Wednesday, June 03, 2009

nir'in divreihem m'divreinu -- did Chazal get facts wrong?

I shouldn't post this, but I will : ) Shu"T Binyan Shlomo (mentioned in this post before Shavuos) has a birchas hachamah tshuvah that is filled with interesting side tidbits. Among them is his discussion of the gemara's statements that refer to the sun travelling behind the world (Baba basra 25b, see Jewish Worker's post on this sugya) and other such ideas that scientifically make no sense to us. As everybody living today knows, the earth revolves around the sun. At the end of the day it becomes dark not because the sun vanishes behind some kind of screened off area in the sky, but because we are turned away from its rays. If you need any more proof that Chazal got the facts wrong just turn to Pesachim 94 where the gemara quotes a debate between the Rabbis and the non-Jewish astronomers and concludes "ni'rin divreihem m'divreinu" -- it looks like they are right!

Yet, apparently in Vilna it was not the practice to just toss out gemaras as "wrong" even where the discussion revolves around scientific material. R' Shlomo haKohen quotes the Rada"l's citation of Ramchal who explains that when Chazal speak of the sun or the stars or other heavenly bodies they were not discussing the physical bodies we call sun, moon, and stars, but were discussing the pnimiyus of these phenomena, their spiritual source in the world of sefiros. The GR"A in his commentary on Sefer Yetzira explains that this is exactly what the gemara means when it says "nir'in divreihim", it looks like the non-Jewish astronomers are right. Of course that's how it looks if all you see is physical reality and think that's what the whole discussion is about. Chazal, however, were speaking on a different plane entirely and discussing in their cryptic language the spiritual essences of reality and not the physical phenomena. (This is essentially a more sophisticated version of what R' Akiva Eiger alludes to in his Gilyon to that daf).

Apologetics? Bad pshat? I'll leave it to you to make up your mind. But consider this: if Chazal could be wrong about science, then why did R' Akiva Eiger, the GR"A, the Ramchal, the Binyan Shlomo and others need to say anything? One sevara (Chazal did not know science) answers all the kashes -- but that's the one sevara that these achronim assiduously avoid saying.

114 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:03 AM

    I love how everyone is ready to classify sages theyve never even met in person or even argued with in the first person as u tterly wrong based on the writings of a third party talmudic court reporting agenct. (unless the scholars themselves wrote the talmud but even then have you ever heard of the concept of misconstrued or misunderstood in translation )though i would render your insinuations as insulting by insinuation ánd on very poor grounds ánd a flimsy flippy floppy ánd flaky basis.

    With that being said, ive never understood how precisely the process on the authoring of both the Jerusalem ánd the babylonian talmud
    Actually occurred.

    Did it ever occur to you that perhaps the individuals doing the deposition summaries , summing up stuff in a sincere or dimwatted summation like fashion , may have mystically misunderstood what. they were summarizing ?

    Ánd while were at it how did the talmudic discourse reporting actually work.

    Did the writers do Group hug depositions or sit in on sanhedrin sessions feather ánd inking as fast as their feathers could write for them as the sages argued back ánd forth.

    Ánd who did the summaries , scholarly clerks ánd para halacha assistants , with big mouths , an affinity for the intellectúally ánd analytically rigoròús. with clearly too much time on their hands , an under utilized brain, a passion for talmudic analysis, and a high school regents diploma ?

    Nòt to knock any òne author ánd thats what makes talmudic arguing that much funner to argúe ánd sprain a brain over.

    Livenote would have come in handy back in the Jerusalem talmud Court reporting days.

    In life its all about the proper structure system , Deep understanding ánd frequent links to the document sources.
    Ánd of course the queries,ánd inquiries.

    At the end of the day its all about the learning.

    And never secondguessing sages without first getting the entire transcript.
    If you only have excerpts then hold the they were wrong dumb stúpid naive less educated nòt educated ánd or cavemen theories úntil you have the entire transcript in front of you.
    Have you never come across exhibits or arguments with snippets of a quote from depositions tell an entirely different story. Context ánd the entire òriginál transcript is everything. Everything else is commentary ánd definitely nòt admissable evidence as to the intellectual abilities of sages being quoted.

    Jaded Topaz

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  2. anon19:10 AM

    Chaim,

    I am not sure of your point. One the hand, you are modeh (and the implication from your post is that the Gr"a and other achronim are modeh as well) that if read ke-peshutan shel devarim, Chazal got science wrong on occasion. On the other hand, you ask, why would the achronim need to come up with somewhat farfetched pshatim when they could have answered the kashas that Chazal knew science -- implying that Chazal did know science.

    But the bottom line is that both you (and the Gr"a) agree that Chazal did err on scientific issues. So if we see a maamar chazal which based on current scientific understanding appears to be incorrect, we should not defend it scientifically. Maybe we have to re-read chazal on some different level to make sense of it or maybe we say chazal didnt know science. But in any event, we all agree that we can't reject current science just because there is a maamar chazal that -- on a basic pshat level -- seems to contradict scientific understanding.

    (All of this does not answer the question of what has and has not been established scientifically -- that always seems to be subject to change -- but at least based on the best information we have now, we should not reject it because of an apparent stirah from chazal.)

    So is your point that even if the science is right, Chazal are right too because they are talking about something else -- and we should be more careful before we declare chazal to be wrong?

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  3. Responding to Jared:

    What does this have to do with what I wrote?

    Anyway, to answer your question: 1) Given your [imperfect] analogy to secular legal process, I don't think even the most radical supporters of originalism think that they can truly capture the historical mind set and context of any law. Legal process is based on using our reconstruction of the law's intent and formulation to draw conclusions, irrespective of whether that reconstruction is historically accurate or not. 2) The Talmud is not just text, but tradition, handed down through centuries of learning. It is the "constitution" of Judaism. Again, using your imperfect analogy, there exist no records of the discussions that took place in the Constitutional Convention in 1789. Yet, we accept the Constitution as is, without that transcript. We may have debates as to how to interpret the Constitution, we may judge other laws faulty in light of the constitution, but no one has ever suggested that the text is flawed, incomplete, or corrupt.

    Lastly, when you refer to Rabbis as "scholarly clerks ánd para halacha assistants , with big mouths...with clearly too much time on their hands , an under utilized brain...and a high school regents diploma" my reaction is that you are an ignoramous and I have given your question more credance than it deserves. Not understand something is not a license for disrespect.

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  4. >>>But the bottom line is that both you (and the Gr"a) agree that Chazal did err on scientific issues.

    No. The point of the GR"A and everyone else is that Chazal could not possibly have erred. If they appear to be it means we are misconstruing their words (or misinterpreting the science).

    The point of the post is l'afukei the people who have taken as a given that Chazal were simply wrong and the sugya reflects their imperfect knowledge of the world.

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  5. Perhaps the aforementioned acharonim believed that it was possible for Chazal to err in their science, but due to beliefs about siyata diShmaya, they didn't believe it was possible that they reached the wrong conclusion. Thus, if the RBSO let them rely on bad science it was to "coincidentally" get them to the right point.

    This would mean that one needs to justify the din regardless of the scientific claims, and addressing them would be beside the point. One way to do so, one I tend to lean on, is to divorce halakhah from much of

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  6. >>>Perhaps the aforementioned acharonim believed that it was possible for Chazal to err in their science, but due to beliefs about siyata diShmaya, they didn't believe it was possible that they reached the wrong conclusion.

    What evidence is there for such a contorted sevara? Parsimony dictates that the assumption is that they did not err. Also, if your sevara were right then who needs to talk about sefiros and pnimiyus, etc. - just come right out and say they got the science wrong but the halachic conclusion stands?

    This whole idea of divorcing halacha from reality strikes me as philosophically wrong. It is very hard to say (for example) that the to axioms of human behavior the Talmud refers to as the basis of laws are incorrect but the laws still stand. Why did the Talmud play charades and hide the "real" reasons for laws while leading us down the wrong track with red herring? Why keep laws that contradict or conflict with what we know about reality?

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  7. Chaim,

    I guess I was less than clear. I guess my point is that you would still agree that the Gr"a agrees that just because some maamar chazal based on pshutan shel devarim says something that appears to contradict science, we cannot conclude that chazal were opposed to the scientific position (whether they knew it or not is a separate question). This is not consistent with what is "popular" today, i.e., to conclude that chazal are right and science is wrong because the pashtus of divrei chazal are against science.

    I agree that you can argue that chazal were not wrong about science but whenever they discuss a scientific fact which seems not to be consistent with the metzius, you have to re-read the chazal on a non-pshat basis. But just wanted to clarify that the Gr"a re-reading this gemara this way seems to show that when pshutam shel devarim contradict (or appear to contradict) science, that we should recognize that doesn't mean the science is wrong. It means we don't understand chazal.

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  8. Yes, agree with your formulation.

    As a talmid chacham I respect put it, both science and torah come from Hashem -- when we see a contradiction it means we are misunderstanding one or the other.

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  9. Anonymous10:51 AM

    Chaim B

    What part of jaded are you seeing as jared ?

    My Point was that in order to suggest that a given scholar was lacking in a particular area of knowledge its nòt enough to analyze the third party quotes and snippets about them.

    If you want to classify me as a classy ignaramous , it wouldnt be enough to base that on what you consider to be an imprecise analogy.
    Same goes for those reading a thread or the talmud.

    Òne cannot base their assertions about scholars on talmudic new media reports in various foreign languages (you like that analogy better ?)

    Anyway other than me, no òne on eárth is right all the time so obviously scholars were wrong at times. But at other times they r misunderstood quoted out of context and re interpretated to mean what they had no intentions of meaning.

    Lastly, for a more precise analogy, when trying to determine whether or judges decision is right or wrong about the Law i would read every single pleading motion Discovery document transcripts of oral arguments and trial transcripts and then read the judges decision. I wouldnt base my decision of whether a judge is knowledgable about a particular áreá of Law from a few snippets and quotes authored by òne of his clerks great grandkid. It wouldnt be fair.

    Jaded topaz

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  10. Anon1, it dawned on me that aside from GR"A etc., this is exactly what the Rambam refers to in Peirush haMishnayos in Cheilek when he describes three groups:
    1) Group #1 believes Chazal literally and accept the absurd even if it flies in the face of reality;
    2) Group #2 also take Chazal literally but rather than believe the absurd they assume Chazal were foolish or erred;
    3) Group #3 - there is a nistar and a nigleh to Chazal and the literal meaning is not always the truth.

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  11. I think that sevara was R' David Lifshitz's, and therefore suggested others might have believed so as well. I wasn't the world's best talmid, so I often let ideas sail by while squirming my way through shiur. I therefore didn't want to give sheim omero, since I'm likely mistaken.

    The shiur that sticks in mind in this regard, the part I did pay attention to, was about the kashrus of maggots. RDL argued that on the theoretical level, zeh vezeh goreim -- one needs maggot eggs and food for the larvae to eat before you get bugs of a size where issur applies. And since the eggs themselves are not of that size, the

    But es chata'ai ani mazkir hayom, I was sliding in and out of attention that morning, and I forget how rebbe first justified it. Was he saying the science was correct -- at least in the sense that halakhah uses science (as opposed to microscopic eggs and larvae)? Or was RDL saying that the halakhah was correct, and we can therefore rest assured that there is a correct sevara for it for us to hunt for?

    Either way, both ideas are worthy of consideration, IMHO. I don't find either "contorted". "Al ta'am varei'ach..."

    -micha

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  12. RCB: That Rambam is about aggadic stories, not reasons given for pesaqim and gezeiros. Perhaps you can stretch it to include post-facto justifications as they are in the realm of taamei hamitzvos and thus aggadita. But Peirush haMishnayos speaks of stories told as meshalim.

    -micha

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  13. Yes -- I also think that Rambam was consistent with this approach. Micha's point is an important one too, though. Usually these issues come up in the agadeta area of Torah but there are places where halacha is based on what we perceive to be as faulty science and then the questions becomes a little harder.

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  14. There is one small point I want to nitpick on just for clarity. You wrote:

    >>>This is not consistent with what is "popular" today, i.e., to conclude that chazal are right and science is wrong because the pashtus of divrei chazal are against science.

    I do not think this is 100% accurate. I don't know of anyone, no matter how chareidi, who thinks a baby born in the 8th month will probably die, or who believes in spontaneous generation, or who denies that the earth rotates in an orbit around the sun. In all of these cases the science is accepted despite what the "pashtus" of Chazal say.

    The difference between these cases and others is a matter of degree, i.e. the degree to which the "pashtus" of certain Chazals has been accepted by the mesorah and the degree of scientific proof to the contrary.

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  15. I agree -- but that just shows the fallacy of that position (i.e. taking Chazal's literally). The people who scream that the world cannot be more than 5769 years because that is the pashut pshat of pesukim still need to read the gemaras about spontaneous generation or the orbit of the earth in some other way (if you don't entertain the possibility that chazal erred in matters of science).

    I recognize the point of degree issue (it is probably easier to show that the bug in your salad did not spontaneously generate than to definitively prove the age of the universe) but conceptually, once you have to be modeh that the pashuts of chazal is not controlling in all cases, it weakens the position to accept other concepts literally which are against science (at least as we understand it).

    I still think the harder point is where this intersects with halacha -- how do we have a separate lav in the minyan hamitzvos not to eat spontaneously generated bugs if they don't exist?

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  16. anon11:48 PM

    The last comment (attributed to lekachtov) is mine. Not sure how that name got there (spontaneous generation, maybe?)

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  17. "Anon1, it dawned on me that aside from GR"A etc., this is exactly what the Rambam refers to in Peirush haMishnayos in Cheilek when he describes three groups:
    1) Group #1 believes Chazal literally and accept the absurd even if it flies in the face of reality;
    2) Group #2 also take Chazal literally but rather than believe the absurd they assume Chazal were foolish or erred;
    3) Group #3 - there is a nistar and a nigleh to Chazal and the literal meaning is not always the truth. "

    I think one has to know if the Rambam is referring to Agados or to scientific statement, in Cheilk, above.

    Part of the question has to do with the Rambam in the Moreh 3:14regarding astronomy(see link). Thus, the Rambam himself allows for Chazal erring in astronomy(and does not say in the Moreh, as quoted from Cheilik that there is a sod)!

    R Aron Feldman, shlita, (essay on Slifkin)seems to hold that this statement of the Moreh is completely rejected today. Another approach I've heard is that the Rambam only applies to certain aspects of astronomy for which he holds a Mesorah was lost.

    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/mahshevt/more/c4-2.htm#2

    I'm not sure how to reconcile this comprehensively with Rambam in Kiddush Hachodesh(11, 4)--R. Chaim B. can expand upon the Rambam's entire shittah.

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  18. The more relevant Rambam on Kiddush Hachodesh is Kiddush Hachodesh 17:24, as R. Kapach(in the above MN) notes in footnote # 29.

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  19. ספר בניהו להרב בן איש חי, בבא בתרא כה ב:

    "דע כי מ"ש ר"א ור"י כאן בענין מהלך החמה אמרו זה לפי השערת השכל מה שנראה להם בחכמת התכונה, ולא החליטו דברים אלו לאמת אותם אלא כל אחד כפי שנראה לו על פי כללים דחכמת התכונה שבידו, אבל לא אמרו דברים אלו בקבלה מרבותם, ולכן עתה בזמן הזה שנתפשטו הכללים של חכמת התכונה ונתחכמו לעשות כלים של ראייה בכוכבים ומזלות ובכדור הארץ הארץ ובמעלות השמש, המה ראו וידעו כמה דברים שנראה להחליט אותם אליבא דאמת והסכמת הכל, שהחמה הולכת בלילה למטה מכדור הארץ בעבר השני של הכדור, וכן נראה מזוה"ק ומדברי רז"ל גם כן במדרשים, ודבר זה מפורש בפסחים פרק מי שהיה... ואם חכמי ישראל אמרו דבר זה מן הקבלה שבידם, איך אומר נראין דברי אוה"ע מדברינו, וגם איך עושה הוכחה מסברא דמעיינות רותחים לדחות דברי קבלה ח"ו, אלא ודאי חכמי ישראל לא החליטו דברים אלו לאמת אלא אמרו שהשערת השכל כן נראה לומר על פי חכמת התכונה שהיתה בזמנם, ולא אמרו אלא בדרך אפשר".

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  20. RYGB,

    Thanks for the reference.

    If so, why does one make Birchas Hatorah on such gemeras? Do we assume that there is still a "pnimiyus" even if the metziyus, which was the primary intent(as opposed to a clear allegory type of gemara) is disqualified?

    Also, I wonder if those who express opposition to genuine sources(R Avroham b. Harambam) would object to the Bnayahu you quoted, or is there a difference?

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  21. One sevara (Chazal did not know science) answers all the kashes -- but that's the one sevara that these achronim assiduously avoid saying.

    Reb Chaim,

    Look at Rambam, Rabbeinu Avraham, R' Eliezer of Metz, Tosafos Rid, Mizrachi, Akeidas Yitzchak, Maharam Alashkar, Chavos Yair, Rav Hirsch, and Maharam Schick on this sugya. All of them state explicitly that the chachmei Yisrael were making a scientific statement that was in error. You can find them all at www.torahandscience.blogspot.com

    More than anything else, this sugya shows the disconnect between the Rishonim and some of the Acharonim.

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  22. Shades - the reason why we make Birchas HaTorah is that it is part of the struggle for truth. The concept of pnimiyus in this sugya was not mentioned by anyone prior to Maharal, who is clearly disputing the other sources that I cited.

    Those who object to Rabbeinu Avraham are probably unaware of the Benayahu, as well as many of the other sources that I cited. I, too, would be very interested to see their reaction to these sources.

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  23. Incidentally, an hour and half before this post appeared on R' Chaim's blog, I also posted on this topic at www.rationalistjudaism.com

    What a curious coincidence!

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  24. >>>What a curious coincidence!

    I'm the yin to your yang ; )

    >>>More than anything else, this sugya shows the disconnect between the Rishonim and some of the Acharonim.

    Here is the point we differ on: Should one preference the reading of the GR"A, R' Akiva Eiger, etc. Achronim whose views in other areas have impacted psak and learning for a great majority of klal yisrael, or should one preference a reading based on historically interesting sources that have been by and large relagated to the sidelines of Jewish thought?

    Your claim that many of these sources are not known I think indicates something significant about their impact and relevance -- not every Rishon or Acharon has carries equal weight in our mesorah. There is a reason every kutzo shel yud of the GR"A is delved into and the same standard is not applied to Rav Hirsch's writings (for example).

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  25. That's an interesting way of phrasing it, but not entirely accurate. You are quite correct that not every Rishon or Acharon carries equal weight in our mesorah, but here we are talking about the overwhelming majority view amongst the Rishonim, which is also held by some quite prominent Acharonim (Chavos Yair, Maharam Schick, Rav Hirsch, Ben Ish Chai).

    So your question could be more accurately phrased as follows: When the majority of Acharonim disagree with the majority of Rishonim, is it legitimate to follow the majority of Rishonim?

    I think that different communities have different answers to this question.

    And by the way, the reason for this disconnect is that the Rishonim were, for the most part, rationalists, whereas the Acharonim were, for the most part, mystics. My website www.rationalistjudaism.cmo deals with the various aspects of this deep divide.

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  26. By the way, if you add in the sugya in Eruvin 76b concerning R. Yochanan, then the list of Rishonim who say that Chazal erred in science includes Tosafos, Ran, and Rosh. Add that to Rambam, Rabbeinu Avraham, R' Eliezer of Metz, Tosafos Rid, Mizrachi, Akeidas Yitzchak, Maharam Alashkar, Chavos Yair, Maharam Schick, Rav Hirsch, and Ben Ish Chai, and it's quite a list of authorities whose "views in other areas have impacted psak and learning for a great majority of klal yisrael."

    It's not a matter of whether these sources are known or not - it's a matter of whether their approach is acknowledged and/or adopted. And that will depend on whether one is inclined towards the rationalist worldview or the mystic worldview.

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  27. >>>it's a matter of whether their approach is acknowledged and/or adopted.

    Agree 100%. And the answer is, as you wrote, that the vast majority of Achronim lean towards away from the rationalism of the Rambam and others of that ilk. It is a historical relic, not a living philosophical system.

    To use Hirsch again as an example, R' Baruch Ber, the Rogatchover, etc. rejected TIDE and today even Breuer's has a kollel and a Lakewood-sympathizing yeshiva. Were you to open a school dedicated to studying the chiddushim and tshuvos of Hirsch (whatever may exist), the peirush of Hirsch on chumash, the curriculim of TIDE, etc. it would be no more than a museum of the past -- the legacy and tradition of Hirsch, for whatever it was worth in its time and in its own historical context, has no meaning, impact, or influence on Jewish life today.

    By the same token, were someone to insist based on the GR"A that all chassidim are in cheirem, he would be laughed at. The point is moot -- history has rendered a verdict on the controversy.

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  28. GR"A Y.D. 179 cites the Rambam that "lachash" does not work and writes that philosophy lead him astray and "all who lived after him disagreed"...

    You see that a Rishon holding a philosophical position is not an automatic stamp of its legitimacy given the historical rejection of that position by later authorities. Of course, you can just say you take the Rambam's view and choose not to accept this GR"A, but to my mind that is a mouthful to say.

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  29. Daas Yuchid8:59 PM

    Don't we say "halocha ke'basroi" If that's the case, why would it be any different with "hilchos dayos"?

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  30. "It is a historical relic, not a living philosophical system...The point is moot -- history has rendered a verdict on the controversy."

    An interesting question is: are we still living through history? Another issue is to distinquish between not rejecting versus making something a "living philosophical system".

    In RSRH's times, other than the fact that RSRH held b'shittah of the more lenient sources, I think he would never have rejected R Avroham b. Harambam. He had much more important and fundamental things to deal with! Can you imagine Hirsch rejecting and banning R Avroham b. Harambam and what that would have done to his community (true, in *private* RSRH had very sharp words for RDZH, thus he did take a stance on such types of issues)?

    R Adlerstein recently wrote on Cross Currents ("Response to an Anti-Zionist Reader"):

    "In the middle of the 19th century, a prolonged ideological battle for the Jewish soul was waged in Europe. All kinds of secular alternatives to the emes of Torah appeared, enticing Jews to redefine their Jewishness: Bundism, socialism, communism, anarchism, theater, literature (Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian). Only one survived that tumultuous century: Jewish nationalism, most successfully in the form of secular Zionism...

    The battle was long, deep, and at times bloody. It is also over, and has been for some time. Only people who are living in the past don’t realize it."

    The question is concerning the intellectual Haskalah. Has that battle been won as well?

    One may very well say that it has. After all, Reform and Conservative are moribund; kiruv has a successful intellectual approach, and hopefully, Yaron Yadan's movement will eventually die out. The are also many social differences between today and the 19th Century; today's frum community is much stronger, BH.

    If, on the other hand, you hold that the forces of kefirah are still to be recokened with, than one should not reject the more rationalist approaches, just as RSRH didn't(even in Nineteen letter's he didn't totally reject the Rambam). Additionally, people are different, k'sheim shein partzuehem shavos, etc.

    Of course, one may take a middle position and distinguish between "not rejecting", ie, not banning it, versus not making it a "living philosophical system", but even concerning the latter there are some differences. I don't think anyone, for example, is definitively rejecting Kabbalah today, so making a "living system" needs to be defined.

    Does blogging about it make it a "living philosophical system"? :)

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  31. The easiest way to determine if an explanation is legitimate or apologetics is to see whether it existed before the issue it answers existed. If there is a tradition of interpreting this gemara metaphysicaly, then this is a legitimate explanation. If the metaphysical interpretation was proposed only after science advanced to the point where it could be determined what actaully happened to the sun, and a literal interpretation of the gemara became problematic, then it should be dismissed as apologetics.

    I read recently that during the middle ages the Catholic Church forbade the reading of the Bible by the masses out of fear that "They would misunderstand it as saying exactly what it said." I find this similar - all of these meforshim are providing glosses that completely cahnge the meaning of the text, lest we chas vsholem misinterpret the gemara as saying exactly what it says.

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  32. The title of this post reads “did Chazal get facts wrong”. and your focus is on scientific facts. from the gemmorah common sense leaves us without a doubt that plenty of times they got their historical facts wrong. Thereby, infallible they weren’t. so why the need for all kinds of lame suggestions to say that it only seems that they got science wrong.

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  33. It is a historical relic, not a living philosophical system... The point is moot -- history has rendered a verdict on the controversy.

    Excuse me?! Then how was I taught this approach by Rav Aryeh Carmell z"l? And how did Rav Herzog present it as the normative approach? And how is it still absolutely standard in centrist Orthodox circles? And how is it presented as normative in Feldheim's "Torah and Science" by Leo Levi?

    It may not be publicly accepted in right-wing charedi circles. But there's more to Orthodox Jewry than those circles!

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  34. Chaim:
    "I do not think this is 100% accurate. I don't know of anyone, no matter how chareidi, who thinks a baby born in the 8th month will probably die, or who believes in spontaneous generation, or who denies that the earth rotates in an orbit around the sun."
    See this post at Avakesh for some chareidim who apparently do, including Rav Chaim Kanievsky who said about those who follow Copernicus that כי הנוקט כך הריהו כמכחיש מסורת וכופר באמונתנו.

    kol tuv,
    josh

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  35. Numerous writers who published in the Jewish Observer, including Rabbi Joseph Elias and Rabbi Leo Levi hold that Torah im Derech Eretz can be instituted today. And Rabbi Joseph Elias holds R' Boruch Ber didn't understand Torah im Derech Eretz because he had no access to the writings. I hope their viewpoints aren't treif!

    When I look at these comments and others I've seen in the past, it seems that Chaim B. views Modern Orthodoxy as a vibrant philosophical system precisely because of the fact that there are big MO Torah personalities. If so, I wonder why he doesn't contact any of the poskim who've worked with Yashar Press and settle this matter in his own mind for good and avoid machlokes in the blogs. If not, there's really nothing to discuss except proselytizing on his end.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Anonymous8:59 AM

    Other than the spiritual elite learning in modest covered . 3 Walled caves with sweeping frontal sun views WHO on eárth is getting their current scientific facts for 2009 from the talmud ?
    Aside from the countless arguments about spontaneous generation,grúmpy smaller than an Olive larger than a myth Moody bed bugs with personality issues that wake úp on the wrong side of the bed r they required to say mode ani if they have nothing to thank gd for and or snippets and quotes about a solar system or starry eyed system that makes no sense logically in 2009 .....
    Did the laws of Human nature from both the babylonian and Jerusalem talmud eras never change ?
    Mòods change all the time.
    Neuroscientific laws of nature and matching philosophical theories r hardly set in Stone or an exact science.
    And lets nòt forget that rough diamonds r back in style.
    The
    brain and mòods is quite the complicated concept.
    At òne Point in history Women had no problem being òne of 60 trophy wives , then it became a large enough issue of concern that more than òne wife was prohibited by halacha. Were the talmudic sages that allowed men to sleep with many wives deeply wrong about the neuroscientific nature of the female brain.
    Was there an expose in the scientific talmudic mind about the sages and their neuroscientific deficiencies.
    Did the female brain evolve into that sense of wanting her húsband to be comitted to her exclusively emotionally and physically.

    The laws of Human nature r complicate d and if you read between the lines the talmud is a good place to get a rough sense of the underlying cyclical nature and theme.

    And for everyone else theres adderall.

    jaded topaz

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  37. Anonymous9:41 AM

    Òne last quick Point, in order to classify a sage in the talmud as scientifically wrong òne would have to analyze way more of the sociological factual enviromental, scientific , emotional habitat and context of said sage. Juicy tidbits and snippets from bava basra 25b about 3 walled covered climates (that sound like caves)and or other Random snippets about science or emotions that r nòt factual believable or known to be True 2009 r just nòt enough admissable evidence to be able to reasonably conclúde how dumb or dimwatted anyone was.

    And rishonim and Acharonim with their own set of French and spanish biases and subjective conjéctúring r nòt qualified intellectual character witnesses as they were living in an entirely different era nòt to mention their different habitats emotional and spiritual.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Anonymous10:21 AM

    "if Chazal could be wrong about science, then why did R' Akiva Eiger, the GR"A, the Ramchal, the Binyan Shlomo and others need to say anything? One sevara (Chazal did not know science) answers all the kashes -- but that's the one sevara that these achronim assiduously avoid saying."

    Because they were biased, which led them away from the truth.

    I'm unbiased enough to see that. Are you?

    ReplyDelete
  39. >if Chazal could be wrong about science, then why did R' Akiva Eiger, the GR"A, the Ramchal, the Binyan Shlomo and others need to say anything?

    That's not a good question. A good question would be "if R' Akiva Eiger, the GR"A, the Ramchal, the Binyan Shlomo and others felt that Chazal could be wrong about science, then why did R' Akiva Eiger, the GR"A, the Ramchal, the Binyan Shlomo and others need to say anything?"

    The answer is evident: they did not feel that Chazal could be wrong about science. But the fact that R' Akiva Eiger, the GR"A, the Ramchal, the Binyan Shlomo and others felt that Chazal could not be wrong about science is NOT identical with the statement that Chazal could not be wrong about science. This is a question of interpretation.

    I understand the reluctance to disagree with significant acharonim, but it is easy to be reluctant about dismissing them when one shares their interpretation (and the worldview which informed it). If one does not and one does not feel that Chazal could not be wrong about science, it is not so difficult to disagree with them, rather it is difficult to AGREE.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Anonymous11:03 AM

    Anonymous
    As per my previous last Point i agree that the rishonim and acharomin were biased in their own way.
    The spanish French roman dutch all had their own sociological climates and emotional spiritual habitats affecting their critique on stúff.thats why they r nòt qualified to as intellectual character witness for sages they could only write and opine about oosthumously.

    But the real question is does the truth change.

    Or is it cast in Stone like the ten commandments on lapis tablets.

    The truisms truths facts or laws for both Human nature and nature.
    Comparing and contrasting neuroscience in 2009 and the talmud would be a fun Project.
    I think the solar system, starry eyed horòscopes , the worlds birthday and noahs árk have all received enough or alot of attention already.neuroscience hardly gèts any talmudic analysis.

    jaded topaz

    ReplyDelete
  41. Anonymous11:03 AM

    Anonymous
    As per my previous last Point i agree that the rishonim and acharomin were biased in their own way.
    The spanish French roman dutch all had their own sociological climates and emotional spiritual habitats affecting their critique on stúff.thats why they r nòt qualified to as intellectual character witness for sages they could only write and opine about oosthumously.

    But the real question is does the truth change.

    Or is it cast in Stone like the ten commandments on lapis tablets.

    The truisms truths facts or laws for both Human nature and nature.
    Comparing and contrasting neuroscience in 2009 and the talmud would be a fun Project.
    I think the solar system, starry eyed horòscopes , the worlds birthday and noahs árk have all received enough or alot of attention already.neuroscience hardly gèts any talmudic analysis.

    jaded topaz

    ReplyDelete
  42. Mississippi: As I indicated earlier in responding to N.S., disagreeing with the assumptions and methodology of the greatest achronim comes at the price of defining oneself as outside the mesorah which is established via their direction. I'm not sure what the point you are making is other than quibbling with the way I expressed the post.

    N.S.: you cannot have it both ways. On the one hand you wrote that, "the Rishonim were, for the most part, rationalists, whereas the Acharonim were, for the most part, mystics," which I read an an acknowledgment of the shift which has taken place in Jewish thought in the past few hundred years. At the same time you claim that, "And how did Rav Herzog present it as the normative approach?" Is rationalism "normative" or has there been a shift?

    Baruch - since when is pshat in a gemara or sociology an issue to be addressed via hora'ah?

    I am not sure what "MO" or "Centrist Orthodoxy" has to do with the issue. In my neighborhood the largest MO shul has a Zohar shiur on Shabbos afternoon, the YI has a Sefas Emes on Thursday night, and R' Moshe Weinberger (a YU musmach) is one of the largest kehilos in Woodmere dedicated to speading chassidus. Is this the community dedicated itself to upholding the "rationalist" worldview of the Rishonim? I find that hard to believe.
    Let's drop labels like MO and Centrist and chareidi and talk about bnei torah, i.e. people who learn gemara and invest their time in avodas Hashem. Do you think more of these people are concerned with Moreh Nevuchim or invest their time in a chassidishe sefer of some sort? The sociology of the community is a reflection of the trend of the mesorah away from the rationalist worldview that was popular in the past but historically rejected.
    Can we just clarify: is there any disagreement on this point? I did not think there was, but the comments are long and.

    I did not forget about the interesting stira between Moreh and the Rambam in Yad by kiddush hachodesh - need time to look at it.

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  43. 1. We're not discussing sociology. We're discussing hilchos treifus. Are the views of Rabbi Elias and Rabbi Leo Levi treif? Is R' Leo Levi going against the Daas Torah by attempting to follow Torah im Derech Eretz?

    2. I think you misunderstood my comment. I never said that the MO community is dedicated to rationalism. How dedicated it is or isn't, I don't know, because I haven't had the opportunity to have as much interaction with said community as I'd like. I will note that the fact that people consider what the Zohar says, that rationalists will read the Torah of Hasidim, and that a YU Musmach is into chassidus (R' Chaim Dov Keller is also a YU Musmach. So was R' Bulman, R' Gifter, and R' Avigdor Miller.) aren't really raiyas. I will also note that my encounters with MO rabbanim seem to indicate more rationalism than in the haredi world. In any event, I'm simply asking if those who follow poskim like R' Hershel Schacter are permitted to read and like Rabbi Slifkin's books?
    3) If you want to say that the mesorah of most frum yidden involves antirationalism, then I'd probably agree with you. But to say that people *can't* follow TIDE or TuM or believe that the world is older than 6000 years, then -- using what I understand as your logic -- you have a problem: chachamim such as Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky and Rabbi Yisrael Belsky disagree with you.

    Incidentally, and I ask this seriously, why do you have a blog?

    Could be we won't come to an agreement. In that case, eilu v-eilu. ;)

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  44. I never had any problem with the possibility that Chazal might have been unaware of science other than what they learned from the secular sources of the day - see AZ 4 - and if it was true about Adam, kol she'kein Adam.

    My problem is with the assumption made a priori by so many people that Chazaly erred in matters of history. They assume Chazal were not as reliable a source as Herodotus!

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  45. At the same time you claim that, "And how did Rav Herzog present it as the normative approach?" Is rationalism "normative" or has there been a shift?

    Rav Herzog probably felt that from the point of the view of the Rishonim, it was normative. Of course, in his day, it was not.
    Incidentally, while every rationalist is of the view that Chazal were fallible in science, not every mystic is against it. Authorities such as Ben Ish Chai, who were very much mystics rather than rationalists, still openly conceded it. Probably because it is the pashtus of the Gemara in Pesachim and the approach of virtually all the Rishonim.

    Doesn't it disturb you that an approach to a sugya that was used by virtually all the Rishonim and a significant number of Acharonim is today not only disfavored, but even rated as a heretical approach to the Gemara? How can you possibly say that "disagreeing with the assumptions and methodology of the greatest achronim comes at the price of defining oneself as outside the mesorah which is established via their direction" when the overwhelming majority of the Rishonim, and such Acharonim as Maharam Schick, Chavos Yair, Rav Hirsch etc. took this approach?! You might not like it, but how can you possibly say that all these figures had a fundamentally flawed view of Chazal?!

    ReplyDelete
  46. Shlomie W.3:59 PM

    To me it seems odd that a view clearly held by dozens of the most famous Rishonim and Acharonim is branded by certain Gedolim as "kefirah" or an "obscure daas yachid."

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  47. >>>> YGB said ….My problem is with the assumption made a priori by so many people that Chazal erred in matters of history. They assume Chazal were not as reliable a source as Herodotus!

    The gemorrah implicitly admits hundreds of times that even the greatest of Chazal were wrong in historical details.

    The logic goes like this. One amora commenting on some historical event says that detail 1 happened. A second amora disputes this and says no, it really was detail 2 that happened, in complete contradiction to detail 1. now, common sense says that history has only one reality, obviously one of the two amoroim are wrong.

    Ergo, some of Chazal sometimes erred in historical accounts.

    Further, i would say that since the redactors of the Talmud reported both accounts, they didn’t know the truth either.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Interesting point, Mayer. Might you cite some example that we might actually discuss?

    Of course it follows that when Chazal make a point in an undisputed manner - viz., that the Second Temple was in existence for 420 years - we should accept it as fact...

    ReplyDelete
  49. Anonymous1:24 AM

    Mayer
    Dúh, that was one of my original points.

    That the individuals penning or feathering and inking down the arguments on paper , and summarizing the key points , were nòt the scholars themselves that were having the arguments.
    Correct me if im wrong but i think
    It was their summarization of and how they únderstood the arguments
    Nòt even sure it was done on the same day or in the same decade or era.

    Then you have the French and Spanish opining scholars with their opinion on the matter.

    This suggests that neither the authors feather and inking the summaries of arguments or depositions that took place in a different era nor the spanish or French sages opining on the talmud long after the authors of said summaries were no longer on planet earth were or are qualified as intellectual character witnesses for said scholars in question.

    There should be a rigorous analysis of the òriginal source. What precisely the òriginál scholar was implying and every fact and detail known about the sociological scientific spiritual and emotional climate said scholar inhabited.


    Everyone gets all ecstatic when reading that one "rebbe" decided that the jewish scholars were wrong and the scholars of other nations were right.

    For starters who exactly is the rebbe that is making this fun declaration.was he part of the Group of jewish scholars that he says was wrong. Did he get precisely what the jewish scholars were saying.
    The rebbe that starts choòsing scholars that r right or wrong needs to supply the talmud reader with the entire set of pleadings from both sets of scholars otherwise his opinion is no better than mine or any dimwit reading this thread.

    Everyone can be wrong sage,scholar,crab or cricket, but in order to make that assertion one has to be analytical about it. Not philosophical.
    Otherwise its just another opinion and nòt fair either.

    jaded topaz

    ReplyDelete
  50. >>>But to say that people *can't* follow

    Stop right there - all I wrote in my post was that the GR"A, R' Akiva Eiger, etc. follow a certain derech, and as I have elaborated on in the comments, this seems to the derech adopted by klal yisrael for the past few centuries. Can we stick to comments about that point alone!

    >>>how can you possibly say that all these figures had a fundamentally flawed view of Chazal?!

    Never wrote that. What I did write is that that view of Chazal is was not accepted by gedolei achronim of the past few centuries.

    The Marcheshes writes in his intro that he follows the classical derech halimud but fears that his approached is being eclipsed by brisker lomdus. Forget fundemenally flawed, forget kefira -- let's talk about history and sociology. Were I to open a "Yeshivas haMarcheshes" today dedicated to the "classical" derech of learning, would I get the cream of the crop of students or would they still gravitate toward Brisk? If I opened a yeshiva today and followed the Maharal's perscription of teaching chumash, Nach, and then gemara only to teenagers, would anyone enroll? Why not -- isn't this the derech of the Rishonim? And what if I really wanted to do things like the Rambam and Spanish Rishonim and made RI"F the major focal point of learning? Clearly our educational philosophy as evolved and changed over time, and what was good for the Rishonim, what is recorded in seforim, is not what we do and would not be accepted.

    >>>Rav Herzog probably felt that from the point of the view of the Rishonim, it was normative. Of course, in his day, it was not.

    How is what you are saying differnet than what I am?

    >>>Doesn't it disturb you that an approach to a sugya that was used by virtually all the Rishonim and a significant number of Acharonim is today not only disfavored, but even rated as a heretical approach to the Gemara?

    I think my example about education answers this point, but to take it a step further --
    Question: doesn't it bother you that halacha l'ma'aseh we may pasken like a Pri Megadim based on a diyuk in a MG"A based on one school of Rishonim to the neglect of other Ahchroim, Rishonim, Amoraim, and Tanai'im who held differently?

    ReplyDelete
  51. >>>Incidentally, and I ask this seriously, why do you have a blog?

    To share my opinions (writing is a chance to fomulate them better and to receive feedback) and divrei torah. I would hope to sometimes inspire, sometimes cause people to think, sometimes provide a nice mareh makom or vort, and with all that inevitably I sometimes infuriate : )

    What did you think the blog was for?

    ReplyDelete
  52. R' Chaim, I am no longer sure that I have been understanding you all along. Were you saying that the rationalist approach is merely effectively dead, or that it is not actually legitimate to follow it? You did seem to say that the Gra's statement against the Rambam meant that it is not legitimate to adopt the Rambam.

    In any case, even saying that it is effectively dead is not true. It has certainly declined enormously, but as long as there are Torah scholars who maintain it, it is still a fully legitimate choice.

    Are you saying that it would nevertheless be an inappropriate choice? For people who are unsophisticated and/or unworldly, this is probably true. But I can think of two reasons why for many people it would be appropriate. (1) It can convincingly be argued that it is actually true. (2) Most people would assume that we ought to be following what most Rishonim held. In fact this is precisely why so many people, even great people, are in denial that the Rishonim held this way!

    In response to your question - Surely in general, when paskening halachah, there would have to be very pressing reason to adopt a minority view.

    ReplyDelete
  53. :all I wrote in my post was that the GR"A, R' Akiva Eiger, etc. follow a certain derech, and as I have elaborated on in the comments, this seems to the derech adopted by klal yisrael for the past few centuries...

    Yes, and in elaborating your point, you wrote, "disagreeing with the assumptions and methodology of the greatest achronim [who looked at things my way] comes at the price of defining oneself as outside the mesorah which is established via their direction." "Outside the mesorah" sounds like *can't* to me and I think we'd ignore that point in this conversation at our peril.

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  54. (heh, didn't see Rabbi Slifkin's comment when I wrote that. Completely agree with him)

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  55. YGB … some examples. I recently finished learning gemorrah Taanit. So, off the top of my head.

    15B: mishnah states an argument on the way the Kohanim kept public fasts.
    19b: dispute over a wolf sighting or actually devoring 2 children
    27a: dispute on the number of mishmarot instiututed by moshe
    28a: dispute over the ancestry of one “pachut moab ben yehudah”
    28b: date that moshe received the tablets on Sinai.

    ReplyDelete
  56. >>>Were you saying that the rationalist approach is merely effectively dead

    Effectively dead for lack of attention.

    I don't see (to return to Baruch's point) how you can "pasken" on a philosophical system (i.e. declare it illegitimate) or pshat in a gemara without a halachic nafka minah.

    However, it is fair to say is that despite the acceptance of a certain world-view in the Rishonim, the vast majority of klal yisrael now has accepted a different approach as closer to the "amito shel torah". Even R' Soloveitchik, who championed the Rambam, eschewed his pure rationalism. I don't think rationslism (1) is convincing as a philosophy or (2) that we should be bound to the rationalist system despite its favor in the eyes of Rishonim. History has judged and found it wanting.

    ReplyDelete
  57. >>>Are you saying that it would nevertheless be an inappropriate choice? For people who are unsophisticated and/or unworldly, this is probably true.

    You see, this bothers me. You seem to suggest that everyone would/should agree with the rationalism of the Rishonim if only they were either 1) more learned 2) or more philosophically sophisticated. Clearly the GR"A was not unsophisticated or unlearned. You seem to preclude the possibility that one can disagree because views other than rationalism have been judged to be more compelling.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Anonymous12:38 PM

    Were there any French Italian and or Israeli Rishonim that agreed with the Rambam's philosophical stances. Which Rishon was R Hirsch basing his philosophical stances on.
    Why was the Gates of Repentance written and did it have anything to do with the validity of the Rambams philosophies.

    Also did the rambam ever find time to meet with the French scholars that had some questions on his writings.is it True that he wasnt particúlarly concerned about the accurate translation of one of his writings and in fact suggested the transformative translation would be even better. Im nòt sure which particúlar work this was about and or if its in fact True. But i never únderstood Why the Rambam would be ok with a transformative translation of any one of his works.
    And if in fact thats True it just emphasizes the wishy washyness and flippy flaky and flippant floor that philosophy stands on.
    Subjective pèrsonsl opinions included.

    Analytical and logical is the smartest way to live. Though nòt the happiest in any way.

    jaded topaz

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  59. I think some of the confusion is being created because rejecting rationalism as a compelling and meaningful philosophy is being equated with declaring that belief in an old earth or evolution or something like that is "assur". The 2 topics have nothing to do with each other. R' Aharon Soloveitchik, for example, in his essay on "The Application of Torah U'Mada" in "Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind", offers a number of rationalist interpretations of different gemaras, but firmly rejects (p. 55) any attempt to say that man evolved, even with G-d's intervention.

    What is asur/mutar is for your local rabbi to tell you (does that answer your question Baruch?), not a blogger. All the blogosphere can do is discuss what has been written or said on the topic and maybe determine what is the majority view and what is the da'as yachid, but halacha l'ma'aseh is between you, your Rabbi, and G-d. Where your personal hanhagos have an impact on the klal (e.g. a teacher personally paskens like a R Akiva Eiger but the klal happens to follow a different view), then you also obviously need to be mindful of how your actions shape, influence, and are perceived by the public.

    I haven't seen a public tshuvah of R' Elyashiv on these topics or R' Hershel Shachter, so there is not much to discuss in the way of halacha l'ma'aseh, is there?

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  60. You see, this bothers me. You seem to suggest...

    (1) I was talking about people today.

    (2) The Gra was one of the most brilliant minds ever, period. But he had a very mystical worldview. Incidentally, he also believed that the world was flat.

    (3) You said that the non-rationalist approach has been "judged to be closer to the amitah shel Torah." Well, in the same way that you have your judgment as to what is closer to the emes, so do I!

    I think some of the confusion is being created because...

    Agreed, there is probably some talking at cross-purposes here.

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  61. Anyway, to return to the sugya that is the topic of your post. Don't you think it odd that the approach of virtually all the Rishonim to explaining a sugya is now judged to reflect an inappropriate view of Chazal? And you can't use the word "pasken" or "hanhagah." Suppose you find an anonymous statement saying Chazal erred in Pesachim 94b. Can you say whether or not it reflects a flawed understanding of Chazal without knowing whether it was written by a Rishon or a contemporary person?

    ReplyDelete
  62. I also have another question for you. When you use the word "mesorah," do you mean "the general understanding of Torah throughout the ages" or "the decision as to how to approach Torah in this generation"? Or something else?

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  63. R' Chaim B., you wrote, "disagreeing with the assumptions and methodology of the greatest achronim [who looked at things my way] comes at the price of defining oneself as outside the mesorah which is established via their direction." These assumptions often include the young earth, etc...

    Anyways, I'd love to continue this conversation, but I'm afraid schoolwork beckons (oh, the joys of summer semester!). If you believe that my rabbi is enough to decide what's assur or mutar, then I'm fine with that view, especially since he tries his best to be a yirah shamayim according to the path of Rav Hirsch, Torah im Derech Eretz, and is a confirmed pro-Slifkinite. I may not agree with your assumptions (for lack of a better word offhand), but I won't take further issue with them.

    Kol Tov.

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  64. Anonymous1:54 PM

    Natan Slifkin,
    You said "Suppose you find an anonymous statement saying Chazal erred in Pesachim 94b. Can you say whether or not it reflects a flawed understanding of Chazal without knowing whether it was written by a Rishon or a contemporary person?"

    Why would it make a difference if it was written by a Rishon, contemporart person and or "rebbe" in the talmud.
    All three of them can either be wrong or right, both on their understanding of the scholarly argument in question and the validity of the decision or assertion in question.

    Im nòt sure or i dont think its fair to rely on any of them when attempting to establish the intellectual IQ of scholars they can only write about.
    Or attempting to make the argument that the òriginál scholars were quite the cavemen when it came to science and the facts.
    Unless and úntil one establishes the factual basis using the òriginál scholars assertions and the context etc...

    And nòt the talmudic Court reporter
    Of a different and his anonymous opinion on the matter as hes feathering and inking the dafs and deciding whose wrong and whose right.

    Also which NON - sephardic Rishonim often suggested that the original talmudic scholars were not well versed in the factual scientific realm of things. And were quite wrong on many occassions.
    Any non sephardic rishonim commenting on pesachim 94b and or bava basra 25b


    jaded topaz

    ReplyDelete
  65. >>>(3) You said that the non-rationalist approach has been "judged to be closer to the amitah shel Torah." Well, in the same way that you have your judgment as to what is closer to the emes, so do I!

    It's not my judgement, it's a consensus of the torah world. In yeshivos across the spectrum R' Tzadok draws more attention than Moreh Nevuchim these days.

    >>>Don't you think it odd that the approach of virtually all the Rishonim to explaining a sugya is now judged to reflect an inappropriate view of Chazal?

    Whether the historical process is odd or not, or why and how a minority view can become the mainstream consensus are certainly interesting questions to speculate on in a different conversation, but l'ma'aseh that's is what has happened historically. I'm not sure what you are driving at.

    >>>Can you say whether or not it reflects a flawed understanding of Chazal without knowing whether it was written by a Rishon or a contemporary person?

    Of course not. If told you a Jew put on lights on Yom Tov, could you tell me whether he was mechalel Shabbos without knowing if he lived in 2009 or perhaps 150 years earlier when there were poskim who might have allowed such behavior? If i told you a Jew ate milchig 3 hours after his cholent, could you tell me if his behavior was correct without knowing if he was of german descent?

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  66. It's not my judgement, it's a consensus of the torah world.

    Is it your opinion that it is closer to the amitah shel Torah?
    (I could point to the consensus of the Rishonim!)
    I raised this because you seemed to be critical of me for seeing my approach as being actually true. I am merely pointing out that you are doing the same.

    Whether the historical process is odd or not, or why and how a minority view can become the mainstream consensus are certainly interesting questions to speculate on in a different conversation, but l'ma'aseh that's is what has happened historically. I'm not sure what you are driving at.

    I'll explain on my blog.

    If told you a Jew put on lights on Yom Tov, could you tell me whether he was mechalel Shabbos without knowing if he lived in 2009 or perhaps 150 years earlier when there were poskim who might have allowed such behavior?

    Halachah and hashkafah cannot be compared. A statement is either true or not. Is it true to state that Chazal erred in science?

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  67. >>>A statement is either true or not.

    I disagree on both counts. Halacha and hashkafa are similar, and what is accepted is either area changes over time. Your base assumptions and methodology are completelty different than mine.

    ReplyDelete
  68. "Halacha and hashkafa are similar, and what is accepted is either area changes over time"

    See this quote from Marc Shapiro in the Jewish Action arguing logically for the "eternity of hashkafa". Note that I am not agreeing with any of his minamilist ideas on ikkarim(and FWIW, I am open to the most yeshivishe approaches on Science and Torah as possibilities):

    "Yet nothing could be more at odds with the Rambam’s understanding. According to the Rambam, Principles of Faith are eternal truths. They define the essence of what Judaism was, is and forever will be. If the majority of posekim determine that God has a body, this will not change the fact that it is still a basic principle of the Jewish faith to assert the opposite. For the Rambam, Principles of Faith don’t depend on the majority, be they right or wrong, for they are part of the essence of Torah. Principles of Faith have not, and indeed can never, change. Unlike the Chatam Sofer’s pan-halachic approach, in the Rambam’s conception, one doesn’t need a halachic decision for the Principles to be binding. As Menachem Kellner has put it, “Dogmas, it must be recalled, are beliefs taught as true by the Torah; is the truth taught by the Torah historically conditioned?”

    http://www.ou.org/index.php/jewish_action/article/33200/

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  69. (Cont.)

    We can see that the Rishonim held this view by how they dispute with the Rambam. When they want to show that one of his Principles is mistaken, they cite a Talmudic passage to show that one of the Tannaim or Amoraim disagreed with him. Thus, to give an example I only saw after my book was completed, Rabbi Isaiah ben Elijah of Trani’s proof that belief in God’s incorporeality is not a Principle, denial of which is heresy, is that there were Sages of the Talmud who held this belief (Sanhedrei Gedolah leMasechet Sanhedrin 5:2 [Jerusalem, 1972], p. 118).

    Rabbi Isaiah doesn’t assume, or even raise as a possibility, that it used to be permitted to believe this, but now, since the halachah has been decided, it is forbidden. On the contrary, he asserts, based on the fact that some Talmudic Sages believed in a physical God and they are not, Heaven forbid, to be regarded as heretics, that God’s incorporeality cannot be a Principle. This, to him, is the greatest proof that the Rambam is wrong in declaring that all who deny his Third Principle are heretics. In other words, Rabbi Isaiah also believes that for something to be a Principle of Faith, it has to be eternally true.

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  70. Don't have time this second to read the whole article, but there is a difference between the ikkarim and "hashkafa". The Sefer haIkkarim proves that belief in moshiach cannot be an ikar because there was Rabbi Hillel who held otherwise. Nonetheless, even the S.I. holds that not believing in moshiach is an unacceptable torah viewpoint. What is an ikar vs. what is not becomes semantics at some level.
    I am simply observing that what the consensus of Torah authorities believe and how torah is observed changes over time. Do you really think your beliefs and practices are the same as Moshe Rabeinu's? I don't see what the point of debate here is...

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  71. 15B: mishnah states an argument on the way the Kohanim kept public fasts.
    19b: dispute over a wolf sighting or actually devoring 2 children
    27a: dispute on the number of mishmarot instiututed by moshe
    28a: dispute over the ancestry of one “pachut moab ben yehudah”
    28b: date that moshe received the tablets on Sinai.


    These are details - obscure nuances - not the major contours of history.

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  72. "The concept of pnimiyus in this sugya was not mentioned by anyone prior to Maharal, who is clearly disputing the other sources that I cited."

    Why are they mutually exclusive?

    Do you think that they argue with the 'concept of pnimius'?

    "but here we are talking about the overwhelming majority view amongst the Rishonim,"

    I don't understand. They deny pnimius Hatorah?

    On the side

    What does the Rambam in Hilchos Trefos and the Chazon Ish's explanation have to do with your approach?

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  73. Anonymous3:52 PM

    "Halachah and hashkafah cannot be compared."

    The Mesorah is not like that

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  74. mayer4:01 PM

    >>>>> These are details - obscure nuances - not the major contours of history.

    Who said anything about significance. The issue is the reliability of the “reporters”. When someone gives evidence in court, the cross examiners seek to elicit the “truth” by tripping up the testifier on the small stuff. So the small stuff counts towards credibility.

    Besides, in some of these cases the different “details” result in a dispute l’halacha, so it can’t be that trivial.

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  75. >>>Chazal might have been unaware of science other than what they learned from the secular sources of the day - see AZ 4

    Can you please explain what you are referring to on that daf.

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  76. "The concept of pnimiyus in this sugya was not mentioned by anyone prior to Maharal, who is clearly disputing the other sources that I cited."

    Why are they mutually exclusive?
    Do you think that they argue with the 'concept of pnimius'?


    The Rishonim were often willing to accept the existence of a secondary layer of meaning in the Gemara, and to learn Aggadata allegorically. But what I meant with the term "pnimiyus" was the Maharal's approach of seeing the sugya in Pesachim 94b as literally true but on a metaphysical level. I.e. that the sun really does pass behind the sky at night, in a metaphysical sense. That is something that you won't find appearing before the Maharal.

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  77. Do you think that they disagreed with the Maharal's concepts?

    Do they disagree with the notion that Chazal knew the pnimius that Maharal describes?

    IOW, it is plausible that they would say and convey the concepts that Maharal expresses, they merely disagree with one minor point: did the Chachmey HaTalmud happen to mean what the Maharal said they meant?

    (And they are still mutually exclusive)

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  78. Keyser1:40 AM

    It is pretty clear that a significant percentage, likely a majority of Rishonim, held by the rationalist approach. Yet today, a larger percentage of Achronim take a non-rationalist approach.

    If you maintain that since the majority of modern day scholars take the non-rationalist approach, then the mesorah has "Paskened" in their favor, then are you saying that the Rishonim were incorrect? Since they maintained the mesorah between the geonim and the achronim, has our mesorah's transmission been distorted? And what of the geonim, who also appear to tend towards teh rationalist camp?

    Moreover, who is to say that 100 years from now, the tide won't swing back towards the rationalist camp? Would that mean the mesorah changed again?

    It seems to me that the problem is that as a reaction to the various reform and enlightenment movements who maintain that our mesorah is inherently flawed, scholars reacted by maintaining that no torah scholar could ever be wrong. In taking that position, they have effectively thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

    Personally, I think that history had vadilated the rationalist approach, especially the Rambam's view. Can anyone really argue today that astrology has any reality to it, or that there is such a thing as magic/speaking to the dead/etc.? We benefit today from the great leap in knowledge sharing. Therefore, today anyone on the internet can figure out how these tricks are done. In the past, these avenues of knowledge sharing did not exist. Is there any reason to assume that the "magic" and "astrology" methods used in the past were different or more real than today?

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  79. Part of the question has to be whether "Orthodox" is a halachic or sociological term. IOW, it's possible that regardless of theory and permissibility of believing something, it's outside the social category we call "Orthodox".

    Yes, I'm saying that O now means something narrower than "shomeir Torah umitzvos". In other ways, it's broader, since every community has its list of aveiros that don't stop you from being "one of us" and yet are both grievous and impact the avaryan's entire lifestyle. (Shady business practices, violations histakeil benashim [mixed swimming / iffy TV], etc... depending upon who you're talking about.)

    As far as theory, I agree with Gil's essay / review of Marc Shapiro's book that asserts that pesaq WRT aggadita is limited to those areas where it impacts halakhah. E.g. in defining who may be counted for a minyan, stam yeinam, eidus, which geirim to accept... And thus, we can and must pasqen on ikkarim, in the sense of which beliefs are required of someone kasher le'eidus. But not beyond that.

    Beyond that... well, I like the model RSRH implies in 19 Letters. Rav Hirsch calls Geiger's Wissenschaft more of an alchemy, since it starts with theory and it edits the halakhah to fit. To take the flipside any theory that explains the data, ie that has no nafqa mina lemaaseh from the possibilities already established by halachic process (including both sides of open machloqesin) should be fair game and equally mutar.



    As for the substance of this actual debate... Yes, one can invent a reason why magic and astrology used to work and don't anymore. (I phrased it that way to make it clear I'm not describing my own position.) Either loss of knowledge or by placing them as points on a decline from the days of nissim until today's more mundane reality.

    However, the dispute also includes the whole notion of atzilus, shefa and olamos vs. a more Creator-created view of Hashem's interaction of reality and how the world works metaphysically. Both are actually philosophical, but they're very different philosophies.

    (I think that in Moreh 1:69 the Rambam is arguing they're identical. However, I find that chapter too difficult to follow to be sure. Hil' Yesodei haTorah pereq 2 also follows what mequbalim would call the flow of Or Ein Sof from the Ein Sof down to physics. The Rambam was arguably more of a neo-Platonist than the Rationalist portrayal he is usually given.)

    -micha

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  80. Do you think that they disagreed with the Maharal's concepts?
    Do they disagree with the notion that Chazal knew the pnimius that Maharal describes?


    Rambam's school disagreed with the concepts. Ramban's school held of the concepts (albeit in a slightly different way), but did not see Chazal as referring to them in such cases.

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  81. If I understood what R' Micha said,I think I agree with it.

    Regarding this point:
    "As for the substance of this actual debate... Yes, one can invent a reason why magic and astrology used to work and don't anymore. (I phrased it that way to make it clear I'm not describing my own position.) Either loss of knowledge or by placing them as points on a decline from the days of nissim until today's more mundane reality."

    Rabbi Slifkin made just such a case in his book "Second Focus" 1999, p. 89-92:
    http://fkmaniac.blogspot.com/2008/01/rabbi-nosson-slifkin-on-parshas-vaeira.html

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  82. After more careful review, I take possible exception to this:

    "To take the flipside any theory that explains the data, ie that has no nafqa mina lemaaseh from the possibilities already established by halachic process (including both sides of open machloqesin) should be fair game and equally mutar."

    It greatly depends on what values are motivating the choice for one position over the other.
    If the value is to avoid an embarrassing conflict with contemporary intellectual trends and theories, then it shows an inferiority complex vis-a-vis tradition.

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  83. Anonymous10:09 AM

    Keyser
    Define "likely a majority of rishonim" and the territories said rishonim originated from.
    Are you saying that a majority of rishonim from a given territory felt perfectly qualified to declare the validity of a given decision or assertion rendered by a scholar that was no longer on planet earth.Rationally spèaking dead scholars cannot defend themselves or thèir opinions.

    Also for the life of me ive never únderstood how one can me rational about the supernatural. Supernatural by definition defies rationality any which way you mock and or ignore it.

    Lastly i think the French Italian Israeli and non sephardic dutch scholars (how awesome was the Amsterdam action of the Valmadonna exhibit at Sothebys) were smarter and more intellectually inclined.
    Just wanted to put that out there.
    And more analytical and logical.

    Doesnt it make more sense to be analytical and logical than rational about talmudic arguments.

    Áre there any rational lovers of the talmud. Or does rational lead straight to the Rambams stuff and related non analytical learning.
    Isnt the smartest part of the torah the talmud.
    Nòt moreh nevúchim or the source free mishná torah. And definitely nòt the shulchan árúch.
    Whats with the sephardic dominance in halacha. What if ure ancestors r French.

    jaded topaz

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  84. Anonymous10:25 AM

    Chaim B
    You might wanna consider a Birchas Kohanim part 3 post.Part 2 is not working so well.

    Didnt mean to knock sephardim or the rambam.they excel in other kinds of IQs lïke emotional IQ.(in my very humble opinion).
    My point was that im nòt sure what rational means in philosophical flaky feeling oriënted settings.
    I also agree with Michas Point about rational and the rambam.
    No disrespect intended towards the Rambam its just that my brain goes dizzy trying to understand his points and how he came to his conclusions

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  85. Anonymous10:40 AM

    Last correction, when comparing IQs i was nòt suggesting it was anything other than a rough off the cuff opinion on the rishonim acharonim and how they decided halacha.

    Jaded topaz

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  86. Barzilai12:27 PM

    Whoa, go away for a week and look what happens....

    Chaim, you would be surprised about how many people still take Chazal literally and have no idea at all of what modern science has to say about the Earth's orbit. My son learns with a man in Yerushalayim, Aryeh Bernstein, who is acknowledged as one of the great talmidei chachamim of the city, i.e., the world. He was amazed when my son told him about the Earth orbiting the Sun. This is a brilliant and scholarly man; but his entire life, he has been totally immersed in Torah and only Torah. I don't think he is the only one.

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  87. FKM took exception to my writing: "To take the flipside any theory that explains the data, ie that has no
    nafqa mina lemaaseh from the possibilities already established by
    halachic process (including both sides of open machloqesin) should be
    fair game and equally mutar.


    In particular, he wrote: "It greatly depends on what values are motivating the choice for one
    position over the other.
    If the value is to avoid an embarrassing conflict with contemporary
    intellectual trends and theories, then it shows an inferiority complex
    vis-a-vis tradition."

    First, that doesn't mean it's wrong or michutz letechum.

    Second, we all make our minds up on mixtures of motivations. Ever since the eitz hada'as, we haven't had the kind of clarity you're demanding. Yes, those with more daas Torah will have fewer negi'os, or at least have them under more control. But to think that one is acting with positive motives and the other not... that's too absolutist. At most you use this criterion to rank preference. Not white vs black.

    Last, we're talking about two real shitos -- one the dominant during the days of the rishonim, the other came to the fore after the Rennaisance and then accelerate after the Enlightment and in the post-Shoah reconstruction period. If that's a true causal connection, it's a counter-reaction and as much about culture and zeitgeist rather than clean-room inspection of the Torah as those who are inclined to follow the times. How then can one be inferior to the other?

    Does R' Saadia Gaon's position become less true because of the motives of the person adhering to it? Does the Ari's? If it was eilu va'eilu then, it's eilu va'eilu now -- barring rules of pesaq for things that have no nafqa mina lemaaseh. You can judge a person's motives for assuming a position, not the correctness of the position.

    -micha

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  88. 1. That Napolean waged war in Russia in the winter is history. The daily weather report of the winter is (with some exception) trivia.

    2. We see in AZ 4 that Hashem did not reveal basic scientific concepts (viz., the seasons) to Adam HaRishon, is it any surprise that He did not necessarily reveal them to Chazal?

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  89. Anonymous3:01 PM

    I think the main issue is, in the time of the Rishonim and even the early Achronim why did there exist opposing hashkafos, but today only one is accepted as the norm?

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  90. "Rambam's school disagreed with the concepts."

    So when you say that you are going according to the Rambam you are essentially saying that you deny pnimius HaTorah correct?

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  91. "Rambam's school disagreed with the concepts."

    So when you say that you are going according to the Rambam you are essentially saying that you deny pnimius HaTorah correct?

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  92. >>>If you maintain that since the majority of modern day scholars take the non-rationalist approach, then the mesorah has "Paskened" in their favor, then are you saying that the Rishonim were incorrect?

    Take any area of halacha you like. If we pasken like some deyos of Rishonim against others, does that mean the ones we no longer follow are incorrect, or did not know how to learn?

    >>>Hashem did not reveal basic scientific concepts (viz., the seasons) to Adam HaRishon, is it any surprise that He did not necessarily reveal them to Chazal?

    Hashem was not megalah Torah to Adam -- he was to Chazal.

    Secondly, these are two different issues entirely: 1) lack of knowledge, as in the case of Adam vs. 2) incorrect knowledge.

    Thirdly, what possible advantage is there to saying Chazal erred when there is a perfectly reasonable explanation, i.e. Chazal were not speaking about science but rather were speaking of pnimiyus hadevarim, which solves the conflict without necessitating that dochak?

    Not only does taking this approach preserve the truthfulness of what Chazal say, but it also grants one far more latitude to discuss scientific observations without having to worry about stepping on Chazal's toes (so to speak). Science can never be in conflict with Chazal because the latter deals with pnimiyus and the former with chitzoniyus. Davka were I a scientist would I be applauding this approach as the most reasonable! (e.g. see Stephen Jay Gould's "Rocks of Ages").

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  93. >>>Therefore, today anyone on the internet can figure out how these tricks are done.

    Please explain to us how R' Arye Levin was able to perform the "magic trick" known as goral haGR"A successfully.

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  94. Keyser6:40 PM

    [quote begin] >>>If you maintain that since the majority of modern day scholars take the non-rationalist approach, then the mesorah has "Paskened" in their favor, then are you saying that the Rishonim were incorrect?

    Take any area of halacha you like. If we pasken like some deyos of Rishonim against others, does that mean the ones we no longer follow are incorrect, or did not know how to learn? " [quote end]

    If someone maintained that those Rishonim's overall approach to halacha was in error and not accepted today, then yes, you would be saying exactly that.

    Its one thing to say "We don't follow Rabbenu Tam's Shita on tefillin", its entirely different if you were to say (this is hypothetical) "Rabbenu Tam bases his psak on a method of reconciling various sources of Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi which most achronim maintain is flawed, so the mesora has ruled against his method"

    It is one thing to say "Most Achronim don't agree with the Ramban when he says that since the Greeks have proved that rainbows are a natural phenomenon of water, the rainbow therefore could not have been a new creation during the time of Noah." It is quite another to say "To maintain as the Ramban did that if something is scientifically proven, then we must alter our understanding of Pesukim which appear to contradict that knowledge, is outside the mesora" This is very problematic. If you apply that to the whole general philosophic approach of the majority of Rishonim, then you are in fact maintaining that those Rishonim are tainted and not to be relied upon, and that the transmission of our mesorah has serious issues.

    As for the Goral Hagra, I could easily say that the possibility that someone could pray for and receive "Ruach Hakodesh" in a precise moment, and that you cannot extrapolate from that that there is some underlying "magic" phenomenon permeating the world. There are many examples in Tanach of people asking for signs and receiving them, and this does not imply that these are anything other than one time phenomenon. When Elijah asked God to make his sacrifice be consumed in the test against the prophets of baal, no one would extrapolate from that that you can tap into a magic source of fire by using a cartain method.

    However, I won't resort to that. I don't believe the goral hagra works. Firstly, there is no way to confirm that R Levin's identifications were correct (unless you have preserved DNA or dental records and want to dig up the bodies). Secondly, the source for this story is only in one place which I would not exactly call reliable. Thirdly, the attribution of the "Goral Hagra" to the Gra is extremely shaky.

    Lastly, Solomon was entirely wise when he said "There is nothing new under the sun". There are tons of variations of this "magic" in numerous cultures. Its called Bibliomancy. You can find tons of similarly sourced stories in many cultures claiming to be able to use this method with the Christian Bible, the Quran, the Iliad, the I Ching in Chinese literature, and other books. There are websites dedicated to it (here is just 2): http://www.bibliomancy.org/ http://www.facade.com/bibliomancy/

    What they all have in common is that when put to scientifically controlled studies, they all fail miserably. They are all bunk.

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  95. >>>If you apply that to the whole general philosophic approach of the majority of Rishonim, then you are in fact maintaining that those Rishonim are tainted and not to be relied upon, and that the transmission of our mesorah has serious issues.

    1) Your entire formulation is wrong. Do you think the mesorah is 'tainted' because R' Akiva Eiger left a kashe as a tzarich iyun until R' Chaim Brisker came along with a new derech halimud and showed how it can be answered up? Or how R' Akiva Eiger's chiddush was wrong? It's not just the specific psak that made R' Chaim a genius, it was the creation of a new way of looking at torah. The abandonment of rationalism in favor of other approaches was a similar revolution.

    2) Bottom line is rather than change your pre-conceived set of ideas of what can/cannot be you would rather toss aside a well known ma'aseh of tzadikim involving goral haGR"A -- are you making decisions based on evidence or based on pre-conceived notions?

    Also, since when is 'ruach hakodesh' a rational force? Can it be tested in a laboratory or explained using laws of logic? All you are doing is substituting one mystical set of phenomenon for another -- semantic games.

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  96. "The abandonment of rationalism in favor of other approaches was a similar revolution. "

    Rationalism may be abandoned by the Torah world-- ain hachi nami. But some people want to explore it as a reaction and a balance to what they feel to be excessive intellectual conformity.

    Also, it can help one's faith. The Stiepler in preface to Chayie Olam says that someone should say to himself, "do you think you are smarter than the Rambam or the Rashba who thought of the same issues?"(I agree that this may not always be helpful) Similarly here as well: psychologically, one has a kosher means of satisfying one's rationalistic tendencies by saying that Judaism of old had great rationalists who dealt with issues in a very rigorous way (even if the Rishonim's rationlism is irrelevant to many issues of today).

    I read that R. Baruch Ber told over that his rebbe Rav Chaim Brisker used to learn the Moreh in private together with the "Malach", forerunner of today's Williamsburg Malachim sect.

    Bottom line, rationalism may have been abandoned, but those who have such tendencies and feel them thwarted by what they feel is a more intellectual-conformist society can continue to explore the world of rationalism, with no contradiction at all to accepting Kabbalah. Each to his own.

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  97. Take any area of halacha you like. If we pasken like some deyos of Rishonim against others, does that mean the ones we no longer follow are incorrect, or did not know how to learn?

    Of course not. Because halachah requires that we choose a single course of action, so we pick the one that seems most correct to us, but accept that the other ways are based on a different (yet legitimate) general approach.
    But in this case, what is being said is that it is a wrong view of Chazal to say that they were making fallible scientific statements. That is what is being said. So it is impugning the Rishonim.

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  98. "But in this case, what is being said is that it is a wrong view of Chazal to say that they were making fallible scientific statements."

    More accurately:
    What is being said is that it is a wrong view of Chazal TO PROMOTE TODAY (in resolving conflicts with Science).
    Which is exactly the distinction Chaim B. is trying to make.

    Some people seem to have an agenda to make this position of the gedolim more disrespectful and ignorant of the rishonim than they really are.

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  99. Moshe M.7:31 AM

    FKM, maybe that is how you would like to present the position of the Gedolim, in order to make it more palatable to yourself and the public, and maybe that is indeed the position of some of them, but for many of them, they clearly believe that it is a wrong view, period, not merely a wrong view to promote.

    (Rav Moshe Shapira and Rav Elya Baer Vachtfogel in particular have been very explicit about this.)

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  100. Explicit in writing? Or overheard and passed on third and fourth hand?
    The most relevant thing I see in what Rav Moshe wrote against Rabbi Slifkin on his cherem was this:
    והדבר נורא כי
    כלפי חוץ נראים הדברים כאילו חלילה התירו פרושים את הדבר ונתנו מקום להתיר
    לדברים אלו לבא בקהל חלילה,

    As a general point:
    Although the Maharal reprimanded the Me'or Einayim's straightforward approach to this gemara in Pesachim under discussion, this has to be seen in context.
    This was just one of the many examples brought by the Me'or Enayim to paint Chazal as simpletons with primitive knowledge of the world and history.
    The Maharal gave his penimiyus pshat to this gemara as part of a overall response to the basic thrust of the Me'or Enayim's insulting view of Chazal.

    I'm sure that if people would use this gemara in isolation to go with the rishonim, and not use it as a linchpin to an entire approach to Chazal's lack of knowledge of science, no one would make a big deal.

    The issue is about a general approach to Chazal's knowledge. Not one isolated gemara.

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  101. Moshe M.8:11 AM

    Rav Moshe said it explicitly in a shiur he gave about the controversy. It's also clear in Afikei Mayim. And it's also clear in Rav Vachtfogel's letter on the cherem.

    And I have heard it from the other Gedolim in, yes, second and third hand accounts, but they count for more than your claim, which is not based on anything that they are claimed to have said.

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  102. Where is this shiur uploaded so I can confirm it?
    Also, which part of Afikei Mayim are you discussing? Rav Moshe's own essay there never discusses gemaras where Chazal themselves say other members of Chazal were wrong on things they were speculating about. Just when insolent students deny things said by Chazal because they are not empirically confirmed.

    And regarding Rav Vachtfogel's letter onthe cherem, again, there relevant passage says this:

    "To this letter HaRav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas South Fallsberg, adds, "And he also writes that Chazal Hakedoshim can err chas vesholom in worldly matters chas vesholom and therefore [they can err] in halochoh as well chas vesholom, as he wrongly proves from maseches Horayos—all nonsense! And the whole book is filled with similar instances of total heresy."

    So you see that the issue is about concocting a general approach to Chazal that will undermine their authority in halacha.

    My observation still stands completely.

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  103. Moshe M.8:58 AM

    Regarding Afikei Mayim - the author makes his views clear, and it's clear that he is Rav Moshe's talmid and has his haskomah.

    Regarding Rav Vachtfogel - can't you read? "And he also writes that Chazal Hakedoshim can err chas vesholom in worldly matters chas vesholom" - not just one chas v'sholom, but two!

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  104. >>>Because halachah requires that we choose a single course of action, so we pick the one that seems most correct to us, but accept that the other ways are based on a different (yet legitimate) general approach.
    But in this case, what is being said is that it is a wrong view of Chazal to say that they were making fallible scientific statements.

    OK, I give up. You keep discussing things I haven't said instead of the point at hand. No where in my post of my comments has anything been declared 'illegitimate'. I responded earlier -- "I don't see (to return to Baruch's point) how you can "pasken" on a philosophical system (i.e. declare it illegitimate)..." I don't know why you keep creating a straw man and knocking it down.

    Here is the issue, plain and simple: given the choice of (1) taking Chazal literally and thereby reading them as in conflict with empirical evidence and therefore wrong; or (2) reading Chazal as dealing with pnimiyus and not in conflict with science -- why would anyone view the first option as the better logical choice than the second? This is without even getting into puk chazei the damage making that first choice has created by undermining emunas chachamim in so many areas that have nothing to do with this.

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  105. Not a Rav Nissel Fan9:03 AM

    Rabbi Menachem Nissel, a long-time talmid of Rav Moshe, wrote an open letter a while back to explain Rav Moshe's view. He wrote: "Maharal paskens that it is kefira to question the writings of chazal when they spoke about science and nature... Rav Moshe says that this is our mesorah. It is kefira to question the knowledge of chazal in madda."

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  106. No where in my post of my comments has anything been declared 'illegitimate'

    You are sending out conflicting messages. You wrote that it is "outside of the mesorah" and "further from the amitah shel Torah."
    Are you saying that paskening against this approach has nothing to do with passing judgment on its propriety?!

    given the choice of (1) taking Chazal literally and thereby reading them as in conflict with empirical evidence and therefore wrong; or (2) reading Chazal as dealing with pnimiyus and not in conflict with science -- why would anyone view the first option as the better logical choice than the second?

    The answer to that is very simple. Because, from an intellectually honest perspective, it looks vastly more likely that that is what they actually meant. There is no hint of any allegorical meaning in the text, and all those who lived closest to their time (i.e. the Geonim and Rishonim) did not see them as speaking allegorically. Only much later, when people found it distasteful, did this solution of allegorical readings arise.

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  107. >>>Are you saying that paskening against this approach

    repeating what I wrote above yet again:
    "I don't see (to return to Baruch's point) how you can "pasken" on a philosophical system (i.e. declare it illegitimate) or pshat in a gemara without a halachic nafka minah."

    FKM put it nicely as well-
    "What is being said is that it is a wrong view of Chazal TO PROMOTE TODAY (in resolving conflicts with Science)."

    >>>all those who lived closest to their time (i.e. the Geonim and Rishonim) did not see them as speaking allegorically.

    The derech halimud has undergone many changes through the centuries and fact of the matter is sometimes a kashe that could not be answered earlier becomes resolvable or resolvable with a better solution because we have new tools. When R' Chaim uses Brisker methodology to answer a kashe of Tosfos or R' Akiva Eiger, do you reject R' Chaim because the Rishonim were not Briskers and early Achronim never learned that way?

    Hashem was nice enough to reveal to us the ideas of pnimiyus haTorah to an extent that the Rishonim perhaps did not have access to or maybe did not utilize because they felt it was possible to resolve conflicts l'shitasam of secular philosophy). Now that these avenues are accessible, why in the world would you say it is logically better to say Chazal were in conflict with science than to say there is no conflict and Chazal and science are speaking of different areas? This is no different than using a R' Chaim to answer a kashe of R' Akiva Eiger -- is it better to remain with a tzarich iyun just because R' Akiva Eiger was written first?

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  108. fact of the matter is sometimes a kashe that could not be answered earlier becomes resolvable or resolvable with a better solution because we have new tools

    2 points.
    First of all, you are assuming that there is a kashya. From the point of view of the Gemara k'pshuto, and the Geonim, and the Rishonim, there is no kashya.

    Second, it is indeed the case that R' Chaim Brisker's ingenious methods of reconciling contradictions in Rambam are phenomenal but yet are often unconvincing from a historical standpoint of asking whether this is really what Rambam meant. That's why he reportedly didn't like Rambam's letters to the Chachamei Lunil, where Rambam answered some of the kashyas on him without using the Brisker derech.

    So again, the reason why many of us would not like to use the approach of pnimiyus in this sugya is that there is no reason to believe that it is actually what Chazal meant. It's not a matter of being left with a tzarich iyun - there is no tzarich iyun! The peshat of the Geonim and Rishonim works just fine. It's the pnimiyus pshat that is tzarich iyun - how come there is no hint of it in the text, and how come there is no mesorah of it (using the word "mesorah" in its true sense).

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  109. "Regarding Rav Vachtfogel - can't you read?"

    Can't you read in the context of a full sentence?

    "Rabbi Menachem Nissel, a long-time talmid of Rav Moshe, wrote an open letter a while back to explain Rav Moshe's view. He wrote: "Maharal paskens that it is kefira to question the writings of chazal when they spoke about science and nature... Rav Moshe says that this is our mesorah. It is kefira to question the knowledge of chazal in madda.""

    A) Where is this open letter available.
    B) How does this contradict the obvious Me'or Einayim/Slifkin context of a GENERAL APPROACH to Chazal that is asserts they were GENERALLY ignorant?

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  110. A couple of quick thoughts, from someone with far less lumdus than most other people on this thread:

    >>>This whole idea of divorcing halacha from reality strikes me as philosophically wrong. It is very hard to say (for example) that the to axioms of human behavior the Talmud refers to as the basis of laws are incorrect but the laws still stand. Why did the Talmud play charades and hide the "real" reasons for laws while leading us down the wrong track with red herring? Why keep laws that contradict or conflict with what we know about reality?>>>>

    Actually, the Torah specifically directs us that the laws still stand even when the reality of the situation does not match the rationale of Chazal (see Rashi on Lo Tasur - note he does not say even if it "seems" Chazal said 'right' is 'left', but when they actually do)


    >>>>>>Agree 100%. And the answer is, as you wrote, that the vast majority of Achronim lean towards away from the rationalism of the Rambam and others of that ilk. It is a historical relic, not a living philosophical system. >>>>>>

    Maybe in the Chareidi world, but certainly not in the yeshivos I learned in.

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  111. Keyser4:29 PM

    >>>If you apply that to the whole general philosophic approach of the majority of Rishonim, then you are in fact maintaining that those Rishonim are tainted and not to be relied upon, and that the transmission of our mesorah has serious issues.

    1) Your entire formulation is wrong. Do you think the mesorah is 'tainted' because R' Akiva Eiger left a kashe as a tzarich iyun until R' Chaim Brisker came along with a new derech halimud and showed how it can be answered up? Or how R' Akiva Eiger's chiddush was wrong? It's not just the specific psak that made R' Chaim a genius, it was the creation of a new way of looking at torah. The abandonment of rationalism in favor of other approaches was a similar revolution.

    2) Bottom line is rather than change your pre-conceived set of ideas of what can/cannot be you would rather toss aside a well known ma'aseh of tzadikim involving goral haGR"A -- are you making decisions based on evidence or based on pre-conceived notions?

    Also, since when is 'ruach hakodesh' a rational force? Can it be tested in a laboratory or explained using laws of logic? All you are doing is substituting one mystical set of phenomenon for another -- semantic games. ***end quote

    Way to set up and then knock down the straw man on the first point! You dismiss the general approach of the majority of Rishonim regarding rationalism, and then you turn around and say you arent doing that by quoting R Chaim answering a question of R Akiva Eiger on a specific point?!? Really? Does that make any sense at all? If you can show me that R Chaim maintained that R Akiva's Eiger general approach to Torah was invalid (not merely different or lacking, but "outside the mesorah"), then we can start talking. Otherwise, your point is, well, pointless. But go ahead, call the Rishonim's philosophy "outside the mesorah" and tell yourself that you still respect them.

    2) A story in a book is not overwhelming evidence, and even if you take the story completely at face value, there is no way to verify that the identifications made were actually correct!

    Every culture has the exact same nonsensical bibilomancy, amulets, faith healing, astrology, predictions, talking to the dead, etc. They can give you all of the same "evidence" of it working, eyewitness accounts, testimonials, etc. Guess what. Its all bunk. All of it.

    Yes I am biased, based on overwhelming evidence. No one has ever been able to reproduce any of these so called phenomenon under any semblance of controlled settings. When I see that the whole category of such nonsense is exactly that, Im not going to be moved by a story here or there to say "Oh wait, everything else is wrong, but this story must be true, because person/rabbi A said so." Sorry, no, thats not good enough.

    This is a practical example. Uri Geller claims he can bend spoons with his mind. In fact, a lot of people into "kabala" claim the exact same power. People smarter than everyone else on this blog, including me, were fooled by him. Magicians have since come along and shown that it is all a magic trick. Fortunately, we live in an era where that knowledge is disseminated and the results reproducible. Now pretend Mr. A comes along and claims to be able to do it, only this time "its real" and these people will attest to it. Am I biased to believe that Mr. A is also not really able to use his minds to bend spoons? You bet I am! Is this a good bias to have? Yes, it is.

    Practically though, if you can't tell the difference between God interacting with the world via prophecy or miracles and the supposed existence of magic, etc., then you are practicing a different religion. Good luck with your voodoo, errr, I mean "Non-rationalist Judaism"

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  112. Not a Rav Nissel Fan4:32 PM

    ">Regarding Rav Vachtfogel - can't you read?"

    Can't you read in the context of a full sentence?"

    Sure can. He says that it is Chas v'shalom to say that Chazal erred in science, and it is ALSO chas v'shalom to say that they erred in halachah.
    Have you ever heard him speak about this? I have, and I can promise you that this is his view. He would be furious with you for trying to water him down.

    "A) Where is this open letter available."

    It was in circulation a while back, I don't know where it is now. You can probably ask him for it.

    "B) How does this contradict the obvious Me'or Einayim/Slifkin context of a GENERAL APPROACH to Chazal that is asserts they were GENERALLY ignorant?"

    Rav Moshe/ Rabbi Nissel are very clear that it means even a single instance. And there is nothing in Maharal which distinguishes between one instance or five or twenty.

    You're just trying to make the Gedolim's opposition more palatable for yourself! Have you spoken to any of them at all?

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  113. >>>Hashem did not reveal basic scientific concepts (viz., the seasons) to Adam HaRishon, is it any surprise that He did not necessarily reveal them to Chazal?

    Hashem was not megalah Torah to Adam -- he was to Chazal.

    Secondly, these are two different issues entirely: 1) lack of knowledge, as in the case of Adam vs. 2) incorrect knowledge.

    Thirdly, what possible advantage is there to saying Chazal erred when there is a perfectly reasonable explanation, i.e. Chazal were not speaking about science but rather were speaking of pnimiyus hadevarim, which solves the conflict without necessitating that dochak?

    Not only does taking this approach preserve the truthfulness of what Chazal say, but it also grants one far more latitude to discuss scientific observations without having to worry about stepping on Chazal's toes (so to speak). Science can never be in conflict with Chazal because the latter deals with pnimiyus and the former with chitzoniyus. Davka were I a scientist would I be applauding this approach as the most reasonable! (e.g. see Stephen Jay Gould's "Rocks of Ages").


    1. To the best of my understanding, Adam HaRishon had ultimate knowledge. This is evident from many of the Gemaros, Midrashim and particularly the Zohars cited in Ishei HaTanach, ayain sham.

    2. In both cases, a lack of revealed knowledge led to mistaken assumptions.

    3. Your approach is that of REED and others. I have no problem with it. I am proposing an additional mahalach.

    The advantage, however, is in the corollary: Chazal were given authority even if they err (so long as it is not an error in Torah a la M. Horios). The halacha is therefore as they legislated regardless of "reality" - as the legislation determines the Halachic (and metaphysical) reality.

    This, BTW, is more or less the mahalach of the Derashos HaRan.

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