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Volume 16 : Number 052

Thursday, December 8 2005

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 14:26:42 -0800 (PST)
From: Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
RE: A of the U, again

S & R Coffer <rivkyc@sympatico.ca> wrote:
>> While I still find that the TY's approach is medaber al libi
>> yoser, that is a minor difference.

> Not minor at all. According to the TY, the world is currently 26,766
> years old. Essentially you do not really "fardin" anything with this
> approach as Torah and science are still at loggerheads.

It does not really "fardin" anything?! How can you say that? 

Once you've crossed the threshold of 5766 years you then concede the
Sheshes Yimei Bereshis is not literal. It's like a pregnant woman in
the early stages saying she is only a little bit pregnant. What's the
difference if it is one day longer, 26,766 years longer or 15 billion
years longer? Once the TY has taken out literalness, it opens up other
interpretations of how old the universe actually is. This is what gives
R. Areyh Kaplan the ability to Darshan using his own sources (which
include the TY) and come up with a 15 billion year old universe.

But this type of thinking has been labeled Apikursus.

> And if you are referring
> to Aryeh Kaplan's siluf of this concept, it requires a cholent...

You can call it Cholent if you want, but it does not make his Rayos
any less significant or less truthful. Nor does it deny him the right
to postulate his theories especially since they are all based on
Chazal, Rishonim, and Achronim.

You don't have to like what he said. Neither do any of the banners.
But for them (or you) to say that a view that holds the world to be
millions of years old is K'fira (as they did indeed say) is an
outrage to his memory and a rejection of the thousands of Ehrliche
Frum Yidden who believe as he does. It makes little difference that
they are not considered Kofrim, if their sincerely held beliefs are
labeled K'fira.


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Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 17:54:47 -0500
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <jonathan@yorku.ca>
RE: origin of the universe

>> See <http://toriah.org/science/big-bang/big-bang.pdf> where I argue in 
>> detail that big bang cosmology (like all other dating methods for the
>> universe) is not only speculative but suspect.

> Interestingly the quotes from famous scientists are mainly 
> from those who oppose the big bang and instead believe in a 
> steady state ie infintely old universe. No one of those 
> quoted claim a young universe!

It is also interesting that the steady staters are in disagreement with
each other, each presenting models not acceptable to the others. Since,
none of these theories are mainstream there is no need to critique them
anyway. 90% of the elite scientists at the national academy are either
atheistic or agnostic and each has their own atheistic version of big
bang cosmology.

The physicist Frank Tipler once stated:

"It is universally thought that it is impossible to construct a
falsifiable theory which is consistent with the thousands of observations
indicating an age of billions of years, but which holds that the Universe
is only a few thousand years old. I consider such a view to be a slur on
the ingenuity of theoretical physicists: we can construct a falsifiable
theory with any characteristics you care to name."

And, the Cosmologist George Ellis once noted that:

"A modern cosmologist who was also a theologian with strict fundamentalist
views could construct a universe model which began 6000 years ago
in time and whose edge was at a distance of 6000 light years from the
solar system. A benevolent God could easily arrange the creation of the
universe. ..so that suitable radiation was travelling toward us from the
edge of the universe to give the illusion of a vastly older and larger
expanding universe. It would be impossible for any other scientist on
the Earth to refute this world picture experimentally or observationally;
all that he could do would be to disagree with the author's cosmological

There is no end to the speculations .... 


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Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 19:17:07 -0500
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
Re: Rambam on reinterpreting ma'aseh breshit

> the
> rambam himself states that if he thought the world was never created at
> all but always existed he would not hesitate to interpret the bible in
> such a way.

>No such Rambam. What the Rambam actually states is that chidush is not
>more niskabel al hasechel than kadmus. But now that we have a kabala
>through nevua, we definitely must interpret MB in terms of chidush
>regardless of our personal opinions. (Moreh chelek beis perek 16)

Please be careful

The rambam says several things.

1. In your citation, he states that since neither kadmut nor chidush
are provable - and he spends several chapters refuting the aristotelian
proof of kadmut and the kalam proof of chidush - we should therefore
rely on nevua. Note that nevua has a fairly limited role - it comes
in for determining things not provable by reason - but it is not useful
against reason.

2. In Moreh, chelek beit perek 25, he states that the reason for not
accepting kadmut is not because of the psukim - because they could be
understood in several ways, and they could also be reinterpreted as
he did gashmut of elokim. He then states two reasons why he doesn't
reinterprete them - one a negative (no need to), the other a positive
(it would have a bad impact).

1. Negative - While lack of gashmiut was logically proven, kadmut was
not - and therefore there is no reason to reinterprete. In order to
reinterprete, there has to be logical necessity.

2. Positive - reinterpreting psukim to show lack of gashmiut has no
effect on ikkare emuna. Reinterpreting a la aristotelian kadmut would
have an impact on the possibility of nissim - and therefore would be

However, he specifically states here that reinterpreting a la Platonic
kadmut does not interfere with ikkare emuna, and therefore, if it was
logically proven, he would reinterprete psukim in that sense. HOwever,
as it has not been logically proven, he does not reinterprete them -
there is no reason to.

Therefore, he specifically says that he would reinterprete them if kadmut
(in the platonic sense) was proven. The notion of what constitutes a
bad impact that would make reinterpretation (if needed) problematic is
quite limited - the reinterpretation it entails would make a mockery of
the entire concept of divine intervention

Meir Shinnar

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Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 19:28:11 -0500
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
Re:Age of the U, Again

>I had a long talk with Rabbi Miller
>last night in an attempt to clarify his shita in this matter. What I
>understood him to say is that there is no parallel between the chukey
>hateva today and the chukey hateva of MB so it is impossible to assign
>any length of time which is based on current laws of physics to MB
>with any authority. All we know is that MB occurred in six days, that's
>all. It certainly didn't occur over tens of billions of days and nights,
>regardless of perspective.

To summarize: The world was created in six days. However, the laws
of physics today don't apply, so we have no knowledge of what the word
day means. But we still insist it occured in six days, and saying that
the days were billions of years is clearly epikorsut, even though we
state that we don't know what the word day means in that context...

This seems incoherent - an attempt to preserve the statement (world
created in six days) while eliminating the terms from any meaning.
For statements to have content - the words must have meaning. It is one
thing (and this position is in some ways quite analogous to this position)
to state that as we don't understand what the words in ma'aseh breshit
(bara, or, yom, etc) mean, everything is a sod. It is another to argue
that it is a sod, but that a particular understanding of that clearly
contradicts. Perhaps RSC can explain.

Meir Shinnar

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Date: Thu, 08 Dec 2005 19:29:50 -0500
From: Avodah - High Level Torah Discussion Group <avodah@aishdas.org>
Re: A of the U, again

S & R Coffer wrote:
>Schroeder doesn't say that. Schroeder claims that from Hashem's viewpoint,
>six literal 24 days of time passed but from our perspective, billions of
>years passed and both are correct. I had a long talk with Rabbi Miller
>last night in an attempt to clarify his shita in this matter. What I
>understood him to say is that there is no parallel between the chukey
>hateva today and the chukey hateva of MB so it is impossible to assign
>any length of time which is based on current laws of physics to MB
>with any authority. All we know is that MB occurred in six days, that's
>all. It certainly didn't occur over tens of billions of days and nights,
>regardless of perspective.

Yup. Schroeder alright. Hu asher dibarti leimor. It doesn't matter 
whether they were days and nights, days and nights, or just six days and 
six nights. Point being, a long long time before -5766.

>>While I still find that the TY's approach is medaber al libi
>>yoser, that is a minor difference.

>Not minor at all. According to the TY, the world is currently 26,766
>years old. Essentially you do not really "fardin" anything with this
>approach as Torah and science are still at loggerheads. Evolution was
>still Lamarckian in the TY's times. Natural selection, a mechanism that
>requires eons of time, was not yet proposed. And if you are referring
>to Aryeh Kaplan's siluf of this concept, it requires a cholent of the
>TY who didn't hold of the livnas haSapir's calculation who didn't hold
>of rYdm'A's cheshbon (meiras einayim al hatorah or R' A Kahn's source
>which aligns rYdm'A with the Sefer haKana's calculation), of the opinion
>of rYdm'A's misrepresented words elsewhere in a manuscript. I definitely
>wouldn't characterize this as the "TY's approach".

Sorry, you're quibbling. Once we are more ancient than 5766 with
destructive cycles in between constructive ones, we are home free. It
is only a matter of degree.

Why do you introduce Evolution? Eino nogei'a l'inyaneinu.

BTW, I am mocheh b'kol tokef on your calling R' Aryeh Kaplan's mahalach
a "siluf." It is NOT a siluf. It is a legitimate and probably true
interpretation of the sources.


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Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 17:57:36 -0500
From: "herbert basser" <basserh@post.queensu.ca>
Re: R Slifkin

Simcha Coffer's corrections to my post are accepted with thanks.

Simcha coffer says Maimonides did not say he could darshan MB as implying
eternity of matter if need be. My memory was from 1999 avodah-- a post
by Gasner -- I'll accept Simcha's view unless Gasner can defend the
assertion he wrote on R. Herzog:

" Take, for instance, the doctrine of the eternity of matter taught
by Aristotle. Maimonides rejects this, not because it conflicts with
the letter of the Torah, but because he is not convinced of its truth.
Were he absolutely convinced that Aristotle's position was immovable,
he would reinterpret the words of the Torah accordingly, but as
Aristotle could not really prove his case, Maimonides sees no reason
for reinterpreting the Torah."

As for kofer, apikores and rasha-- rabbi s miller says his [rns]books
are minus and kfira and invokes the baal hagada's comments on the rasha--
so again simcha is right, he said minus not apikorsus.

Zvi Basser

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Date: Fri, 09 Dec 2005 01:15:55 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
Re: Slifkin

S & R Coffer wrote:
>>4. Not every error is kefirah. One can be wrong and not be an apikorus.
>>And one can be very learned and be a kofer.

>I've made the following point several times by now. No one is calling
>RNS a kofer. The gedoley Torah are merely protesting his shittos some
>of which, in their opinion, are kefiradic in nature. RNS is not a
>kofer! He can't be; there are too many people, some of them learned,
>that still follow his erroneous shittos. If their will ever come a time
>in our history when there will be an almost universal acceptance of the
>opinions of the banners, we can talk about him being a kofer at that
>time. Hopefully mashiach will come first.

Your assertion is rather astounding. I would suggest that your read
through the condemnation that have been collected on R' Slifkin's web
site - especially the ban that was published in the Yated.

<http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/yated1.jpg>. They are not accusing
him of merely being a nebach apkiros. They claim that it is not just
his erroneous views - as you seem to believe - but even worse is his
heretical attitude.

Daniel Eidensohn

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Date: Fri, 09 Dec 2005 02:39:03
From: "Dr. Josh Backon" <backon@vms.huji.ac.il>
MB and R. Slifkin

Look at the Rambam Hilchot Melachim 12:2 (on Yemot haMashiach) and what
the Radbaz says: "keivan sh'ein dvarim eilu l'inyan halacha velo l'kayem
ikkar min ha'ikkarim ein ra'ui l'dakdek ba'hem".

WHAT DIFFERENCE does it make if Maaseh Breshis lasted 6 of our days of 12
billion years ? As long as we believe in "briya yesh m'ayin" and that the
RBSO was the effector, what difference does it make ? Especially if there
are many mefarshim who indicate that these 6 *days* were of an enormous
length (the first 3 days of Briya had totally different type of *time*
as there were no sun in the sky). See Rabbenu Bachya on first Passuk
in the Parsha and Targum Onkelos on the meaning of b'reshit as b'kadmin.


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Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 17:32:10 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
RE: hashkafa 101 - some thoughts and questions

On December 8, 2005, Gershon Seif wrote:
> Last night I was teaching someone the first perek of mesilas yisharim.... 

R' Gershon raises so many fundamental issues in yahadus that RMB would
never allow a post that responded to all of them. It would be way too
long. May I humbly suggest that one or two issues at a time be submitted
for discussion? There are many important issues that RGS broaches. They
all should all be dealt with in a meticulous fashion...

Simcha Coffer

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Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 22:35:39 GMT
From: "Gershon Dubin" <gershon.dubin@juno.com>
Re: Moshiach

Gershon Seif <gershonseif@yahoo.com> wrote:
> I recall learning a Meiri somewhere in Ervin but I don't remember
> where, that states that l'gabei whatever halacha that sugya was talking
> about, beeas Moshiach is a milsa d'lo schicha. Do you know where I can
> find that?

There's also a teshuva on why anything that requires Eliyahu Hanavi's
pesak should be a davar sheyesh lo matirin. The answer given (I believe
it's a rishon; certainly not less than an early acharon) is that the
food would rot by then.


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Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 14:41:41 -0800 (PST)
From: Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
RE: TIDE and TuM

S & R Coffer <rivkyc@sympatico.ca> wrote:
>> Why are these Beggadim not M'yuchad to Goyim?  Because Jews started
>> wearing them.

> Wrong. They are not meyuchad to goyim because clothing is a human
> accoutrement, not a national one. The Torah talks about pants and suits and
> shirts etc. and it was written far before any current culture was conceived.

Where does the Torah talk about ties? Ties are most definitely not
an invention of the Jewish people. It is Meyuchad to Goyim. In fact
I believe that this is one of the reasons that certain Chasidim don't
wear ties. But just about every Litvsishe Gadol I've ever seen a picture
of was wearing a tie? Chukas HaGoy? No.

Chukas HaGoy is tied to the relationship they have with Avodah Zara.
And that is the reason for Lo Selechu. To utilze any object that is
neutral such as a tie does not violate Lo Seleichu. One might quibble
about other artifcts of non Jewish culture and I would agree that
emulating Goyim in those instances violate Chukas HaGoy. That's because
those items could indeed lead to AZ of GA.

But if they are just incidental to non Jewish culture and have nothng
to do in any way with AZ or GA, there is no issur. That's why Blue Jeans
(as you admitted) are not Assur even if they do "label" you.

I wear a black hat. Does that label me?


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Date: Thu, 08 Dec 2005 16:28:56 -0500
From: Sholom Simon <sholom@aishdas.org>
*miyuchad* to goyim

>The Rambam then goes on to say that it is assur to wear a begged that is
>*miyuchad* to goyim. A tie is not miyuchad to goyim just as pants, shirts,
>jackets and any other universally accepted form of dress are not miyuchad
>to them.

But when they (e.g., ties) first started, weren't they miyuchad to goyim?

 - Sholom

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Date: Fri, 09 Dec 2005 01:44:44 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
Aggada & Rav Sherira Gaon

S & R Coffer wrote:
>On December 5, 2005, M. Press wrote:
>>5. Those who demand respect for the current rabbonim should think twice
>>before speaking contemptuously of geonim and rishonim. To say that
>>the words of Rav Sherira are apikorsus if uttered today surely requires
>>strong evidence.

>The last person who said that Rav Sherira gaon was dismissing Chazal
>was also banned. (see Maharal's definition for RSG's term umdina in
>Beer haGola).

The Maharal questioned whether Rav Sherira gaon actually said that
aggada is umdiina. Then he interpreted it so as not to mean rejection.
The fact is that Rav Sherira Gaon did say such and this was understood
by such authorities as the Menoras HaMeor. Similar views are readily
found in the rishonim.

*Sefer HaEshkol**(Hilchos Stam):* Rav Sherira Gaon [found in Sefer
HaEshkol] stated that those things which are produced from verses and
are called medrash or agada are the result of deductive reasoning
(/umdena)/. Some of them fit this description such as Shimon being
included with Yehudaג€¦ which is supported by the fact that Yehoshua had
a portion with Yehuda. However many Agada are not such as Rג€™ Akivaג€™s
identification of Mekosheis as being Zlafachad or Rג€™ Shimon identify
the ג€œtenth fastג€ as being the fast of the 10th of Teves. The various
views are presented in the Agada and medrash and we decide based on
understanding which we view as praiseworthy. This is true also of the
later medrashim such as from Rג€™ Tanchuma and Rג€™ Oshiya where the
majority are not based on deductive reasoning. Consequently, we donג€™t
rely on the authority of Agada. The valid ones are the ones that are
consistent with our understanding or supported by verses. However,
there is no end to Agada. Rav Hai Gaon was asked what is the difference
between those Agada and medrashim which are written in the Talmud and
those that are not? He replied that whatever is found in the Talmud is
more valid that what is not found in the Talmud. Nevertheless, even those
Agada and Medrash which are found in the Talmud if they make no sense
or are erroneous are not to be relied upon. That is because in general
we donג€™t treat Agada as being authoritative. However that which is
found in the Talmud, we should correct their errors if possible. That
is because if they didnג€™t have validity they would not have been
included in the Talmud. Those that we cannot figure out how to correct
should be viewed like that which is not the Halacha. In contrast that
which is not in the Talmud, we have no need to attempt to correct them
and make sense out of them. We merely should examine them as to whether
they are correct and nice. If they are, we teach them. If they are not,
we pay no attention to them.

*Menoras HaMeor**(Introduction): *Rav Sherira Gaon wrote: Medrash and
agada which are derived from verses are just conjecture. This statement is
true, however, only for some of the more recent medrashim such as those
of Rג€™ Tanchuma and Rג€™ Oshiya and to a small number of agada found
in the Talmud which were written speculatively. An example of the latter
is found in Shabbos (96b) where it states that Mekosheis and Tzelafchod
were two names of the same person. However, the majority of medrashim
and agada are profound secrets and esoteric wisdom as well as ethical
principles, good traits and conduct as well as beneficial prescriptions
for health and spirituality. It is not fit to reject the majority for
the sake of the minority. Even the Torah which is interpreted through
the 13 hermeneutic principles there are minority opinions and views
which are clearly not the Halacha. Nevertheless, they are recorded in
order to aid in determining the truth.

*Shmuel HaNagid**]**(Introduction to the Talmud): *Agada are all the
statements in the gemora that are not concerned with Mitzvos. You should
only learn from them what makes sense. Those statements of Halacha
which Chazal indicate are from Moshe Rabbeinu which he received from
Gג€‘d can not be modified, however Chazalג€™s explanations of verses
were done according to whatever each one thought was correct. Therefore,
whatever makes sense of these explanations you should study and the rest
do not rely on.

*Rambam****(Moreh Nevuchim 3:*43): Concerning the four species of the
lulav, our Sages have explained it to some degree by means of drashos.
The manner of medrash is well known to those who understand their
discourses. The medrashim are considered by our Sages as a form of
poetry and do not view them as expressing what the particular verse
really means. Regarding medrashim people fall into one of two groups.
The first group imagines that the Sages said these things to explain
the actual meaning of the verse. In contrast, the second group despises
the medrashim and views them with contempt since it is obvious and clear
that they are not the actual meaning of the text. The first group fights
to establish the truth of the drasha according to their understanding
and to defend them since they consider them the actual meaning of the
verse. Thus, the first group views medrashim to have the same status as
the accepted Jewish law. Neither of the groups understands that in fact
they are both wrong and that the medrashim are in fact a type of poetic
expression which is readily understood by an educated person. ג€¦ For
example, Kesubos (15a) states the verse stating that one should have a
shovel together with his weaponsג€”should be read to mean that when a
person hears something disgusting he should put his finger in his ear.
Is it conceivable that the Sage who made this statement really believed
like the ignorant that this verse is actually referring to plugging up
oneג€™s ears?! I donג€™t think that there is a single intelligent person
who would think that. It is obvious that this is a poetic expression to
teach an important moral lessonג€”not to say or even hear disgusting
things. The verse was merely used as a vehicle to support this idea.
This is true concerning all medrashim where it says ג€œdonג€™t read the
verse in the obvious way but rather read it likeג€”.ג€ I have gotten
off the original topic by this discussion but it serves a necessary
purpose for all intelligent people who are committed to the Rabbinic
understanding of Judaism and its law.

*Rav Avraham ben HaRambam****(Essay on Derashos): *The fourth type of
drasha are explanations of verses in the manner of poets. What they say is
not because they believe it is the actual meaning of the verseג€”Gג€‘d
forbid! This is what our Sages mean when they say the language of
verses is different than ordinary speech [Chullin 137b]ג€¦One should not
think that the drasha is merely explicating that which is in the verse
as those who are ignorant think. These ignorant people think that the
drasha is based upon some tradition and it constitutes Torah itself and
is part of the Torah traditions. This is simply not so! They are simply
comments about verses which are not connected with foundation principles
of religion or Halacha when they donג€™t have a tradition concerning the
verse. Some of them are simply conjecture and some are beautiful poetic
expressions. They utilize the verses for whatever they can associate
with them but it is in essence a form of poetryג€¦The main point is that
these drashos are not the actual meaning of the verse but are ideas and
expressions that are independentג€¦ Close to the majority of drashos of
our Sages are in fact in this fourth category. This is the truth that
cannot be questioned except by idiots and fools. This category is itself
subdivided into as many types as there are different types of poetic
expression and ways of thinking. It is important to understand this.

Daniel Eidensohn

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