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Volume 16 : Number 161

Thursday, March 16 2006

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 10:14:51 -0500
From: "Markowitz, Chaim" <cmarkowitz@scor.com>
Haman knew Mordechai was a Jew

 From: "Eli Turkel" <>
> It is interesting in the Megilla that Haman did not know Mordecai was 
> Jewish until told so.
> Esther was queen for 4 years before revealing to Achashverosh that she
> was jewish. Obviously Jews were not distinguished externally from the 
> general culture.

I don't see how you can prove that "Jews were not distinguished externally
from the general culture" from the Megillah
First of all I don't see any rayah from Esther. Esther went into the
situation intent on hiding her Jewishness from Achashveirosh. Obviously
she made sure not to dress like a Jew. (Do you really think she wore a
shaitel or a snood in the palace? :-) )

Secondly, while I agree that the simple reading of the Megilla indicates
that Haman had to be told that Mordechai was a Jew, I don't think that
is p'shat. I don't have any of my megilla seforim on me but I am sure
if you look at the GR aor Yosef Lekach or the Malbim they will explain
the pshat differently.

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Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 17:24:14 -0500
From: "Rich, Joel" <JRich@Segalco.com>
Rabo muvhak

reuvein pays shimon to teach reuvein's son torah. Who gets the schar
in olam haba? Has reuvein been nkayem the mitzvah of teaching his son
torah? If this is rov torato who is the rebbe muvhak?

Btw in s"a y"d 242 the rama comments that the pilpul popular in his
day doesn't count- just psak halacha,iyun and settung on the straight
& narrow! Do they teach thus din in yeshivot todat:-)

joel rich

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Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 09:35:07 -0500
From: celejar <celejar@gmail.com>
Dairy Coke

On Wed, 2006-03-15 at 23:25 +1100, SBA wrote [to Areivim -mi]:
>> From: Abe Sharp  Chicago Rabbinical Council
>> The newest flavor from Coke, Coke Black is certified kosher DAIRY.

> perhaps there's still too much of purim in me, but it would seem that
> certifying soda as dairy is like giving a hasgacha to dairy bread.

The Aharonim (Yoreh Deah Siman 97) actually discuss whether wine
containing milk is subject to the gezairah against dairy bread; see
Pis'hei Tshuvah, Havas Daas, etc.


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Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 21:25:04 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Science, halakhah, beri'ah and the Mabul

On Thu, Mar 09, 2006 at 06:53:45AM +0200, Akiva Atwood wrote:
:> Now, what best fits -- a novel theory explaining the Torah's data points
:> combined with some mystical theory about human consciousness, or a novel
:> theory explaining the scientific evidence that allows one to take the
:> Torah at face value...

: But the "scientific evidence" DOESN'T allow us to take the Torah at face
: value. Once we have to rely on "nes" to accept the idea of a physical
: flood we've gone beyond the scientific realm.

True, by definition invoking the concept of neis is unscientific. But
that doesn't make it false. But to the point, I spoke about the data
points. It explains the evidence -- both physical and mesoretic.

And it does not require narrowing one's definition of mesorah NOR denying
the effectivity of scientific method.

: And the question was explaining the entire collection of data points
: (non-Torah-based accounts, geological and historical records, etc) --
: most of which are in disagreement with the Torah's data points (because
: of time, who survived, etc).

So? Wasn't avoiding this issue my entire point? The Torah is describing
a neis, but the world in which we live never show signs of a neis -- not
by Divine fakery, but by the subjectivity of reality. Thus, the neis did
occur, but a scientifically found theory will accurately describe anything
we will experience. And even described what did happen -- on some plane.

:> According to the Torah's account, they were -- until Avraham's day. They
:> may not have been one culture as much as a set of cooperating cultures
:> (devarim achadim is lashon rabim, after all).

: Yet we know there were cultures in Australia and the Americas with no
: connection to the world/culture of Avraham -- so at best your claim
: would support a localized flood.

Be consistent. According to the Torah's description, there was no
such culture in Australia until Avraham's day -- the migdal to be
specific. Thus, asking a question based on denying it is pointless --
it's a question on a set of beliefs no party holds.

: > Yes, once you start
: > unravelling one part of the story, none of it holds.

: As a relection of a physical event as presented. Which is why looking
: at the Mabul from a Mythic perspective helps.

But again, that addresses an inconsistent position. You deny part of
the Torah's account and ask how the remnant is possible. Why should the
answer have significance, or qualify for treating it mythically.

: (Note: "Myth" used in it's intended form -- see
: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mythology)

But still unnecessarily invoking some emotional reponses.

On Thu, Mar 09, 2006 at 03:17:45PM -0500, David Guttmann wrote:
:>The overwhelming number of experts in the field believe they have
:> conclusively disproven the possibility of 3 million people crossing the
:> midbar and needing to fight, rather than simply numerically overwhelm
:> by an order of magnitude, the population of Canaan at the time.

: You are right that it is too broad. Not all science has the same level
: of certainty. Especially when dealing with history one has to be very
: careful and selective....

Actually, the evidence against a large army invading Canaan is considered
more solid than many of the claims that people in this discussion took
as givens.

Speaking of population growth... It was around 8 or 9 generations in
the midbar. However, 10 really long generations spanned the pre-mabul
period. That doesn't mean there were only 10 generations on average, but
that a particular parent-child chain was 10 generations long. Second,
with centuries of fertility, generations overlapped far more, and each
person probably averaged far more than Noach's three. Particularly the
non-ark-building hedonists...

On Tue, Mar 07, 2006 at 06:28:00PM -0600, Kohn, Shalom wrote:
: (In other words, the halacha declares the rule given a particular umdina,
: so it is the umdina which changes and not the halacha.) To me, as a
: doctrinal matter, this is a very different proposition than the notion
: that insects used to generate spontaneously but no longer do so, etc.
: On that subject, I would conclude that if chazal concluded killing
: gnats on shabbat was not netilat neshama, that is halacha which remains
: applicable notwithstanding change in scientific understanding.

Isn't there a setirah between "the halacha declares the rule given a
particular umdina, so it is the umdina which changes and not the halachah"
and "that is halacha which remains applicabe notwithstanding change in
scientific understanding"?

How do you know that when pasqening about killing such bugs Chazal were
speaking of established din, using science to explain it, or if they
were pasqening about an umdina that happens not to exist?

: Saying we need to posit a six day creation without evolution in order to
: support faith seems to me to have it completely backwards, WADR. If we
: have faith, we can accept the six day creation, illogical or unscientific
: as that might otherwise seem, or not -- but our faith remains. Hashamaim
: mesaprim kevod k'eil umaasei yadav magid harakiah (among other things)
: is an experiential reality, irrespective of science might explain
: the same phenomena....

More than that, I don't think people establish their emunah on such
things. This gets back to Rambam vs the Kuzari, proving one's belief
cerebrally vs basing it on firsthand experience.

But in essence I would agree that design shows intelligence regardless
of how the design was brought to fruition.

On Fri, Mar 10, 2006 at 04:10:49PM +0000, Chana Luntz wrote:
: I agree that Moshe's navuah was unique, but the description you then
: draw appears rather narrower than it need be.

But it's Chazal and the Rambam's ikkar, not me!

: But regardless, does this not rather produce another problem. In the
: case of later neviim, we understand that they were given a vision, and
: translated it into their own words - so that eg, the words of Yesheyahu
: are his, albeit that the vision is from Hashem. HaTorah dibra b'loshon
: benei adam indeed.

Yeshayah isn't in the Torah, his nevu'ah is in a book written by a human,
with nevu'ah, but a human nonetheless. That's the whole reason for the
machloqes about how human the language of the Torah is.

: If these are not Noach's direct words as he understood the nevuah,
: then is not the only other answer that this is Hashem's explanation
: of the way that Noach understood his nevuah - as transmitted to Moshe
: (ie part and parcel of the transmission of Torah, and the Peh el peh).

It's Hashem's words, which means His description. Why would He use
Noach's idiom? If He said "under all of the sky" Hashem means all of
the sky that He, or that his readers, know of.

:> Because Chazal, who knew of far more of the world than the alleged
:> localization of the flood, didn't. Chazal were citizens of an emptire
:> already including Britannia. Hadrian y"sh built that huge wall. So at
:> least by R' Aqiva's day (And likely centuries before), they had the
:> ability to frame the Torah in terms of global vs nonglobal flooding. And
:> yet they insisted on global (+/- Israel).

: Just so we can be sure we are talking about the same things - can you
: provide the language in which Chazal "insisted on global". Mostly what
: we have had from others up until now is an interpretation of the pshat
: of the Torah - ie the word "kol" must mean "global". Where though do
: you see this explicitly in Chazal? Even the discussion of Eretz Yisroel
: is not phrased as "all the world was flooded except Eretz Yisroel" type
: statements...

First, I disagree with the burden of proof. One needs to prove that
the pasuq actually may be yotzei miydei peshuta, not prove that it
isn't. After all, the words themselves are mesorah.

Second, when Chazal debate whether or not one small area is included,
the presumption is that everything else would be. Otherwise, it would
simply be a debate as to whether Israel is part of the majority, and
would have been stated that way.

On Sun, Mar 12, 2006 at 01:35:48AM -0000, Chana Luntz wrote:
: To the extent that a there is a choice between abandoning the literal
: translation and the moral message, one's instincts should therefore be
: towards the moral message.

Unless we're wrong about what the moral message is.

Perhaps the moral message is that everything on earth was created for
mankind. Thus, while is may seem disproportionate, the point may very
well be that in all important ways, it's not.

The same rationale is given to explain why the universe is so big
and yet the inhabital part so small.

BTW, "shamayim" doesn't directly mean "sky" or "heaven". It is the
"-ayim" form of "sham", like "chayim" from "chai". Thus, it means
"thereness". It's a word referring to any place we can't reach. In
contrast to "aretz", which by RSRH's system would be related to "ratz",
meaning "that which is to be spanned" (like even and banah, ochel and
kalah, etc...)

Halakhah shouldn't be rewritten to fit a preconcieved ta'am hamitzvah; why
should parshanut be rewritten to produce the message we want it to give?

: As I mentioned in my post on erev Shabbas (not yet posted on Avodah as I
: am writing this motzei shabbas) the key language that would lead somebody
: to that conclusion is the use of "kol" in various places. "Kol haharim"
: "kol ha'aretz" etc. The most straightforward way to translate Kol is as
: "all", meaning 100% - and certainly this is the way the Xtians, with
: their literalistic bent, understand it.

Because "mitachas kol hashamayim" is a pretty clear disambiguation of
"kol ha'aretz"

: Now again, your argument above hinges on how you translate the word "kol"
: and an assumption that "kol basar" means all animals everywhere...

Or at least, rov.

:                Whereas the way one would learn "kol basar" as I have
: articulated it is "all animals who have come into contact with human
: beings". Hence yes, human corruption influences animal behaviour -
: but only those animals that have any contact (direct or indirect) with
: human beings....

All of which are new peshatim. What's the maqor?

: Now when this issue first came up, I thought it intuitively obvious that
: if we show that Chazal did not necessarily learn "kol" as meaning all
: or 100%, then that was the end of the story.

Kol does at times mean rov or ruba deruba. Still not support for a
local flood.

And yet again: Do we see anyone reducing the word "kol" here? Where's
the TSBP supporting the possible as being the actual?

On Sun, Mar 12, 2006 at 10:46:31AM -0500, S & R Coffer wrote:
:> Similarly, design exists in the universe. That is
:> probably quantifiable, once information theory matures
:> to the point of giving us a rigorous measure of design. (See
:> <http://www.aishdas.org/asp/2004/12/argument-by-design-ver-40.shtml>.) But
:> given that design, which shows greater Divine Wisdom -- to set it all
:> up without following the laws of nature, or to reach the very same point
:> while conforming to them?

: This argument is deceivingly attractive and yet, upon reflection,
: reveals itself as being entirely irrelevant. Bach and Beethoven are two
: established historical figures from whom we have, passed down, musical
: compilations reflecting their respective styles. There is no debate
: whether Bach or Beethoven actually existed or whether their creations
: are appropriately attributed. There is no debate regarding the nature
: of their respective styles or the minutiae which accompany them.

Huh? (Perhaps you shouldn't have replied without asking me for a copy of
the blog entry I pointed to.) The universe shows design, and design is
quantifiable. Chaitin's definition of entropy and information, applied
to Von Neumann's work in Automata Theory, gives you a defined measure
of the information content of an automaton.

: OTOH, Evolution is a theory which claims that there is no creator,
: that all of the phenomena present on earth are the result of a
: "blind watchmaker"...

No. Evolution is a statement about the accumulation of changes in
morphology. Nothing about whether those changes are causeless, nothing
about a Creator or the lack thereof, etc...

Nor am I discussing evolution in particular. There are a whole set of
theories involved -- cosmogony, geology, and yes, evolution.

:                      It is merely RMB's unwarranted imposition upon a
: universe that can be perfectly explained without it....

Not at all! If the alternative is to believe that a 1 in 10 to the 123rd
chance happened to happen, then the alternative is no explanation. And
Penrose shows that just the odds of the big bang ending in low
probability, never mind this particular planet existing or evolution.

Similarly, if positing evolution doesn't raise the probability of certain
kinds of subsystems arising in living organisms, then the evidence may
argue in favor of a slow process, but still requires an Inventor to load
the dice.

:> FWIW, in practice, most people see the Borei through his mitzvos, through
:> the first-hand experience of doing His Will. Kiruv revolves around
:> the experience of Shabbos, not philosophical proof. 

: Two things. First of all, we're not talking about kiruv here. We are
: discussing valid methods of approaching avodas Hashem...

And I'm advocating the Kuzari's over the Rambam's because experience shows
it's more effective. Other proofs can be used to build atop that basic
emunah, but one won't see the validity of those proofs until the emunah
is there anyway. Whereas one can see how the mitzvos fit the soul's lackings
just by trying them. Ha'adam nif'al lefi pe'ulaso.

:                                                                      In
: fact, Avraham Avinu deduced all of the principles of the Torah directly
: from a study of the beriah...

Mostly of looking in himself and what his soul needed. See Nefesh haChaim
I ch 18.

:>> Sometimes they will and sometimes they won't. I don't think there is
:>> a human being on earth that is capable of reconciling each and every
:>> maamar Chazal with current scientific enterprise....

:> Someone who takes both disciplines seriously should occasionally reach
:> the point of "I know there's an answer, whatever it may be" rather than
:> try to fit one to the other with a crowbar.

: Agreed. And once again, I am questioning your implied allegation. Who is
: shoehorning explanations? Which circumstance should, in your opinion,
: have warranted the response of "I know there is an answer" and instead
: yielded a crowbar effect?

Simple. Scientific data (not their interpretation) is data, and the
Torah TSBK and TSBP is data. When the data seems to be contradictory,
we must be humble enough to know we don't yet know enough to form a
theory. Not dismiss one dataset or the other. Nor to question the evidence
using ideas one isn't sufficiently informed to assess. This is the
subject of another blog entry

On Wed, Mar 15, 2006 at 11:11:28PM -0600, CBK wrote:
:> Of course to even get inflation started you need
:> the hypothetical inflation which is supposed to be there and yet in
:> over 25 years of massive searches for its existence has not been found.

: Regarding the Dark Matter which scientists have been seeking for years,
: is there discussion anywhere that relates it to the "yuli" (ether)
: that sefarim discuss being part of the fabric of space? Just a thought.

"Yuli" is a transliteration of a Greek word, "hyle". Hyle means matter, as
opposed to "morph", form. Hylomorphism = the concept of chomer and tzurah.

Yuli is a pre-yetzirah of chomer -- thus the primordial stuff of beri'ah
(Ramban, Bereishis 1:1).

An entirely different mindset from madern physics or ether.

On Thu, Mar 16, 2006 at 09:12:12PM +1100, Joe Slater wrote:
:      In other words, Hans Reichenbach would have said that \it might be
: *true* that a man in an elevator is rising from the basement to the third
: floor, but it is not a *scientific* truth because (given relativity) you
: cannot tell whether it is the man or the building which is moving...

Not how I understood him, but in any case, general relativity makes a
broader claim.

Not that there is no way to prove geocentrism vs heliocentrism. Neither
is at the center of the universe. Not even that there is no way to prove
whether the earth spins or the universe goes around it. But that the
question is meaningless. You have to say "the earth spins relative to..."
or "everything in the universe but the earth revolves relative to..."
And that either formulation is simply a different description of the
very same thing.

One description explains less, as it requires a circular gravitational
field centered about the earth's axis but doesn't explain where it comes
from, but it's no less accurate description -- of the very same thing.

Thus, the difference isn't even between non-scientific theories. But
rather, in word/formula choice.


Micha Berger             It is a glorious thing to be indifferent to
micha@aishdas.org        suffering, but only to one's own suffering.
http://www.aishdas.org                 -Robert Lynd, writer (1879-1949)
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

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Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 21:15:39 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: mechiyat amalek

On Mon, Mar 13, 2006 at 04:47:24PM +0200, Eli Turkel wrote:
: Neither one explained the requirement laharog taf ve-nashim and in the
: story of Shaul even to kill the animals.

It doesn't say "timkheh es Amaleiq", but "es zeicher" -- any reminder or
memorial of them. Which would include their offspring. It's not about
guilt (nor can be if newborns are included), but about their every mahus
being a memorial to their nation and what they stood for.

On Mon, Mar 13, 2006 at 09:40:07AM +0200, Akiva Blum wrote:
: See Taz 685:2 near the end, is mashma that the oleh should be moitze
: everyone in the brochos. So there is your brocho.
Then why isn't the berakhah "al mechiyas zeicher Amaleiq"?

It's the usual one on talmud Torah. To extend RAF's comparison, it would
be like having qiddush on the qos, with no second birkhas hayom.


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Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 20:14:12 -0500
From: Yitzchok Levine <llevine@stevens.edu>
AgriProcessors in the News - Kashrus question

This week there are many articles in the news about the USDA and inhumane
kosher slaughter. See, for example,

According to one source associated with the slaughterhouse involved,
"The kosher status of the meat never has been in question."

Is this really halachically true? Does the inhumane treatment of animals
during the slaughtering process have no affect the kashrus of the meat?

Yitzchok Levine 

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Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 21:21:49 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
RE: relativity and geocentrism

On March 16, 2006, David Riceman wrote:
> From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca> 
>> The Modern Geocentric view must be distinguished from Ptolemy's view of
>> geocentrism. Whereas Ptolemy was animated by scientific considerations,
>> the majority of people who subscribe to the Modern Geocentric view
>> do so due to their religious convictions. Never once did I state my
>> own personal belief. As far as I'm concerned, and notwithstanding the
>> viewpoint of the author of Mevo haShemesh, I don't know what the proper
>> Torah viewpoint is. I can hear it both ways. I am merely discussing the
>> scientific aspects of geocentrism, not its religious trappings.

> This ("the majority of people who subscribe to the Modern Geocentric view do
> so due to their religious convictions") represents a misunderstanding of
> geocentrism.

I'm not sure why RDR feels this way. Most of the people whom I have
come in contact with, and who believe that the earth is static, point to
biblical passages to support their contentions. Perhaps RDR would like
to peruse the article posted by Marty Bluke on Wikipedia. The author
concurs with my assessment as follows:

"The term modern geocentrism refers to a belief currently held by
certain groups that the Earth is the center of the universe and does
not move. The prime motivating factor for the modern belief, as opposed
to the geocentrism of Ptolemy, is explicitly religious. Advocates
generally argue that literal interpretations of certain Biblical passages
demand that the Earth be properly described as being the center of the
universe. Alternatively, in the case of Catholic geocentrists, scripture
authoritatively interpreted by statements of Church Fathers and various
Popes is used to justify their belief."

>  RSC promulgated an analogous misunderstanding of evolution a
> few days ago when he said (I've lost the exact quote and I hope RSC will
> correct me if I misunderstood him) that the motive of people who subscribe
> to evolutionary theory is to deny that God created the world.

I'm not sure what you are referring to but it seems clear to me (and
many others) that scientists who invest their careers in origins based
science generally maintain a materialistic view of the universe. Are
you contesting this fact?

> Scientists try to explain how things work as simply and elegantly as they
> can.  For a detailed explanation of why "that's what God wants" is not
> simple and elegant see MN I:73.

Four things. Firstly, I am not looking for simple and elegant. I am
looking for truth. Second, I never claimed that teva requires recourse to
a "that's what G-d wants" argument. I am constantly turning to empirical
evidence to support my contentions. Thirdly, there is nothing inelegant
with the argument of "that's what G-d wants". In fact, the Rambam
considers it so efficacious that he rejects the Platonic view of the
universe and adopts the doctrine of creation ex nihilo partially because
of it (2:25). And fourth, the non-materialistic view of the universe is,
IMO, far more simple and elegant than its opposing view.

>  The short summary is that it can be used to
> explain anything, and hence it's useless.

I'm not entirely clear as to why a unified "theory of everything" is
considered useless. After all, this is precisely what science is attempting
to achieve albeit within a materialistic paradigm.

>  The argument we're having is what
> simplicity and elegance can be attributed to statements like "the sun
> revolves around the earth", "the earth revolves around the sun", or "the sun
> and the earth both revolve around where the thing I see in my telescope
> would be if it were a real heavenly body and not just a speck of dirt". In
> terms of mathematical descriptions we could use any of these (incidentally
> the proper person to blame for that is Descartes, who invented analytic
> geometry, rather than either Newton or Einstein).  For explanatory power,
> however, there's no comparison.  The bulk of the relative motion of sun and
> earth is induced by the sun.  So that saying "the earth revolves around the
> sun" explains why the motion exists, and saying "the sun revolves around the
> earth" does not.

So in other words, you are contesting the quotes I advanced in my past
email. Whereas Hans Reichenbach claims that "... the idea of simplicity
cannot be used to decide between the Ptolemaic and Copernican conceptions
... " R' David Riceman feels that simplicity and elegance are the
benchmarks of science. RDR may be correct but I certainly cannot be
blamed for doubting his approach.

> A similar point applies to evolution.  Here's a series of questions: why is
> chlorophyll so similar to haemoglobin? Why do isolated islands have
> populations of animals and plants similar to but slightly different from the
> nearest mainlands? Why do all large animals have backbones [oops! what about
> giant squids? - DR]? Why do people have apparently useless bits like
> appendices? Evolution gives a simple and elegant answer to a host of
> questions like these.  "That's what God wants" does not.

> I hesitated for several weeks before submitting this post, because it really
> does have no relevance to Avodah's mission, but I hope it helps clear the
> underbrush.

On the contrary, it merely serves to promote it. If evolution is correct,
why are there no transitional fossils? Why is it that after more than 150
years of searching, science has not found the appropriate sequences to
demonstrate the veracity of their theory and yet they cling tenaciously
to a theory which Darwin himself admitted would be falsified in their
absence? How can variety exist in the face of such mathematical odds? Why
do we not see evolution at work right now? Why is it that everywhere
we look we see clearly defined species which are perfectly 'adapted' to
their surroundings? (Darwin himself was bothered by this question). Where
are the current organisms which represent the transition between, say,
fish and reptile? If evolution is a real process, why do we not find
intermediary organisms between the major phyla? Why must we satisfy
ourselves with micro-evolutionary examples of the theory which do not
really prove anything at all?

Your questions above, such as your argument from vestigial organs, are
easily answered but in view of Micha's recent missive, now is not the
time and place.

Simcha Coffer

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