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Volume 13 : Number 079

Wednesday, August 25 2004

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 12:23:54 -0400
From: "Glasner, David" <DGLASNER@ftc.gov>
RE: Lice & Change of nature

Moshe Schor wrote:
> However Rav Moshe Feinstein understands the Rambam differently. As I
> wrote in a previous post,he understands the Rambam as saying that the
> Teva changed from the time of Chazal,both in finding new treatments that
> were not available previously & in the actual change of nature, both in
> allowing some animals to live that could not live previously & the reverse
> that some injuries are nowadays fatal when in former times they could
> live. However the list of Treifos of animals were given on Sinai,unlike
> the Treifos of a human being(regarding murder of a Treifoh). Therefore
> the halacha depends on what was a fatal injury during the time that the
> Torah was given.

I agree that Rav Moshe understands the Rambam differently. According
to the Dor Revi'i, the treifot are chumrot that were intended to bypass
imud ha-rof'im necessary in the case of a human being, but even in the
time of Hazal no one actually believed that a treifah could not possibly
live twelve months. The mahloket about treifa haya o einah haya is not
about metziut, but about whether one can infer from the survival of a
safek treifah for 12 months that it was indeed not a treifah at all.
The halakha that treifah einah haya means that we may infer from its
survival for 12 months that it was not a treifah, but that is a statement
about halakhic inference not about actual metziut. There is no need to
resort to nishtaneh ha-teva in the case of treifot, because the halakhic
status of treifot is independent of whether a particular treifah could
in fact survive for 12 months.

[R David Glasner:]
>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.

> If the halakhic mechanism is no longer available, what good does it do to
> create "legal fictions" of nishtaneh ha-tevah? Are you fooling The Rebono
> Shel Olom with make believe ideas? I don't think that the Poskim believed
> it was legal fiction. They believed that Teva sometimes really changed

Well that it is a reasonable position to take, but we do not that there
are instances when ha'aramah is halakhically allowed for a sufficiently
important purpose.

> According to the Dr, what is the nature & Torah source for Chazal's
> authority? Why would it being written down give their words special
> authority? Do they have the same status as a Sanhedrin( Rav Wasserman's
> position)?

Hazal's authority comes from the obligation to listen to the shofeit
"in those days" (i.e. Sanhedrin). Since the TSBP was "written down"
because the Sanhedrin was going out of existence the written TSBP becomes
a proxy for the Sanhedrin and its p'sakim remain binding until another
Sanhedrin comes into existence. On this point, I believe, the Dor Revi'i
and R. Wasserman would be in accord. But you would do better to read the
hakdamah to Dor Revi'i al Hulin yourself to get a proper understanding
of his position.

[Email #2. -mi]

I would just follow up on my earlier comment concerning legal fictions
with a further thought, which is the underlying assumption here is that
halakha p'sukah was incorrectly decided based on an incorrect factual
premise. We can't change the halakhah itself, which would be the proper
solution. Thus, when there is a sufficiently urgent reason to do so,
we posit another incorrect factual premise to cancel out the original
factual premise and establish the correct factual premise that allows us
to get to the correct halakhic p'sak. It's somewhat messy, but it does
get us to the correct halakhic conclusion. It works for me, but if it
violates your scruples, so be it.

David Glasner

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Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 07:47:53 +0300
From: Akiva Atwood <akiva.atwood@gmail.com>
Re: Reliability of Science

> Possibly, but the philosophy of science is an area he is very familiar
> with: His Ph.D. is in Philosophy [mathematical logic] from Brandeis
> University; he was for ten years a member of the department of philosophy
> of The Johns Hopkins University; he received a research grant from the
> National Science Foundation; and, he published Ontological Economy with
> Oxford University Press.

All of which is meaningless when it comes to understanding the
scientific method and the philosophy of science.

> I am not sure why we are forced to accept your website's definition
> over that of Encyclopedia Britannica. See below for an example of a
> Britannica-style theory (Geosynclinal Theory)

No one is forcing anyone -- but the definitions on the web site I
linked to are much closer to what was taught in my Philosoph of
science courses in college (not to mention in the actual science
courses themselves).

Also -- Britannica is not infallible. 

> is a generalization concerning the genetic relationship between the
> trough like basinal areas of the earth's crust which accumulate great
> thicknesses of sediment and are called geosynclines, and major mountain
> ranges. Just as the doctrine of evolution is universally accepted among
> biologists, so also the geosynclinal origin of the major mountain systems
> is an established principle in geology."

The "theory" failed because a *mechanism" that explained all the
different examples couldn't be found -- a mechanish that Plate
tectonis supplied.

> But, by 1965, geosynclinal theory started to be replaced by the very
> different theory of plate tectonics. And so Geosynclinal Theory, one
> of the "great unifying principles in geology" ("similar to that of the
> theory of evolution" :-), took a turn for the worse. Extrapolation and
> "deep theory" strike again. Geshmak!

That 2 authors wrote that Geosynclinal Theory was one of the "great
unifying principles in geology" doesn't make it so.

5 minutes with google -- AVOIDING all the Intelligent
design/christian/young-earth web sites -- got me about a half dozen
links that show GT was NOT as highly held as you claim.

ALSO -- by the definitions I linked to -- GT would be a hypotheses.
(which is why I wanted to change the "Deep Theory" term in the first



"If you want to build a ship, then don't drum up men to gather wood, 
give orders, and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the 
far and endless sea."                    - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 08:05:09 -0700 (PDT)
From: Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
Re: Age of the Universe

<hlampel@thejnet.com> wrote:
> RMB:
> "[T]he multiple creation theorists, the Ramban, the Zohar, the Tif'eres
> Yisrael, have no problem giving the universe history between yeish mei'ayin
> and the rest of 6 yemei bereishis."
> And:
> "The Ramban's talmud, R' Yitzchaq mei'Akko... somehow got the same kind
> of age for the universe as current theory."

> RMB evidently attributes to the Ramban the idea that after Hashem created
> the world (Gen 1:1), it experienced a long, unknown history (into which
> RMB would defend inserting aeons, within which lived dinosaurs, etc.,
> to accomodate the belief that they lived millenia ago). He asserts that
> the Ramban held that Hashem, after those aeons, then destroyed or ruined
> that creation, resulting in the "tohu vavohu" of Gen. 1:2, from which
> G-d got on to forming "our" world (which contains fossil remains from
> that old world).

These are not RMB's assertions. These are conclusions of Chazal in
the Sefer Yetzirah as spoken of by Rabbi Kaplan... and Rabbi Isaac of

> I find this untenable, for the Ramban (after going out of his way [end
> of comments on Gen. 1:3] to clearly define all the days of Creation as
> days consisting not of millenium or even years, but "literal days of hours
> and minutes.. as is the plain reading of the Scripture" (V'da ki ha'yamim
> ha'nizkarim b'maaseh b'raishis hayyu b'briass haShamayyim v'haAretz yamim
> mammesh, m'chubarim mi'sha'os u'r'ga'im, v'hayyu shisha k'shayshess y'may
> ha'maaseh, k'phuto shel mikra") he also goes out of his way (on verse 2,
> p. 14 line 16 in the Chavel edition) to define the "tohu vavohu" as THE
> "V'ha'aretz B'HIBAR'AH hayysa tohu v'hayysa vohu."

I guess Nachmanidies student Rabbi Isaac of Acco disagrees (see
below). He clearly uses divine days and not man's days, in his count.

> One might even wonder why Ramban thought it necessary to explicate this,
> as any unbiased, un-agenda possessed reader of Scripture would naturally
> assume these two points to be so--viz., that a day means a day, and that
> there is not an aeons-long history to be inserted between the first and
> second posuk--from a straightforward reading of the text.

Not really. The Ramban simply did not have the facts in evidence we
have today. He insistence on literalism may have just been countering a
philosophical view that held of Epicurian expalnations of existence. It
is quite possivble that Nachmanidies would have looked to the same sources
as Rabbi Kaplan had he contained the facts in eveidence we have today.

> However, the
> report that one of his talmidim, a (seriously mistaken--as per AriZal,
> and now as per the Ramban) R. Isaac of Acco, accepted an Aggadic statement
> as literally meaning that time existed before Creation, and that Hashem
> "created and destroyed [physical] worlds" before creating this one,
> might shed light on this: The Ramban, as well as the other meforshim I
> will post later, went out of his way to correct this wrong impression,
> derived from a literal meaning of an Aggadic/kabbalistic text that
> contradicts the plain meaning of the p'sukim. (I haven't seen this RIOA
> inside, so I can't vouch for it, and R. Ari Kahn mentions that this same
> talmid elsewhere himself contradicts this, besides the fact that even
> RIOA doesn't calculate anywhere near 15, billion years, R' Aryeh Kaplan
> z"l's assertions notwithstanding.)

They are not assertions but calculations based on solid sources (see

> The fact is, in any case, all the rishonim I can find were up in arms
> against taking this Aggada in its literal sense, which contradicts
> the plain meaning of the Torah...

Without factual data (which hadn't then been discovered) they had no
reason to do so.

> ...Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 2:30)
> goes so far as to vehemently reject the Aggada as an errant opinion,
> its being so against the Torah's message. Rabbeynu Saadia Gaon and
> Rabbeynu Yehudah HaLevy were also very averse to this idea--which
> the evolutionary theory, at its root, really holds.

Yes. I know that the Rambam is controversial even pre-huomosly (Rabbi
Saadia Gaon pre-dates the Rambam). That doesn't make him or Nachmanidies
student, Rabbi Isaac of Acco, wrong.

> (Even the "Big Bang"
> theory maintains that the universe began with the explosion of a primeval
> atom, which presumably was just always "there.")

No. The Big Bang Theory holds that it is Yesh MeAyin, just like you
and I do.

> Being that every meforesh (as I hope to post soon) explains the
> "six days" as (not surprisingly) six days, and explains the tohu
> va-vohu as the immediate result of Creation, and being that every
> standard meforesh decries a literal understanding of "creating and
> destroying worlds," then b'michilas k'vodo of the Tifferress Yisroel,
> I don't see how his construction based upon a literal understanding of
> that Aggada can be accepted. In its details it bears no resemblance to
> current evolutionary theory, 

Professor Gerald Schroeder illustrates in his book "Genesis and the
Big Bang" a model of the creation of the universe to describe how the
two positions, of six 24- hours and 15 billion years, are unified.
The six days of creation does not contradict the age of the universe
as being 15 billion years old (see below). 

> and its basic concept is only censured by
> the established meforshim and mechabrim, such as Rabbeynu Saadia Gaon,
> the Rambam, Rabbeynu Yehudah HaLevy, Rabbeynu Yosef Albo, and, despite
> RMB's assertion, specifically the Ramban.

Those Rishonim do not deal with the factual evidenbce discovered since
their day that is staring me AND YOU in the face.

With a little help from a website on the age of the universe is the
following pertinent quote from Rabbi Kaplan (who says it far better than
I can ever hope to):

"... According to the master Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac of Acco, when counting
the years of these cycles, one must not use an ordinary physical year, but
rather, a divine year (Otzar Chaim 86b). The Midrash says that each divine
day is a thousand years, basing this on the verse, "A thousand years in
Your sight are as but yesterday", Psalm 90:4 (Bereshit Rabbah 8:2, Zohar
2: 145b, Sanhedrin 97a). Since each year contains 365.25 days, a divine
year would be 365,250 years long. According to this, each cycle of seven
thousand divine years would consist of 2,556,750,000 earthly years. This
figure of 2.5 billion years is very close to the scientific estimate
as to the length of time that life has existed on earth. If we assume
that the seventh cycle began with the Biblical account of creation, then
this would have occurred when the universe was 15,340,500,000 years old.
This is very close to the scientific estimate that the expansion of the
universe began some 15 billion years ago." -- Taken from Sefer Yetzirah,
commentary by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, published by Weiser -- 1997, page 186.

Also from that website:

"Professor Cyril Domb of Bar Ilan University (In the publication:
B'or Hatorah, #11 -- 1999, page 174.) quotes Rabbi Shimshon Raphael
Hirsch, of blessed memory, as saying: "The bible does not describe
things in terms of objective truths known only to G-d, but in terms of
human understanding... The Bible uses human language when it speaks
of the "rising and setting of the sun" and not of the rotation of
the earth, just as Copernicus, Kepler, and other such scientists, in
their words and writings, spoke of the rising and setting of the sun
without thereby contradicting truths they had derived from there own
scientific conclusions. Loshon benei adam, "human language", which is
also the language of the Bible, describes the processes and phenomena of
nature in terms of the impression they make on the human senses, without
thereby meaning to prejudice, in any manner, the findings of scientific
research." (S.R. Hirsch. Collected Writing, volume 7 (New York: Feldheim,
1992), page 57.)

I think it is quite illuminating to see how the age of the universe
is not only compatible with the Torah narative but that it is actually
backed up by Rishonim like Rabbi Isaac of Acco and Achronim like RSRH.

To relegate all factual evidence as having been "planted" by God in
our universe to make the world look old so that one can read Genesis
in it's literal form is to betray one's own intellect. I believe that
Rabbi Isaac of Acco and Rabbi Samson Rapahel Hirsch clearly refuse to
deny reality in that way. Quoting Rishonim that support your views do
not sway me away since the factual evidence discovered since their day
(which they did not have to deal with) tends to refute them.


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Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 13:33:50 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
RE: WAS Evolution and Creationism

R Zev Sero wrote:
> Please expand on this. I thought the description in Emor was literal,
> just not complete.

The sequence of events that is peshat in the pasuq is different than
both Ashkenazi and Sepharadi payat.

>> I don't see how this answers the question. All your saying is that
>> once Hashem strove to create a natural-looking universe, He would
>> of course do a thorough and perfect job.

>> It doesn't answer why he would choose to make that scene.

> Because Hashem is a Realist artist?

Again, this simply rephrases the question.

1- What does "Realist Artist" mean when the are involved includes
although the definition of "real"? It's not the usual realist's pursuit
of precision in art imitating nature -- it's the very definition of
nature that is in question.

Any set of laws of nature and any process that people could understand
as being within that nature would have been okay. If the world was made
so that it was obvious that yeish mei'ayin was 6 millenia ago, man would
find a way to explain that in natural terms too.

2- More significantly, you don't answer the question of why? You were
asked (originally by RHM) why G-d would create a misleading artificial
history. Your answer is that G-d is like a realist artist. Which
only means that once He sets out to portray an artificial, natural,
history, He would do so with precision and exactitude, with no cracks
in the facade. It doesn't explain why the Artist would choose misleading
material for His artwork. The original question remains.

> To extend my art analogy: no matter how realistic a painting is, when
> you examine it sufficiently closely the realism breaks down. Eventually
> you get it down to individual pixels, and you can see the artist's hand.
> Perhaps the quantum level is where even the perfect work of art that is
> this world breaks down, and you can see the Yad Hashem. Or perhaps we
> will discover a perfectly rational (i.e. teva-based) explanation for QM,
> which would mean that if the Yad Hashem can be seen at all, it will at
> a deeper level yet, or not at all.

Your metaphor would suggest "not at all". A realist artist can't
do a perfect job. But for an Artist who could, the pixels would be


Micha Berger             "The most prevalent illness of our generation is
micha@aishdas.org        excessive anxiety....  Emunah decreases anxiety:
http://www.aishdas.org   'The Almighty is my source of salvation;  I will
Fax: (270) 514-1507      trust and not be afraid.'" (Isa 12) -Shalhevesya

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Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 09:28:45 -0400
From: Mlevinmd@aol.com
What is musar

:  I have generally found Mussar to be depressing
: rather than uplifting. 

This is a common misconception because of it being so often tought
by uninspired rote drillers of limited understanding and even less
poetical imagination. Deep understanding of musar, in my opinion, merges
inspration, philosophy and psychology and it is also indispensable for
correct exegesis of Tanach.

As a method, musar is a set of poweerful techniques and a
spiritual discipline of highest order. I refer you to the
article in Jewish Action entitled Beyond Psychology, at

M. Levin

[RML wrote the article in question, on the 3rd - 5th pages of the
PDF. -mi]

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Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 22:20:30 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: lice and change of nature

I'm still lost on the original point. Recall, this all started with
someone calling a pesaq of chazal's "notorious". It's unclear whether he
meant he thought it was notorious or whether it was notorious in the eyes
of our non-frum brothers, and frankly I don't want to know. From there
we learned that RAS considered the Pachad Yitzchaq's shitah WRT killing
lice to be cheirem-worthy. Why? We've seen a survey of opinions. (Two
versions of nearly the same survey, independantly produced.) A number
would force a rejection of the PY's position, but his shitah does date
back to the rishonim or before. Why not eilu va'eilu?

Also, I'm still intrigued by the suggestion RJSO gave besheim R' Herzog.
Why can't we say that chazal's pesaq is correct, but applicable to any
lice that don't reproduce sexually, and the like. If it turns out to be
hypothetical, then fine -- it's a correct pesaq about a situation that
never occurs. Lema'aseh, RYH found a case where he held their pesaq
would apply.

IOW, isn't is reasonable to say the pesaq changed without saying they were
"wrong" in making it?

OTOH, aren't we mechuyavim to understand both sides of a machloqes --
even one about whether or not there are two sides?


Micha Berger             The mind is a wonderful organ
micha@aishdas.org        for justifying decisions
http://www.aishdas.org   the heart already reached.
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

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Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 22:01:43 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Reliability of Science (was Evolution, Creationism, Lice and Other Mythical Creatures)

I don't see how (d) goes in a progression with a, b, or c.

RJSO besheim Rabbi Gottlieb:
> (a) repeatable observable phenomena
> (b) interpolation
> (c) extrapolation and
> (d) deep theory

(a) refers to a set of events that we consider identical. This means
we have a theory about what features of the cause and the effect are
relevent, and thereby assume it's the same phenomenon, repeated.

(b) is when we have two or more causes and their effects, and we
generalize from that set to points "between" them.

(c) is where we generalize to cases more extreme than any in the set.

So far, a progression.

(d), however, is the explanation by which we group the events of (a)
as identical, those of (b) as laying on a spectrum with the new event
between them, as well as defining the spectrum of (d).

Theory is that which justifies a-d, it's not an alternative to them.

For example, we project to what we expect to find in future citings
through the Hubble telescope based on our deep theory. The stronger the
theory, the stronger our confidence in our expectations, be they of type
(a), (b) or (c).

I consider this point very relevent to the points being discussed on
Avodah lately. Without understanding the epistomology of both sides,
how can we discuss science vs nature issues (be it ma'aseh bereishis,
lice or pi)?


Micha Berger             When we long for life without difficulties,
micha@aishdas.org        remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary
http://www.aishdas.org   winds, and diamonds are made under pressure.
Fax: (270) 514-1507                        - Peter Marshall

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Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2004 01:13:40 -0400
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <jonathan@yorku.ca>
RE: Reliability of Science

> I am not sure why we are forced to accept your website's definition 
> over that of Encyclopedia Britannica. See below for an example of a 
> Britannica-style theory (Geosynclinal Theory)

> No one is forcing anyone -- but the definitions on the web 
> site I linked to are much closer to what was taught in my 
> Philosoph of science courses in college (not to mention in 
> the actual science courses themselves).

> Also -- Britannica is not infallible. 

I am not aware that the claim of infallibility was being made. The issue
is how do working scientists use the term "theory" and is the use of
the term "deep theory" in our context reasonable. If the 33 scientists
in the New Scientist letter I quoted refer to Big Bang theory in terms
similar to the Brittanica, then the Brittanica definition works. See
further references to the now defunct Geosynclinal Theory below.

> That 2 authors wrote that Geosynclinal Theory was one of the 
> "great unifying principles in geology" doesn't make it so.

Standard text republished many times over. Also see the Geological
Society of America reference below.

> 5 minutes with google -- AVOIDING all the Intelligent 
> design/christian/young-earth web sites 

Oy gevaltz! Stay away from those :-)

> -- got me about a half 
> dozen links that show GT was NOT as highly held as you claim.
> ALSO -- by the definitions I linked to -- GT would be a hypotheses.
> (which is why I wanted to change the "Deep Theory" term in 
> the first place

You don't quote any sources. 

What you need are sources from working scientists in the area (circa
1960) where GT is called a "hypothesis" and where they contradict the
standard textbook I quoted. Do you have any?

Rather, GT was called a "theory" by workers in the field (not a
"hypothesis"). It was considered "well-established" (see below). And,
in a "revolution", this well accepted "theory" (some even called it a
"paradigm") was overturned for the new paradigm of plate tectonics.

Since you don't like Brittanica we'll try something different:

"Although the plate tectonics revolution in geological thought occurred
only recently (in the 1960s and 1970s), the roots of the theory were
established by earlier observation and deduction. In one such discovery,
James Hall, a New York geologist, observed that sediments accumulated
in mountain belts are at least ten times thicker than those in the
continental interiors of the Earth. This planted the seeds for the later
***geosynclinal theory*** that continental crust grows by progressive
additions that originate as ancient and folded geosynclines, hardened
and consolidated into plates. This ***theory*** was well established by
the 20th century."

The Geological society of America presented an award to Robert H. Dott an
emeritus professor at UW-Madison and co-author of a premier undergraduate
textbook, Evolution of the Earth. In his acceptance, Dott is quoted
as saying:

"My early work was undertaken within the geosynclinal ***paradigm***,
but in 1967, everything changed. Plate tectonics provided a new context,
but also we were able to strengthen that new paradigm using sediments."
[Laurence L. Sloss Award. GSA Today: Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 31-32; 2002]

All these sources (and the standard textbook I quoted in an earlier post)
agree that it is Geosynclinal Theory (or paradigm). It reigned from the
time of Darwin and was "well established by the 20th century". It was
then overturned in favour plate tectonics.

There are many examples of well-established theories that were later
discarded. Ptolemy, Copernicus, Newtononian ideas of space and time,
conservation of energy/matter, determinism etc. GT was one of them.

Some of these theories were (and still are) SUPERB in the range and
accuracy of phenomena with which they applied. But when extrapolated to
such areas as the origin and the age of the universe, they turned out
to be dead wrong.

Kol Tuv ... Jonathan

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Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2004 01:37:11 EDT
From: T613K@aol.com
Re: Age of the Universe

In Avodah V13 #78 dated 8/24/04 R' Zvi Lampel writes:
> RMB evidently attributes to the Ramban the idea that after Hashem created
> the world (Gen 1:1), it experienced a long, unknown history... 

> I find this untenable, for the Ramban [goes] out of his way to clearly 
> define...the days of Creation as days consisting not of millenium or
> even years, but "literal days...." 

> ....any unbiased, un-agenda possessed reader of Scripture would naturally
> assume these two points to be so--viz., that a day means a day.... [--RZL]

RMB says "the Ramban inserts time between Bereishis 1:1 and yom
rishon...could have been 15 billion years."

The Ramban doesn't actually SAY "It could have been 15 billion years"--but
I agree, it could have. Or it could have been one minute, in which
processes that normally would take 15 billion years were incredibly
speeded up. Either way, doesn't matter, because with no one to measure
it and no measure with which to measure, there's no way to measure time!

I did not, BTW, find in the Ramban a sentence in which he "inserts time
between Bereishis 1:1 and yom rishon."

But I did go back and read the Chumash. A few elementary points:

1. The Torah begins, "Bereishis..." which, Rashi famously points out,
does not mean, "In the beginning." It means "in the beginning OF...." but
in the beginning of what? Doesn't say.

2. In Chumash simple past tense is almost always a verb with vav hahipuch,
e.g., "Vayomer Elokim," "Hashem said." Whereas a verb in binyan kal is
almost always past perfect, e.g., "bara" = He had created.

"In the beginning of [something], Elokim had created the heavens and
the earth."

It seems that even before He started the six-day count, He had ALREADY
created the heavens and the earth.

[See Ber 1:31 for example of vav hahipuch = simple past tense and
binyan kal = past perfect tense: "Vayar' Elokim es kol asher ASAH" --
"And G-d saw everything that He HAD MADE...."]

3. Rashi, however, doesn't read it the way I did, but rather, he reads
"bara" as if it were a noun, "bero" meaning "creation." Thus, he reads,
"In the beginning of the creation of the heaven and the earth, when the
land was chaotic and dark, and G-d's spirit was hovering over the waters,
G-d said, 'Let there be light.' "

4. Sorry to read a little differently than Rashi does, but the result
of EITHER #2 [my reading] OR #3 [Rashi's reading] above is this:


and what's more, get this (later in the same Rashi):

"If you think the pasukim DO come to tell you the order of creation,
TEMAH AL ATZMECHA! ...There's ruach Elokim hovering over the waters but

The water is just THERE, but how did it get there, when, how long has
it been there?!

5. Now something else to note--after we already have heaven, earth and
water--"Vayomer Elokim, yehi ohr, vayehi ohr (1:3)" and now THIS--drum
roll, please--"VAYIKRA ELOKIM LA'OHR YOM (1:5)!"

By definition, YOM = LIGHT!

Before the creation of light, we do not even have such a thing as a "day"!

Whatever happened before light, happened before the first day!

6. True, as Rashi says, we know nothing of the actual order in which
things were created, and for all we know, light may have been the first
thing created.

But the pasuk certainly seems to be saying that water came before
light--thus, there was already water BEFORE there was such a thing as a

So NOW when the pasuk says, "Vayehi erev vayehi voker yom echad" we
know that the first day of Sheishes Yemei Bereishis was the day on which
light was created.

And there is no way of knowing whether Shomayim, Aretz and water were
all created on that same first day--or, as the pasuk implies, BEFORE
the first day.

 -Toby Katz

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Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2004 11:08:42 +0300 (IDT)
From: Efraim Yawitz <fyawitz@actcom.co.il>
Re: Age of the Universe

Here is what bothers me about this and similar threads, and about the
various books I have seen on the subject (for example, R. Nosson Slifkin's
excellently written recent book). I always get the feeling that these
kind of non-literal answers (which for some reason are often presented
as being a great new discovery, even though they've been bouncing around
in the Jewish and Christian worlds for almost 200 years) are useful
only to people who anyway have a rather strong desire to believe in
the Torah, but need some sort of way to assuage their fears of being
nutty fundamentalists. I myself fall pretty squarely in the ranks of
such people, being a middle-aged fellow who basically really likes the
frum 'life-style' despite its many quirks, and isn't looking for a big
change in his life. Such people can then have ivory-tower discussions of
how various details of the explanations fit with particular sources in
Rishonim and Acharonim. Nonetheless, I'm sorry to say that none of these
explanations that I have seen are really intellectually satisfying at
all in terms of making sense of the P'sukim or helping us relate to the
scientific data, and I'm sure that no real apikorus takes them seriously
at all. Even the average 15-year old Yeshiva dropout has no problem
whatsoever taking the attitude that the Torah is just some ancient book
written by people who were ignorant of science, and he laughs at all the
non-literal interpretations and says "You know that's not what everyone
always believed!".

The whole discussion seems to be taking place with the assumption that
there are only two possibilities, literalness or non-literalness and
ignores kefira as some sort of excluded middle. I'm afraid the real
detailed answers will only be found by people who realize that we're
fighting here with live ammunition, and the non-religious world as
well as our own children (and our own yetzer ha-ra) don't necessarily
accept that assumption and see the idea that the Torah is a primitive
myth with its share of redeeming and enlightened ideas (chas ve-shalom)
as a much more logically compelling approach than any of the non-literal
interpretations that have been offered so far. (A concise way of stating
my position would be to say that although I say chas-ve-shalom in the
previous sentence, I don't think that just saying chas-ve-shalom is
enough to solve the problem.)

I hope I don't have to be too specific about what I mean when I say that
the non-literal approaches are very unsatisfying. Suffice it just to
bring the one example of the universally accepted idea in the scientific
world of human habitation of this planet for tens of thousands of years
at least. I've heard the answers to this, and as stated, they turn me
off. I also hope that no one attacks me as one of the 'literalists'.
The literalist approach seems pretty hopeless to me in today's scientific
context. Count me as one of the genuinely confused.

On Tue, 24 Aug 2004, Micha Berger wrote:
> Not so. The Big Bang is a theory about yeish mei'ayin. 

 From what I've read in secular sources, they just say "we can't know
about before the Big Bang by definition."

> As I said,
> the "science is wrong" seifer is not a good place to learn what it
> is science teaches.

I assume that you're referring to Rav Avigdor Miller, ztz"l, and although
he doesn't need my defense, I will say, after reading his books more than
once and hearing many of his tapes, this is an unfair characterization.
The issue of literal interpretation was not the central theme of his
thought, and he certainly did not take a blanket anti-scientific stance.
His main point was that we have to see the wisdom and kindness of the
Creator in the world and apply the 'Shaar ha-Bechinah' of the Chovos
ha-Levavos in today's context. He did seem to go overboard in accepting
the ideas of the young-earth Christian creationists, on which much of
his literal approach is based. I tried a couple of times to discuss this
with him on the phone, but without too much success. On the other hand,
the fact is that these people (the young-earth Christian creationists)
are actually reputable scientists, some of whom with impressive records
in their fields, and they are making an honest effort to deal with
the problems. I think that the issue that I discussed above is what is
pushing them to sometimes accept wild ideas, but that is part of how
the scientific process works.

I hope this is a bit of a contribution to the tone of the discussion,
even if I'm not adding much in terms of detail. As I said, this is the
level at which this subject hits me, and I think many others as well,
in particular those who are not yet observant. I've heard from more than
one kiruv professional that today's "baalei t'shuva" are not interested
in these issues. The way I interpret that is that the people who are
interested aren't becoming baalei t'shuva.

Kol Tuv,

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