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Volume 13 : Number 076

Sunday, August 22 2004

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 13:35:14 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Evolution, Creationism, Lice and Other Mythical Creatures

On Thu, Aug 19, 2004 at 06:48:21PM -0400, hlampel@thejnet.com wrote:
: Chazal's counting is from the year "-1" or "0" from the creation of
: Adam...

Actually, it's 0 or 1 that is the creation of Adam. And, to be even
more exact, whether "year 1" is when the beri'ah is one year old, or
the beri'ah's first years. (Babies aren't 1 yet in their first year.)

But speaking in terms of "from the creation of Adam" is exactly RHM's
point. The dating is not from yeish mei'ayin, but from the last thing
created. There is no statement implied about time before Adam.

Which is why neither of your ra'ayos say anything about a shitah of
literal treatment of Bereishis 1, and even less about proving the lack of
a shitah of a non-literal treatment. They speak of how long the beri'ah
has been complete, not the length of time from yeish mei'ayin to day
one, or the duration of "days" or any of the other issues raised in
this regard.

On Wed, Aug 18, 2004 at 06:02:39PM -0400, Jonathan Ostroff wrote:
: It's pretty simple really. Not all scientific data have equal credibility,
: for our scientific beliefs in the data can be based on:
: (a) repeatable observable phenomena
: (b) interpolation
: (c) extrapolation and 
: (d) deep theory

On Thu, Aug 19, 2004 at 08:58:58AM +0300, Akiva Atwood wrote:
: Your (d) is incorrect -- it should be a "deep hypotheses". A "theory"
: is a hypotheses which has been shown to be correct by observation and
: testing -- and would therefore be higher than (a).

Actually, I think you're both incorrect.

(a) are phenomena that we believe are repeatable. A skeptic might argue
that tomorrow an object might not fall as predicted by the formula.

Hypotheses and theories are the means for making the (b) interpolations
and (c) extrapolations.

Both (a) and (d) are never actually proven. Rather, if they stand it's
because they repeatedly fail to be disproven. If a hypothesis implies
an extrapolation to a new event and the event is produced as expected,
and again, and again, we call it a theory. But we never actually prove
that there isn't an exception out there that will falsify our structure.

It's actually a very close parallel to (a), but where (a) is about
observing a set of events we consider essentially identical, and (d) is
built on a set of different events that conform to a single explanation.

RAA later writes:
: Not really -- Newtownian physics is still useful - and correct at
: non-relativistic speeds.

No, it's just negligably inaccurate. Useful, but not correct. Which may
be good enough for the engineer, but for the philosopher, it's "wrong".

Speaking of frustrating reinvention of the wheel, we're debating this at
a pretty remedial level. The portrayal of "evolution" is on the level of
a HS bio class. Most fundamentally, it ignores all the other sciences
from quantum mechanics to linguistics that have theories that work but
assume history began well before Adam.

(And speaking of linguistics, that could [if anyone wants to let it]
reopen a can of worms all the way to Migdal Bavel, not just beri'ah!)

I don't know of a good website supporting a literal reading of Bereishis 1
from a Jewish perspective. However, it pays to read www.talkorigins.org
before posting something for which there is a well-known rebuttal,
without even trying to address the rebuttal. He fails at being as
balanced as he likes, but he has a good set of links to other sites.
At least just the guy's FAQs (itself around a month of reading) would
be a good place to start.

Bemechilas kevod R' Avigdor Miller, the scientific part of his argument
would not get acceptance from a reader of Scientific American (never
mind someone who actually reads the peer-reviewed journals), even one who
would agree with his maskanah. It's simply an attack of an oversiplified
version of out-of-date theory, a strawman.

I originally planned on avoiding criticizing R' Avigdor Miller in public,
but I couldn't once I saw the conversation leading to an in-depth
discussion of the relevent part of Rejoice O Youth.


Micha Berger             A cheerful disposition is an inestimable treasure.
micha@aishdas.org        It preserves health, promotes convalescence,
http://www.aishdas.org   and helps us cope with adversity.
Fax: (270) 514-1507         - R' SR Hirsch, "From the Wisdom of Mishlei"

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Date: Thu, 19 Aug 2004 21:07:50 -0400
From: Kenneth G Miller <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Re: Pi

R' Micha Berger wrote <<< Your accuracy is limited by the elasticity of
the string you wrap around the circle. If you stretch it tighter to mark
the end of one circumferance than you do when you lay it out to measure,
or visa-versa, your measure is off. >>>

Yes, I must admit that the difference between 3 and pi is less than 5%,
and most strings can easily stretch by that much. And chains, which would
not stretch, have a sagging problem because they're so heavy. However,
the string will not stretch by the same amount each time. Why wouldn't
they notice that it measured more than 3 more often than it measured
less than three? Wouldn't this be a strong sign that that pi is a bit
more than three?

In fact, this whole business of stretching strings should tell them that
they're simply not able to get an exact measurement. So why would they
conclude that it is indeed exactly three? I hope someday to understand
their logic.

Akiva Miller

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Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 14:15:53 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Pi

On Thu, Aug 19, 2004 at 09:07:50PM -0400, Kenneth G Miller wrote:
: In fact, this whole business of stretching strings should tell them that
: they're simply not able to get an exact measurement. So why would they
: conclude that it is indeed exactly three? I hope someday to understand
: their logic.

Because Pythagoras demanded that the universe operates on whole numbers.
Letting people outside his temple learn that sqrt(2) is irrational was
punished by death.

So, this became accepted Greek Knowledge. And therefore what was taught
in Chazal's part of the world.

Even though the Mitzriyim and Bavliim already knew better, if not that
pi was irrational.


Micha Berger             Until he extends the circle of his compassion
micha@aishdas.org        to all living things,
http://www.aishdas.org   man will not himself find peace.
Fax: (270) 514-1507                        - Albert Schweitzer

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Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 00:21:59 -0400
From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <rygb@aishdas.org>
Re: Lice

>Your position seems to be identical with that of Rav Dessler as
>expressed by R' Carmel in Michtav M'Eliyahu Vol 4 note 4 page 355.
>The reason for this is that the halacha was known to Chazal by tradition
>through the generations and they also knew things through experience....
>The important point is that the reasoning they gave did not create the
>halacha but rather the reverse was true - the halacha created the

I do not hold at all like REED - the way you explain his position -
I addressed this earlier today. L'havdil, if Congress legislates a law
or the Supreme Court issues a ruling, it is never "incorrect."

>What I am getting at is that the idea of nishtane hateva does not seem
>to work according to your theory. Or rather why should we care if teva
>has changed since the halacha is independent of teva?

Cases of nishtaneh hateva are ones in which the law is not applicable
to the circumstances. The law remains the law; the circumstances are
not the same. For example, you cannot apply laws that were legislated
for a time at which most women had vestos kevuos to a time when they do
not. To do so would be the same as, say, requiring the use of a parking
meter when regulations do not require it - i.e., applying a law that
pertains to specific circumstances when those circumstances do not apply.

>Contrary to your assertion - the DR above states we can not disagree
>with chazal even when it comes to scientific explanation - since the
>Oral Law has been put in writing. I think we need to assume at this
>point that you are not in fact following the position of the DR

You misunderstand the DR. In fact, you make him out to be a member of the 
flat-earth society.

>The Chazon Ish criticized Rav Yosef Karo for not stating that the
>authority of Chazal derived from their superiority. The fact remains
>that neither Rav Yosef Karo or the Rambam seem to agree with Chazon Ish
>- as we have discussed in the past. From the quote you have provided of
>the DR - he doesn't either. As a minimum we can agree that there is no
>citation of either Rav Yosef Karo or the Rambam which clearly supports
>the view of the Chazon Ish and what they do say seems to indicate they
>reject it. Consequently you are assuming to be universally accepted
>as true that which is being disputed. According to the DR one can not
>question Chazal - after they were written down - simply because it
>undermines their authority. You assert that they can not be questioned
>because they are transcendentally superior in understanding halacha.


Not "transcendentally superior."

I said ex cathedra - by official authority - and that is what I meant.
Their pronouncements are normative because of universal acceptance
(which *in turn* was because they were "transcendentally superior" -
you think they were louts and were accepted anyway?), giving them the
authority of a Sanhedrin: "And we are all required to fulfill that which
came from the mouths of the Sages of Shas, for they are in lieu of the
Great Court, and all Israel accepted them upon themselves forever and
ever" (Aruch HaShulchan HeAsid end of siman 65).

>I am completely baffled by this statement. You assert that halacha
>is independent of explanation. Thus it is absolutely true that it is
>permitted to kill them on Shabbos. Now you say that Chazal's lice are
>different than ours. Chazal's lice reproduced asexually and that is why
>they can be killed.

RYSE surmises that *perhaps* Chazal were referring to different lice. I
am baffled at your bafflement.

>Yes you have convinced me that I don't understand what you are
>asserting. If you have the patience please explain the following 1) Is
>the halacha absolutely independent of the explanation and the physical

When the halacha is issued by the Talmud, yes.

>  2) How do you justify concepts of change in nature - when nature
>does not create the halacha in the first place.

Addressed above.

>  3) Are you in agreement with the DR that once TSP is written we can not 
disagree with either the halacha or the scientific explanation because
that would undermine their authority?

I maintain that you are misinterpreting the DR.

>4) Do you acknowledge - like Rav Dessler - that the scientific
>explanations of Chazal might be in error?


>  4) Why does it make a difference whether the lice of today are the same 
> as those of Chazal?

Because the law may have been issued in regard to a specific species of
lice, and the ones today may be another species.

>  5) Do you have a single citation of either the Rambam and Rav Yosef Karo 
> that indicates that the halachic authority of Chazal was because of
> their superiority?

Explained above. There is no need for such a citation, because that is not
my argument. It is, of course, a sevara peshuta that their superiority
was the reason underlying the universal acceptance. But if you need
a source you will find it at the end of the Hakdama to Mishneh Torah:
"V'achar BD shel R' Ashi...*v'nisma'eit Talmud Torah*."


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Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 01:45:28 -0400
From: Isaac A Zlochower <zlochoia@bellatlantic.net>

Looking at the sugya again (prompted by Moshe), I find that I need to
retract my speculation about an alternative reason for the view of Bet
Hillel and Rabbe Yehoshua that permit the killing of lice on shabbat.
Rav Ashi in T.B. Shabbat 107b declares that a flea (parosh), an insect
that does procreate, may not be killed on shabbat (such an act would
require a chatat beshogeg) even according to Rabbe Yehoshua and other
disputants of Rabbe Eliezer. It would appear, then, that the killing of
an insect on shabbat is considered a Torah prohibition - except for lice.
If lice were, indeed, produced from sweat and not from preexisting lice
(the apparent view of Chazal) then they would fail a key characteristic
of a living creature (reprodcution). Then they could be considered as
non-living, and squashing them would be qualitatively different than
killing a truly living being. Spontaneous generation of living things is,
however, an ancient mistaken belief. There is ample evidence that lice
reproduce sexually. Killing lice is therefore problematic. Fortunately,
the lice problem -except for occasional head lice infestations in schools,
is uncommon in modern societies with their improved hygenic practices
(frequent bathing and clothes washing).

Yitzchok Zlochower

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Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 13:16:29 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: lice

On Thu, Aug 19, 2004 at 04:51:13PM +0300, eli turkel wrote:
: Again, quoting Sternberg there are several approaches to treating
: conflicts between gemara and science
: 1. Nishtane Hateva...
: 2. REED - Chazal got the halacha from previous generations but not
: the reasoning....
: 3. Re-interpret the gemara in modern terms....

First, your #2 seems to be the same as your #3. If you're saying that
chazal interpreted extant halakhah to the science of their times, you've
explained that you ought to be doing the same.

Had people bothered to read RGS's well-done article in Torat
Emet last week, when I first posted the URL, they would have
realized that he shows a multiplicity of approaches on all of the
cases we've discussed, and then some. I again suggest people read
<http://www.aishdas.org/toratemet/science.html> as well as his discussion
of lice at <http://www.aishdas.org/toratemet/en_pamphlet1.html#lice>,
of astronomy and zemanim
as well as the shape of the earth (with focus on the dateline)

Otherwise, we are simply wasting time reinventing the wheel.

As way of teaser, RGS lists and shows examples of the following approaches:
1- Do not change halakhah
    1a- skepticism about science ("it's only a theory")
    1b- fixed halakhah (the CI)
    1c- closed talmud (which seems to be RYGB's position)

2- Change halakhah
    2a- incorrect knowledge
    2b- nature changed

3- Case-by-case
    Was the science an explanation of extant halakhah, or its motivation?
    In cases of the latter, 2a or 2b apply.

On Thu, Aug 19, 2004 at 03:23:54PM -0400, Shinnar, Meir wrote:
: What are the earliest sources to suggest, as RYGB does,either 1) This
: universal acceptance was because of a fundamental difference in the
: nature of hazal (not merely that amoraim were different)

: 2) Post sanhedrin hazal could affect halachic reality ba'elyonim, while
: post bavli rabbanim couldn't?

:   After all, the halachic reality lemata was only affected later, when
:   it was accepted.

Using RGS's taxonomy, RSM is asking if RYGB is promoting 1b or 1c.

To answer one variant of his question, I assume that's what we mean by
"Ravina veRav Ashi sof hora'ah". It asserts that even a universally
accepted pesaq of rishonim is different in kind than those of chazal.

On a totally different direction....

On Wed, Aug 18, 2004 at 06:35:11PM -0400, RYGB wrote:
:> even if in Heaven it says otherwise - G-d changes the Torah to accept
:> the view of Chazal. Therefore for all post Talmudic generations - the
:> statements of Chazal (both concerning physical reality and halacha) are
:> to be taken as absolutely true for all time and are not to be modified in
:> any way - despite apparent clear cut evidence to the contrary concerning
:> physical facts.

: Only concerning Halacha, not concerning physical reality.

A recurring theme in RALichtenstein's Torah is the dichotomy between
shemiras hamitzvos from a *commitment* to a sense of duty, and acting
from a *connection* to the mitzvos.

RAL laments the current shift in the balance that it more toward
connection than in the past. (Note I'm avoiding all-of-nothing terms!)
We are building our shemirah on finding meaning, and losing sight of
anah avdah deQBH.

Perhaps this is rearing its head here too. We're looking at the mitzvos
as tied to ontologies, and if we know the reality is X, shouldn't the din
shift too? Otherwise, doesn't it lose its meaning?

RYGB is asserting more of a mitzvah-as-law perspective. If the process
doesn't allow the law to track the reality, the avdah deQBH doesn't
care -- he is committed to doing what he's supposed to.

: (Although there are such opinions: "Once, however, local psak determined
: local reality. HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Michel Gordon zt"l of Lomza related
: that an indivdual in Volozhin suffered from a certain form of lung
: disease.....

This brought to mind REED's shitah on multiple olamos. For someone who
lives in olam ha'asiyah, laws like gravity seem objective and inviolate,
whereas concepts like justice and oppression (REED's examples) are
harder to pin down. For someone who lifts himself so that his attention
is always fixed on the laws of olam heytzirah, it's asiyah's physics
that end up subjective and wishy-washy. (Until the point where he may
experience nissim, as per the Maharal's shitah.)


Micha Berger             Here is the test to find whether your mission
micha@aishdas.org        on Earth is finished:
http://www.aishdas.org   if you're alive, it isn't.
Fax: (270) 514-1507                        - Richard Bach

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Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 06:58:53 +0300
From: Akiva Atwood <akiva.atwood@gmail.com>
Re: tikkun hamidot through eating and drinking

Simi Peters wrote:
>Can anyone direct me to sources in machshava that discuss teshuva and/or
>tikkun hamidot in the area of eating and drinking? I am particularly
>interested in sources from the Middle Ages or earlier, including Chazal
>(on one hand), and Chassidut (on the other)....
>                       What I am trying to understand is how a Jew should
>relate to food and eating beyond the level of issur ve'heter.

Shulchan HaTahor by R' Aharon Roth

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Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 02:19:39 EDT
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: Tisha B Av and Teshuvah

In a message dated 8/6/2004 1:32:18 PM EDT, Zeliglaw@aol.com writes:
> "I believe RYBS once said that even though a piyut on asarah haregu
> malchut is said on both tisha ba-av and yom kippur they are intrinsically
> different. On Tisha Ba-av it is said as avelut like the other piyutim
> on destructions. On yom kippur it it is said as misah of tzaddikim is
> a kapparah."

ZZG. R M Rosenszweig quoted RYBS to this effect in his shiurim on Kinos
this last Tisha Bav

I heard RYBS do his intor {hakdama} to kinnos on Tisha b'av (either 1977
or 1979) in which his point was that both YK and 9Av had 5 innuyyim

BUT the tachils of YK was Teshuva while 9Av was aveilus. He made this
chiluk stick as a theme all the way through....

Now it is true that for EVERY other ta'anis we have slichos, but NOT 9Av.
It is clear to me that 9Av is about bemoaning our loss, apreciating what
we had and what we lost. Now it is true we DO say hashiveinu at the end
of Eichah, but the point is restoration or our losses, not about selicha
per se...

Now it is highly unusual for RYBS to argue with a Rambam, but it
is arguable that the Rambam's point re: Tshuva is focused upon OTHER
Taaniyos and NOT 9Av...

[Email #2 -mi]

In a message dated 8/3/2004 4:03:00 PM EDT, gershon.dubin@juno.com writes:
> I just finished listening to a taped shmuos from Rav Matisyahu
> Solomon whose central point is that the purpose of Eicha is hashivenu.
> Simple aveilus has no point without leading to teshuva.

and I heard this dvar Torah

There are 2 reasons for a man to divorce his wife
1) she committed erva
2) she is mi'us to him

At the end of Eicha we plea to HKBH Hashiveinu?


K Im maso maostanue - Hashem found us Mi'us. If HKBH indeed was matza
banu ervas davar our divorce ch"v"sh would be permanent.

So this tshuva is like machzier grushaso. Not tshuva in the classic
sense on our part

Eichah yashva vadad incdicateds a woman who is abandoned NOT a sinner ...

OTOH, the haftara of Chazaon DOES say kisdom hayyinu, but that is read
on Shabbos Chazon not on 9Av

Kol Tuv;
Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 02:41:25 EDT
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Kaddish was Reading the ktuba

In a message dated 8/17/2004 4:03:43 PM EDT, micha@aishdas.org writes:
>: RMB writes "The Rav agreed
>: with the opinion that the first two words of Kaddish are in Hebrew"
>: The vowel under the dalet in each of these words is a [tzeirei], as in
>: Hebrew, not a [patach], as in Aramaic....

> Tangent: It's not that simple, as the patach is valid Hebrew too, which
> is why there's no parashas "Va'eschanein".

The tzeirei's in the first 2 words of kaddish make little or no sense
to me.

The fact that they are based on hisgadilti v'gomer in Yehcezkel is in
itself not a sufficent reason to Hebraicize the words. See Baer on this
matter. His comment on the tzeireis is utter silence IOW it is not even
on his radar screen. I have heard this concept besheim the GRA. I really
hope that the GRA never said it and it was a gross mis-understanding on
the part of one of his Talmiddim. Baer makes a note of several of the
GRA's points, here it does not even rate a dismissal. which leads me
to believe in his day the GRA had not yet said it although he had been
niftar about 75 years

At any rate, RYBS followed the family Minhag {i.e. the GRA or as I allege
the alleged GRA} and AISI did not deal with evidence to the contrary.

Kol Tuv;
Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 15:28:54 +0000
From: y.blau@att.net
Public expression by women

[A comment on a thread on Areivim -mi]

The debate about Rav Hershel Shachter's imagery in his talk about
women reading the ketuba has been followed by the discussion about
the appropriateness of a Jewish newspaper's criticizing a rabbinical
scholar. What has been missing is any analysis of his halakhic
reasoning. The argument that tsniut requires women to avoid a public role
is interesting but not proven by the sources that Rav Schachter quoted.

The gemara in Succa 49B is a strong support for moderation in weddings
but does not mention women at all. The Tzedukim's disagreement with the
perushim is more likely an argument that the halakhic legalistic reasoning
produces results the run counter to common sense than a call for women's
rights. In the case described the question is whether the son's daughter
or his sister should inherit. In either case it will be a women. Rav
Moshe Z.T.L. questions the motivation of women who want to wear tefillin.

The only potentially relevant source is the gemara in Megilla 21A that
women are not called up for an aliya because of kavod hatzibbur. Rav
Moshe Meiselman in his "Jewish Women and Jewish Law" points out that
the different applications of kavod hatzibbur makes it difficult find
a consistent explanation fot its usage. He suggests that in this case
it is related to the obligation of Torah study which is restricted to
men. Clearly, Rav Shachter's explanation is possible but it has not
been proven.

In the disagreement amongst the rishonim in interpreting the gemara in
Eruchin 2B that women can read the megilla whether they can read it for
men or only other women, there is no suggestion tht the public nature
of a megilla reading plays any role. If three women and two men eat
together a woman is permitted (according to some obligated) to lead a
zimun. Again no mention is made in the sources of its public nature.

The claim that the women, who are "pushing the envelope" in areas where
there are no explicit halkhic restrictions but women have not performed
them in the past, are motivated by an anger with halakha and Jewish
tradition, makes an assumption about a number of different people. Many
of these women are playing a public role in their professional life in
areas that were closed to their grandmothers and mothers. Often, they are
more active in Jewish life teaching and administrating Jewish schools
and leading the highly successful Jewish women's organizations. They
simply are functioning in the public arena. To ignore the changes that
have taken place in Jewish society and to reduce the concerns of these
women only to the influence of feminism seems unfair

I find it difficult to find the proper balance between preserving the
traditional Jewish family and the critical role of women within it,
and acknowledging that women now have the opportunity be fully educated
and to use their talents professionally. While I am uncomfortable with
quoting private conversations with the Rav Z.T.L., he told my wife while
I was in the room, that each woman should make that determination herself
and that others should not make it for her. This perspective does not
provide clear guidelines for specific questions but treats Jewish women
with the respect they deserve.

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Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 15:01:23 -0400
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <jonathan@yorku.ca>
RE: Pi

> Tosefos HaRosh (Eruvin 14a) ... 
> (A) How do we have a licence to record Pi as 3, i.e. as an 
> appoximation. The Talmud anwers that the licence is from Scripture 
> (i.e. Solomon's pool where it is also recorded approximately). 

> I don't understand how the gemara can be read that way at 
> all. The gemara seems convinced that the dimensions of the 
> yam shel shlomo were exact without even a tiny bit of 
> inaccuracy, and insists on accounting for the thickness of 
> the walls, even after declaring that they were extremely 
> thin. None of the commentaries on the Tanach, or on the 
> mishna that the gemara is commenting on, seem to have this 
> concern, they're all happy to say that the numbers in both 
> places are rounded (i.e. the true diameter of the yam was 
> between 9.5 and 30.5/pi, and the true circumference was 
> between 9.5*pi and 30.5). The Tosefos Harosh could learn the 
> mishna very easily that way. But how can he learn the gemara that way?

I had this question as well when I first learned the sugya. But since (A)
is the shita not only of the Tosefos HaRosh but also the Raavad, Meiri,
Tashbatz and to my understanding the Rambam, GR"A (see Alef Kesav 117),
Aruch HaShulchan, Chazon Ish and MB, I would suggest the following:

[The Ramchal writes in Derech Tevunos that the derech of the Talmud is
to be brief and many steps are unstated, and we have to fill them in
for ourselves. So please treat the following in the same manner].

We need to fill in for ourselves what X is, the Gemora does not
specifically state what it is.
X is: how do we have a licence to record Pi as 3?

("3", after all, is a fairly close approximation (5%) and a nice round
number that makes the presentation easier as we do in engineering
texts today)

The licence is from Scripture i.e. Solomon's pool.

The 10 cubit diameter is for the inner rim whereas the 30 cubit
circumference is for the outer rim (Rashi).

Assuming that the width of each rim is a tefach which is one sixth of
a cubit we then get approximately 2.903 (remember there are two rims).

This gives us about 2.903 which is less accurate than 3 and is not the
nice round number we were looking for.

The rim was of neglible width.

Even a neglible amount is a problem. 
The problem is that we still get a number (say 2.988) that is less
accurate than 3 and is not the nice round number we were looking for.

Both the circumference and diameter are stated with respect to the inner
rim and thus we get the nice round number 3 as an approximation of Pi.

The bottom line is that all these meforshim say that Chazal were well
aware that 3 is an approximation and the question is only one of usage.

This also makes sense for a variety of reasons.

One of them is that the whole Mishna is talking about approximations, e.g.
if the beam was made of reeds we view it as if it were made of metal,
if round we view it as square, if it has a circumference of 3 [we view
it as if] it has a diameter of 3.

We are, I would say, forced to learn the Gemora like all the mefarshim.

Kol Tuv ... Jonathan

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Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 15:34:14 -0400
From: "Glasner, David" <DGLASNER@ftc.gov>
RE: Lice

I had not intended to join this discussion, but since Rabbi B saw fit to
use the quote from the Dor Revi'i that I sent him to support his position
on lice (which I must admit is not exactly how I would read the quote)
and since Rabbi Eidensohn seems to have read more into the quote than
I think the Dor Revi'i intended I will just offer my opinion about what
my revered ancestor intended to say.

The DR, I believe, is accepting as a simple matter of fact that
Hazal based their halakhic decisions on their (necessarily imperfect)
understanding of what the (fundamentally unchanging) state of nature
happened to be. This means that objectively some decisions (e.g., the
killing of lice) were premised on faulty factual presumptions, and that
in the normal course of halakhic give and take these halakhic decisions
would change over time as understanding of the state of nature improved.
However, the normal halakhic process was interrupted when the Mishnah
and Talmud were redacted, because the inherent flexibility and capacity
to change of the TSBP was severely reduced, ipso facto, by the creation
of new canonical texts which abridged the right of halakhic authorities
to overturn previously decided halakhot (as codifed in Rambam Mamrim 2:1).

I therefore don't agree with Rabbi B that the DR holds that Hazal had an
inherent superiority over later generations that precludes disagreement
with them. Rather, the situation is simply that the normal halakhic
mechanism (inherent in TSBP when it was truly an Oral Law) is no longer
available. However (and this is me not the Dor Revi'I speaking now).
being a creative and resourceful people, we still find ways around such
problems by inventing legal fictions like nishtaneh ha-tevah that allow
us to change the halakhah even though for appearnces sake we pretend
that we are not doing so.

My disagreement with Rabbi Eidensohn is, I think, more limited. I don't
believe that the Dor Revi'I meant to suggest that there was any reason
not to recognize that Hazal erred in their scientific understanding,
since he himself makes it clear that he has no doubt that they were in
error on a number of issues. He simply holds that, in practice, we no
longer have a legal mechanism by which to formally change a halakhah when
errors by Hazal come to our attention (and at his level of abstraction
he did not go into the issue of legal fictions and nishtaneh ha-tevah).
I don't believe that there can be any doubt that he would have rejected
with both hands the opinions of the Hazon Ish and Rabbi Dessler.

David Glasner

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