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Volume 16 : Number 069

Wednesday, December 21 2005

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 11:28:22 -0500 (EST)
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: hashkafa 101 - some thoughts and questions

R Gershon Seif wrote:
> The talmid looked a bit puzzled, and after a few question I realized that
> he didn't understand that "he" and his neshoma, are one and the same. He
> somehow thought that they were different entities. I explained that there
> are different parts of the neshoma. As I was taught, the brain is a tool
> for the neshoma to interface with this world. He asked me what happens
> with one's personality when we die. Do we retain our personalities
> and our sense of humor? Do we interact with other neshomos? How about
> neshomos from other generations? ...

I assume this is of a piece with the machloqes over whether or
personalities reside in / are a function of the ru'ach, which survives
death, or the nefesh, which does not.

One approach to this question is addressed quite well by an essay in
The Kaplan Reader, available from the Vaad haRabanim of Queens and their
chevrah qadishah at <http://www.queensvaad.org/chevra/?chevraID=5>. (Aish
has a version with prettier layout, but also has ellisions.)

> Then he brought the idea of yisurim. We've all learned that suffering
> is a kapara. How exactly does that work? How does that fit in to the
> general game plan of a neshoma improving itself by good choices? Perhaps
> an adult will accept some yisurim as Hashem's judgment and that humble
> acceptance will be the point of growth. But what about other yisurim,
> such as an infant, or an adult who has Alzheimer's or is in a coma? Does
> anyone have a good pshat in how this helps the neshama?

IMHO, theodicy isn't difficult because of the theory, rather because
we can't possibly know the majority of the factors HQBH takes into
account. The basic principle is simple, "Hatov shimekha", "Gam zu
letovah", "Kol de'avad Rachmana, letav avad".

But what is what's best for the person? No one knows the inner workings
of a soul, not even their own. We don't know every element of the
world we live in. We know even less of how the world would unfold /if/
HQBH had chosen X, not Y. Or how we would unfold and develop in such a
world. Therefore it comes down to bitachon, CI style -- trust that what
the RSO does is for the best.

I have a number of essays on theodicy on my blog. Some more relevent ones:
The Four Sons Confront Tragedy: http://www.aishdas.org/asp/fourSons.shtml
Theodicy: http://www.aishdas.org/asp/2004/12/theodicy.shtml
Crime, Punishment and Teshuvah: http://www.aishdas.org/asp/nitzavim.shtml

The following is a series on the relationship between the self and sechar
va'onesh (which is not to say that all HP is either sechar or onesh):

My basic mahalakh is that there is a causal link between who you are
"ba'aseher hu sham" (as the Torah says of Yishma'el in the qeri'ah for RH)
and one's fate. If HP is not universal, the loss of HP is part of that
fate -- so this question is not related to the general HP one. However,
since the RSO set up that causal system, and from His perspective there
is no difference between time of set up and time of our action, it's
equally valid to say that He responds to our actions. Both models of the
same thing -- one more useful intellectually, the other more useful in
building a relationship to Him.


Micha Berger             "The worst thing that can happen to a
micha@aishdas.org        person is to remain asleep and untamed."
http://www.aishdas.org          - Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, Alter of Kelm
Fax: (270) 514-1507

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Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 17:06:29 EST
From: T613K@aol.com
Re: Length of Maaseh Breshis has no impact on halacha

In Avodah V16 #68 dated 12/20/2005 R'  Joe Slater  writes:
>>>Christians are not obliged to be an "am chachom  v'navon".[--jds]

>>And yet they are making such wonderful strides.  Can you imagine how
>>great is our chiyuv? [--R' Simcha  Coffer]

> Surely R' Miller would not have agreed that there is Torah  bagoyim.
> Surely he would not have taken lessons in avodas hashem from ovdei  elilim.<<

I have read Michael Behe, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells and Phillip
Johnson with great interest and found them very enlightening. Everyone
who is interested in science and Torah should read these four writers.
I don't have a definite opinion on what happened or how long it took,
but the evidence for creation is strong -- while the evidence for an old
world is also strong. I do not recall any of these four discussing the
Flood. (For the record, I don't find the theory that "the Flood changed
everything" to be very convincing, but consider it one possibility
among many.)

Bottom line, although these writers intend to buttress the case for
creation or intelligent design, what they write is in the category of
chachmah rather than Torah and can be read by any ben Torah with a very
clear conscience. Indeed it may be a mitzva to read them. Their books
are not books of religion but of chachmah.

 -Toby  Katz

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Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 21:41:40 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
RE: Length of Maaseh Breshis has no impact on halacha

On December 20, 2005, Joe Slater wrote:
> As it happens I both own and have read _Rejoice O Youth_. None the less,
> I'd have to think less of R' Miller if he were to assert that the rate
> of nuclear fission depends on the temperature.

Luckily he doesn't say that. He doesn't discuss decay rates per se but
rather the futile attempt to use decay rates to extrapolate backwards in
time. I was the one who implied that temperature might have something to do
with fission and I (temporarily) retracted my position.  

> According to your theory this balance must be relatively recent, because
> everything that can now be tested as being extremely old must have grown
> before this balance was reached. For instance, something which is tested
> as being 23,000 years old must have grown at a time when there was about
> 1/16th as much carbon14 in the atmosphere as there is today. Something
> tested as being 11,500 years old would have had to have grown at a time
> when there was only 1/4 as much carbon 14 in the atmosphere. Is this
> what you believe?

Obviously not but in response allow me to ask you a question. I am
sure you are aware that plant-life utilizes oxygen and carbon dioxide
in the air. There are 3 parts in 10,000 of CD in the air. Now, due
to the miniscule amounts of CD available, plants would use all of the
available supply in the vicinity almost immediately. Thank G-d we have
winds which keep the air in motion thereby constantly replenishing the
store of CD. This is quite a fortuitous arrangement wouldn't you say? Just
the right proportion of oxygen and carbon dioxide in conjunction with
just the right amount of conveyor belt activity to utilize the available
resources. Where did the oxygen come from? Did the conditions that gave
rise to the facility of wind evolve over billions of years? What about
the fact that there is a perfect mixture of oxygen, nitrogen, CD and
other trace elements in the air. Was this by accident too?

To the crippled mind of the savant, all this is merely testifies to the
vagaries of chance. To ma'aminim like you and I, it is miraculous. If,
as you mention above, you believe that the presence of nitrogen in the
air is miraculous, why not believe that the Creator brought just the
right amount of nitrogen into existence at the beginning of creation
and instituted a system (the instability of Carbon 14) to maintain the
perfectly proportionate amount of nitrogen necessary for air to perform
its life sustaining functions? After all, you are forced to say that
Hashem created oxygen. No amount of instability will create the volumes
of oxygen found in the atmosphere. Why not extend that to the entire
cocktail mixture we call air?

I've already mentioned to you that the assumption of the presence of a
Creator automatically implies the mature creation of all necessary features
of the universe. Rav Avigdor Miller gives a humorous example. If Adam would
have gone to the dentist after Shabbos, the dentist would have examined his
mouth and would have proclaimed "young man, don't tell me you were born
yesterday! These are 30 year old teeth!" Just as Adam was created fully
mature with all of the features of a normal adult, air too was created fully
mature with all of the elements necessary to sustain life.

As far as the current ratios, scientists can only conjecture about the
past. They simply cannot tell you with certainty what the parent-daughter
ratios were at the time of Creation (which they don't believe in any
way so the whole argument seems circular to them)

> I didn't think that you were putting this idea forward seriously.

Well, now you know that I was. 

> I hope
> that I have shown that it is conceptually unworkable with relation to
> carbon14.

And I hope I've responded to your concerns satisfactorily. You may not
necessarily believe what I believe but the important thing is that there
are no logical deficiencies in Rabbi Miller's reasoning vis-a-vis Carbon
14 radioactivity.

> It is also unworkable with respect to uranium-lead dating,
> because uranium and lead have very different chemical properties and a
> mineral (e.g., zircon) incorporating uranium will *only* contain lead
> as a result of the uranium's decay.

I've heard this before but I don't understand the difference between
Carbon 14 and uranium to lead decay. In both cases, Rabbi Miller is
claiming that we don't know what decay levels existed at the beginning of
creation. This argument should hold true for uranium to lead potassium
to argon and rubidium to strontium. I was talking to Jonathan (Ostroff)
today and he mentioned a good point. In order for radioactive dating
methods to work, three foundational *assumptions* must be made:

1) The initial conditions are known; 
2) The system has been closed; and 
3) The radioactive decay rate has remained constant.

Furthermore (this is me talking now), radioactive dating has been called
into question on several occasions by noted scientists. Often times the
same method yields different dates for the same rock samples. I haven't
done my homework on this topic but from what I've read so far, there is
certainly cause to question radiometric dating as incontrovertible.

> Surely R' Miller would not have agreed that there is Torah bagoyim.
> Surely he would not have taken lessons in avodas hashem from ovdei elilim.

There are two types of Avodas Hashem. One through Torah and one through
awareness of a Creator through the study of nature. Your statement is
correct regarding the former and incorrect as pertains to the latter. If
you want proof of this, please listen to tape #78 titled Evolutionists
Speak. It'll be the best hour and a half you ever spent in your
life. It's epiphanous; it changed my life. (can you tell I'm a fan?)

Best wishes
Simcha Coffer  

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Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 22:19:45 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
Re: Length of Maaseh Breshis has no impact on halacha

S & R Coffer wrote:
>The source is Chumash. You say it every Friday night. What are you
>thinking in your mind when you say "yom hashsishi..."? Also, the asseres
>haDibros states, ki sheyshes yamim assa Hashem..." Ein mikra yotzey
>miday pishuto unless you have a very compelling reason to do so...

Thank you for your cogent explanation. I am gratified to hear that you
are fully aware that it is not easy to convince many of the objective
validity of the literalist viewpoint. However wouldn't you agree that if
you weren't committed to the view that the world is less than 6000 years
old - you could acknowledge that your criticisms of science are not needed
and maybe even a bit stretched. In other words your arguments are driven -
not by the data of Science - but rather your belief in the actual age of
the universe - which of necessity results in a clash between Science &
Religion. If you could convince me by the data itself - rather being
the consequence of your belief system - I could be motivated to make it
a topic in Daas Torah 2.

Thus what I was asking is the following. We have two choices. 1) Accept
that there is a required belief that the world is less than 6000 years
old and then be forced to devalue Science in order to ameliorate the
resulting Science - Religion conflict. 2) Accept that there is not a
problem with accepting that the universe is old and therefore minimizing
the conflict with Science.

In sum: since life is certainly easier for the greater than 6000 years
old view - what drives you to tenaciously reject it? Since Rav Shmuel
Kaminetsky has certified the legitimacy of an older universe - then the
burden of proof is on you as to why you need to reject it.

Therefore I would appreciate your elaboration on the meta issues in this
debate - since realistically neither side is going to convince the other
side about their interpretations. Avoiding derashos -where do you see
amongst the rishonim & achronim an insistence that every good Jew must
accept that the world is less than 6000 years old.

Daniel Eidensohn

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Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 23:54:54 -0500
From: "Zvi Lampel" <hlampel@thejnet.com>
Re: Length of Maaseh Breshis has no impact on halacha

On Thu, Dec 15, 2005 at 10:08:43PM -0500, T613K@aol.com wrote: 
:> The "fully mature universe" idea can not be scientifically 
:> proven or ruled out. By definition. ... things were 
:> created pre-aged. I already posted my philosophical dilemma with this 
:> shitah. Perfect fake history equals real history. 

: "The world just looks old" and "the world is old" is a 
: distinction without a difference...

No. There is a clear difference between saying the world existed
for eternity or billions of years, and saying the world existed
for 6000 years, but was created with the immediate look of eternal
or billion-of-years' existence. (Apparently you are understanding
"The world just looks old" as meaning that Hashem created the world in
an incipient stage that developed at an accelerated pace. But that is
not what it means.) The difference is not "How old the world is," but
"how long has the world existed;" i.e., how long ago did Hashem create
the world with sudden appearances of trees and creatures created
("poof!") in an aged state.

How else do you understand that Hashem created Adam as a 30-year old
man? Do you disbelieve it? Do you consider it to have been misleading to
Eve (making Hashem the first shadchan to lie about the boy's age)? (--
a little humor to lighten the discussion...)

How do you understand that Hashem created, one day before creating Adam,
a tree already bearing fruit? Do you find it problematic that it looked
to Adam like something that had taken a much longer time to grow? Are
you uncomfortable with the fact that no Tanna, Amora, Gaon, Rishon or
Acharon found this problematic? -- That although elsewhere (regarding
"on the day Hashem created the Heavens and the Earth"), sensing a problem
with the normal meaning of "day," the commentators deal with it, but they
feel no need to say that the day of the trees' creation -- one day before
Adam's creation -- was anything other than a plainly understood day?

Or do you think that the rishonim were not as theologically enlightened
as we; that had they been, they too would have said that an undeceiving
G-d, to avoid misleading Adam and Eve, must have created everything,
including Adam, in its incipient stage --Adam being created as a baby,
or a sperm cell, or born from another creature that had been created
as a baby or a sperm cell, ad infinitum --- and that each "day" was a
long time, consisting of many days and nights. Or, as RMB (to fit the
Rambam into his outlook) has recently suggested [seriously?] that the
earth was revolving very, very, slowly, and that there were billions
of years of uninterrrupted sunlight, followed by billions of years of
uninterrupted darkness?

Perhaps you will say that there is a difference between misleading
Adam and Eve regarding 30 years as opposed to billions. (I can see a
shadchan coming up with that...). But how about Hashem /successfully/
misleading all the rishonim by using "six days" to describe billions of
years, knowing that they would take it literally? (RMB would claim the
rishonim don't address the issue, but I'm talking to you, who I trust
sees the rishonim as I do.)

Or will you admit that if the creator of the product tells you it's
not really as old as its looks, then he is practicing the antithesis
of deception.

"...Breishis teaches... that although you see the heavens possesing vast
dimensions, as is proven by the masters of mathematics, do not think that
it took a long time to create them. "I called to them and they stood
up together" (Yeshaia 48:13). This means that in the Beginning, in the
smallest amount of time, without any effort. Likewise it says "He won't
tire nor toil, there is no end to His Understanding" (ibid., 40:28). And
as it says, "'b'hi-bar'am,' -- b'hay bar'am -- at the beginning of the
creation of Time, and in a short period, the mind being unable to grasp
this amount. ... "

(Sefer Tseyda LaDerech. cited in the KPCH edition of Rabbeynu Saadia
Gaon's Chumash Commentary, paraphrasing or quoting [it's unclear exactly]
Rabbeynu Saadia Gaon.)

To the scientists of the past, the fact of the vastness of the Heavens
"proved" that it took a long time for them to be created. Braishis told
them not to be deceived by such evidence; and it tells us not to be
deceived by whatever other evidence indicates that Hashem took longer
than six plain days to create the universe.

> but if it allows people to hang on to a literal sheshes yemei Bereishis
> while also reading the daily paper without cognitive dissonance, then
> "perfect faked history" is a useful theory.

This is not the first resort on Avodah to attempts at psychoanalysis
("cognitive dissonance," etc.) of one's challenger -- a sophisticated
form of name-calling -- when one is unable to defend one's position
logically. But as a response, how do /you/ read the daily papers' version
of "purely objective reality" regarding, say, Israel and/or Orthodox
Jews? And why do you respond with cognitive dissonance to documented
admissions of bias by old-age-universe believers? As just one of many
examples, back on December 14, 2004, Dr. Ostroff posted (RE: Torah and
Allegory [Moreh Nevuchim on Science]):

Richard Lewontin [Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard]
wrote in the NYRB in 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 commitment to materialism. It
is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel 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."

Are you willing to deal with this, or simply cognitively dissonate it?

[Email #2. -mi]

Thu, 15 Dec 2005 R. Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org> posted:
> "yom" has other literal definitions ...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?

> Yom Hashem is acharis hayamim. All of time after techiyas
> hameisim. "Bayom hahu yihyeh Hashem echad ushemo echad." Not just
> the day achareis hayamim begins.

Maybe. But I thought it /did/ mean "as of that day." What's your ra'yah
these pesukim are not referring to one day or the day that introduces
the era? Oh, and I just found a Radak (Yoel 3:3 referring to Yoel 2:11)
who says that the "Yom Hashem HaGadol V'HaNora" is the day of Gog and
Magog's downfall. Sounds like a specific (V-)day.

I find it interesting that most meforshim do not care to understand "yom"
as more than one "yom," even where one might expect it. As R. Yitzchok
Zirkind pointed out concerning Bereishis 2:4 ("These are the tolodos
of the Heavens and the Earth b'yom hi-bor-om,"), Rashi, Ohr Hachayim,
Ramban, Sforno, and I add Ibn Ezra and Radak, all treat "yom" as one day,
and do not suggest that it is a way of referring to the six-day period
of Creation, although the opportunity seems to present itself. It seems
that they understood that Tanach would not use "yom" to represent a long
period of time.

On the other hand, regarding this particular posek (Breishis 2:4), you
do have a mekor from Rabbeynu Saadia Gaon and R. Avraham ben HaRambam:
In his Torah Commentary, RSG translates (according to R. KPH [fill in the
vowels as you please] "yom" as "eis" (that's ayin-suf), and R. Avraham
ben HaRambam in his Torah Commentary (cited by R. KPH) writes that it
refers to the overall six-day period. "Yom," he writes, can mean a long
period. He says this is evidenced by "All the mitzvah that I commanded
you 'ha-yom'," "referring to all the mitzvos they were commanded at the
time of mattan Torah [from Moses to Israel over 40 years, according to
R. Akiva; or even from Hashem to Moses, according to R. Yishmael? -- ZL)
which consisted of days, months and several years. And it is impossible,"
he says, "that by the word 'yom' here the intent could be a reference
to the first day of the Six Days of Creation, because the 'tolodos'
specified are those that came on the third and sixth days."

So you're right. "Yom" can (according to some) mean a longer than
24-hour period.

But -- now watch this jujitsu move -- this only proves that when a rishon
understands "day" to mean something other than a 24-hour day, he will
point it out. He would address it head on. The fact that in the case of
the six days of creation no baal mesorah redefined any of the six "yamim"
of Braishis in terms of time or even made any comment indicating that the
plain understanding is any sort of problem, proves that he understood
it kepeshuto. (On top of those few rishonim who do say or imply that
it was a 24-hour type day.) The conspicuous absence of any remark. by
even the most philisophically-inclined rishonim, redefining "day,"
(they are only concerned with /how/ the day could have been measured,
and answer how it can be measured, implicitly presuming it was a 24-hour
type day) shows that they assumed it was a 24-hour type day, and that
the shortness of the period was part of the glory of the Creation the
Torah means to reveal to us.

R. KPH puts in the appendix to his translation of Rabbeynu Saadia
Gaon's Chumash commentary the following piece from the sefer Tseyda
LaDerech. He complains that although it speaks in the name of RSG, many
additions were placed and it is therefore difficult to determine which
words were actually authored by RSG. Nonetheless, I think it's valuable
to see what I perceive to be the commonly held viewpoint of the earlier
generations of what Creation means:

"Hashem Yisborach's primary intent in informing us of Maaseh Beraishis was
not only that we should know that He created the Heavens and the Earth,
for there are many proofs for this principle. What was needed was that
which the narrative imparts....

"The fifth principle: ...if it did not tell us, we would not know what
thing preceded what in the order of Creation...

"The sixth principle: The principle of Creation contradicts those who
teach that the world is eternal. such as Aristotle and his followers...For
these masters of philosophy were great chachamim in accurate astronomy
and physics, and composed many works. And this exhorts us not to err ...

"The seventh principle Breishis teaches is that although you see the
heavens possesing vast dimensions, as is proven by the masters of
mathematics, do not think that it took a long time to create them. "I
called to them and they stood up together" (Yeshaia 48:13). This means
that in the Beginning, in the smallest amount of time, without any
effort. Likewise it says "He won't tire nor toil, there is no end to
His Understanding" (ibid., 40:28). And as it says, "'b'hi-bar'am,' --
b'hay bar'am -- at the beginning of the creation of Time, and in a short
period, the mind being unable to grasp this amount. ... "

(And please remember my focus in this post from beginning to end is
on the suggestion that by "day" in Beraishis, Hashem meant something
other than a regular earthling-perspective day. I'm not here discussing
other proposals, such as concerning the situation between Beraishis 1:1
and 1:2.)

Zvi Lampel

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Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2005 02:07:57 -0500
From: "Samuel Svarc" <ssvarc@yeshivanet.com>
Re: Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky and Length of Maaseh Breshis

From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
>>>Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky has categorically stated that
>>>one might -l'chatchila - accept that the universe is more than 6000
>>>years old because we don't have a clear mesora on this issue.

>Rav Meir Triebitz - who is married to Rav Nosson Kaminetsky's daughter who
>is the niece of Rav Shmuel is the source of the above quotation. 

Bearing the above in mind I think I can answer your original question:
"Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky has categorically stated... While it is obvious
that others disagree. - where are the sources that one is required to
accept the belief in a younger than 6000 year old universe? ...[W]hy is
this issue causing so much agitation?"

Many people, in fact the rest of the world besides for R' MT and yourself,
haven't heard this from RSK. The other side has been heard, in form of
printed material (some of which _you_ helped disseminate) etc.

Even those who might have been told of this statement of RSK, i.e.
people who read Avodah, might legitimately wonder if their hearing the
statement as it was said. This is called "broken telephone". I have
heard it from you, who heard it from RMT, who heard it from RSK. It's a
third hand report when it reached me, if I pass it on it's fourth hand
etc. People are inclined to doubt the veracity of such things, especially
when there are unequivocal authenticated statements to contrary from
Gedolie Yisroel who are TC m'fulagim.


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