Avodah Mailing List
Volume 16 : Number 073
Monday, December 26 2005
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Sun, 25 Dec 2005 14:47:18 -0800 (PST)
From: Harry Maryles <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: a person who is in the "wrong body"
> I was asked the following question...
> I was wondering about a theoretical situation in which a man is not
> just gay, but convinced that he is really a woman in a man's body.
> Such a person is moved by his conviction to have a sex-change
> How would the halakha and the Jewish community look upon such an
I don't think there is any question. A person's gender does not change
halachicly because of the mutilation of his or her genitalia. A man
would have a din of A Crus Shafcha. A woman... I don't know. But just
because we have the scientific and medical knowledge to remove or add on
genetalia doesn't change a person's sex. Society's views on the issue
don't affect this Halacha. For example, such a “woman” would still be
Chaiv in all Mitzvos Aseh SheHazman Gramma. “She” would still have to put
on Teffilin for example and not doing so “she” would be Over on an Aseh.
A better question might be once such a person does Teshuva, would they
be allowed a reverse procedure? Or are they stuck with what they have
now. My guess is that they would be allowed in the same way that a Bal
Teshuva is allowed to reverse a vasectomy. The Din a of a Crus Shafcha
is Lo Yavo BaKohol. A Crus Shafcha may not marry. RMF, IIUC Matir’d a
a Bal Teshuva who has had vasectemy reversal to re-enter the Kohol and
Go to top.
Date: Sun, 25 Dec 2005 15:23:38 -0500
From: Shaya Potter <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Joseph and His Father
On Fri, 2005-12-23 at 14:39 -0500, Zvi Lampel wrote:
> The Ramban (Miketz 42:8) asks why Joseph did not contact his mourning
> father for 22 years, being a mere 6 days distance from Egypt to
> Hebron. Some mefarshim find his explanation difficult. I thought of
> another explanation in the 1970's, based upon peshat (and supported by
> Midrashim) which basically proposes that Joseph thought his father was
> "in it" together with his brothers, and had no interest in knowing his
Does this pshat really fit with "Ha'od Avi Chai?"
Go to top.
Date: Sun, 25 Dec 2005 23:53:20 GMT
From: "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Being exposed to minus
I guess it's now a couple of weeks since I raised my questions on
this issue, and I suppose it is high time that I responded to the many
insightful posters who responded, both on-line, and privately.
It seems that my questions on this topic have resulted from from very
basic lack of understanding - on my part - of some very basic and
important concepts, specifically, the concept of Torah Sheb'ksav,
the concept of Torah Sheb'al Peh, and the concept of Kisvei Kodesh
Prior to this thread, my understanding was that Torah Sheb'ksav and
Torah Sheb'al Peh were given to Moshe Rabenu in their entirely. More
specifically, "Torah Sheb'ksav" was given to Moshe Rabenu in writing,
and while "Torah Sheb'al Peh" might not refer to the actual text of the
midrash, gemara, etc., it does refer to all of the concepts and ideas
in them. (What I'm trying to say is that Moshe Rabenu might not have
been aware that Rav would be the one to darshen the pasuk to mean A,
or that Shmuel would be the one to darshen the pasuk to mean B, he most
certainly was aware that the pasuk could be darshened in those two ways,
and that *is* Torah Sheb'al Peh.)
Further, it never occurred to me that there might be something which *is*
Torah, but is *not* Torah Sheb'ksav and is also *not* Torah Sheb'al
Peh. Therefore, if a person who studies, oh, let's say the Alei Shur
or Shmiras Shabbos K'Hilchasa, *is* considered to be learning Torah,
since those texts are not Torah Sheb'ksav, it must be that the person
is learning Torah Sheb'al Peh.
From the above, it has always seemed to me that if a person is learning
Sefer Iyov, that constitutes learning Torah Sheb'al Peh.
It is from this that all my confusion has stemmed. Several posters
have suggested that Nach is part of Torah Sheb'ksav. If I would change
my thinking to accept this one axiom, I think all my other problems
with this thread would be answered very nicely and logically. It is a
difficult change to make, but with the help of the posters here, I will
certainly consider it.
(PS: I am very willing to accept refinements and corrections to my
definitions above. For example, according to what I wrote, the two
interpretations of the pasuk were known to Moshe Rabenu and therefore
constitute Torah Sheb'al Peh, and so learning them constitutes Talmud
Torah. But *if* Moshe Rabenu did not know that Rav would say A or that
Shmuel would say B, and those names were not part of the Torah Sheb'al
Peh which he passed to Yehoshua and onwards, then is learning who said
what a part of Talmud Torah? Or perhaps associating Rav with A and Shmuel
with B is not Talmud Torah, but is merely a convenient way of referring
to the interpretations, so that we can more easily refer to subsequent
interpretations (which *are* Talmud Torah, since Moshe Rabenu knew of
them, even if he did not know the names).)
Go to top.
Date: Sun, 25 Dec 2005 20:14:43 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky and Length of Maaseh Breshis
Samuel Svarc wrote:
>Wrong question. They would have to ask, "Is it l'chatchila to believe
>that the world is *more* than 6000 years old". RSK could very well hold
>that one is not an apikorus if one believes that the world is older, and
>at the same time hold that it's not a l'chatchilatige belief.
For those who want a written statment from a godol that the world can
be greater than 6000 years old - I recently discussed the issue with Rav
Belsky. He acknowledged the validity of such a belief and noted that he
had recently published the first of a projected 10 volume commentary on
Chumash where the justification for holding this view is stated clearly.
Furthermore the volume has an extensive discussion of the relationship
of Torah & Science.
Go to top.
Date: Sun, 25 Dec 2005 21:40:39 -0500 (EST)
From: "Jonathan Baker" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Shabbaton: Finding Balance (AishDas/Yavneh) 6-7 Jan '06
Life is a Balancing Act.
For Rambam, philosophical proof competed with revealed truth.
For the Chasid, the physical world is illusory whereas the Divine is the
only true reality.
For Rav Soloveitchik, contemporary Orthodoxy is a life of tension, between
religious desire and secular acceptance, mediated by the Halakhah.
We all need to find a balance between competing goods, the golden mean.
Come explore the realms in which we seek balance at the
Aishdas-Yavneh Minyan Shabbaton:
The Sh'vil Hazahav: Finding Balance Spiritually, Emotionally, Socially.
January 6-7, 2006 at the Yavneh Minyan
1277 East 14th St, Brooklyn, in the Shulamith School
Explore how one chooses among emotions.
Investigate where your personal space intersects with another's ego.
Join us for the Melave Malkah, even if you don't live nearby, where
our rabbinic panel considers the balance between faith in Tradition
and the evidence of our eyes.
Featuring R' Gil Student, of Hirhurim Blog and Yashar Books
R' Yaakov Feldman, translator of many classics
R' Moshe Sokol, R' Shalom Carmy - the academy meets the rabbanut
in dynamic combinations.
R' Micha Berger, Founder, AishDas Society, national lecturer on the Mussar
RSVP by next Shabbat, 31 Dec. 2005. $50 full program, $18 Melave Malka,
Full details at
- jon baker email@example.com <http://www.panix.com/~jjbaker> -
Go to top.
Date: Sun, 25 Dec 2005 21:07:19 -0500
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Length of Maaseh Breshis has no impact on halacha (science of origins is speculative and suspect)
> R Jonathan Ostroff wrote some things that IMHO reflect a lack
> of understanding of some basics of the underlying science.
> I'm assuming here a position of "science is wrong", not
> "pre-aged universe" or "science is accurate" positions.
I must protest this misrepresentation of my views. I have spent most of
my adult life working with engineers and scientists and have a healthy
respect for much of their work.
Here is what I actually wrote in the post that RMB references: "This whole
topic demands much more than has been stated here. But recognize that
great scientists such as Einstein, Newton and even Aristotle thought that
the universe was static and eternal (t = -\infinity). Only about half a
century ago, did scientists became convinced that the universe was neither
static nor even necessarily eternal with the creation time of our universe
now supposed to be at t = -13.7 billion years. This is a discrepancy
of infinite proportions from what was originally held. How did (and do)
such mistakes come to be made? And the rather simple answer is that these
and other speculations about origins were based on untested foundational
assumptions (a current example is the cosmological principle), vast
extrapolations, stubborn anomalies and hypothetical entities that
are supposed to be there but have not been found (the inflaton, dark
matter and energy, transitional fossils etc.). By contrast, operational
science (the type that gets us to the moon or maps the human genome)
is much more reliable basing itself directly on repeatable observable
experiments. Please see my posts on this over the last year and a half
or see the big bang article at toriah.org.for more."
The issue here is *not* the KNOWLEDGE of science (operational science)
for which I have a healthy respect, but the RELIGION of science (as
promoted by ancient Greek philosophers such as Epicurus and modern
Darwinian style methodological naturalists). The following two quotes
illustrate the point.
Is string theory in trouble? [New Scientist interview with Stanford
physicist Leonard Susskind inventor of string theory, 17 December 2005 ]
"Ever since Albert Einstein wondered whether the world might have been
different, physicists have been searching for a "theory of everything"
to explain why the universe is the way it is. Now string theory, one of
today's leading candidates, is in trouble. A growing number of physicists
claim it is ill-defined and based on crude assumptions. Something
fundamental is missing, they say ....". Susskind is asked: "If we do not
accept the landscape idea are we stuck with intelligent design?". He
answers: "I doubt that physicists will see it that way. If, for some
unforeseen reason, the landscape turns out to be inconsistent - maybe
for mathematical reasons, or because it disagrees with observation -
I am pretty sure that physicists will go on searching for natural
explanations of the world. But I have to say that if that happens,
as things stand now we will be in a very awkward position. Without any
explanation of nature's fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer
the ID critics. One might argue that the hope that a mathematically
unique solution will emerge is as faith-based as ID."
[Aside: String theory is needed to remove the contradictions between
relativity and quantum mechanics in the early big bang universe. It was
also hoped that it would provide a naturalistic answer that need not
appeal to design as to why the universe is so fine tuned for life. If
string theory does not work out, new theories (perhaps radically new
theories in the words of Roger Penrose) will be needed to resolve all
these anomalies and paradoxes that may point us in an altogether different
direction than the current speculations over origins.]
Here is RZL's favourite :-). Richard Lewontin [Alexander Agassiz Professor
of Zoology at Harvard] wrote in the New York Review of Books 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 deity is to
allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured,
that miracles may happen."
> And similarly, had the laws of physics changed over time,
> energy would not be conserved today. Since we have witnessed
> the convervation of energy many many times in our lives, I
> think it's safe to say that the laws haven't changed.
Let me once again quote from the published scientific literature:
"The conservation of energy principle serves us well in all
sciences except cosmology. .... Where does all the energy go in an
expanding universe? And where does it come from in a contracting
universe? The answer is NOWHERE, BECAUSE IN THE COSMOS ENERGY IS NOT
CONSERVED". [emphasis added, E.R. Harrison. Cosmology : The Science
of the Universe. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge ; New York,
Perhaps you can see why I am perplexed. Why is RMB making a uniformitarian
argument (RMB appears to state that since conservation of energy applies
today it the fore must have always applied; the premise is correct, but
the conclusion does not follow) when the scientific literature that I
quote chapter and verse states the complete opposite! I think RMB needs
to explain his statement in the light of the statement by cosmologist
Again, on the issue of VSL (variable speed of light) theories, I quote the
published scientific literature which RMB then ignores without bringing
legitimate sources of his own to back up his position.
> For c
> to change would mean that there is a law by which c changes,
> and therefore the greater laws of physics including that rule
> is constant. Still a "uniformitarian assumption". ...
> (And recall that the speed of light can't change, any more
> than the ratio of a foot in the up-and-down direction can
> change in proportion to a foot in the left-and-right. Rather,
> it's shorthand for saying that some other fundamental
> constants changed that if we consider them constant, would
> imply a decelerating value for c.)
Here is some of the published scientific literature on VSL theories that I
have quoted in the past. Even the titles are suggestive of a viewpoint at
odds with that of RMB.
1] Barrow, J.D. Cosmologies with varying light speed. Physical Review D,
 Barrow, J.D. Is nothing sacred? (challenging the rule that speed of
light is invariable). New Scientist, 163(2): 28, 1999.
 Magueijo, A.A.a.J. A Time Varying Speed of Light as a Solution to
Cosmological Puzzles. Physical Review D, 59(4): 043516-1 to 13, 1999.
 Reich, E.S. If the speed of light can change. New Scientist,
183(2454): p6(2), 2004.
 Magueijo, J. Plan B for the cosmos. Scientific American, 248 (58-59),
In , Magueijo calculates that the speed of light may have been
60 orders of magnitude faster than the *current value*, in the early
history of the universe. This is needed to save big bang theory from
various problems and as an alternative to the inflation hypothesis. Note
that Magueijo is working within the normal uniformitarian assumptions
of methodological naturalism. Nevertheless, it is instructive that
yesterday's "heresy" (this is how some scientists looked at his VSL
proposal originally) is today's Physical Review D. As Magueijo and Barrow
point out, this challenges Einstein's proposal for the constancy of the
speed of light. If you read the literature, you will be able to check for
yourself that VSL theories work within the framework of big bang cosmology
in which (contra Dr. Schroeder) time (on the average) ticks uniformly in
all eras for 13.7 billion years, i.e. no change in the time dimension is
envisaged no matter where you are in the universe (again on average). An
increase in the speed of light is measured with respect to the speed of
light today using these standard units of time. Some other constants may
change but these scientists by no means envisage all constants (or laws)
Now here comes a REMARKABLE problem with evidence that is often used
to confuse beginners in their study of the Torah. Some Torah scholars
state that the evidence for an old universe is vast and overwhelming
and thus we must allegorize the Genesis chapters as being non factual
(e.g. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt"l calls the evidence "almost overwhelming"
in his 1979 AOJS address on the age of the universe). For example,
these scholars ask us to consider the starlight problem, i.e. there
is not enough time in a young universe for light to reach us from the
distant stars which are billions of light years away (e.g. see RAK on page
13). These scholars state that the constancy of the velocity of light is
a basic and unquestioned axiom of Einstein's theories of relativity which
have passed every test that physicists have devised. Unfortunately for
their approach, big bang cosmology has its own version of the starlight
problem called the Horizon Problem. Both inflation (Plan A) and a speed-up
of light by sixty orders of magnitude (Plan B, see ) are attempts to
solve Big Bang's own version of this problem. Thus you cannot very well
quote the starlight problem against the Torah when big bang cosmology
has its own problems in this regard, leading Magueijo and Barrow to
challenge Einstein on the constancy of the speed of light. Remarkable!
>> Yet it was discovered in 1996, that in in a storage ring, the half
>> life is 33 years!
>> 33 years vs. 42 billion years!
> Did you read the literature on this? Particles move very
> rapidly in storage rings. What was the half life after one
> takes relativity into account?
After pointing out that the half life in storage rings is reduced by nine
orders of magnitude the authors explicitly state: "Thus one can correct
the 187Re-187Os galactic chronometer calibration, by taking account of
the b-decay enhancement in stellar interiors, which will lead to a more
accurate estimate of the galactic age.", i.e. they state explicitly that
this decay rate reduction needs to be used to correct the Re/Os clock
used to date galactic material. If you doubt their calculations why not
write to the aunthors of this study. As a layman I am in no position to
comment on their correction curves. There are other radiometric clocks
whose decay rates change by 14 orders of magnitude, IIRC, under very
extreme temperatures (not involving storage rings).
Now my point is that if under extreme conditions in place even today
-- we already obtain nine-order of magnitude changes in decay rates,
and since according to cosmologists the universe started off as a hot
plasma in extreme conditions very different than what applies today
(and perhaps simulated somewhat in a storage ring), there can thus be no
scientific guarantee that decay rates were the same in the past. That
would be an unwarranted uniformitarian assumption. This is a point to
which the radiometric dating expert and member of the national academy
of sciences, Brent Dalrymple, was forced to concede according to the
transcripts of the 1981 Arkansas evolution trial. There is much more to
say than has been stated here because there are tremendous problems and
anomalies across the board.
> Claims like these hurt your cause, as it makes it hard for
> the scientifically informed to pick through the blatantly
> mistaken to find any real arguments you may have in your
> support. They are far more likely to dismiss your case out of
> hand, seeing it as being the work of ingnorami.
I don't' think you should use epithets such as "ignorami" until, WADR, you
show yourself to be in command of the published scientific literature. I
urge you to consult this literature as there is little point to this
discussion otherwise. Can you please provide scientific sources that can
definitely demonstrate your assertions on the constancy of the speed of
light and the conservation of energy, taking into account the scientific
sources I have quoted.
The Kedushas Levi writes about the "al hanissim" blessing that we
make on the eight days of Chanukah about the One Who performs miracles
"in this time", i.e. WITHIN TIME as we celebrate two miracles -- the
military victory and the burning of the oil. I heard from RDG that the
Yavani worldview involved the deification of nature. As that student of
their worldview, the astronomer Carl Sagan, once wrote -- the cosmos
is all that is or ever was or ever will be. The Torah, and Chanukah,
refutes this point of view in three distinct stages. First, there is a
Being who transcends nature and is more powerful than nature. Second,
this Being is the Author of nature, who created it with His wisdom and
can use it according to His Will. Third, the absolute reality of nature
(such as its so called eternity and absolute autonomy) is a figment of
our imagination -- all that exists and occurs is only by His will and
wisdom. The first miracle -- the miracle of lights (Chanukah) indicates
to us that even seemingly natural events such as the military victory is
also a miracle thereby refuting the autonomy of nature. Seven connotes
the order of creation, but eight denotes the transcendent as it breaks
into creation and reveals the natural world as an aspect of something
higher (see Maharal, Tiferes Yisroel, Chapter 2, and the JO Nov. 84,
pages 4-7). Here comes the punch line :-) Methodological naturalism
has darkened the world with "choshech". Evolutionists have persuaded the
masses that wonderfully complex organs such as the eye and the brain could
have been produced, unsupervised, by billions of years of the combination
of chance and neccessity following the big bang. Their utter failure
to provide even one testable Darwinian pathway for any complex organ
should immediately invoke a design inference thus allowing us to see
the wonderous and supra-natural design of a universe fine tuned for life.
Have a wonderful channukah.
Go to top.
Date: Mon, 26 Dec 2005 12:08:54 -0500
From: Micha Berger <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Length of Maaseh Breshis has no impact on halacha (science of origins is speculative and suspect)
On Sun, Dec 25, 2005 at 09:07:19PM -0500, Jonathan Ostroff wrote:
: Is string theory in trouble? [New Scientist interview with Stanford
: physicist Leonard Susskind inventor of string theory, 17 December 2005 ]
Back a step. Is "String Theory" a theory? Ask a theoretical physicist.
It's not. There is no resulting formula and no falsifiability, yet.
There are hundreds of versions of the "theory" and at this point they're
still winnowing down which ones are viable.
: [Aside: String theory is needed to remove the contradictions between
: relativity and quantum mechanics in the early big bang universe...
It's just the most popular candidate. Other candidates exist. Such as
causal set theory. No one claimed science was finished yet.
: Perhaps you can see why I am perplexed. Why is RMB making a uniformitarian
: argument (RMB appears to state that since conservation of energy applies
: today it the fore must have always applied; the premise is correct, but
: the conclusion does not follow)...
Not at all. Noether's Theorem shows that for conservation of energy
to hold now, the laws of the universe must be unchanging. IOW, current
conservation testifies to a lack of historical change.
: quote chapter and verse states the complete opposite! I think RMB needs
: to explain his statement in the light of the statement by cosmologist
: Edward Harrison.
1- I've studied cosmology, and haven't encountered Harrison.
2- I won't take this argument seriously until you give me a
perpetual motion machine. Energy isn't conserved??? Try bouncing
that off your co workers...
: Again, on the issue of VSL (variable speed of light) theories, I quote the
: published scientific literature which RMB then ignores without bringing
: legitimate sources of his own to back up his position.
Because citing three crackpots does nothing. Why not at least cite Dirac,
who has some name recognition. Then I can cite why his idea didn't
get anywhere, and why Gamow ran with his idea that G descreases over
time while e increases -- to produce the same effect, and it is more
:> Claims like these hurt your cause, as it makes it hard for
:> the scientifically informed to pick through the blatantly
:> mistaken to find any real arguments you may have in your
:> support. They are far more likely to dismiss your case out of
: > hand, seeing it as being the work of ingnorami.
: I don't' think you should use epithets such as "ignorami" until, WADR, you
: show yourself to be in command of the published scientific literature...
FWIW, I have read the scientific literature. But that's irrelevent,
since I didn't call you an ignoramus. I said that your use of selecting
oddball edge of science theories that have already been dismissed and
margianalized will cause opponents of your position to dimiss it as the
work of ignoramii. A description of appearance to a hostile party.
The only think you and I disagree on is the number of admissable answers,
not whether or not your position is one of them.
Micha Berger Nothing so soothes our vanity as a display of
firstname.lastname@example.org greater vanity in others; it makes us vain,
http://www.aishdas.org in fact, of our modesty.
Fax: (270) 514-1507 -Louis Kronenberger, writer (1904-1980)
Go to top.
[ Distributed to the Avodah mailing list, digested version. ]
[ To post: mail to email@example.com ]
[ For back issues: mail "get avodah-digest vXX.nYYY" to firstname.lastname@example.org ]
[ or, the archive can be found at http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/ ]
[ For general requests: mail the word "help" to email@example.com ]