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Volume 16 : Number 063

Friday, December 16 2005

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005 13:20:41 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Length of Maaseh Breshis has no impact on halacha

I wrote in my last email "I'm not revisiting this". That means that I
will be ignoring the majority of issues raised by RSC, and stick to
non-MB tangents.

Otherwise, this list will never lose the hyperfocus on the same couple
of topics that it has had for the past year.

I could describe the fundamentals of the debate in a couple of ways:

1- RSC learned from RAMiller. I, from Rav Aryeh Kaplan. RSC seems
to consider RAK so far from a Torah source, he habitually returns to
academic norm of just "Kaplan" rather than the yeshivish one of using
title and full name. I, OTOH, consider RAM a great source for learning
emunah and middos, but find his approach to machashavah is simpler than
my needs.

2- (Which goes hand-in-hyand with #2) RSC writes:
: Actually, despite our long-standing debate, I am a lot more closely
: aligned to your way of thinking than you know. Here's what I believe. If
: we had no messorah regarding MB, I would hold *exactly* like you because,
: as Chazal point out and Rabbi Miller quotes in his letter, the chukey
: hateva were not yet fixed until the end of creation. I actually believe
: that without any input from Chazal and Rishonim, your shita is the *only*
: logical choice. But since we *do* have "received" information from Chazal
: and Rishonim about the literalness of time during MB, I must conclude
: that when Chazal referred to the chukey hateva as not yet being fixed,
: they were referring to everything but time.

I find this position untenable. It might make the baalei mesorah
internally consistent, but it requires doing damage to things understood
a priori. I need my machashavah to match experience and straight logic,
not only the sources..

There is no such thing as the length of time without consistent chuqei
hateva. Thus, rather than modifying a naive reading to say something
that is still inconsistent, I would modify it otherwise. That a literal
6 days is meant inclusively, not exclusively. It's 6 days "in a way",
but also some other duration, in a different way.

To summarize the two: We disagree over the role of a priori reasoning
in understanding Torah.

Frankly our fundamental assumptions are so at odds, we can't even read
the sources identically. I find many of RSC's interpretations to be
manipulations of the text to "what he must mean is", and I'm sure things
look similar from his side, but with me wearing the colored glasses.

But since the debate has grown beyond our ability to retain already made
arguments, and has grown so long so as to reshape the character of the
forum as a whole, let's give it a rest.

:> I already gave a famous example. "Hinei anokhi sholei'akh lakhem es Eliyah
:> hanavi, lifnei ba yom Hashem hagadol venhanora." Do you believe that the
:> Yom Hashem will be 24 hours? (In the frame of reference experienced by
:> all or nearly all of humanity, of couse.)

: Of course I do. What else does it mean? Chazal say this will be the
: final day of mishpat when everyone will be judged again. It means a
: specific and appointed day in history. What makes you think it means
: anything different?

Bwcause I'm talking about "yom Hashem", not "yom haDin". Yom Hashem is
acharis hayamim. All of time after techiyas hameisim. "Bayom hahu
yihyeh Hashem echad ushemo echad." Not just the day achareis hayamim


Micha Berger             "The most prevalent illness of our generation is
micha@aishdas.org        excessive anxiety....  Emunah decreases anxiety:
http://www.aishdas.org   'The Almighty is my source of salvation;  I will
Fax: (270) 514-1507      trust and not be afraid.'" (Isa 12) -Shalhevesya

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Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005 12:00:32 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
RE: Length of Maaseh Breshis has no impact on halacha

On December 15, 2005, Micha Berger wrote:
>: Nearly everyone? In any case, even if everyone read Rav Dessler that way,
>: it would simply make Rav Dessler wrong. The Ramban couldn't be clearer
>: than he is about the literalness of 6 24 hour days; I don't see the
>: possibility of interpreting the Ramban any differently than RZL.

> I'm not revisiting this. Of course you don't see the possibility, because
> you require that time in the days of ma'aseh bereishis be comprehensible,
> and therefore there must be a setirah between 6 literal days, 6 millenia
> and 12 or 15 billion years.

Actually, despite our long-standing debate, I am a lot more closely
aligned to your way of thinking than you know. Here's what I believe. If
we had no messorah regarding MB, I would hold *exactly* like you because,
as Chazal point out and Rabbi Miller quotes in his letter, the chukey
hateva were not yet fixed until the end of creation. I actually believe
that without any input from Chazal and Rishonim, your shita is the *only*
logical choice. But since we *do* have "received" information from Chazal
and Rishonim about the literalness of time during MB, I must conclude
that when Chazal referred to the chukey hateva as not yet being fixed,
they were referring to everything but time.

>:> But the Ramban, like most mequbalim, holds that there was time between
>:> Bereishis 1:1 and 1:2. So he too agrees there was an extended process;
>:> the Ramban simply disagrees about how that fits the pesuqim.

>: I don't know of any mikubalim that hold that there was physical time
>: between 1:1 and 1:2. Kindly illustrate your assertion with sources please.

> This is again a request to revisit a discussion. RYGB already compiled
> and posted such a list in the original incarnation of the "A of the U"
> thread. See <http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol14/v14n065.shtml#09>,
> sources in the paragraph that begins "Many Mekubbalim....

Sorry but he brings almost no proof there whatsoever. The post
is basically a rehash of Kaplan. The only sources there that discuss
creation in terms of longer than 6000 years are the Sefer Hatemuna/Kaneh,
and Livnas haSapir. Every other Rishon cited their mentions nothing about
being further along in the shemittos than the first although YGB implies
that they do. That's why I am discussing it with *you*. *You* claim that
there are sources and I respectfully request that you respond. Besides,
he mentions nothing there about there being physical time between 1:1
and 1:2. RYGB's shita, which he just stated recently, is that once you
have the doctrines of shemitta, it's open season and he can choose to say
millions or billions of years too. But there is no proof from mikubalim,
anywhere, that the universe is any older than 6000 other than the Livnas
haSapir (7th shemitta) and the sefer hakaneh which holds that we are in
the second shemita.

>:> Six yamim. And I've already argued that "yom" has other literal
>:> definitions.

> I already gave a famous example. "Hinei anokhi sholei'akh lakhem es Eliyah
> hanavi, lifnei ba yom Hashem hagadol venhanora." Do you believe that the
> Yom Hashem will be 24 hours? (In the frame of reference experienced by
> all or nearly all of humanity, of couse.)

Of course I do. What else does it mean? Chazal say this will be the
final day of mishpat when everyone will be judged again. It means a
specific and appointed day in history. What makes you think it means
anything different?

>: Huh? How can his sevara be positively established as being wrong such that
>: he is put to death if, according to you, we have no clue what period of time
>: six days represents?

> Yet another request for a point already discussed in the past year.
> Why does he reject 6 literal days -- because he rejects the notion that
> yom means day (whether because it's taitch or idiom/metaphor)? Or because
> he rejects the chumash as a source? Rav Saadia is explicit, he's talking
> about the latter. See EvD 3:6.

I looked it up using your mareh makom and couldn't find it. Kindly
resubmit. Also, I'd like to gently remonstrate with you. I do not have
a photographic memory, I did not necessarily read every post on Avodah
in the past year, and there are many newcomers to Avodah who, I'm sure,
would like clarification to assertions which are somewhat nebulous. If
we happen to be discussing the subject again, I think it is reasonable
for me to request clarification of your words. I mean no disrespect
here. As it happens, you clarified perfectly. What remains now is the
proper mareh makom so I (or anyone else) can verify your interpretation.

>:> We've been through this before. The only rishon who explicitly connects
>:> yom to hours and minutes of the normal sort is the Ramban -- as addressed
>:> in two different ways above.

>: And Rashi (midas yom umidas layla = 24 hours in Chagiga). And the Rashbam
>: (ad loc.) And the Radak (ad loc.) And others. I will post soon bl'n.

> Will wait.

But you need not wait regarding the above three mareh mikomos. What is
your response to the fact that at least another three rishonim claim
that the days of MB were regular 24 hour periods?

>: It's the same three branches of science and all of them have already been
>: addressed. The truth is, I myself would have been highly suspicious of
>: anyone dismissing the findings of science. B"H I had the benefit of being
>: associated with Rav Avigdor Miller who demonstrated clearly and lucidly the
>: inaccuracies of scientists in the fields of origins...

> Bemechilas kevod Toraso, I read and heard RAM's position, and he dismisses
> misunderstood versions of out-of-date theories. If you don't know the idea
> well enough to follow the formula, you can't really discuss how solid
> it is.

WADR, you don't know what you're talking about. Rabbi Miller had vast
knowledge of science lichol chelkeyhem and kept abreast of current
theories as anyone who heard his shiurim and listens to his tapes
knows. He only died 4 years ago so his knowledge was current.

> (Which is why "string theory" isn't technically a theory. No formula,
> ie no specific predictions to confirm or falsify.)

Now you're being michavin to Rabbi Miller ztz'l. This is a frequent theme
that weaves its way through his talks on resolutions between science
and Torah. For example, Darwin postulated common descent via "insensibly
fine gradations" over eons of time. In order to confirm his theory, he
suggested that rock strata would reveal an abundance of evidence in the
form of transitional fossils and if it didn't, this would constitute
a "problem on theory". 150 years later, they're still haven't found
the abundant fossil sequences posited by Darwin and yet the theory is
alive and well. This is a prime example of origins science holding on
to doctrines that have been disproved and promoting theories that are
nothing but dogmatic views on materialism. If this insidious phenomenon
can so thoroughly invade the entire scientific community for over 150
years, then it would behoove one to begin suspecting other origins type
theories which are full of untested foundational assumptions and thus
cannot really be confirmed or verified properly. As Chazal have stated,
ksheim she'ein mamsh b'zeh, kach ein mamsh b'zeh.

>: You mention carbon dating. But carbon dating is only good for organic
>: material, not sediment layers...

> But one can use argon dating on rocks.

I anticipated your response. That's why I added the other two reasons
which apply equally to all forms of radioactive decay including Potassium
to Argon decay rates.

>: There is another issue that Rav Avigdor Miller brings up. The dating methods
>: all assume certain parent-daughter ratios for their calculations but they
>: have no proof that these ratios existed at the beginning of time...

> And all ratios changed by the same factor. Even when the radioactive
> isotope is the lighter of the two, or the heavier.

First of all, who says? Second of all, so?

> Of those three disciplines, you only attacked one.

Because that's what I said I was going to do. I would gladly attack all
of them but you would never allow a post that long to fly. Kindly pick
a sub-topic of one of these three branches and I'll respond.

> Geologically, the
> plates are puzzle peices drifting away from eachother. If you trace things
> back, they all would have been next to eachother billions of years ago,
> and the peices would have fit!

That is a gross oversimplification and besides, you have your facts
wrong as will be demonstrated shortly.

> Google the word "Pangea".

I don't have to. I am very familiar with the concept of plate tectonics
and Alfred Wegner's theory of continental drift. First of all, let's
get the facts straight. Continental drift does not say that the land
masses were together billions of years ago. On the contrary, they were
far apart. About 300 million years ago, they all crashed together to form
the supercontinent Pangaea (not Pangea) and about 200 million years ago
they broke up and drifted apart.

Now, Wegner's proof was not that all the continents fit together like
a big jigsaw puzzle. His proof was that South America and Africa look
like they might fit together, that's it. At the time (1915) scientists
did not accept his theories because there was no known force powerful
enough to move huge continents. In 1968 Plate Tectonics was proposed as
a method that would allow the twenty plates which comprise the earth's
outer shell to move around on top of a weak layer of hot rock several
hundred kilometres below the earth's surface. But don't fool yourself;
even today, nobody fully understands how this is accomplished. Some
speculate that the unequal distribution of heat within the earth causes
convection currents to move the plates but as I said, this is only
speculation. Satellite Laser Ranging has confirmed that the North American
plate and the European plate are currently moving apart at a rate of 2
cm. annually but let's revisit this conversation in fifty years. I'll bet
the rate doesn't stay the same and might even reverse itself. The point
is, they don't know. It's just conjecture like everything else which
relates to origins science. Plate Tectonics is a nifty theory when it
comes to explaining the seismic activity at the point where they grate
against each other (I believe there are over 30,000 earthquakes a year)
but it is far from accurate as a description of the past.

> You also don't
> touch cosomology, the expansion of the universe and how the energy of
> an explosion that would impart the right momentum for that expansion
> matches the energy level in background cosmic radiation.

Jonathan wrote an article on these topics. You can find it on toriah.org.
Please read it. If you don't like what he says, post to Avodah and we'll
discuss it.

>: Hashem created a fully mature world with advanced biological processes
>: already in place, he may very well have created elements with partial ratios
>: of various isotopes for whatever reason. Thus, you cannot prove an ancient
>: universe using these methods.

> That's true. The "fully mature universe" idea can not be scientifically
> proven or rules out. By definition. But then, one would not need
> to dismiss current theory. Carbon dating works -- but things were
> created pre-aged.

I never said pre-aged. I said fully mature. Fully mature means that
all the processes necessary for the smooth functioning of the universe
are created accordingly. OTOH, I do not believe that Hashem would, for
instance, create a tree at the time of MB with 20,000 rings or some such
thing because it's not necessary for life functions here on earth and
thus would have no function other than to mislead. Thus, a science like
dendrochronology must be taken seriously. Things like fossil evidence
of common descent must also be taken seriously because they too would
have no function other than to mislead. But claiming, for instance, that
Plate tectonics was responsible for the Appalachians can be rejected by
the mature-world theory because mountains are something Hashem wanted
to create and have many beneficial qualities for life on earth. Thus,
they are not misleading. They're just mature.

> I already posted my philosophical dilemma with this
> shitah. Perfect fake history equals real history. But scientifically,
> it's off limits.

I kind of agree with you regarding fake history but regarding MB in
general, I don't really care what is off limits for science because I
have a Torah that tells me the truth. Science is a man-made convention
and so are all the imperatives that govern its application. Scientists
refuse to abandon their paradigms, no matter how egregious, unless
they can formulate another one that is as equally materialistic as the
first. Fossil evidence or rather, the lack thereof, is living proof of
this fact. If scientists want to create self-imposed limitations on their
minds, that's their business. But I'm a yeshiva guy; my whole training
consists of thinking outside the box. I have no problem entertaining
other ideas if they fall within the strict parameters of logic and
reason. Besides, I personally think that sudden appearance of life
via design is a very valid scientific theory which corroborates MB
scientifically. William Paley may have been a Christian pastor, but
teleology, as he presented it, is scientific, not religious. BTY, R'
Akiva beat him to the punch 1800 years ago with his argument from the
woven garment.

> If RAM and yourself really believed this, there owuld be no motivation
> to pick holes in the science. Simple answer: They presume everything
> was bederekh hateva, we know from the Torah better, that it was
> made to look exactly like it was bederekh hateva over many many years.

I answered this already. I would like to ask you a favour. Rav Avigdor
Miller was my Rebbi and as far as I'm concerned he was beyond reproach
in his middos. You may argue with him on an academic or Torah level all
you want but please try and refrain from characterizing his motivations,
at least around me. It's giving me high blood pressure. There was nobody
more tocho k'baro on the face of this earth than Rabbi Miller. He was
an uncompromising ish emes par excellence.

>: A third point is the flood. The Malbim states that in addition to the
>: enormous pressure that existed from the inundation of the earth, there was
>: also tremendous heat....

> Chemistry and nuclear physics require differences in energy by many
> orders of magnitude. To think this does anything to decay rates requires
> knowing very little of the subject.

I misspoke. You may be right. For now I will leave this issue at a
tzarich iyun. I would however like to add that radiometric dating has
been called into question by some of the greatest experts in the field. I
recall seeing one paper itemizing over 400 discrepancies in the dating
system. And I'm sure you're familiar with Robert Gentry's book and the
polonium halo issue. There are serious problems with the dating methods
that make them, IMO, highly suspect. I must freely admit though that
I haven't researched radioactive decay nearly as much as I should and
therefore I am far from an authority on the issue.

>:> Once you presume that the current physics didn't apply, neither did the
>:> current notion of time. Time without formulas mapping various behaviors
>:> to the same t is just meaningless. Brains run at different speeds,
>:> experiencing the time as different. Bodies age at different speeds. If
>:> there were clocks, they would have run at different speeds and the
>:> one clock from one moment to the next.

>: Why? The watch on your hand marks the passage of time when you observe it
>: (your behaviour). What if you took your watch off your wrist and locked it
>: up in a safe for two hours. No human observer would have access to it and it
>: could not be calibrated with any human enterprise whatsoever. Do you imagine
>: that when you take it out of the safe it will record anything different than
>: two hours of the regular passage of time?

> You're confusing QM with relativity.

No I'm not. QM thought experiments such as Schroedinger's cat must
link subatomic particles which, to all appearances, possess duality,
to macroscopic phenomena to illustrate their point. Thus the cat
is simultaneously alive and not alive until the observer causes the
quantum state to collapse into a defined one. I did no such thing. I
merely addressed your proposal regarding mapping time to behaviours
and making a direct coloration between elapsed time durations and brain
speed etc. Unless there are reasons, such as those set out in SR and GR,
to imagine differently, time elapses at a pretty much constant rate.

> If the watch and safe were on Saturn
> (where the gravity is stronger) or moving at high speeds, it would record
> somehting different. That's the basis of the science behind the opinion
> you're rejecting.

MB took 6 24 hour periods as measured here on terra firma. What an
observer would have experienced had he been standing on Saturn doesn't
concern me.

> The Michaelson-Morley experiment hitned as much, which is what motivated
> Einstein,

We're getting a bit off topic but Michaelson-Morley merely proved that
light propagates in a vacuum (a fact that RSEM actually wishes to contend
with...see how smart our local posek is :-). It took the incredible genius
of Einstein to actually formulate the principles of relativity and imagine
that the very fabric of time was merely an ancillary dimension of matter
and could be altered.

> but the actual phenomenon was measure by astronauts and
> GPS engieers, who look at systems that do move rapidly enough to have
> measurable effects.

I thought it was proven by the famous atomic clock experiment.

> Which is why I took this away from whether relativity
> is right. Regardless of explanation, there are multiple rates of time.

This sounds like an RYGB move. Just because you have slight discrepancies
in time measurement does not mean you can extrapolate to vast time
differences just as being in a second or third shemita does not mean that
all bets are off and I can now say billions of years. Besides, the Torah
says specifically that we are referring to light and dark periods here
on earth as our point of reference. This is what 6 days means. If some
other heavenly bodies were travelling at faster rates of speed, that would
simply mean that MB took even less than six days from that vantage point.

> But that's not the point in the text you quote above either. I said that
> given a situation in which nothing need be in sync with anything else, nor
> even stay at the same rate from moment to moement, time has no meaning.

The Rambam didn't understand things your way in the Moreh. He associates
time with tenua and says nothing about syncing objects. The Ramban
also disagrees with you. See Ramban on MB 1:4 ki m'sheyatzu hashamayim
v'haaretz min ha'efes el ha'yesh, nihiyeh zman etc. ayin sham. (Not that
I wouldn't accept your opinion over these two. I'm merely pointing out
who your baaley plugta are.)

> In relativity, that means that I can't say "1 hour" without at least
> implying "in frame of reference x". Since most of us are barely moving
> relative to eachother and in the same gravity well (the earth), the
> implication is usually obvious.

Beautifully put and fully agreed with (and possibly not like the Rambam
and Ramban above). However, like I pointed out before, MB is associated
with earth's frame of reference.

> But it need not be that Hashem chose that particular phrame of reference
> when writing Bereishis 1, since no objects were at that velocity and
> mass-energy density on day 1 anyway. The RSO could have chosen the
> perspective we now inhabit, or one of some fast moving (relative to us)
> star, or a frame of reference that no object actually moved or will
> move at!

Your words are incomprehensible to me. It is as if you have not read the
first perek in Bereishis. The first pasuk begins Bereishis bara elokim
es hashamayim v'ess ha'aretz. Pasuk number two begins v'haaretz...which
means that Hashem turns his back on the entire universe and is focussed
entirely on the goings on here on earth. How can you say that MB is being
discussed in any other framework other than here on earth. The entire
story is earth related, not some "flying debris out in space" related.

Good Shabbos
Simcha Coffer

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Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005 13:22:53 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>

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Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005 07:56:32 -0500
From: kennethgmiller@juno.com
re: Being exposed to minus

R' Simcha Coffer and I took our discussion slightly offline, to better
clarify our views. For the benefit of any lurkers who are following our
exchange, I'll summarize his view and explain why it confuses me.

As best as we can express it, his view is:

"Moshe Rabenu had an understanding of two distinct entities, one being
the Torah Sheb'ksav, a/k/a Chumash, which was either fixed (having
been given to him as an entirety at one time) or flexible (having been
given parshios parshios), and a second entity being the Kisvei Kodesh,
consisting of the first entity plus some other writings which did not
exist yet but would be written in his future. And according to Torah
Sheb'al Peh, the pasuk "lo yishama al picha" grants exceptions not only
to AZs named in the first entity, but even those mentioned in the second."

Now, let me affirm that I do accept that this is the halacha, as some
posters have quoted Rambam. My problem has been in with the concept of
this second entity -- Nach -- having a d'Oraisa standing.

Let's compare this to another halacha, that according to some, melacha
is assur d'Oraisa on Chol HaMoed, but only those activities which were
legislated into that category. According to this view, I think it is quite
possible that if someone had asked Moshe Rabenu about this, he probably
would have answered that "HaShem definitely wants us to avoid melacha
on Chol HaMoed, but He told us to define exactly which activities are n
that category. Our to-do list is pretty long, and we haven't gotten to
this yet, so for now, everything goes, but keep in mind that this will
change someday, and those activities will become assur d'Oraisa."

The above response makes sense to me, because it incorporates idea
which were reality for that generation: Moshe's beis din was already
established and functioning, and the distinction between a Halacha
D'Oraisa and other legislation is seen in the Krias HaTorah (Shabbos
afternoon IIRC) and other things that he personally established.

It is difficult for me to view Nach in that light, to see it as something
which had any sort of reality for that generation. But I suppose it
must have been so, for we do see that it is not only an exception to
this d'Oraisa (that avodah zaras named in Nach are an exception to the
d'Oraisa against uttering the name of an avodah zara), but Nach is itself
an exception to the d'Oraisa against publishing Torah Sheb'al Peh.

Can anyone offer a third example to this category? Is there any other
case where Nach has such a strong relevance to a halacha d'Oraisa?

I know, for example, that the Torah contains hints about future holidays
("haster astir"), and about a future replacement for the Mishkan
("hamenucha v'hanachala"). Are there any similar hints in the Torah
about more Kisvei Kodesh to come in the future, and that they'd have a
Torah relevance?

Akiva Miller

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