Avodah Mailing List

Volume 14 : Number 095

Thursday, March 17 2005

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 17:20:09 -0500
From: Shaya Potter <spotter@yucs.org>
Re: Relationship of Science to Torah

On Tue, 2005-03-15 at 14:51 -0500, hlampel@thejnet.com wrote:
>> RHerschel Schacter mentioned this point in his recent lecture in
>> Yerushalayim on Eilu v'Eilu. Interestingly, some rishonim (albeit a
>> minority) held exactly the opposite: a wealth of maamarei chazal indicate
>> clearly and explicitly that God has body parts, (we've seen quite a
>> few in the last few days in daf yomi, for example) and thus anyone who
>> holds that He does *not* is a kofer, denying as he does both the Torah
>> and chazal. RHS said that some in fact held that the works of the Rambam
>> were heretical, and one this basis justified their being publicly burned.

> Can anyone please name the rishonim who held so?(Rambam in Maamar Techias
> HaMeisim refers to "so-called chachamim" of his day who did so, but are
> any our presently recognized rishonim)?

Though I can't really answer your Q, it's not jut the Rambam.  The
Raavad also refers to people who we shouldn't refer to as minim because
they were "Gedolim V'tovim Mimenu" (In Hilchot Teshuva IIRC)

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Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 18:48:27 -0500
From: "David Riceman" <driceman@worldnet.att.net>
Re: Relationship of Science to Torah

From: <hlampel@thejnet.com>
> Can anyone please name the rishonim who held so? (Rambam in Maamar Techias
> HaMeisim refers to "so-called chachamim" of his day who did so, but are
> any our presently recognized rishonim)?

The Raavad in H. Tshuva (3:7) leaves them unnamed. Harry Wolfson (who
learned in Slabodka before moving to, if you'll pardon the expression,
Harvard) speculates that the Raavad was indulging in poetical exaggeration
(The Philosophy of the Kalam, pp. 108-111). People tend to quote
R. Moshe Taqqu, whose works I have never encountered (see Marc Shapiro's
The Limits of Orthodox Theology pp. 55-56 and the footnotes therein)
and therefore I cannot vouch for their accuracy.

> Also, does anyone have the source that the complaint about the Moreh
> Nevuchim which led to its burning was this issue?

The literalness of aggadta was certainly at issue. See Sefer Milhamoth
HaShem (by R. Avraham ben HaRambam) citing R. Shlomo ben Avraham min HaHar
(ed. Margalioth p. 59) as saying that God actually sits on a throne and R.
David ben Shaul (ibid. pp. 69-70) as concurring that God physically
dwells in heaven, and take another look at the passage from Wolfson I
cited above (which points to the older edition of Milhamoth HaShem).

David Riceman

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Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 19:26:05 -0500
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Definition of a Lav

> a lav is a mitzvah that the Torah describes using the words lo, al,
> bal, other negatory terms, or shamor.  I'm sure other terms exist.

I believe the complete list is: "lo", "hishamer/shamor", "pen", and "al".
"Bal" is Talmudic Aramaic, and does not exist in the Torah.

Zev Sero

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Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 22:52:36 +0000
From: Chana Luntz <chana@KolSassoon.org.uk>
Re: sheitels

In message , Mendel Singer <mendel@case.edu> writes
>I have been puzzled about the role of sheitels for hair covering. In
>sefardic circles they are often considered assur. Early Ashkenazic poskim
>permitted them, but they were referring to animal hair sheitels.

>I am wondering about human hair sheitels:

>1. Why are they permitted by Ashkenazim? This ties in with the reason
>for hair covering. I thought it was erva.

I think there are at least two (and possibly three) "philosophical"
(if that is the word) approaches to the reason for hair covering.

The first is, as you have identified, erva. The gemora in brochas (24a)
quotes that the hair of a woman is erva, and quotes a support text from
shir hashirim (and we understand that to mean a married woman, just as
when the gemora says that the voice of a woman is erva, we understand
that to mean the singing voice, not the spoken voice). Now in pure
halachic terms that cannot just be that, because we cannot have halachic
proof texts from Nach, and so this text must only be a form of asmachta.
But then you can use this text to understand the gemora in Kesubos that
does discuss the fact that for a woman to go out with her hair uncovered
is a breach of daas moshe (d'orisa).

This first approach is one adopted certainly among many chassidim.
In fact I know chassidishe (married) women who are makpid not to go past
a mezuza with their hair uncovered, in the same way they are similarly
makpid with regard to any other form of nakedness (I never asked whether
they would cover their hair in front of their husbands while in nida,
but I imagine the answer would be affirmative, and certainly they do so
in front of the rest of their household).

 From this approach follows the view that even less than a tefach of hair
is erva (given hair's intrinsic erva nature), and hence some of the
emphasis that we have heard on arevim regarding being machpid regarding
even a few strands.

The second approach is completely different and does not see hair as
intrinsically erva. Not in married women and not in single women.
This second approach understands the derivation of the d'orisa halacha
requiring a married woman to cover her hair as coming from Sotah and
the uncovering of the hair of the sotah by the kohen, and being of
the nature of a chiddush. (For a clear statement of this approach see
Iggeros Moshe Orech Chaim chelek daled siman 112:4).

So how does this approach relate to the question of erva and of the
reference in Brochas referred to above. The understanding is that once a
married women is covering her hair, that hair becomes erva, in the same
way that any other body part, if usually covered, is then deemed erva.
So that, if the custom in a certain place is to cover the ankles, the
ankles become erva. But, if the custom in the place is not to cover
the hair of married women, then that hair is no longer erva. BUT the
obligation to cover is independent of what society is doing, being a
d'orisa obligation. And since in a frum society all the women will be
acting according to Torah, married women will be covering their hair and
in such a society that hair would be erva. But this is how the Aruch
Hashulchan could hold that the hair of a married woman is not erva vis
a vis krias shema, because in the society in which he lived, women were
not covering in breach of the do'orisa requirement derived from Sotah,
but that it is still a requirement to cover the hair, regardless of what
society is doing.

However, following on from this approach, it does not necessarily follow
that all of the hair need be covered. As Rav Moshe puts it in the
siman I quoted to you above, since the covering of hair is a chiddush,
and not intrinsically related to erva, uncovering of less than a tefach
of hair is not assur.

So, which of the approaches you follow above may well lean you towards
one school or another regarding shaitels. As shaitels are an extremely
effective hair covering that is important if you follow position a),
but not important if you follow position b).

I said there may be a third approach - but it is one that I know little
about (which is why I am not sure it exists). However I am aware that
those (male) chassidim who sport the "shaven head with payos" look cite
kabbalistic reasons for it, and their understanding appears to be that
the hair of the head (aside from the payos) somehow connects to a koach
of tumah (in contrast to the hair of the beard, which is the opposite).
This understanding may (or may not) connect to a similar attitude towards
women's hair (and the shaving thereof, not to mention the covering)
and would thus seem to me to fall within a different category.

There is of course a lot more to say on this, but it is late, so this
will have to be enough.

[Email #2. -mi]

Further to my earlier email, there is at least one other approach that
I forgot to mention, although you might explain it as a part of approach
b). This fundamentally learns from sotah, but instead of saying, as Rav
Moshe does, that hair covering is a chiddush, it explains the reason for
the prohibition as being that a married woman going out with uncovered
hair is trying to "pass" as a penuya (the link to sotah is obvious)
and is a form of pritzus. For a discussion of such an approach see R'
YH Henkin's Bene Banim (Chelek revii, siman 10).

Now which of these you follow would clearly have sheitel implications.
If the last, then sheitels would be problematic, as they virtually get
you back to the position without covering (enabling a married woman to
pass as single). If the former, then it doesn't matter one way or the
other - because if hair covering is a chiddush, so long as you do it,
that is all that matters, there are no requirements that go along with
that as to how nicely or not you do it. The requirement is to cover,
you are covering, that is all you need.

Chana Luntz

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Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 18:23:15 -0500
From: herb basser <basserh@post.queensu.ca>
drush is drush

Herb Basser wrote:
>> Pure and beautiful drush: the paired dualities are selected to signify
>> the word r (ruach) a(or) sh(shomayim) y(yom) t(tohu).=reishit.
>> shamayim, tohu, or, ruach, yom
>> likewise the first letters of the prexistent things mentioned in some
>> midrashim spell bereshit.

>> It's problematic to see here a serious scientific position rather than
>> a poetic summary (an artistic rendering) of the first day packed into
>> the first word of the Torah.

> 1- I don't think anyone holds the first pasuq is part of the description
> of day 1. It's either taking as a preface to pereq 1 (or 1&2), or as a
> pre-week yeish mei'ayin that preceeded day 1.

Drush pure and simple: its not describing anything-- it has no sense of
creating through agency of these things-- its art, not blue prints. like
saying tishrei is found in bereshit. the things mentioned are created so
the darshan plays with the word bereshit to find it's letters foreshadow
some things created then-- its not meant to say anything more than be
a puzzle-- how did the darshan locate the things he locates: answer:
the first letters spell bershit.

> 2- This brings up the bigger issue: If the 1st pasuq is about creation
> from ru'ach, or, shamayim and tohu, then where is the description of
> yeis mei'ayin? Do you mean that it was beri'ah yeish mei'ayin "be-"
> in the sense of "via" these 5 "elements" as initial steps? Or, do we
> take the IE's position that yeish mei'ayin isn't described in the Torah?

this is your drash- the author of the midrash is a poet not a philosopher
and addresses no such issues. It is wrong to read such things in to art:
it defeats the beauty and makes a graceful butterfly carry suitcases
of leaden issues. NO position is being espoused. a butterflycan be
beautiful without espousing a philosophic or scientific position. I t
just is. The drush just is! I know everyone wants to ask mai kamashma
lan, peshita? peh kadosh amar, etc etc-- but sometimes a drush is just a
drush too like a cigar is just a cigar. I know its a revolutionary idea
but whoever first said ein meshivin al hadrush or drosh vekabel sachar
had a heart for the artform. micha, not for nothing was R Akiva told:
klach achar halacha. A rose is a rose is a rose-- Either you like it or
you dont but you cant ask kashas on a rose.

(I know some believe he was an eternalist, i.e. that the IE only believed
in yeish meyeish, with no begining to matter. But the work is parshanut,
one can only use it to prove what the IE thought was being described,
not what he believed occured. Presumably the two can't contradict, but
that doesn't rule out omissions that HQBH didn't bother writing about.)

Herbert Basser
Queen's Theological College
Kingston ON K7L 3N6


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Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 21:10:28 -0500
From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <ygb@aishdas.org>
Re: Age of the Universe and guided evolution

At 03:51 PM 3/14/2005, [Micha] wrote:
>RYGB wrote in reply to RAA:
>>> Why doesn't mesorah allow for (a)? What sources prohibit guided evolution?
>>> R' Kook, for one, had no problem allowing it.

>> I was not aware that Rav Kook explicitly endorsed evolution. Please let
>> me know where he did so.

> Allowing and endorsing are different things.

I don't think he is even allowing it. He is saying it is possible to 
reconcile with the pesukim - kinda like the Rambam on kadmus...


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Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 22:11:23 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
Re: Relationship of Science to Torah

On Sun, 13 Mar 2005 Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer wrote:
> At 03:58 PM 3/13/2005, RSC wrote:
>> Wrong. He had no answer other than to say that he couldn't convince me
>> and I couldn't convince him regarding RB in Bereishis 1,3. Incidentally,
>> RYGB admitted openly (I still have the e-mails saved) that the only
>> unambiguous source he had for a universe older than 5765 years is this
>> RB, unlike the way you are wont to represent him as having a long list
>> of unambiguous meforshim.

> If I admitted such, then I (and I) am clearly schizoid.

> There are many more sources than RB for a universe more than 5765 years
> old.

Possibly but are they unambiguous? Since there are two distinct
opinions here, one that holds that the universe is young, the other
which attributes immense time-spans to its existence, the only way to
settle this debate is to advance a source that all agree is unambiguous
(Mashiach will come first). Otherwise, either side will interpret Chazal
the way they see fit.

>> In RYGB's own lashon "I believe the evidence - both in Chazal and
>> Rishonim and in nature indicates that the world (or universe) is older
>> than 5765 years." The operative word here is "indicates" not that the
>> evidence is conclusive. So, he tyches one way, while someone else can
>> tytch another way. Besides, older than 5765 can mean 5766. If you ask
>> RYGB, I bet he will tell you Chazal cannot be used as conclusive proof
>> that the world is billions of years old and in fact, I doubt he himself
>> believes it. At the very least, he will tell you (as he has written to
>> me) that he doesn't know nor does he care.

> "Indicates" means that I do not want to brand the Arizal wrong - who am I
> to do so?! - but that I personally perceive his position to be erroneous.

I think you might be confusing the shemittos idea with the a of u. The
Arizal doesn't talk about the a of u per se (although I believe that he
assumes it as a forgone conclusion), he speaks about the shemittos. The
way I understand your shita is that you see eons of time occurring between
Bereishis and Yehi or. *This* is what you need to bring a ra'ayah from
Chazal and Rishonim for, not shemittos which only gets you a maximum of
49000 years, nothing like the billions we're all looking for.

Best wishes
Simcha Coffer

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Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 21:41:49 -0500
From: MPoppers@kayescholer.com
Re: mishenichnas adar marbin bisimcha' - 'Ein simcha ela Torah' ?

In Avodah V14 #94, RMB responded to Mordechai:
> IOW, (which are my words) ein simchah ela Torah -- but a life of Torah,
> not necessarily Talmud Torah.

And what does it mean to be 'marbim b'"life of Torah"' (or, to include
Mordechai's "'mishenichnas Av" point, to be m'ma'tim in such a "life")?

All the best from
 -- Michael Poppers via RIM pager

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Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 22:21:30 -0500
From: Russell Levy <russlevy@gmail.com>
Re: Sephardi psak on pe'at nochrit

> Nice try but most (traditional) morrocans that i know do not wear 
> sheitel's, and that includes Baba Sali's wife and daughter. If the Rosh 
> Yeshiva/Kollel that you are referring to is rosh Yeshiva/Kollel in Kol 
> Yaakov, i could ask him next time he comes to netivot- he davens in the 
> neitz where i lain.

I found his name; they gave out in which he wrote some essays at his
daughter's chasunah, call "Sefer Zichron Yosef al Hilchot Challah." It
has his name as Harav Hagaon Harav Hillel Avichatzerah. I /think/ the
Kollel is called Kollel Or Yosef. I didn't mention earlier that his and
his family made Aliyah from Mexico City some time ago.

I know many traditional Moroccans who wear sheitls. Most of the Toronto
community. All you have said that there are many Moroccans that do not
wear sheitels; however, I am _sure_ that there are Sephardi (specifically
Moroccan) poskim who say you may wear sheitels, and I have brought
examples of two sephardi poskim who say so. I am looking for sources
where Sephardim discuss this issue.


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Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 22:58:56 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: mishenichnas adar marbin bisimcha' - 'Ein simcha ela Torah' ?

On Tue, Mar 15, 2005 at 09:41:49PM -0500, MPoppers@kayescholer.com wrote:
:> IOW, (which are my words) ein simchah ela Torah -- but a life of Torah,
:> not necessarily Talmud Torah.

: And what does it mean to be 'marbim b'"life of Torah"' (or, to include
: Mordechai's "'mishenichnas Av" point, to be m'ma'tim in such a "life")?

No, marbim besimchah. What kind of simchah -- the simchah we get by
living a life of Torah. Not that "ein ... ela" introduces an identity,
but a causality. Or perhaps

(Of which talmud Torah is a significant part. After all, this comes from
a shmuess providing chizuq for seider and shiur.)

These quotes aren't natively related. RDL was making a motto, like
"chadash asur min haTorah", by taking them out of context and combining
them. This whole thing is being overanalyzed. Recall that RMPyllostac
said he's only posting his elucidation of this .signature so that others
don't take it all overliterally.


Micha Berger             "'When Adar enters, we increase our joy'
micha@aishdas.org         'Joy is nothing but Torah.'
http://www.aishdas.org    'And whoever does more, he is praiseworthy.'"
Fax: (270) 514-1507                     - Rav Dovid Lifshitz zt"l

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Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2005 07:52:01 -0600
From: "Kelmar, Michael J." <MKelmar2@monlife.com>
RE: Relationship of Science to Torah

S & R Coffer write
> The second reason is that originally, when Darwin proposed his theory,
> very little information was known about geology and fossil finds by the
> "other side". People like the TY just took for granted that everything
> the scientists were saying was true and formulated a response based on
> this assumption.

Actually TY's Drush Ohr Hachaim preceded Darwin by about 20 years, as
pointed out by Rabbi Kaplan, in his essay on the age of the universe.
S & R's point could still well be valid.

Since someone requested humor in honor of Adar, I'll point out that
seemingly both the Steipler zt"l and Rabbi Moshe Dovid Tendler shlit"a
make the same mistake as S & R Coffer. The Steipler in his igeres (I
think page 54 in the first chelek) seems to say the TY wrote what he
did only in order to answer Evolution. He comes down clearly that the
TY is not "contradicting maaseh breishis", (From the context, he clearly
means that there is no compatibility between TY and Evolutionary theory.)
Rabbi Tendler writes "Neither the age of the earth, the fossil finds of
strange creatures nor the evolution of man, posed any "threat" to Torah
truth as understood by the Tifereth Yisroel."


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Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2005 11:20:34 +0200
From: "Danny Schoemann" <dannyschoemann@hotmail.com>
Re: R. Elchanan and college

(Was on Areivim, but I think it can go to Avodah)

RHM wrote, in part:
>>> Of course there was on Gadol who refused, R. Elchanan
>>> Wasserman. He didn't want to have anything to do with a school
>>> that had a college. It seems his Hashkafa has won the day.

I quipped:
>> Wow! REW is one of the sources we use for allowing college! It's a
>> letter he wrote, and can be found in his Igros.

RHM responded:
> Perhaps he allowed attendance at college. I never saw the Igros but
> I'll take your word for it. But, IUUC, he was four square against it
> as part of a Yeshiva. In any case my source for his refusal to speak
> at YU is the Bernard Revel Bio by R. Rakeffet.

I actually looked it up. RHM may have a point.

The Sefer's title page says:
 ____Kovetz ma'amorim
 ____R' Elchonon Bunim Wasserman
 ____Printed with the approval of his son R Elozor Simcha
 ____5751 - Jerusalem

It has less than a handful of ma'amorim. The one in question is titled
"Talmud Torah without outside knowledge (Chochmo Chitzonis)". According to
the footnote, this letter was originally printed in Sefer Kovetz Shiurim,
Baronovitz, 5694 - 96. (I could find no trace of it in a cursory glance
through the "regular" Kovetz Shiurim, vols 1 & 2.

Basically, it's an answer to a question as to the permissibility of
going to university.

RSW sets down 3 conditions for non-Torah study:
	1. No reading Sifrei Minus - heretical literature.
	2. No socialising with Goyim
	3. Must be parnoso related. Directly.

He then reiterates. If there is no heretical reading material, no
socialising with Goyim and it's directly related to learning a trade to
support oneself, then there's no prohibition involved. Learning a trade
in order to support oneself is a Mitzva.

He then goes into the issue in detail. For example, somebody with a
promising future in Torah should not be sidetracked. Schools shouldn't
show equal importance to Torah and parnoso studies, and a few more pages.

So he seems to allow - under certain conditions - going to college,
but he probably didn't like the idea of it being called *Yeshiva* :-)
even though it meets his 3 conditions in the best of ways, I assume.

- Danny

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Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 18:34:20 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
Relationship of Science to Torah

On Mon, 14 Mar 2005 Saul Mashbaum wrote:
> S. Coffer wrote:
>> Chazal speak about Maaseh Bereishis (MB) in many places and nowhere
>> is there even an intimation that the six days are anything other than
>> six regular days.

> To which David Riceman responded:
>>I would like to draw an analogy here. Tanach and Hazal speak in many
>>places about God having body parts (hands, legs, eyes, etc.). Now almost
>>all rishonim agree that God doesn't have a body. In fact the Rambam
>>maintains that someone who thinks that God has body parts is a heretic.

To which Saul Mashbaum appended:
> It seems to me that this is a telling argument against those who draw
> far-reaching conclusions from a literal reading of maamarei chazal. Do
> they believe that Hashem is corporeal? If not, why not, in light of
> numerous maamarei chazal to that effect? Is there anywhere in chazal
> "even an intimation" that the body parts ascribed to God are "anything
> other than" regular literal body parts?

Yes, see below.

> If these maamarei chazal can be
> understood metaphorically, why must others be taken literally?

This is the most fundamental question regarding the aggados of Chazal
and must be understood before embarking on a study course of agadita. The
Ra'avad in Hilchos Tishuva refers to aggados as "mishavshos es ha'deyos,
(they warp people's opinions and attitudes) meaning that if one is
unschooled in their discipline, they can do much harm to a person's mind.
The Maharal has countless exhortations regarding this idea as do many
of the Rishonim.

The most lucid explanation that I have seen in this area is Rav Moshe
Chaim Luzzato (Ramchal) who discusses this issue at length in his Ma'amar
al HaHagaddos. Briefly, he states that Maamarei Chazal can be broken down
into two categories, halachic and aggadic. The aggadic category can be
further broken down into two categories, ethical and spiritual. Regarding
the spiritual Aggados, the Ramchal states that Chazal purposely concealed
profound teachings in superficial raiment in order to withhold these
lessons from people who were either (a) not worthy to hear them or (b)
liable to distort their meaning. (The Rambam states the same thing and
anyone familiar with the Maharal knows that this is a recurring theme
in his seforim.)

The Ramchal proceeds to say that often times Chazal cached their words
in allegories using scientific information that was currently available
however this was not to say that Chazal condoned the conclusions that
science reached at the time. He goes on to say that in order to comprehend
the lessons that Chazal were attempting to impart to us, it is necessary
to possess the appropriate "keys" in order to access their true meaning.

Thus, the answer to your question is that regarding the ethical type
aggados, they can be taken literally whereas the more spiritual ones are
often-times meant to be taken (at least somewhat) metaphorically. When,
and to what degree, can only be expounded by someone "holding the keys"
or at least someone who quotes the universally accepted mefarshei aggados
(Maharsha, Maharal, Ramchal, Gra etc.)

> I think that all of us have been brought up to believe that a belief
> in an incorporeal God is an absolute ikkar haemunah. I would like some
> indication from any rabbinic source that chazal believed that God was
> incorporeal.

The Rambam brings several sources. First of all, the pasuk states openly
(Dvarim 4,15) Vinishmartem meod linafshoseichem - "be exceedingly cautious
(for when I revealed myself to you) you did not see an image rather you
just heard a voice". And the pesukim go on to prohibit any type of image
making (including human) as a representation of their experience at har
Sinai. This is basically an issur about corporealizing Hashem.

In addition, the Gemara in Chagiga (15 A) states openly that in
the spiritual worlds (not just Hashem, even malachim) "there is no
sitting, no standing, no direction or no weariness". In other words,
no corporeality. This was the error that Acher made and the Gemara
refers to it as kitzaitz binitiyos.

Whenever the various targumim (e.g. Onkeles) translate the anthropomorphic
verses in the Torah, they are careful not to translate them directly
For instance; 1|)V'heenay Hashem nitzav alav, is translated as yikara
(the glory) of Hashem, 2) Vaya'al mayalav elokim is translated as
vi'istalak may'alohee yikara (the Glory) of Hashem, 3) Vay'yeired Hashem
is translated as vi'isgala yikara d'Hashem etc.

Many times the Gemara states "dibra Torah bilashon bnei Adam" which is
also the idea that certain things are related in the Torah in physical
terms merely so we can have some kind of conceptual grasp regarding
these things.

In addition to the above ma'amarei Chazal, all of our greatest thinkers
understood HKBH in these terms. Rabbeinu Sa'adya, Rabbeinu Bachya (sha'ar
HaYichud) and the Rambam are probably the three most powerful Rabbinic
authorities to clearly delineate this shita and they all say that this
was Chazal's shita.

I hope the above was helpful

Simcha Coffer

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Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2005 21:13:32 -0500
From: ibrandriss@aol.com
Relationship of Science to Torah

Re the opponents of the Rambam and whether they took the anthropomorphisms
in the Torah literally:

See Rav Reuven Margolios's biography of Rabbi Avraham ben HaRambam,
included in his edition of "Milchemes HaShem" and other writings of
Rabbi Avraham (Mosad HaRav Kook), where he writes that although some
Maimonideans charged the opponents of the Rambam with belief in hagshama,
Rabbenu Shlomo min haHar, who was one of the chief opponents (together
with his talmidim, Rabbenu Yonah and Rav David bar Shaul), declared
that this belief never crossed their minds. This biography includes
much fascinating additional material on these and other opponents of
the Rambam, and the basis of their opposition.

Yitzchok Brandriss

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Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 19:45:46 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
Age of the Universe

[Simcha Coffer wrote]
>> RSRH, in the article that I saw, never claimed to believe in
>> evolution. He just said that even if evolution and millions of years
>> were true, it wouldn't undermine our Torah HaKidosha. Besides, the fact
>> that a few gedolim thought that evolution was compatible with the Torah,
>> does not make it so. Look, you must take a stand. According to the gedolim
>> that hold that evolution is kefira, they obviously feel that evolution is
>> not compatible with our mesorah. Either it is, or it isn't but someone
>> has to be wrong. Its ok even for a gadol to err; it doesn't make him
>> ois gadol. Like RYGB said, they were not kofrim chs'v, just toim.

On Mon, 14 Mar 2005 Eli Turkel wrote
> There can be more than one legitimate opinion. Why do you assume that
> it is or isn't.

There can't be more than one legitimate opinion when we're dealing
with facts. I assume this to be true because I see no other logical
conclusion. Perhaps you can illustrate to me how it would be possible
for two factually exclusive things to be simultaneously real? (e.g. how
can the world be 6000 years old and also billions of years old. How is it
possible that at least one of these opinions is not true?) Perhaps then
I would better understand your reservations regarding my above paragraph.

> Ritva allows many different correct views with elu v'elu.

Actually, even without the Ritva the plain meaning of the Gemara implies
that there can be more than one correct opinion. But as I said before,
this does not refer to factually exclusive opinions. Like the Ritva says,
Hashem told Moshe 49 ways that one could assur and forty nine ways that
one could be matir the same thing. We are referring to issur v'heter here,
not factually exclusive ideas such as billions of years versus thousands
of years.

> That was basically the fight over the Rambam. In the end different
> viewpoints were accepted.

I'm not sure what you mean.

> There is no SA for haskafa or science.

I think there is and siman alef would be titled "the search for ultimate,
unadulterated truth". I think all great hashkafic thinkers include this
idea as one of the underpinnings of all of their investigations into
the darkey Hashem and if they conclude in a certain way, they consider
their ba'aley plugta to be toim as anyone who learns Rishonim knows.

> The main point is that accepting a viewpoint based on a rishon or acharon
> means it is not kefirah and is acceptable within torah Judaism. It also
> means they are not toim.

I mean no offence with the following statement but it seems to me that
this attitude is a recent addition to our nation and was not present
say, 200 years ago in the time of the Gra. One may not necessarily be
called a kofer (a very harsh term) but a toeh? No question. A person
simply cannot hold like any Rishon or achron he wants, bury his head in
the sand, and be content that he is not a toeh because he is relying on
this or that achron. Life is an endless pursuit for truth and in this
vein, we must be prepared to change our minds if we are convinced of the
untenable nature of our opinions. (kisheim she'akabel schar al hadrisha,
kach akabel schar al haprisha)

> There is no psak in hashkafa

Who says? How do you know this? (I've seen this quoted on Avodah several

> and even in halacha after the gemara there
> is a lot of wiggle room.

Only for things that were not dealt with directly in the Gemara. I know
of no Rishonim that argue on Chazal.

> Even things in SA were not accepted by every
> kehilla.

Primarily because of the differences between sfardic and ashkenazic
customs. Once the Rama appended his notes to Shulchan Aruch, it became
universally accepted.

Best wishes
Simcha Coffer

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Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 16:12:31 -0800
From: mlevin@mail.holyname.org
Age of the universe

I have folowed with great interest the passionate interchanges and
high quality debates on the various topics that deal with the origin of
the universe. It seems to me that the underlying assumption of various
posters is that there is one truth, a fact that must be discovered and
can be proven, and that debate and discussion can prove one or another
position to be right.

To me its seems that a fundmental error is being committed. I think that
the problem of origins of the universe and life is a wicked (not evil)
problem. A tame problem is 2+2+?. A wicked problem is, 'Did Ebbers act
in to defraud'. To explain, I invoke Rittel's wicked and tame problems

    Wicked Problems

    Wicked problems, according to Horst and Webber, have ten characteristics:
	1. There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem.
	   Formulating the problem and the solution are essentially the same
	   thing. ?Each attempt at creating a solution changes the
	   understanding of the problem.
	2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
	   Since you cannot define the problem, it is difficult to tell when it
	   is resolved.? The problem solving process ends when resources are
	   depleted, stakeholders loose interest or political realities change.
	3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false but good-or-bad.
	   Since there are no unambiguous criteria for deciding if the problem
	   is resolved, getting all stakeholders to agree that a resolution is
	   ‘good enough’ can be a challenge.
	4. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked
	   Solutions to wicked problems generate waves of consequences, and it
	   is impossible to know how all of the consequences will eventually
	   play out.
	5. Every implemented solution to a wicked problem has consequences.
	   Once the web site is published or the new customer service package
	   goes live, you can’t take back what was on-line or revert to the
	   former customer database.
	6. Wicked problems do not have a well-described set of potential
	   Various stakeholders will have differing views of acceptable
	   solutions.? It is a matter of judgment as to when enough potential
	   solutions have emerged and which should be pursued.
	7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
	   There are no ‘classes’ of solutions that can be applied to a
	   specific case.? “Part of the art of dealing with wicked problems is
	   the art of not knowing too early what type of solution to apply.”1
	8. Every wicked problem can be considered a symptom of another problem.
	   A wicked problem is a set of interlocking issues and constraints
	   which change over time, embedded in a dynamic social context.
	9. The causes of a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways.
	   There are many stakeholders who will have various and changing ideas
	   about what might be a problem, what might be causing it, and how to
	   resolve it.
	10.      The planner (designer) has no right to be wrong.
	   A scientist is expected to formulate hypothesis, which may or may
	   not be supportable by evidence.? A designer doesn’t have such a
	   luxury, they are expected to get things right.
     Recognizing Wicked Problems

     What kind of problems are wicked problems?? Here are some examples:
	1. Locating a new freeway or homeless shelter.
	2. Optimizing all the features on a new model car.
	3. Deciding on the best way to re-engineer a business process.

Wicked problems arise when an organization must deal with something new,
with change, and when multiple stakeholders have different ideas about
how the change should take place.

How might you identify a wicked problem??? The thing to look for is
divergence.? If requirements are volatile, constraints keep changing,
stakeholders can't agree and the target is constantly moving, in all
likelihood, you are dealing with a wicked problem.? If considerable time
and effort has been spent, but there isn't much to show for it, there
is probably a wicked problem lurking somewhere.?? If business process
reengineering is involved, there is a good chance of encountering a
wicked problem.

Tame Problems

According to Rittel and Webber, the opposite of a wicked problem is a
‘tame' problem.? Tame problems may be quite complex, but the lend
themselves to analysis and solution by known techniques.? A traditional
linear processes is sufficient to produce a workable solution to a tame
problem in an acceptable period time, and it is clear when a solution
has been reached.

It is possible, but not advisable, to pretend that a wicked problem is a
tame problem.? This makes it easy to address the well-formulated problem
with standard techniques.? In time, however, the wicked problem will
surface as changed constraints, volatile requirements, or stakeholder
resistance.? If a problem was truly a wicked problem in the first place,
treating it like a tame problem before it is actually tamed is a recipe
for disaster.

How to Handle Wicked Problems

The most fundamental rule for handling wicked problems is that they must
not be treated like tame problems.? To quote Rittel and Webber:? "The
classical systems approach... is based on the assumption that a... project
can be organized into distinct phases:? ‘understand the problems', ‘gather
information,' ‘synthesize information...,' ‘work out solutions' and the
like.? For wicked problems, however, this type of scheme does not work.
One cannot understand the problem without knowing about its context; one
cannot meaningfully search for information without the orientation of a
solution concept, one cannot first understand, then solve."

The appropriate way to tackle wicked problems is to discuss them.
Consensus emerges through the process of laying out alternative
understandings of the problem, competing interests, priorities and
constraints. The application of more formal analysis tools is impossible
before the problem can be articulated in a concise, agreed upon,
well-bounded manner. ?In other words, the problem must first be tamed.

Asnwering 'what took place' is often a wicked problem. Those tha work in
the legal field know that it courts judge between theories, not facts, and
often end up applying public interest or some other 'effect' jusgment to
reach a resoltuion. It did take place one way or another but this kind of
problem cannot be resolved as long as we look to ascertain unascertainable
facts. To solve the problem it must be reformulated in terms of " What is
the best solution or one with the most desirabel outcome".

That I think everyone agrees is the one that strengthen Yiddishkeit and
does not weaken it. Now, we can argue about the effects and costs of each
proposed solution and not about its factual truth.

M. Levin

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