Avodah Mailing List

Volume 08 : Number 034

Tuesday, October 30 2001

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 10:49:47 -0500
From: "Michael Frankel" <michaeljfrankel@hotmail.com>
Re: iqqorim

I have stated my opinions in some detail already in my original response
to RGS and RYGB and so will forebear to do so again, since little has
changed. I will merely note that RGS's claim that the differences between
rambam's original iqqorim and what -- even he now concedes -- is, in
numerous cases, the different understanding that both past and present
day talmidei chakhomim hold, is only "slight" is a judgement call on
his part with which I disagree and indeed find hard to understand. The
clearest counter example is of course iqqor 8, where, as RGS would have
it, a "slight" deviation of less than 1% from the traditional text,
is contradicted by the vast theological gulf that lies between the
perfection of a perfect torah text and any error. I took issue with his
other "slight" divergencies as well but make up your own minds about that.

But i will respond to a completely new claim in his postings. an assertion
"she'loa shiarum avoseinu" and is articulated, near as I can tell, for
the very first time on this list -- but will be happy if he (or RYGB)
can point out some other published moqore. And that is the claim that
what iqqorim originally meant to the rambam isn't all that important,
since people no longer hold from that (though of course the difference
is only 'slight"). Rather, what is important is how the chakhomim of
today understand those iqqorim to mean, even if that disagrees with
their original m'chaber. Indeed, RGS inform us there is a category of
"normative iqqorim" which actually differ from the originals but yet
retain all of the original's power to create an apikorus. (Now there,
by the way, is the real halochic leap, or rather a halochic bait and
switrch scheme). Now whether you feel this is correct or not -- and i
do not -- one has to recognize that it is an original formulation which
one is entitled to question and not at all some well accepted common
wisdom in the frum world which shapiro need hardly have even bothered
to write an article to point out -- as claimed by RDE. (try a test --
walk into your local yeshivah's bais medrash and pick on a few random
learners there. explain to them that the rambam's iqqorim today weren't
really what the rambam meant exactly, but what is required was belief
in your current version -- not the rambam's. see how far you get.)

RDE's discussions about the starting points for an academic vis a vis a
poseiq's perspective is by and large accurate -- up to a point. And that
point (ok, line) was crossed when he started to discuss the necessity of
following hashkofic beliefs in the same way one submitted to halochic
consensus. This is simply unsupportable, ignores the host of m'qoros
which dispute it, and assertions to the contrary cannot make it so. His
suggestion that the (implied -- sole) job of the orthodox jew is <...to
understand what gedolim say about these things -- to the best of his
ability.> is similarly unsupportable, though it certainly represents a
popular position. But it also poses a host of unanswerable questions --
exactly who are the g'dolim whose consensus hashkofoh one may not disagree
with and whose opinions it is our (sole?) mission to understand? Would
e.g. the "mizrachist" g'dolim, who were surely a small minority
of their class (indeed we can always define the "legitimate" voting
group in which haskkofos we deem unpopular will be a small minority)
be considered unworthy of philosophical emulation?. RDE's remarks about
dr. Sternberg's BDD article deserve an entirely separate thread. the role
of to'us in m'tzius and the halochic process is much too source-rich a
topic to be casually blown off because the error in m'tzius happens to
be pointed out by a "professor". Unless RDE is actually disputing the
notion that such factual errors -- undisputed by anyone today, i hope
-- can have halachic resonance. Neither Dr. Sternberg, nor any other
academic that i'm aware of, has suggested that the halachic implications
of such academically uncovered factual errors are to be "legislated" for
practical purposes by any other than the very pos'qim whose prerogative
to do so RDE zealously defends. Thus, now that academics have explained
the facts of blood life, the approach of the chelqas yaacov or (the
somewaht different approach) of r. shlomo zalman to paternity tests is
what one may look to -- not the medical encyclopedia. Or, now that our
academics have explained that internal plumbing and respiratory system
different than the SA's conception, we might look to a poseiq to draw
the appropriate practical conclusions etc. etc.

RYGB's statement that <I still stand by my original point. Our friend
Dr. Shapiro's book, I am sure, will prove my point to an even greater
extent... > remains puzzling since I still haven't noticed where he's
even attempted to prove his point. Validation by repetitive assertion is
a mode of communication more usually limited to the advertising industry
and pentagon spokesmen. Since he is convinced that Dr shapiro's book --
which has not even appeared yet so surely he cannot have read it -- will
only prove it to an even greater extent, one can only infer that arguments
to the contrary which may be adduced in this yet non-existent tome are
ignorable l'mafre'oh. Not really much point in bothering to read it.

Two quick errata:

1. In my original post responding to Rgil, in discussing iqqor 8, i
stated that the late rosh yeshivoh, r. yaacov weinberg z"l, was one of
those who also publically acknowledged the likely differences between
our present torah and the exact toras moshe. That should of course have
been r. yaacov kaminetsky z"l.

2. In my discussion of the contemporary perceptions of r. akivah
schlesinger z"l, i stated that:
< to wit, dr sterman writes: <..the dyeing process are well known,
but it is important to be fair. According to Rabbi Borstein's excellent
sefer HaTecheiles, the Lev HaIvri, Rabbi Akiva Yosef Schlesinger, a posek
of great stature, not only supported the Radzyner position but wrote a
sefer in its defense. He was every bit the equal of...> to which i must
respond -- huh? By what perspective has r. schlesinger...>

my apologies to dr sterman who never said what i had attributed to
him. Apparently it was dr. Singer who made the original remark.

Now, i'm outta this topic.

Mechy Frankel                   W: (703) 588-7424
michaeljfrankel@hotmail.com     H: (301) 593-3949

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Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 10:17:15 -0500
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
FW: Ikkarim

With regard to the statement from Yad Eliyahu:
My source is the sichot of Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook on sefer breshit. (the
haftara of toldot)
First, (p.241) he cites the Vilna Gaon (perush on tikkune hazohar,
tikkun 21 daph 57:2), on the pasuk veet esav saneti Hashem yitbarach
sone mekatreg al banav. Af hakdoshim.

p. 243.
In the sefer Yad Eliyahu of Rav Eliyahu mikalish, it is explained hat
one should not say on rabim miyisrael that they are epikorsim, just
as one can not make two or three irot nidahot next to to each other,
because one may not make a karahat in am yisrael. Guarding eretz israel
is dohe the serious issur of avoda zara. kal vehomer, that one may not
make a karahat in am yisrael, through the calling of an entire zibbur
beshem rasha, even for sake of milhama lashem.

The footnote cites yad Eliyahu, 1, psakim siman 25.  with the following 
direct quote:
vegam beemet halila lanu likrot leam rav epikorsim, ki amru hazal shelo
la'asot ir hanidahat ci im leir benoni, vehalo kriat shem epikoros nokev
veyored ad hatehom.

This notion that calling someone an epikoros is nokev veyored ad
hatehom is, I think the reason that hachamenu were so reluctant to call
others epikorsim, and that therefore the normal rules of psak, with the
willingness to tolerate multiple regional and historical variations, do
not apply. I think that because of various internecine warfares, (and,
among the hangers on of the gdolim, if I was being cynical, I would add
the lack of other permissible diversions), this reluctance has been lost,
so eminent members of this group are surprised at its existence.

Lastly, one point of mecha'a. In responding to R Eidenson's point that
every gadol agrees, I brought down that he does not know that the opinions
of leaders of the MO such as R Lichtenstein and R Lamm. He suggests
that I need to bring proof to the contrary (which I find remarkable).
However, in a very telling difference, he says that if gdolim such as
R Lichtenstein and R Schechter (who, by the way, for all of his gadlut,
is in no reasonable sense of the term modern Orthodox) would agree, he
might listen. Clearly R Eidenson does not mind impugning the credentials
of talmide chachamim with whom he disagrees, but I for one am moche.

Meir Shinnar

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Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 10:54:37 -0500
From: "Michael Frankel" <michaeljfrankel@hotmail.com>
Re: iqqorim and R. Moshe b. Chisdoi/Taku

Lets see if we can identify a problem with this picture. 
On the one hand we have a card carrying rishon, one of the baalei
tosophos no less. An odom godole -- not my own characterization but
rather that of the ramban who, when quoting him in gitin (i.e. he's
the type of person the ramban might choose to quote when discussing a
sugyoh), refers to the 'chokhom haggodole mi'polanyoh". An odom godole
who not only wrote tosephos but also wrote extensive peirushim on bavli
and yerushalmi that were still relied upon and quoted extensively by
one of the great early ashkenazi acharonim, mahari brunah. An odom
godole who was (likely) the rov in regensburg during the golden age of
ashkenazic learning (when presumably you really had to know something
considering the talent available) and was the sort of leading figure
that other german rabbonim might turn to with shailos -- as did the
collective rabbinic leadership of magdeburg.. I.e. a rishon's rishon
most of whose original and voluminous talmudic works have been lost --
hardly an unusual fat! e for even for first rank ashkenazi rishonim
(does the meiri ring any bells?), we have a few of his t'shuvos extant so
also know he was m'chaber responsa. He was also a fierce anti-philosophy
polemicist (in which he was hardly alone amongst ashkenazic rishonim)
with some fragments of work surviving and others by quotation.

On the other hand we have mention on this list that: 
<2. Who exactly cares what this fellow says anyway? Perhaps his fellow
medieval Jews did not drink R' Moshe of Taku's wine uncooked!> followed
by <Big deal. I would quote Prof. Lieberman, and even Prof. Ginzberg,
without certifying their Emunos as legitimate by doing so>

On a list whose members generally display a commendable sensitivity for
the kovode of g'dolei yisroel in general let alone a rishonic talmudic
commentator and authentic member of the baalei tosephos -- and RYGB is
usually to be found among those setting the positive standard here --
the tenor of remarks quoted, p'shuto ki'mashmo'oh at least, is wildly
inappropriate. An irony here is that r. moshe b. chisdoi was anything
but the usual strawman of a contemporary "academic". He was rather a
classical talmudic master who went to war with the philosophizers and
allegorizers of his day -- a position which might ordinarily resonate
positively with some of the more critical members of this list.

Mechy Frankel                        W: (703) 588-7424
michaeljfrankel@hotmail.com          H: (301) 593-3949

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Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 10:29:21 -0500
From: Baruch Sterman <baruch@deltathree.com>
Murex Tekhelet and halachic principles

> It is at least a little conceited to think that he [Rav Herzog] would
> agree to P'til's answers to all of his objections, let alone think the
> Radzyner Rebbe would also accept P'til's position. I do not think it is
> the way of Torah or science to make such claims.

I disagree with this assertion. We have to differentiate between halachic
principles and the application of those principles to a given situation.
Just as it is not "conceited" to discuss the Rambam's opinion regarding
turning on a light on shabbat, it is perfectly acceptable to examine
what the Radzyner or Rav Herzog would say about a particular candidate
for the chilazon - given their writings on the halachic criteria for
accepting or rejecting a chilazon. The Radzyner writes (Sefunei T'munei
Chol, page 14, 1999 edition):
    If after searching, our hands will obtain the blood [secretion] of any
    kind of chilazon from which we may dye a color similar to tekhelet,
    a dye that retains its beauty and does not change, we will surely
    be able to fulfill the mitzvah of tekhelet without any doubt.

Assuming that the color of tekhelet is indigo (an assumption that many,
though not all, poskim accept), then according to the Radzyner, tekhelet
from Murex would be kosher. Similarly, Rav Herzog has his criteria for
examining the "kashrut" of a chilazon. According to the data available to
him, he felt that the Murex was problematic. If new data is discovered,
then we have to assess Rav Herzog's position on the basis of his
halachic principles and the correct information - not on the basis of
the information that was available to him 100 years ago! For example,
if Rav Herzog felt that one condition for kosher tekhelet is that the
dye does not fade, and he thought that Murex dye fades, then he would
have found Murex to be problematic. If we now know that properly dyed
Murex extract is among the fastest dyes in the world, then the Murex is
no longer problematic (at least in terms of this particular criterion)
- even according to Rav Herzog.

If we take the position of the Tifferet Yisrael, that the sufficient
conditions for kosher tekhelet are the correct color and a dye that
won't fade, then Murex tekhelet would be kosher. According to Rav Ariel
of Machon Hamikdash, this opinion would accept Radzyn tekhelet as well,
so that both Radzyn and Murex tekhelet would be kosher.

If we look at the opinion of Rav Soloveitchik z"l (not the Beis Halevi -
I mean the Rav) that without an unbroken tradition as to the identity of
the chilazon, one can not consider a chilazon to be halachically valid,
then neither Radzyn nor Murex tekhelet would be acceptable even if they
were in fact the very same species used in the times of the gemara.

If one accepts the position attributed to the AR"I, that the mitzvah of
tekhelet will/can not be reinstated until Mashiach comes, then you can
draw the appropriate halachic conclusions.

The same principle would apply to other halachic positions - we can
extrapolate from their writings, even if they never heard of Murex.

The bottom line - and really the only line - that P'Til Tekhelet asserts is
that according to some views, Murex dye is kosher for tekhelet. As such, we
make the strings available for those people whose understanding of the
various and complex halachic issues lead them to the conclusion that they
would like to wear tsitsit with Murex tekhelet. If someone feels in light of
the different opinions and data that they would rather wear Radzyn tekhelet
or wear only white - or even that they would rather not wear tsitsit at all
- that is a halachic decision that any bar-hachi has the right to make.

Baruch Sterman

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Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 11:48:59 -0500
From: MPoppers@kayescholer.com
Re: re Birkat haBanot

In Avodah V8 #32, Chana Luntz replied:
> I may have missed this bit of the discussion, but while ROY here
> appears to hold that you use two hands, my husband uses one only on
> the grounds that he is not a cohen (in contrast to his uncle, who was
> with us this last Friday night who of course blesses with two hands).
> Was this discussed previously?

More than one listmember has noted what he does. The way B'raishis 48
reads, I can see using either one or both hands, but I'd like to hear
why (alleged advice of the GRA nonwithstanding -- source, please?) one
should avoid using two hands merely because Kohanim use both their hands
in Birchas Kohanim, given that the only similarity is the use of the same
p'sukim (and, at that, Birchas HaBonim is defined more by "y'see-m'cha"
than by those p'sukim, while Birchas Kohanim doesn't involve "y'see-m'cha"
at all).

All the best from
Michael Poppers * Elizabeth, NJ

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Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 14:41:42 -0500
From: "Sholem Berger" <sholemberger@hotmail.com>
Kesivah beShabbos with non-Hebrew scripts

>(Off topic: WRT kesivah beShabbos, how many Chinese or Bliss ideograms
>or Sanscrit syllables correspond to the shiur?)

If shtey oysyos represent the minimum length of a Hebrew word, a cople of
questions would be

(a) Shouldn't the shiur be less in English (etc.), since there are several
one-letter words?

(b) Even a single stroke can have meaning in Chinese. Should this therefore
be the shiur?

If shtey oysyos is not analyzable as the minimum word-length, then these
questions become less relevant.

Sholem Berger

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Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 20:28:21 +0000
From: Chana Luntz <Chana@KolSassoon.net>
Re: varying minhogim re number of neiros Shabbos - two vs. one per family member, et

In message , Phyllostac@aol.com writes
>5) Licheora if a woman whose family custom is to light more than two marries
>a man who's custom is to light only / davka two, she should follow the custom
>of the man, as with other similar situations - correct (unless he is mocheil,
>e.g. for sholom bayis [the prurpose of neiros Shabbos]).

Not necessarily, even according to those who hold that a woman should
adopt all of her husband's minhagim. For example, ROY holds that a woman
should adopt all of her husband's minhagim, but makes an exception for
aspects of taharas hamishpacha (eg how often the woman immerses in
the mikvah) on the grounds that the husband does not have a minhag.
That means that, even if the custom of the husband's community is to
immerse seven times in the mikvah (ie the common Sephardi minhag), if
the wife's communities minhag is to dip three times (common Ashkenazi
minhag) ROY held that the woman could follow the latter.

Candles might well fall into the same category, ie the husband never had
a minhag (his mother may have, but then, she probably got that from her
mother, not from her father).

> Tangentially, I
>have seen what may be more women keeping their pre marriage customs nowadays
>after marriage, (perhaps the influence of the feminist movement is involved)
>and I think that could be dangerous at least at times, to sholom bayis,
>etc. Even if the husband does not object, he may harbor resentment inside -
>even if he says that he is mocheil - it may not be bileiv sholeim.

Rav Henkin in Bnei Banim has a teshuva on this matter - perhaps he
would care to elaborate. The flip side of the matter you describe is
the unhappiness and discomfort felt by the woman - especially where
the minhagim are really different and the changeover is therefore quite
dramatic (after two years of marriage, I still have difficulty knowing
where we are at services in my husband's shul. They use the Iraqi
pronunciation - ie "w"s for vavs and beits when we would use veits,
not to mention pronounced ayins and distinctions between chets and chafs
(which I don't think I could physically do even if I tried), they chant
in a way my ear is not attuned to, they add all sorts of extra things and
even the things I know they do not do in the order in which I am used to,
not to mention all the disconcerting illustrations in their siddurim.
They also take *for ever*. After a year I went and joined an Ashkenazi
shul where kol nidrei is the kol nidrei I recognise and I have a hope
of following/davening).

In fact, this issue was one that very nearly led me to stop dating my
husband in the early days, because I assumed as you do that a woman had to
adopt her husband's minhagim. Adjusting to marriage is hard enough as it
is without having to completely change how one davens/bentches/cooks/keeps
shabbas etc etc etc. It was only after I had various discussions with
various people (including being referred to Rav Henkin's teshuva) and
with Robert (my husband) about the matter that I realised that it was
not necessary, and hence not a bar to pursuing a serious relationship.
The rest, as they say, is history. The arrangement we worked out (which
runs pretty close to Rav Henkin's position) was that defacto I would
keep my minhagim and him his, but that his minhagim would govern the
food in the house (hence rice on pesach, glatt meat, chazarah of cooked
food on shabbas). To be honest, however, when people come from such
a different background as far as minhagim go, I am not convinced any
other solution genuinely works given that marriage is a sudden break
and usually happens relatively quickly - I would have needed months of
intensive preparation to even think of taking on Sephardim minhagim,
because they were just not part of my background. As time goes on,
and I get more familiar with what Robert does, it becomes more possible
and one does get a bit more comfortable, at least with aspects of it,
so that by 120 no doubt I will be fully conversant.


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Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 18:50:49 +0200
From: "Carl M. Sherer" <cmsherer@ssgslaw.co.il>
Re: Confessions of a hyper correct leiner?

On 30 Oct 2001, at 10:58, Michael Frankel wrote:
> i wanted to query the readership, especially those who have access to or
> may frequent, minyonim from the various exotic (to ashkenazim) eidos,
> whether they are aware of any community which regularly differentiates
> all their sh'voh nohs in spoken hebrew.

In my shul, the better baalei kriya all know how to differentiate 
between sh'va noh and sh'va nach. 

-- Carl

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Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 19:48:08 +0000
From: Chana Luntz <Chana@KolSassoon.net>
Re: Fwd: Re: Ha'Chovel

Catching up on back issues:

Yosef Gavriel and Shoshanah M. Bechhofer <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu> writes:
>BTW, I hope everyone is aware that Rav Yosef's seudah on today's daf is the 
>source of Bar Mitzvah celebrations. 

I wondered about that when I saw it - but presumably that could only be
true according to those that hold that a Bas Mitzvah celebration is a
seudas mitzvah just as much as a Bar Mitzvah celebration. According to
those (most of the olam, as far as I can see) who even when they make
a Bas Mitzvah seudah do not treat it as a seudas mitzvah eg say shir
hama'alos, must they not have a different source.


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Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 13:14:25 EST
From: Maylocks1@aol.com

I don't want to invovle myself anymore on this debate, since my complete
argument will be available in the book. But I can't resist making a few
more points.

1. The debate began because it was alleged that not merely was it
forbidden to beleive, but it is forbidden to even READ material that
departs from the 13 principles. According to this we can't read sections
of Talmud, Zohar, Rashi etc etc. See my response to criticism in TUMJ
4. I don't think anyone advocates this.

2. Re. God's incorporeality, it is not merely that gedolim believed God
had a form (Raavad calls them gedolim ve-Tovim mimenu -- he obviously
drank their wine, and was referring to people such as R. Moshe of Taku),
but it is also that many gedolim have refused to categorize such people as
heretics, and I am referring to gedolim who themselves didn't believe God
had a form. There has been some reference to calling the anthropomorphists
nebich apikorsim. This is indeed Rambam's position. But what about Raavad,
who says that if you believe God has a body you are not a heretic? What
about R. Yosef Albo who says likewise? What about the Hovot ha-Levavot and
Or ha-Hayyim (Yavetz) who also say that if you mistakenly believe this
you are not a heretic? People on this list act as if there is general
agreement on this issue when in fact it was debated for hundreds of
years. Sages haven't spoken of it much in the last few hundred years,
since there is no longer any dispute, but this doesn't mean that if
confronted by a contemporary anthropomorphist they would regard him as a
heretic. In fact, I am sure many gedolim would rely on the Raavad so as
not to declare a fellow Jew who doesn't know any better a heretic.Isn't
the Raavad enough of a gadol to rely on in shaat ha-dechak, even if you
don't want to accept his view le-khathilah. Remember, the whole concept
of nebbich apikores is the view of Rambam (and Abarbanel and others)
but not the view of Raavad, Radbaz, Crescas et. al.

3. Rambam did not believe you could decide matters of faith as you
do halakhic issues. I know that Hatam Sofer and others disagreed. But
re. the Rambam, doesn't anyone see the circular argument. Rambam says
you can't poskin in matters of faith, and the reply is, "we don't poskin
like the Rambam."

4. I think what my book will demonstrate is that our sages treated
issues of theology with as much seriousness as halakhah, and just like
Rambam's views were often rejected in matters of halakhah, they were
often rejected in matters of theology.

5. Finally, someone raised the issue of free will. Rambam did not include
this as a principle. Good thing, because you find deterministic schemes
in Crescas, R. Zadok and the Izhbitzer.

I don't know if we have a debate between academics and gedolim (although
this probably enters the pictures somewhat). I think it is mostly
a debate between those who see Jewish theology as incorporating many
often contradictory approaches and those who see it as no different than
halakhah, where everyone must follow a unified practice. I can tell you
that many academics left the yeshiva world precisly because they saw
that the richness and broadness of our tradition wasn't permitted to
flower in the yeshiva, where one hashkafah dominated.

       Best wishes to all,
            Marc Shapiro

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Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 09:22:27 +0200
From: "Daniel Eidensohn" <yadmoshe@bezeqint.net>
Ikkarim:Academics vs Torah

> I was completely confused by the comparison between Shapiro and Shlomo
> Sternberg. The article of Sternberg argues that many rishonim/achronim
> and some gemaras were not aware of facts of nature and as such modern
> psak has to deal with this problem. If some acharon did not believe that
> a missing heart was a treifa it is not enough to call those who disagree
> academics and therefore not to be accounted for. I do not know Shapiro
> but have met Sternberg several times and he is a very knowledagble Talmid
> Chacham in addition to his great knowledge of math and biology.

Let me try one more time. From the responses I have gotten - it seems
that the bimodal distribution reflects hardwired ways of perceiving the
world. There are those who view what I have said to be totally obvious
and correct and then there are others who view that I am trying to do
a hatchet job on a great talmid chachom who only wants to reveal the
truth. I will cite extensively from Prof Sternberg's comments for those
of you who don't have access to the article and don't understand the
basis of my criticism.

Everyone will agree that there are disparities to be found between certain
views in the rabbinic writings and what is found in medical books. The
question is what do you do about it. There is the position of Rav Hai
Gaon and the Rambam's son and apparently the Rambam who feel that medical
statements of chazal are not based on mesora from Sinai and thus the
assertions in the gemora can be rejected in favor of current scientific
knowledge. As I posted awhile back - Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach says this
view has never been rejected but by an large totally ignored. He asserts
that therefore this position is not the basis of halachic decisions and
should be assigned a status of yeish omrim. There is no discussion by Rav
Hai Gaon or the Rambam's son what they would do with a consistent pattern
of gedolim apparently ignoring the disparity. [Also as far as I know they
also don't deal with the issue of trefos.] So we have a rather consistent
finding that poskim from Chazal to the present - make halachic rulings
which are sometimes at variance with our current medical knowledge.

1) The summer 2001 edition of Tradition provides an example of the
traditional Torah approach. Dr. Rosner has an article "Eating fish and
meat together Is there a danger? He reviews the literature and then
gets into discussing the meaning of the literature and the apparent
reality that there is no actual danger. He concludes, "the prohibition
of the consumption of fish and meat together is a rabbinic ordinance
based on possible unexplained harm that may result. The best medical and
scientific knowledge nowadays fails to provide evidence to support such
possible harm. Although the facts may change, the Torah never changes and
rabbinc decrees and ordinaces cannot easily be set aside...Our knowledge
of nutrition nowadays is far from perfect. The intimate chewing togetter
of meat and fish may cause the mingling of certain fatty acids or other
substances which may be harmful to the body. Until we have scientific
evidence to the contrary observant Jews will continue to abide by the
rabbinic wisdom of old which was based on personal observation or first
hand knowledge. It is also possible that the talmudic sages adopted this
cautionary appraoch to the eating of fish and meat together based on
earlier medical sources and informatin transmitted to them. A cursory
search of the writings of Galen and Hippocrates, however, fails to
provide such a source.

In sum, even though he dealing with a rabbinic decree which has solid
sources such as the Chasam Sofer to be lenient - he nevertheless does
not say or imply that the poskim who prohibit are wrong, ignorant or
out of touch with reality.

Let's contrast this with the observations of Prof Sternberg in an article
focusing on "errors" that chazal and subsequent poskim have made and
the five approaches that rabbinic authorities deal with these errors.

page 84. 1) Rav Dessler's position: Halacha has an eternal existence
independent of any scientific assumpoins. the "Explanations" found in
the talmud are not the cause of the halahca. These "explanations" are
no longer valid but each and every halachah remains unchanged because
HALACHIC LITERATURE. Nevertheless it has supporters today in the Orthodox
community." 2) Chazon Ish: "The second and most popular position today is
that of the Chazon Ish which has been taken to its logical extreme by his
students and followers. Many if not all laws were given at Sinai only in
general form:it was the task of chazal to crystallize them into precisely
formulated laws (this is remarkably close to that of Zechariah Franked
and to the early leaders of the American Conservative movement....All
scientific statements of Chazl having halachic consequences were
correct! [the professors astonishment] One must assume infallibity on
the part of Chazal...The notion of actual changes in nature became an
ideological position for the Chazon Ish and his followers....we are
supposed to take this position seriously![the professors astonishment]"

3). Denial "by many halachic authories and refusal to accept scientific
statements if they flatly contradict Talmudic doctrines which have
halachic implications. For someone reared entirely in the Yeshiva world,
the talmud and its commentators represent the ultimate authority. Hence,
when there is a direct challenge to the veracity of statemnts of Chazal,
especially those with direct halachic consequences, it is easy to
understand how one may choose to deny the scientist's claims."

4) "Recognizing that Chazal were influenced by the assumptions of
their time and that we must take into account advances in scientific
knowledge...even if this means on occasion that some details of the
halacha are modified."

5). Mixture of the above. He cites Rav Moshe as being in category 4
and also 5. 4 because of the professors' understanding of Rav Moshe
(which I dont' see supports his contention) ruling on p'tzua dakka and
5 because Rav Moshe doesn't want to alter the laws of treifah.

Then page 93 he asks? "Should we update the terefah laws? In view of what
I have written above why not? should we not have a committee of Rabbis
meet once every several hundred years to take into account advances
in biology and medicine?"
[he then cite some solid opposition to his agenda - without citing any
that support him!!!]

Rambam says "One must not add anything to these laws . ...Those that
were listed and were said to be terefah, even if it would seem from the
medical methods in our hands that some are not fatal and it is possible
to survive - you should only accept what has been listed by the sages..."

After citing the rejection of his program by the Rambam he then cites
the rejection of his program by the Rashba and then cites "the classical
formulation of the 'denial' formulation" of the Rivash. Then he cites the
"erroneous" understanding of Rav Yonason Eibeshutz. "from this time on, it
would appear ridiculous to any Yeshiva graduate to contemplate an update
of the terefah laws while remaining faithful to the tradition. ...It
is unfortunate that the current trend in the educational system in
most yeshivot is to move even more toward closure and less openess to
science and the real world. This can only have disastrous consequences
for the future."

"So it is not as Rabbi Carmell states, tolerating a few factual errors
for the sake of ease in the decision making process. IT IS A WHOLE SYSTEM
THAT HAS COLLAPSED. "[This is his view of the competence of rabbinic
authority in his own words]

"Hazon Ish bases his theory of terefot on the phrases "2000 years of
Torah" implying that the Torah crystallized during this period, and
"Rabina and Rav Ashi are the end of decision making". I DO NOT BELIEVE

As I noted in my previous posting, he also rejects the position of
the Chazon Ish and Rav Solevetichik and Rav Moshe etc who assert "that
although individual talmidei chachomim may be wrong, the Mesorah community
of all talmidei chachomim in all generations cannot be wrong"


In sum - Prof Sternberg is unabashedly single handed taking on the
institution of rabbinic authority through the ages and asserting that the
rabbis are wrong, ignorant, denying reality etc etc. He obviously feels
that rabbinic authorities as an institution is not primarily concerned
with truth but rather covering up or denying their ignorance. If he cited
any major rabbonim to support his position I would have kept quiet - but
his entire article is a catelogue of what he views as the backwardness,
incompetence etc of rabbinic authority. He- like prof Shapiro- apparently
finds the present system of authority and poskim inadequate and in need
of enlightenment.

This is not a yeshiva versus modern orthodox issue.

                            Daniel Eidensohn

Go to top.

Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 09:25:21 +0200
From: "Daniel Eidensohn" <yadmoshe@bezeqint.net>
Re: Ikkrim

> To my mind, the goal of an academic is to find objective truth. (This
> explains academia's trend toward relativism when it can not find anything
> objectively verifiable.)

> The aim of limud Torah is to make the truth subjective. This means that
> Torah can also be supported by subjective experiences, things that can
> not be relayed to a third party.

Came across following the observation of Prof Malter in his biography
of Rav Saadiya Gaon p174

"A Greek thinker enunciated the idea that doubt is the first step toward
knowledge [Aristotle Metaphysics B chapter 1] it is through skepticism -
the refusal to accept things as they present themselves - that we arrive
at a better understanding of their causes and a fuller comprehension of
the universe. This doctrine, now the common property of all philsophers
is characteristic of the pagan conception of the origin of truth. For
the heathen there is no ready made truth, no pre arrranged system of
thought to be relied upon in our conduct or in our interpretation of
nature. The Platonic ideas and a few mathematical axioms to the contrary
notwithstanding, all knowledge is the product of our own mind, the fruit
of our observation and experience. G-d himself is not a given entity,
not an a priori truth, but merely an inference something to be found by
a logical process of demonstration.

In striking contrast thereto is the doctrine of Judaism. G-d, to
begin with the point mentioned last, is not an object of reasoning and
argumentation. His existence is a matter of course, an absolute fact
neither to be doubted or proved. He the Creator of the world, is the
source of all knowledge the foudantion of all truth. He revealed himself
to His peole and gave them an eternal law, which was to make them live
in accordance with His will, and He continued to guide them through His
prophets and inspired teachers.

In a system based on such principles there is no room for doubt or
scepticism. If scepticism is the generator of philosophic truth, Judaism
as a positive relgion could never become the bearer and promulgator of
such truth. In fact, Judsaim is not a systm of philosophy, but a moral
theology. It is not a scientific doctrine based on and developed by
speculative thought. leaving asidethe legalistic elements, it is the
immediate expresion of religious feeling and emotion.

                        Daniel Eidensohn

Go to top.

Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 12:36:06 -0800
From: "Eli Turkel" <Eli.Turkel@colorado.edu>

> And so too, IMHO, we must not label a rishon as an apikorus just because
> he did not beleive in Yesh Me'ayin. Quite the contrary, we get a mitzvah
> of Talmud Torah when we work on understanding why Rabenu Tam felt melacha
> could be done so late on Friday, and we get a mitzvah of Talmud Torah
> when we work on understanding why other rishonim disagreed with other
> issues which we now take for granted.

I would make some slight variations to what Akiva wrote

1. Anything decided in the Talmud is accepted and one cannot rely on
minority opinions e.g. Hillel II etc.

2. Anything stated by a major rishon or acharon is acceptable and not
However, not everyone who lived at the time of the rishonim or today
qualifies. I don't see how someone like Taku can be accepted as a
major rishon.
However, anyone relying on Rambam is not an apikorus even when his
opinions are not generally accepted.
Since the days of the fights over Rambam many hundreds of years ago
he has been accepted. Similarly for Ramban, Ran, Rabbenu Tam etc (non
exhaustive list)

Recent acharonim would be more controversial as to whom one would accept at
least as a minority position.

Eli Turkel

Go to top.


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