Avodah Mailing List
Volume 14 : Number 048
Saturday, December 25 2004
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2004 00:01:47 +0200
From: Simon Montagu <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Igros Moshe Question
This is in the MB, siman 131 SK 26.
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Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2004 18:25:04 EST
Subject: Re: Three angels real or a vision?
In a message dated 12/23/2004, R' David Riceman writes:
> The Rambam (II:6) explains that "malach" can mean many things, including
> angel, bat kol, imaginative faculty, and prophet. An angel, for the
> Rambam is a disembodied intellect. Unlike Ibn Ezra (who agrees here
> with the Ramban, if you'll pardon the anachronism), the Rambam believed
> that angels cannot ever use bodies, and hence any attribution of bodies
> to angels must happen in a vision. For the Rambam (II:42, where he
> says explicitly that Hagar was not a prophet) only prophets can have
> a prophetic vision, but even non-prophets can have a veridical dream.
Not that I have the right to say a word about Rambam--but nevertheless,
I will say--I don't have the problem the Rambam evidently had. That is,
I have no problem accepting all appearances of malachim in Tanach as
real. For him, it seemed they could not be real. For me, as Alice in
Wonderland said, I can believe six impossible things before breakfast.
Well, I'm being facetious: what the Rambam thought impossible does not
really seem impossible to me.
Malachim may be given temporary bodies for a particular mission (no
harder to accept, in principle, than a neshama clothed in a body--which
is what human beings are). Or they may be illusions /seeming/ to
occupy physical space--3D holograms. But if they are the latter,
it seems to me that they can be seen by ordinary people while awake.
Malachim are not seen only by nevi'im or only in a state of altered
consciousness/prophetic vision. I don't have any trouble accepting
the literal reality of the malachim seen by Hagar, by Lot and by the
Manoachs. Possibly my willingness to read these incidents literally is
a sign of a childish mentality, in contrast to the Rambam's infinitely
The only limitation on the ability to see malachim is that in certain
eras, they do not appear, period. Just as the power of nevuah was
taken from the world, the power of malachim to make themselves visible
was also taken from the world. BTW, the last message of the Delphic
oracle--"I am weakening, I am losing my power"--roughly coincides with
the end of the era of prophecy. To keep things in balance, to preserve
bechira, the kochos hatum'ah wax and wane in proportion to the kochos
of kedusha. Nowadays, if anyone claims to be able to see either sheidim
or malachim, he is lying or mentally ill.
This may connect to ongoing Science-and-Torah thread--the question of
whether we can extrapolate from the present to the past with any degree
of confidence. The fact that angels, sheidim, oracles and nevuah are not
seen today in no way proves that these things never existed in the past.
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Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2004 01:31:48 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Igros Moshe Question
Gershon Dubin wrote:
>I believe there's a teshuva in Igros Moshe that says that a choson
>should davka not go to shul during sheva berachos so as not to deprive
>the tzibur of the opportunity to say tachanun. Mar'eh makom, anyone (RDE)?
Look at Mishna Berura 131 (26) "therefore it is good to be careful that
the chasan should not enter the shul the entire 7 days and thus prevent
people from saying tachanun for his sake.
The Baer Haitiv 131 <14> also states this
Couldn't find a reference in Igros Moshe.
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Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2004 20:21:26 EST
Subject: Re: Three angels real or a vision?
>> Possibly my willingness to read these incidents literally
>> is a sign of a childish mentality, in contrast to the Rambam's
>> infinitely superior intellect.
> It's the Ramban's opinion, so don't belittle it too much.
I realize now, re-reading this, that it sounds like I'm being sarcastic
about the Rambam. I didn't mean it that way.
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Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2004 20:28:12 -0500
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
Subject: RE:Torah and Science
> While I realize that RSM doesn't actually have the attitude I imputed
> to people who create new shitos to fit the science, the methodology he
> uses would naturally lead down that path. It requires an act of will to
> use the methodology WRT ma'aseh bereishis, the mabul or migdal Bavel but
> to reject the same methodology when used to argue against the number of
> Yotz'ei Mitzrayim, the makkos, qeri'as Yam Suf, in short -- history from
> Moshe Rabbeinu to Shaul haMelekh.
> If the methodology produces bad Torah, it's obviously flawed even when
> producing acceptable results.
> In the terms I wrote in my previous post: A god-of-the-gaps approach is
> flawed, even if one is careful when to reduce His role to the gaps in
> our understanding, and when not.
Three quick comments
1. One debate might be over the issue of the possibility of miracles,
a la some radical understandings of the rambam - and those understandings
would not view themselves as bad torah (unpopular torah that perhaps
should be concealed)
2. That is not my debate, who accepts the possibility of miracles.
However, the question is whether that miracle has in it inherently the
ability to leave residues detectable by science - (eg, as discussed
before, the issue is not that the mabul is scientifically impossible,
but that there had to be a second miracle to clean up all evidence of
None of the issues described would be expected to leave behind much
residue - and therefore the method does not lead to bad torah. You worry
that relying on our reason may, under some conditions, lead to "bad torah"
- if that happens, then one needs to decide whether indeed that is bad
torah, or whether the method is flawed - but until then...(many types
of argument can, especially if not properly done, lead to bad torah -
and rejecting reason is a form of bad torah..)
3. WRT to filling in the gaps - my argument is quite different. I am
arguing that the type of knowledge that torah gives us is qualitatively
different than that given by history and science (something similar
in RYBS's discussion of how science can't explain certain qualitative
phenomena) - and that therefore using torah to give us that information,
whether as a primary source (as you argue) or as filling in the gaps of
history and science (as you suggest I am doing) is inherently problematic.
That information is only useful as giving us the rationales and background
for the important torah information.
To cite a famous letter from RAYK
In general, I see an obligation to arouse your pure spirit about
the opinions that come through the new research, that most of them
contradict the simple meaning of Torah. My opinion is, that all whose
opinions are straight should know, that even though there is no truth
demonstrated in all these new investigations, still we are under no
obligation to contradict them outright and to stand against them,
because it is not at all the main point of Torah (ikar shel Torah)
to tell us simple facts and events that happened. The main point
is the core (hatoch), the explanation of the inner part of these
matters, and this will be elevated even more in any place that is
found an opposing force, that encourages us to be stronger. The main
points were already said by the rishonim, and at their head in the
Moreh Nevuchim (footnote to part I chap 71, part II chapters 15,16,
25, and to look at part III chapter 3), and today we are willing to
expand this even further (leharchiv et hadevarim yoter). We have no
concern (nafka mina) if in truth there was ever in the real world
(olam hameziut) a golden age, when man enjoyed both physical and
spiritual wealth, or whether existence started out in actuality from
the bottom to the top, from the bottom of the scale of creation
to its top, and it continues to rise. We only have to know that
there is a complete possibility (efsharut gemura), that man even
if he rises to a great height, and will be ready for all honor and
pleasure, if he shall destroy his ways he could lose all that he has,
and cause harm to himself and his descendants for many generation,
and this we learn from the occurrence (uvda), of man's existence in
Gan Eden and his sin and exile.
And the master of all souls knows how deeply this needs to be
implanted in the hearts of men to be careful from sin, and according
to this depth indeed came so many letters about this in the Torah
of truth. And we come to this level, we no longer need to fight
specifically against the picture that is publicized among the
new researchers, and when we are no longer concerned we can judge
straight, and now we can annul their decisions with ease with this
measure that the truth shall show us her way.
The main glory of our lives is the truth, of the unity in its majesty
and eternal glory, and the eternal justice that goes with it without
separation,. This is the soul of the Torah (nishma d'oraita ג"
footnote to zohar b'ha'alotcha 152) that especially through it can
we glance also on its body and clothing. And in general, the idea
of gradual evolution is also now in the beginning of its evolution,
and there is no doubt that it will change its form, and will yield
visions that in them we will also see leaps, that complete the vision
of existence, and then the light of Yisrael will be understood in
its full brightness.
This is opposite of the gentile researchers, and those Jews
who follow them, who take the tanach according to the Christian
interpretaion, that through it the world becomes a prison. But the
pure understanding of the joy of life and their light that is in the
Torah, is specifically through the secure pledge of the past, when man
was very happy, and only a happening of sin made him lose his way. It
is understood that and an accidental stumbling block will surely be
fixed, and man will return to his high level forever, but the idea
of evolution without help from the past,, can frighten us forever
lest we stand in the middle of the road, or even retreat, as we have
no sure place to say that it is man's fixed nature, and even more so
to the physical man as he is of body and spirit together. Therefore,
only the existence of man in Gan Eden sustains the world of light,
and in general it is appropriate that it should be a historical and
cactual fact, even though it is not necessary (me'akev) for us.
And in general, this is a great principle in the battle of opinions,
that any opinion that comes to contradict something from the Torah,
we have to in the beginning not to contradict it, but to build the
palace of Torah above it, and that way we are elevated by it, and
through this elevation the opinions are exposed, and later, when we
are not pressed by anything, we can with a full and confident heart
to fight against it as well. There are several examples that prove
the point, but it it is difficult for me to elaborate, and for a wise
heart like you the short form is suuficient, inorder to know how to
worhip hashem (lidgol bshem hashem) above all the winds that blow,
and to use everything for our true good, that is also the good of all.
End of quotation
To state again
It is not the point of Torah to tell us simple facts and events that
Therefore, (my conclusion) any point that views a main point of torah
as to tell us these facts, and bemonas the fact that now torah is only
filling in the gaps, is fundamentally flawed from a torah perspective.
Finally, in a previous go round, I had cited RZY Kook, who asked why,
given that science is in flux, should we reject mesora for now? Rav
Zvi Yehuda Kook answers that this presupposes that current scientific
knowledge does not also come from hashem - which he,apparently, would
view as bad torah...
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Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2004 23:14:28 -0500
Subject: Hagbahat haTorah to Three "Dapim"
In Avodah V14 #47, RYEllis wrote:
> In Orach Chayim 132:2...
No doubt, you meant 134:2.
> Is three columns so much that
> such a disclaimer is necessary? Isnt three columns of text showing in
> the sefer Torah during hagbahah normal? Why does the MB [in 134:8] add in
> this line?
Actually, I think he's adding that 3 needn't be considered a maximum
number of columns, given the type of sifrai Torah used in his day
(and by Ashknazim for some time): if the magbiah has the ability to
lift the saifer when it's rolled open to more than three columns, he
may thus roll it before lifting it. As for why he added his thoughts,
he seems to be filling in what MA only implies, that "efsher LO davqa
noqat '3'" in Maseches Sofrim 14:14 (which says "ad shlosha dapin"). NB
that sifrai Torah at the time of Maseches Sofrim may have looked quite
different than the type of saifer you're thinking of -- as an example,
the type of saifer used by my community's Iranian/S'faradi minyan is
a large, ornate case, and not only is hagbahah a greater challenge,
it is impossible to display more than 3 columns because the k'laf can
be extended only as far as the two parts of the case can swing open.
All the best from
- Michael Poppers via RIM pager
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Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2004 10:52:28 -0500
From: "" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Al HaNissim
Does anyone have information on the "Al HaNissim" re: when it was
authored, by whom, and/or when and by whom it was inserted into the
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Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2004 23:50:59 -0500
Subject: Re: Kabbalah and Ikkarim
In Avodah V14 #47, Micha replied:
>> Kashrus (e.g. grasshopper or turkey) terms (i.e. *if R'uvain had a
>> mesorah not to eat any grasshoppers*, he would not be allowed to eat
>> grasshoppers even at the table of a Moshe who had a mesorah that what he
>> was serving to R'uvain was Kosher), but a mesorah re nusach hat'fila
>> *(assuming as a given your latter "have a minhag" possibility, which you
>> believe would be RRW's position re "b'rich shmai")*
> it's possible that the current lack of Berikh Shemei in Yekkish minhag
> was the product of #2, the active decision not to say it.
As I wrote in my reply (relevant portion noted above, with two relevant
phrases highlighted with asterisks), I was working with that possibility
in disagreeing with the "it's better he doesn't [say 'brich shmai']"
conclusion you previously suggested. Please remember that there are
two possibilities in the grasshopper metaphor, too -- I don't have a
mesorah to not eat grasshoppers any more than I have a mesorah not to
say "brich shmai," but I'm willing to work with the possibility for the
sake of this discussion because your conclusion still doesn't follow
(except when you define "poraish min hatzibbur" [PmhTz] the way you did
in your most-recent reply, as per below, a definition that wasn't in
your previous reply to my post to RRW).
> Just because Minhag Ashknaz never included Zoharic passages in nusach
> hat'fila doesn't mean there's a mesorah to never, ever utter them aloud as
> part of a tzibbur.....
Sorry, you misunderstood me because, despite my explicit words,
you apparently didn't realize I was working with your #2 assumption.
I'll rephrase: Just because I have a mesorah to not utter Zoharic passages
in a tzibbur which hews to Minhag Ashknaz doesn't mean I have a mesorah
to never, ever utter them aloud as part of any tzibbur....
> I would think that noticability is an issue of LS [lo sisgod'du].
You can't be "nir'eh k'poraish min hatzibbur" if no one notices, while
you do violate a lav like LS whether or not anyone notices the violation.
> why are we assuming that skipping Berikh Shemei is noticable?
I'm assuming the above "nir'eh k'" re PmhTz. To review, I disagree with
your "if they bedavqa have a minhag that it ought not be said, ie it was
consciously taken out, then it's better he doesn't [say it]": even if
Ashknaz had taken it out and had a tradition not to say it in a minyan
which followed such a nusach, he should say it in a minyan whose nusach
is to say it, and if he feels uncomfortable saying it and doesn't want
to look like a PmhTz, he had better ensure he isn't noticed not saying it.
> PmhTz, which I'm defining as
> being different for no good reason. Whether or not anyone else knows.
Is there a dictionary for PmhTz the way there is for fact? ;-) I question
your limiting PmhTz to "being different for no good reason," but I see
how you come to your conclusion based on such a definition. Thanks.
All the best from
- Michael Poppers via RIM pager
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Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2004 08:58:25 -0500
Subject: Re: Torah and Science
R' Zvi Lampel wrote <<< Okay, I'm bracing myself. Where's this machloqes
tana'im? (Do any say Adam was created as an infant, or that the tree he
ate from was a seed? >>>
R' Micha Berger answered <<< It's a machloqes R' Eliezer and R' Yehoshua
on Rosh haShanah 11a, as explained by the subsequent gemara. You're
assuming the position of R' Eliezer -- which, BTW, would also require
believing that the beri'ah was in Nissan. >>>
It seems to me that RMB is taking a machlokes about whether the world
was created in Nisan or Tishre, and morphing it into a machlokes about
whether the world was created raw or mature.
I'm confident that we agree on what R' Yehoshua says: That Bereshis 1:11
describes a newly-created world, but a mature one, full of fruit and
vegetation. That's how the world looks in Tishre, which is the harvest
season, so R Yehoshua concludes that the world must have been created
But we probably disagree on what R' Eliezer says. RMB seems to
understand him as saying that HaShem did not create a mature world,
but a primordial one. But I don't see that in his words. R Eliezer bases
himself on Bereshis 1:12, which emphasizes the seeds of the vegetation,
and the seeds of the fruit. That's how the world looks in Nisan, when
those seeds begin to sprout, so R Eliezer concludes that the world must
have been created in Nisan.
RMB seems to interpret R Eliezer as saying the universe was created
totally raw, but I interpret R Eliezer as saying that the world's
appearance on that day was the same as in any other Nisan --- Seeds were
laying on the ground trying to take root, fruits and flowers beginning
At this point, I could ask where the trees (or the seeds, for that matter)
came from, in my attempt the show that the world was just as mature in
that Nisan as in any other Nisan. I imagine a response which explains
that (according to R' Eliezer) those "seeds" are just a poetic metaphor
for the primordial goo from which plant life arose.
But instead of wasting effort on that debate, I'll cut to the chase.
According to R' Eliezer, who RMB describes as opposing the "the world
was created in mature state" view --- would he say that Adam HaRishon
was created as a baby, or as a mature adult?
Until someone can show me a source for Adam HaRishon being created as a
baby, I will presume that everyone agrees he was created as an adult. And
if HaShem would create Adam in such a fashion that would give Chava the
impression that Adam had once been a child, then He might also have
created the planet Earth in such a fashion that it would give us the
impression that it too had once had a "childhood".
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Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2004 10:47:38 -0500
From: "" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Torah and Allegory (Moreh Nevuchim on Science)
Micha Berger <email@example.com> posted on Wed, 22 Dec 2004:
> In the Rambam's thought, nature is a nivrah. So, that is either a
> hypostasis emanated, or an object manufactured by G-d. Absolute in
> either case.
> Either that, or you would have to also say that the existance of people
> is not absolute, and the definiteness of your own existance is only a
> figment as well.
The way I always thought of it (and so taught) is that the Rambam is
teaching that nature and we are a figment of /His/ imagination (which I
guess we can term absolute reality, and perhaps contrast with the term
As far as I know, it only freaked out one person.
What's your opinion on this take?
P.S. I looked up "hypostasis" and saw several definitions. How are you
using the word?
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Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2004 11:47:02 -0500
From: "Moshe & Ilana Sober" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Torah and Science
> The older (of the two mentioned) Sober child was quoted as saying,
> "This part is not true. Hashem created the sun." The latter sentence
> is emes. It's the reisha that I feel is not. If RnIS hopes to explain
> someday that both could be true, then she does not agree with that denial.
Just to elucidate - there are only two Sober children. And I didn't
say anything at the time, since it was in the middle of the movie
(and I haven't "earned the right" to talk in movies). I just got nachas
from overhearing her, because she showed a clear sense of priorities -
in RMB's revised words: "Torah provides the bedrock and it's science
that must do the accomodating" and was able to view an impressive and
authoritative media presentation with skepticism.
The topic did come up later, and I said something of which some
listmembers will approve and some won't, along the lines of - it's
certainly true that Hashem created the sun, but we don't know exactly
how He did it. Maybe He made a supernova first, and maybe He didn't.
> the primary
> aspect of religion from the mesora is to give us values and obligations.
> It is not a knowledge base - even though the mesora has some knowledge
> base that motivates and governs the values and obligations it gives.......
> It therefore isn't that science gives us absolute knowledge - something
> that mortals don't have - but it is currently the best knowledge that we
> humans can have barring direct revelation .....
1) The mesora does include elements that I would characterize as
knowledge, e.g., G-d created the world, He runs the world, He took us
out of Mitzrayim, He gave us the Torah, etc. All of which are disputed
2) I am not so sure that science is "the best knowledge that we humans can
have barring direct revelation." Since many scientists are basing their
work on false premises (e.g., there is no Creator, everything happens
randomly), it is probably less accurate than it could be. The basic
atheistic assumptions of these scientists DO affect scientific knowledge
- what questions get asked, which hypotheses are rejected out of hand
without even testing them, which results are ignored or overlooked because
they are in basic conflict with the atheistic materialist worldview,
what is chosen for publication, who gets tenure, etc.
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Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2004 12:51:31 -0500
From: Micha Berger <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Torah and Science
On Fri, Dec 24, 2004 at 08:58:25AM -0500, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
: R' Micha Berger answered <<< It's a machloqes R' Eliezer and R' Yehoshua
: on Rosh haShanah 11a, as explained by the subsequent gemara. You're
: assuming the position of R' Eliezer -- which, BTW, would also require
: believing that the beri'ah was in Nissan. >>>
: It seems to me that RMB is taking a machlokes about whether the world
: was created in Nisan or Tishre, and morphing it into a machlokes about
: whether the world was created raw or mature.
I should have said, "You're assuming the position of R' Eliezer, as
understood without R' Yehoshua ben Levi." As I tried to write with my
"as explained by", the machloqes is more in the Amora'im's treatment of
the original machloqes than in the tana'im themselves.
Micha Berger It isn't what you have, or who you are, or where
email@example.com you are, or what you are doing, that makes you
http://www.aishdas.org happy or unhappy. It's what you think about.
Fax: (270) 514-1507 - Dale Carnegie
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Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2004 13:10:13 -0500
From: Micha Berger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Torah and Allegory (Moreh Nevuchim on Science)
On Fri, Dec 24, 2004 at 10:47:38AM -0500, email@example.com wrote:
: The way I always thought of it (and so taught) is that the Rambam is
: teaching that nature and we are a figment of /His/ imagination (which I
: guess we can term absolute reality, and perhaps contrast with the term
: "ultimate reality.")
: As far as I know, it only freaked out one person.
: What's your opinion on this take?
I don't think that's what the Rambam said. It might even be a presentation
of an understanding of beri'ah that the Tanya was mechadeish.
The Rambam speaks of HQBH as Manufacturer, and as Ultimate Cause. Because
of Averroe's translation, most rishonim (and Moslems) saw Aristotle's
notion of "Ultimate Cause" as an expression of Emanation. That fits the
Rambam's description in Hil' Yesodei haTorah of the chain of causality
down through the levels of mal'achim. HQBH's existance has no cause,
it's therefore fully non-contingent. Everything else is contingent on
His Will, or on His Will plus something else that's contingent, etc...
Imagination is a metaphor that is at least halfway to panentheism. Shefa
flows from G-d, but Imagination would reside "within" Him. The Besh"t
stressed the use of dibur as the Torah's metaphor for beri'ah. The Baal
haTanya stressed "ein od milvado".
There are two concepts that were confused earlier on this thread:
contingency, and absoluteness. Hashem could have decided to make a
beri'ah in which there is no Micha Berger. However, that doesn't make
me any less real once He decided to create me.
To put it a third way: I could decide whether or not to make dinner.
That doesn't mean that dinner, once made, is only imaginary.
: P.S. I looked up "hypostasis" and saw several definitions. How are you
: using the word?
A nivra, when looking at it as a landmark in the flow of emanation. I
also said the Rambam thought of teva as a nivra in Yinglish before
hazarding the philosophical term. I needed a word other than "created"
which implies manufacture more than emanation.
Micha Berger The purely righteous do not complain about evil,
firstname.lastname@example.org but add justice , don't complain about heresy,
http://www.aishdas.org but add faith, don't complain about ignorance,
Fax: (270) 514-1507 but add wisdom. - R AY Kook, Arpilei Tohar
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Date: Sat, 25 Dec 2004 22:43:15 -0500
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Torah and Science (Credibility Ladder and the starlight problem)
R. Yitzchok Zlochower wrote (quoting from the middle first):
> In fact, one can demonstrate that assuming
> a radically faster speed of light during those presumed 24 hour days
> leads to results inconsistent with modern observations - assuming any
> of a number of simple models for a variable c. ...
> In brief, my exposition leads to the conclusion that the generic
> models for a much greater speed of light during the creation period,
> succeeded by a constant c of modern value ever since, is in conflict
> with more recent astronomical observations, and can, therefore, be
> discarded. If Jonathan has a mathematical model that does not have the
> same problem (or can show an error in my demonstration), let him offer
> it if he wishes his objections to carry weight.
I believe that RYZ's first and simplest set of equations has a modelling
error (see below), and I don't believe he has proved that the speed of
light had to always have been a constant without making uniformitarian
assumptions as shown towards the end of this post.
> Jonathan seems to disparage the role of extrapolation
> in arriving at scientific truth.
More accurately than "disparage", what I actually say is that there is
a Credibility Ladder.
1. Repeatable Observable experiments
4. Deep theory
I think it is pretty simple to see that facts based on repeatable
observable experiments are more credible than "facts" based on
Extrapolation. That does not mean there is no role at all for
extrapolation. Just realize that vast extrapolations make the ladder
shakier than small conservative extrapolations. So do stubborn anomalies.
> Yet, extrapolation both forwards
> and backwards in time goes to the heart of scientific methodology.
> It also corresponds to normal human expectations, albeit unproveable
> - as was asserted long ago by the sceptical philosopher, David Hume.
> It is no more logical to predict what will happen tomorrow based on
> today and yesterday than to infer from the present and recent past to
> the distant past.
In a world without G-d, Hume correctly points out that all extrapolations
are subject to hopeless skepticism (atheistic scientists take note).
In the words of Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt"l it is only our
"belief in G-d Who created men and things that forms an essential
foundation also to our theoretical knowledge. Without this belief,
theoretical scientific knowledge can not escape hopeless skepticism,
has no guarantee that they are not deducing a dream from a dream and
proving a dream by a dream." [As an aside to RHM, in case he decides to
respond to this paragraph, please read my earlier post on the Rambam's
description of Divine causation first].
It is G-d who gave complete stability to nature after Maaseh Beraishis and
guarantees us that within the limited frame he gave us to operate that
"the amount of knowledge of the nature of things which is granted him
is no deception". Thus, already on the 6th day, Adam was able to give
appropriate names to the animals and this particular act of cognition
carries weight. But during Maaseh Beraishis natural law did not apply
at all times and many aspects of Creation are profound and beyond our
ken. This is why the Rambam tells us that we cannot reliably infer from
what we observe now to how the universe came into being.
This is very important. We can use our regular scientific acumen to go to
the moon, heal illness and benefit mankind. Used correctly science is one
of the great blessings that G-d has granted us, and He assures us that
within these limits our intellects can be relied upon. But to apply our
intellects to areas that transcend it has lead mankind astray from the
true knowledge. The true knowledge of Maaseh Beraishis is more profound
than we think and we can only know of it that which G-d has revealed.
> Extrapolations to the future, however, do normally
> have the advantage of being easily testable. Extrapolations to the
> past are not normally amenable to direct experimentation - but an
> accumulation of evidence from the past may be equally convincing.
See above. In the dating systems we are dealing with there are vast
backward extrapolations involving sheer assumptions, hypothetical entities
with no direct experimental support (deep theory) and stubborn anomalies
that contradict the extrapolations.
> The so-called "big-bang" theory
> of cosmology (so named by its leading detractor) and its "inflation"
> add-on are clearly less established, but are considered viable theories
> by astronomers and as Hoyle may still argue for an eternal universe].
> I am puzzled why Jonathan relies on the polemics of the anti "big-bang"
> chevra who wish to resurrect the idea of an eternal universe in
> opposition to the mainstream view that the universe had an origin.
Hoyle was forthright in his criticisms of both Big Bang theory and the
theory of evolution. I appreciate his criticisms without feeling the
need to accept his solutions.
The Big Bang theory is useful for showing that creation ex nihilo is
possible. I use it all the time to show how deeply held scientific
beliefs are overturned (e.g. from believing in a universe with age
t = -\infinity to one with a finite age of t = 14 BY) because of the
Credibility Ladder. But I take issue with your claim that there is no
reason to doubt this 14 BY age of the universe contra our mesora. There
are in fact many good reasons for doubting such vast extrapolations.
Many atheistic big bang cosmologists are working on theories of an eternal
universe as well. They need to do this to salvage their self-respect.
[As a very, very speculative and tangential aside, suppose we drop the
sheer assumption in BBC of homogeneity. In that case, our galaxy alone
would be special and at the center of the observed redshift. Suppose
that G-d does cause space to expand to explain the observed redshift
(forget about the stubborn anomalies for now). In that case all matter
(a finite amount) is initially concentrated around us in a much smaller
universe. Assuming that GR is already at work, our clocks would tick
more slowly on earth where there is more gravity than clocks at the outer
periphery, in the initial expansion period. Unlike Dr. Schroeder's model,
it is our clocks that would show 7 actual days while billions of years of
processing takes place in the far reaches of the universe. Put another
way, light would travel at different speeds in different parts of the
universe. The expansion then stops before the end of the creation days,
and the far out clocks becomes synchronized with our own. :-)]
> Jonathan also does not mention that Magueijo and others that he cites
> are attempting to describe the universe in the briefest instant of time
> (less than a microsecond) after its creation when it was an incredibly
> dense and hot plasma.
In Magueijo's case I explicitly stated "in the early universe". In the
other references I supplied there are different VSL theories in which
light varies exponentially over the whole age of the universe.
>The creation days, in contrast, appear to describe a familiar,
> cool earth with a 24 hour day (if the verses are taken literally), water,
> fruit trees, grasses, herbivorous mammals birds, and a man and woman.
> Why should we assume that the speed of light and the basic laws of physics
> were any different then than now?
I hope RYZ realizes that he is making a sheer assumption. Whole new
entities come into being at the beginning of creation and on subsequent
days and he believes that the laws of nature must have been then what
they are now? Where do we see (today) humans emerging directly from
the earth within a brief moment of time? The Rambam twice (in MN) states
the complete opposite, viz. that the laws of nature were not fixed until
the end of Maaseh Beraishis.
> If the most distant stars are
> really as distant as astronomers believe, then the light travel time
> for the above model must agree with a 13 billion year travel time at
> a speed of c. Setting up that simple equation gives the ratio c(a)/c =
> 1.6x10^12 for 3 days of super-fast starlight or 1.2x10^12 for 4 days.
> Such an enormous ratio implies a much different state of nature during
> the creation days.
That is precisely correct -- matters were very different in the 7 days
of creation as stated clearly by the Rambam and as is obvious from the
Torah and Chazal.
> For one, the total energy content of any matter
> would have been 10^24 as great as what is observed in modern times
> (from Einstein's E= mc^2 relationship that has been verified in many
> thousands of nuclear reactions). Moreover, what happened to all that
> enormous energy when light speed assumed its normal value?
Here is a challenge for you -- can you prove that energy is conserved
after the big bang? Redshifts in an expanding universe (standard big bang
cosmology) means that an enormous amount of energy is being lost. I have
seen answers such as it is transformed into gravity -- but these answers
themselves have vast discrepancies. One reference states that the total
energy is zero and another reference states that the total energy is
infinite. The fact that you have such conflicting stories means that
the theory is in bad shape, I would think.
Even more, consider the following quote:
"The conservation of energy principle serves us well in all sciences
except cosmology. .... Where does all the energy go in an expanding
universe? And where does it come from in a contracting universe? The
answer is NOWHERE, BECAUSE IN THE COSMOS ENERGY IS NOT CONSERVED". [Page
349 --Harrison, E.R. Cosmology: The Science of the Universe. Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge; New York, 2000.]
> Another observation is the
> supernova that appeared in the southern hemisphere skies in February 1987
> (SN 1987A)from a star in a neighboring galaxy, the large Magellanic cloud.
> This exploding star was the closest such supernova since the invention
> of the telescope and has therefore been intensively studied. Some 240
> days after the dramatic brightening of the star, a bright ring was noted
> by high resolution instruments including the Hubble space telescope.
> This development was attributed to the time delay in the arrival of
> light from the explosion to a cloud of matter from the star that had
> been expelled in an earlier eruption.
> Let us now assume, as above, that light speed was c(a) or 1.6x10^12 x c
> in the 3 days of creation after stars were first functional. Then the
> distance to the supernova is given by D = c(a) x t'(a) + c x t, where
> t(a) is the travel time during the creation days (really at its end)
> and t is the subsequent time until 5748 (when the ring was observed).
> Then D/c (the light travel time in years) = (c(a)/c) x t'(a) + t =
> 168,000. From above, c(a)/c = 1.6x10^12, t is 5748 years, and t(a) is
> calculated as 1.0x10^-7 years or 3.2 sec (i.e. the last 3 seconds of
> the creation week).
So far I follow RYZ's calculations. I see his assumptions as:
1. The cloud was ejected by SN1987A in a previous eruption and the light
halo around the cloud is from the supernova explosion.
2. The distances between the supernova, its cloud and earth were the
same on day 4 as they are now.
3. Light obeys the basic laws of physics during creation that light obeys
now except that RYZ assumes that the speed could have been different.
4. All light photons in the universe traveled at 1.6E12*c over the whole
last 4 days of creation.
Based on the foregoing his equations are:
5) a = 0.000224 degrees
6) t = 5748 years
7) D = (ca*ta) + (c*t)
8) ca/c =1.6E12
9) D =168000*c
Solving the above for ta we get (as stated by RYZ):
10) ta = 1.01408E-7 (i.e. we need to accelerate the light for 3.2
> D is then equated to R/tan a, where R is now c(a)
> x t(a) + c x t(e). We have shown that t(a)is a small fraction of the
> last creation day and that the definition of t(e) is effectively the
> same as above. This equation is then solved for t, giving t = 41 billion
> years instead of the 168,000 years given by the constant c calculation.
> Such an age for the supernova is 3 x the estimated age of the universe
> or 7 million times the 5748 years that Jonathan is seeking. He can,
> therefore, discard this model.
I believe that RYZ has an inconsistency in his equations based on a
For the sake of describing the problem, let me grant him his first three
assumptions, in which case his equations are:
11) D = R/tan(a)
12) R = ca*ta +c*te where te = 0.0685
RYZ say that we should solve for "t". However, we have already fixed "t"
in (6) above as 5748 years. So I believe that he means that we should
solve (8), (10), (11) and (12) for "D" in which case we get
13) D = 41.5018E9*c
i.e. D = 41 billion years as he states. This would make for a very old
universe if RYZ's model is correct. But (13) directly contradicts (9)
above and the problem seems to be in (12).
D is the distance between the earth and the supernova, and R is the
distance between the supernova and its cloud. We have a right angled
triangle. Let the hypotenuse of the triangle be H, i.e. H is the distance
between the cloud and earth (the angle subtended by D and H being "a"). If
the supernova exploded in the last 3.2 seconds of the creation days and
the light photons went at an accelerated rate of 12 orders of magnitude
during those seconds, then the photons would have traversed the whole of R
(which is only 0.685 years), and "turned the corner" onto the hypotenuse
H. In fact, these light photons would have traversed all of R and almost
the whole distance to earth along H in those 3.2 seconds. What RYZ has
done is to put the supernova much further away thereby allowing a much
greater R and D.
However, his basic assumption (2) was that these distances do not
change. If we replace the faulty (12) with
(14) R = 0.685*c
then all the equations are now consistent. Consider two photons of light
leaving the supernova at the moment of the explosion 3.2 seconds before
the end of the creation day. One photon heads directly to earth along
D. The second travels along R to the cloud, and then moves along the
hypotenuse H to earth. They both travel at the accelerated rate for 3.2
seconds (almost getting all the way to earth each along their own path)
and then both drop down to normal speeds as creation ends and normal
Using RYZ's equations, the first photon arrives at earth at t = 5748 years
as described in (6) and shows the explosion but not yet the cloud. The
second photon arrives at approximately t = 5748.685 (i.e. 240 days later)
at which time the cloud can now be seen. This fits our actual observation
of the supernova with a less than 6000 year old earth.
Can RYZ confirm, as I suspect, that his first model was in error?
Which brings me to my main point. I did not quote the growing professional
literature on variable speed of light theories to say that I know how
things worked in the 7 creation days. I stated explicitly and clearly
that I provide no models. This is not only because I lack the expertise
to construct the models, but models require some sort of stability to
nature -- and as the Rambam states twice in the MN -- in the first 7
days nature was not yet fixed. It could very well be that mathematics
itself was created at this time, G-d not being in need of mathematics
or physical laws to construct His universe.
I quote these theories only as a "mashal" to show that likewise matters
were entirely different in the creation epoch. For a while it was
inconceivable that a sacrosanct constant of physics could change --
"dun mineh" to the creation week. This is very much like scientists
today who cannot tell us what happened before the Planck time. Think
of the 7 days of creation as the real Planck time. Fortunately, it is
cosmologists that have thought up things like blackholes, time dilation,
wormholes, and variable speeds of light. If I would have said that light
was faster at creation then I would have been accused of making things up
(like the website RYZ recommended that stated that anybody who tinkers
with the sacrosanct constant of the speed of light needs to go back to
school for a physics education). Fortunately, competent scientists do
refer to such things, and we should learn from them how different things
were during creation.
RYZ originally thought that SN1987A provided convincing evidence that
the universe is at least 168000 years old. I challenged him to prove
it without making uniformitarian assumptions. I believe that he has
so far failed to do so. I could, of course, be wrong --- but, it is my
understanding that he will have to make one or more untestable assumptions
involving the stability of nature to prove his contention.
KT ... JSO
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