Avodah Mailing List

Volume 14 : Number 042

Wednesday, December 15 2004

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 10:04:41 -0500
From: "" <hlampel@thejnet.com>
Josephus and Sanhedrin

moshe.feldman@gmail.com posted on: Dec 9, 2004:
> My father writes the following with respect to the issue of whether 
> Sadducees participated in the Sanhedrin: 

> From: Dr. Louis Feldman 
>> The translation of Antiquities 15.4 is not accurate: The correct 
>> translation is: "This Pollio had once, when Herod was being judged for 
>> death, reproaching, had foretold to Hyrcanus and those judging that if 
>> Herod were saved, he would persecute them all." There is no indication 
>> that Hyrcanus was among those passing judgment. The word "other" does 
>> not appear. ...

For the benefit of all, I would like to clarify that the above was
an (originally off-list) reply to an off-list letter I emailed to
Dr. Feldman. My letter is reproduced below:

Dear Dr. Feldman, 

Thank you again for your detailed response to my questions. I'm hoping
that you can help me once again.

Concerning the issue of the participation of the Kohane Gadol in the
proceedings of Sanhedrin, I came across the following in the Whiston
translation of Antiq. XV:4:

"But this Pollio...foretold...to Hyrcanus and the other judges..." 

which implies that Hyrcanus himself was also one of the judges. Is this 
translation accurate? 

Also, as I mentioned in my last question to you, I'm involved in an 
exchange regarding Saducee-membership in the valid Sanhedrin. The proofs 
that Saducees were involved, brought in that exchange from Josephus 
(which did not include the above, which doesn't really prove that other 
Saducees besides the Kohane Gadol were involved) turn out to be those 
already shown faulty by the Doros HaRishonim (hey--I even realized their 
weaknesses before finding them there!). After I presented your answer to 
me re: the girsa, I was challenged to get your opinion on this matter in 
general. If you don't mind, I would be interested in knowing where you 
stand, and if you feel the evidence is compelling either way. 

Thank you so much. 

Zvi Lampel

[end of letter]

So, it turns out that not only does Josephus' words fail to support the
contention that a Saducee Kohane Gadol was part of the judicial body
judging Herod, but his words("Hyrcanus and those judging")are actually
a proof that Josephus held he was not!

I was planning to incorporate this in a more lengthy response, but
since the reply by Dr. Feldman (for whom my respect only increases
[(:-)])has been posted, I thought that the query to which he replied
should be posted as well.

Zvi Lampel

P.S. I hope this does not lead to anyone digging up comments by other
historians questioning Dr. Feldman's scholarship or credibility.

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Date: Sun, 12 Dec 2004 23:37:12 +0200
From: "Moshe Feldman" <moshe.feldman@gmail.com>
Re: Arayos

R. Harry Maryles summarized Pischei Teshuva (YD 157:11):
> the 2 women asked two men traveling with them to pretend they were
> married to them so the tax collectors wouldn't penalize the women for
> having no independent passports (...wives didn't require independent
> passports). When arriving at the border, the tax collector did not
> believe their claims of marital status and said that they should either
> kiss or swear that their wives were Nidos The Chavas Yair Paskin's that
> they should kiss because there is no Issur except a D'Rabbanan and it
> was not B'Derech Chiba. To use his Lashon, Ein B'Kach Klum. 

Actually, the Chavos Yair permitted him to kiss (a niddah wife) only if
he wasn't trying to cheat the tax collector. In the actual circumstance,
however, the Chavos Yair did not permit kissing because this was
being done to cheat the tax collector (which is wrong because of dina
d'malchusa) and consequently kissing a non-relative without chibbah
would constitute a davar mechu'ar even though there is no Torah issur
of lo sikrivu.

Kol tuv,

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Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 13:01:28 -0000
From: "Elozor Reich" <lreich@tiscali.co.uk>
Midrash Avkir

HG Schild asked:
> Who compiled Midrash Avkir that is quoted in Yalkut Shimoni, etc. Was
> it published by itself? Is the sefer in print or in a library? available?

[R' Danny Schoemann:]
> Can't answer anything definitive, but the introduction to the Yalkut
> in my shul says that the Midrash Avkir must have been around some 400
> years ago. This is based in the fact that earlier Yalkuts referenced a
> lot of sayings to "Midrash" and about 400 years ago they suddenly were
> re-assigned to the Midrash Avkir...........
> Avkir ended.

Re. this Medrash see the bibliographical work Soray Ho'Elef by R' Mendel
Kasher (p.28).

This work gives many references to articles about and citations from
this Medrash by Buber, Neubauer, Chones, Epstein, Marmorstein and Mirsky.

Elozor Reich

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Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 07:22:52 +0200
From: Allswang <aswang@netvision.net.il>
Re: HM on the Chavos Yair

From: "Allswang" <aswang@netvision.net.il>
> Reb Harry -  I believe your citation of the Chavos Yair may cause some
> misunderstanding. The CY states that in the case under discussion the
> non-related people may not do any sign of kirva at all. So they may not take
> the shvuah and they may not do what the tax man asked them to do either. The
> CY then says that had the case been between a man and ishto nida (his real
> wife), then he should tremble and feel as if a "shade" has forced him and he
> may show externally that sign "vain b'kach klum".

I should further clarify that the chilluk is not between related and
non-related people. The chilluk is between whether the situation was
forced upon him (an innocent married couple being questioned by the
customs officer) or when the situation was brought upon himself (a tax
evader devising this scheme with non-relatives).

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Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 11:05:16 -0500
From: "" <hlampel@thejnet.com>
Torah and Science

Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu posted on: Dec 9, 2004, 4:21 PM
> > To answer this, reflect on what one would say regarding the "scientific
> > thought" in those fields of science which taught and/or teach that
> > premarital sex, masturbation and adultery are healthy, homosexuality
> > is normal, and religion--even the religion of those who find ways to
> > conform it to present-day "scientific" thought--is primitive. Would one
> > say we should reinterpret the Torah to fit these ideas? (It's been done,
> > you know.) I don't think anyone of us in these cases would insist that
> > if you accept one scientific discipline you must accept the other,
> > and for the following good reasons:

> RZL mixes up two very separate issues.
> If modern medicine were to say that "premarital sex, masturbation
> and adultery are healthy", etc, we could accept that as true statements
> about the biology. That wouldn't change the fact that they are assur
> min hatorah. That is the difference. there is a difference between
> statements about what is true, and statements which contain a value
> judgement, where scientists will admit that they have no role.

I agree that RMS's teirutz works. He and I agree that scientists have
no role in value judgements. However, the proponents of the above ideas
present their "factuality" as reasons that one must engage in those
practices to be healthy, and how can you believe in a G-d who makes
you do unhealthy things or prevents you from doing things to preserve
your physical, mental and emotional health? Thus "...religion--even the
religion of those who find ways to conform it to present-day "scientific"
thought--is primitive." So we discriminate in what we accept from

So, regardless of the validity of the kushya I posed, I wonder whether
RMS concedes to my point: that the assertion that once you accept one
field of science you must accept all others is flawed, because (1)
each field (especially medicine and surgery vs. archeology, etc.)has
its own methods, and (2) fields dealing with the nature of the distant
past are totally not verifiable in the sense that medicinal and surgical
practices are on people of the present.

(parenthetically, in the shmona prakim, the rambam seems to classify
hilchot arayot as falling more in the category of religious rather
than rational mitzvot - and therefore having a ta'ava for them is not
a character defect, unlike having a ta'ava for murder - and therefore,
there isn't even a torah mandated reason to think that these averot are
intrinsically unhealthy or unnatural)

As R. M.D. Rabinowitz clarifies in his commentary on Shemoneh Perakim
(Mosaad HaRav Kook, p. 194, note 7), the Rambam in that passage cannot
be referring to "gilui arayos," for that is certainly part of what [the
philosophers and the Rambam in his other works consider among--ZL] the
"m'fur'sammos," the manifestly immoral practices.

> As in previous go ronunds, I am not aware of any rishon who specifically argues that emunah requires us to go against what our reason requires - and several (eg kuzari)explicitly state  that the torah does not require us to go against reason.

You can add my name to the list of those who say that we should not go
against reason. When the Rambam says that Creation by definition did not
follow natural proceses and we therefore cannot know how things came into
existence from the way things are now, he is using reason. And when I
say that since Creation by definition was the creation of things beyond
their incipient stages, and we thereofre cannot know, from the age of
things, how long they've been in existence, I am using reason. Along
with value judgements, the length of the world's existence is an area
that scientists do not have the role they have assigned themselves.

Zvi Lampel

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Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 17:09:22 GMT
From: "kennethgmiller@juno.com" <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
RE: Torah and Allegory (Moreh Nevuchim on Science)

R' Jonathan Ostroff wrote <<< (3) The fraud was mindlessly and
unsuspectingly recycled by the greatest biologists as experimental fact
(the few who were aware of the fraud mostly kept quiet). >>>

 From what I remember of my science classes, no value is to be put into
allegations of "experimental fact". The only experiments which have any
value are the REPEATABLE experiments.

Alas, such is the power of the Urban Legend (a/k/a the Big Lie) that if
the right people say a thing, then Everyone(tm) will know it to be true,
without bothering to attempt a repeat of the experiment.

Akiva Miller

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Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 20:41:16 +0200
From: Akiva Atwood <akiva.atwood@gmail.com>
Re: Three angels real or a vision?

> you put "reality" in quotes). R' Avraham seems to be saying that Yaacov's
> vision was *not* like reality, but like an extraordinarily vivid dream.
> He explicitly compares it to an ordinary dream, only much more so.
> This is actually far less than what we've been talking about - we've
> been assuming what RMB wrote in MmD, that nevuah-visions take place in
> reality, but on a non-physical plane, that can't be seen with ordinary
> eyes; R Avraham here, however, seems to say that the whole story took
> place only in Yaacov's imagination.

Keep in mind that R' Avraham (like his son Ovadiah) was a Sufi -- so
his metaphysical world view is phrased in terminology with meanings we
might not assume are there.

there are no dilemmas without confusion, there's no free will without
dilemmas, and there's no humanity without free will.

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Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 19:37:01 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Three angels real or a vision?

On Thu, Dec 09, 2004 at 03:31:32PM -0500, Zev Sero wrote:
:> I think that assuming that Lot was able to walk around and do things
:> while using six senses (the 5 usual plus nevu'ah) is would better fit
:> the Abarbanel's portrayal of the Rambam's opinion.

: "When there is a prophet among you, I appear to him in a vision, I speak
: to him in a dream".

: "And all of them, when they experience prophecy, their limbs shake and
: the strength of their bodies is feeble, and their senses are deranged,
: and the mind remains empty in order to understand what it sees...
: (Rambam Yesodei Hatorah 7:5)

You're right. This is a strong kushya on the Abarbanel.

I'm CC-ing RYGB, the other Abarbanel supporter in this dicussion.


Go to top.

Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004 00:41:06 -0500
From: "Moshe & Ilana Sober" <sober@pathcom.com>
Torah and Science

Two interesting experiences today, relevant to the current discussion:

1) I encountered the Radak on Tehillim 147:3 - "Moneh mispar lakochavim" -
essentially, he asks - all scientists agree that there are 1,048 stars. So
why is is such a big deal that G-d can count them too? And why does He
suggest to Avraham that the stars are uncountable? He answers that in
fact there are more stars than we can see - some are too small, or dim,
or distant, and in fact no human being can know the exact number of stars.

So, at least sometimes, if you ask a kashya on a pasuk based on widely
accepted scientific knowledge, and then wait a few hundred years (or
less), you will find that the kashya sounds ridiculous, and the pasuk
made perfect sense all along.

2) I took my kids to an IMAX movie about undersea volcanoes (at which
most of the audience was frum, by the way, because all the other
kids were in school). When the narrator announced in a confident
and authoritative voice that the sun was formed from the debris of a
supernova, my eight-year-old turned to my five-year-old and whispered,
"This part is not true. Hashem created the sun."

I hope she will always maintain that basic assumption that what the Torah
says is true, and, where there is a conflict, it overrides Science. Plain
and simple. She will iyH become more sophisticated in her understanding
of which conflicts are irreconcilable and in her understanding of the many
levels of interpreting the Torah and evaluating scientific theories. Maybe
she'll even join Avodah when she grows up. But I am learning from her
that, underneath our complex understandings and logical arguments, lies
a bedrock outlook that goes back to childhood and shapes the direction
of our subsequent thought - and that hers is the right one.

 - Ilana

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Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 19:45:38 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Torah and Allegory (Moreh Nevuchim on Science)

On Fri, Dec 10, 2004 at 02:48:55PM -0500, Jonathan Ostroff wrote:
: (I am aware that "teva" does have some reality as the regular "ratzon
: Hashem" and does play a role in mitzvos, halacha and life itself; my
: point in the last remark above is that it is not the absolute entity of
: chochmas chitzonius)

This idea that teva only has "some reality as the regular 'ratzon Hashem'"
is Desslerian. The Rambam, upon whom RJSO relies on for the vast majority
of that post (the difference between the ubar and the finished product)
considers it an actual beryah.

On Sun, Dec 12, 2004 at 08:27:02AM -0800, Harry Maryles replied:
: How Berkelian of you. If you are saying that there is no physical reality,
: than of course everything goes. No need to rely on scientific discovery.
: But if there is a physical universe one must deal with the facts as
: they are discovered. God created the physical universe Yesh MeAyin
: in one incredible moment. It was a "Big Bang". From there flowed a
: process guided by God mentioned in a cryptic way in Parshas Bereishis
: that resulted in where we stand today. The details of that process have
: yet to be fully understood but in my humble opinion, there was... and
: continues to be a process.

Well, REED does resolve the problem of bechirah and hashgachah by saying
that each person lives in their own universe. The person does bechirah
in his universe, but the other experiences a different universe. The
overlap between those universes is a gift from HQBH.

The Alter of Slabodka talks about bishvili nivra ha'olam in these terms.
The olam in question is the person's world of experience.


Micha Berger             Despair is the worst of ailments. No worries
micha@aishdas.org        are justified except: "Why am I so worried?"
http://www.aishdas.org                         - Rav Yisrael Salanter
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

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Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004 21:32:07 +0200
From: Eli Linas <linaseli@netvision.net.il>
reliability and respectibility of revised Biblical chronology

Hi, and a frelichin Chanukah to all!

Over the years and in various threads (last one, I believe, being about
ksav ashuris 2 years ago or so), mention has been made on the list
about solving various archeological and other conundrums by employing
a revised Biblical chronology - elegantly put forth by Lias Leil on her
website. I was wondering, has this theory gained much critical currency
amongst professional archeologists, or is it regarded as totally crackpot
and summarily dismissed - and if so, are good reasons offered for the
dismissal, or are they lame excuses conjured up by C.D. because of
their implications?


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Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004 13:37:36 EST
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: An Orthodox Conservative Rabbi?

In a message dated 11/21/2004 12:10:36pm EST, jgzuessmd@cox.net writes:
> It seems to me we are obligated to judge him favorably, in any case. We do
> not know what he believes, and there is clearly room for the possibility
> of assuming it is favorable. I would also point out that even if we
> assume he is an apikorus, we actually don't have permission to speak
> about our negative judgments publicly. The permissibility to speak
> against an apikorus applies if one heard words of heresy directly from an
> individual. However, if he heard the heresy second hand, he is forbidden
> to speak against the person, whether in his presence or behind his
> back. Rather, he should suspect the person as an apikorus, and also warn
> others to stay away from him until the matter is clarified. Further, he
> should not believe in his heart that the information is true, according to
> the laws against accepting Lashon Hara. (Thanks to Torah.org's adaptation
> of Chafetz Chaim)

Indeed I consider this as Hanitaros Lashem... v'haniglos lanu

We humans can ONLY judge what is done l'eineinu only HKBH can be bocehin
klayos volev...

Of course is conceivable that if an Observant person SPEAKS or ADVOCATES
kfira that THAT kind of speech IS a defacto action, just like speech is
construed as action in the realm of shavua or Avodah Zoro (AZ).

I'm not sure is TOLERATING k'fira is the same as ADVOCATING k'fira
however, Remembe the Chazon Ish felt that most kofrim today are tinukos
shenishbu! And t odo Keiruv you sometimes need to go outside the 4 amos
of the Beis HaMidrash {BhM) and get involved.

Lemashal, what if an instructor teaches at JTSA in orde to machzir them
lemutav? then what?

I remember many years ago that R. Dr. Moseh Tendler gave a lecture at
the AOJS about MINIMIZING chilul Shabbos at hospitals etc. Sometimes
it is worthwhile to invent or engineer a technique that would mermely
reduce the issur. Think about it. IOW It Sometimes might be worth being
m'kareiv kof;'im just to reduce their intensity of k'ifrah...

Kol Tuv,
R. Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004 13:49:51 EST
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Kabbalah and Ikkarim was Re: Orthodox Conservative Rabbi

In a message dated 11/22/2004 1:28:06pm EST, yadmoshe@012.net.il writes:
> Chasam Sofer(Yoreh Deah 2:356): While there is a historic debate
> whether there are 13 principles or three I really don't know what
> difference this makes except in semantics. Furthermore according to the
> kabbalists there is no such thing a foundation principle in the Torah
> because every aspect of the Torah is a foundation principle without
> distinction one part from another...

This migth be true of the Lurianic School - the Ari was opposed to Yigdal

However, contrast this with the Shlah was a big advocate of Yigdal

FWIW I am pursuing the following hypothesis:

The German Kehillos post-Shabtai Zvi rejected LURAINIAC Kabbalah but
accepted or even Embraced the Shlah

Examples: Brich shmei and ana v'koach were taken out. Some Gematiros -
such as Hashem elokeichem Emes - were reduced to jsut "EMES" etc.

Shatz only says Nekadesh Tzibbur does not.  {K'negged Ari}
No Mizmor shir Hanukkas before Barcuh She'omor {This, too, is a Lurianic

OTOH: Yekees - including a fine Heidneheim edition - have tikkun leil
Shavuos AND Tikkun Leil Hoshana Rabba (both of which AFAIK were creatures
of the Shlah Hakodesh)

Also Roedelheim siddurim omit all "leSheim Yichuds"
BUT they DO contain "Hinneni Muchans" and AIUI Shlah was the composer
of some or all of the various "Hinneni Muchan's.

This pattern has legs but I am not sure how far to take this. Just that
somehow many minhaggim of the Shlah were honored in German {and possibly
other Misnagidsher communities suc has Litvaks?!} but the Ari's litrugical
innovations were rejected.

For example It might imply that if your are Chassidically oreinted,
then the Ari would be your protypical mentor of KABBALAH, OTOH if you
are Yekke/Misanagged then look to the Shlah for guidance.

Kol Tuv,
R. Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004 13:01:40 EST
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: Requesting this list to list machshava classics

In a message dated 11/28/2004 9:20:16am EST, driceman@worldnet.att.net writes:
> I don't recall who started this thread, but his original request was a
> list of influential classics in machshava. My guess is that he did not
> ascribe to the word the meaning you do, which I don't believe is standard.
> Do you really think he meant to exclude books like Or Yisrael and Nefesh
> HaHayyim (an anti-Hassidic polemic and so not qualifying according to
> you by not incorporating Hassidus)?

Good point. Every read a long article or a long thread!? Sometimes
the original purposes is LONG lsot while the author or authors go on
a tangent.

My request had little to do with defining what IS machshava! What counts
is what has INFLUENCED mahcshava over time and stand out as being a useful
sampling in an eductioanl pedagogical situation. IOW, if I wanted a Talmid
to master the BASICS of Jewish Thought AND Ethics over a period of time,
WHAT would be the MOST representative!

The later in time, the mroe difficult it becomes to make the "cutoff".

So far as entire BOOKS go I would include some early classics {IOW
Rishonim which are on everyone's shortlist amongst those I have spoken
to personally:
    Chovos haLevavos
    Rambam (the specifics are a bit fuzzy. Based upon what I know so far
Hilchos Teshuvah, Hilchos Dei'os and SOME selections from the Moreh
Nevuchim are at the time.

    Emunos v'deios of R. Saadyah Gaon and Rabbinu Yona might alos make the
short list. I would put them on the "borderline"

    Where I need help is identifiying some of the most famous SELECTIONS
from larger works. EG. I Know that the Ramban's peirush on Kedoshim Ttihyu -
kadesh atzmecha bemutar lach - is "a classic". So is the Chinuch when
he states: adam nif'al lfi ma'Asav. And of course the first Rashi in
chumash is central to our understanding of our roles as Jews aomngts
the goyim particularly wrt Eretz Yisroel These quotes are SO influential
thoughout the minds and hearts of generations of Jews and Jewish leaders.
I am looking for similar quotables that stand out.

    Also, it is REALLY hard to select from later works. There are just so
many. I know I want Hirsch in there but I want to narrow it to his most
influential ideas. Similarly I want to get selctions from the Maharal
Rabbi Charles Batt - late of my native Hartford, Ct. - was a big fan of
Nesivos Olam which is now in a Hebrew-English volume. I would probably
go with THAT.

    Another prolific writer was the Ramchal. To learn all of his works
would take a while. What I would like is a sampling that would cover
his most influential thoughts.

    Yasher Koach to all that have conributed so far. 

Kol Tuv,
R. Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004 15:29:20 -0800 (PST)
From: Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
Re: Torah and Science

Moshe & Ilana Sober <sober@pathcom.com> wrote:
> I took my kids to an IMAX movie about undersea volcanoes. When the
> narrator announced in a confident and authoritative voice that the sun
> was formed from the debris of a supernova, my eight-year-old turned to
> my five-year-old and whispered, "This part is not true. Hashem created
> the sun."

While I appreciate her berock assumptiion, I think it should be stated
that "one" does not contradict "the other". But I will agree that at age
eight and five, imparting such information might be too confusing to them.

OTOH, learning basic assumptions at an early age can be problematic.
If one is indoctrinated to believe only certain versions of the truth,
it can result in serious questions of faith later on. It is best to keep
a child's mind open to what ever extent possible as long as you don't
undermine the basic Emunah. To that extent I believe that as a child
becomes old enough to understand, it might be wise to expose them to
different Mahalchim in understanding Maaseh Bereishis.


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Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004 23:56:35 -0500
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <jonathan@yorku.ca>
RE: Torah and Allegory (Moreh Nevuchim on Science)

I wrote as a postscript to Chanuka as rejecting the Greek idea of absolute
nature that:

>: (I am aware that "teva" does have some reality as the regular "ratzon
>: Hashem" and does play a role in mitzvos, halacha and life itself; my
>: point in the last remark above is that it is not the absolute entity of
>: chochmas chitzonius)

Rabbi  Harry Maryles wrote:
>: How Berkelian of you. If you are saying that there is no physical
>: than of course everything goes. 

Where did I use the words "no physical reality"? What I said was that "teva
does have some reality as the regular ratzon Hashem".

RHM further wrote:
> No need to rely on scientific discovery.

Why? Scientific discovery discovers the regular "ratzon Hashem", something
that halacha considers important to know as stated in my remark.

RMB wrote
> This idea that teva only has "some reality as the regular 'ratzon Hashem'"
> is Desslerian. The Rambam, upon whom RJSO relies on for the vast majority
of that post
> (the difference between the ubar and the finished product) considers it an
actual beryah.

You are probably referring to Shemoneh Perakim (and elsewhere), but see more
quotes from the Rambam below. This needs much further elucidation.

Earlier R. Yitzchok Zlochower had written:
 >  The traditional objection to having the creation days
> other than 24 hour periods is based on a seeming diminution of the
> relevance of our shabbat observance if the 7th day was not a real day.
>  However,  I find a powerful message in considering the creation shabbat
> to be an era - for it is our era,  the era of mankind.  This era
> featured the general divine cessation from overt regulation of earthly
> affairs ["Va'yichal Elokim ba'yom ha'shevii melachto asher asa,
> vayishbot ba'yom ha'shevii mikol melachto are asa."  Note that the
> cessation from creative work occurs in the 7th day].   That cessation
> occurred at the end of the biblical period.   Ever since, we have been
> left to direct our affairs as best we can as a test of whether we have
> matured sufficiently to take over as the world's caretakers.   

Chas Veshalom!

Ramban at the end of parshas Bo writes that the early atheists did not
believe in G-d, or if they did, they may have thought that He has no control
over nature or does not care about man. All these myths were shattered in
the Exodus and the splitting of the sea. Ramban writes:

"And from these great, public, miracles [the ten plagues], a person
acknowledges also the hidden miracles ***which are the foundation of Torah
belief.  For no man has a portion in Moses' Torah unless he believes that
all events in our lives are all (ultimately) miracles.*** They are not
"natural" or the customary running of the world. Whether it is matter that
effects the public or a private individual. Rather if a person fulfills the
mitzvos then he will be granted his reward in success but if he transgresses
them his punishment will cut him down. All is according to a Higher decree."

The Maharal at the end of Ner Mitzvah raises the question of the
relationship between the two Chanukah miracles. The most important miracle
was that of the military victory (see his chidushei aggados on Al HaNisim).
The miracle of the oil was halachically unnecessary. Why then did G-d
perform the miracle of the oil? The Maharal tells us that some may have been
unaware that the military victory was a miracle (they may have thought that
they had won through their own guerilla warfare tactics as freedom
fighters). G-d then made the revealed miracle of the oil in order to
illuminate the hidden miracle of the victory, and awaken everyone to the
fact that it too had been miraculous. Chanukah can be seen as an application
of the Ramban's principle that through the revealed miracles we can come to
appreciate the hidden ones! [See also the amazing Pachad Yitzchak, Reshima]

Rambam to Hilchos Tainios (1:2-3) writes that when the community cries out
in prayer and sounds an alarm when overtaken by trouble, everyone is bound
to realize that evil has come upon them as a consequence of their own evil
deeds, as it is written "our iniquities have turned away these things, and
your sins have withheld good from you" (Jer. 3:25). And their repentance
will cause the trouble to be removed from them.  If, on the other hand, the
people do not cry out in prayer and do not sound an alarm, but merely say
that it is the way of the world for such a thing to happen to them, and that
their trouble is a matter of pure chance, they have chosen a **cruel path**
which will cause them to persevere in their evil deeds and thus bring
additional troubles upon them. [This idea is also found in the MN:III].

Rambam writes in Hilchos Teshuva: (chapter 9) that we are promised in the
Torah that if we fulfill the mitzvos with joy, a positive spirit and wisdom,
then G-d will remove from our paths all impediments to our success, such as
illness, war, hunger and the like. He will shower us with the good that will
strengthen us with that which we need to fulfill the Torah, such as bounty,
peace and wealth, so that we will not need to distract ourselves with our
mundane bodily needs and we will be free to pursue Torah learning with
wisdom and fulfillment of mitzvos so we can acquire the World to Come.

The vast majority of leading scientists today are atheistic. They cling to
methodological naturalism ["nature is all and man is the measure of all
things" like the ancient Yevanim and Misyavnim] despite evidence to the
contrary. According to them, G-d does not control nature nor does nature
respond to our moral deeds; both the bad and the good are a function of
necessity and chance, resulting in perverse values -- moral Darwinism and
all its accompanying evils.

Richard Lewontin  [Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard] wrote
in the NYRB in 1997:

"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense
is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the
supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity
of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its
extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the
scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a
prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods
and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material
explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are
forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus
of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations,
no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the
uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we can-not allow a
Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say
that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to
an omnipotent de-ity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of
nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen."

There are no doubt differences between the meforshim I quoted as to
precisely what "teva" is, but I stand by my earlier statement, supported I
believe, by the above meforshim (and many more), that "the message of the
lights of Chanukah, the zman we are currently in, is to see that there is a
transcendental Creator, the author and constant Guide of creation, and that
the apparent ***absoluteness of nature*** is merely a figment of the
imagination ("hamehadesh betuvo bechol yom maaseh beraishis")." [Please read
what I wrote carefully]

This too is the message of this week's parsha -- parshas Vayigash. Yosef
tells his brothers that they came down to Egypt by guided at every step by
Divine Provdience -- "anus al pi hadibbur" as we say in the Haggada.

Zos Channuka, Parshas Vayigash, 5765.


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