Avodah Mailing List
Volume 13 : Number 082
Sunday, August 29 2004
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004 14:43:22 -0700 (PDT)
From: Harry Maryles <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Public expression by Women
"Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu> wrote:
> Serious gemara study and public teaching of torah is as much a traditional
> male modality as is public prayer or the other modalities you chose.
> What is the basis for differentiating them?
I am a big fan of knowledge.
To that end I would support anyone who wants to gain it. Although the
Mitzvah of Talmud Torah is one specifically demanded of men, it in
no way is prohibited for women to study and to learn. That women have
traditionally not done so is a function of a bygone era that did not
have much of a desire to do so. But as society continues to evolve and
women continue to "come out of the closet" so to speak, there is nothing
wrong and everything right about a desire to "know" and the ability to
do something about it. As you noted about RYBS's opinion on the matter,
one must respect the notion that if they were to have college level
secular education, they needed the equivalent torah education. As you
say, there has to be at least partial correspondence between the two
worlds we live in.
That in fact was the rationale for the Eis Laasos of the Bais Yaakov
movement. European Gedolim including the CC saw the need and allowed
for the establishment for the first time a school wherein women could
be formally educated... far more than was the case in the past. RYBS
simply took that model and saw Talmud study as an Eis Laasos for women
in his own milieu.
> (if the public nature, talit and tefilin are also (or can also) be
> done in private - would ou then object??)
Yes, I would ...as did RYBS in the case of a Talis for a woman who
asked him to Paskin if she could.
> The issue is that in desires to increase avodat hashem, it is far easier
> (and more traditional) to use traditional models of avodat hashem,
> than to develop de novo new ones.
Again I must ask, why turn to male modalities? Why not take what has
been accepted practice as a means of increasing Avodas HaShem? Why not
for example, increase one's skills at child rearing? Or making a home for
the family? Or observing the laws of family purity on a higher level? Why
not choose any Mitzvas Aseh She Ein Hazman Gramma and elevate its level
of observance as a higher means to serve God since those modalities are
actually required of women by God?
One need not give up a career or participation in the modern world to do
so. I am in fact a big advocate of participation in the modern world. But
I am not a fan of applying modern standards in seeking new RITUAL ways
to serve God.
One need rather try and determine what it is that God wants of them,
...NOT... what THEY want to do to serve God. The idea of "fulfillment"
seems to me to be a rather selfish one. To say that one feels a higher
sense of Avodas HaShem by doing at best opyional X, when Y is what God
requires, is to be self centered instead of God centered, even ...IF... X
is technically permissible. One should instead try and find the best ways
to serve God by being objective in seeking truth, and not subjective in
seeking ritual fulfillment.
> With respect to the last statement about the motivation - two
> 1) being dan lechaf zchut would seem to apply
I am Dan L'Kaf Zchus. I have repeatedly stated that I do not impugn the
motives of those who seek additional ways to serve God. I simply wonder if
there are influences external to Torah Hashkafa that have inadvertently
permeated our thinking... and ask that an honest motivational evaluation
take place... especially if the area most concentrated upon is an area
that at present is almost solely the domain of men... in a world seen
as patriarchal by a certain segment of society.
> 2)...The problem we have in the modern world
> is of dissonance between their social and religious roles - and how
> to achieve some partial harmony between them. That is not to suggest
> full egalitarianism - but suggesting that the problem is that people
> have adopted a radical feminist critique is to show that one does not
> understand the fundamental issues being addressed.
Once again I do not suggest that the motivations are at all overtly
radically feminist. In most cases I believe the desires expressed by
most of my MO sisters to be completely sincere. But as I stated in an
earlier post, the fact that it is an almost exclusively MO enterprise
to seek such venues raises the suspicion in my mind that at least at
a subliminal level the motivations are not sourced entirely in a
[Email #2. -mi]
Micha Berger <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> The O feminist is not looking to change halakhah, but to
> find the envelope of what change is permissable within halakhah.
> Arguments whether one particular idea or another is within
> halakhah is a side issue. To address the primary thrust, we should
> be exploring the question of whether such a search for change is
> This does take us into the realm of motive, and of policy based on
> slippery slope arguments about leading to actually crossing the
I see the entire debate in terms of motive. Crossing the line is a side
issue albeit an important one. I do not believe that O feminists want
to cross any lines drawn by Halacha, In fact I think the opposite is
true. What is desired is to find avneues that... perhaps may push the
envelop but... decidely DO NOT cross any lines that would take them out
of Orthodoxy. This would be seen as a defeat of purpose which is to mold
a New Orthodoxy that is more sensitive to feminist concerns. If they
were to be seen as crossing Halachic lines then they would not need to
resort to pushin envelopes as such envelpopes have already been pushed
by other so called streams od Judaism who do not need the imprimatur of
Torah law as we know it.
The very attachment of the word Orthodox to feminist shows that at the
heart of any problem O feminists have in expressing their Avodas HaShhem
is the feminist concern. Feminism in its current incarnation is nothing
if it is not about improving the lot of women in a male dominated society.
> Speaking of the typical woman asking the question, she is not a
> political feminist.
> She is someone who, because she entered the workplace or even
> just because she lives in a society where she can enter the workplace,
> is a different person than her grandmother was. Her religious needs are
> not being met by the traditional Jewish woman's roles, and therefore is
> seeking fulfilment as a Jew by exploring new ones. Ones that parallel
> the self-image her society has given her.
Yes... and no. Yes that is part of the reason , but no it is not the whole
or even the primary reason. If that were so, then all women who enter
the secular workplace would find themselves in the same philosophical
conundrum: equality with men (in theory, if not practice) in the workplace
but inequality in religious practice.
But the fact is that in the vast majority of cases, it is the MO woman who
seems to be the one bothered by this disparity. There are plenty of women
in the workplace who are Charedi, supporting their husbands... living
the Kollel lifestyle who have absolutely no desire to form WTGs or read a
Kesubah under the Chupah or participate in any male religious modality. I
maintain (and have said in the past) that it is a cultural mindset in
typically liberal MO communities in which these types of desires seem
to take hold.
> So, the questions become:
> 1- Is the current stance on these three issues religiously inferior to
> the old?
> 2- Assuming they are inferior, are these consequences of our environment
> did we undergo a true qitun hadoros? Or, is the battle not
> yet over and we should be making a concerted effort to build a different
> attitude toward halakhah and Yahadus?
I would frame it a bit differently. I do not look at requiring building a
different attitude... yet. I see it as a work in progress. We are in the
midst of a cultural debate and the dust hasn't yet settled. I would hope
that conversations like the one we are having now help us to analyze and
evaluate our motives and therefore help educate us to where the truth
really lies and moves us in the right direction.
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Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2004 00:25:52 -0400
From: "Ilana Sober" <email@example.com>
Subject: Public expression by women
(1) It is not so easy to analyse one's own real motivations for doing
mitzvot, much less somebody else's. Each woman who lays tefillin, or reads
Torah, or learns gemara, is an individual with her own story and her own
reasons. I have done all these things (and still do one). On the one hand
- I was always aware that these were not traditional mitzvot for Jewish
women - especially when I was one of the few women in the community to
do them. It probably would not have occurred to me to try to do any of
these things had I not been influenced by feminisim. OTOH - I started
to lay tefillin when I was 13 because my mother does it, and because
it's a mitzvah in the Torah. I don't think that I had less of the proper
kavvanah for this mitzvah than the average teenage boy. When I stopped,
15 years ago, because I didn't want to be feminist, I found it painful to
recite the relevant p'sukim of the Shma. I leined - and learn gemara -
and became orthodox - in part because I love learning Torah. I leined
because it was something I could do for the community where there was
always a shortage of qualified and willing people. Every time I did (or
do) a "man's mitzva" - there is some feminist influence, and some genuine
(if confused) desire to do ratzon Hashem, not to mention social pressures,
a sense of enjoyment and achievement, and all the other complex factors
that motivate us non-tzadikkim to do mitzvot.
(2) I disagree with much of contemporary feminist ideology. But
I certainly wouldn't have gotten a university (or even elementary)
education, or any Jewish book-learning, had it not been for the feminist
revolution of the past few centuries. I would have been subject to
the will of my father until I married, and to my husband afterwards. I
suspect that every orthodox woman, no matter how traditional, has in
some significant way been POSITIVELY affected by the changes wrought by
feminism. The "repression [of women] by male dominated society" is not
entirely a figment of the feminists' imagination. The "feminist spirit
of the times" really can be harnessed in ways that draw us closer to
ratzon Hashem. I can't condemn feminism - and there's plenty to condemn -
without first acknowledging a very substantial debt of gratitude. To be
honest - it's much nicer to be a post-feminist than a pre-feminist.
[Eamil #2. -mi]
To clarify/expand on what I said last night:
It is not always enough to determine whether a person is motivated,
directly or indirectly, by feminism. Feminism can have both good
and bad influences. We need to examine whether we are motivated by a
genuine desire for avodat Hashem, or by a desire for self gratification,
whether we are moving towards Torah or away from it. Not always so easy
to figure out.
The influence of feminism can be positive, negative, or controversial.
Positive: I think we would all agree that a man who is beating and abusing
his wife, and is influenced by feminism to stop beating her ant ttreat her
with respect, has changed for the better. Don't forget - before feminism,
Jews were also influenced by non-Jewish attitudes towards women. These
attitudes were no more Torah-based than feminism is.
Negative: I think that active listmembers would agree that C-style
egalitarianism that clearly contradicts halacha (counting women for
minyan, women shlichot tzibbur, etc.), is a negative development.
Not so clear: Women's zimun, women learning gemara, yoatzot halacha. There
are very legitimate arguments against these innovations and in favour
of them. There are poskim on both sides.
Another example of a non-Jewish movement which has had many positive
results for klal Yisrael is western liberal democracy. While it
certainly has its flaws, I don't think many of us are eager to move
to non-democratic regimes. The drive towards equality which propelled
both democracy and feminism WAS influenced by the Torah, as filtered
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Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2004 09:32:27 -0700 (PDT)
From: Harry Maryles <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Public expression by women
Ilana Sober <email@example.com> wrote:
> (1) It is not so easy to analyse one's own real motivations for doing
> mitzvot, much less somebody else's. Each woman who lays tefillin, or reads
> Torah, or learns gemara, is an individual with her own story and her own
Absolutely. I would never assume otherwise. Thank you so much for a
very insightful post. It tends to confirm everything I have said.
> I have done all these things (and still do one). On the one hand -
> I was always aware that these were not traditional mitzvot for Jewish
> women - especially when I was one of the few women in the community to do
> them. It probably would not have occurred to me to try to do any of these
> things had I not been influenced by feminisim.
> OTOH - I started to lay
> tefillin when I was 13 because my mother does it, and because it's a mitzvah
> in the Torah. I don't think that I had less of the proper kavvanah for this
> mitzvah than the average teenage boy.
I would bet that you probably had more than the average teenage boy.
Even though you are an exception to the rule and had an actual role
model in your mother, you still admit that you would not have done any
of those things had it not been for the influence of feminisim. I am
convinced that the majority of women who take on some of the here-to-fore
exclusively male Mitzvos do so with the utmost of Kavanah and sincerity
and probably have a higher level of intent in doing it L'Shem Shamayim
than their male counterparts who do the same Mitzvos.
Yet men get greater Schar. Why? Because there is more Schar for those who
do the Mitzvah as a Chiuv than those who do so w/o Chiuv and only as a
Reshus. Those who do it as a Reshus do it because they want to... though
L'shma... ultimately for self motivated reasons. Those who do it because
of a Chiuv do it because they have to even if they do not want to... God
motivated reasons, therefore, there is more Schar.
> When I stopped, 15 years ago, because
> I didn't want to be feminist, I found it painful to recite the relevant
> p'sukim of the Shma.
Quite understandable. Once one gets accustomed doing spiritual things
in a certain way and sees that as a higher level of doing it it is
disconcerting to suddenly eliminate what has become a meaningful way
of doing it. But it is a psychological rather than religious feeling,
IMHO. I wear Teffilin every day and would find it extremely odd to
Daven Shachris which is how I feel on Tisha B'Av. But I feel just as odd
wearing Teffilin on Tisha B'Av at Mincha. Yet, on Shabbos and Yom Tov
I have absolutely no qualms about not wearing Teffilin. Why? I contend
that it is because it is what I have become used to.
> I leined - and learn gemara - and became orthodox - in
> part because I love learning Torah.
Very laudable. I am jealous of your trek to Torah Judaism and stand
> I leined because it was something I
> could do for the community where there was always a shortage of qualified
> and willing people. Every time I did (or do) a "man's mitzva" - there is
> some feminist influence, and some genuine (if confused) desire to do ratzon
> Hashem, not to mention social pressures, a sense of enjoyment and
> achievement, and all the other complex factors that motivate us
> non-tzadikkim to do mitzvot.
And this is the crux of the problem for me. Even one as bright, talented,
and committed as you cannot ferret out exactly what motivates certain
behaviors. I am utterly convinced of your sincerity and consider you a
role model for women AND men.
> (2) I disagree with much of contemporary feminist ideology. But I certainly
> wouldn't have gotten a university (or even elementary) education, or any
> Jewish book-learning, had it not been for the feminist revolution of the
> past few centuries.
I totally agree with you and have said virtually the same thing
myself. It is in these areas that I consider myself to be a feminist.
> I would have been subject to the will of my father until
> I married, and to my husband afterwards. I suspect that every
> orthodox woman, no matter how traditional, has in some significant
> way been POSITIVELY affected by the changes wrought by feminism.
Absolutely true, IMHO.
> The "repression [of women] by male dominated society" is not
> entirely a figment of the
> feminists' imagination.
I think it IS true for general society. Women have been subjugated by
men in most other cultures. In fact I think it is even true to
certain degree in Jewish culture both past and present in a great
number of individual cases and to a greater degree in certain circles
than in others. But it is not a function of Torah standards. It is
rather a function of misinterpretation or misapplication of Halacha
and Hashkafa, as well as external influences infiltrating the Torah
> The "feminist spirit of the times" really can be
> harnessed in ways that draw us closer to ratzon Hashem. I can't condemn
> feminism - and there's plenty to condemn - without first acknowledging a
> very substantial debt of gratitude.
Couldn't agree more.
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Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004 16:45:36 -0700 (PDT)
From: Harry Maryles <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Age of the Universe
Micha Berger <email@example.com> wrote:
> If it weren't yet another repetition, I'd vociferously argue against the
> position that new aggadic positions can be made in response to anything
> outside of mesorah. Only deductions from Torah are Torah.
> RYmA's position is significant because it shows that non-literalness has
> Torah justification. That one isn't whittling or redefining Torah to fit
> his scientific understanding. That one's isn't falling into the pagan
> "god of the gaps" mentality (as I called it earlier).
I agree that the better postion is to have Rishonim in your corner to
support non literal theories of creation. I would further emphasize
that to "go out on a limb" and derive your own theories is a slippery
and dangerous slope that borders on Apikursus. This is in essense what
the debate over the literalness of the Mabul was all about. But I stop
short of calling the Mabul allegorical, outright Apikursus.
IIUC, Gerald Schroeder's appraoch does not have any Rishonic
precedents. But I do not think it would be correct to call his views on
the creation of man, Apikursus.
Personally, I like staying away from redefining Torah to fit my scientific
understanding. That is because my scientific understanding is woefully
incomplete. I, therefore, prefer to use my own intellect to analyze
information with the corroboration of Rishonim or respected Achronim to
support my views.
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Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2004 00:07:55 -0400
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Pi
On Fri, Aug 20, 2004 at 03:01:23PM -0400, Jonathan Ostroff wrote:
>: MENA HANI MILI [that X]
>: 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?
> "Mena hani mili" means "from where are these words". X has to
> be an idea already stated, thus the "hani". No?
Yes, you are right. Here is a revised version for completeness.
If a 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 tefachim
it has a diameter of 1 tefach.
Observation: The last statement can be interpreted in at least two
(A) the actual value of the ratio of the circumference to the diameter
of a circle is 3 to 1.
(B) a beam that has a circumference of 3 tefachim [is viewed] as having
a diameter of 1 tefach, i.e. the ratio 3 to 1 is an approximation (still
leaving open the question of whether the approximation is merely for
presentation or for actual halachic use).
(B) 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.
One way to see that (B) is reasonable is because the Mishna is dealing
with approximations e.g. if a beam was made of reeds _we view it_ as
made of metal.
("3", after all, is a fairly close approximation (5%) and a nice round
number that makes the presentation easier as we do in engineering
MENA HANI MILI
How do we know this (i.e. that B is true), i.e. how do we have a licence
to record Pi as 3 ?
AMAR REBBE YOCHANAN
The licence is from Scripture i.e. Solomon's pool.
VEHA IKA SEFASO?
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.
AMAR RAV PAPA
The rim was of neglible width.
VEHA IKA MASHEHU?
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.
KI KA CHASHIV
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.
Thus Chazal were aware that Pi is more than 3, and the only issue is
whether the approximation 3 can be used.
Kol Tuv ... Jonathan
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Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2004 17:54:38 +0200
From: "Ari Kahn" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Age of the Universe
R' Micha wrote
"The Ramban's talmid happens to insert 15.8 billion years in between based
on ma'amarei chazal. (Not a priori.) He does not deliteralize the word
"yom" to mean anything other than 24 hours. Rather, he gives a pre-yom
rishon history. There is no reason to assume the talmid is being choleiq
on his rebbe rather than the usual default assumption that he was further
developing his rebbe's shitah. The two are quite consistant."
This is not that simple, while the Ramban and certainly Rav Yitzchak
believe the world is older than 5764 years old they do not say the
universe is 15 billion years old. Rav Aryeh Kaplan claimed that Rav
Yitzchak did say this, this is written in a number of his books and I
have an audio tape when he gave a lecture on this. His basic error is
assuming that according to Rav Yitzchak we are in the seventh cycle. Rav
Yitzchak specifically writes that this is not the case. R Aryeh Kaplam
uses a different author who says that we are in the seventh cycle and
makes somewhat of a chulent of the shitot.
Below is an excerpt from my book "Explorations" Parshat Bhar where I
explain the ideas with a little more depth:
Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra already intimated it when he wrote `the secret of
the years of the world is alluded to in this place;' nowhere else in Ibn
Ezra`s works is there a better statement than this which is indicative
of his good [understanding of] Kabbala. (Writings of Ramban (english)
The Ramban refers here to a passage in Ibn Ezra's writings, which concerns
the age of the earth, and the duration of the earth. The Ramban was
privy to a teaching which is reported in an ancient mystical treatise
called "Sefer HaT'munah" - the Book of the Picture. The Sefer HaT'munah
teaches that there is a cosmic Shmita cycle, which effects the creation
and duration of existence. The teaching itself is alluded to in a passage
in the Talmud:
R. Kattina said: 'Six thousand years shall the world exist, and one
[thousand, the seventh], it shall be desolate, as it is written, "And
the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day"...' It has been taught
in accordance with R. Kattina: Just as the seventh year is one year
of release in seven, so is the world: one thousand years out of seven
shall be fallow, as it is written, 'And the Lord alone shall be exalted
in that day,' and it is further said, 'A Psalm and song for the Sabbath
day, meaning the day that is altogether Sabbath' And it is also said,
'For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is
past.' (Sanhedrin 97)
The idea which is taught in this passage is quite well known; the
world is destined to exist 6000 years, followed by the culmination of
history. Rather than choosing the more familiar model of days of the
week and Shabbat, the Talmud utilized the model of Shmita to illustrate
this concept. We cannot help but notice, though, the major difference
between Shabbat and Shmita: Shabbat is 6 days of work and one of rest,
Shmita is 6 years of work and one of rest. But Shmita does not exist
within a vacuum. Shmita is part of a greater system known as Yovel -
Jubilee. At the end of 7 Sabbatical years is the great Jubilee, in
which everything returns to its natural place. The Sefer HaT'munah sees
our existence within this larger framework of Shmita and Yovel. While
existence as we know it may come to an end in the year 6000, another
cycle may be awaiting us.
Furthermore, as Ramban said, belief in a G-d who created and sustains
the universe is basic to Judaism. There is a secret, unfathomable from
the verses alone, regarding creation; namely, that there may have been
cycles before ours. "In the beginning G-d created heaven and earth"
refers to the very beginning - arguably, in a previous cycle. The mystical
commentaries have traditions and/or speculate regarding the question of
which cycle we are in now:1 In a Kabbalistic tract entitled Ma'arechet
Ha'Elokut it says "we don't know in which cycle we exist... however it
would seem that we are not in the first.2 R' Dovid ben R' Yehuda haHasid,
in "Livnat Hasapir," held the opinion that the progression of the worlds
are in an ascending order within the "S'firot" and not a descending one,
hence the first cycle, rather than the last, is "Malchut", while the
last would be "Chesed". While others believe that we are in fact in the
Sefira of "Gevura" or strict judgment (the second S'fira ). This in fact
would seem to be the accepted view.3
Rav Yakov b. Sheshet of Gerona, a contemporary of Ramban,4 believed that
we are in the cycle of "Din"5. A student of Ramban, Yitzchak from Acre
also felt this is the cycle of Gevura:
This world, the Shmita (cycle) which we are in, is the S'fira of Gevura,
as we see all the punishments in this world are via fire. (Yitzchak from
Acre commentary on Sefer Yetzira) 6
Rav Yitchak from Acre returns to the topic of cosmic Jubilees in another
treatise, where he states:
I, The insignificant Yitzchak of Acco have seen fit to write a great
mystery that should be kept very well hidden. One of G-d's days is
a thousand years, as it says `For a thousand years in Your eyes are
as a day...' Psalms 90:4 . Since one of our years is 365 1/4 days,
a year on high is 365,250 of our years... This is to refute those
who believe the duration of the world is only 49,000 years which is
seven Jubilees (Otzar Hachaim pp.86b-87b)7
The language which R' Yitzchak employs is somewhat reminiscent of
Ramban. He speaks of "a great secret which should remain very well
hidden ". He also gives a key to unlock the mystery. When we speak of
time, inevitably we speak from a human perspective. Yet this vantage
point seems unjustified, inappropriate, prior to the appearance of
humanity. The Jewish tradition, as we saw above, treats G-d's day as
if it were a thousand human years. If we were to apply R' Yitzchak's
tradition, we would find that each cycle of 7000 years is actually
2,556,750,000 years from man's perspective. We should also note that R'
Yitzchak was of the opinion that our history is not in the first cycle,
but the cycle of "Din", which is normally understood as being the second
cycle. If that is the case, when we speak of 5764 years, what we mean to
say is 2.5 billion years of prehistory, after which Adam initiates our
cycle, and our counting of time. [However, if "Din" is the 6th cycle,
as per the opinion cited above, 5 cycles of 7000 years or 35,000 years
as seen from G-d's perspective-- 12,783,750,000 years when seen from
human perspective--transpired before Adam. We must note, that aside
from a desire to approximate the current scientific understanding,
we would have no reason to assume that when R' Yitzchak says Din he
really means the 6th cycle. We should also note at this point that R'
Yitzchak is not dealing with the question of the age of the world,
rather with the duration of the world.8]
There has been some misunderstanding on this point in recent years. Rabbi
Aryeh Kaplan,9 who had intimate knowledge of both physics and Kabbala,
has taught and written of this system in general and the understanding of
R' Yitzchak in specific. R' Kaplan asserted that the view of R' Yitzchak
is correct and we must multiply each day by 1000. He further asserts
that the most authoritative interpretation of the Sefer HaT'muna is the
Livnat HaSapir, who believes that we are presently in the 6th cycle:
"When Adam was created the world was 42,000 years old." By multiplying
42,000 by 365,250, R' Kaplan concludes that the universe is 15 billion
years old according to this tradition.
There are a number of problems with this approach. R' Yitzchak, whose
system multiplies one day by 1,000 years, does not say we are in the 6th
cycle, rather that we are in "Din", which would seem to be the second
cycle. The Livnat HaSapir, who says we are in the 6th cycle, does not
multiply a day by 1000 years. Furthermore, even if we are in the 6th
cycle, the world has had 5 cycles pass, each of 7,000 years totaling
35,000 at the appearance of Adam and not 42,000.
Go to top.
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2004 11:02:54 +0300 (IDT)
From: Efraim Yawitz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Age of the Universe
On Thu, 26 Aug 2004, Mlevinmd@aol.com wrote:
> You are on the ball with this excellently expressed post and I agree that
> taken in isolation our approach is sometimes less than desirable.
Thanks for the appreciation.
> it becomes more defensible once you reverse the argumetn and ask the
> deniers about problems with their view of life. They have many, many
> questions that they cannot answer or even begin to answer. There is a
> great deal of evidence that they do not even begin to consider.
> What about the denial of the spiritual, existence of conscience, wonders
> of human history, and unassailable sense of the DIvine that most people
> instnctively possess. It is no different than understanding a pasuk;
> there are several good explanation and each one suffers from advantages
> and disadvantages. A fideist might say that final unassailable proof is
> not possible because it would take away freedom of choice.
> At the end we must appeal to the meta-rational, where religion had anyway
> always resided.
Unfortunately, this is exactly where I perceive the problem. Without
getting too deeply into my personal conflicts, I have to say that I myself
fall exactly into the class of people who feel very strongly convinced
of the reality of 'spirituality' in the world, and in particular I see
it in the obvious design of living organisms (see my comments about
Rav Miller and the distinction between his positions on literalism
in Beraishis and on 'Intelligent Design', as it is called today.)
However, adherence to Judaism involves a lot more than that. I don't
like the idea that I am committed to observing halacha as a result of
the combination of a general belief in G-d and the fact that I grew
up Jewish; I was taught in yeshiva that there has to be a 'tziruf'
between two sevaras given together to answer a kasha. How much more is
this true in fundamental areas of belief. Of course, this approach does
have some results in kiruv; I suppose that's what my friends who work
in this area really meant. Still, what are we producing with this kiruv,
and what are we missing out on?
A related point which I left out of my first post is that I am always
puzzled by the fact that the same sort of people whose critical skepticism
leads them to reject the literal approach to Beraishis seem to be so happy
about basing ikkarei emunah on some obscure and vague qabbalistic source
from medieval Spain. I don't claim to be an expert on Jewish history,
but something smells funny here. Ultimately, the real problem here is
that for at least the past couple of hundred years, no real Gedolim have
gotten openly involved in the Torah-science issues, and the field is left
open to anyone who wants to say anything. I think that R. Nosson Slifkin
will not protest if I state that he is neither a Gadol or an accomplished
scientist. He seems to be a fine young talmid chacham with quite a bit
of scientific knowledge, but this is far from what is required here.
The most important benefit I had from his book was the quotes from at
least three Gedolim (Rav Hirsch, Rav Kook, and Rav Dessler) who seem to
accept a non-literal approach. None of these great Jews, however, gave
a sufficiently detailed description of their interpretation of things,
and they all lived long enough ago that any description they would have
given would be dated by now. As I said previously, I'm not giving answers,
I'm just trying to clarify the question.
Kol Tuv and Gut Shabbos,
Go to top.
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2004 17:16:01 -0400
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Reliability of Science
> Science "proves" a theory inductively....
> I've cited Karl Popper on this list before. He notes that
> while this induction can never give a real proof of a theory,
> it does successfully prove the falsity of rejected theories.
> In the negative sense, science can produce results as certain
> as our trust in our senses.
> In dealing with science and Torah questions, therefore, the
> philosophical dilamma is not when the Torah implies something
> that seems to have been scientifically "proven", but rather,
> when it implies something that experiment has explicitly ruled out.
> In those cases, arguments about the shakiness of science are
It is true that experiments can rule out many things (e.g. we now know
that the earth is not flat).
The critical issue is the "explicitly" in your statement: "when [Torah]
implies something that experiment has explicitly ruled out". How
explicit is the evidence? Modern science is pretty much based on good
experiments. The question is -- how much did we add to the experiments
to get to the denial of the "something" implied by the Torah.
We are trying to explain how scientists (using well-established and even
superb theories based on good experimental results) thought the world to
be static and eternal (up to 50 years ago), when its now considered to be
a dynamic world, a mere 15b years old. How the world was considered fully
deterministic, and is now considered non-deterministic (free-will?). How
our notions of space and time have changed fundamentally (euclidean to
curved, time dilation). How GT was well established for 100 years and
then went defunct.
These theories were all built on experiments, and many of these theories
flatly contradicted the Torah.
Until just over 50 years ago, creation ex nihilo was considered
unscientific (this changed with both the big bang theory and the steady
state theory). After all, there was a well established Law of conservation
of energy/matter based on careful experimentation. What then of "beraishis
bara" which is a "yesod hagadol" (Rambam).
The question we need to ask is how much such claims rest on extrapolations
from a very small basis of observation and experimental evidence? How
much do they rely on interpretations upon interpretations of hypothetical
objects that have never been observed (the "multiverse"?).
Kol Tuv ... Jonathan
Go to top.
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