Avodah Mailing List
Volume 10 : Number 082
Thursday, January 2 2003
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Mon, 23 Dec 2002 15:38:17 -0500
Subject: Re: Age of the universe
> age of the universe
I have always been puzzled why so much ink has been spilled by
pseudo science and its adherents and conversely by Darwinians and
archaelogists to try "explain" or "disprove" Genesis "in the light of
science." After reading and reading "The Lonely Man of Faith", I felt
that the quereies of Schroeder, Codes , etc were pure apolgetics and
ignored the generalized/specialized accounts in the first two chapters
of Breishis. OTOH, while can learn a lot from science in this area, the
prevailing attitude of scientists is to discount any role of a Creater
of the Universe. The real and unstated issue is whether their findings
impact on any Ikarie Emunah or codifaction of the same by the Rambam and
others. However, if you understand that the second chapter of Breishis
fleshes out and fills in the details hinted at the first chapter, the
issues of details of what was created at what stage becomes less relevant.
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Date: Mon, 23 Dec 2002 20:38:43 +0000
From: Micha Berger <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: age of the universe
On Mon, Dec 23, 2002 at 12:12:16AM -0500, Isaac A Zlochower wrote:
: modus operandi was particularly evident in his earlier book, "Genesis
: and the Big -Bang", where he posited a special moving reference system
: for the Creator whose relative velocity was sufficiently close to the
: speed of light as to make the 6 "days" of creation in His frame
: equivalent to x billion years in our reference frame. This totally
: arbitrary, ad-hoc, and theologically suspect association of the Creator
: with a particular velocity - based on Einstein's "special relativity" ...
A couple of physics nits to pick.
First, it would be general relativity if Schroeder was associating
a second inertial frame of reference.
Second, the theory as posed here is actually general relativistic, as it
involves effects of gravity. But it's not arbitrary, as the total energy
(which includes mass) density of the universe at the time tohu vavohu
ceased is used to calculate a specific factor for time dilation. And
there are known theories in quantum mechanics as to what the density
would be before particles become distinct.
Third, R' Dr Morris Engelson emailed to me that there are problems with
Schroeder's theory anyway. I didn't post it as I wasn't sure how much
could be understood by people who don't have engineering degrees. As the
conversation still continues, I'm about to.
: I don't know of a totally satisfactory solution to the problem...
I refer you back to my survey of opinions in the archive. I like the
Maharal's -- beri'ah is incomprehensible. Nevu'ah vechochmah, chochmah
adif. Maharal writes that this is because nevu'ah teaches by metaphor, and
therefore can only teach those things that have correspondances in human
experience. Chochmah includes extrapolation beyond the known. In our case,
ma'aseh bereishis is so alien that neither can capture it fully. Thus
its inclusion in "ein doreshin". However, chochmah can still get closer.
This requires assuming that Bereishis alef has no historical peshat.
It also requires understanding that science may get close, but will
never accurately describe it either.
Micha Berger When you come to a place of darkness,
firstname.lastname@example.org you do not chase out the darkness with a broom.
http://www.aishdas.org You light a candle.
Fax: (413) 403-9905 - R' Yekusiel Halberstam of Klausenberg zt"l
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Date: Sat, 21 Dec 2002 19:29:59 -0800
From: "JMSC/Morris Engelson-Director" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: age of the universe
Page 53 of The Science of G-d notes that there are three phenomena
that have the same impact on radiation frequency - "differences in
velocity, gravity and steretching of space as the universe expands..."
Differences in velocity refers to moving frames of reference in special
relativity which has been proven to introduce a time dilation, ie. change
in rate of passage of time. Gravity refers to general relativity which
also introduces a time dilation. Both effects have been not only shown
to exist by theoretical inference but actually measured as by atomic
clock results on earth (in a gravity well) and in space, life-time of
short-lived particles when in high velocity motion, etc. Schroeder says
that the stretching of space also stretches the radiation wavelength as
in the other two phenomena, and also produces the same time dilation
effect. The time dilation comes from the fact that the relationship
between distance, velocity and time is fixed. Hence when velocity cannot
change, as in fixed speed of radiation then either distance or time must
change. If distance is fixed then time must change. The argument against
the GS idea is that distance does actually change, hence time does not
One of the arguments against GS is from general relativity. Here the
argument is against one interpretation of the GS suggestion that the
universe started as a super-high gravity singularity and hence there is
a time dilation based on general relativity. I cannot reproduce these
arguments because I do not understand the mathematics involving the
tensor calculus of general relativity. But it is claimed that a solution
of the general relativity mathematics for the GS idea does not support
a time dilation.
The other argument is simpler to follow and is against the GS idea as
stated in above quote - namely that the stretching of space stretches
the wavelength and that this introduces a time dilation. Here we have to
consider the issues of the "event horizon." I have several footnotes re
the event horizon in my book, because I use it in a simplified form,
but the idea is more complex. Thus: We can only see objects whose
light reaches us at the time we see them. We see the sun as it was in
the past, 8 minutes prior to when we see it, because the light from
the sun takes 8 minutes to reach us - ie. the sun is 8 light-minutes
from the Earth. Now let universe be exactly 15 BY old. Assume we see
something that is 15 Billion light years from us. This is as far as we
can see since light has a maximum of 15 BY to reach us, as that is how
old universe is. Some people call this the event horizon, namely the
horizon or distance for the most distant event we can see. The proper
technical term is the look-back distance. Now consider an expanding
universe. Whatever we see today at 15 BY light years away has had 15BY
to move away from us in an expanding universe. Today that object is more
than 15 BY away from us. This is called the radial distance component,
and some people call that the event horizon on the basis that the object
which we see today, as it was 15BY years ago, is now more distant than
15 BY light years. Calculations show that this distance is more like
30 BY ( see footnote pg 56 of my book). But inflation theory suggests
that the universe has actually expanded way beyond the 30BY range (see
page 221 of my book). Thus, there is plenty of room for the distance to
have increased and there is no need for time to change. It is easy to
show that a change in wavelength does not necessarily introduce a time
dilation, else all Doppler phenomena would introduce a time change. Only
when the wavelength stretches and distance does not change do we have
a time dilation.
There is more to the above, but above should give a flavor of how it goes.
But we do not really need an actual time dilation in the traditional
meaning of the term. Rather the question is what would an observer
sitting on the initial singularity see or measure. The result is per
the Schroeder formula, whether you call it a time dilation or something
else. I have chosen to call it an equivalence or time ratio equivalence
to quickly get rid of the time dilation issues as I do not consider the
question whether we have a real time dilation to be important. Certainly,
we cannot argue that the cesium atom vibrations, which is the standard
for atomic time measurements, was different one million years ago than it
is today. But it can be argued that a real time dilation would require it
to be different. However, that is not the point. Rather the point is what
would an observer sitting on the initial universe-creating singularity see
or measure and not what would someone 1 million years ago measure. To a
large degree we are dealing with semantics and definitions of scientific
terms. My position is that it does not matter what you call it, I am
satisfied as long as 6 days in the beginning is equivalent to 15 BY now.
[2nd email. -mi]
Dr. Alexander Poltorak "On Age of the Universe" in B'Or Hatorah magazine
# 13E suggests that universe was in a quantum state for 15BY till a
suitable observer collapsed the wave into a physical universe a few
thousand years ago.
Dr. Russell Jay Hendel, in same issue of magazine, notes per title of
his paper that "Genesis 1 Speaks about the Creation of Prophesy, Not
the Creation of the World"
I have an essay On The First Six Days on web site
<http://www.bible-torah-sciencelink.org> that discusses a number of
matters and suggestions about the age of the universe. Except I think I
may have an error. I identify that reishit = wisdom as per Onkelos on
Breishit, but I see that that is not how targum reads. I will have to
check for source of this common understanding.
Finally. Please note that we are not obliged to provide a scientific
explanation as to how Hashem pulled off this miracle. We are not in the
same category of intelligence as Hashem. Hence, whether there is/was a
time dilation or not is not all that important (to me). What is important
is that Torah/Chazal, etc. provides 15BY well before science did. The
burden of proof is on those who claim that the Torah is wrong. But the
Torah gives the "correct" answer, scientifically speaking. We are not
obliged to also show that science gives the "correct" answer lehavdil
as in Torah.
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Date: Mon, 23 Dec 2002 15:11:35 -0500
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
Subject: copyright law
[This is one of those posts that are hard to moderate. Copyright
secular law belongs on Avodah, relevent halachos go here. -mi]
In relation to recent unavailable books, question about copyright law
(both halachic and American)
In general, I can not xerox a book (even for private use) without
violating copyright, as the presumption applies that I should be buying
the book and giving the publisher/copyright owner his due.
If a book is out of print, are there halachic/American legal
considerations that would prevent me froom xeroxing a book for my personal
use (not for commercial purposes), as I am unable to properly purchase
the book and therefore the copyright owner is not losing financially???
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Date: Sat, 28 Dec 2002 23:25:16 -0500 (EST)
From: "Jonathan Baker" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Mendelssohn and the Biur
Mendelssohn and the Biur
a talk by R' Adam Mintz
Lincoln Square Synagogue
25 Dec 02
summarized by Jonathan Baker
Moses Mendelssohn was born in 1729 in the small city of Dessau, where
perhaps a dozen Jewish families lived. When I say a small city, there
were many such, with only a few Jewish families at the time. One can
understand the famous teshuva about a minyan of kohanim, where women
get all the aliyot aside from Kohen and Levi, to be talking about such
a place, where there was one family, with enough men to make a minyan,
but they were all kohanim.
The king of Prussia kept tight control on his Jewish population, with
such measures as the Lebzoll (head tax), banning Jews from employing
non-Jewish servants, mandating badges. His father was a poor
Schulklopfer (woke people up in time for shul) and custodian, but
eventually became a sofer. At the age of 10, Mendelssohn went to R'
David Frankel, author of Korban Ha'eida on Yerushalmi, for tutoring.
In 1743, Frankel went to be chief rabbi of Berlin, and Mendelssohn
followed him there.
At the time, Frederick II was the king of Prussia. In 1750, the king
promulgated a Jewish Charter, defining two main categories:
+ Protected Jews, those with essential professions; and
+ Tolerated Jews, those with non-essential professions, who were only
allowed to remain if they were sponsored by a non-Jewish or Protected
Mendelssohn, not licensed as a Protected Jew, apprenticed himself to,
and eventually became partners with, a silk maker, who tutored him.
Mendelssohn received his education in philosophy from the Polish Jew
In the German enlightenment, criticism of the Bible text gained
popularity, which evolved into attacks on the sanctity of the Torah.
For example, Michaelis translated the Bible into German, using the
Septuagint and Samaritan Torah as parallel sources. He insisted that
his far-fetched translations overrode the traditional ones. For
example, he rendered "dat" (as in miyimino aish-dat lamo) as
"waterfall", from a Samaritan source, undermining the religious
meaning of the phrase. Mendelssohn initiated his translation in
response to such attacks on the Biblical text.
* * *
Mendelssohn took on his children's tutor, Solomon Dubno, as a partner
in creating his translation. In 1778, they published a prospectus, an
advertisement and sample of the forthcoming translation, trying to
gain subscriptions before publication. They titled it "Alim Litrufah",
"leaves of medical value", a phrase from a Messianic reference in
Ezekiel - where in the times of Moshiach, everything will become
useful, all the leaves will have medical value.
In Alim Litrufah, Mendelssohn placed his translation in the context of
Jewish cultural history. Jews have produced translations of the Torah
into vernacular in every culture in which they lived. In the time of
the Tannaim, when the vernacular was Greek, they produced the
Septuagint. When it was Aramaic, they produced the Targumim. So a
German translation continues in the Jewish tradition - it's not
revolutionary. Why write it now? For the children who want to learn
Torah, but can't read the language, so they go to Christian
interpretations and translations, and pick up all the errors and
mistranslations and distortions in those versions. Keep this in mind.
It's not clear that the Jewish children spoke German at the time,
although by the later 19th Century they did. It's more likely that
they spoke some form of Yiddish. Keep this in mind as well.
There are two letters, from the late spring of 1779, that also shed
some light on possible reasons for writing the Biur. One, to Avigdor
Levi of Glogau, notes that Mendelssohn's own children were reading
German, not Hebrew, so he was writing for his own children. Another,
to a Danish friend named Hennings, notes that the translation would be
the first step in introducing the Jews to culture, to making Jews
German. [Altmann reads it somewhat differently - "culture" as morality
and ethics, rather than German culture. -jjb] Note the audience for
We now have three possible reasons for the Biur:
1) For Jewish children, who read German not Hebrew
2) For Mendelssohn's children, who read German not Hebrew
3) To introduce Jews to German culture
Which reason is real, which are apologetics?
* * *
We hope to come to an answer through looking at the texts.
1) The introduction to the Biur, which states that the non-Jews'
interpretations are destroying our Torah, through denying the validity
of our mesora, and our vocalization (nikud) of the text, suggests the
2) The page-layout.
BERESHIT 29 TARG. ASHK
Note that the book has two innovative parts: the German translation,
and the Biur commentary, even though the whole work is generally
referred to as "the Biur".
It's a fairly traditional page layout, clearly meant as a rabbinic
bible commentary. The German translation (TARG. ASHK) is
transliterated into Hebrew characters - which supports the
interpretation in the letter to Hennings, or that the children must be
able to read Hebrew characters.
The sample page was that for Genesis 25:22, where Rivka feels
"vayitrotzatzu" the thing in her womb, and goes to ask God what's
happening). Rashi notes that "vayitrotzatzu" is a difficult word, and
brings midrashic explanations. The Biur (which on Genesis was written
by Dubno - Mendelssohn wrote the translation into German, while Dubno,
Aaron Jaroslav, Naftali Herz Wessely, and Hertz Homburg divided the
task of writing the Biur) quotes two grammar books by Rada"k,
explaining possible derivations of "vayitrotzatzu", giving two
possible options based on grammatic and contextual analysis. This is
the critical method, rather than Rashi's usual midrashic method.
The Biur is a digest of literal and/or pshat options as to what
various words and passages mean, not drash-like at all. This supports
the first interpretation given above, that it is a corrective against
Christian textual criticism/distortion. Maybe the two reasons aren't
mutually exclusive? It certainly seems that Mendelssohn addresses two
audiences on the same page.
* * *
What were the reactions to the Biur?
There were three major opponents that we will discuss.
1) R' Yechezkel Landau of Prague, known by the name of his responsa
collection as the Noda Biyehuda (NbY).
Dubno asked him for his opinion of the Biur, hoping for an endorsement
that would help sales. The NbY wrote that the translation's difficult,
archaic and highflown German would require teachers of children to
spend extra time on the details of German grammar and vocabulary,
reducing the content of Torah learning. He didn't dispute
Mendelssohn's intention to write a corrective to non-Jewish
interpretations, but even so, the result of the translation would
follow the intent of the letter to Hennings. Note that the NbY did not
oppose translation in general - he gave his haskama (approbation) to a
simpler German Torah translation published in 1785.
2) R' Shlomo Kluger, known for his commentary on the siddur, was asked
about an incident, where a group that studied Mendelssohn's Biur was
excommunicated and its books burned.
He responded (having never read the Biur himself) with several
a) Don't go around burning books - it gives the goyim bad ideas.
b) Nobody likes Mendelssohn, you've gotta figure there's something to
c) That Mendelssohn was the student of R' David Frankel was
insufficient to save his reputation.
d) His children and students went astray, converted, turned Reform.
e) The German translation of the Chumash paved the way towards
davening in German vernacular.
Why is this important? Reason (e) goes one step further than the NbY:
the Biur leads to the German language, which leads to German culture,
which leads to the end of observance of Torah and mitzvot. In other
words, the Reform movement is Mendelssohn's fault. Which is absolutely
not true (Rabbi Mintz emphasized this point -jjb): Mendelssohn
throughout his life was an Orthodox Jew, who encouraged observance in
3) The Chatam Sofer (CS), in his Last Will and Testament, wrote
"lesifrei RaMa"D (R' Moshe Dessauer, or Mendelssohn) al tishl'chu
yad." (don't touch the books of Mendelssohn). In a side note, the
maskilim claimed that this was a typographical error, that instead of
RMD, he had written HMD - erotica qua "lo tachmod" - but when the
original manuscript was found, it clearly said RMD.
* * *
Don't get the idea that opposition was uniform. There were many who
approved of, and used the Biur.
First off, R' Hirschel Levin, the chief rabbi of Berlin, gave a
Second, who bought subscriptions? Who used it?
1) R' Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg, author of Haketav Vehakabalah,
subscribed, and in fact quotes the Biur in his commentary.
2) R' David Tzvi Hoffman, the Melamed Leho'il, also quotes the Biur in
his commentary on Chumash.
3) Shmuel David Luzzatto warmly recommends the Biur as a tool for
teachers of Chumash to understand the text.
4) There were study groups devoted to the Biur in the Netherlands for
150 years, down to World War II.
5) R' Yaakov Weil, a major critic of Reform, recommends that in the
modern age, "shnayim mikra v'echad targum" (the requirement to read
the parsha each week twice in Hebrew and once in Aramaic translation,
Rashi substituting for the latter in many places) can be fulfilled by
reading the parsha with the Biur and the German translation.
* * *
So what do we have in conclusion?
The tension in integrating the world of traditional Judaism with
German culture is revealed in the Biur project. What were
1) The critics were right - it was an introduction to the German
language, and maybe to German culture, and perhaps to Reform.
2) It was the first modern rabbinic Bible, as a corrective to German
Enlightenment thought. It was not an end in itself, but a beginning.
R' David Tzvi Hoffman's commentary, counteracting the Documentary
Hypothesis, continues in this tradition, as does the commentary of
J.H. Hertz - correcting against the non-Jewish, anti-Jewish ideas.
Mendelssohn's courage in tackling these issues enriches us for
continuing to live in both cultures.
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