

    Higher pay grade? Actually, your comments are offensive.


    You are welcome not to discuss anything with me, but I intended nothing remotely offensive. Let me restate: I do not believe that we (you and I) are the level where we can say of any aspect of science "if X is false, then Judaism is false". Instead say: my belief in Judaism makes me believe that X is false. It is more accurate and less risky.

    Here is a famous example of President Obama using this statement about himself to avoid deciding a religious issue:

    Rick Warren: OK, now, um, let's deal with abortion. 40 million abortions since Roe V. Wade, you know, as a pastor, I have to deal with this all the time. All of the pain, and all of the conflicts. I know this is a very com... complex issue. 40 million... uh, abortions. At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?
    Obama: Well, uh, you know, I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or, uh, a scientific perspective, uh, answering that question with specificity, uh, you know, is, is, uh, above my pay grade.

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  75. David Ohsie,

    You are welcome not to discuss anything with me, but I intended nothing remotely offensive.

    OK. I accept that. Thank you for clarifying.

    Let me restate: I do not believe that we (you and I) are the level where we can say of any aspect of science "if X is false, then Judaism is false". Instead say: my belief in Judaism makes me believe that X is false. It is more accurate and less risky.

    Three things.

    First of all, one of the primary goals of this blog is to supply rational explanations for apparent contradictions between science and Torah. Saying “my belief in Judaism makes me believe that X is false” does nothing to resolve the issue. On the contrary, it reinforces the problem by implying that the apparent discrepancy is irreconcilable and thus the Torah position must simply be taken on faith, despite what science tells us. From where I am sitting, this is neither more accurate nor less risky.

    Second of all, you are welcome to aver that you are not on “the level where we can say of any aspect of science "if X is false, then Judaism is false". But you can’t use such a formula to respond to any of my arguments. Obviously I feel that I am qualified to assess certain aspects of the Torah-Science loggerhead. For this discussion to be meaningful, you must respond directly to the substance of my arguments. Dismissing my position by marginalizing my authority is the classic case of an ad hominem fallacy.

    Third of all, your very formula is fundamentally flawed.

    If and when I attempt to address an apparent contradiction between Science and Torah, I first research all the relevant source materials in the Torah. I then research the scientific sources in the published scientific literature. Based on the sources, I propose a resolution to the problem. I never claim to be an expert, not in Torah and not in Science. Rather, I provide all the source material to the reader and allow him to make up his own mind.

    Let me give you a couple examples from posts on this very blog.

    Let’s begin with evolution. Ever since Darwin, evolutionary biologists have been claiming that the endless diversity of life evolved naturalistically of millions and millions of years. Current speculation dates the initial development of life at over 2by. This contradicts the Torah’s depiction which asserts that the various life forms on earth appeared suddenly in their fully developed form over a period of four days. Now, the obvious question is, what evidence would we expect to find in support of the Evolutionary paradigm and what evidence would we expect to find in support of the Torah paradigm? So, let’s look in the science books. Here’s some material I quoted back in June of 2012.

    Continued…

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  76. “As well-known French paleontologist Pierre-Paul Grassé writes:

    Naturalists must remember that the process of evolution is revealed only through fossil forms... only paleontology can provide them with the evidence of evolution and reveal its course or mechanisms. (Pierre Grassé, Evolution of Living Organisms, Academic Press, New York, 1977, p. 82.)

    Or as Geologist C.O. Dunbar writes:

    Fossils provide the only historical, documentary evidence that life has evolved from simpler to more complex forms (C.O. Dunbar, Historical Geology, page 52)”

    So, now we’ve established that according to the scientists themselves, we are looking for fossil evidence to support their claims. Now let’s turn to some quotes regarding the available fossil evidence. Here’s a few from George Gaylord Simpson, arguably the greatest evolutionist of the Twentieth century. I am copying and pasting from an online paper I wrote seven years ago.

    “On still higher levels, those of what is here called “mega-evolution” [a term which refers to fundamental changes in an organism, such as the appearance of a brand new limb, which would be looked upon as an example of speciation], the inferences [he is referring to previous statements] might still apply, but caution is enjoined because here essentially continuous transitional sequences are not merely rare, but they are virtually absent… their absence is so nearly universal that it cannot, offhand, be imputed entirely to chance and does require some attempt at special explanation as has been felt by most paleontologists (George Gaylord Simpson, Tempo and Mode in Evolution, Columbia University Press, 1984, p. 105 (Emphasis added))”

    “This is true of all the thirty-two orders of mammals, and in most cases the break in the record is still more striking than the case of the perissodactyls… The earliest and most primitive known members of every order already have the basic ordinal characters [just like the Torah implies], and in no case is an approximately continuous sequence from one order to another known” (ibid)

    “In most cases, the break is so sharp and the gap so large that the origin of the order is speculative and much disputed…there is little doubt, for instance, that the highly diverse ungulates [hoofed animals] did have a common ancestry; but the line making an actual connection with such an ancestry is not known in even one instance (ibid)

    And here’s one more from another textbook he wrote:

    “…it remains true, as every paleontologist knows, that most new species, genera, and families, and that nearly all categories above the level of families, appear in the record suddenly and are not led up to by known, gradual, completely continuous transitional sequences

    It seems abundantly clear that despite their allegiance to evolutionary dogma, professional mainstream neo-Darwinists concede the lack of fossil evidence supporting their theories.

    Continued…

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  77. So, what about the Torah? What would we expect to see if the Biblical Paradigm (rapid Creation of fully developed, well defined classifications of life) were correct? Well, it seems clear that we would expect to see the sudden appearance of life forms and that they should all belong to a relatively small number of taxonomic orders as depicted in the Torah, right? Good. Let’s see what the scientific literature says. Once again, I am cutting and pasting from my paper.

    “When Charles Darwin published his famous book “On the Origin of Species”, he included an entire chapter detailing the issues that his theory faced. The name of the chapter is “Difficulties on Theory” and the primary difficulty was what he referred to as the “absence or rarity of transitional fossils”. He asks:

    ‘Why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species, being as we see them, well defined?’

    Later on, in chapter nine, he asks:

    ‘But just in proportion as this process of extermination (a theory Darwin proposed for the lack of transitional forms) has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.’

    Subsequently, Darwin stated that although in his day the study of fossils in the rocks was only in its incipient stage, he was confident that after time, his theory would be shown to be true. However, his “grave objection” was so powerful that even today, almost 150 years after Darwin’s book was published, paleontologists are still stymied by it. And although all the high-school biology text books assert with confidence that scientists possess numerous examples of transitional sequences, the truth is that these links are just as “rare or absent” today as they were in Darwin’s age.

    Continued…

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  78. In order to demonstrate common ancestry, a fossil must possess some of the features of its supposed ancestors but, as Darwin wrote, all we find are “well defined” species, whether currently in existence, or extinct; 150 years later, that is still all we find. The mainstream evolutionist asserts that all species on earth descended from a single common ancestor through “insensibly fine gradations”. In other words, the theory considers life as an ever-changing phenomenon, without any preordained classifications. However, a concerted study of life invariably reveals precisely what the Torah states: that organisms are strictly separated into distinct categories (see R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch, parhsas Bereishis, for an exposition on this topic).

    Robert Carroll, a highly regarded evolutionist, writes as follows:

    ‘Although an almost incomprehensible number of species inhabit Earth today, they do not form a continuous spectrum of barely distinguishable intermediates. Instead, nearly all species can be recognized as belonging to a relatively limited number of clearly distinct major groups, with very few illustrating intermediate structures or ways of life.

    In conclusion, the scientific evidence, as reported by the scientists themselves, confirms the Creation Paradigm and disconfirms the Evolution Paradigm! As I go on to conclude in my paper:

    “Without an assumed attitude of discounting the messorah’s account of the individual creation of different species, 150 years of scientists’ systematic failure to produce intermediate fossils should serve to demonstrate the falseness of mainstream evolutionary theory, just as Darwin himself admitted.”

    This, then, is my modus operandi. I do not claim to be an expert. Rather, I appeal to the experts themselves to demonstrate the lack of scientific evidence for evolution.

    There is one final issue to address. If, as I prove, evolution lacks scientific evidence, why does the academic establishment adopt it with such certainty? This, my friend, is a question best answered by one possessing the appropriate degree of philosophical sophistication. When it comes to the Philosophy of Science, one of my favorite quotes is by one of the senior members of the evolutionary establishment, Harvard professor Richard Lewontin:

    Continued…

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  79. As to assertions without adequate evidence, the literature of science is filled with them, especially the literature of popular science writing. Carl Sagan’s list of the “best contemporary science-popularizers” includes E.O. Wilson, Lewis Thomas, and Richard Dawkins, each of whom has put unsubstantiated assertions or counterfactual claims at the very center of the stories they have retailed in the market. Wilson’s Sociobiology and On Human Nature rest on the surface of a quaking marsh of unsupported claims about the genetic determination of everything from altruism to xenophobia. Dawkins’s vulgarizations of Darwinism speak of nothing in evolution but an inexorable ascendancy of genes that are selectively superior, while the entire body of technical advance in experimental and theoretical evolutionary genetics of the last fifty years has moved in the direction of emphasizing non-selective forces in evolution…

    Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen. (Richard Lewontin, "The Demon-Haunted World," The New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, p. 28., emphases added)

    The above quote is one of the most brutally honest statements I have ever encountered by a leading evolutionist. I trust its significance has not gone lost on you.

    So David, as you can see, you need not be concerned about “not being on the level” to assess the scientific material. As laymen, both you and I are perfectly in our rights to demand that scientists provide empirical evidence for their claims. The only difference between you and I is that I’ve done my homework and you haven’t.

    I hope the preceding presentation was at least somewhat edifying.

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  80. It was also an uncontested "tradition" that the earth does not move.

    No such tradition.

    Others were correct and changed their beliefs from the tradition.

    Others? Which others? What are you talking about? What beliefs did the purported “others” change from the tradition?

    I think that you might be unaware that the Copernicus was not immediately accepted because he conflicts with the astronomical conceptions of the the Talmud and the Rishonim and the plain meaning of various Pesukim. From Maaseh Tuviah (via Jeremy Brown's "A New Heavens and a New Earth").

    Every godly philosopher should certainly oppose Copernicus and those who follow him, for all the proofs that he and his supporters bring are against the words of Holy Scripture and the true prophets. It is stated in Ecclesiastes "and the Earth stands for ever" (1:4) yet Copernicus believes it does not stand at all! Neither does the sun rise or set or change its position; rather it remains in its place unmoved, for it never moves. If this is so, then why is it written "The Sun rises and the Sun sets, and glides back to where it rises...it goes south and turns north, turning, turning...." [Ecles. 1:5] And from the book of Joshua: "and the Sun stopped and did not hasten to set". [10:13]. And in Isaiah: "... The Sun's shadow went back ten degrees, the same degrees that it had descended." [38:8]

    Here you see a number of places in which the verses of the Bible state their case, and support the notion that the Sun, Moon and all the stars orbit around the Earth, and not that the Earth orbits the Sun.

    Now should Copernicus bring all sorts of proofs and false demonstrations, you should blunt his teeth and reply: "I, like you, have all kinds of proofs and demonstrations that show that your thoughts are incorrect".


    Matteh Dan:

    Haver: The models of the new astonomers are certainly founded on good reasoning, but we cannot accept their propositions that the Sun does not move. For in the book of Joshua (chapter 10) it is written, "Sun, stand still in Givon" and it states that "the Sun stood still in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to set for a whole day". This clearly proves that the Sun orbits [the Earth] like the other planets. Even those how hold this [Copernican] model struggle in vain to address this problem. Their solutions have not proven persuasive, and their model msut be rejected and removed from the camp of God.

    King: But pray tell, how do they answer this objection?

    Haver: They claim that the prophet used this language so that the ordinary person could understand it, for [ordinary people] believe that the Sun moves and that the Earth is motionless.

    King: This answer has no value. Therefore I must agree with you that this model is "abonimable and cannot be accepted".


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  81. R. Yonasan Eybeshutz:

    "All the early philosphers were in agreement that the stars orbit [the earth] in order to obtain [spiritual] perfection, and this is how they worship God, just as we worship god through the performance of his mitzvot in order to obtain perfection for our souls. They reach perfection for their intellectual souls through their movements and continued orbiting...just as God ordered tehm to be quick and orbit the Earth each and every day.
    ...
    As a result, many astrononomers, including Copernicus and his supporters, have made off themselves when they declare that the Earth orbits [the Sun]. They hav left us with a lie, and the truth will bear itself bear witness that the Earth stands still for ever... Since the reason that the stars orbit is to become [spiritually] perfect, being endowed with both a soul and intelligence, any challenges raised by Copernicus can be answered. They asked, could it be that the Sun and all the planets move simply to illuminate the tiny Earth? But this is not an objection, for they orbit to obtain spiritual perfection and to receive Divine influence, for this is the service that they have been commanded to perform. Now, some later Christians maintain that not all the planets are intellectual or spiritual beings, and tehat they lack and intellect that drives them. Rather they claim that the planets are inanimate material, just like, the Earth itself.. and because of this they mock our sages of blessed memory who stated that the planets rejoice and are happy in their performanceof the will of their creator.


    Israel Schlesinger, student of Chasam Sofer:

    "Woe to our generation whos would question why the Sun woudl orbit the Earth. For one who believe in the Torah of Moses our teacher, may he rest in peace, and who believes that God has allowed his Divine Presence to shine in the lower world and [believes in God] who came in a great showing on Mount Sinai, who revealed himself to humanity...such a person would have no trouble in understanding why the Earth would be more important than the Sun. He will believe what is clearly stated: "and God put them [the Sun and the Moon] in the skies to light up the Earth" [Gen 1:17]. My teacher, the great Rabbi Moses Sofer always had this reply at the ready. He would say that the entire enterprise of Copernicus was to study the stars and the like...and as a result [Copernicus] found no purpose for the Earth and could not understand why the Sun would orbit it. But this is not so for us, teh children of Israel who study the Torah that is even greater than the Sun. It is indeed fitting that the Sun should shine on the Earth, not for the sake of those who dwell on it and who study that which is even greater than the Sun... The proofs of Copernicus are in no way convincing for he has no say in this matter at all. We must follow the path of our Torah, which is follwed by all the statements of the rabits and books of kabbalah...God forbid that any wise Jew would accept a lie...".

    R. Yosef Landau (Bircas Yosef):

    "This system is absolutely false, do not believe it and do not listen to them in any way, for this is rejected by the Scriptures and by the holy prophets. for it states in Kohelet that "the Sun rises and the Sun comes" and in the tenth chapter of the book of Joshua it states "...the Sun stood motionless in Givon" and in the thirty-eighth chapter of Isaiah it states "..The sun returned ten degrees, the number of degrees that it has moved." All of these verses must be interpreted according to their plain meaning, namely that the Earth rests in its place, and that the Sun, the Moon, and all the planets orbit it."

    There are many more.

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  82. David Ohsie,

    Others? Which others? What are you talking about? What beliefs did the purported “others” change from the tradition?

    I think that you might be unaware that the Copernicus was not immediately accepted…

    Is that your answer? I asked you to demonstrate your claim that “others” changed their beliefs from the mesora. This is an important question. In fact, it cuts to the very heart of our topic.

    This blog takes the concept of “mesora” very seriously. As a matter of fact, defending our mesora is its very raison d’être. If you would like our readership to take your claims re the mesora seriously (It was also an uncontested "tradition" that the earth does not move… Others were correct and changed their beliefs from the tradition), you need to provide evidence for your claims. So far all you’ve provided is proof to the contrary!

    Here you see a number of places in which the verses of the Bible state their case, and support the notion that the Sun, Moon and all the stars orbit around the Earth, and not that the Earth orbits the Sun.

    Really? Are you sure? Let’s explore this topic, you and I.

    You are an enlightened man of the 21st century. You know that the earth orbits a stationary sun. I have one simple question for you. Why do you describe the appearance of the sun above the horizon in the morning as “sunrise”? And why do you describe the descent of the sun below the horizon every evening as “sunset”? Check that: Why does “The New York Times” describe the daily appearance and descent of the sun above/below the horizon as sunrise and sunset? Surely the publishers of TNYT know that the sun is stationary!

    I think that any response to this question automatically covers your specific issue. If you think differently, please let me know.

    Interestingly enough, you actually broach this topic, propose a resolution, and then inexplicably dismiss it out of hand with no explanation at all! Here’s what you write.

    King: But pray tell, how do they answer this objection?

    Haver: They claim that the prophet used this language so that the ordinary person could understand it, for [ordinary people] believe that the Sun moves and that the Earth is motionless.

    King: This answer has no value. Therefore I must agree with you that this model is "abonimable and cannot be accepted".


    Why does this answer have no value? In point of fact, it is perfectly valid! The concept of “dibra torah bi’lashon binei adam” appears frequently in Talmud Bavli.

    You write: “There are many more.”

    I know. And I don’t care. The “many more” are all attempts to establish the rightness of preconceived notions of the pesukim in opposition to current scientific paradigms. I have no use for such explanations, and neither do you. You’ve already explained that “the prophet used this language so that the ordinary person could understand it”.

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  83. Others? Which others? What are you talking about? What beliefs did the purported “others” change from the tradition?

    I think that you might be unaware that the Copernicus was not immediately accepted…

    Is that your answer? I asked you to demonstrate your claim that “others” changed their beliefs from the mesora. This is an important question. In fact, it cuts to the very heart of our topic.

    I claim that, just as with a 6000 year old earth, all the expositors of the Torah Sh'Baal Peh up to the time of Copernicus maintained that the earth didn't move. And, just as with a 6000 year old earth, that the plain meaning of the Pesukim is that the earth doesn't move. And, just as with a 6000 year old earth, some great authorities (who I quoted), after seeing the science, refused to believe it, because they had the Mesorah and the Pesukim that said otherwise. And, just as with the 6000 year old earth, the authorities maintained that to agree to the earth moved would be to mock the sages. And, just as with a 6000 year old earth, there are those who will, today, maintain strongly against scientific evidence that Earth does not move, and there are others who say that since they can't deny what their eyes show them, the Pesukim must be forced out of their plain meaning, and the prior authorities must be regarded as mistaken.
    I don't want to get into a semantic argument with you. If you maintain that in retrospect, despite the unanimous agreement among the Baalei Mesorah until modern times, and the plain meaning of the pesukim that a stationary earth is not part of the Mesorah because the science indicates otherwise, then the same can be said of age of the earth.

    If you instead maintain that anything agreed upon by all Baalei Mesorah until modern times and supported by the plain meaning of the Pesukim is part of the Mesorah, despite any scientific evidence that we might bring, then both a 6000 year old earth and a stationary earth are part of the Mesorah.

    This blog takes the concept of “mesora” very seriously. As a matter of fact, defending our mesora is its very raison d’être. If you would like our readership to take your claims re the mesora seriously (It was also an uncontested "tradition" that the earth does not move… Others were correct and changed their beliefs from the tradition), you need to provide evidence for your claims. So far all you’ve provided is proof to the contrary!

    I brought the proof that, just as you are doing with a young earth, the great authorities cited the unanimous opinion of the Baalei Mesorah and the plain meaning of the Pesukim to prove that the earth does not move. I don't think that I need to bring authorities who believe that earth moves, despite unanimous opinion of the Baalei Mesorah and the plain meaning of the Pesukim, because we all know that while there is still a dispute about the stationary earth in the Charedi world, numerous authorities agree that the earth moves. If you really feel that all authorities, based on the Mesorah, believe that the earth is stationary, then I'll bring some authorities that admit that the earth moves.

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  84. If you instead maintain that anything agreed upon by all Baalei Mesorah until modern times and supported by the plain meaning of the Pesukim is part of the Mesorah, despite any scientific evidence that we might bring, then both a 6000 year old earth and a stationary earth are part of the Mesorah.

    This blog takes the concept of “mesora” very seriously. As a matter of fact, defending our mesora is its very raison d’être. If you would like our readership to take your claims re the mesora seriously (It was also an uncontested "tradition" that the earth does not move… Others were correct and changed their beliefs from the tradition), you need to provide evidence for your claims. So far all you’ve provided is proof to the contrary!

    I brought the proof that, just as you are doing with a young earth, the great authorities cited the unanimous opinion of the Baalei Mesorah and the plain meaning of the Pesukim to prove that the earth does not move. I don't think that I need to bring authorities who believe that earth moves, despite unanimous opinion of the Baalei Mesorah and the plain meaning of the Pesukim, because we all know that while there is still a dispute about the stationary earth in the Charedi world, numerous authorities agree that the earth moves. If you really feel that all authorities, based on the Mesorah, believe that the earth is stationary, then I'll bring some authorities that admit that the earth moves.

    Here you see a number of places in which the verses of the Bible state their case, and support the notion that the Sun, Moon and all the stars orbit around the Earth, and not that the Earth orbits the Sun.

    Really? Are you sure? Let’s explore this topic, you and I.

    Those are not my words; those are a quotation. I'm citing prior Baalei Mesorah that the plain meaning of the pesukim is the earth is stationary and that can't be uprooted by science, just as you do with a young earth. I would give non-literal interpretations to all those pesukim in both cases, but you this should be disallowed by your theories.

    You write: “There are many more.”
    I know. And I don’t care. The “many more” are all attempts to establish the rightness of preconceived notions of the pesukim in opposition to current scientific paradigms.


    Bingo! None of Baalei Mesorah accepted a moving earth until the science forced us to reinterpret things. Same with a 6000 year old earth. Your citation of unanimous Baalei Mesorah holding a young earth is not useful, because they didn't have the evidence that we have, just as they didn't have the evidence of a moving earth.

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  85. David Ohsie said:
    "Bingo! None of Baalei Mesorah accepted a moving earth until the science forced us to reinterpret things. Same with a 6000 year old earth."

    I don't have the patience for a back and forth since I am in my Shloshim but in Talmudic works you will find mention of ideas that the earth is really older and was host to "prior worlds" as the 6000 years of today was measured from Adam.

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    1. David Ohsie said:
      "Bingo! None of Baalei Mesorah accepted a moving earth until the science forced us to reinterpret things. Same with a 6000 year old earth."

      I don't have the patience for a back and forth since I am in my Shloshim but in Talmudic works you will find mention of ideas that the earth is really older and was host to "prior worlds" as the 6000 years of today was measured from Adam


      You are right and that makes the point even stronger. There may actually be more support in the pre-modern Baalei Mesorah for an old earth than for a moving earth.

      המקום ינחם אותך בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

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  86. Let me restate: I do not believe that we (you and I) are the level where we can say of any aspect of science "if X is false, then Judaism is false". Instead say: my belief in Judaism makes me believe that X is false. It is more accurate and less risky.

    Three things.

    First of all, one of the primary goals of this blog is to supply rational explanations for apparent contradictions between science and Torah. Saying “my belief in Judaism makes me believe that X is false” does nothing to resolve the issue. On the contrary, it reinforces the problem by implying that the apparent discrepancy is irreconcilable and thus the Torah position must simply be taken on faith, despite what science tells us. From where I am sitting, this is neither more accurate nor less risky.

    You miss the point again. You have apparent contradiction of T from Torah with S from Science. You can say:

    1) S from Science is true. It doesn't contradict T for reasons XYZ. Or maybe I don't know how to reconcile and I'll wait for Mashiach to do so (you don't die from a question, etc.)
    2) S from Science is false. Here is why (not reliable, a hoax, etc.)

    You have chosen #2 as your preferred explanation where S = "The earth is much, much older than 6000 years". So far so good (although I might find your explanation lacking).

    But then you go on to say that #1 is impossible. You claim that it T is true, then S must be false. T => not S.

    This second thing is an unnecessary addition and quite dangerous. Because that also means that S => not T. You've also implied that those that believe in S might as well leave Judaism because they are Apikorsim as since they hold S, they also hold not T.

    Also, if you turn out to be wrong, and S is correct, you've actually made yourself into something of an implied Apikores. You don't worry about this because your are sure that S is wrong. But how sure? 99%? 99.99%?

    Second of all, you are welcome to aver that you are not on “the level where we can say of any aspect of science "if X is false, then Judaism is false". But you can’t use such a formula to respond to any of my arguments.

    I reject your arguments because they aren't very good. We don't agree on that.

    My point is that whether or not your argument is good or not, there no reason for you to say T => (not S). That is something that you should considered yourself unqualified to do because of the reasons mentioned above.

    If you don't believe me, maybe you would believe R. Yonah Merzbach:

    "To those that have Ruach HaKodesh -- and to them alone -- are revealed the ways of nature and its laws from the Pesikum of Mikreh and the works of Chazal. Other people are prone to make mistakes in them."

    You can check my translation here:
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=50523&st=&pgnum=11

    Obviously I feel that I am qualified to assess certain aspects of the Torah-Science loggerhead. For this discussion to be meaningful, you must respond directly to the substance of my arguments. Dismissing my position by marginalizing my authority is the classic case of an ad hominem fallacy.

    See above. I believe that your arguments about the "hoax" of science are without foundation, but that is not what I'm talking about.

    Third of all, your very formula is fundamentally flawed.

    If and when I attempt to address an apparent contradiction between Science and Torah, I first research all the relevant source materials in the Torah. I then research the scientific sources in the published scientific literature. Based on the sources, I propose a resolution to the problem. I never claim to be an expert, not in Torah and not in Science. Rather, I provide all the source material to the reader and allow him to make up his own mind.


    You also imply that those that the accept the science are lacking their belief in Torah. That is the part I was addressing with that argument.

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  87. Just to comment a bit on your "science expose". I'm glad you posted it because it demonstrates the hollowness of your approach. Just to point out a few obvious problems:

    1) There is no actual science in it. To form an alternative hypothesis, you have to propose a different model, then show how your model gives better predictions than the currently accepted model. Instead, you quote book reviews with a scientist complaining about how popular science books dumb down the topic in order to make it understandable to laymen. You can find plenty of such complaints on any area of science.

    I'll pick out a few more specifics, but really the paragraphs above is enough.

    Robert Carroll, a highly regarded evolutionist, writes as follows:

    ‘Although an almost incomprehensible number of species inhabit Earth today, they do not form a continuous spectrum of barely distinguishable intermediates. Instead, nearly all species can be recognized as belonging to a relatively limited number of clearly distinct major groups, with very few illustrating intermediate structures or ways of life.”

    In conclusion, the scientific evidence, as reported by the scientists themselves, confirms the Creation Paradigm and disconfirms the Evolution Paradigm!


    This is one of your sillier comments. Robert Carroll here is stating the obvious. If you freeze frame biology at the current time, then you see relatively distinct species. That has been known since the dawn of human history. The evidence for both the fact of evolution and the Darwin's explanation of how evolution happened is based on how things are now + how things were in the past that we can tell from digging in the ground + what we can tell from analyzing DNA. What you have shown is that you can't tell whether or not and how species have evolved over time by simply looking at a snapshot in time.

    What you write is equivalent to the following: "See, go to a mountain top. You don't see the curvature of the earth. So this confirms the flat earth hypothesis and disconfirms the spherical earth hypothesis." Looking at a single piece of evidence is not going to get you to the right theory.

    Anyhow, while there is plenty of evidence for Darwinism, your whole enterprise is a waste of your time. Your model of literal Biblical interpretation contradicts the very facts of evolution. Even if Darwinism had never been dreamed of as an explanation, what we find in the ground is completely inconsistent with a young earth with unchanging species.

    However, a concerted study of life invariably reveals precisely what the Torah states: that organisms are strictly separated into distinct categories

    This is again silly. Your (imprecise) model predicts something like the following: You would find all of the dating methods of biology, geology and astronomy working until about 6000 years ago. You would expect to find nothing that comes with a date from more than 6000 years ago let alone billions of years ago. Any fossils should be of species approximately like what we have today + maybe some that died out. You would expect to find ices layers in the antarctic going back 6000 or so layers and then ending; the same being true for tree ring dating (dendrochonology). This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to support an alternative hypothesis, you have a lot more work to do than to quote a few book reviews. You have to do some actual science research.

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  88. I'm quite unconcerned about your belief system on the age of the universe;

    All evidence to the contrary

    My only concern is that people not be fooled by your arguments into believing that they are an illegitimate part of the 0.03% or to avoid joining the 0.03% because they falsely believe that you have to avoid calling the sky blue if you want to join.

    I'll let R. Merzbach say it better than me:

    It is not because of the ignorance that is contained in this "Kinas Hashem" that I am angry and mock, and not even because through this he calls believers and Charedim, Minim and Apikorsim or because it would be permitted to degrade one that calls me a Rasha.

    Rather it is because I am concerned with three things: 1) The desecration of God's name, that through this he makes us targets of mockery and laughter in the eyes of others who will mock the denial of reality by those who are God-fearing. 2) And of the purity of belief, that through this he mixes up the concepts of belief which the Torah and Chazal have described, with regard to that which beliefs are mandatory and which are not. 3) And because of the danger to to the public, that through this he endangers the belief of those young people what will go out at some point and hear from others that which will open their eyes, and they will infer a general principle from this case in which they were taught ignorance, to respond in the same way to everything that they are taught.

    It is incumbent upon sages who write in periodicals to be careful in their words so that they not become a stumbling block. And therefore I wrote these words.


    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=50523&st=&pgnum=16

    You are not a sage writing in a periodical, and I would not use such strong language, but this is the issue that concerns me when you imply belief in the Torah requires belief in the fraudulence of large portions of well-confirmed science.

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  89. David Ohsie,

    This is a very belated response. Sorry. No time.

    Me: “Is that your answer? I asked you to demonstrate your claim that “others” changed their beliefs from the mesora. This is an important question. In fact, it cuts to the very heart of our topic.”

    I claim that, just as with a 6000 year old earth, all the expositors of the Torah Sh'Baal Peh up to the time of Copernicus maintained that the earth didn't move.

    What the expositors of Torah she’baal peh held up until Copernicus is irrelevant to our discussion. Even if you are correct, they also held that water is wet. This doesn’t make wetness a matter of the mesora. The issue here is that you assume that our mesora maintains a static earth and based on this assumption claim that “others” rejected our mesora due to their understanding of science. The problem is, there is no such mesora! It’s not like there were two options on the table, geocentric and heliocentric, and Chazal chose the latter over the former. You will not find any massoretic statement in Chazal that geocentric is right as opposed to heliocentric.

    And, just as with a 6000 year old earth, that the plain meaning of the Pesukim is that the earth doesn't move.

    This is just plain wrong but for the sake of argument let’s assume your claim. To this I would like to add the issue of references in the Torah to the four corners of the earth which implies that the Torah was not aware that the earth was spherical. Here’s the answer.

    Sometimes references in the Torah are literal, sometimes they are not. Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim) has clearly delineated rules for this. References in the Torah to recent creation are clearly literal, as Rambam states. As far as a static earth, there are no references to this in the Torah. The only references in Tanach that I know of are those that refer to a mobile sun, not a stationary earth. But that’s neither here nor there. You and I (and the New York Times) refer to a mobile sun too. That doesn’t mean that we believe that the sun is actually mobile.

    There is one reference in Koheles (1:4) “the earth stands forever” but within context it is meaningless. The entire pasuk actually reads “a generation comes, and a generation goes, but the earth stands forever”. Clearly the pasuk is not discussing the spatial qualities of planet Earth.

    Aside: I would like to take this opportunity to mention that there is a difference between “allegory” and “colloquial usage”. Allegory strives to explain a given topic by appealing to another topic. Allegorical representations are figurative, not literal. On the other hand, colloquial usage is meant to clarify a topic via direct reference and is at least partially literal. The concept of “dibra Torah b’lashon binei adam” refers to colloquialism, not allegory.

    Continued…

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  90. And, just as with a 6000 year old earth, some great authorities (who I quoted), after seeing the science, refused to believe it, because they had the Mesorah and the Pesukim that said otherwise.

    Your statement is imbalanced. Notwithstanding a tiny smattering of post-evolutionary scholars who flirted with the idea of evolution, the unanimous consensus of our received tradition is that the world was recently created (and in fact, there is no scientific evidence to disprove this). On the other hand, there is nothing in our mesora or in our pesukim that claims that the earth is stationary.

    I am aware that I am disputing some big guns (the people you quoted) which is precisely why I insist that you provide unambiguous evidence from the Torah and Chazal. If this cannot be furnished, then I will have to respectfully disagree with your authorities regarding the status of a static earth in our mesora.

    And, just as with the 6000 year old earth, the authorities maintained that to agree to the earth moved would be to mock the sages.

    You’re overstating your case. None of the authorities you quote mention that “to agree [that] the earth moved would be to mock the sages”. Ditto for those who reject evolution. The issue here is not “mocking the sages”. The issue is a categorical lack of support for evolution and for geocentricity, both in the works of our sages and in empirical (scientific) evidence. Up until Copernicus, did Chazal and the Rishonim believe in a geocentric model? Probably. But it was not a matter of the mesora.

    And, just as with a 6000 year old earth, there are those who will, today, maintain strongly against scientific evidence that Earth does not move, and there are others who say that since they can't deny what their eyes show them, the Pesukim must be forced out of their plain meaning, and the prior authorities must be regarded as mistaken.

    You know, it would really be nice if you would quote a few proof-texts from Tanach and from Chazal to support your grandiose claims. “The pesukim (re geocentricity) must be forced out of their plain meaning”? What pesukim? What are you talking about? And which “others” claim that “the prior authorities must be regarded as mistaken” re geoncentricity? Where, in the massoretic works of the “prior authorities”, can it be found that the earth does not move??? You need to stop making unsubstantiated claims!

    I don't want to get into a semantic argument with you.

    Agreed. So please make sure your claims are substantiated. This will serve to eliminate much of the ambiguity that attends our discussions while simultaneously providing us with an opportunity to properly assess each other’s claims.

    Continued…

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  91. If you maintain that in retrospect, despite the unanimous agreement among the Baalei Mesorah until modern times, and the plain meaning of the pesukim that a stationary earth is not part of the Mesorah because the science indicates otherwise, then the same can be said of age of the earth.

    If you instead maintain that anything agreed upon by all Baalei Mesorah until modern times and supported by the plain meaning of the Pesukim is part of the Mesorah, despite any scientific evidence that we might bring, then both a 6000 year old earth and a stationary earth are part of the Mesorah.


    I don’t maintain either of these views. I maintain that a stationary earth has nothing to do with our mesora and that there is no “unanimous agreement among the Baalei Mesorah” that our mesora dictates such a thing. Such claims are pure bubba ma’asos.

    I brought the proof that, just as you are doing with a young earth,

    I am doing no such thing with a young earth. Yes, I believe our mesora supports a young earth scenario but “what I am doing” is showing that science has no evidence for an old earth scenario. My arguments are focused on the science, not on the mesora.

    the great authorities cited the unanimous opinion of the Baalei Mesorah

    THEY DID NOT! Stop misrepresenting your sources. You quoted five individuals in total (Maaseh Tuvia, whoever that is, Mateh Dan, R’ Yonasan Eybishitz, Israel Schlesinger and the Birkas Yoseph) and not a single one cites your purported “unanimous opinion of the ba’alei mesora”. They all provide their own personal interpretations of the same 3 or 4 pesukim in Tanach. That’s it. That’s all you have. No mesora here. No “the” great authorities. No “unanimous opinion of the ba’alei mesora”. You are grossly overstating your position.

    I don't think that I need to bring authorities who believe that earth moves,

    Of course not. You need to bring authorities who support your claim! You claimed that “It was also an uncontested "tradition" that the earth does not move….Others were correct and changed their beliefs from the tradition.”

    So,
    #1: You need to produce evidence that geocentricity is an “uncontested element of our mesora”.

    #2: You need to provide verifiable sources demonstrating that:
    a) “others” accepted the fact that geocentricity is a massoretic imperative, and
    b) said “others” knowingly rejected our mesora in light of modern science.

    Thus far, all you’ve provided is 5 quotations from authorities that uphold your purported mesora! Not very convincing…

    Continued…

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  92. Those are not my words; those are a quotation.

    Yes. A quotation cited approvingly by you to show that the pashtus of the pesukim refer to geocentricity.

    I'm citing prior Baalei Mesorah that the plain meaning of the pesukim is the earth is stationary and that can't be uprooted by science, just as you do with a young earth.

    Surely you jest. I provided you with a 28 page document containing 35 pre-evolutionarysources in the pesukim, Chazal and Rishonim for a massoretic young earth, and I say nothing there about “mesorah not being able to be uprooted by science”.

    Your citations are ex-post facto. You cited four or five post Copernican Torah scholars that personally interpret 3 or 4 pesukim that the earth is stationary, and then based on their understanding, eschew heliocentricity as anti-Torah. If you want to be convincing, you need to provide pre-Copernican sources in Chazal and Rishonim that refer to a heliocentric universe as anti-Torah.

    Furthermore, your quotes are clearly polemical. The authors are obviously bent on proving the veracity of the pesukim in the face of (what they consider) scientific counter-evidence. I do no such thing. My paper on mesora is exclusively about our objective sources in the tradition. When it comes to science, I have other writings. I never mix the two.

    I would give non-literal interpretations to all those pesukim in both cases

    No, you wouldn’t. The 2 or 3 pesukim that describe the sun as moving is precisely the way you describe the movement of the sun! The sun looks like its rising. The sun looks like its setting. That’s the way people talk. That’s the way the Torah talks. This falls under the category of “colloquial usage”.

    As far as maaseh bereishis, “day” in the Torah means a 24 hour terrestrial day, exactly as it means in the hundreds of other times it is used. You have no right to allegorize these pesukim unless you have compelling physical evidence to the contrary. Unfortunately, you do not.

    Continued…

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  93. Bingo!

    If I were you I would stay away from the Bingo halls in your neighborhood. You seem confused regarding the meaning of the term.

    None of Baalei Mesorah accepted a moving earth until the science forced us to reinterpret things.

    Well, if we’ve been reduced to arbitrarily scribbling whatever we want, I too wish to formulate an online position, incoherent as it may be. Here it is.

    “None of our biologists accepted the Law of Gravitation until the science forced us to reinterpret things.”

    In my humble opinion, my statement – in its full, incoherent glory – mirrors yours to the tee.

    Same with a 6000 year old earth.

    Really? Which “baalei mesora” reinterpreted things re a young earth? Can you quote any pre-evolutionary sources in our mesora for an ancient earth? Any post-Darwinian rabbinic opinions re the age of the earth are clearly not massoretic. I’m sure even you would concede this point.

    Your citation of unanimous Baalei Mesorah holding a young earth is not useful, because they didn't have the evidence that we have, just as they didn't have the evidence of a moving earth.

    My “citation” is very useful. In my paper I set out to demonstrate that our unanimous mesora supports a young-earth scenario and this is precisely what I go on to do. I don’t know what “evidence” we supposedly have that they didn’t have – you certainly haven’t provided any – but its irrelevant. I set out to write a paper documenting our mesora on ma’aseh bereishis. I think I accomplished my goal.

    As far as your general attitude that our longest-standing traditions are dismissible if they happen to contradict the conclusions of current scientific enterprise, all I can say is…oy vey… (Tevye would be proud…)

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  94. Question: is there any documentation about any of the generally accepted Baalei Mesora that shows thay appear to have been unaware of the earth's daily rotation?

    Ans: Pesachim 94b

    Question: Is there any documentation indicating that any of the generally accepted Baalei Mesora changed their view based on information from secular authorities ?

    And. Pesachim 94b

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  95. Me: “Is that your answer? I asked you to demonstrate your claim