Avodah Mailing List

Volume 13 : Number 099

Saturday, September 11 2004

< Previous Next >
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 16:26:22 -0400
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <jonathan@yorku.ca>
RE: Non-literal explanations of Torah (Ralbag) and age of the Universe

From the Ralbag
>> (3) Gan Eden was a real garden. "Know that Eden is a certain place in 
>> the inhabited world, and to the east of it is found the Garden which 
>> contains all fruits of delight ... and from Eden a river goes out to 
>> water that Gan and from there it diverges into the four well-known 
>> rivers, the great rivers that water a large part of the inhabited 
>> world. The wisdom of this "mashel" [of the garden] is that its 
>> "peshuto" [the physical Gan Eden] exists (pages 55-56).

RAA wrote
> Where? 

Either to be revealed to us in the future as stated by the Rambam or
destroyed in the mabul as stated by Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky (Emes LeYaakov).
See my earlier post for the Ramchal and Sefer HaBahir.

RAA wrote
> What are those "4 well-known rivers"?

See Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in the "The Living Torah", Beraishis 2:10-14,
for possible suggestions.

From the Ralbag:
>> (4) The Ralbag writes at at p67 directly before (1): "a few of the 
>> great chachamim erred in this area, and made allegories (tziyurim) out 
>> of the account of Kayin, Hevel, and Shes. In so doing they ruined the 
>> intent of the Torah. Know that it is not appropriate to allegorize the 
>> Torah, except in places where it is absolutely necessary.

RAA wrote
> Exactly. the KEY phrase there is "except in places where it 
> is absolutely necessary".

You misunderstood me. My concern is with the limitations of allegory
as stated in the Rishonim, e.g. IIRC, Emunos VeDeos VII:2, MN II:25-29,
and Teshuvos HaRashba 9 and 413-418 (for halachic considerations). See
also Rabbi Lampel's description of the Rambam's position in the MN. See
below for more on the Ralbag and allegorization based on reason.

JSO wrote
>> The Ralbag does not allow Rabbi Slifkin much room to succeed with his 
>> "theory that man was created by inserting a soul into a hominid 
>> creature which itself evolved from the earlier creatures is no more 
>> problematic than the embryo evolving from a sperm and egg".

RAA wrote
> Of course he does -- he supplies all the needed room with 
> "except in places where it is absolutely necessary".

The Ralbag has a chapter in Milchemos Hashem (I:14) dedicated to
clarifying "except in places where it is absolutely necessary" which
provides no support for RAA's contention. The Ralbag states that:

"For adherence to [our] reason is not permitted if it contradicts
religious faith; indeed, if there is such a contradiction, it is necessary
to attribute this lack of agreement to our own inadequacy. Hence,
it is clear that someone who believes [in the Torah] should follow
his religious convictions. We, too, behave accordingly if we see that
religion requires a different view from the one that our reason has
affirmed. This is incumbent on the faithful ...

The Ralbag ends the chapter as follows: 

    "This point that we have made here should be understood as applying
    to to every other part of our book; so that if there appears to be a
    problem concerning which our views differ from the accepted view of
    religion, philosophy should be abandoned and religion followed. This
    incompatibility is to be attributed to our own shortcomings".

These are very striking words!

The Ralbag, Ramban and Rabbeinu Bechaya approvingly quote the Rambam in
the MN to the effect that the historical account in the Torah of Adam
HaRishon in Gan Eden (directly created as a single being) 2500 years
prior to Moshe Rabbenu, is written to advance "emunas ha-chidush".

The Ralbag considers the account of Adam and Chava as the recent
originators of all of mankind to be part of our religious faith, which
is why he speaks out against allegorizing away their historical existence.

Kol Tuv ... Jonathan

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 16:32:11 -0400
From: Shaya Potter <spotter@yucs.org>
RE: Non-literal explanations/Gan Eden

On Fri, 2004-09-10 at 15:03 -0400, Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M.
Bechhofer wrote:
>>then why can't one claim the text of bereishis in regards to creation
>>and the mabul (and anything else that seems extraordinary) was just a
>>prophetic dream of some sorts?  i.e. where's the line b/w "allegory" and
>>"prophetic dream"

> The line is drawn between events that involve interaction between the 
> material and spiritual and events that are material.

but anything involving a miracle has interaction between material and
spiritual. the teivah for instance.

Can't one argue that maaseh bereishit is all about the iteraction between
the material and the spiritual.

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 16:35:49 -0400
From: MPoppers@kayescholer.com
Re: (Ashkenazic) nusach of kaddish

In Avodah V13 #94, Mordechai replied:
> If we look through our davening, we will see that Hashem is depicted
> as 'residing' in shomayim (kivayochol - so to speak)....If elsewhere in
> davening Hashem is described as being in shomayim, why should there be
> a deviation from this depiction in kaddish ?

For another example, see "Alainu" ("...bashomayim mima'al...b'govhai 
m'romim"); for a counterexample, see "Alainu" (D'vorim 4:39) :-).

> in general, most of the time, nusach Ashkenaz is more concise

Quite true. That said, given that Qaddish d'Rabbanan is a
relatively-recent phenomenon and that it refers to physical places and
needs, adding that hKbH is also "avuhon d'ar-a" doesn't seem like too
great a sin.

All the best (incl. wishes for a wonderful, "stand up" Shabbos and a
blessed year) from
Michael Poppers * Elizabeth, NJ

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 17:51:14 -0400
From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.it.northwestern.edu>
RE: Non-literal explanations/Gan Eden

At 04:32 PM 9/10/2004, you wrote:
>>>then why can't one claim the text of bereishis in regards to creation
>>>and the mabul (and anything else that seems extraordinary) was just a
>>>prophetic dream of some sorts?  i.e. where's the line b/w "allegory" and
>>>"prophetic dream"

>> The line is drawn between events that involve interaction between the
>> material and spiritual and events that are material.

>but anything involving a miracle has interaction between material and
>spiritual. the teivah for instance.

Not the same thing. That's not a revelation-based miracle. It is an upgrade 
from Olam Ho'Asiyah to Olam Ha'Yetzirah miracle.


Go to top.

Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 17:49:52 -0400
From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.it.northwestern.edu>
RE: Non-literal explanations of Torah (Ralbag) and age of the Universe

At 04:26 PM 9/10/2004, you wrote:
>>From the Ralbag
>>> (3) Gan Eden was a real garden. "Know that Eden is a certain place in
>>> the inhabited world, and to the east of it is found the Garden which
>>> contains all fruits of delight ... and from Eden a river goes out to
>>> water that Gan and from there it diverges into the four well-known
>>> rivers, the great rivers that water a large part of the inhabited
>>> world. The wisdom of this "mashel" [of the garden] is that its
>>> "peshuto" [the physical Gan Eden] exists (pages 55-56).

>RAA wrote
>> Where?

>Either to be revealed to us in the future as stated by the Rambam or
>destroyed in the mabul as stated by Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky (Emes LeYaakov).
>See my earlier post for the Ramchal and Sefer HaBahir.

We have a pretty good idea where it *was* - it is in the vicinity of
present day Pakistan. The Shu"t Bnei Zion bases his shittah on the
Halachic International Dateline (which it seems is the shittah that the
Lubavitcher Rebbe championed) on the location of Gan Eden.


Go to top.

Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 17:12:01 -0400
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
RE:Teaching torah to women

> That is not what was originally argued, the thing that would have
> surprised me. The maskanah was no surprise. ... Rather, it was your
> claim that:
>> 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....

> If the normal rules of his silence hold, the Rama holds that it is tiflus
> -- but limits the application of the idea to exclude dinim she needs
> to know. From that RYBS (and RMMS, for women coming from outside the
> kehillah) concluded that nowadays, with so many women in higher education,
> the need to know in order to be a frum woman is far broader. Torah should
> be taught at a level where it's more beautiful than the other systems
> of thought to which she is exposed.

The original claim was that teaching gmara to women was tiflut, as
per the psak by rav eliezer suggested. This seems to be rav moshe's
position, who opposed teaching torah shebe'alpe. The only heter (which
rav moshe doesn't accept) would be an et la'asot psak - that given current
realities, we need to teach women torah shebealpe, including gmara.

What my quote from RYBS is that his position is quite different, and
that teaching gmara is here lecatchila. He held that the rama's position
is like rav eleazar ben azaria - that women learning, including torah
shebealpe, dinim sthat they need is intrinsically muttar - unlike rav
eliezer. (the issue of learning torah shebealpe that she doesn't need
might be tiflut - but rav eleazar ben azaria, the way the tosfot hold, is
holek on rav eliezer - in that it is not tiflut for dinim that she needs)
Therefore, the teaching of gmara to women, rather than being a concession
to modern times where we sacrifice the issue of tiflut, is intrinsically
muttar as part of the ashkenazi shitta allowing dinim that they need - and
the sole issue is expanding the definition of what they need. Therefore,
yes, the rav held that we do not pasken that teaching gmara to women is
tiflut, but overridden by other issues - but rather, that teaching gmara
on dinim that they need is inherently mutar, b! y standard ashkenazi psak,
not tiflut - and therefore the issue is defining what they need.

Meir Shinnar

Go to top.

Date: Sat, 11 Sep 2004 22:37:03 +0300
From: Zoo Torah <zoorabbi@zootorah.com>
Re: Age of the Universe

When RYGB wrote that the emergence of land described in Bereishis occurred
5764 years ago, I wrote:
>Amazing! So according to RYGB, if I am understanding him correctly,
>there was not one but TWO global deluges in the last 6000 years in
>which all life was wiped out. Incredibly, all traces of these deluges
>have been unnnoticed or wilfully ignored by all scientists in the fields
>of geology, dendrochronology, geophysics, varve analysis, paleontology,
>archeology, and anthropology, all of whom utterly reject the possibility
>that any such global events happened. And yet RYGB would claim this as
>an appropriate approach to take with someone who is seriously bothered
>by conflicts between Torah and science!

To which RYGB replied:
>Yes, this is, in my opinion, the only appropriate approach. As to
>the evidence - perhaps it has not yet been found, but ne'emanim aleinu
>divrei Chazal.

I think this speaks for itself and wraps up our discussion.

But just to clarify - I didn't just mean that no evidence has been found;
I mean that the evidence shows that such catastrophic events did not
take place. I'm not just referring to the human records that R' Micha
mentioned - also evidence from all the other fields cited above.

Kol tuv
Nosson Slifkin

Go to top.

Date: Sat, 11 Sep 2004 22:37:03 +0300
From: Zoo Torah <zoorabbi@zootorah.com>
RE: The Age of the Universe (Rav Nadel zt"l and Adam)

I earlier wrote wrote 
> He [Rav Nadel zt"l] also
> held that man was not literally created from dirt but rather 
> evolved from another creature. 

To which R' Jonathan Ostroff replied:
>This does not have support in Chazal and the Rishonim (see the "aside"

Several other people have made the same point. But Rav Nadel's opinion
was that one does not need support for a specific position; he believed
that we have clear support from Rambam for the principle that one
may allegorize when there is great cause to do so. (As he points out,
just like the Rishonim held that the days were 24 hours but many now
hold differently. And, as I added, just as we do not have support from
Chazal or Rishonim for saying that the hare's "maale gerah" refers to
cecotrophy but most find this acceptable.)

>1. Did Rav Nadel actually "hold" of this opinion, or did he merely say
>that such an opinion is not "kefira"?

He actually held of it, due to the scientific evidence and the license
that he felt was granted by the Rambam.

RJO often refers to RSN; I assume this is a typo and he means RNS
(i.e. me) and I will correct this accordingly.

>Current evolutionists state that moden man appeared at least 30,000
>years ago and that "by 12,000 years ago, and possibly earlier, modern
>humans had spread from northeastern Asia across the Bering Land Bridge to
>northwestern North America, and hence rapidly throughout the Americas"
>(Futuyma, 1998). I originally took this also to be the opinion of RNS,
>but am awaiting his clarification.

When I wrote "The Science of Torah," I was of the opinion that these
were not considered humans in the Torah sense i.e. they did not possess
a neshamah. Rav Nadel provides a much more satisfactory explanation -
that Hashem put the neshamah in man as soon as man evolved (i.e. however
many tens of thousands of years ago), that the account of Gan Eden deals
with the "significant representatives" of mankind, and that the date
5764 is from the *end* of the events in Gan Eden.

>2. Did Rav Nadel believe that Adam lived (having had biological hominid
>parents) and died more than 12,000 years ago having evolved via common
>descent over millions of years through various living transitional forms?

He takes Adam in the earlier pesukim as referring to mankind in general,
just like when Hashem says "Let us make man in our image" it refers to
mankind in general - we are all in the image of Hashem. He believed
that mankind in general appeared as you describe. But he takes later
references to Adam as referring to a specific person.

>(As an aside, there is an unusual shita, mentioned in Torah Shlema
>(1:738), for the special creation of Adam HaRishon from a clump of earth
>on yom ha-shisi. G-d caused the clump of earth to rapidly move through
>various stages, some of these stages similar to that of an animal,
>until the final human was fully formed. This would be the flip side of
>Darwin/Haeckel's "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" and might perhaps
>undermine parts of RNS's argument above. This human had no parents and
>would not necessarily leave prehistoric fossils. I am assuming that
>Rav Nadel did not mean this shita, but rather that of Darwinian common
>descent over billions of years).

Fascinating! I will look this up. Agreed, this might undermine part
of my argument (re. accounting for some anatomical aspects of man),
but not others (e.g. Hashem working through natural means). Rav Nadel
did not refer to this, as he describes prehistoric man as being our
physical ancestors.

Kol tuv
Nosson Slifkin

Go to top.

Date: Sat, 11 Sep 2004 22:37:03 +0300
From: Zoo Torah <zoorabbi@zootorah.com>
RE: The Age of the Universe (Rav Nadel zt"l on Gan Eden)

I wrote earlier
> I have a question for you, by the way:
> Where exactly is Gan Eden ...

To which R' Jonathan Ostroff responded:
>I originally took this to mean that RNS did not believe in a historical
>Gan Eden, but I hasten to add that I leave it to RNS to clarify for

I am grateful for this opportunity! I certainly did not mean to deny its
existence, merely to point out that the conventional literal understanding
of the entire episode has considerable difficulties. I.e. with regard to
identifying a specific geographical location linked by four rivers from
which man was banished and can never return, and leading on to considering
the snake, etc. Those who take the snake literally might want to look
at the photograph of a fossil legless snake at http://tinyurl.com/6djs2,
dated to approximately fifty million years ago. Was this snake descended
from the snake in Gan Eden? I guess they will say the dating is wrong,
but there's a tremendous amount of research backing it up.

RJO continues:
>Rabbi Slifkin has access to the transcripts of Rav Nadel's shiur whereas
>we do not. Two questions come to mind.
>1. Did Rav Nadel agree that, as a historical matter, Adam HaRishon was
>expelled from Gan Eden approximately 5764 years ago?

Yes, but it is not yet clear to me if he holds that this was a specific
person (as he holds is the nature of the Adam who gave birth to Kayin)
or a generic term for a group of people (as he understands "Adam" in
several earlier instances). (I think the latter fits in better with what
he is saying.)

>2. Does RNS agree that there was a historical Gan Eden from which Adam
>HaRishon was expelled approximately 5764 years ago?

I repeat that I do not yet know what to think about this matter; I am
still digesting Rav Nadel's explanation, and trying to solve the problem
of pinpointing its location. I would appreciate help with this.

Kol tuv,
Nosson Slifkin

Go to top.

Date: Sat, 11 Sep 2004 22:37:03 +0300
From: Zoo Torah <zoorabbi@zootorah.com>
Re: Age of the Universe/ Non-literal explanations

RYGB justifies his referring to "the Spero school" as follows:
>In previous Avodah discussions you expressed your solidarity with the 
>Spero School on account of the archeological/geological evidence (or 
>lack thereof). It seems evident to me that your rejection of the order 
>of Ma'aseh Bereishis on the basis of the similar evidence is of a piece 
>with your global approach.

Well, RYGB is still entirely wrong with his usage of this term, on
several counts.

First, while I accept what I have heard from people widely considered as
talmidei chachamim, that allegorization of the mabul is within acceptable
Torah opinion, I do not believe that this is necessarily the only viable

Second, my rejection of the literal order of Maase Bereishis came way
before I had even begun thinking about the mabul.

Third, many people who reject allegorizing the mabul nevertheless accept
allegorizing aspects of maase Bereishis, which is a much more limited

Fourth, referring to the approach of allegory as "the Spero school" is
to characterize it by its most extreme adherents, which is appallingly
misleading; it would be comparable to characterizing RYGB's literal
approach as "the Sadducee school."

Fifth, the specific reference by RYGB to the Spero school that we are
discussing came in response to my citation of the Ralbag, which was
not being cited to justify allegorizing the order of Bereishis (and
certainly not the mabul), merely to refute RYGB's position that there
are no substantive sources that permit allegory.

So I repeat that for RYGB to respond to my citation of Ralbag by saying
that this does not justify the approach of the Spero school is a wholly
inappropriate response that blurs the topic under discussion and has false
(and perhaps derogatory) innuendo. We are not talking about my global
approach, my approach to the Mabul taken after I developed an approach
to maase Bereishis, or my approach to the identity of the nesher. If RYGB
wishes to discuss these things, we can do so in a separate discussion. We
are only talking about the existence of substantive sources that permit
allegory with respect to my position on the six days.

I earlier wrote:
>RYGB now states that Ralbag shows that "elements" in an account may
>indeed be understood allegorically. This surely means that it would 
>have been acceptable for Rambam to learn this way, too (Ralbag 
>explicitly states that he is going less far than Rambam). This would 
>also contradict RYGB's position that Rambam could not possibly have 
>written what everyone understands him to have written.

To which RYGB responded:
>Nothing can contradict my position in the Rambam except proof from the 
>Rambam himself. In his post today, Rabbi Lampel explained the Rambam 
>very well, and in perfect accord with my understanding.

Here I must clarify what I meant. I did not mean that RYGB would
accept this as a new argument that Rambam actually meant what everyone
else understands him to have meant. All I meant was to address RYGB's
earlier stance that not only did Rambam not say such a thing, he also
could not have said such a thing because it is outside of the realm of
acceptable views. I argued that this is refuted by Ralbag saying such
a thing. However RYGB later indicates that even this would not be an
argument, so I will have to drop it.

RYGB then writes:
>The point is: The episode with the nachash occurred - the nachash in 
>this case being the yetzer ho'ra, etc. I think the Ralbag is wrong and 
>has no right to say what he says, but it is a far cry from taking 
>aspects of an episode allegorically to unilaterally declaring that the 
>order of Ma'aseh Bereishis is some (hithertoo unkown!) allegory because 
>of the credence given to the fossil record.

Actually Ralbag states that entire episode with the nachash did not
occur in the literal sense - not just the nature of the snake itself,
but also the conversations, the Tree of Knowledge, the eating of the
fruit, etc. This is not merely aspects - this is the majority of the
episode. The only thing that he takes as literal is that there is a lush
area that is a representation of Gan Eden.

RYGB may feel that this is still different from saying that the order of
maase Bereishis is allegorical, although I think Ralbag is going much
further with Gan Eden than I do with the six days. However the point
under discussion (I will cite the previous posts if necessary, but I
would rather not bore everyone with it again) is whether there is *any*
precedent for allegory. RYGB earlier stated that there are no substantive
sources for allegory and it is unacceptable. I cited the Ralbag to refute
this view, but it seems that RYGB nevertheless dismisses this because
Ralbag's view is unnacceptable (this seems to be somewhat circular to
me - there are no acceptable sources because sources that say such thing
become ipso facto unnacceptable).

I also want to point out again that it is not just a matter of the fossil
record. In Bereishis, the sun was made (or put in place or whatever)
*after* plants appear. According to modern science, the sun appeared
about four BILLION years *before* the first plants.

In response to my citation of Rav Nadel who allegorizes the origins of
man, RYGB writes:
>Rabbi Nadel is not a demonstrable link in the chain of the mesorah. 
>Moreover, it is very dubious to assert legitimacy on the basis of an 
>opinion which is unverifiable. In essence, it remains Rabbi Slifkin's 
>assertion - you may believe it is Rabbi Nadel's, but we have no way of 
>knowing what he said and why he said it.

I'm not sure what RYGB means by saying that R' Nadel is not a demonstrable
link in the chain of mesorah and what the significance of that is. Rav
Nadel gives a view of Torah and mesorah that is different to that of
RYGB. RYGB may feel that Rav Nadel was not following the mesorah, but
Rav Nadel felt that he was - he felt that the mesorah was as to the
principles, not as to the application. With all due respect to RYGB
shlita who is known as a talmid chacham of standing, Rav Nadel z"l was
certainly of much greater authority.

Rav Nadel's opinion is not unverifiable. The sefer of his views will
be published soon; you can ask his talmidim; or, if we have an Avodah
get-together in NY, I will bring the transcript to show to people.

RYGB continues:
>If the Ralbag has any validity, it is only if a source in Chazal can be 
>found to back his assertion. Perhaps there is - the Zohar (Bereishis 52a)
>may be adduced, and while it is unlikely that the Ralbag saw the Zohar,
>perhaps he found some parallel Chazal.

You, however, sans Chazal, may not allegorize anything.

I do not accept that Ralbag only has validity if backed up by Chazal,
and Ralbag apparently didn't think so either. Rav Nadel's position
is that Rambam (and, by the same token, Ralbag) give us a license to
allegorize when there is necessary cause, such as overwhelming scientific
evidence. My specific allegory in my sefer has haskamos from Rav Aryeh
Carmell, Rav Sholom Kamenetzky, and Rav Mordechai Kornfeld, shlita.

I wrote:
>It was not self-evident to two Rishonim, a major Acharon, and a
>contemporary gadol who was specifically renowned for his expertise in 
>Rambam, that Rambam was not interpreting certain events allegorically. 
>In fact, it was self-evident to them that he was indeed interpreting 
>certain quite significant events allegorically.

To which RYGB responded:
>I did not notice two Rishonim (the Abravanel is not a rishon), nor a
>"major" Acharon - did the Noda b'Yehuda or Chasam Sofer weigh in on
>this issue?!

This was my error. I was used to thinking in terms of two Rishonim that
allegorize things (Rambam and Ralbag) but of course when we are talking
about independent clarification of Rambam's views, we cannot include
Rambam in the list. I apologize for the error. By "major acharon" I
referred to the Abravanel, but I suppose this definition can be disputed.

If I am not mistaken, I think RYGB and myself have pretty much wrapped
up the sub-thread concerning whether Ralbag and Rambam are substantive
sources that allegorize, with no new information being put forward by
either of us (but the Rav Nadel discussion is still at early stages). I
would therefore summarize our positions as follows, pending RYGB's
agreement with this summary:

The topic under discussion is whether there are substantive sources that
permit allegory.

My position is that there are several sources that permit allegory -
Rav Saadia Gaon, Rambam - as explained by Ralbag, Abarbanel, Efodi,
and Rav Kapach, and Ralbag. (Amongst later sources, I would add Rav
Hirsch and Rav Nadel, but this is still under discussion - I did not
yet mention the source in Rav Hirsch).

RYGB's position is that there are no substantive sources that permit
allegory. He disputes my understanding of Rav Saadia Gaon, and the
understanding of Rambam given by Ralbag, Abarbanel, Efodi, and Rav Kapach.
As for Ralbag himself, RYGB feels that he had no right to allegorize
and one may not take him as precedent for doing so.

Kol tuv
Nosson Slifkin

Go to top.

Date: Sat, 11 Sep 2004 23:10:25 +0300
From: Zoo Torah <zoorabbi@zootorah.com>
RE: Non-Literal explanations

R' Harry Maryles writes:
>R. Nosson Slifkin's opinion is that Metzius trumps the lack of
>corroborative Rishonim and that every time science concludes that
>something is a fact and contradicts the Torah narrative, we have
>permission to allegorize. But that, too, is problematic for me because
>that can undermine belief in Judaism itself. According to RNS we can in
>this way theoretically allegorize the entire narrative of the Torah.... I
>[cannot] accept the approach that we can simply wash away any Torah
>narrative that is challlenged by new scientific discovery, because of
>the slippery slope argument of ultimately needing to allegorize the
>entirety of the Torah narrative.

I must disagree with this characterization of my position, and I must
appeal once again for people to stop presuming my views; please cite my
posts instead.

I do not recall saying "every time" or "any Torah narrative" and I
certainly do not believe that theoretically one can allegorize the
entire narrative of the Torah, chas ve'shalom! For example, there
are certain narratives which, if allegorized, would have practical
ramifications. E.g. to allegorize yetziyas Mitzrayim would undermine
our responsibility to serve Hashem out of hakaras hatov, the mitzvah of
pesach, etc., etc. This would prohibit allegorization. There are other
reasons to prohibit allegory in other areas, such as the historicity of
Avraham Avinu; see Joshua Golding's article for details. In any case,
I do not believe that there will ever be scientific evidence that would
force us to allegorize such things.

But the point is this: the "slippery slope" concern did not prevent
Rambam allegorizing certain things and saying that one may do so when
there is sufficient cause, and nor did it prevent Rav Nadel z"l and
several others from doing so with various parts of Bereishis.

Yes, slippery slopes are very dangerous. But all this means is that
one must exercise great caution when walking on them. It does not mean
that one must entirely avoid them - we see that others still walked on
them. (Good allegory, huh?)

Kol tuv
Nosson Slifkin

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 18:35:27 -0400
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Re: Reacting to the death of a rasha

Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org> wrote:
>:>So, which should be our response -- "rina" or "al tismach ... al yageil"?

>: Mordechai answered this question to Haman: 'hani mili beyisrael'
>: (Megilla 16a).

> Since we seem to be revisiting an old scj discussion we once had...
> Megillah 10b:
> Ma'asei yadai tov'im bayam, va'atem omerim shirah?

And, once again, you are seriously distorting the gemara. The gemara's
entire point is that 'hu eino sas *aval acherim meisis*', i.e. that
we *should* rejoice over our enemies' downfall. The 've'atem' are the
mal'achim, not Yisrael.

> And while that's not the maskanah in Eirkhin (also 10b)

Huh? What has the gemara in Erchin to do with the gemara in Megillah?
I just looked at it, and I didn't see anything about this subject,
or any overlap between the two gemarot.

>, it is the reason given in Megillah and in the midrash.

The reason given for what? The gemara in Megillah explicitly says that
we *should* rejoice, without any reservations whatsoever, even though
'hu eino sas'.

> It's acknowledged in minhag, when we limit the use of shirah trop for
> the pesuqim that do not describe the Mitzriyim's demise.

On the contrary, shira trop is used for 'sus verochvo rama bayam',
and for 'tipol aleihem eimata vafachad'. It's used for pesukim where
Hashem's name appears, without regard to how it describes the Mitzrim.

As for your underlying idea, that our practise reflects in any way a lack
of rejoicing over the demise of 'maasei yadai', I categorically reject
any such notion, as contrary to an explicit gemara, and not supported
by any other gemara or comparable source. And noch to quote the very
gemara that rejects this as if it supported it, seems to me, bimchilat
kevodcha, very krum.

> The Meshekh Chokhmah (Shemos 12:16) distinguishes this from Purim by
> saying that Purim is a celebration of our survival, not their demise.

> The Netziv argues that we were only allowed to say shirah at the yam
> because of the chiyuv de'Oraisa that applies beshe'as ma'aseh. Chazal
> would not be mesaqein hallel on future generations celebrating the
> demise of resha'im.

Once again, if this is indeed what they say, how do they explain the
gemara in Megillah which explicitly rejects this? I'll take Mordechai
Hatzadik and the gemara over these late meforshim.

> But then we have Chanukah...

That's not a raayah, because that is about the rededication of the BHM'K,
or at most about our victory, rather than the Greeks' defeat.

Go to top.

Date: Sat, 11 Sep 2004 23:51:41 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
Re: halcha vs agada

>First,  the Meiri in Shabbos says, "ein mshivim al haagadita".  This is not,
>"There is the established principle that one does not resolve issues
>entirely on the basis agadata"  Rather, it means the agada itself does not
>fully express its own opinion, in contrast to halacha.

>Second, The ChHL does not say "our" sages.  He merely says chachamim.  It
>seems to be referring to Gentile(Arab) philosophers.

>Third, I don't understand what you see in your quotes of Rishonim.  What is
>the commonality between the Meiri on mazal and the Rambam on free-will?
>Where does the Meiri say "I" reject the amora who says yesh mazal lyisroel?
>It should be obvious that the Meiri IS trying to understand the Gemara.  I
>understand the Meiri on mazal as follows:
>Chazal say ein mazal lyisroel.  This means it is foolish to believe in
>fortune.  Rather, our lives are run by Divine involvement based on din
>and/or rachamim.   This opinion is universal throughout Chazal.  We find
>some apparent exceptions to this understanding in Chazal...

I think your reading is forced and the rishonim did in fact *reject*
views of Chazal that they felt were wrong.

You might look at Rav Shlomo Fischer's sefer Beis Yishai chapter 16
page 112. "Concerning agada we see that Rishonim argued with Chazal and
all of Rashi and the Ramban are full of examples of this. This is also
found in the Ohr HaChaim on Bereishis and other places..." page 113
"...even regarding halacha there are those who hold that it is possible
to resolve disputes found in the gemora but not to directly argue with
the gemora. All this depends on what the authorities accepted...However
in those circumstances where there is no difference in halacha everybody
agrees that it is possible to disagree with the reasons given in the

Gut Shabbos
Daniel Eidensohn

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 >