Monday, September 21, 2009

The Limits of Academic Methodology: Halachah

Previously, I discussed the advantages of academic methodology in ascertaining historical realities. In this post, I want to focus on one limitation (there are others) of academic methodology. It is my belief that, in most cases, academic methodology should not be relevant to halachah.

In my book Sacred Monsters, I explained why according to some opinions, even though based on the academic/ rationalist approach we see that Chazal were mistaken in believing that lice spontaneously generate, this should not affect the halachah that it is permissible to kill them on Shabbos. I discussed the case of Tanur Shel Achnai and showed that the Torah has its own protocols which can sometimes diverge from objective reality.

There is a much more common case, which ironically was brought up in the comments to the previous post by someone opposing my viewpoint. I am referring to the prohibition of bishul, cooking, on Shabbos.

It is very clear that from a scientific perspective, whether or not a food becomes cooked depends on factors such as the temperature, the duration for which that temperature is maintained, the specific heat capacity of the food, and so on. Yet the halachos of bishul are based on concepts such as kli rishon, kli sheni etc. To my mind it is obvious that there is no need to change the halachic parameters of bishul, and I don't believe that anyone would ever suggest otherwise. Aside from the fact that the parameters of kli rishon/ sheni have been canonized, they make for a much more useful application of the melachah than temperature and specific heat capacity. The physical reality is used as a rough basis for the halachic concept, but the halachic concept then takes on its own reality which does not change by virture of it not being precisely matched by the physical reality.

In the same way that scientific realities generally do not affect canonized halachah, the discovery of new or more correct manuscripts of ancient halachic authorities should also not affect it. The Chazon Ish's views on this matter are well known; there is a fascinating article in an old issue of Tradition (I think) which discusses it, and notes that if an ancient sefer Torah - even that of Moshe Rabbeinu - were discovered, we would not change our contemporary sifrei Torah to match it! Similarly R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was opposed to using the botanical findings of Prof. Yehudah Feliks with regard to changing certain halachos of Pesach, even though he was apparently not opposed to the scientific method per se.

I am sure that some readers will be shocked by this; I recommend that you read (or re-read) the final chapter in Sacred Monsters to appreciate this point of view. (If anyone can provide the precise reference for the Tradition article, I would appreciate it.)

58 comments:

  1. I would agree, but only somewhat. The fact that halachah doesn't change even if based on a "mistake" is because of the mitzvah deoriysa of following what the elders tell us to do as law. Thus, even if the reason for the law is not valid, we must still follow it until the next sanhedrin decides to eliminate it.

    However, I would not agree with the sefer Torah issue. If we found the Torah in the ark, I think we should use that text. The mesorites who were post talmud, decided on the correct text which we use today using the best manuscripts they had. We are commanded to use a "correct" text, however that it determined. (Besides most likely the differences would be very minor anyway).

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  2. See Rav Moshe Bleich’s essay “The Role of Manuscripts in Halachic Decision Making,” Tradition 27:2:22-55.

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  3. Oh, and see:
    http://koltorah.org/ravj/14-22%20The%20Role%20of%20Archaeology%20in%20Halachic%20Decision%20Making%201.htm

    http://koltorah.org/ravj/14-22%20The%20Role%
    20of%20Archaeology%20in%20Halachic%20Decision%
    20Making%201.htm

    "The Role of Archaeology in Halachic Decision Making - Part One
    "

    I'm sure you'll be able to find "Part Two" as well.

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  4. Besides Rav Moshe Bleich's article, already mentioned, see:

    "Hazon Ish on Textual Criticism and Halakhah" (Tradition, 18, No. 2, Summer 1980) from Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Yehuda.

    and also Rabbi Dr. Leiman's article in Tradition from the winter of 1981, "Hazon Ish on Textual Criticism and Halakhah - a Rejoinder"
    http://www.traditiononline.org/news/article.cfm?id=104250

    I wonder where the line is to be drawn. Cite me this Chazon Ish, and that one should not modify halacha when the halacha has already been encoded, and I'll ask why in the world the Chazon Ish saw fit to double all the shiurim because of his insight, when the shiurim had already been encoded for hundreds of years.

    I also think that halacha has on occasion been modified under the guise of nishtaneh hateva, except of course that those proposing it actually believed it.

    If and why there are limits is a good question. I agree with a lot of the ideas you presented here in terms of reasons for such limits, such as Tanur shel Achnai. In terms of bishul, perhaps what was forbidden by Chazal as they exercised their power to define melachot was what they understood to be bishul, with the parameters involved as bishul understood back then. But it is a tough topic.

    kt,
    josh

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  5. >the discovery of new or more correct manuscripts of ancient halachic authorities should also not affect it. The Chazon Ish's views on this matter are well known

    This is one famous view. What is this to be preferred? Besides, what if the fact was that most poskim would be in favor of modifying or changing the halacha based on manuscript evidence? Would you still oppose this?

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  6. In my book I explain why I favor it. If most poskim felt differently, my reasons might not apply.

    Do you favor revising halachah if the factual basis is discovered to be incorrect? And if so, who should make the decision as to whether the factual basis is incorrect?

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  7. >Do you favor revising halachah if the factual basis is discovered to be incorrect?

    I don't favor it nor do I not favor it. I'm honestly at a loss for how to opine on the question. I do know that I have a serious philosophical problem with relegating halachic authority only to those who

    1. don't know relevant historical questions and information, or
    2. who know it, yet ignore it

    At the same time, it is also difficult to determine when and if "discovering the factual basis" has occurred. All this is complicated by the fact that halacha certainly did and does change, in any event.

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  8. "The Chazon Ish's views on this matter are well known; there is a fascinating article in an old issue of Tradition (I think) which discusses it, and notes that if an ancient sefer Torah - even that of Moshe Rabbeinu - were discovered, we would not change our contemporary sifrei Torah to match it! Similarly R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was opposed to using the botanical findings of Prof. Yehudah Feliks with regard to changing certain halachos of Pesach, even though he was apparently not opposed to the scientific method per se."

    This doesn't make any sense to me. If we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt the correct Torah why would we not fix ours? That just seems odd.

    There are certain halachos, like killing a loase, that we can say that the Rabbis just meant it is so small it is like a microorganism. Neither spontaneously generate, but since they are so small they are not considered living beings that can be killed in a halachic sense. However, a factual error that is provable should not be ignored.

    I mean, the vilna goan corrected thousands of errors in the gemorah, zohar and so on.

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  9. I don't have the background to opine about halachic ontology, but given your general rationalist stance, I have to wonder why you attach metaphysical significance to a halachic decision based on an incomplete or flawed understanding of reality. Somehow I doubt you agree with those who say that reality changes to conform to halachic decisions. And you have no problem saying that rabonim in the past were fallible and limited by the general knowledge available to them. Why does it seem that you’re okay with that in the abstract, but not when it comes to the practical application of the logical conclusion – halachah based on mistaken premises should be changed to conform to reality.

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  10. What a wonderful article! Thank you for composing and posting it.

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  11. With regard to bishul, kli rishon & sheni are relevant despite modern conceptions of temperature, because of the definition of bishul, which involves heating with “fire”. (Fire being defined as anything hot enough to glow.)

    There’s an old joke about the fellow who accidentally spilled hot water on his friend on Shabbos. “I don’t know why he shouted so,” he said later. “Doesn’t that am hooretz know this was a kli shlishi?”

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  12. This doesn't make any sense to me. If we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt the correct Torah why would we not fix ours?

    Of course it doesn't make any sense if you don't know the reason for it! Read Tzvi Yehuda's article.

    There are certain halachos, like killing a loase, that we can say that the Rabbis just meant it is so small it is like a microorganism.

    No, we can't. They did not mean that. They meant that lice spontaneously generate. However according to some views, the halachah is still the same, for reasons that I explain in my book.

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  13. given your general rationalist stance, I have to wonder why you attach metaphysical significance to a halachic decision based on an incomplete or flawed understanding of reality.

    I don't know what you mean by "metaphysical."

    Somehow I doubt you agree with those who say that reality changes to conform to halachic decisions.

    Correct, I do not agree with them.

    And you have no problem saying that rabonim in the past were fallible and limited by the general knowledge available to them. Why does it seem that you’re okay with that in the abstract, but not when it comes to the practical application of the logical conclusion – halachah based on mistaken premises should be changed to conform to reality

    I am totally fine with saying that the halachah was sometimes based on mistaken premises. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it should change. Please read the last chapter of my book Sacred Monsters to understand why.

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  14. "The Chazon Ish's views on this matter are well known; there is a fascinating article in an old issue of Tradition (I think) which discusses it, and notes that if an ancient sefer Torah - even that of Moshe Rabbeinu - were discovered, we would not change our contemporary sifrei Torah to match it!"
    There is a subsequent article by Shnayer Leiman noting that the former article is, at least on this point, utter nonsense: http://www.leimanlibrary.com/texts_of_publications/32. Hazon Ish on Textual Criticism and Halakhah A Rejoinder.pdf

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  15. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Ignoring historical evidence sometimes seems silly. I personally would feel extremely uncomfortable killing a louse on Shabbos, knowing as I do that the chachamim permitted it based on incorrect science. Wouldn't you? And what's the downside to being machmir in this case?

    I agree that in some cases it's not practical and change would be too revolutionary. But in other cases, it wouldn't.

    I no nothing about electricity & halacha. But if it were true (like I have heard one or two people say) that the rabbis simply didn't have their facts straight 100 years ago and there's really no issur surrounding electricity on Shabbos, doesn't it behoove our generation's rabbis to get together and possible overrule what the "mesorah" has decided?

    In the machlokes concerning the size of kezaisim, is it correct to ignore the historical evidence?

    By the way, I have noticed in general that many, many people are meikel on certain halachos (like walking between women) having to do with superstition. Isn't that because we realize that the source of these halachos is probably not valid?

    I realize that this issue comes up in myriads of places and I don't advocate one approach across the board. However, to simply ignore evidence in certain cases seems silly to me.

    (By the way, last point: I have noticed that in some of the English Yerushalmis, Artscroll often informs the readers about machlokisim between rishonim about how certain plants grow etc. without ever telling the reader what modern botanists actually *know* as a matter of fact on these matters. I find this very frustrating, and I think halachos of the land dependent on these machlokisim ought to decided nowadays on actual scientific evidence and not on the rishonim's conjectures.)

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  16. MDK, I know I'm repeating myself, but have you read the last chapter of Sacred Monsters?

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  17. I read "Mysterious Creatures" about five years ago and enjoyed it tremendously. Neither I nor other people on here, though, always recall everything you have written in your books. That being said, if you truly think I will benefit from reading the chapter on spontaneous generation again, I will do so when I get a chance.

    I can't imagine, however, that it tuly addressess all my concerns. I have heard the ahistorical approach on several different occasions and have never really felt comfortable with it.

    I realize different situations are diffferent. Overturning the laws of trephos is one thing (an issue which I believe you raise in the book). Deciding who to pasken like in a machlokes about the size of kezaisim based on scientific and historical evidence is another.

    I will read that chapter again but an ahistorical approach across the board makes me feel very uncomfortable. The seal of Hashem is truth.

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  18. This approach seems awfully similar to the idea of perpetuating "the noble lie" for the good of society-- promoted by Greek and Medieval philosophers.
    Rabbi Slifkin, are you joining the academics in their assessment that Maimonides also harbored a similar approach to matters of truth and theology?

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  19. MDK, you need to get hold of Sacred Monsters, not Mysterious Creatures.

    By the way, kezayis is a different matter, since the halachah has not been canonized. I have an article on this that will hopefully be published this year.

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  20. Issac, what I am saying here has nothing to do with perpetuating noble lies for the truth of society.
    However, since you asked about Rambam - Rambam says that the Torah itself does this.

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  21. Rabbi Slifkin:

    There is a discussion of this topic by Prof. Shlomo Sternberg in his book review of Rabbi Levinger's Guide to Masechet Hullin and Masechet Bechorot and that book review is found in B.D.D. 4, Winter 1997. Checking on line for B.D.D. I found that there was a further discussion in volume 6 of B.D.D. however I did not have access to that further discussio. Prof. Sternberg uses his book review as a platform in which to extensively review this topic. IIUC, he advocates the positions of Rav Herzog z"l and Rav Moshe z"l and "many of the great rabbinical authorities of [his] youth". "This position asserts that we must recognize that Hazal were influenced by the scientific assumptions of their time, and that we must take into account advances in scientific knowledge. We must use the best theories currently available, even if this means, on occassion, that some details of the Halakhah are modified. These problems cannot be solved wholesale and must be resolved in individual cases, the more pressing problems being dealt with first. It is up to the current generation of Rabbis and halakhic authorities to do the best job possible with the knowledge currently available in as hnest a manner as possible. This is the ideology to which I [Prof. Sternberg] subscribe, even though it is old-fashioned and currently out of mode." As I am unsure as to whether you have a copy I shall send you a copy by email to your address at Zootorah.

    Best wishes for a Gemar Chatimah Tovah.

    Eliyahu

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  22. It should be noted that Rabbi Aryeh Carmell forcefully opposed Professor Sternberg's opinion in that exchange in B.D.D.

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  23. Thanks for the article, but I don't think that he is presenting R. Herzog's position correctly. R. Herzog agreed that Chazal's science could be wrong, but elsewhere he said that the halachah should nevertheless not be changed.

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  24. Isaac:

    Thank you. I shall try to obtain the article by Rabbi Carmel, z"l.

    Rabbi Slifkin:

    Thank you. Could you possibly provide a citation to where Rabbi Herzog takes a position that the application of the Halachah should not be changed as a result of changes in scientific knowledge.

    Regards,

    Eliyahu

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  25. It's in Heichal Yitzchak, Orach Chaim 29.

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  26. >And what's the downside to being machmir in this case?

    The downside is that unless you extend the principle, and at times be mekel too, then your principle is not intellectual honesty, but to go le-chumra. If you can justify that by safek de-oraysa le-chumra, then surely in cases of de-rabbanan you must go le-lekula.

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  27. In reply to an earlier comment, you wrote about the canonization of halakha. I understand you to be saying that if a dodgey practice from the scientific perspective has been incorporated into the canon of halakha, we cannot change it. Do you extend this approach to halakhot that were incorporated from the kabbalah or other non-rationalist sources? Assuming that we accept the academic consensus that the Zohar is a mediaeval work, do we still keep Zoharic practices that have entered the halakhic mainstream (and, indeed, the Shulchan Aruch)?

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  28. Really, the question is, do we reform Judaism?

    It's not necessarily as bad as it sounds, because despite the propaganda the early Reformers did not only want to remove the second yekum purkan. Could, would, should a reform of Judaism with the intention only of fine-tuning halacha, rather than removing its binding authority, be possible? But whether or not you couch it in terms of reform, reform is what it is. Otherwise, why not just proceed as it's been all along?

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  29. Dov - while the Gemara is certainly a canonized source, I don't know if the same can be said about the Shulchan Aruch. Any halachists out there who would care to comment?

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  30. Fred - I think that most of the people who talk about how we should change halachah in accordance with science etc. have no idea as to the Pandora's Box that they are opening.

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  31. And what's the downside to being machmir in this case?

    That the lice will still make you itch (or maybe even cause disease). And in some other case, the reasoning will lead to a kula.

    In general, there is no such thing as a 'pure chumra or kula'. Every chumra can result in a kula somehow. I think there is a Schach in Yoreh Deah who says this.

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  32. >Fred - I think that most of the people who talk about how we should change halachah in accordance with science etc. have no idea as to the Pandora's Box that they are opening.

    That's right. But another way of putting that might be that halacha doesn't reflect reality. Since they used to think it did reflect reality, that means that for us halacha must then either be some sort of symbolism or we have to posit a "halachic reality." Either way, it's a pretty significant break with the past. So either way, there's a break, either in actions or in the realm of thought.

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  33. "No, we can't. They did not mean that. They meant that lice spontaneously generate. However according to some views, the halachah is still the same, for reasons that I explain in my book."

    And according to at least some of those "some views" this is the case because Chazal didn't really mean to suggest spontaneous generation, no?

    The case of the mud mouse is different (and to my knowledge not mentioned in the halachah of being allowed to kill an animal not produced from a mother an a father) but I think it is very easy to over read into peoples words.

    I don't think we can safely assume that if you were to ask Chazal, or even a typical person, whether lice had invisible/microscopic eggs that they would answer in the negative.

    http://machzikeihadas.blogspot.com/2008/09/beitzei-kinimlice-mice-or-squirrels-and.html

    http://machzikeihadas.blogspot.com/2008/09/beitzei-kinimlice-mice-or-squirrels-and_18.html

    http://machzikeihadas.blogspot.com/2008/09/beitzei-kinimlice-mice-or-squirrels-and_19.html

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  34. And according to at least some of those "some views" this is the case because Chazal didn't really mean to suggest spontaneous generation, no?

    Not the views that I was referring to, but, yes, you are correct. However, the question is whether their opinion that Chazal did not mean to suggest spontaneous generation is based on an objective and rational consideration of the sugya, or based on an a priori reluctance to accept that Chazal could have been mistaken.

    I don't think we can safely assume that if you were to ask Chazal, or even a typical person, whether lice had invisible/microscopic eggs that they would answer in the negative.

    I think that we can indeed safely assume that, and in my book I give several reasons why.

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  35. The interesting thing about the Chazon Ish/Noda Biyehuda on the shiur of the kzayis was that they were trying to reform the accepted size of the kezayis using a factual argument that was incorrect. It's simply not true that eggs have grown since the time of Chazal or that our thumbs have shrunk (if anything, with regards to the latter, the reverse is the case). What makes this even more interesting, is that the Chazon Ish makes his own argument about the 'canonization' of this halacha, by referring to the great poskim who accepted it, independent of its scientific truth.
    So the question of 'canonization' cuts both ways here.

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  36. Sorry - correction to my previous comment. According to the Chazon Ish/ Noda Biyehuda, eggs have shrunk, not grown.

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  37. Rabbi Slifkin:

    Thank you for taking the time to provide the citation as to Rav Herzog's.

    KT
    Eliyahu

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  38. Rav Herzog certainly said tha blood tests to rule on the issue of paternity should be resorted to in halakhah despite the statement of Hazal that the fetus' blood comes from the woman. But perhaps here we would say that we just have here a "scientific statement of Hazal tha was used as the basis for a later halakhic judgment, and which judgement now that we know that its basis was wrong is automatically invalidated.

    lawrence kaplan

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  39. Another correction - According to the Noda Biyehuda, it is not the case that our thumbs have shrunk, rather it is inconeivable that they could have grown, since he interprets the concept of yeridas hadoros to have a physical manifestation.

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  40. Rabbi Slifkin,

    It's hard to argue that the Shulchan Aruch is a canonized, authoritative text when all of klal yisrael do not follow many, many statements found in the Shulchan Aruch.

    Rab Davidh Bar Hayyim of the Machon Shilo Institute has argued this quite strongly and pointed to many poskim (the Vilna Gaon being the most famous example) who have paskened against the Shulchan Aruch. Marc Shapiro has talked about this as well.

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  41. MDK:

    I no nothing about electricity & halacha. But if it were true (like I have heard one or two people say) that the rabbis simply didn't have their facts straight 100 years ago and there's really no issur surrounding electricity on Shabbos, doesn't it behoove our generation's rabbis to get together and possible overrule what the "mesorah" has decided?

    I don't think it's possible to separate the issue of science and halacha from the gradual pull of chumra in recent generations, and more generally, people voting with their feet in all generations.

    I can't speak directly to your example of electricity and Shabbat, but not long ago, many communities permitted electricity on Yom Tov (turning lights on *and* off). Nowadays that kula is a fringe view.

    Historical (or scientific) evidence is interesting, but there is a big "puk chazi" component to halacha observance, which effectively has a life of its own. I don't think that the tide of current halacha can be changed, unless perhaps you had a critical mass of like-minded people in a region, buttressed by serious talmidei chachamim.

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  42. 1. Aside from the fact that the parameters of kli rishon/ sheni have been canonized, they make for a much more useful application of the melachah than temperature and specific heat capacity. The physical reality is used as a rough basis for the halachic concept,

    This same idea applies to mayim shelanu. Obviously we can put the water in the fridge and we can take its temperature but I'm pretty sure that the halacha never requires tools and instruments to determine the course of action.

    The best way to cool down water without resorting to instruments of any kind is to let it sit for a night.

    Although nowadays we measure an amma, tefach, etc. in inches and centimeters, Chazal did not do this.

    The same applies to bishul on Shabbos. Bishul is a process. Even if I put raw food in a kli rishon, it does not become cooked immediately. This is the reason that Chazal determined that there is no bishul in a kli sheni. The water cools down more quickly than in a kli rishon because the vessel is cool. There is simply no time for the raw food (excepting kalei habishul) to become cooked. (See Tosefos in Shabbos 40b, D"H: Ushma Mina.

    2. The Mishna Berurah had an approach that differed with the Chazon Ish. He oftentimes quotes Rishonim that were recently published in his day.

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  43. >"The same applies to bishul on Shabbos. Bishul is a process. Even if I put raw food in a kli rishon, it does not become cooked immediately."

    But one has not transgressed the melacha of bishul immediately--even in a keli rishon.
    The raw food must become either 1/3 or 1/2 cooked. This is called מאכל בן דרוסאי which is clearly a form of measurement contrary to Rabbi Slifkin's presentation of this halacha.

    >" This is the reason that Chazal determined that there is no bishul in a kli sheni. The water cools down more quickly than in a kli rishon because the vessel is cool. There is simply no time for the raw food (excepting kalei habishul) to become cooked. (See Tosefos in Shabbos 40b, D"H: Ushma Mina."

    Also See the Rashba who describes the reason for keli sheini in a very empirical way.
    And see Rav Shlomo Zalman's discussion of this Rashba in שולחן שלמה where he makes experiments that test the Rashba's description.

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  44. This is called מאכל בן דרוסאי which is clearly a form of measurement contrary to Rabbi Slifkin's presentation of this halacha.

    How is it contrary to my presentation? I am not claiming that the halachah does not correlate at all with the reality!

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  45. Rabbi Dr. Leiman's article is actually available online, on his website:
    http://www.leimanlibrary.com/texts_of_publications/32.%20Hazon%20Ish%20on%20Textual%20Criticism%20and%20Halakhah%20A%20Rejoinder.pdf

    As he points out (pg 7), Chazon Ish emended the text of the Tosefta Para. And as he points out (pg 6), the Chazon Ish cites from Otzar HeGeonim, and says that despite the interrupted transmission, he would rely on it because "it appears obvious that this responsum was authored by a Gaon."

    The sense one gets is that he didn't, in the general case, rely on lost manuscripts because he suspected them. But if real (such as a sefer Torah in Moshe Rabbenu's hand), he would not dismiss it.

    The point is that it is a machlokes as to what the Chazon Ish holds. And I believe Rabbi Leiman makes a very compelling argument for his way of understanding it. In which case, we should not encode as authoritative an error, in the face of Moshe Rabbenu's Torah scroll.

    kt,
    josh

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  46. Rabbi Slifkin:

    I just read that teshuvah of Rav Herzog, z"l in Heichal Yitzchak,OC 29 that is found in Hebrewbooks.org. The teshuvah,IIUC,concerns whether using an antibacterial would be assur on Shabbat as far as the melachah of nitilat neshamah. He first mentions that killing lice on Shabbat is mutar as "ein lanu le-inyan halachah elah divrei Chazal" but then he continues that it is also allowable when modern scientific knowledge is applied as bacteria do not reproduce sexually and furthermore that they are not visible and are not part of the animal kingdom to which the issur applies as having been learned from the example of Melechet Ha-Mishkan. What is of interest is that having mentioned the conclusions of Chazal that were based upon the science that was then understood as correct by them, that he then continues using what modern science understood as correct after taking the principals derived from Chazal, apart from the knowledge of their period and he then analyzes the halachah in accordance with such modern scient. I would submit that he first accepts as binding determinations based upon now superceded biological knowledge and then draws out the halachic principals apart from such superceded factual knowledge and then applies those principals to the current scientific position. So as I read this one teshuvah alone, without knowing any of his other teshuvot, he appears to be using a dual approach.

    Comments?

    KT
    Eliyahu

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  47. Of interest, from Rabbi Bechhofer, at
    http://www.aishdas.org/rygb/eilu.htm:

    "It is debatable whether the classic concept of Mara d'Asra still exists. Once, however, local psak determined local reality. HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Michel Gordon zt"l of Lomza related that an indivdual in Volozhin suffered from a certain form of lung disease. The person intended to leave the city and move to a place with better air. The individual's father appeared to him in a dream and told him that his specific form of lung disease was the subject of a machlokes between the Rema and the Sha'agas Aryeh. The Rema held that if this particular form of lung disease occurs in a cow, then the animal is treif, as it is incapable of living for another year. The Sha'agas Aryeh, however, had paskened that an animal with this disease was nonetheless kosher. (The fascinating history of the psak of umma haserucha ladofen im makka badofen is well documented. See, for instance, Makor Baruch chap. 17 section 2.) The father therefore warned his son to remain in Volozhin. His rationale was that in Volozhin, the Sha'agas Aryeh's town, the psak - and therefore the Ratzon Hashem - followed the ruling of the Sha'agas Aryeh. The disease would not threaten this person's life as long as he remained there. Were he, however, to leave Volozhin, he would fall under the ruling of the Rema and would be at mortal risk. (I am indebted to Rabbi Avraham Kivelevitz for finding the source of this ma'aseh in Rabbi Menachem M. Yashar zt"l's essay in the She'eilos U'Teshuvos Sha'agas Aryeh Mahaduras Machon Chasam Sofer note 2.) "

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  48. Phil, I am sure you realize that the fact that someone believed that local psak determined local reality does not mean that local psak determined local reality. There are more than a few problems with such a notion.

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  49. this is an interesting extension of an idea seen elsewhere to the field of local psak. we see it elsewhere (in Chazal) in the idea that Beis Din declaring it a new month will effect physical phenomena based on age, such as whether betulim will regrow for a 3 vs. 3 + 1 day, and in terms of 7 vs. 8 months for an עובר. and we see some develop the idea in terms of rambam "paskening" shedim out of reality.

    but indeed, that some maintain these ideas does not mean that in actual fact, pesak determines reality. including in the extensions.

    and i wonder, if pesak creates reality this extensively, how there is ever a case of nishtaneh hateva. how did Magen Avraham note that fish and meat together don't cause medical problems? shouldn't the pesak have created the reality.

    regardless, it is an interesting idea, and it is nice to have been exposed to it.

    kt,
    josh

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  50. Yes, I realize.
    I recall there's a place in the Talmud that influenced that belief, however; I just can't remember where it is.
    Anyone...?

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  51. חזו"א הוריות ב: אע״ג דקושטא הוא דחייב היחיד לשמוע לב״ד שבלשכת הגזית אפי׳ אומר על ימין שהוא שמאל, פי׳ הרמב״ן בס׳ המצות דהיינו דוקא אחר שדן לפניהם ולא קבלו דבריו אבל קדם שדן לפניהם חייב להחמיר.
    שו"ת מלמד להועיל חלק ג סימן פב:
    שאלה: איתא בספרי פ' שופטים ומובא ברש"י עה"ת: ימין ושמאל אפילו מראים בעיניך על שמאל שהוא ימין ועל ימין שהוא שמאל שמע להם, ע"כ. ובברייתא בירושלמי הוריות פ"א ה"א איתא יכול אם יאמרו לך על ימין שהיא שמאל ועל שמאל שהיא ימין תשמע להם ת"ל ללכת ימין ושמאל שיאמרו לך על ימין שהוא ימין ועל שמאל שהוא שמאל, וקשיין אהדדי.
    תשובה: הנה גם הש"ס בבלי סותר לדרשת הספרי, דאיתא בהוריות דף ב' ע"ב: הורו ב"ד וידע תלמיד שראוי להוראה ועשה על פיהם דמשכחת לה שהוא שוגג כגון דקא טעי במצוה לשמוע דברי חכמים אפילו למיעבד איסורא, ואלו לדעת הספרי אין זה טעות כלל דהא באמת מצוה לשמוע אל דברי ב"ד הגדול אפילו אמרו על ימין שהוא שמאל וכו' דהיינו שהתירו את האיסור. וכבר עמדו על דבר זה ראשונים ואחרונים ודחקו לתרץ. עיין רא"ם בספר יראים סי' ל"ד, מזרחי על רש"י לתורה, באר שבע על מסכת הוריות, מהר"י אלבו בספר עיקרים ג', כ"ג, רמב"ן בהשגותיו על ס' המצות לרמב"ם שורש א' (וזה דלא כמו שכתב בפירושו על התורה בפ' שופטים), ספר החינוך בפ' שופטים, דרשות להר"ן דרשה י"א, חידושי הר"ן לסנהדרין צ"ט ע"א סוף ד"ה ר' יהודה, בעל עקידה שער מ"ג, אברבנאל בפירושו לפ' שופטים, יפה מראה לירושלמי ברכות פ"א הי"ד, ובאריכות בספר שער יוסף למס' הוריות, וע"ג ספר והזהיר חלק א' צד צח ומ"ש שם בענפי יהודה בשם רבו.
    ועיין שו"ת יביע אומר חלק ו סימן ז. ומכל הנ"ל מבואר שאפילו בהוראת בית דין הגדול, אם יודע שטעו חייב להחמיר לכה"פ עד שיטען טענותיו בפניהם, וה"ה בפסקי התלמוד שאפילו לדעת הכסף משנה שאסור לחלוק על האמוראים לאחר חתימת התלמוד, אין לזה כח יותר מבית דין הגדול, ואדרבה, עיין בקונטרס דברי סופרים שביאר דברי הכס"מ שהסכמת כל ישראל הוי כפסק ב"ד הגדול. וא"כ שוב לכאורה אין היתר בהריגת כינה בשבת

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  52. Rabbi Dr. Leiman's article is actually available online


    A total side point:
    Throughout this article, the author refers to R. A. Y. Karelitz as "Hazon Ish" rather than "the Hazon Ish" as is customary, at least in 'haredi' circles. This causes me to wonder which of these two (if any) is more proper or respectful, or if it makes any difference. One would think that a writer would have some reason for departing from common practice.

    In general, it often seems to me at least that these kind of titles serve to confuse the issues, making "the Hazon Ish" somehow an abstract ideal concept rather than the real, though surely great, human being Rabbi Avraham Yishayahu Karelitz. (I think if I were to refer to him that way in my haredi neighborhood, I could get in big trouble.)

    Does anyone else think this is significant?

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  53. >>"How is it contrary to my presentation? I am not claiming that the halachah does not correlate at all with the reality!"

    I quote your words from the post:

    "It is very clear that from a scientific perspective, whether or not a food becomes cooked depends on factors such as the temperature, the duration for which that temperature is maintained, the specific heat capacity of the food, and so on. Yet the halachos of bishul are based on concepts such as kli rishon, kli sheni etc."

    These words in the post to not indicate that the halacha correlates with reality to any degree. They indicate that they are based on concepts of kli rishon and kli sheini.

    I fully accept your clarification, but the impression you give in the post is incomplete and very misleading as was Mr. Tokayer's comment.

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  54. Issac, of course there is SOME degree of correlation. All else being equal, a kli sheni is cooler than a kli rishon. And categories such as kalei habishul were added to make it correlate more. My point is that we nevertheless do not attempt to make it correlate entirely.

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  55. Regarding bishul in a kli sheni take a look at this post of mine כלי שני אינו מבשל why not? , which explains how it works.

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  56. Regarding the Gemara in Horiyos and following mistakes in psak see my post ועשית ככל אשר יורוך for a discussion of the issues.

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  57. Ephraim

    >Throughout this article, the author refers to R. A. Y. Karelitz as "Hazon Ish" rather than "the Hazon Ish" as is customary, at least in 'haredi' circles. This causes me to wonder which of these two (if any) is more proper or respectful, or if it makes any difference. One would think that a writer would have some reason for departing from common practice.

    He has some reason. He's writing in Tradition, and conforming to the general standards of transliteration and referencing in such a publication. I would assure you that in a lecture he would call him "Ch"azon, and most like "the Chazon Ish."

    However, I think your entire premise is mistaken. Each is consistent with its own convention, and it is wrong to think of it as one being more proper or respectful than the other, unless one means to besmirch an entire "camp." approach, or world, more or less.

    >In general, it often seems to me at least that these kind of titles serve to confuse the issues, making "the Hazon Ish" somehow an abstract ideal concept rather than the real, though surely great, human being Rabbi Avraham Yishayahu Karelitz. (I think if I were to refer to him that way in my haredi neighborhood, I could get in big trouble.)

    >Does anyone else think this is significant?

    No, but often in seforim people are not referred to as the names of works at all. Thus, there is no "the Chazon Ish" ("ha-chazon ish") but "the author of Chazon Ish" ("ha-mechaber shel sefer Chazon Ish"). Don't mistake English or Yiddish colloquialism for other kinds of conventions.

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  58. I fully accept your clarification, but the impression you give in the post is incomplete and very misleading as was Mr. Tokayer's comment.

    Isaac,

    In what way was my comment misleading?

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