Avodah Mailing List

Volume 13 : Number 084

Tuesday, August 31 2004

< Previous Next >
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 13:35:32 -0400
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
RE: Public expression by women

> First of all, Torah study is unique in the sense that it is not a
> public act. Secondly there is also overlap in what women are actually
> required to study since Matan Torah, what is optional, and what was
> considered  taboo (but technically not Assur) until the Eis Laasos
> caused by the reformation and enlightenment which in turn spawned the
> BY movement. Women have always needed to know Torah in areas
> pertaining to woman (e.g. family purity), and to know all of the
> Lavin and Mitzvos Aseh SheEin HaZman Gramma. The Gemarrah made
> teaching women Torah taboo equating it to something called Tiflus.

First, talmud torah can be public - in a public shiur. Would you oppose
public shiurim?
If not, then this is not the meaningful distinction. If it is, what is
it about being public that is problematic?

Second, the overlap exists in many other areas - one could just as
easily talk about issues of WPGs - women have always needed to pray -
and say kriat megila - women have always needed to hear kriat megilla -
and the public forms of it were taboo but not asur (except perhaps for
some shittot for kriat megilla - but there were women reading megilla
for other women in, for example, Nadworne, Galicia in the 1930s without
any objection).

Third, the equation of teaching torah to women with tiflut is one opinion
in the gmara - and RYBS held that that the rama (and therefore ashkenazim)
don't pasken by that opinion. However, the taboo against teaching torah to
women was felt quite strongly by some - see eg, R Feinstein's tshuva on
teaching mishna - and is therefore is halachically more problematic than
other public manifestations - and the question is why this is something
that you have no problem with, but aren't willing to change?

> So, Torah study is qualitatively different than other modalities. In
> the case of WTGs and just about anything else I can think of that are
> modled on male behavior the performance is  more public. Just because
> a WTG is done amongst women only, for women, and by women even
> without any male presence, deosn't really make it less public, does
> it?

But the major sociological change is precisely that women's role is more
public. The question is how to acknowledge that.

> My only objection is in the area of ritual performance. I encourage
> full participation of women in all other areas as I have already
> stated. R. Esther Jungreis is going to be giving the invocation at
> the onset of Tuesday's session of the Republican National convention.
> Although I have some minor differences with her general approach, I
> applaud the fact that she is being given this public honor.

And yet, you supported RHS's oppostion to women getting a public honor
at the wedding by reading the ktuva - even though it has no ritual

> I do not understand this need at all. I cannot understand it in men.
> I cannot understand it in women. Why the need to develop new rituals.
> Don't we have enough? Can't we just concentrate on trying to perfect
> those required of us. And why must religious rituals reflect the the
> status of the workplace? There is hardly any parrallel between the
> two.

The fundamental difference that has happened in the status of women is
that many of them do not function (in their secular roles) in a strictly
private role - but play a significant public role.
You don't understand it in men - yet, even the most retiring back bencher
is, by participating in a minyan, inherently part of the public life of
the Jewish community. This issue of being public is not necessarily a
matter of kavod - although being honored by the community is something
that isn't always viewed as bad (notwithstanding the mussar approach).

The women now have a mechanism of participating in the public life of the
general community - but there is no real mechanism for also being part
of the public life of the Jewish community - and that is the inherent
problem which needs a solution.

> The only thing comparable would be to become the Rabbi of...
> say... Lincoln Square Synogouge. That ain't happining. So why bother
> with half a loaf anyway? Ultimately it will still be unstisfying to
> those seeking egalitarianism in every sphere of life.

The issue egalitarianism is a real one - but they are not seeking
egalitarianism, but a recognition of their existence as public creatures.

Meir Shinnar

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 10:47:48 -0400
From: bdcohen@optonline.net
Public expression by women

<< But as I stated in an earlier post, the fact that it is an almost
exclusively MO enterprise to seek such venues raises the suspicion in my
mind that at least at a subliminal level the motivations are not sourced
entirely in a Torah Hashkafa.>>

This is a circular argument, or definitionally self-refferentail.
IOW, its a chicken or egg thing definitionally. Is it not the fact that
the individual desires greater female participation in public fora
that make s her definitionally MO? Once you do that, of course it's an MO

<<The very attachment of the word Orthodox to feminist shows that at the
heart of any problem O feminists have in expressing their Avodas HaShhem
is the feminist concern. Feminism in its current incarnation is nothing if
it is not about improving the lot of women in a male dominated society.>>

I, very humbly, think you miss the point. O, in general, has in the 21st
century galus become "synagogue-centric", and subliminally , but not
officially, been ascribing greater value (in terms of avodat hashem)
to the public act. The subliminal message (despite our philosophic
apologetics) is that the male dominated rituals are the important ones. We
do not normally praise the spirituality and kedusha of the women with
the cleanest home. Should we? Of course. Do we? Get real.

David I. Cohen

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 18:22:19 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Public expression by women

On Mon, Aug 30, 2004 at 10:47:48AM -0400, bdcohen@optonline.net wrote:
: I, very humbly, think you miss the point. O, in general, has in the 21st
: century galus become "synagogue-centric"....

In his book "The Rhythms of Jewish Living: A Sephardic Exploration of the
Basic Teachings of Judaism" R' Marc Angel argues that this is something
Ashkenazim assimilated from Xianity. And that Sepharadim are much more
in tune with the natural cycles (annual, daily, etc...) and better live
the notion that Yahadus is all of life rather than beis medrash and beis
kenesses centered. That undo Ashkenazi Synagogue centrality is a side
effect of living amongst people who think in terms of cathedrals.

Thus the difference between the farmer of this week's parashah and the
19th century yeshivah bachur.

The majority of the work is about those cycles, not the polemic. And
A vs S polemics aside, it's an observation worth considering. While I
wouldn't buy it in its totality, I see an element of truth.


Micha Berger             A person must be very patient
micha@aishdas.org        even with himself.
http://www.aishdas.org         - attributed to R' Nachman of Breslov
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

Go to top.

Date: Sun, 29 Aug 2004 22:55:14 -0400
From: "" <hlampel@thejnet.com>
Age of the Universe

Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com> posted on Tue, 24 Aug 2004:
> Professor Gerald Schroeder illustrates in his book 'Genesis and the
> ig Bang a model of the creation of the universe to describe how the
> wo positions, of six 24 -- hours and 15 billion years, are unified.
> he six days of creation does not contradict the age of the universe as
> eing 15 billion years old

This is similar to proposing that (as far as earthlings are concerned)
Hashem sped up the rate of natural processes so that what would
"naturally" take billions of years to happen, occurred in 24 hours. I
won't go into my objections to this idea now; but I will express my
curiosity as to why RHM finds this acceptable, and does not object,
"I believe that God would not deliberately fool us by giving us vast
evidence that indicates an old universe while in reality he created it
6000 years ago to 'look' that way," as he does in the very same post
when he continues,

> To relegate all factual evidence as having been "planted" by God in 
> our universe to make the world look old so that one can read Genesis 
> in it's literal form is to betray one's own intellect.

Would my version be more palatable if I had the title of "Professor"?

In the same post RHM cites, approvingly, Professor Cyril Domb of Bar Ilan
University (In the publication: B'or Hatorah, #11 -- 1999, page 174.),
quoting Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, of blessed memory, as saying:
    "The bible does not describe things in terms of objective truths known
    only to G-d, but in terms of human understanding... The Bible uses
    human language when it speaks of the "rising and setting of the sun"
    and not of the rotation of the earth, just as Copernicus, Kepler,
    and other such scientists, in their words and writings, spoke of the
    rising and setting of the sun without thereby contradicting truths
    they had derived from there own scientific conclusions. Loshon
    benei adam, "human language", which is also the language of the
    Bible, describes the processes and phenomena of nature in terms
    of the impression they make on the human senses, without thereby
    meaning to prejudice, in any manner, the findings of scientific
    research." (S.R. Hirsch. Collected Writing, volume 7 (New York:
    Feldheim, 1992), page 57.)

Let's think this through. To us earthlings, the sun appears to rise
and set, therefore the Torah speaks of it as rising and setting. To us
earthlings, the world appears to be billions of years old. Therefore
the Torah speaks of it as being less than 6,000 years old?

Or, from another angle: What "impression made on human senses" of
"processes and phenomena of nature" made the world seem only 2,000
years old to our ancestors at Sinai, so that the Torah, in "using human
language" "spoke in terms of human understanding" spoke of the world
being formed in only 6 days, whereas it actually took billions of years?

To continue, RHM:
> Rabbi Samson Rapahel Hirsch clearly refuse[d] to deny reality in that
> way. Quoting Rishonim that support your views do not sway me away since
> the factual evidence discovered since their day (which they did not have
> to deal with) tends to refute them.

    "[F]rom the forces and elements that we observe operating on earth today,
    and from the length of time which these forces require for generating
    changes today, people draw conclusions with doctrinaire self-assurance
    about the age of the earth, an earth that as such is completely
    unknown to us and of which we know today about as much as we do about
    the membrane surrounding the yolk of an egg. Quite aside from all the
    possible influences of extra-terrestrial forces (which even this notion
    admits may exist) and aside from the influence of a creative, almighty,
    extra-worldly power...(which the notion of the eternity of all matter
    [as well as basic evolutionary theory--without the refinements Torah
    believing Jews might want to impose] simply dismisses), might there not
    be, deep within the interior of the earth, elements and forces that are
    still unknown to us today? Might these unknown forces have such power
    that, in some previous state of the earth (to use the language of this
    notion), when the earth was taking shape, they were able to effect within
    only a moment what the influences operating on the earth's surface today
    could accomplish only over millions of centuries (a time frame with which
    these notions are satisfied)?... According to the laws of thought, is it
    ever permissible to argue from that which has come into being up until
    the present day back to what came into being in the past up to the very
    beginning of things? If, still using the analogy of the egg, the emergence
    of a living bird from an inanimate egg were not an everyday occurrence,
    what physiologist would attempt to reason back from a living bird, or
    even from the skin of a living bird, to its emergence from the egg? Now
    that the fact of this mode of production—bird from egg—has been firmly
    established as scientifically valid, what physiologist would attempt
    to prove the previous existence of the egg from the new living bird,
    or determine the exact point at which a pulse first began to stir within
    the inert mass? Would we, in any other instance, co remises...?"
	    (Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, Collected Writings, Vol. VIII,
	    Nature And The Bible, pp. 299-230)

Zvi Lampel

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 00:41:37 -0400
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <jonathan@yorku.ca>
RE: Reliability of Science

>> We are trying to explain how scientists (using well-established and 
>> even superb theories based on good experimental results) thought the 
>> world to be static and eternal (up to 50 years ago), when its now 
>> considered to be a dynamic world, a mere 15b years old.

RAA wrote:
> Scientific theory is a DYNAMIC process -- you are treating it 
> as a series of static theories.

I made no commitment to the process -- static or otherwise. My point
is unaffected by how radical changes in science happen, only that they
happen, and that they tend to happen more often when the results are
based on extrapolations and deep theory -- the very factors that make
them vulnerable to new experimental data.

> IN all of your examples, existing theories were challenged by 
> new experimental data which forced a change -- but that 
> change happened over decades.

In 1894 we have a static universe with t = -infinity. Nobel prize winner
Albert Michelson (of Michelson-Morley fame) had just (prematurely)
announced the end of physics to a conference of scientists in that
year. He stated: "It seems probable that most of the grand underlying
principles have been firmly established . . . the future truths of physics
are to be looked for in the sixth place of decimals." The chair of physics
at Harvard had just advised his students to look for employment elsewhere.

Then, some decades later, the whole of physics was revolutionized. t =
-infinity suddenly became defunct and replaced with a finite moment
of creation.

Michelson erred because he ignored anomalies, accumulations of ad hoc
auxillary assumptions, and the use of grand extrapolations and deep
theory in the science of his time

For all the intoxication with science today ("theories of everything"?),
it is similarily premature and unwise to change basic peshat in the
chumash. Scientists today face various anomalies, accumulations of
auxillary hypotheses, and fantastic extrapolations and deep theories,
perhaps even more so than 100 years ago.

In 1894 it would have been premature to change the basic peshat of
"beraishis bara", and so it is today.

I agree with RGB when he stated that "if you cannot find a way to
reconcile the pesukim with the fossil record, then bleib shverr. Fuhn a
kashya shtarbt men nisht. Personally, I would assume the fossil record
incorrect - that is, incorrectly interpreted."

For the creation ex nihilo of "yesh me-ayin" we had to "bleib shverr"
for almost 2500 years!

Kol Tuv ... Jonathan

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 08:55:28 +0300
From: Akiva Atwood <akiva@atwood.co.il>
RE: Age of the Universe

> then bleib shverr. Fuhn a kashya shtarbt men nisht. Personally, I would
> assume the fossil record incorrect - that is, incorrectly interpreted.

Once or twice, maybe. But thousands of times -- all over the world --
using dozens of different methods, all of which agree? I don't think so.

Besides -- is *ignoring* problems with a dismissive "Fuhn a kashya shtarbt
men nisht" the way we want to teach people to deal with Torah? These are
real questions that need to delt with -- and by people who understand
the science involved.

(The worst way to deal with these issues is for a Rav with no
understanding of the science or the scientific method to just dismiss
things out of hand. Anyone with a basic science education sees right
through that -- and it creates a bad impression of how Torah Jews deal
with "difficult" issues. it;s bith a kiruv issue and a kiddush/chilul
HaShem issue.)

> But to allegorize the Torah is unacceptable, as we have stated here

In your opinion. Others disagree. As stated here as well.


"If you want to build a ship, then don't drum up men to gather wood, give
orders, and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and
endless sea." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 09:20:54 -0400
From: "" <hlampel@thejnet.com>

Mon, 23 Aug 2004, "Avi Burstein" <avi@tenagurot.com>, in response to:
> << Rather, we should take it as a lesson: Just as Chazal relied on the
> greatest scientists of their day, who were upshlugged by later scientists,
> we should realize that our scientists may very well get upshlugged by
> tomorrow's. >>

AB commented:
> How about another lesson? That despite the fact that certain science
> may be upshlugged in the future, we - like chazal did - should still
> rely on the scientists of the day?

Yes, in those areas that don't contradict actual mesorah, it is safe to
tentatively do so.

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 17:11:42 -0500
From: "Shlomo Argamon" <argamon@argamon.com>
Re: Evolution-R and Evolution-O

In a message Avodah V13 #64 dated 8/10/04 "Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer"
<rygb@aishdas.org> writes:
> I am not sure why exactly this issue ["evolution"]  keeps coming up over and 
> over again.

From: T613K@aol.com
> This time it came up because I brought it up, and I did so because in
> a year's worth of evolution postings, no one else had ever made a point
> I consider critical:

Let's make this discussion a little more precise. OK, what to you would
constitute sufficient evidence to allow the plausibility (not necessity)
of what you call "macroevolution"? Please note that all the statistical
arugments on either side are complex and sufficiently subtle that any
claim of a proof or disproof based on calculating probabilities is
essentially bogus (at least for anyone not both an expert statistician
and expert biologist).


Go to top.

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 08:03:56 -0400
From: "David Riceman" <driceman@worldnet.att.net>
Ikkarim (again??)

Suppose somebody denies an ikkar, say, to be concrete, that, like
the philosopher in the Kuzari he denies the possibility of prophecy.
We all know he's in terrible shape: he has no heilek in Olam HaBa and
in Olam HaZeh he has the status of moridin v'lo maalin.

My question, however, is: has he commited any issurim? Is it assur to deny
an ikkar? My gut instinct is that it's a machlokes between the Rambam
(intro to Hilchos Tshuva = no) and the Ramban (Hasaga on SHM Aseh #1 =
yes), but I can't recall any explicit discussion anywhere.

David Riceman

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 07:28:40 -0700 (PDT)
From: Yonatan Kaganoff <ykaganoff@yahoo.com>
Ripping up Gittin

The current practice among many Batei Dinim (including the BDA) is to
rip up a get as soon as the wife receives it so that noone can raise
questions about the get. The wife is then given a receipt that she has
received her get.

Does anyone know how old this practice is? And where it originated?

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 17:54:52 +0300
From: Akiva Atwood <akiva@atwood.co.il>
RE: Moderation and Halakhah

[From a discussion of hilkhos "areivim" -mi]

> The Gemmara in Arachin discusses Lashon Hara at great length. The
> Gemmarah on Daf 16A states in the name of Rabbah that anything which
> is stated in front of three people (Api Tlasa), is not in violation
> of Lashan Hara. Rashi explains that if an individaul tells three
> people about an event surrounding oneself then he realizes that it
> will be repeated many times over and the thing will become known. The
> Rashbam in Bava Basra (39A) concurs and states that once three people
> know about it, the story can be repeated.


> But even the Chaftez Chaim admits that if negative information is
> universally known, it is NOT  Lashon Hora and there is no longer any
> prohibition in repeating it unless it is for the express purpose of
> disparagment and nothing else.

The assumption here is that the "negative information" is true.

If a newspaper reports X about Y:

Either X is true (Loshon Hora) or False (Rechilus)

If X is false there is NO heter to repeat it, even if everyone "knows it".

If X is true then there are SOME opinions that allow repeating X under
certain conditions.


Just being printed in the press is not enough.

Everyone "knows it's true" isn't enough either.

YOU have to KNOW it's true. (Especially since we're talking about a
possible Issur D'Orisa here).


"If you want to build a ship, then don't drum up men to gather wood, give
orders, and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and
endless sea." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 23:04:35 -0400
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <jonathan@yorku.ca>
RE: Reliability of Science

 > I've cited Karl Popper on this list before. He notes that 
> while this induction can never give a real proof of a theory, 
> it does successfully prove the falsity of rejected theories. 
> In the negative sense, science can produce results as certain 
> as our trust in our senses.

I am not a philosopher so it is hard for me judge, but Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb
told me the following regarding Popper:

"Popper's position is wrong in every possible way. There is a good summary
of Popper's faults in Sober's Philosophy of Biology. We in philosophy have
known this for more than 50 years - I learned it as a graduate student in
the 60s. It amuses and depresses me to see that almost all scientists and
many lay people still believe it...."


Go to top.

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 23:15:27 -0400
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <jonathan@yorku.ca>
re:Reliability of Science

I enclose comments from Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb to R. Micha's questions on deep



RMB wrote:

> I don't see how (d) goes in a progression with a, b, or c.

> RJSO besheim Rabbi Gottlieb:
>> (a) repeatable observable phenomena
>> (b) interpolation
>> (c) extrapolation and
>> (d) deep theory

> (a) refers to a set of events that we consider identical. This means 
> we have a theory about what features of the cause and the effect are 
> relevent, and thereby assume it's the same phenomenon, repeated.

This is a little too strong. We often associate events without any theory
whatsoever - just with a pre-theoretic intuition that whatever theory will
explain these events, this group will be explained in the same way. Think of
the growth of grass for example (or solids dissolving in water, or the the
brittleness of glass etc.). These events/phenomena originally had no even
speculative theoretical explanation, and yet were confidently [and
correctly] grouped together. 

> (b) is when we have two or more causes and their effects, and we 
> generalize from that set to points "between" them.

> (c) is where we generalize to cases more extreme than any in the set.

> So far, a progression.

> (d), however, is the explanation by which we group the events of (a) 
> as identical, those of (b) as laying on a spectrum with the new event 
> between them, as well as defining the spectrum of (d).

> Theory is that which justifies a-d, it's not an alternative to them.

From the above comment you see I do not agree here. I meant (d) as further
from the original observational evidence than (c) on the grounds that it is
categorically removed - beyond all observational tests altogether. And this
is the reason that speculations of type (d) are more unstable than (a)-(c) -
they change more frequently, and more substantively than even (c). I still
hold to that position. I hope this helps. 

[I guess in this way of looking at it, we never actually observe an electon.
What we actually see are phosphors triggered on the oscilloscope, which we
interpret to be an electronic current according to our theory. Don't tell
this to electrical engineers because we actually do see the electrons :-)

Go to top.

Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 12:11:35 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Reliability of Science

On Fri, Aug 27, 2004 at 05:16:01PM -0400, Jonathan Ostroff wrote:
:> In those cases, arguments about the shakiness of science are 
:> irrelevent.

: It is true that experiments can rule out many things (e.g. we now know
: that the earth is not flat).

And there are still grounds where the experiment rules out the way many
people understand the pasuq.

Either that, or we can say that the earth IS flat, and Hashem continually
creater the illusion to the contrary. Is that any different than what's
being said about the universe's age?

What if we said that there is no such thing as gravity, and Hashem
continually creates the illusion that there is. Isn't that just (ala
REED's definition of teva) just defining gravity as the collection of
acts of G-d, that the prefect illusion only differs from reality in
terminology, not substance?

Which is the same problem I have with the notion of an illusory


Micha Berger             Here is the test to find whether your mission
micha@aishdas.org        on Earth is finished:
http://www.aishdas.org   if you're alive, it isn't.
Fax: (270) 514-1507                        - Richard Bach

Go to top.

Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 12:27:59 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Calendar year at creation (was: Age of the Universe)

On Sun, Aug 29, 2004 at 02:25:50PM -0400, Mendel Singer wrote:
: Hmmm....I always thought that the calendar was supposed to represent the
: years since the creation of Adam. Thus, on Rosh Hoshana of the year 5765
: man would be 5,765 years old. By this reckoning (perhaps false!) Adam was
: created on 1 Tishrei of the year 0. Dates prior to this during the "week"
: (don't want to mix threads here) of creation would be sort of year -1.

According to the Seider Olam, the week of ma'aseh bereishis is year

In general we take the SO's dating, with one shift -- we start with
the week numbered year one. But you can take any SO date, add one to
the year, and get our date.

And yet others have the first full year as 0, implying the week is -1.

This is why some people mistake the Gregorian year of churban bayis as
being 68 or 69 instead of 70 CE. It comes from reading sources based on
these other starting numbers, without realizing that a correction must
be made.

Whether these variations on the SO's theme were done for deep reasons
or simply because of differences in the semantics of the phrase "year 1"
is open.

I'm inclined to believe the latter, because the year starts with the
end of creation, which is consistant with the SO counting that as the
first year, and therefore the calendar is silent about the nature of
time during the week of creation.


Micha Berger             When you come to a place of darkness,
micha@aishdas.org        you don't chase out the darkness with a broom.
http://www.aishdas.org   You light a candle.
Fax: (270) 514-1507        - R' Yekusiel Halberstam of Klausenberg zt"l

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 17:26:39 -0700 (PDT)
From: Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
Re: Age of the Universe

<hlampel@thejnet.com> wrote:
> Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com> posted on Tue, 24 Aug 2004:

>> Professor Gerald Schroeder illustrates in his book 'Genesis and the
>> Big Bang a model of the creation of the universe to describe how the
>> two positions, of six 24 -- hours and 15 billion years, are unified.
>> he six days of creation does not contradict the age of the universe as
>> being 15 billion years old

> This is similar to proposing that (as far as earthlings are concerned)
> Hashem sped up the rate of natural processes so that what would
> "naturally" take billions of years to happen, occurred in 24 hours.

No, it isn't. You misunderstand. It is not that six 24 hour days equals
15 billion years. It's that we begin counting from the moment the human
being is created. Prior to that time we are not counting in human terms
but Godly ones. From the Schroeder website:

...how long ago did the "beginning" occur? Was it, as the Bible might
imply, 5758 years, or was it the 15 billions of years that's accepted
by the scientific community? The first thing we have to understand is
the origin of the Biblical calendar. The Jewish year, 5758 years, is
figured by adding up the generations since Adam. Additionally, there
are six days leading up to the creation to Adam. These six days are
significant as well.

Of course, what the question would be is where we make the zero point. On
Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, we blow the Shofar three times during
the Musaf service. Immediately upon blowing of the Shofar, the following
sentence is said: "Hayom Harat Olam - today is the birthday of the world."

This verse might imply that Rosh Hashana commemorates the creation of
the universe. But it doesn't. Rosh Hashana does commemorate a creation,
but not the creation of the universe. We blow the Shofar three times
to commemorate the last of the three creations that occurs in the Six
Days of Genesis. First, there's a creation of the entire universe and
the laws of nature. Then on Day Five, there's a creation that brings
us the Nefesh, the soul of animal life. Finally, at the end of Day Six,
there's a further creation that brings us the Neshama, the soul of human
life. Rosh Hashana commemorates not the first or second of the creations,
but the creation of the Neshama, the soul of human life. Rosh Hashana
falls right here. Which means that we start counting our 5758 years from
the creation of the soul of Adam.

We have a clock that begins with Adam, and the six days are separate
from this clock. The Bible has two clocks. That might seem like a modern
rationalization, if it were not for the fact that Talmudic commentaries
1500 years ago, bring this information down. In the Midrash (Vayikra
Rabba 29:1), an expansion of the Talmud, all the Sages agree that
Rosh Hashana commemorates the soul of Adam, and that the Six Days of
Genesis are separate. Now 1500 years ago, when this information was first
recorded, it wasn't because one of the Sages like Hillel was talking to
his 10-year-old son who said, "Daddy, you can't believe it. We went to
a museum today, and learned all about a billions-of-years-old universe,"
and Hillel says, "Oh, I better change the Bible, let's keep the six days
separate." That wasn't what was happening.

You have to put yourself in the mind frame of 1500 years ago, when people
traveled by donkeys and we didn't have electricity or even zippers. Why
were the Six Days taken out of the calendar? At the time, there was no
need to make them separate. The reason they were taken out is because time
is described differently in those Six Days of Genesis. "There was evening
and morning" is an exotic, bizarre, unusual way of describing time.

Once you come from Adam, the flow of time is totally in human terms.
Adam and Eve live 130 years before having children! Seth lives 105
years before having children, etc. From Adam forward, the flow of time
is totally human in concept. But prior to that time, it's an abstract
concept: "Evening and morning." It's as if you're looking down on events
from a viewpoint that is not intimately related to them.


Go to top.


[ Distributed to the Avodah mailing list, digested version.                   ]
[ To post: mail to avodah@aishdas.org                                         ]
[ For back issues: mail "get avodah-digest vXX.nYYY" to majordomo@aishdas.org ]
[ or, the archive can be found at http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/              ]
[ For general requests: mail the word "help" to majordomo@aishdas.org         ]

< Previous Next >