Avodah Mailing List
Volume 14 : Number 053
Wednesday, January 5 2005
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 13:18:09 +0100
From: Arie Folger <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Authenticity of Zohar
>> After the death of Moses de Leon, it is related, a rich man of
>> Avila, named Joseph, offered the widow, who had been left without
>> means, a large sum of money for the original from which her husband
>> had made the copy; and she then confessed that her husband himselfwas
>> the author of the work. She had asked him several times, she said, why
>> he had chosen to credit his own teachings to another, and he had
>> always answered that doctrines put into the mouth of the
>> miracle-working Simeon ben YoHai would be a rich source of profit (see
>> "Sefer ha-YuHasin," ed. Filipowski, p. 89).
> Does anyone know about the credibility of this story? an anyone
> provide background information with regard to the Sefer ha_Yu'hasin
This is a misquote from a manuscript from Rabbi Yitz'haq de-min Akko,
and it was published in 1926 by Gerschom Scholem in the first issue
of Mada'ei ha-Yahadut from the fledgling Hebrew U. I mentioned this
manuscripts sevral times, IIRC. I have, I believe (manuscripts are hard
to read) a copy from the microflim of the only known complete copy, but
I have trouble reading it, and hope to return to make another microfilm
print of it.
The copy that GS used was torn in the middle of the story, where the
rich man was plotting with RYdmA. However, the end of the story is only
available on the Leningrad copy (I believe the Ginsburg connection) which,
when GS was writing, was unaccessibly stuck in the Soviet Union. I wonder
whether the editor of the JE did use the complete manuscript ('t was
before 1917, after all), but JE wasn't exactly a neutral observer. One
of the fun quirks of the JE is that it is into advocacy, as I am told
for example in the article about Volozhin.
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Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 13:20:38 -0500
From: Micha Berger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Three angels real or a vision?
On Thu, Dec 30, 2004 at 04:07:14PM -0500, T613K@aol.com wrote:
:> It's not harder to accept, it simply violates his definition of mal'akh.
: Which only begs the question. Why did he define Mal'ach as [always,
: necessarily] an incorporeal being? Or to rephrase what I said at first:
: I have no problem defining "mal'ach" differently than the Rambam did.
I think a more useful rephrasing would be: Why did the Rambam believe
that Hashem would only intervene through mal'achim? Why could He send
an intellect clothed in a body as opposed to a seichel nivdal?
An intellect clothed in a human body is a human. To the Rambam, all
the differences between people and mal'achim derive from people being
intellects attached to matter, and mal'achim being nivdalim.
Why would Hashem create a human for the moment when He could use an
already existing one?
Perhaps this is why the word "mal'ach" is also used for people.
On Mon, Jan 03, 2005 at 12:47:46PM -0500, R Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer wrote:
:> I still don't see it. R' Avraham b"haRambam's explanation of how Yaaqov
:> could be injured by getting hit in a nevu'ah (v. 26) seems to be quite
:> clearly contrasting them quantitatively, not qualitatively. He directly
:> denies the proposition, calling it "eino metzi'us". He says that instead
:> it is dimyon. Then he speaks of someone who "yir'eh bachalomo ke'ilu" and
:> calls its effects that of dimyon. "And if it's so for a *chalom haragil"
:> implying that a nevu'ah is a chalom that isn't ragil, not a different
:> beryah, and in fact uses the parallel turn of phrase as in the opening
:> "mar'eh nevu'ah".
: [How] do you define dimayon?
I can't define it, I can tell you what it does. Dimyon is the power
by which we can hold images in our mind. Wehther those images are
the product of creativity, dream, daydream, memory or nevu'ah -- they
are all beko'ach hadimyon. Not just visual images, but also sounds,
etc... Dimyon is the power to have qualia, if using that term helps any.
Dimyon is, as RAbhRMBM writes, used in chalomos. The word can't be
used to prove something is qualitatively different than a dream.
It might be qualitatively different for another reason, bit not this
My problem is his calling a dream a "chalom haragil" and his calling
both a mar'eh. There is implication of similarity, but none of contrast.
"Ragil" would certainly be odd if nevu'ah weren't a special kind of
chalom. More than that, he explicitly calls nevu'ah "eino metzi'us"
which is why one needs to explain the limp!
:> Actually, RAbhRMBM speaks of the Yaaqov of the chazon not realizing it
:> -- "lo alah al libo *bechezyono*". As though it's not the real Yaaqov,
:> and in the super-dream of nevu'ah, the "I" of his dream didn't realize it.
: I do not understand the two-Yaakov understanding you suggest.
In dreams, we often experience ourselves doing and thinking things that
we would never do in reality. I see a parallel to that in RAbhRMBM's
distinction between what he thought upon arising vs "bechezyono".
Micha Berger A person must be very patient
email@example.com even with himself.
http://www.aishdas.org - attributed to R' Nachman of Breslov
Fax: (270) 514-1507
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Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 19:20:37 -0500
From: "" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Torah and Science
On Tue, Dec 28, 2004 at 03:29:04PM -0500, Shinnar, Meir wrote:
: Because the mesora itself ascribes normative value to zechirat yetziat
: mitzrayim - (mitzva of zechirat yetziat mitzraim) ...
email@example.com posted on: Dec 31, 2004:
> I think I much better understand your position. ... you believe that
> mesorah doesn't address anything beyond law and values (including Hil'
> Dei'os)...And if so, do you have a source for saying that TSBP is of
> such limited scope?
> ...[Also,] Leshitahskha, how do you know which beliefs are mandated
> (eg a literal exodus) and therefore actual TSBP and which were not
> (a literal week commemorated by Shabbos)? ... If a mitzvah of zechirah
> rules out allegorization, than ma'aseh bereishis must be literal!
> A "nafka minnah" about whether the six days of Creation are taken by
> our mesorah to mean days and not longer periods of time: if a prophet
> would claim the latter--would he be considered a false prophet?
I would like to present a quote from Rabbeynu Saadiah Gaon's "[HaNivchar
B']Emunos V'Deyyos," (III:6) which I hope will shed light on how
normative/authoritative/classical Judaism relates to the p'shat (I
prefer not to use the word "literal") of the six days of Creation and
how seriously it is taken:
...if we hear [a self-declared prophet's] call and find it, at the
outset, to be wrong, we do not ask him for miracles, for no miracle
can prove the impossible....So it is with everyone who claims to be
a prophet. If he tells us, 'Hashem commands you to commit adultery
and to steal,' or 'proclaims that he will bring a flood upon the
world again,' or 'informs you that He created Heaven and Earth in
one year,' we shall not not ask him for a sign because he brings us
a message which is not sanctioned by Reason or Mesorah."
Rabbeynu Saadiah Gaon considered so obvious the p'shat of the six
days of Creation being 24-hour type days, that a prophet who declared
otherwise--i.e., that they actually comprised a 12 month year (not to
mention billions of years)--is deemed a false prophet.
Note the "l'fi tumo' aspect of his assumption that the "days" Braishis
speaks of are indeed days. He doesn't make a point of this, because this
is how one without an agenda reads it, finding this fact no more cryptic
than what Hashem means when he tells us to keep a "day" of Shabbos. I
think it's fair to state that any Chazal, Gaon, Rishon or Acharon who
speaks of the days of Creation without adding qualifications understands
that the days were 24-hour type days. Of course, one can proclaim that
the definition of a day is an era of billions of years, and insist that
whenever a commentator says "day" he really means "era," but this is not
an honest reading. More on the fact that the classical commentaries all
assume that days are days in another post.
Also note that RSG considers the obligation to accept all Torah
declarations to apply equally to laws (adultery and theft) and narratives
(Mabul and details of Creation).
Of related interest is RSG's writing (III:5):
Scripture already declares that reliable tradition is as true
as the things perceived by sight. Yirmiyahu (2:10) states, 'For
pass over to the isles of the Kittites---and see; And send unto
Kedar--and consider diligently... ' Why the additional words, 'and
consider diligently'? Because a tradition, unlike sense perception,
is liable to be falsified either through a wrong idea or through
willful distortion. For this reason, Scripture warns, 'And consider
diligently.'... And if the Traditon of our Fathers is viewed from
the aspect of these principles, it will manifest itself as sound
and safe against any attack, as true, and firmly established."
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Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 20:17:12 -0500
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Torah and Science (a challenge to the theory of evolution)
On Behalf Of Shinnar, Meir Sent: December 20, 2004 4:22 PM
> I agree
> that trying to construct one's theology on the basis of the big bang
> is problematic, because it might be abandoned
> - and the figure of 14
> billion years is not one that is hard and fast - but whatever number it
> is, it is more than 6000 years.
What evidence do you have for this assertion that does not depend on
assumptions, interpolations, extrapolations, deep theory and that is
not plagued by stubborn anomalies?
The last time the age of the universe had to be changed it had to be
resolved *downwards* by an infinite decrement from t=-\infinity to t
In a recent discussion on Avodah there was a (so far failed) attempt to
use SN1987A as a proof that the universe is older than 168,000 years. This
attempt has so far failed because it is undermined once you subject it
to the Credibility Ladder.
> Similarly to evolution. ...
> while there are still fundamental issues about the mechanisms and dynamics
> of evolution, the fundamental theses of evolution have been settled by
> scientific criteria:1
Scientific criteria or wishful thinking (see below)?
> 1) There is a temporal order to the appearance of different phylae,
> subphylae, order,etc
> 2) There are changes in species that have been documented over time
> 3) Phylae/subphylae that appear later seem to have relationships to
> phylae/subphylae that appeared earlier.
> part 1 that is crucial to our discussions -because the temporal order
> involved involves time scales related to the first question - far larger
> than 6000 years.
"Ad khan" the propaganda. Now for the evidence. In fact, where is
the evidence for common descent that does not depend on assumptions,
interpolations, extrapolations, deep theory and that is not plagued by
stubborn anomalies, or frauds such as Haeckel's embryos (see earlier post)
that Darwin considered the most powerful evidence for common descent. Let
us consider your first point, viz. the origin of phyla:
[Oxford University Professor, Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1986,
"Before we come to the sort of sudden bursts that they [Eldredge and
Gould] had in mind, there are some conceivable meanings of `sudden
bursts' that they most definitely did not have in mind. These must be
cleared out of the way because they have been the subject of serious
misunderstandings. Eldredge and Gould certainly would agree that
some very important gaps really are due to imperfections in the fossil
record. Very big gaps, too. For example the Cambrian strata of rocks,
vintage about 600 million years, are the oldest ones in which we find
most of the major invertebrate groups. AND WE FIND MANY OF THEM ALREADY
IN AN ADVANCED STATE OF EVOLUTION, THE VERY FIRST TIME THEY APPEAR. IT
IS AS THOUGH THEY WERE JUST PLANTED THERE, WITHOUT ANY EVOLUTIONARY
HISTORY. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted
creationists. Evolutionists of all stripes believe, however, that this
really does represent a very large gap in the fossil record, a gap that is
simply due to the fact that, for some reason, very few fossils have lasted
from periods before about 600 million years ago. One good reason might be
that many of these animals had only soft parts to their bodies: no shells
or bones to fossilize. IF YOU ARE A CREATIONIST YOU MAY THINK THAT THIS
IS SPECIAL PLEADING. My point here is that, when we are talking about gaps
of this magnitude, there is no difference whatever in the interpretations
of `punctuationists' and `gradualists'. BOTH SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT DESPISE
SO-CALLED SCIENTIFIC CREATIONISTS EQUALLY, AND BOTH AGREE THAT THE MAJOR
GAPS ARE REAL, THAT THEY ARE TRUE IMPERFECTIONS IN THE FOSSIL RECORD. BOTH
SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT AGREE THAT THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE EXPLANATION OF THE
SUDDEN APPEARANCE OF SO MANY COMPLEX ANIMAL TYPES IN THE CAMBRIAN ERA
IS DIVINE CREATION, AND BOTH WOULD REJECT THIS ALTERNATIVE." ---
This is a most amazing statement that deserves much further study. Dawkins
is forced to resort to some very special pleading for the so called
"fact" of common descent to justify a billion years of large scale
macro-evolution from an amoeba (how did the original replicator
start?) via (gorilla-like) hominids to man (where does language come
from, what about altruism, and how to explain the deep problem of
consciousness?). The pleading is very special, indeed, for body parts
of ancient organisms have been discovered elsewhere in the fossil record.
In fact, does the evidence suggest common descent as RMS suggests --
Dawkins states that we find the fossils "already in an advanced state
of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were
just planted there, without any evolutionary history".
What is interesting to me is that all of Darwin's most important
categories of proof for common descent have either been discarded (like
the fraud of Haeckel's embryos) or have major "pirchas" on them.
> How exactly the later species arose from the earlier
> ones is a matter of some debate - but that they arose is not.
RMS is attempting, hereby, to distinguish between the so called "fact"
of evolution (common descent with modification) and its mechanism (natural
selection). However, Darwin himself wrote that without a mechanism there
is no proof for common descent -- the one time the man actually made a
Of course, there is not the faintest evidence for *any* naturalistic
mechanism that can, through unintelligent natural causes, produce new
[Harold, Franklin. M. The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms, and the
Order of Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford; New York, 2001, page 205]
"We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of
intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity (Behe 1996);
BUT WE MUST CONCEDE THAT THERE ARE PRESENTLY NO DETAILED DARWINIAN
ACCOUNTS OF THE EVOLUTION OF ANY BIOCHEMICAL SYSTEM, ONLY A VARIETY OF
WISHFUL SPECULATIONS." [James Shapiro, Stuart Kauffman, and Lynn Margulis
have, in effect, conceded this point as well.] ---
What an astonishing admission for a theory that has dominated biology
for over a hundred years. There is no good evidence for the mechanism
(natural selection) and there is no good evidence for common descent. Only
"just so" stories ("wishful speculations" says Franklin Harold) that
do not even make it to the first step of the Credibility Ladder the
"sina qua non" of any scientific theory (viz. repeatable observable
Yet Harold and Dawkins say that there is some kind of a principle that
forbids us from invoking the plan and purpose of the Creator (Franklin
states that "We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution
of intelligent design for the [unintelligent] dialogue of chance and
necessity"). There is a principal, of course, and it is called --
methodological naturalism -- and it has to be adopted, despite all the
evidence, to avoid the discomfort of a creation and design inference. To
reproduce the quote of an earlier post:
[Dr. Richard Lewontin is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at
Harvard University, NYRoB, 1997]
"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common
sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science
and the supernatural. WE TAKE THE SIDE OF SCIENCE IN SPITE OF THE PATENT
ABSURDITY OF SOME OF ITS CONSTRUCTS, IN SPITE OF ITS FAILURE TO FULFILL
MANY OF ITS EXTRAVAGANT PROMISES OF HEALTH AND LIFE, IN SPITE OF THE
TOLERANCE OF THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY FOR UNSUBSTANTIATED JUST-SO STORIES,
BECAUSE WE HAVE A PRIOR COMMITMENT, A COM-MITMENT TO MATERIALISM. It
is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow com-pel
us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on
the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material
causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts
that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no
matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is
absolute, for we can-not allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent
Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in
God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to
allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured,
that miracles may happen."
It strikes me as ironic that some chashuva Yidden are so beguiled by this
theory on the basis of so little evidence (to the extent that they distort
our mesorah of a recent purposeful creation by the Borei Olam) in order
to shoe-horn in a "just so" story consisting of "unsubstantiated wishful
speculations" [Lewontin] whose key point is that man is an accident? What
happened to our absolute conviction of the "gadlus haadam"?
The theory of common descent with modification via natural selection
(a true descendant of the Epicurean philosophy) has wreaked moral
havoc to society whether in the form of casual abortion, euthanasia,
and the destruction of marriage and societal values. Michael Tooley
(PhD Princeton University 1968) currently Professor of Philosophy at the
University of Colorado has unapologetically argued that you should be
able to kill live healthy already-born human infants up to about the age
of three months before their capacities exceed those of animals. Johnson
has argued that Steven Pinker probably agrees with the logic but does
not advance it because he believes that his readers are not ready for
the Darwinian bottom line -- *yet*.
[Weikart, R. From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and
Racism in Germany. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2004. Dustjacket blurb]
In this compelling and painstakingly researched work of intellectual
history, Richard Weikart explains the revolutionary impact Darwinism
had on ethics and morality. He demonstrates that many leading Darwinian
biologists and social thinkers in Germany believed that Darwinism
overturned traditional Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment ethics,
especially those pertaining to the sacredness of human life. Many of
these thinkers supported moral relativism, yet simultaneously exalted
evolutionary "fitness" (especially in terms of intelligence and health) as
the highest arbiter of morality. Weikart concludes that Darwinism played
a key role not only in the rise of eugenics, but also in euthanasia,
infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination, all ultimately embraced
by the Nazis. He convincingly makes the disturbing argument that Hitler
built his view of ethics on Darwinian principles rather than nihilistic
ones. From Darwin to Hitler is a provocative yet balanced work that
should encourage a rethinking of the historical impact that Darwinism
had on the course of events in the twentieth century. ---
Dembski recently discussed the inability of evolution to account for
altruism, and the kindness we display toward others at a cost to ourselves
[witness the recent contributions and efforts for the victims of the
tsunami]. He quotes philosopher of science Michael Ruse and Harvard
biologist E. O. Wilson as stating that:
"The time has come to take seriously the fact that we humans are modified
monkeys, not the favored Creation of a Benevolent God on the Sixth Day. In
particular, we must recognize our biological past in trying to understand
our interactions with others. We must think again especially about our
so-called "ethical principles." The question is not whether biology --
specifically, our evolution -- is connected with ethics, but how. As
evolutionists, we see that no [ethical] justification of the traditional
kind is possible. Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is
merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. Hence
the basis of ethics does not lie in God's will.... In an important sense,
ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our
genes to get us to cooperate. It is without external grounding. Like
Macbeth's dagger, it serves a powerful purpose without existing in
substance. Ethics is illusory inasmuch as it persuades us that it has an
objective reference. This is the crux of the biological position. Once
it is grasped, everything falls into place."
The statement, above, is made not by radical atheistic evolutionists
like Tooley, Pinker and Dawkins. It is a statement that probably
characterizes the vast majority of leading scientists (see earlier post
for the statistics) and it follows quite naturally and logically from
the theory of evolution. It should be of serious concern to all bnei
Torah to be "docheh" such false and dangerous "shitos beshtei yaadaim"
and to embrace our authentic mesora of the purposeful creation of mankind
Once we free ourselves from the "illusion fobbed off on us" by
materialists, our eyes will be opened to the wonders (and, yes, power)
of creation. We will find tremendous joy, wonder and awe at everything
we see with the Darwinian blinders removed. Consider these blinders as
spoiling our fun.
An aside -- Shaar Habechina:
As described in the JO eulogy, Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt"l constantly taught
us to be thankful for every aspect of life. When it rained, he would
encourage people to thank Hashem for the bountiful fruits and vegetables
which were, in potential, pouring down from the heavens. He would explain
the beauty in countless creations of Hashem, pointing out how their very
shape, color, or size was uniquely suited to the purpose of the creation.
"If we truly think, Hashem's wisdom can be seen everywhere. Simply study
the apple, the peach, your eye, your hand, and you will surely find a
wisdom that can only be Hashem's. For this we must give thanks; that
is what life is all about." He would point out that rather than create
a world of black and white, Hakadosh Baruch Hu filled the world with
color and beauty to make it more attractive and pleasurable for people.
Did we ever realize before that many fruits - apples, oranges, bananas,
plums, peaches, grapes and cherries are green before they ripen, and that
they blend in perfectly with the leaves of their trees? Maybe that's
so that no one will notice them and pick them until they're ready. [It
was not, and could not be, by accident].
Did we look at the perfectly packaged, air-tight covering on the apple
that seals out bugs and locks in the juices? Maybe that's so it will
be fresh and flavorful until we are ready to eat it.
Did we appreciate that if we bought too many and didn't finish them all
in time, this same packaging turns an ugly brown color to let me know
that the apple has overstayed its welcome? Did the food package in the
supermarket turn brown to warn us that the food inside was off?
Did we ever take advantage of the free coupons inside the apple that
entitle us to a lifetime supply of apples? All we have to do is plant
Did we fully understand that within these seeds is the formula to recreate
a tree of wood, complete with roots and bark and leaves and blossoms that
are capable of producing exact replicas of this tasty fruit, needing no
food and nourishment other than water, sunlight and tasteless soil?
Are we aware that somehow the tree knows how to signal the fruit stem
to automatically detach itself from the branch and allow the fruit to
gently fall to the ground (or on my head) as soon as the fruit is ripe?
100 "berochos" a day were "kovea" by Anshei Knesses Hagedola to open us
up the wonder of all we see. What a wonderful thought -- Hashem loves
us and cares for us. What a responsibility.
KT ... JSO
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Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 22:32:56 +0000
From: Chana Luntz <chana@KolSassoon.org.uk>
Subject: Re: Feet together by Kaddish
In message , Prof. Aryeh Frimer <email@example.com> writes
>The Shulkhan Arukh in OH 95:1 for the Amida and in 95:4 and 125:2 for
>Kedusha indicates that one's feet should be held together. I have not
>found any similar source by Kaddish, though I believe the general minhag
>is to do so. Does anyone know of a source? What about Borkhu?
Um, I believe the general minhag for Sephardim is to sit for kaddish (or
at least, if standing to continue to stand, but if sitting to continue
to sit) - or are you referring to the person saying (not just the people
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Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 21:41:24 -0500
From: "" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Age of the universe
In a message dated 1/3/2005 4:23:28pm EST, email@example.com writes:
> This question was addressed by the rishonim and acharonim. In general,
> they hold that actually everything, including the celestial bodies,
> was already created on the first day. The "Light" and "Darkness" were
> independent of the sun. The physical day was determined either by (as per
> Rambam MN II:30; Kuzari V:2) the 24-hour revolving of the celestial sphere
> (or, in our parlance, the 24-hour rotation of the earth on its axis,
> surrounded by the gravitational/gaseous/magnetic/or whatever field[s]
> of outer space) or the waxing and waning Light in 24-hour cycles (so that
> all parts of the earth experienced daylight simultaneously--Malbim). On
> the fourth day that Light was attached to the heavenly bodies that now
> contain it, and the heavenly bodies were positioned and put into motion
> to produce the system whereby different parts of the earth experience
> daylight at different times.
RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com posted on Tue, 4 Jan 2005:
> Point #1 - re: a difficulty between Torah and Science - why get stuck
> with A model from Rishonim and Acharonim that is probably more problematic
> than the Torah itself!
I was simply responding to your question of how the days were timed before
the fourth day. I don't know what difficulty between Torah and Science you
are referring to. As to the caution one must exercise against "getting
stuck" with models from Rishonim and Acharonim based upon their current
scientific thought, I agree. As I have posted previously, I have noted
that whenever current scientific thought is used to explain p'sukim,
one must be wary. I referred to Malbim's dismissal of the Abarbanel's
payrush of "rakia" being the celestial sphere, since current science
"now knows" that there are no such spheres--only to replace it with
the payrush that it is the ether, which science "now knows" to be the
truth! It is only natural to tentatively try to explain the mesorah--but
not contradict it--with the facts one thinks are at hand. But no, I would
not get stuck on models based on current scientific thought. Nevertheless,
I do take seriously the mesorah-based fact the models are!
trying to explain.
> Point #2 - If you read the text carefully light is NOT the issue re: day
> 4's timing. the issue is that the Me'oros created time AS WE NOW KNOW
> TIME. If the Rishonim and Acharonim made life SIMPLER by exrapoloting
> and saying that today's 24-hour day even PRECEEDED the 4th day fine.
I don't see the problem. The meforshim explain that the me'oros did
not create time, (that understanding is at the root of the question
originally asked), since time existed from day one. On the fourth day
the me'oros were newly assigned the function of delineating time and
seasons. Question asked and answered.
> But you can't prove that facing other difficulties they would have stuck
> with that model. Aderabbah, we have moutnains fo eveidence to show that
> model as LESS SIMPLE and MORE prolbematic. It seems likely that in light
> of our understanding of the creation of the meros thsoe same Rishonim
> and Acharonim WOULD have used another model.
Again, I don't know what difficulties, based on what mountains of
evidence, you are referring to. I have no problem with a better model
to explain--not contradict--what the mesorah teaches us.
> Ptoin #3. the ultimate inironies is that many in the Torah comunity
> tell us that the physics of today IS NOT the physics of the era of
> Brias ha'olom...
This is Moreh Nevuchim and is obvious from the p'sukim. (Nowadays,
for instance, animals do not emanate from the ground.)
> ...and therefore carbon dating is NOT reliable because since then the
> metzius changed. But when I point out that the Torah itself does not
> have a dating system prior to day four of crfeation- THEN Torah Jews
> react and say DAVKA that the 24-hour system used today must be extending
> retroactively to BEFORE the Sun and Moon. It's a mind-boggling paradox
> and so unnecessary. Let's face it, the general rule is that we ALWAYS
> assume a chazkah d'hashta when it comes to reality and we psychologically
> assume it has ALWAYS been that way. ..
The reason Torah-Jews say that Creation took place over 7 24-hour
type days is because that is how the p'sukim read, and how the mesorah
understands it. The assertion that "the Torah itself does not have a
dating system prior to day four of creation," is incorrect.
> But in this case the Torah itself pretty well tells us otherwise...
> Lemashal let's say I found arachaeologial evidence that Avaraham Avinu
> lived and that Nimrod lived BUT that same evidence shows that after all
> their lives did NOT Overlapl.
> Would you:
> A) Accept the Arachaeology and then beHappy that the Torah's account
> is confirmed?
> B) Reject the same archaeology because it makes the Midrash shver; and
> then come up with some reason to impurng that eveidence even if it were
> a dochak?!
First, the fact that the lives of our Avraham Avinu and our Nimrod
overlapped--i.e., that Avraham lived during the Tower if Bavel
incident, is clear through mathematically calculating the years given
in Scripture. But more to the point: Yes, I do not regard this one's or
that one's claims of "archeological evidence" to be compelling enough to
dismiss our traditions. I can't even imagine that any such evidence can
be found that compellingly identifies our Nimrod and our Avraham Avinu
and the periods of their lives. Such claims, if in line with our history,
are indeed matters of interest, but not paramount. On the other hand,
once we enter into the realm of pure Midrash, the non-literal approach
can be taken--and must be, when the midrash if taken literally contradicts
p'sukim or true reality.
Let me counter-posit a Reb Micha-type question: Let's say archeologists
claimed that they found evidence that absolutley proves mattan Torah
did not take place. Would you accept the archeology or come up with some
reason to impugn it--even through a dochek?
Go to top.
Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2005 10:28:19 -0500
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
Subject: RE: Torah and Science
On Tue, Dec 28, 2004 at 07:53:35PM -0500, Shinnar, Meir wrote:
>: I remember similar discussions - but my recollections is that those
>: discussions focus on a different issue - is the navel merely a sign
>: that one is born (and therefore its presence in adam superfluous and
>: misleading) or a natural part of human physiognomy - regardless of its
>: origin -and therefore adam, as a perfect physical specimen, had one.
> On Tue, Dec 28, 2004 at 03:29:04PM -0500, Shinnar, Meir wrote:
>: Because the mesora itself ascribes normative value to zechirat yetziat
>: mitzrayim - (mitzva of zechirat yetziat mitzraim) ...
> I think I much better understand your position. The difference between
> us (other than the difference in how we see the Rambam) is not in the
> authority you give that you believe that mesorah doesn't address
> anything beyond law and values (including Hil' Dei'os). Therefore you
> would take the same approach as I would in cases where you see the
> statement is truly mesorah, and not chazal's attempt to relate to
> mesorah, but that's far fewewr cases than where I would apply it.
> And that's why you understand the Rambam's second criterion for
> allegorization, that it not run afoul of a major precept of our nevi'im
> and chachamim, as being on this very point -- a "major precept" is one
> required by halakhah.
We start from very different presuppositions. I differentiate between
what I believe to be true, and what is halachically required to believe
to be true (and hopefully the first at least encompasses the second.)
The second set is actually quite small (remember the ikkarim debate -
and even accepting the ikkarim, allegorizing ma'ase breshit (or even
yetziat mitzraim) is not forbidden.
Now, halacha requires us to have a certain intellectual relationship to
certain concepts, such as ma'ase breshit and yetziat mitzraim - and the
latter figures not merely as a justification, but something that we are
required to remember (and even talk about).
Therefore, our relationship to those is fundamentally different than
other issues, which are essentially facts and stories - of secondary
importance - and important primarily for the lessons to be derived -
not for the fact that they occured.
Those stories that have a specific halachic role (and there are not
that many) our relationship with is fundamentally different. It doesn't
mean that they are necessarily literal. Thus, zechirat ma'ase breshit,
according to the rambam, is understood by understanding the natural
order and its ultimate dependence on hashem. (if I can give an example
that goes back to hazal - whether also to sinai is a different issue -
we are supposed to remember the sukkot we sat in the midbar - and there
is already a machloket hazal whether this is to be taken literally or
Given the halachic importance of yetziat mitzraim, both as a rationale but
as its own mitzva, one's relationship to that is different than the issue
of the mabul. I find it difficult (recognizing that this is my limitation)
to see an explanation of yetziat mitzraim in its broad outlines (rather
than specific details) as not factual that does not dramatically change
the very nature of this halacha. Others may be more successful in such
an endeavor - and I wouldn't put them out of the community...
> And if so, do you have a source for saying that TSBP is of such limited
Rav Hai Gaon (among others), the rambam's understanding (as I understood it..)
> Batei Hillel veShamai can argue over whether it's better to be born or
> not, and "nimnu vegamru", not "they're both conjecturing based on the
> Torah, not Torah itself". Aggadita lacks rules of pesaq, but still has
> concepts that are miSinai. And thus the divergence over which
> points can't be declared allegory, as well as which aggadic points
> thje Rambam considers significant.
What is the basis of attributing it to Sinai, unless there is a halachic
mekor? Do you think the nimnu vegamru has the same meaning there as in
hilchot shabbat? (to the extent that it does, it isn't to the theological
issue that is discussed, but to the practical obligation derived...)
> I wrote something about the medrash quoted in the first Rashi, but I see
> now while moderating that RSB wrote a similar idea first. However, he only
> addressed the value of Bereishis only in the terms of R' Yitzchaq's point,
> our connection to Eretz Yisrael. However, as Rashi himself later states,
> much of the value of bereishis is that it gives us examples of Divine
> and human behavior to learn from. We see Hashem as Malbish aumim and
> Rofei cholim,he is mevaqeir choleh and melaveh hameis, Avraham runs to
> do chesed, etc... Rashi and the Ramban, as well as Chazal's explanation
> for why it was called Seifer haEisanim, find the core of the book to be
> about Hilkhos Dei'os. I would conclude from Bereishis' inclusion that
> that too, not just black-letter din (and EY), is essential to yahadus.
The point is that the cosmology and history are not essential to yahadut
- but lessons derived from them are. Rashi can conceive of the torah as
without sefer breshit - because it is secondary to the main purpose.
Secondary purposes are still important, but they remain secondary.
The issue isn't knowing ma'ase breshit - but knowing one's obligations.
Alice laughed. `There's not use trying,' she said: `one CAN'T believe
`I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. `When I was
your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've
believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. There goes
the shawl again!'
Through the Looking Glass
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