Monday, August 17, 2009

My Latest Mistake

I made a big mistake with the Rashi article that I published in Hakirah.

Not that I think that my conclusion was wrong. When I published the article, I was taking a huge risk - after all, I have only seen a tiny fraction of Rashi's extensive writings, and someone could have easily found a Rashi that would blatantly refute my conclusion. Yet, while there are those such as Rabbi Zucker who feel that my article is demonstrably wrong, I don't feel that it is has been disproved or even weakened in the slightest.

My mistake was in choosing Hakirah as the journal in which to publish it, instead of a regular academic journal. Hakirah is a very fine journal, aimed a rationalist Orthodox audience, but "rationalist" is a relative term, and besides, since it is available for free online, it reaches a much wider readership than its target audience.

I had thought that since Marc Shapiro's book (listing all those who disputed Rambam's principles) is old news, and given Raavad's statement that "greater and better people" than Rambam were corporealists, and since the Tosafist R. Moshe Taku was a known corporealist, then even if people did not like or disputed my conclusion, they would not be appalled at the very idea of a Rishon such as Rashi being a corporealist.

In this, I was utterly wrong.

Many people were absolutely horrified. Some bookstores in Brooklyn had to remove Hakirah from their shelves. A letter in Hakirah, from a very intelligent and educated person, stated that he found the notion to be "absolutely incredible." Of course, it is possible for someone to legitimately disagree with my conclusions, and to consider it to be gravely in error, but the reaction was clearly something far beyond that, and besides, most of those who reacted strongly didn't even have any alleged disproofs of my arguments. It was the very idea of a Rishon such as Rashi being a corporealist that they could not accept.

But where did I miscalculate?

It might be that although people are aware of Shapiro's sources, and the statement of Raavad, and the position of R. Moshe Taku, they are only aware of it in a very detached, remote sense. It's kind of like how a smoker feels about the evidence that smoking causes cancer - he is sort of intellectually aware of it, but doesn't really feel it to be true, and he is genuinely surprised when he is diagnosed with cancer. People don't take Raavad's testimony seriously, and R. Moshe Taku is too obscure a figure to care about. When the idea of a Rishon being a corporealist is actually starkly presented as being genuinely the case, they find it hard to come to terms with it. The notion of what they consider to be a spiritual giant of inconceivable greatness and brilliance, having a belief that they consider false and heretical, is understandably hard to stomach.

Someone else had a different take on it. They claimed that if I had said that a different Rishon was a corporealist, or even that an Amora was a corporealist, people would not have minded so much. But Rashi is such a beloved figure, whose words are pored over by everyone since they are children, that they cannot abide the thought of his being a corporealist.

There are other factors, too. Many people follow Rambam and feel that if someone is a corporealist, they lose their portion in the World-to-Come. They feel that a corporealist has failed as a Jew, certainly as a Torah scholar, and it is obviously inconceivable to say that about Rashi (which I agree with). S. pointed out that most people today view corporealism not merely as wrong, but also as foolish, and they can't imagine a great person subscribing to such a view.

Whatever the reason, many people were very offended by the article. And, as one Rosh Yeshivah communicated to me, this harms my cause with regard to the issues over which the controversy over my books occurred. Convincing people of the legitimacy of the rationalist approach vis-a-vis creation and Talmudic science will be much harder when the person most visibly identified with that approach takes other positions that are much harder for people to stomach.

Thus, I made a mistake. Hopefully I will learn from it.

81 comments:

  1. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Very interesting post. While it may well be the case that a number of people were "horrified" and "offended" by your article, I believe, as is evident from the numerous challenges and proofs that I posted on the various threads of your website, that your claims about Rashi simply do not stand up to the tests of logic and facts. I think it is a little too convenient to sweep the reaction of significant substantive challenges (quite a number of which you have still not responded to) together with 'oh, of course, they are horrified about the heresy of the whole thing.' In short, I don't think the issue here is that "convincing people of the legitimacy of the rationalist approach vis-a-vis creation and Talmudic science will be much harder when the person most visibly identified with that approach takes other positions that are much harder for people to stomach." Rather, the issue here is that in your claims about Rashi you have abandoned the rigors of rationalism, but yet continue to purport to represent it.

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  2. I think it is sad that people reacted this way. Do they feel that these great rishonim the Raavad talks about are fools? I mean the Raavad is in every Rambam and I think that anyone who could even come close to having an opinion should have at least seen that Raavad ONCE. If they have not then they are clearly unlearned people that are following the masses of let's just disagree with rabbi Slifkin because it is the cool thing to do.

    I still fail to see the problem with Rashi being a corporealist. It reminds me of the people who try to say the Rambam is a mystic. I mean, clearly there is more evidence of Rambam being a rationalist than rashi being a corporealist, but the attitudes are the same.

    What I find so comical about this whole thing is that you brought up points that show the possibility of Rashi being a corporealist. No one has disproven this possibility, they just show, at best, the possibility that he might not be.

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  3. Honestly, the only thing I am offended by is your condescension to those who disagree with you. It is extremely disappointing. It is as if you cannot entertain the possibility that anyone who is just as "rational" as yourself might legitimately differ with you on this issue; it is all about bias from your standpoint, and this takes your whole blog in an ad hominem direction that will cause many of us to lose interest in reading it.

    Which is regrettable, by the way, because you have so much to offer.

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  4. I believe, as is evident from the numerous challenges and proofs that I posted on the various threads of your website, that your claims about Rashi simply do not stand up to the tests of logic and facts

    I already noted your belief in the post, didn't you notice? And, obviously, I in turn do not believe that your claims stand up to the test of logic, facts, and reason, so what does this comment of yours add? I don't mean to be rude, but I am trying to make a point.

    I think it is a little too convenient to sweep the reaction of significant substantive challenges (quite a number of which you have still not responded to) together with 'oh, of course, they are horrified about the heresy of the whole thing.'

    Naturally!

    the issue here is that in your claims about Rashi you have abandoned the rigors of rationalism, but yet continue to purport to represent it.

    In your opinion. And, of course, in my opinion, you have demonstrated yourself not to be especially rational. Partly with regard to your approach to Rashi, but even more so in your astonishing claim that you don't believe frum people to be biased in addressing such questions.

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  5. I mean the Raavad is in every Rambam and I think that anyone who could even come close to having an opinion should have at least seen that Raavad ONCE. - E-Man

    E-man, seeing is not the same as believing.

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  6. Honestly, the only thing I am offended by is your condescension to those who disagree with you.

    I'm sorry for that. The fact is that I don't mind people who disagree with me, it's when I consider them not to be rationalists that I get fed up. Originally I debated R. Zucker quite happily, but certain clues started to appear, and when he started with the preposterous claim that frum people are not biased in evaluating such things, that really sounded the alarm.

    It is as if you cannot entertain the possibility that anyone who is just as "rational" as yourself might legitimately differ with you on this issue

    Of course they could. But, interestingly, none of the rationalist academics that I know do disagree with me on this. And R. Zucker, with his statements about both Rashi and frum people, has revealed himself to be very much not a rationalist. I had no problem with R. Zucker arguing with me originally.

    it is all about bias from your standpoint, and this takes your whole blog in an ad hominem direction that will cause many of us to lose interest in reading it.

    Not EVERYTHING is about bias. But with many of the "controversial" issues that I will be discussing on this blog, bias plays a very, very powerful role with many Orthodox Jews. There are people who would love to endlessly argue with me about the age of the universe, or evolution, or the fallibility of Chazal, etc., etc. But I am not interested in wasting my time in such futile debates. The purpose of this blog is to exchange ideas with people who are operating with the same epistemology and worldview. For those who are not, I very much recommend that they do not read this blog! That certainly applies to anyone who, for example, does not believe that life evolved.

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  7. Rabbi Slifkin:
    >>"Whatever the reason, many people were very offended by the article. And, as one Rosh Yeshivah communicated to me, this harms my cause with regard to the issues over which the controversy over my books occurred. Convincing people of the legitimacy of the rationalist approach vis-a-vis creation and Talmudic science will be much harder when the person most visibly identified with that approach takes other positions that are much harder for people to stomach."


    You have "a cause" to convince people and bring them over from non-rationalism to your view of rationalism?
    Why not live and let live? I thought you defended the non-rationalists' right to have a legitimate opposing view?

    Rabbi Slifkin, I am at a complete loss.

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  8. I agree with what R. Zucker wrote here. The problem with your article, for me, wasn't an issue of heresy or of impugning Rashi's honor. The problem was that your logic was so flimsy. Did you test your hypothesis before submitting it for publication by sounding it out to people who you knew would be critical of or even opposed to it? I find that often to be helpful in saving myself from error (and embarrassment).

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  9. Can you define rationalist please? I know few people who can aspire to the rationality of R' Zucker (whom I know from his writings and teaching outside the blogosphere). So I am getting confused with your use of the term to describe academics but to exclude him.

    Furthermore, I am confused by your assertion that anyone who thinks there is insufficient evidence to label Rashi a corporealist, or who is hesitant to attribute differences of opinion to bias, is "not a rationalist". Why can't you just say the person is not correct according to your opinion.

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  10. Rabbi Slifkin,

    "Originally I debated R. Zucker quite happily, but certain clues started to appear, and when he started with the preposterous claim that frum people are not biased in evaluating such things, that really sounded the alarm."

    I know you care very much about accuracy, so I just want to point out two things about your quote above.

    First -- I did not "start with" the preposterous claim... I was perfectly content to talk about the issues of Rashi's (in)corporealism. YOU (mis)directed the conversation to a discussion about frum people and evolution, asking me if I think they are biased. (I am STILL content to talk about the issues of Rashi -- something, apparently, that you no longer wish to do).

    Second -- I did not "CLAIM that frum people are not biased in evaluating such things." I noted that the definition of bias is NOT "having an established opinion prior to the discussion" -- rather, it is having "a particular tendency or inclination, esp. one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice." In that sense, I said that before making any claim about frum people and prejudice, one needs to do a scientific study. History is replete with many instances of "self-evident truths" that turn out, under careful scrutiny, to be inaccurate. (In this case, perhaps the vocal minority are biased and the "silent majority" are not; perhaps the majority voice their opinions one way when under the close watch of their religious leaders, but another way in the form of an anonymous survey; perhaps, perhaps, perhaps....who knows?). You pressed the issue, and I said that I BELIEVE (that is, as I emphasized, I have a FEELING, which is NOT based upon scientific survey and data accumulation) that frum people can very much approach these issues in such a way as to not be prevented from considering the question at hand objectively. Now, that FEELING that I have about frum people being able to think through things objectively, is apparently in your eyes a "poseil" for having a discussion with me.

    I am truly amazed. I reiterate that I would welcome the opportunity to get back to the issues at hand, whenever you are ready.

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  11. "And, as one Rosh Yeshivah communicated to me, this harms my cause with regard to the issues over which the controversy over my books occurred. "

    No, what harmed your cause is, you lowered the bar as to how logically sound a proof must be before you accept it. If the single most important tenet of Rationalism, is being logically acceptable rather than just a past accept mode of thinking, you just eroded the pillar of Rationalism.

    Let me be clear, Rationalism still stands strong, but you as a spokesman for it's cause, has lost authority by accepting and advancing a less-than-tight set of arguments. I think that was one of the underlying issues of the ban - that not everyone is entitled to an opinion - the Rambam yes, the Ibn Ezra yes, RSRH yes, but if not "any joe". They run the risk of weak and therefore wrong "torah". Their issue wasn't with medieval rationalism per-say, but with how it will be used. This is based on a conversation with a rosh yeshiva shortly after then ban, and I'm afraid your article inches towards proving him right.

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  12. >I think it is sad that people reacted this way. Do they feel that these great rishonim the Raavad talks about are fools? I mean the Raavad is in every Rambam and I think that anyone who could even come close to having an opinion should have at least seen that Raavad ONCE.

    Apprently people don't take that Ravad seriously. First of all, the Ravad is of course the Rambam's great "He ain't so great" critic. Although welcomed as a healthy antidote to the Rambam's sheer force, no one actually agrees with the Ravad that the Rambam ain't so great. So perhaps his judgment that better people than the Rambam believed in a corporeal God isn't taken seriously and literally because -- who is better than the Rambam? Ravad takes it for granted that there are many better people; most people can accept that in someone's opinion there were one or two better people than the Rambam, but who on earth were the "many" better people? Obviously, in this reading, Ravad looks at the Rambam in a much more negative way than everyone else does. Maybe the Ravad is a bar plugta with the Rambam, but he didn't say that he himself is a corporealist. So these unnamed "better people," in the words of someone whose task was to cut the Rambam down to size, aren't really accepted as serious and conclusive testimony. One can easily imagine someone who is extremely learned espousing a certain undesired position, and someone countering that his betters disagreed, and by his "betters" having in mind very pious and temimusdike people, but not intellectual powerhouses.

    This, coupled with the fact that the Rambam's view prevailed, at least theoretically. Bear in mind that most people apparently are unable to accept the idea that what seems like such a basic question about God wasn't settled until the 12th century, a time closer to us than to the Churban! What about the prior 24 centuries of Mosaic Judaism, and what about the 3 or 4 centuries of Abrahamic Judaism if you want to extend it even further? It just doesn't make any sense to people with orthodox beliefs. Presumably some people would take this so far as to not even be able to accept the notion that if the Rambam was clarifying that God is incoporeal then this must mean that some people thought otherwise. But let's say one is able to accept this. But surely he meant the mistaken, unsophisticated people, and not the torch bearers, no matter what the Ravad said.

    Getting at the substance of posting this sort of article in Hakirah, you can take solace that in this periodical it passed the pre-screeding process, והמבין יבין.

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  13. I don't think there is a mistake as you describe it. That is, there's no logical reason to add a critique to your work in science & Torah because you also float a hypothesis with preliminary evidence concerning Rashi and corporeality.

    Wherever the evidence and interpretations thereof lead will certainly be fascinating. It is possible that we will get a valuable insight into medieval French-Jewish sensibilities and/or a developmental stage of Jewish thought.


    Gary Goldwater

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  14. Rabbi Slifkin- Please take this comment in the spirit of constructive criticism in which it was meant. First of all, regarding your example of creationists vs evolutionists (or debating with flat earthers etc) - in those cases yes people often choose not debate at all for they disagree on fundamental principles which may make debate pointless. In this case, however, what does puzzle me is your puzzlement. Who exactly did you think would be interested in discussing this topic? Who besides frum jews care if Rashi was or was not a corporealist? Who did you think (no matter where it was published) would challenge you on this? And when you mention that you felt that would have best been served having published it in an academic journal, do you want to publish in a forum where you the majority of people who would challenge you would not see it?

    As for the business with Shapiro and his book- is this the standard for being a 'rationalist'? (I still don't really know what you mean by this term it seems to expand or contract with every post- it seems to mean 'he who believes in what Rabbi Slifkin believes' or is an academic.)

    The fact of the matter is that most OJ have been taught that Klal Yisroel has accepted the 13 ikkarim of the Rambam as authoritative when it comes to heresy. And even though any sophisticated talmid chochom is aware of the this Raavad, if not all the obscure sources brought in Shapiro's book, it does not change the fact that the 13 Ikkarim are considered the mainstream view. Does it really surprise you that frum people (yes, even those who accept the view of the Rambam et al with regard to chazal and Science) would be resistant to accepting your conclusion?

    Regarding claims of 'bias' and methodology, anyone who has opened a daf gemorah knows that the gemorah often reinterprets the positions of earlier authorities based upon the assumption that "it couldn't be that such a great man was in error, so instead of taking the reported statement as face value, we will say that he must have meant is...." either by reinterpreting what the amorah meant or adding words and assuming that there was an error in transmission. This is quite common. Now is this a methodology that appeals to the academicians to whom you felt that you should have presented your article to? I think not. Do you object to Chazal and the rishonim who use this methodology? Are they 'biased'? I guess you can say they were. But can you really be surprised when bnei torah follow in the footsteps of Chazal? (and frustrated when they do so?)

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  15. You have "a cause" to convince people and bring them over from non-rationalism to your view of rationalism?- Isaac

    Please read what I wrote!
    I wrote about convincing people of the legitimacy of the rationalist approach, not the truth of it!

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  16. Did you test your hypothesis before submitting it for publication by sounding it out to people who you knew would be critical of or even opposed to it?

    Yes of course, including one of the editors of the Sapirstein Rashi, and R. Dr. Kanarfogel.

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  17. Can you define rationalist please? - RJM

    That will be the subject of many posts, but here's a brief description:
    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2009/05/defining-rationalism.html

    I know few people who can aspire to the rationality of R' Zucker

    Everyone who holds highly of anyone holds that person to be rational. I am talking about rationalist. What are his views, for example, on yeridas hadoros?

    I am confused by your assertion that anyone who thinks there is insufficient evidence to label Rashi a corporealist, or who is hesitant to attribute differences of opinion to bias, is "not a rationalist". Why can't you just say the person is not correct according to your opinion.

    Well, I certainly did not assert that anyone who disagrees with my conclusion vis-a-vis Rashi is not a rationalist! But I did assert that most charedim are not rationalists and would not agree with my conclusions. And anyone who does not believe that charedim are deeply biased on issues such as this and evolution etc. is very irrational, because it is so utterly obvious that this is the case.

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  18. I did not "start with" the preposterous claim... I was perfectly content to talk about the issues of Rashi's (in)corporealism. YOU (mis)directed the conversation to a discussion about frum people and evolution - Rabbi Zucker.

    I know, and I never claimed otherwise. I was saying that I started to suspect the bias issue during the discussion.

    Second -- I did not "CLAIM that frum people are not biased in evaluating such things."... I said that before making any claim about frum people and prejudice, one needs to do a scientific study... I said that I BELIEVE (that is, as I emphasized, I have a FEELING, which is NOT based upon scientific survey and data accumulation) that frum people can very much approach these issues in such a way as to not be prevented from considering the question at hand objectively.

    Fine, so it's not that you definitively claim that frum people are not biased, it's that you say that one cannot form an opinion without a scientific study, and that you have a "feeling" that they are not biased. That is not quite as extremely irrational as definitively claiming no bias, but it's pretty darn close.

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  19. Who exactly did you think would be interested in discussing this topic? Who besides frum jews care if Rashi was or was not a corporealist?

    There are plenty of people, of differing levels of attachment to Judaism, who are rationalists and who are interested in discussing this topic.

    And when you mention that you felt that would have best been served having published it in an academic journal, do you want to publish in a forum where you the majority of people who would challenge you would not see it?

    I want to publish in a forum where non-rationalists won't see it, just like all my books on Torah/science.

    Does it really surprise you that frum people (yes, even those who accept the view of the Rambam et al with regard to chazal and Science) would be resistant to accepting your conclusion?

    It surprised more than it should have; I was very naive.

    But can you really be surprised when bnei torah follow in the footsteps of Chazal? (and frustrated when they do so?)

    I'm not frustrated at them for being biased. I'm blaming myself.

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  20. >I'm not frustrated at them for being biased. I'm blaming myself.

    You seem to be saying that Chazal were 'biased' (a loaded word with negative connotations if you haven't realized by now) - are you?

    And it's not just Chazal, rishonim and achronim use this methodology often. (Methodology as stated above of trying to understand great figures in the 'best' possible light based on accepted premises.)

    Kach hi darcka shel torah- do you deny this?

    Did not the great rationalist Rambam himself use this methodology?

    [BTW- one of the criticisms of Shapiro's book was his reliance upon sources that would be laughed out of the beis hamedersh as Gil Student noted in his review.]

    Are you really putting yourself in this academic camp?

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  21. I believe your mistake was in using the charged word corporealist and making sweeping claims.

    I think you should have written something like this (the exact words don't matter - try to see where I'm going): "In Rashi's day, the issue of G-d's corporealism was not a major controversy the way it was later on in Rambam's day. I can prove from Rashi's writings that he was not trying to refute the belief in Corporealism the way he tried to refute other beliefs (about G-d's emotions, etc.) Of course, this doesn't prove that Rashi himself was a corporealist, but it is an interesting and important indicator of what issues were central, on the radar screen, in Rashi's time."

    Then you could have written almost the entire article in its current form. It wouldn't have been as sensational, but it would have been more accurate, and it would not have been offensive to your target audience. What's the point of offending your target audience?

    I'll give you a mashal that may be helpful to you. Today, science has opened our eyes to the fact that the universe may not be limited to the three dimensions that we can perceive. Many frum thinkers today, influenced by this idea, probably sense that G-d is not in the same three-dimensional space that we occupy, and may not be confined by the concept of space at all. But earlier thinkers may not have had that abstract idea available in their arsenal of thinking, so they may have assumed that in some way G-d occupies our space.

    This would not mean that those thinkers were "dimensionalists" who "believed in a three-dimensional G-d". Rather, it would mean than dimensionality was not central for them in their thinking - this concept came later.

    I assume you understand the nimshal.

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  22. "My mistake was in choosing Hakirah as the journal in which to publish it, instead of a regular academic journal."

    I wouldn't be so hard on yourself. Someone would've seen the article in that academic journal, sent the article to Rabbi Z, Rabbi M, or one of your other disputants, then they in turn would've posted on your blog, and the same thing would've happened. (Umm, except for the part about taking the journal off the shelves.)

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  23. And even though any sophisticated talmid chochom is aware of the this Raavad, if not all the obscure sources brought in Shapiro's book, it does not change the fact that the 13 Ikkarim are considered the mainstream view. Does it really surprise you that frum people (yes, even those who accept the view of the Rambam et al with regard to chazal and Science) would be resistant to accepting your conclusion?

    Yes, the 13 Ikkarim are the mainstream view today. But only those who are historically ignorant believe that this was always the case. So someone "offended" at the possibility that Rashi may have been a corporealist is only displaying the limitations of their own knowledge. (I am not equating this type of individual with someone who takes issue with R. Slifkin on the substance of his arguments.)

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  24. Rabbi Slifkin -- you are way off. I, and many others similar to me, where very happy when you disproved many of the "givens" of the typical Yeshiva education. But the logic in this article is so weak, that we are disappointed in our "leader' -- you -- for your stubborn & condescending attitude. It weakens all the other claims you have made. We would have loved if you could have proven your point.

    While I have no doubt the underlying point in this post has validity -- for many others the very opposite is true.

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  25. I think that the argument specifically between Rabbi Zucker and Rabbi Slifkin has devolved a bit and gotten away from the main points. May I suggest that each person summarize their arguments just regarding Rashi into a bulleted list and then proceed from there?

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  26. >>"Please read what I wrote!
    I wrote about convincing people of the legitimacy of the rationalist approach, not the truth of it!

    August 17, 2009 9:07 PM"

    Rabbi Slifkin, you are correct. I read too quickly and jumped to conclusions. Please accept my apologies.

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  27. You seem to be saying that Chazal were 'biased' (a loaded word with negative connotations if you haven't realized by now) - are you?

    Why on earth would it have negative connotations?! If you love someone or something, wouldn't you be biased towards them?!

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  28. I'm not sure why you just can't address Rabbi Zucker's questions on your claim that Rashi was a corporealist. Whether Rabbi Zucker is biased or not his questions are very sound. I think the readers can make up their own minds whether your or Rabbi Zucker's arguments are good or not. As of now it seems that you did not answer all of his questions.
    -Isaac

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  29. I feal, unfortunately, your stubbornness, is your greatest undoing, not so much on a factual front, but you will now be considered logically unreasonable. The irony is, the Gedolim didn't want to talk to you specifically because of your attitude of not going in to the dialog with an undecided mind, and stubbornness about your position.

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  30. Isaac, I answered his questions, and then he had questions on my answers. And then I answered those, and then he had questions on those. And then I answered those, and then he had questions on those. And then I answered those, and then he had questions on those.
    How long should this go on for?

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  31. I feal, unfortunately, your stubbornness, is your greatest undoing, not so much on a factual front, but you will now be considered logically unreasonable.

    "feel," not "feal."

    It's possible that I am stubborn and logically unreasonable. It's also possible that I am right, and that you can't bring yourself to accept that Rashi was a corporealist. Given the number of times that I have publicly conceded error in my works, and given the number of times that I have changed my minds on topics that caused emotional discomfort but which I nevertheless did so for logical reasons, it doesn't seem very likely that I am "stubborn and not logically reasonable."

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  32. The irony is, the Gedolim didn't want to talk to you specifically because of your attitude of not going in to the dialog with an undecided mind, and stubbornness about your position.

    It's amazing how they knew that about me without ever having met me!
    And tell me - do you think that they would have entered the dialogue with an "undecided mind"?

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  33. Rabbi Slifkin,

    "Isaac, I answered his questions, and then he had questions on my answers. And then I answered those, and then he had questions on those. And then I answered those, and then he had questions on those. And then I answered those, and then he had questions on those. How long should this go on for?"

    I think that a more accurate way of expressing this would be: "I thought I answered his questions, and then he challenged my answers, showing why, in fact, they did not at all answer his question. So I responded, and he pointed out why my response still did not answer the original question...how long should this go on for?"

    I reiterate -- when you are ready to resume the open and forthright intellectual discussion and debate, please let me know, and we can pick up where we left off.

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  34. Rabbi Zucker, don't you see that a comment like that just doesn't add anything? All you are doing is saying that you would describe the debate in a way that is favorable to you. And obviously I could describe the debate in a way that is favorable to me!

    Let me know when you are ready to answer my question about whether you believe that most frum people are not religiously biased in deciding about evolution and weigh it up solely on its scientific merits.

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  35. "It's amazing how they knew that about me without ever having met me!"

    They didn't know you, but they did know you wrote "I am ready to meet with these Gedolim at their convenience and to hear what their objections are, and to discuss the matter fully. I am certainly willing to retract from anything in which I am proven wrong or mistaken" to which they had no interest in wasting their time with you, getting into an argument, to which you'd end up "not convinced", and then claim you have their 'ok' to continue with your books because they agreed that if you weren't fully convinced, you can remain. Sort of like what happened here.

    ps. I have no idea how feel became feal, when I can't learn seforim because of my migraines I read blogs, so that can explain my spelling and gramer.

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  36. They didn't know you, but they did know you wrote "I am ready to meet with these Gedolim at their convenience and to hear what their objections are, and to discuss the matter fully. I am certainly willing to retract from anything in which I am proven wrong or mistaken" to which they had no interest in wasting their time with you

    That's funny.

    That response of mine, which you see as reason not to discuss things with me, is virtually identical to Rabbi Zucker's response to me.

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  37. Rabbi Slifkin,

    "They didn't know you, but they did know you wrote "I am ready to meet with these Gedolim at their convenience and to hear what their objections are, and to discuss the matter fully. I am certainly willing to retract from anything in which I am proven wrong or mistaken" to which they had no interest in wasting their time with you

    That's funny.

    That response of mine, which you see as reason not to discuss things with me, is virtually identical to Rabbi Zucker's response to me."

    What response of mine to you? What are you talking about here?

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  38. I meant your general statement about how you are willing to discuss things and follow whichever arguments are proven true, etc.

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  39. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Is there anything problematic with someone suggesting to another person, "let's discuss the issues and follow the logic and the facts?" Am I missing something here? Isn't that what everyone should say and mean when debating an issue? Aren't you also "willing to discuss things and follow whichever arguments are proven true"?

    What happened to the previous post that I submitted about the "questions and answers"?

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  40. "That response of mine, which you see as reason not to discuss things with me, is virtually identical to Rabbi Zucker's response to me."

    It's ok when you and Rabbi Zucker are equals. It's not ok when you are talking with people 40 years older than you who have learned for 18 hours a day, and have thoroughly learned any applicable seforim out there. Why should they waste their time with you? Were they willing to explain their position, yes. Willing to get into a baby argument, about something subjective as to where to draw a line, no. I can guarantee they learned the Moreh many more times than you did at that point, and many more times that you have at the moment. It was very nice of you to invent a myth of two Judaisms, and therefore imply that although they are an expert in their field, there is another field that they don't subscribe to, and therefore you (and others) are experts despite their knowledge. There are no two parallel approaches, and in truth, I'm sure you know that too.

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  41. Is there anything problematic with someone suggesting to another person, "let's discuss the issues and follow the logic and the facts?"

    No, of course not. My point was that when I said this to the Gedolim, Yoel saw it as reason for them not to meet with me.


    What happened to the previous post that I submitted about the "questions and answers"?


    It contained no new point and was an attempt to continue the debate about corporeality on this thread. That is not what this thread is about and I refuse to allow it to get sidetracked.

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  42. It's ok when you and Rabbi Zucker are equals. It's not ok when you are talking with people 40 years older than you who have learned for 18 hours a day, and have thoroughly learned any applicable seforim out there.

    Where on earth do you make this stuff up from?

    I can guarantee they learned the Moreh many more times than you did at that point, and many more times that you have at the moment.

    Baloney!

    Did you know that Rav Shiner was working on the assumption that my sources were forgeries?

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  43. Rabbi Slifkin,

    "It contained no new point and was an attempt to continue the debate about corporeality on this thread. That is not what this thread is about and I refuse to allow it to get sidetracked."

    My post was a direct response to a claim that you made on this thread. You had said that you answered my questions and that I was perpetuating an endless cycle of new questions. In the post that you now refuse to put up, I cited a specific example (one of a number that I could have mentioned), with a detailed description and explanation, as to your repetition of a claim that you made in lieu of an answer or explanation. I understand and accept that you don't want to continue the discussion; that was not my intent at all in posting what I did -- it was simply to respond directly to an issue about which you wrote. I must confess to being surprised and dismayed by your refusal to post it.

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  44. I didn't mean specifically that you were creating an endless cycle of new questions; I meant that the debate was never ending. If I had posted your comment vis-a-vis Rashi in Devarim, I would have had to respond to it, at which point you would have wanted to respond to, and thus it goes on forever.
    Please feel free to open your own blog!

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  45. Anonymous, resubmit your comment with a name and I will respond.

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  46. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Understood. You know that I have mentioned in the past within these posts that the readership (myself included) owe you hakkaras ha-tov for opening yourself up like this and for discussing ideas. I just thought it not right for you to make a statement with less-than-positive implications and then refuse to allow a response to that statement to appear.

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  47. I was a fan of your books before the ban. I was actually quite shocked with the ban, So I decided to "investigate" it myself. It opened my eyes completely. I wanted to answer for myself one question, what does your typical Rosh Yeshiva know about "Machshava", and this is what I found.

    First, I looked into, Rav Schiner. After speaking with many of his talmidim, was not familiar "enough", and althought he was very passionate about the topics, he never would've banned on his own, he deferred to the others. This enraged me, I was imagining a circle of everyone, pointing fingers at everyone else.

    Next I looked into Rav Wachtfogel, I got lucky, and managed to drive him from South Fallsberg to the city. I prepared numerous questions and topic to speak to him about. I asked him to explain a few complicated chapters in the Moreh, and about the machlokes between the Rambam and the Ramban about korbonos. The Moreh he spoke about as if he learned it the day before, word for word with no confusion. I was more than satisfied with how he defended the Rambam on karbonos after the critique of the Ramban. It was the quickest six hours of my life. I also managed to ask him one very controversial question, but time was short. It was good, but I wasn't yet convinced, it was good, but it wasn't enough.

    Next I asked about Rav Shapiro, who I've heard of at that point. I spoke to many of his talmidim, and had the privilege of talking to him about many hashkafa issue myself. At first I got the usual short Mahral like answers, and it didn't cut it for me. I explained to him I'm looking for a fuller picture and with sources, and most importantly I wanted "both sides" of an answer. I expressed to, I'm not coming for a psak, I'm coming to talk in learning. I wasn't ready for what I got. He must've liked me, because he threw at me sources from across the spectrum explaining each how it's mar amar chada vi'mar amar chada vilo pligi. I think he understood seen something about what was truly bothering me, because out of character, he made it a point of bringing philosophical sources, besides the usual slew of gemaras medrashim and machshava seforim. I came to realize he knows the Moreh and any of the seforim he quoted backwards and forward. Sorry, but I know an authority when I see one.

    Although I was convinced that the "baners" knew what they were talking about, I still wanted to find out about Rav Weintruab. I heard about his legendary hasmada, and that Rav Lefkowitz considers him the authority on hashkafa, I only had the privlage of asking him some questions, but yet again he blew me away. He answered on-the-spot about 1) a choshen mishpat question, 2) the sugya of muktza, 3) an odd medrash in that weeks parsha, and 4) an unorthodox Ralbag. I later heard from his talmidim that he regularly quotes the Moreh in his shiurim. I've heard plenty more about him, but I think I wrote enough.

    I'm convinced they know what they are talking about, if you are not, try to see for yourself, although it may require you changing your name.

    "Where on earth do you make this stuff up from? "

    While trying to track them down, and it wasn't easy, I was blown away by their crammed schedules. I would not be exaggerating to say they learn 18 hours a day, but if 14 makes you happier, then maybe it's just 14.

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  48. Hey Rabbi Zucker, just curious, are you the Rabbi Zucker from chait? Because "chaites" in my college keep referring me to you.

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  49. I was more than satisfied with how he defended the Rambam on karbonos after the critique of the Ramban. It was the quickest six hours of my life.

    I would love to hear what his approach was. I suspect it was one of the popular revionist approaches which renders Rambam completely non-controversial, despite his statement that it is controversial and the Ramban's critique.

    Look, I didn't say that NONE of them have read the Moreh. And obviously everyone knows snippets from the Moreh! That's not the same as having studied it.

    Rav Wachtfogel, Rav SHapiro and others claimed that my sources were forgeries. In the posts appearing here on the next few days, I will show how they warmly endorse utter perversions of Torah scholarship.

    Rav Moshe SHapiro has learned the Moreh, albeit with his unique perspective not shared by other students of the Moreh. He also believes that many of my sources were forgeries (which I can easily disprove) and he was utterly misinformed as to the contents of my books. So how can you say that there was no reason for him to meet with me??!!

    I'm convinced they know what they are talking about, if you are not, try to see for yourself

    And yet, amazingly, not one of them has managed to explain how a view expressed by countless Rishonim and Acharonim over the generations can be deemed kefirah. Check out the posts appearing over the next few days.

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  50. they have thoroughly learned any applicable seforim out there.

    "Where on earth do you make this stuff up from? "

    While trying to track them down, and it wasn't easy, I was blown away by their crammed schedules.


    And you concluded that they have "thoroughly learned ANY applicable seforim out there?!" Well, your research wasn't very good. Sources such as Hirsch, Ben Ish Chai, etc., are sources that they were either completely unaware of or claimed to be forgeries.

    By the way, Rav Elyashiv is the exception to all this. He acknowledges it as a legitimate approach and does not consider my books to be genuine kefirah. A meeting with him would have been most productive.

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  51. and amazingly not a word about r weintraub- is that saying you agree his knowledge of the moreh surpasses even lihavdil kellner's?

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  52. I don't know if R Weintraub has learned the Moreh. I do know that he believes in Facilitated Communication. So, if he has learned the Moreh, I don't think that he has done so from a rationalist perspective.

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  53. r c kanievsky when it concerns hilchos geirus. seems to take the other side.....

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  54. What do you mean? You mean that if someone believes that the world is millions of years old, that their gerus is questionable? Or is something to do with the number of teeth?

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  55. you are an idiot for buying into the whole "rationalist" thing.....someone gets offended from somethin gedoei olam do so he goes and joins the "other team"? you admitted here more than once that you recently "discovered" rationalism...... you are pathetic in choosing yoshvei kranos who are "ameilim bidvarim beteilim" over ameilim batorah

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  56. questionable geirus

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  57. "I do know that he believes in Facilitated Communication."

    He cleaned his hands from that long ago, stop bringing up old lies.

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  58. lets say there are two sides- at least these rabbonim have earned shas poskim thoroughly, while you have not which would disqualify you from having ANY opinion relating to judaism.... and yes rs weintraub, shapiro, wachtfogel, kanievsky can stand head and shoulders abover rabbi carmell and your other so called "mentors"

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  59. "Disgusted," take it somewhere else, this blog is not for you.

    Yoel - the fact that he believed in FC to begin with is a clear demonstration that he is not a rationalist. But this is a silly discussion - of course he is not a rationalist, he believes that the world is 5769 years old and that Chazal were infallible in science!

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  60. "Yoel - the fact that he believed in FC to begin with is a clear demonstration that he is not a rationalist."

    He didn't believe anything, he saw something he commented about. He investigated more, he retracted, sounds rationalist to me.

    Just a question, why in the Moreh does it say there is no such thing a FC? On the contrary, it would fit with the Moreh's view of nevuah more than some other approaches.

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  61. He wrote a public document that was printed in an FC sefer. Do you mean to say that he wrote such a public document about a matter without having investigated it?

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  62. I'm under the impression it was not written to be a public document, and iirc it's just a general letter about developmentally challenged having a neshama, not about the means of communicating, and not about autistic kids specifically.

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  63. Not according to my info. And see http://www.haloscan.com/comments/hirhurim/113259215815401979/

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  64. I don't know what you want from a bunch of angry and cynical comments, what I heard, not yesterday, not when you got banned, but when the book came out, r weintraub was pretty upset his letter was put there. one more thing, my info on this is very reliable.

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  65. Interesting, When Rabbi Zucker posts a comment in an attempt to respond to your claim, you accuse him of distracting from the topic of this post, yet you have no issue with Yoel discussing the position of the Gedolim on science and the ban and responding to him about rationalism at length.

    Is this bias? or maybe an inability to answer Rabbi Zucker?

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  66. I have a weakness for getting drawn into discussions about the ban. You're right, I shouldn't have let that happen.

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  67. Yoel:
    is there any public retraction from Rav Weintraub you can refer me to? i would find it extremely helpful.
    thanks,
    josh

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  68. You don't seem to be considering that you are biased toward taking positions that others will find controversial. To me, it's obvious that you have reason to be biased. You've been dealing with people who not only say your positions re chazal and science and evolution/age of U are kefira, but also some who deny rambam, rabenharambam etc etc say what they clearly say, who claim forgeries, who seem unaware of the long history of the rationalist view on chazal and science vechuley. all this due to their strong bias. dealing with people whove banned you and backed it up with lots of evidence of bias and not much actual evidence for their positions will incline you to conclude that a lot of people are terribly biased and incapable of dealing with evidence rationally. moreover, theres the lack of historical awareness, a creation of a new "mesora" almost overnight that some shitas were written out of klal yisrael etc etc inclining you to focus on lack of historical awareness in some circles.
    so for example, you say

    "It might be that although people are aware of Shapiro's sources, and the statement of Raavad, and the position of R. Moshe Taku, they are only aware of it in a very detached, remote sense."

    but machzor vitry is also a source. a strong one, a very relevant one. You seem not just to raise the issue, but to be pretty confident that rashi was a corporealist. machzor vitry is more relevant than any of the sources you cite above. You also argue that the odds are rashi is a corporealist even though we dont really know how many corporealists were in his area, in the end, we have differnet conjectures, phrases here and there, but no real demonstration of how current exactlyh the thought was. Similarly, while corporealism issue may not have been set in stone the way it is today in the past, there's evidence that incoporealism long predates the rambam, not just from unkelos, but for example, where did mohammed get his incorporealism from? we dont know exactly when corporealism became however popular it became in northern france, possibly later than rashi. and so on. So the broader context seems objectively a lot less clear than you make out. To me anyway. So regardless of whether this is fair or not, you come across first of all as courting controversy, trying to pick a bone with those who would be horrified if rashi was a corpealist - when even you must acknowledge you cant prove the case, why do it? As I wrote, in my view, you have gotten so exposed to the biases from the banners vesiyatam that you veer off in the other direction, decide all the received wisdom is wrong, and given that lots of people would be shocked to hear if rashi were a corporealist then you become biased to think he was a corporealist just for that reason.
    there's more to say, but not for now. I hope I have not offended you, I just want to know if you are considering the possibility that you are biased in the opposite direction of the way you presume others to be biased. Hopefully no offense. Kol tuv.

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  69. You don't seem to be considering that you are biased toward taking positions that others will find controversial.

    Actually, I definitely do consider that. I explicitly raised that as a possibility, in an earlier post/comment. So I try to take that into account (as best as I can!) when evaluating my evidence.

    machzor vitry is also a source. a strong one, a very relevant one.

    It depends which source in vitry you are referring to. There is one source that I raised myself in the essay, which I acknowledge to be a strong source, but which I still feel is countered by everything else. Then there is the source that Rabbi Zucker raised, which I am currently researching since it appears to be of questionable authorship and meaning.

    we dont know exactly when corporealism became however popular it became in northern france, possibly later than rashi. and so on

    It is more likely to have been earlier than later.

    when even you must acknowledge you cant prove the case, why do it?

    I think that the evidence leans strongly in this direction, but you are quite correct that it looks like I am courting controversy, which is not good.

    By the way, please sign your name or a pseudonym to future comments.

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  70. it's not so much that it looks like you are courting controversy - though it does look that way - but that this happens due to an inclination to dismiss received wisdom as another case of revisionism, historical inaccuracy etc

    Someone pointed out that if the typical reaction is biased to require a higher level of proof that rashi was a corporealist than you would require to reach this conclusion, it's consistent with rambam. Who says to interpret chazal in line with what he considers to be correct opinions. As others have pointed out, he says aatrology is a daas yachid in chazal etc

    But in this case there is a reason for the bias. Namely, that no one can come up with a single person of lasting influence in our history who was a corporealist (except for your claim of rashi). This is unlike the other ikarim, davening to angels, moshe writing the torah (even in gemara there's the deah that yehoshua wrote the last psukim). Now obviously this opinion existed and there can be many reasons for not seeing the legacy of it today. Rambam was influential, the noncorporeality of god is an easy to understand point of difference with Xians, the corporealists weren't writing philosophical treatises and so on. But still, it's striking. The ramban quoting someone respectfully - so? Tosfos quotes IE respectfully, this doesn't mean IE = the authority level of other rishonim. A lot of traditional biases have a basis in fact. You're treating this like a bias to think that everyone was learning in kollel in prewar europe, or like the mesora is whatever the banners of your books say it is, but this is a bias that is based on a picture that emerges from honest attempt at historical assessment. I dont think you are crediting even the attempt at historical assessment - you're assuming purely emotional bias, not based in rational considerations, when there are rational reasons to consider the burden of proof to be on you.

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  71. it's consistent with rambam. Who says to interpret chazal in line with what he considers to be correct opinions.

    Are you saying that we should interpret views with a deliberate bias? It doesn't matter who proposes that approach, it's not intellectually honest.

    in this case there is a reason for the bias. Namely, that no one can come up with a single person of lasting influence in our history who was a corporealist

    What does that have to do with anything?!

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  72. "Are you saying that we should interpret views with a deliberate bias? It doesn't matter who proposes that approach, it's not intellectually honest."

    I disagree. It can be, it depends how far you carry it. But this is not the main point, so I dont want to argue it, the main point is:

    "What does that have to do with anything?!"

    because bias the way you are using the word for emotional investment or irrational tendency to see things in a particular way is VERY different than having an a priori assumption based on rational consideration of evidence that something is unlikely. You are asserting that the null hypothesis should be that rashi was likely a corporealist. I am saying that this null hypothesis doesn't fit the evidence that we begin with. One reason for the bias is that there's no one else of lasting influence who was known to be a corporealist - how many people are familar with machzor vitry vs the figures cited as coporealists? Dont you think this is meaningful?? I disagree that all rashi's students are equally authoritative. Was the other student of rashi's exclusively rashi's student - how much do you know about him? You have to prove the basis for your null hypothesis first, AND. when we move from the null hypothesis to new evidence, you arent presenting a whole lot of evidence, but arguing that given how solid your null hypothesis is, the rest of your arguments are enough.

    To put it much more succintly, I think your null hypothesis is biased. If you say it's where the evidence leads you, accept that the evidence leads other ppl differently.

    kol tuv

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  73. What does "lasting influence" have to do with anything?

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  74. "What does that have to do with anything?!"

    I've read a lot of polemics about the haredim who take midrashim literally. Such haredim exist. But with all the ranting about them, they're a fringe group. You wouldnt know that to read the polemics on blogs. There are even elite figures in todays UO world who take midrashim literally, but it's a fringe view among "elite" haredim too, and most would say it's ignorance. If a view is common among elites, normally there's a record of it and not just the polemics against it and information about lesser figures. Now there could be reason for this absence of evidence, and I listed some, but one reason for it might be that fewer ppl of importance subscribed to it than you might think from the polemics. The raavad is not giving a statistical count of who believes what. Just look at the way you present it in your post:

    "It might be that although people are aware of Shapiro's sources, and the statement of Raavad, and the position of R. Moshe Taku, they are only aware of it in a very detached, remote sense. It's kind of like how a smoker feels about the evidence that smoking causes cancer - he is sort of intellectually aware of it, but doesn't really feel it to be true, and he is genuinely surprised when he is diagnosed with cancer. People don't take Raavad's testimony seriously, and R. Moshe Taku is too obscure a figure to care about. When the idea of a Rishon being a corporealist is actually starkly presented as being genuinely the case, they find it hard to come to terms with it."

    Shapiro's sources on other ikarim are not his sources on this ikar. Raavad is not presenting a demographic poll. R Moshe Taku is not that important a figure, because we already know that some people of some significance thought like him - we want to know if there's reason to think rashi was a coporealist, not if any corporealists existed. It doesn't occur to you that maybe they are right not to take Raavad's testimony as a poll and to think RMTaku is indeed just obscure enough to be one of the harbey yet not significant to the present discussion...You say they're like smokers - I say you're like the people who say anyone not convinced of manmade global warming is in denial. You're not just weighing the evidence differently - you are being condescending about the poor people who aren't weighing the evidence the same way you do, they're in denial... to me, that's evidence of bias.

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  75. "What does "lasting influence" have to do with anything?"

    Rashi founded a school, and in short is rabban shel kol benei hagolah. If this view had no lasting influence, that's a point in favor of it not being rashi's view. It's not dispositive of course, but when the elites have an opinion, esp elites of lasting influence and many students, it gets play. You claim his students wouldnt have known what he thought, and maybe he himself didnt give it much thought. Yet you also claim the controversy was swirling all about him, with one student saying corporeality is minus and the next one believing it and no way to choose between the two.
    An admittedly imperfect analogy - R Chaim Soloveitchik is arguably the most influential torah figure of the last hundred plus years, his derech halimud took the yeshiva world by storm, he had many students etc The culture of chumra which is completely unrelated to his derech halimud and was probably for RCS familial and not intended as public policy etc also was largely influential. Which goes to show that influence earned in one area is spent in other areas. If rashi was a coporealist, even if his corporeal view was incidental and not something he taught, you'd expect to see more signs. You're also claiming that rashi has a policy of commenting on some anthropomorphisms and not others but not giving it all a lot of thought and no one knows all this...it can happen, it's just we'd like a little more evidence than that raavad attacks rambam and R moshe taku. You're saying it's likely even before you get to analysis of what rashi actually writes.

    Hope that's clearer.

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  76. You're looking at it the wrong way. Do you know how many Acharonim write against evolution? Virtually none. Does this mean that they were evolutionists? Of course not. Rather, they took it for granted that Bereishis was literal, and they never saw a need to discuss it. Furthermore, they simply weren't that interested in analyzing the process of creation.

    Rashi's writings are voluminous. But he doesn't address theology.

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  77. yes but the machzor vitry is writing about it!

    "You claim his students wouldnt have known what he thought, and maybe he himself didnt give it much thought. Yet you also claim the controversy was swirling all about him, with one student saying corporeality is minus and the next one believing it and no way to choose between the two...
    You're also claiming that rashi has a policy of commenting on some anthropomorphisms and not others but not giving it all a lot of thought and no one knows all this"

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  78. Rashi commented on those pesukim which conflicted with his view of Hashem and did not comment on those that didn't.

    I hear your objection regarding his talmidim. But the twelfth century was a time of transition, with the Jews of France starting to feel the influence from the Jews of Spain. Eventually, none of the Jews of Ashkenaz were corporealists. That was the end of the process. The process began with corporealists who saw no issue with it, and the interim stage was one of discussion and debate.

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  79. yes but machzor vitry is more or less contemporaneous with rashi.

    "Rashi commented on those pesukim which conflicted with his view of Hashem and did not comment on those that didn't."

    and i would expect his closest students caught up in the controversy to know this

    Can you tell me anything about r yaakov ben shimshon? do we know that he had no rebbe other than rashi? is he considered one of rashi's close talmidim? and so on?

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  80. should I assume not much is known about r yaakov ben shimshon? I'm really curious.

    Anyway, hopefully no hard feelings. A ksiva vechasima tova and a gebencht yuhr to you and yours.

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