Avodah Mailing List

Volume 14 : Number 070

Wednesday, February 2 2005

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 01 Feb 2005 19:36:43 -0500
From: "L. E. Levine" <llevine@stevens.edu>
Re: Mezuzah as Protection

At 07:27 PM 02/01/2005, Zev Sero wrote:
>Sure.  Not all fires are caused by faulty wiring, and a house with the
>worst wiring in the world can still be set on fire by lightning or by
>an arsonist.  But that's not the way to bet.

>But you miss my point.  In fact, leshitatcha you should agree with me
>even more than I do myself!  A person has no mezuzah and something
>happens to him, what else could it be?  Well, the fact is that it could
>be anything, but there's at least a good chance that it was the mezuzot.

Perhaps its because he does not observe other mitzvos. Perhaps it is
because he does not use only Cholov Yisroel products or whatever? Who
knows? I (and no one else, to the best of my knowledge) has a window
into the mind of the Creator. He certainly has His reasons for whatever
happens and I believe that they are very good reasons. For me to claim to
have "special insight" into which one of them it is, is, in my opinion,

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Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2005 19:39:07 EST
From: Joelirich@aol.com
Re: Mezuzah as Protection

In a message dated 2/1/2005 7:29:02pm EST, llevine@stevens.edu writes:
>But  what is the difference? It is a firmly established Jewish belief
>that  the mitzvah of mezuzah provides physical protection, and that  the
>Shomer Daltot Yisrael protects us not just when we are in the house  but
>also Tzetecha Uvo'echa. Illustrating an example where a lack of  this
>protection may have led to severe consequences can only impress  upon
>people the importance of being protected.

As my Doctor friends say - when you hear hoof beats don't suspect
Zebras(unless you're in Zebraland or have ruled out all other animals) One
who has their mzuzot checked kdin would likely be better off serching for
other root causes. For example, given the gemora in Sotah 21a describes
the power of learning to defend one against travails as greater than
that of a mitzvah - so why not start there?


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Date: Tue, 01 Feb 2005 19:49:34 -0500
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Re: Follow-up to my previous message

L. E. Levine wrote:
> Perhaps its because he does not observe other mitzvos. Perhaps it is 
> because he does not use only Cholov Yisroel products or whatever? Who 
> knows? I (and no one else, to the best of my knowledge) has a window 
> into the mind of the Creator. He certainly has His reasons for whatever 
> happens and I believe that they are very good reasons. For me to claim 
> to have "special insight" into which one of them it is, is, in my 
> opinion, presumptuous.

You're the one who said that if a house has faulty wiring then "That
is the cause of the fire, period. What other conclusion can one come
to that makes sense?". How can you say that, and then suddenly when it
comes to mezuzot you turn around and say "how should I know, it would
be presumptious to claim to know"?

As I said, even a house known to have bad wiring can catch fire for
other reasons, but that's not the way to bet. Is it presumptious for
someone to suggest that there's a connection, and that people should
check their wiring so it won't happen to them? Is that irresponsible,
as the original poster claimed?

Zev Sero

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Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2005 19:53:36 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Torah and Science

On Mon, Jan 31, 2005 at 12:44:54AM -0500, S & R Coffer wrote:
: No doubt. However, with Gerald Schroeder, the "something else" is
: a slowing down of the flow of real time due to gravitational forces
: which existed in different parts of the universe, whereas in REED, the
: focus seems to be on the *perception* of time due to the overwhelmingly
: spiritual nature of the universe at its inception...

Except that according to REED, the defining feature of time, the flow
from past to present to future, is only in our perception.

: Accordingly, the second quotation of the Ramban (2:3) sometimes discusses
: the dynamic of the relationship between these two eras using terminology
: such as "remez" or "kineged", versus sometimes describing it as "hu",
: it is. The first is a description keeping the physical properties of
: these two eras in mind (which is primarily the way human beings think or
: relate to things) and thus, 6 days is only a "remez" to 6000 years...

This is how I would have understood the Ramban as well -- but not the
way REED does.

Perhaps you should address my summarization of the vort. I tried to make
it easy to follow along the text in the original so that people could
compare my summary to it. You seem to disagree with how I understood
the begining and end of the maamar, where he explains how much of our
concept of time is specific to our perception of time. Also, with how
REED explains the Ramban. If you could point out where you think there's
a gap between my havanah and REED's intent, I would appreciate it.

On Mon, Jan 31, 2005 at 12:44:54AM -0500, S & R Coffer wrote:
:> From the opposite direction, what's significantly worse about the
:> evolution of man? Need Hashem's making clay from afar min ha'adah rule
:> out that the process was the evoution of homo sapiens, and into one homo
:> sapien He breathed a ru'ach memalela?

: The mashmaus of the pasuk certainly seems to say so. The pasuk seems
: to say that the FIRST man that was ever created was already endowed
: with a ruach memalela....

The pasuq says "Vayyiytzer H' E-lokim es-ha'adam, afar min ha'adamah,
vayyipach be'apav nishmas chayim." There was an "adam" into whom Hashem
blew a nishmas chayim after it was created, which Unqelus defines as a
"ruach memalela".

The question is whether one can allegorize "afar min ha'adamah" to mean
"something that evolved".

Also, is "ha'adam" homo sapiens, or a soul residing in a homo sapien
vehicle? If the latter, then yes -- the first ben adam got a soul,
but not the first homo sapien.


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

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Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2005 20:24:03 EST
From: T613K@aol.com
Re: Mezuzah as Protection

In  Avodah V14 #69 dated 2/1/2005  RMB writes:
> Back in vol 5 #67 onward, we tried to determine whether the mitzvah
> of mezuzah provides protection or the mitzvah itself did.

You meant to say, "or the mezuzah itself did."

 -Toby  Katz

[Yes I did, thanks. -mi]

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Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2005 20:48:15 EST
From: T613K@aol.com
Re: R. Mordechai Eliyahu on the reason for the tsunami

In  Avodah V14 #69 dated 2/1/2005 Chana Luntz writes:
>....I have been feeling very irritated all along at
>the  line that goes, "We can't possibly know the reason for tragedy and
>it's  wrong to even try to speculate" 
>....if you
>draw the "wrong"  conclusion from tragedy and accidentally do teshuva for
>something other  than the sin you were "supposed" to do teshuva for, well,
>there has  still been a net benefit. [--old TK]

CL:  One sin that is repeatedly identified is that of talking  in shul....

Similarly when 9/11 was blamed on a lack of tznius by  women...

TK: I'm out of the loop here in Miami and never heard these things
blamed for the tsunami or 9/11. I agree that making this kind of
connection is primitive, mindless and worse than useless.

CL: And of course the fear that our own lives will be turned suddenly
topsy turvey by an overpowering wave. Hence a response that can shift
the blame onto others in fact makes us all feel just that bit safer,
and allows us to retain our sense of detachment - especially if we can
pin the blame on our pet sinner in the other camp.

TK:  Very insightful, rings true.

CL: And surely surely, if there is a reason we are supposed to discover
then there must be some logic to the linkage. TK: I agree with this,
too. My Jamaican cleaning lady had the immediate reaction that I
believe G-d intended. She is a very religious, G-d-fearing person.
The first thing she expressed to me was her grief at seeing the great
loss of life, her sorrow and compassion for the victims. The second
thing she said was, "G-d sent us a message that He is there and He
is in charge, and we better not forget Him." This emunah peshuta,
the instinctive lesson learned on a most basic level, I believe to be
the main lesson He intended mankind to learn.

Other lessons have to do with the countries most affected (this is me now,
not my cleaning lady). In some, sexual immorality, child prostitution
and depravity are common. In others, there is widespread avodah zarah.
And in others, there is raw, murderous, Moslem fundamentalist Jew-hatred.
I think that G-d wants the world to stop doing avodah zarah, gilui arayos
and shefichus damim.

CL: If the scientists in Hawaii had been able to get their warnings
through, so many many lives could have been saved.

TK: This is also a valid lesson. I read in the Yated that the first
scientist in Hawaii to realize there was a tsunami coming was a Jew who
happened to be at work that Sunday morning, and when all his desperate
warnings failed to reach the appropriate officials, and reports started
coming in of mass deaths, he broke down and wept.

Oh, the humanity.  

 -Toby Katz

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Date: Tue, 01 Feb 2005 20:53:51 -0500
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Re: Mezuzah as Protection

Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org> wrote:
> Back in vol 5 #67 onward, we tried to determine whether the mitzvah of
> mezuzah provides protection or the mitzvah itself did. The difference
> would be this very case -- someone who checked their mezuzos kedin,
> and therefore were yotzei the mitzvah, but kelapei shemaya galyah that
> a letter cracked.

> The Rambam vehemently supported the former, and criticizes those who
> turn a mitzvah into a kemi'ah.

If the mezuzah is pasul, then he *hasn't* fulfilled the mitzvah, no matter
how many times he checked it. If he has checked it properly, then his
failure to keep the mitzvah is not due to his fault or negligence, and he
is an anus. If there were a punishment for neglecting this mitzvah, then
he would certainly escape it, because anus rachamana patreih. But keman
de'avad lo amrinan - the fact is that he did not have a kosher mezuzah,
and he did not fulfil the mitzvah, and he does not get the reward - in
this case special physical protection - that the mitzvah brings with it.

When someone gives tzedakah, the gemara in Bava Batra explicitly makes it
clear that if the money ends up not being used to support aniyei yisrael
the donor gets no credit. Even though the fund has an *obligation*
to support aniyei akum as well, and it certainly has the right to use
donations for administrative overhead as well (rent, gas, salaries, etc),
the donors whose money went for those purposes did not do the mitzvah
of tzedakah, and do not get the reward of "tzedakah tatzil mimavet"!
This is explicit in the gemara.

OK, you will say, tzedakah is different. This is just the flip side of
the fact that if someone loses money and an ani finds it he does get full
credit, as if he had given it on purpose. So let's consider a korban.
A person brings a korban, and it turns out to be treifa. He is not
yotzei, and must bring another one. What if all appears well, but the
kohen had a disqualifying thought? Nobody but the kohen and the Above
will ever know about it. Is the donor yotzei? Has he achieved what he
had to? If it was a sin-offering, is he forgiven? The answer is that,
in the ordinary course of events he is not yotzei. If the kohen confesses
he must bring another korban (that's what masechet qinim is all about).
And if the kohen never confesses, then the owner would never be yotzei,
if it were not for a special arrangement that covers him - I believe
it's either the Tzitz or the Korban Rosh Chodesh, but I can't remember
which one.

So I don't see how you can say that a person with a passul mezuzah
is yotzei the mitzvah, and gets its reward, i.e. the protection, just
because he did everything that he could reasonably have been expected
to do. And if he was not yotzei, then it no longer matters whether the
protection comes from some 'magical' property in the scroll itself, or
as a sechar for doing the mitzvah. Indeed, I definitely count myself
on the Rambam's side in this matter, and I'm sure it is the mitzvah,
not the scroll. But without a kosher scroll there is no mitzvah.

Zev Sero

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Date: Tue, 01 Feb 2005 23:03:19 -0500
From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <ygb@aishdas.org>
Re: Torah and Science and Jewish vs. Secular chronolgy

At 01:42 PM 1/31/2005, [RRM] wrote:
>Historians and Archeologists have found about 50 astronomical diaries
>which, based on the method of astronomical retrocalculation described
>above, they date to the period between 626 BCE and 330 BCE. These
>diaries serve to establish the astronomical dating of the kings of the
>Neo-Babylonian period and the Persian Period as well as establish a dating
>for Alexander's capture of Babylon.None of those dates are compatible
>with SOR. They are however compatible with the various King's list of
>Berossus and Claudius Ptolemy, with Menetho's List of Egyptian Kings,
>with Eratosthenes's dating of Greek History based on Olympiads, with the
>surviving descriptions of ancient historians such as Arrian, Diodorus,
>Plutarch, Curtius,Trogus, Polybius, Justin, Josephus etc. etc.

It is not as glatt as RRM would have it.

All the dating prior to Alexander's time is based on very, very few
artifacts (there are many artifacts from later periods). In fact,
essentially the whole system rests on a cuneiform tablet known as vat4956.
You can find its translation at:


You be the judge: Al smach zeh we are docheh the Talmud?!


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Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2005 00:39:02 -0500
From: "JosephMosseri" <joseph.mosseri@verizon.net>
[Areivim] Seudat Purim on Friday

Dear Fellow Avodah Readers,

Purim this year is on Friday March 25th, less than 2 months away. When
Purim falls out on Friday when is the proper time to have seudat Purim?
Morning? Afternoon? Or closer to Shabbat and combine both meals into one?

Joseph Mosseri

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Date: Wed, 02 Feb 2005 10:44:18 -0500
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Re: Torah and Science and Jewish vs. Secular chronolgy

[Forwarded by R' Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>. As the author is not a
subscriber, you might want to take care to CC lisa@starways.net -mi]

Reuven Manber <xynetics@nyc.rr.com> wrote:
>An astronomical event which serves to validate a historical date is a 
>CONTEMPORANEOUS document which has within it both a relative date (i.e 
>such and such a year of such and such a king) and a description of an 
>astronomical observation which can serve to provide an absolute date for 
>the document.

>For example if one were to find a document which states that in the 100th 
>year of the Seleucid Era (The Jewish Minyan Hashtarot) on such and such a 
>day in such and such a month an observer in Jerusalem observed the 
>position of the five visible planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and 
>Saturn and they were in such and such positions relative to the fixed 
>stars (or the constellations) then one could use readily available 
>software calculate the exact date when that particular planetary 
>configuration took place. (Due to the non-commensurability of the synoptic 
>and sidereal orbital times of the five planets a given configuration at a 
>given date repeats with a period in excess of hundreds of thousands of years)

This assumes that everything has been running like clockwork for thousands
of years. And we know that's not the case. There are *enormous* craters
on Mars, for example, which are large enough that the impact would have
introduced uncertainty into any retrocalculations of that planet's
position. It doesn't have to be knocked out of its orbit for a small
change to make a big difference over time.

"It's better to be roughly right than precisely wrong." -- John Dayton

People tend to forget that and strive for more certainty than they can 
rationally lay claim to.

>So in our example if one were to find that the described configuration was 
>uniquely dateable to the year 211 BCE

I assume this is supposed to be 311, right?

>that would give us the exact relationship between Seleucid years and 
>absolute chronolgy. Thus in all future documents we would know that 
>Seleucid dates all refer to a starting date of 311 BCE. This is one of the 
>basic methodologies secular historians use to establish absolute 
>chronolgical dates.

>If one contests such a dating one must assume that either the document in 
>question is
>1) Not contemparaneous and/or
>2) not reliable in terms of either its relative date or astronomical 

>or that
>3)current astronomical calculations can't extend backwards in time. 
>(Hishtaneh Ha'Tevah)

False dichotomy. It is Tevah itself which virtually ensures that
astronomical retrocalculations going that far back in time are unlikely
to be accurate.

>If one has a large number of such documents and one doesn't believe in
>reason 3 one is pretty much forced to assume that at some point some
>group for some end produced a large number of such faked documents and
>that these documents were so successfully faked that essentially all
>modern historians have accepted their authenticity.

Not so. It's simply that too many scholars forget the basic truth
of that Dayton quote I mentioned above. That's how you succeed in
modern scholarship. You have to publish new conclusions, even if you
overreach to find them. And there's a natural human desire for certainty.
But there are way too many variables involved.

Consider evolution. For a long time, the gradualists reigned supreme,
because gradualism goes hand-in-hand with a view that we live in a
clockwork universe, where everything runs smoothly and nothing... bumps
into anything else. Well, that's not very realistic, is it, and the
leading theories in the world of evolution nowadays lean more towards
punctuated evolution and catastrophic changes.

The same thing should be true when it comes to astronomy. We can't even
solve the three-body problem, and there are a lot more than three bodies
flying around in space.

>Although that is certainly a possibility it presupposes that all modern 
>historians are either gullible fools or have for some reason been co-opted 
>in a mass conspiracy to present a faked view of history.

That's a bad conclusion. An emotionally loaded one, to boot. It's almost
a kind of threat: accept our conclusions or be labled a conspiracy nut.
But argument by intimidation is silly. Modern historians aren't gullible
fools, and they aren't involved in a conspiracy. It's just the way
these things work. Everyone who's taken Sociology 101 has probably done
a unit on the sociology of science. Scholarly disciplines get bogged
down in their paradigms. It's the nature of the beast. Eventually,
enough problems build up that someone comes along and busts the paradigm,
and then you have a new paradigm to work within.

And note: until a paradigm gets busted, those working within it will use
arguments of intimidation like the above to try and cow people into a
kind of intellectual paralysis. Not ouf of any conscious intent, but
merely because it's scary to leave a paradigm, and it's scary to have
other people leave it as well.

>Historians and Archeologists have found about 50 astronomical diaries 
>which, based on the method of astronomical retrocalculation described 
>above, they date to the period between 626 BCE and 330 BCE.

"[B]ased on the method of astronomical retrocalculation described above".

>These diaries serve to establish the astronomical dating of the kings of 
>the Neo-Babylonian period and the Persian Period as well as establish a 
>dating for Alexander's capture of Babylon.  None of those dates are 
>compatible with SOR.

We might add that they aren't compatible with the text of the books of
Kings, Chronicles, Ezra/Nehemiah...

>They are however compatible with the various King's list of Berossus and 
>Claudius Ptolemy,


Ptolemy had access to many of those kings lists, and there is some
evidence that he fudged his own astronomical observations to make them
match his calculations.

>with Menetho's List of Egyptian Kings,

Nothing is compatible with Manetho's list, including the actual
archaeological finds which are the basis for modern Egyptology.

>with Eratosthenes's dating of Greek History based on Olympiads, with the 
>surviving descriptions of ancient historians such as Arrian, Diodorus, 
>Plutarch, Curtius,Trogus, Polybius, Justin, Josephus etc. etc.

Josephus? <grin> Trogus? With his stories of Sardanapalus? And I'm
surprised he didn't mention Herodotus. That's usually the trump card.

Retrocalculations aren't really compatible with all of those sources
without fudge factors being introduced. But "compatible" isn't really
the issue, anyway. I mean, all of those sources are compatible with Eric
Von Danikken's theories of gods from outer space, but they certainly
couldn't be used as evidence to confirm those theories.

>The astronomical diaries are also compatible with various earlier 
>retrocalculations based not on planetary positions but on the somewhat 
>less reliable method of correlating historical eclipse observations with 
>retrocalculated eclipses. This methodology, already used in Ptolemy's 
>Almagest (which is cited by Rambam as a reliable source for astronomical data)

Surely you're not going to cite the Rambam as an expert in astronomy.
Or are you advocating the view that the planets are embedded in spheres
that revolve around the Earth?

And then we have the issue of translation. One of the most famous eclipses
of ancient times (well, not famous *in* ancient times, but pretty famous
in modern "ancient astronomy") is the full solar eclipse in the year 763
BCE. What makes it famous is that in the Assyrian limmu lists (a list
similar to a list of Roman consuls for each year over a long period)
mention something in the limmu year of Bur Sagale. The term used is
"shamash akallu", which is cognate to the Hebrew, actually. It means
"the sun was obscured". Now... there could have been a volcanic eruption.
That'd obscure the sun. There could have been some sort of meteorological
phenomenon. There could have been an enormous flock of geese, or it could
have been referring not to the sun, but to Shamash, the sun god, and there
could have been something that happened to a well known idol of Shamash.

It could have been a lot of things.

But none of those things would help us pin down dates. So it was decided,
based on no evidence whatsoever, that the term must refer to a solar
eclipse. And a total solar eclipse, at that. But maybe I misspoke
myself when I said that there was no evidence. Retrocalculations put a
total solar eclipse over Mesopotamia in 763 BCE. The limmu-ship of Bur
Sagale was, according to the conventional dating of the Assyrian kings,
in 763 BCE. So "shamash akallu" *must* have been referring to a total
solar eclipse. Quod erat demonstrandum. Or rather, a fine example of
circular reasoning.

>Does anyone have any other hypothesis explaining how the conventional 
>chronology came to differ from the SOR chronology and why all reputable 
>modern historians believe it?


>BTW - It is somewhat disingenuous to say that secular historian disagree 
>on dating. Although this is certainly true- the disagreements tend to get 
>smaller and smaller as one moves from 2500 BC to 650 BCE. Thus errors in 
>dating Hammurabi 's reign within the period 2500 BCE- 1500 BCE and 
>consequent disagreements amount to many hundreds of years, while when we 
>get to the period 650 BCE - 75 CE, such disagreements are generally about 
>one or two years, i.e. Do we date Cyrus's conquest to 539 or 538 BCE or 
>Nebuchadnezzer's conquest to 586 or 587 BCE? Does the Seleucid year start 
>in the Spring or Dall. etc .etc.

This is true. Scholars are remarkably careful never to contest the
standard dating by too much at any given time. You can get in trouble
if you do. Here's a fun article about someone who recently got hoist on
the dominant paradigm: <http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110006220>

Consider it a cautionary tale.

>None of the reputable secular historians I am aware of contest the 
>accuracy of dates derived from the Neo Babylonian astronomical diaries.

"Reputable" = "accepts and works within the dominant paradigm".
It's basically a tautology.

>SOURCES - A good sources for explaining the basis of secular chronology is 
>Ezra Bickerman's Chronology of the Ancient World, which points out not 
>only the areas of agreement but the areas of uncertainty as well.


It's Elias Bickerman, and the book was written in 1968.  A lot has been 
done since then.


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Date: Wed, 02 Feb 2005 10:11:24 -0500
From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <ygb@aishdas.org>
The A of the U

A backchannel correspondence has been going on for some time on the A of
the U. This is my correspondent's latest post and my response. I hope
it will clear up some issues. (I have omitted his name. I leave it to
him to decide if and when he will be identified.)

1. We have been discussing the approach of Rabbeinu Bachye (RB) at the
beginning of his peirush al haTorah, where he seems to indicate that
large amounts of time transpired between Bereishis and Yehi Ohr. My
correspondent assumes that this is figurative or spiritual time, and his
evidence is primarily in that RB states that the 974 generations mentioned
in Chazal were only oleh b'machashavah, not actually created. I wrote in
my last email that obviously I cannot convince him, to which he respnded:

>You haven't tried. I (as you requested) pointed you to where RB states
>openly that the 974 generations were only b'machshava, not b'poel...no
>response. I pointed you to where RB says that there was no time before Yehi
>Or...no response. Since this RB is your primary source (as you stated in
>your last e-mail), I would have liked to have seen some further elucidation
>from your side regarding this RB.

I would like to explain my position: In order for there to be room to
assume the world to be billions of years old, there need not be human
beings on earth for that long - or even any amount of time prior to
Adam HaRishon. There needs to be matter. And since it seems evident
from RB that matter (the tehom, a combination of afar and mayim) existed
prior to Yehi Ohr, it is possible to posit this A of the U according to
RB. But in any event, the RB certainly seems to indicate that *something*
existed prior to 5765 years ago.

2. Later in my last email, I stated: I have no idea how old the world
is - and don't really care. My interest is in making as many shittos as
possible legitimate options within Orthodox dogma.

To which my correspondent answered:
>Why? Don't you care to know the truth? Do you not think that when
>considering the ancillary properties of one of the ikray ha'emunah, one
>should strive to reach the absolute truth without compromise? IMO, when
>pursuing Torah subjects, one should be animated by one desire alone; to
>reach the amita shel Torah. Not to make as many shittos as possible
>legitimate: for two reasons.

>First of all, this approach is dangerous because it can cause its adherents
>to read things into Chazal and Rishonim that are not there in order to
>satisfy their mandate of legitimizing. And second, we follow our great
>teachers in their approach to milchamto shel Torah. When it comes to
>legitimizing, Rashi and Tosafos didn't do it. They fought tooth and nail.
>Rava and Abaye didn't do it. R' Meir and R' Yehuda didn't do it. Beis
>Shammai and Bais Hillel didn't do it. Neither should we.

So, I must say that I disagree vociferously with this
approach. I have written an essay on Eilu va'Eilu, which is at
<http://www.aishdas.org/rygb/eilu.htm> that lays out my position that
there are multiple potentially legitimate approaches. Moreover, in this
area, in which there is no nafka mina l'hilchasa, and no possible way
to ascertain "emes l'amita" short of revelation min hashomayim, there
is no need to lock into a certain position. So long as one believes the
Beriah was created by Hashem Yisborach and that the account in the Chumash
describes the process, one is in line with normative Jewish belief.

My correspondent's subsequent statement...
>There is no Chazal that state openly that the world IS older than 5765
>years. Thus, when you say "evidence", I assume that you mean that to your
>mind, several of the maamarei Chazal can be understood (and perhaps seem to
>say) that the world or universe is older than 5765 years. Perhaps the reason
>you choose to be noteh towards this interpretation is because, as you state,
>nature seems to indicate that the world or universe is older than 5765. It
>might then be helpful to discuss exactly what "evidence" you see in the
>world that indicates an older beria. If the scientific evidence can be dealt
>with, perhaps the necessity to lean towards interpretations of Chazal in
>this manner would also fall away. Just a suggestion.

...is thus rendered moot, as it is of no concern to me to ascertain who is

3. I then wrote that while I reject evolution, I believe the Beriah
indicates a progression (which cannot be explained but by yad Hashem). To
which my correspondent replied (here I am including some exchanges):
>Incorrect. I have dozens of quotes from leading palaeontologists and are all
>modeh that there is not even a single continuous sequence of fossils
>demonstrating the theory of progression as stated above. For instance: "The
>facts are that many species and genera, indeed the majority, do appear
>suddenly in the record, differing sharply and in many ways from any earlier
>group, and that this appearance of discontinuity becomes more common the
>higher the level, until it is virtually universal as regards orders and all
>higher steps in the taxonomic hierarchy" (G.G. Simpson Tempo and Mode in
>Evolution pg. 99) Now, if you've studied evolutionary theory at all, you
>would know that George Gaylord Simpson is no yingel. In fact, he is from the
>gedolei acharonim in evolution. I have much much more to say on this topic,
>but suffice to say that "I" am not the one that "says so".

>> You may be right that it does not exist, but it is not relevant.

>That is the biggest error you can make. Of course it's relevant. A lack of
>fossil evidence showing a gradual descent from less complex, less advanced,
>imperfect forms, to more perfect and adapted forms is the biggest proof THAT
>IT NEVER HAPPENED. Otherwise, where are the fossils to prove it?! The TY
>relied heavily on what he thought was strong scientific evidence to support
>his thesis as is patently evident from the paragraphs I quoted to you.

>> There is no reason NOT to say that a PROGRESSION occurred.

>Of course there is! Open a chumash. No where does it state that Hashem
>created less perfect forms, and then progressed to more perfect forms.
>Hashem said "let it be" and millions of perfectly adapted perfectly
>functioning cows, trees plants etc. instantly came into existence. They
>didn't progress.

>> So saith the Malbim explicitly.


So, let me clarify that progression does not need to be "a
single continuous sequence of fossils." Aderaba, we would expect a
progression that is the product of yad Hashem to davka be punctuated
and discontinuous. And so it is.

The Malbim is in Bereishis 1:20.

I then asserted that even were one to accept the theory of evolution,
one might still be a maamin (a classic example of this approach is to
be found in the Appendix to the Hertz chumash). I wrote that I doubted
that the agenda of evolution was to do away with G-d, saying:
>> I doubt it was with the agenda you assume. Darwin himself was a maamin.

...to which my correspondent responded:
>You are sorely mistaken. Darwin was an apikorus of the highest order. I do
>not have time to discuss his life with you but you apparently know nothing
>about him or his theories. (actually, a good thing)

Perhaps. But perhaps not ;-) - see 
<http://tinyurl.com/53l2m> [reduced from a www.wood-tang.com link -mi]


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Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2005 12:29:19 +0200
From: M Plaut <yatedmp@yated-neeman.co.il>
A Chiddush about Kabbalah

I think that the following is relevant to some of the discussion here
over the past several months, and I do not think that it was noticed.

In signing a recent letter, HaRav Yaakov Hillel, rosh yeshiva of Ahavat
Shalom and certainly one of the greatest living authorities about
Kabbalah, wrote (my translation):

"I also join the gedolei hador mentioned above, and [I join in] their
warning and protest. And I add that in bringing proofs to their mistaken
opinion from the works of the Mekubalim, they include themselves among
the megalei ponim baTorah shelo kehalochoh veshelo beKabbalah ha'amitis,
and they distort divrei Elokim chaim to make them conform to their
invalid opinion."

I believe that the background to what HaRav Hillel is saying is as
follows. One of the most basic prefaces to the study of all Kabbalah is
the insistence and warning that everything said in Kabbalistic works is
to be taken as a moshol and that chas vesholom one should not ascribe
physical characteristics to spiritual things. This is compared to making
and idol and keeping it secret (Devorim 27:15: Orrur ho'ish asher ya'aseh
pessel umaseichoh to'avas Hashem... vesom baseiser), applying it to one
who makes a mental idol (that is, a mental picture of a physical entity
applied to the spiritual spheres) and even keeps it in the recesses of
his heart.

Therefore, the very notion of applying principles, concepts and statements
that are made in areas of Kabbalah to issues like the age of the physical
universe, is - to put it mildly - inappropriate.

Perhaps the members of the list are aware of this objection but it was
new to me and I thought that I should bring it to their attention since
these matters have been discussed on the list.

Kol tuv,
Mordecai Plaut

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