Friday, July 30, 2010

"They Could Say It, We Cannot"

With everything that I write, there are always people expressing their comments and their beliefs as to how true/unacceptable it is. I was therefore amazed that I didn't get a single piece of feedback on my article in Hakirah “They Could Say It, We Cannot”: Defining the Charge of Heresy. It dealt with an incredibly important and provocative topic that lies at the heart of the Torah-science controversies of the last few years: the very definition of heresy. It's now freely available for download; click here. Since writing the article, I have been working further on the tricky topic of defining heresy; I gave a lecture on this topic recently in LA and I plan to write a full treatment of it. Meanwhile, here's a fascinating quote from Prof. Haym Soloveitchik. He raises the question of why Rambam listed belief in the preeminence of Moshe's prophecy as a fundamental; would anyone really care if someone believed that, say, Yechezkel was his equal? He answers as follows:

...An ikkar does not arise from the fact that its negation is false, but from the fact that its negation undermines the Jewish system of belief. That Moses’ prophecy was of a different order than that of other prophets is an explicit verse in the Torah (Numbers 12:7); [but] it was a specific historic context, its denial by Islam, that turned this verse from a religious dictum into an ikkar. A belief is an ikkar when its content is what differentiates Judaism from the surrounding credal system.
(“Two Notes on the Commentary on the Torah of R. Yehudah he-Hasid,” p. 244)

100 comments:

  1. Why no mention of or link to your other article in the same Hakirah journal?

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  2. Because I fear that it distracted people from this article, which is much, much more important!

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  3. > There is good reason for this. A belief is either true or false; one cannot change this via a halachic ruling.

    There are those who believe that reality changes to reflect halachic rulings. In fact, Rabbi
    Bleich, whom you quote, seems to believe that a halachic consensus decided whether or not Hashem intends / has intended to send moshiach:

    “Before the authoritative formulation of the halachah with regard to this belief, Rav Hillel’s opinion could be entertained. Following the resolution of the conflict in a manner which negates this theory, normative Halakhah demands acceptance of the belief that the redemption will be affected through the agency of a mortal messiah.”

    > Whether one can maintain this rationalist view privately and still consider oneself a bona fide member of charedi society is, I think, open to debate.

    I have to ask, why would a rationalist WANT to be considered part of chareidi society? Do you agree that ignoring reality and advocating a mystical, magical worldview to bolster religious commitment is virtuous?

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  4. The problem with R Felman's article, is that it is apparent that he doesn't believe in what he wrote. It seems to me that he felt forced into apologetics, and therefore he wrote it. hachra'ah? Majority? What is he talking about? He added halachick terminology to a philosophical debate. Decided that it goes by majority, even though that among rishonim the rules of rov are not concrete (the mechaber has no problem paskening like Rif and Rambam against dozens of rishonim). And then decided that the Cahzon Ish is posek acharon. Says who? i bet I can find dozens of common practices, endorsed by legitimate poskim that do not concurr with the Cahzon Ish's psakim (does he have any nails in his succah?).
    Besides, whats this about his understanding of Rav Elyashiv - go ask him if that is what he meant!
    His article just seems forced, and i really believe that he doesn't believe that what he wrote is true.

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  5. They can say it, we can't.

    But we can read it and tell people that they said it!

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  6. No one commented because the article was too diplomatic.

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  7. 1. Eruvin 13b – the Sanhedrin voted on noach l’odom she nivra – clearly a matter of hashkofo. It would be ossur to disagree.

    2. Rambam Hil. Mamrim 1:1 – The Sanhedrin is:
    (a) ikar Torah she baal pe,
    (b) amudei horo-oh and
    (c) mehem chok umishpat yozei l’chol Yisroel.

    Now (b) is judicial – interpreting the Mesora. (c) is legislative. What is (a)? It is plausible to say that this includes hashkofo since that is clearly part of the Torah she baal pe.

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  8. You can see from Haym Soloveitchik's quote why the definition of heresy has become so broad in the Hareidi community. The entire system of belief is based on the absolute authority and near infallibility of 'gedolim'. So naturally anything that undermines belief in the absolute authority and near infallibility of 'gedolim' is now kefira.

    This is the unavoidable core of hareidi ideology. So unlike in the past where there were 'ikkarim' and everything else, today any negation of this ideology is now kefira.

    This is why the ban over R. Slifkin's books evoked wide support in the core Hareidi world, confusion among the hareidi straddlers (those involved in kiruv, BTs who mistakenly thought that they were allowed to think independently) and bewildered head-scratching in the Modern Orthodox world.

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  9. 1. Eruvin 13b – the Sanhedrin voted on noach l’odom she nivra – clearly a matter of hashkofo. It would be ossur to disagree.

    Says who?

    What is (a)? It is plausible to say that this includes hashkofo since that is clearly part of the Torah she baal pe.

    So you think that Rambam is contradicting what he wrote in several other places about how hashkafic matters don't get ruled upon? All based on a very weak diyuk?

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  10. Dear R Slifkin

    “Rambam, who understood that Heavenly reward is a natural
    consequence of intellectual perfection, was forced to take the view that such a person was tragically still a heretic, doomed to receive no
    share in the World to Come.”

    This is what you wrote in the hakira article. I find this extremely disturbing. And I would be grateful if you could clarify this. does this mean that If someone has spent his entire life striving to get close to Hashem trying to grow in his middot and sincerely crying out to Hashem from the depths of his heart but he happens to be mistaken with a principle of faith , his innocent neshuma will simply fade out of existence? Surely Hashem loves this person? Surley Hashem is not like a robot that simply follows rules even if this means abandoning his precious child? Does this not sound Christian, that no matter how sincere and no matter how hard one tries, if you don’t believe something it’s all over? Maybe I am overly sensitive but I find this cold and harsh view extremely hard to accept. It excludes millions of sincere people who have ever lived from olum haba. Does the Rambam really believe this?

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  11. 1. Eruvin 13b...she baal pe.

    Anon is taking his points directly from an online source compilation of R' Gottlieb; these particular sources were provided by R' Meiselman.

    Dr. Kaplan addressed these points in my interview with him at http://seforim.blogspot.com/2009/10/interview-with-professor-lawrence.html .

    Baruch Pelta
    bpelta.blogspot.com

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  12. I believe that if another novi was equal to Moshe Rabbeinu, then that Novi would be able to add or abolish from Toras Moshe. To prevent any such situation, like jesus and mohamed, Rambam was clear that for the Torah to be authentic, there had to be only one and not muchlefes. Therefore, by obvious deduction, there can be no equal to Moshe Rabbeinu.

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  13. I'd like to join in Daniel's question; doesn't Rambam say in Sefer HaMada that the righteous of the gentile nations have a place in the olam haba? Does he actually restrict that category only to those who believe in certain ikkarim, regardless of how they lived their lives?

    This is very hard to swallow, since I grew up in a mixed xtian / Jewish marriage and one of the primary reasons I rejected xtianity was this very issue of saying that a person goes to h-ll regardless of how they lived their lives if they didn't believe in yeshu.

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  14. Look, Rambam had a lot of very strange views, due his being influenced by Greco-Muslim philosophy. I don't think that anyone other than Rambam accepts his position on this (possibly YBT does? I don't know). But the fact that we find it severely objectionable doesn't mean that he couldn't have felt that way!

    (By the way, according to Rambam, there is no such thing as Hell. People who don't get to heaven just don't go anywhere; they cease to exist.)

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  15. I saw you today at the zoo, in front of the lions (one lion, two lionesses, three or four cubs, a joke about a lion’s bracha…). I noticed that in the nice-sized tour group, there wasn’t one person who looked yeshivish or chassidish. All of them looked to be center-to-left MO. These are the people who approve of and appreciate what you have to offer. Yet you often seem to be trying to justify yourself to the chariedi world. I have to wonder, why? (Or am I mistaken, and you really don’t care what chariedi society thinks of your work?)

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  16. That was a tour for a specific shul; hence it was a particular type of person. I had another tour today in which I had ultra-charedim from Monsey! And my tour last week in Baltimore was a completely different crowd. These are the people who want the justifications (so that they themselves can feel secure).

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  17. > That was a tour for a specific shul; hence it was a particular type of person. I had another tour today in which I had ultra-charedim from Monsey!

    Interesting. Never mind then. Justify away.

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  18. Ladies and gentleman, the era when somebody can legislate a thought is long gone, never to return.

    The fact the rationalists can even argue about "kefira" is interesting but irrelevant. What century are we living in, for G-d's sake? Talking about kefira is like talking about slavery or concubines.

    The world will never return to the days of the Rambam or the Inquisition.

    I sort of agree with G3 on this one. Since rationalism relies on logic, reason and evidence, the conclusion cannot be predetermined. Therefore there is no room for discussion of kefira in rationalistic Judaism. Kefira implies dogma, so, RS, if you even accept the concept of kefira you are not a rationalist.

    Since the heredi community is mostly non-rationalistic, any attempt using pilpul to convince them that your ideas are not kefira will fall on deaf ears...In their view "truth" is that which promotes one's goals.

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  19. As a psychologist, I just wanted to share a minor observation about your post. You wrote that "With everything that I write, there are always people expressing their comments and their beliefs as to how true/unacceptable it is." In the presentation of a standard dichotomy, one normally finds two opposites expressed. Now the opposite of "true" is not "unacceptable" - it is "false." Something "unacceptable" can very well be true; but people may not be able to accept that truth - thus making it "unacceptable." It is interesting to note that in the dichotomy that you presented regarding your own positions, you view them as being either true, or unacceptable. Apparently, the idea that your notions could be "false" is unacceptable to you. Just pointing out an interesting psychological phenomenon.

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  20. "Ladies and gentleman, the era when somebody can legislate a thought is long gone, never to return.

    The fact the rationalists can even argue about "kefira" is interesting but irrelevant. What century are we living in, for G-d's sake? Talking about kefira is like talking about slavery or concubines."

    Dr. J--I don't know what perspective your coming from (whether orthodox or not). I don't think we can say that legislation of thought is outside of the pale of orthodoxy. I'm pretty sure there is something wrong with, for example, my engaging in prolonged sexual ruminations about my neighbor's wife. I won't be tried in a court of law for this, but I don't think the Torah adopts a neutral stance on such thoughts either.

    The task of clarifying what obligation, if any, Judaism places on our shoulders with regards to beliefs, and thoughts, is an important topic for debate. Rav Slifkin's experience demonstrated that there are apparently significant swathes of the orthodox Jewish world that would prefer to legislate thought, and pass this practice off as valid under Jewish law.

    It is tempting to merely write the chareidim off as wackos, but the orthodox world has to contend with them, as they are very influential in Jewish educational institutions, tend to have larger families (thus affecting the demographics of belief within orthodoxy), and have, rightly or wrongly, managed to bill their gadolim as the most authentic standard bearers of Judaism. A halachic, in addition to social, response is necessary to deal with these individuals. By increasing Jewish education that offers a compelling alternative to the Chareidi approach, orthodox Jews are given greater empowerment to choose an approach to serving Hashem that both gels with their religious conscience, as well as their common sense.

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  21. it is very far from evident that the Rambam would agree that he “such a person was tragically still a heretic, doomed to receive no share in the World to Come.”
    in hilkhot teshuvah, the rambam clearly says that loss of olam haba is a result of "גודל רשעם וחטאתם"--to achieve great wickedness you must have a level of culpability.
    that the rambam's view is not so simple is further evident from the Guide I:36 where the rambam addresses the issue of mistaken heresy. however, instead of taking the position of his interpreters, that we do not take circumstances into account with regards to heresy, the rambam says that anthropomorphists do not have an excuse for their beliefs because of the prevalence of Targum Onkelos & Yonatan who make sure to explain anthropomorphisms. the rambam's response is thus limited to a specific historical circumstance, one in which the believer bears a level of guilt for his mistaken belief.
    see also Guide III:41:
    על האָנוּס כתוב במפורש שאין הוא נענש ואין לו חטא כלל. הוא יתעלה אמר: ולנערה לא תעשֹה דבר... מכאן אנו למדים שכּל העושׂה או פוסק הלכה על סמך לימודו, אם אינו בית-דין הגדול או כהן גדול, הריהו בבחינת מזיד ואינו נמנה עם השוגגים... בגלל עיקר זה אמרו (החכמים) ז"ל: שגגת תלמוד עולה זדון, כלומר, המתרשל בלימוד ועושׂה על-פי התרשלותו הרי זה כמזיד.
    Thus, the principle of שגגת תלמוד עולה זדון establishes that an error in the realm of the intellect is more severe than an error in the realm of action. even so, however, moral culpability is still required.

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  22. I believe the reason it’s an ikkar is because the prophecy of Moses is the entire basis for Judaism’s belief in the concept of prophecy.

    Jewish traditional belief is that the entire Jewish nation was witness to Moses’ prophecy at Mt Sinai, thereby establishing the concept of future prophecy which was prophesized by Moses in Deuteronomy 18. Therefore, it stands to reason that no future prophet, whose entire authority is derived from the prophecy of Moses, can ever contradict the prophecy of Moses.

    This seems like a simple concept, so why would you think anyone would think it’s not an ikkar?

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  23. "I was therefore amazed that I didn't get a single piece of feedback on my article in Hakirah “They Could Say It, We Cannot”: Defining the Charge of Heresy."

    I don't have particular thoughts about the very definition of heresy. But in terms of the competing interpretations of Rav Elyashiv's remarks, I prefer yours to that of Rabbi Feldman, because of the context of other statements of Rav Elyashiv. Still, I think that a third interpretation of his words are possible, as I discuss here.

    Namely, according to this third explanation, set aside whether it is correct or not, or whether it is kefirah or not. Rather, it is a matter of pious humility, yeridas hadoros, and respect for Chazal.

    kol tuv,
    josh

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  24. Namely, according to this third explanation, set aside whether it is correct or not, or whether it is kefirah or not. Rather, it is a matter of pious humility, yeridas hadoros, and respect for Chazal.

    Then it should be "I" rather than "We cannot say it", and there should be no objection to anyone who does want to rely on those as recent as RYBS or Rav Herzog who did have the "pleitzes" to say it.

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  25. Psychologist, since you are being nit-picky I would like to point out the following:

    Note that in a typical dichotomy you don't necessarily have opposites, what you have are mutually exclusive states. And depending on what kind of logic you are using, there actually may not be a concept of "opposite", instead you have negation. The negation of a given statement is often not what one casually thinks of as its opposite. So the opposite of "all doves are white" is imprecise and could be thought of as "no doves are white" or "all doves are black" but the negation of "all doves are white" is actually "it is not the case that all doves are white" which then entails "some doves are non-white".

    In any case since you are employing imprecise terminology we could easily reconstruct what was written in terms of a pragmatic theory of meaning in which the term "true" means valid/acceptable and "false" means invalid/unacceptable, in which case true and unacceptable do occupy mutually exclusive states.

    Note further that halakhic discourse typically dispenses with the idea of theoretical truth in favor of pragmatic truth and R. Slifkin's opponents are often saying x cannot be true because it is halakhicly unacceptable. So the asymmetry that you detected between true and unacceptable is likely an accurate reflection of the discourse.

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  26. "Then it should be "I" rather than "We cannot say it""

    see my post, where i expand on this. in my reading, he is speaking to what is appropriate for frum Jews nowadays to say, on their own initiative. he is being piously humble and believes that all other Jews should be piously humble in this manner. as i noted in my post, it is possible he is unaware of how normative this position is within frum rationalist circles, and does not think one can innovate this position and point to random greats.

    but indeed.

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  27. "I was therefore amazed that I didn't get a single piece of feedback on my article in Hakirah “They Could Say It, We Cannot”: Defining the Charge of Heresy."

    Possibly there was no feedback because there was no significant chidushim? That is, the differing viewpoints is common knpowledge, and has been so for centuries. One school of thought - the dominant school, represented by charedim - is that we have no right to argue with our predecessors, and that, for all practical intents and purposes, they were infallible. The other school - the minority view, represented by your writings and many others throughout the centuries - holds that we are not beholden to their views, and they did err.

    I think everyone is aware of the basic differences in viewpoints, at least anyone who reads your articles. So it's not surprising you didnt receive much feedback to the article on this topic. Dont worry, undoubtedly you will continue to get feeback, hopefully positive, on more exotic, or less-trodden, topics.

    DF

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  28. Yasher Ko-ach on the articles in Hakirah! As always, you presented all your points in a clear and scholarly way. We, your readers, are lucky to be able to reap from the fruits of your labor.

    I just received the latest Hakirah journal, and the editors pointed out that R. Zucker wrote a comprehensive essay responding to the first of your Hakirah articles, point by point, and that the essay is available at www.corporealismdiscussion.com. Did you see it? Are you planning to respond to what he wrote? I, and I'm sure many others, would be most eager to see you address the points that he raised.

    Thank you for your continued effort to clarify things for your us, your fans and readership.

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  29. Michael,

    Your comment was well written and considered.

    However, I would take issue with your example of "ruminating about your neighbor's wife". Saying that a thought is unhelpful, unhealthy or even sinful is different than calling it heresy. Your example would be no different than my fantasies about firing an RPG at the car in front of me that cut me off on the highway, or my thoughts of revenge upon somebody who cheated me. Yes, thoughts often lead to actions, but part of our job as human beings is to control our impulses and reactions. So ultimately I don't think that a thought or belief can be sinful.

    I am writing from an "orthoprax" perspective.

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  30. Flatbush Fan - see www.zootorah.com/ZuckerClosingStatement.pdf for an explanation of why I won't be posting a response to Zucker's latest. There's absolutely no end to it.

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  31. I'm not surprised that you will not be responding to R. Zucker's well presented, thorough, point-by-point refutation of your article. Your statement on zootorah about the article does not surprise me either. Resorting once again to the issue of bias, you deflect the fact that you have little in the was of substance with which to respond. Just answer one question please, if you can. In R. Zucker's article, he pointed out that you lied about/misrepresented Hame'ili's statement. Can you just respond to that one point? If not, I for one believe that it indicates your general approach - misrepresent sources to suit you, and not admit when you are clearly wrong. Boy...talk about bias!!!

    Mark Schein

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  32. I understand. (Why did you post your response on www.zootorah.com and not here?)

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  33. Mark Schein:

    In the original debate with R. Zucker on this blog, there were people who claimed that I raised the issue of bias because I had nothing of substance to respond. After that, I wrote an extremely lengthy and detailed response to R. Zucker, which (one would think) clearly proved otherwise. But now that he has responded in turn, you are again claiming that I am not responding because I have nothing to say. So obviously even if I did respond, we would be back to square one, because R. Zucker would respond again, and you would once again claim that if I don't respond, it's because I have nothing to say. So there is no point at which you will accept that my reason for not responding is not because I have nothing to say, but rather because it is futile.

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  34. Did he or did he not raise substantive challenges and questions? Is the point that he raised about Hame'ili correct or not? If you don't want to respond because of time, etc., or because you just don't want to - fine, just say so. But to hide behind the bias issue is disingenuous. I read his essay carefully. If I were you, I would respond, with argument and sources, to someone who demonstrated that I either lied about or misunderstood what Hame'ili wrote! It reflects upon the accuracy of your presentations elsewhere.

    Mark Schein

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  35. Mark Schein:

    I checked the various versions of my article and discovered that the material about HaMeili was actually inserted by a scholar who reviewed my article. He was quoting from Halbertal's citation; I do not know if Halbertal quoted HaMeili in full, as due to time constraints I was not able to check either HaMeili or Halbertal in the original, and I relied upon this scholar (whom I greatly admire) who in turn may have been relying on Halbertal. It is possible that he made an error; I would have to check the source in the original, and I would not rely on R. Zucker's translation of it. But of course I have to take responsibility for relying on others. Yet even if R. Zucker turns out to be correct on this very minor point, I certainly do not think that he raised "substantive challenges and questions."

    Now you wrote regarding my addressing this one point, "If not, I for one believe that it indicates your general approach - misrepresent sources to suit you, and not admit when you are clearly wrong." So now that I did address it and I showed that, at worst, it is an error of relying on another scholar, and certainly not "lying" or willfully misrepresenting a source, as you claimed, does this mean that you will acknowledge that I do not have a general approach of misrepresenting sources to suit me, or admitting when I am clearly wrong? Somehow, I doubt it - which is why I see responding at length as being an exercise in futility.

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  36. Clarification: The material about HaMeili was not inserted by this scholar as a final part of the document, but rather it was input into my file as a note with a recommendation to include it. Here is the original note:

    Why not invoke the great Provencali Talmudic scholar . Meir ben Shimon of Narbonne also known as Meir HaM’ili, author of the Sefer HaMeorot on the Talmud, nephew of the author of the HaShla.mah See pps116-133 of Halbertal’s book. I would quote from p. 125 of Halbertal, four lines from the bottom where Meir writes ”kulam chachamim gedolim veanashim Hasidim utovim umelumadim benisim!” who mistakenly believe in corporeality.

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  37. Mark Schein, I have a question for you: Do you agree with R. Zucker that Rishonim such as Ramban did not really consider corporealist Torah scholars to be worthy of respect?

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  38. Rabbi Moshe ben Chaim, another YBT graduate, writes on Mesora.org that no Rishonim actually believed in demons as supernatural entities. It is typical of YBT's approach to see all Rishonim as variations of Rambam, and hardly surprising that a YBT graduate would be the one to most vocally oppose the idea that Rashi was a corporealist.

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  39. "I checked the various versions of my article and discovered that the material about HaMeili was actually inserted by a scholar who reviewed my article. He was quoting from Halbertal's citation; I do not know if Halbertal quoted HaMeili in full, as due to time constraints I was not able to check either HaMeili or Halbertal in the original, and I relied upon this scholar (whom I greatly admire) who in turn may have been relying on Halbertal. It is possible that he made an error."

    Maybe this is the kind of thing Rabbi Zucker meant by his quote that you are so fond of quoting and then decrying -- "with an eye towards factual accuracy."

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  40. Good grief! So now Halbertal might also be no good? Zucker himself admits that he made a minor error regarding R. Avraham ben Azriel. Do you think that you will find anyone who never makes mistakes? Or are you claiming that Zucker's extensive praises about his own methodology are normal?

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  41. "Good grief! So now Halbertal might also be no good? Zucker himself admits that he made a minor error regarding R. Avraham ben Azriel. Do you think that you will find anyone who never makes mistakes? Or are you claiming that Zucker's extensive praises about his own methodology are normal?"

    I made no comment regarding whether I view Rabbi Zucker's statement as "normal." In any case, I do not need to view it as "normal" in order to critique your continued response to it. Your asking me such a thing only serves to distract from the issue that I did raise.

    And no, I do not think that I will find someone who never makes mistakes. Rabbi Zucker's mistake, that you refer to, though, did not detract from the essential point that he was trying to make in that context. It was actually minor. Your mistake knocks out your entire ra'ayah.

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  42. What was the issue that you raised? I guess your point was lost on me.

    IF the Halbertal source is incorrect, all it knocks out is the evidence that HaMeili considered that the rabbinic elite of France were corporealists. It does not knock out the evidence from the other Rishonim who believed that, nor the evidence that Rashi was a corporealist.

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  43. "Do you agree with R. Zucker that Rishonim such as Ramban did not really consider corporealist Torah scholars to be worthy of respect?"

    I do not know what you mean by the phrase "worthy of respect." Ramban openly states, as R. Zucker pointed out, that people who believe in corporealism are chasing after "hevel" and will suffer the fires of hell. Now, when you say "worthy of respect" do you mean as great talmidei chachamim? As Jews? As human beings? Your question does not have meaning until you define the terms.

    "It is typical of YBT's approach to see all Rishonim as variations of Rambam, and hardly surprising that a YBT graduate would be the one to most vocally oppose the idea that Rashi was a corporealist."

    Instead of the ad hominem attacks, how about just responding to the 10-20 challenges and proofs that R. Zucker presented? That's a much more becoming way to argue your point!

    "Zucker himself admits that he made a minor error regarding R. Avraham ben Azriel. Do you think that you will find anyone who never makes mistakes?"

    I don't understand how you can compare the two mistakes. R. Zucker admitted that he copied a name from the wrong column of his notes. Instead of writing one name he wrote another. You claimed that Hame'ili testifies as to the corporealism of the rabbinic elite, whereas he openly states that he is speaking only about the masses, not the rabbinic elite. How can you compare these two mistakes?

    Mark Schein

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  44. "when you say "worthy of respect" do you mean as great talmidei chachamim?

    Yes. What do you say?

    I don't understand how you can compare the two mistakes.

    They are indeed different in some ways, but they are similar in that they are innocent errors rather than "lies" or "misrepresenting sources to suit me," which is what you alleged I committed. I haven't noticed your replying to my earlier point about this. Let me repeat it:

    Now you wrote regarding my addressing this one point, "If not, I for one believe that it indicates your general approach - misrepresent sources to suit you, and not admit when you are clearly wrong." So now that I did address it and I showed that, at worst, it is an error of relying on another scholar, and certainly not "lying" or willfully misrepresenting a source, as you claimed, does this mean that you will acknowledge that I do not have a general approach of misrepresenting sources to suit me, or admitting when I am clearly wrong? Somehow, I doubt it - which is why I see responding at length as being an exercise in futility.

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  45. "What was the issue that you raised? I guess your point was lost on me."

    Sorry. The issue that I raised was that perhaps this Hameili case was a good example of what R. Zucker meant by his note about factual accuracy as a method for sound argument. You noted that he has made factual errors too. I then noted that his errors did not substantively reduce the sound argument that he was trying to make in that particular context, while yours did. The cases, insofar as my point is concerned, are entirely different.

    "IF the Halbertal source is incorrect, all it knocks out is the evidence that HaMeili considered that the rabbinic elite of France were corporealists. It does not knock out the evidence from the other Rishonim who believed that, nor the evidence that Rashi was a corporealist."

    Please read what I wrote again: "Your mistake knocks out your entire ra'ayah." I did not write "knocks out your entire line of thinking" or "knocks out your entire argument." As I said, though, it does knock out your ra'ayah. As I wrote in the paragraph directly above, this is a significant point when considering R. Zucker's statement about an eye towards factual accuracy.

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  46. And, to clarify: What I did was to accurately quote verbatim HaMeili's statement about "Chachamim Gedolim." I did not see the other part of the quote which MAY indicate that this does not present evidence regarding the rabbinic elite.

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  47. Eric: Well, to be frank, it's still a silly thing for him to write. And as it happens, my facts here were correct; HaMeili does say what Halbertal (and I) quoted him as saying. It's the context (which I did not see) that MAY give it a different meaning. And obviously I also feel that he is also completely misrepresenting his sources and not understanding the context. But in scholarly disputes, it is not normal to go on and on about one's analysis being a model of logic and factual accuracy. In fact, rather than calling it "silly," I would call it "revealing."

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  48. "And as it happens, my facts here were correct; HaMeili does say what Halbertal (and I) quoted him as saying. It's the context (which I did not see) that MAY give it a different meaning."

    In this case, no, your facts were not correct. The facts in question here were not the words that left the pen of R. Meir ben Shimon of Narbonne -- that question is not material. The facts were the meaning conveyed by those words, regarding the state of the French elite rabbis in terms of their stance on incorporeality/corporeality. In that arena, your facts were not correct. My original point stands.

    "And obviously I also feel that he is also completely misrepresenting his sources and not understanding the context. But in scholarly disputes, it is not normal to go on and on about one's analysis being a model of logic and factual accuracy. In fact, rather than calling it 'silly,' I would call it 'revealing.'"

    When I initially read your response to R. Zucker from the last issue of Hakira, I thought that your points sounded very good. When I got a chance to read the reply that he recently posted online, I found that he had excellent retorts to your positions. I would have loved to have heard your answers to those points.

    Instead you seem to have this intense fascination with R. Zucker's yeshiva, his personality as displayed in his "revealing" addendum, etc. Not only does this seems to me to be unfortunate, it also strikes me as...revealing.

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  49. When I initially read your response to R. Zucker from the last issue of Hakira, I thought that your points sounded very good. When I got a chance to read the reply that he recently posted online, I found that he had excellent retorts to your positions. I would have loved to have heard your answers to those points.

    So let's say I were to write a response, and you would presumably think that I made good points. Then Zucker would write his response, and we would be back to square one. Don't you see that it's endless?

    you seem to have this intense fascination with R. Zucker's yeshiva, his personality as displayed in his "revealing" addendum, etc.

    Absolutely. It's one of the strangest phenomena I have come across lately. Are you familiar with the yeshivah? And R. Zucker's statements and writings have been unlike anything I've ever seen. Claiming that he can "categorically deny any bias" that influences his evaluation of a topic that is intensely religiously meaningful to him!

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  50. A similar situation: Take the new crusade against evolution by Yoram Bogacz. Does anyone think that there is a point in engaging in a "scientific" debate with him? It's obviously not a scientific issue at all, but rather a theological one.

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  51. Flatbush Fan said...

    I understand. (Why did you post your response on www.zootorah.com and not here?)


    I can only host files at zootorah.com. The only way to make a link to the file at rationalistjudaism.com is to make a post about it. And I didn't want to bring it up at all, because I knew that it would attract fundamentalists (this is not exactly the right term, but I can't think of a better one right now). (Note: I do not believe that someone who does not believe Rashi to be a corporealist is NECESSARILY a fundamentalist. It's just that the overwhelming majority of them are.)

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  52. "Do you agree with R. Zucker that Rishonim such as Ramban did not really consider corporealist Torah scholars to be worthy of respect (as talmidei chachamim)?"

    The Ramban openly stated that these unnamed and unnumbered rabbis were chasing after "hevel" and would suffer the fires of hell if they persist in their corporealism. He also said that incorporealism is the backbone of Judaism. So I would say that the Ramban did not have respect for his addressees as talmidei chachamim. He did, however, clearly have respect for them as fellow Jews and as fellow human beings. I agree with the Ramban.

    "Now you wrote regarding my addressing this one point, "If not, I for one believe that it indicates your general approach - misrepresent sources to suit you, and not admit when you are clearly wrong." So now that I did address it and I showed that, at worst, it is an error of relying on another scholar, and certainly not "lying" or willfully misrepresenting a source, as you claimed, does this mean that you will acknowledge that I do not have a general approach of misrepresenting sources to suit me, or admitting when I am clearly wrong?"

    I'll let you know when you, in fact, "admit that you were clearly wrong" which you have not done. R. Zucker pointed out a clear, unequivocal misrepresentation on your part. Your response was to say along the lines of, "well, I know I wrote it, but it wasn't really me - I was relying on someone else. And Hame'ili really did write what I said he did, I just didn't include all of the context." When you take clear and unqualified responsibility for your error, I will unequivocally take back what I said. Somehow, I suspect that it may be a while before that happens. The fact that when you are shown a clear and blatant error, you resort to shifting the blame and to saying that you quoted the source accurately, just without complete context is very revealing, and serves only to prove that my original claim about you was correct.

    "obviously I also feel that (R. Zucker) is also completely misrepresenting his sources and not understanding the context."

    You have not demonstrated one example of this from R. Zucker's essay. All you did was to claim that he misrepresented sources and didn't understand context without backing up your claim a whit. In R. Zucker's essay, he cited more than ten specific examples from your article where you misrepresented and took things out of context. Why is he able to cite specifics regarding your misrepresentations but you are unable (or unwilling) to cite specifics regarding his misrepresentations?

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  53. "Do you agree with R. Zucker that Rishonim such as Ramban did not really consider corporealist Torah scholars to be worthy of respect (as talmidei chachamim)?"

    The Ramban openly stated that these unnamed and unnumbered rabbis were chasing after "hevel" and would suffer the fires of hell if they persist in their corporealism. He also said that incorporealism is the backbone of Judaism. So I would say that the Ramban did not have respect for his addressees as talmidei chachamim. He did, however, clearly have respect for them as fellow Jews and as fellow human beings. I agree with the Ramban.

    "Now you wrote regarding my addressing this one point, "If not, I for one believe that it indicates your general approach - misrepresent sources to suit you, and not admit when you are clearly wrong." So now that I did address it and I showed that, at worst, it is an error of relying on another scholar, and certainly not "lying" or willfully misrepresenting a source, as you claimed, does this mean that you will acknowledge that I do not have a general approach of misrepresenting sources to suit me, or admitting when I am clearly wrong?"

    I'll let you know when you, in fact, "admit that you were clearly wrong" which you have not done. R. Zucker pointed out a clear, unequivocal misrepresentation on your part. Your response was to say along the lines of, "well, I know I wrote it, but it wasn't really me - I was relying on someone else. And Hame'ili really did write what I said he did, I just didn't include all of the context." When you take clear and unqualified responsibility for your error, I will unequivocally take back what I said. Somehow, I suspect that it may be a while before that happens. The fact that when you are shown a clear and blatant error, you resort to shifting the blame and to saying that you quoted the source accurately, just without complete context is very revealing, and serves only to prove that my original claim about you was correct.

    "obviously I also feel that (R. Zucker) is also completely misrepresenting his sources and not understanding the context."

    You have not demonstrated one example of this from R. Zucker's essay. All you did was to claim that he misrepresented sources and didn't understand context without backing up your claim a whit. In R. Zucker's essay, he cited more than ten specific examples from your article where you misrepresented and took things out of context. Why is he able to cite specifics regarding your misrepresentations but you are unable (or unwilling) to cite specifics regarding his misrepresentations?

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  54. "Do you agree with R. Zucker that Rishonim such as Ramban did not really consider corporealist Torah scholars to be worthy of respect (as talmidei chachamim)?"

    The Ramban openly stated that these unnamed and unnumbered rabbis were chasing after "hevel" and would suffer the fires of hell if they persist in their corporealism. He also said that incorporealism is the backbone of Judaism. So I would say that the Ramban did not have respect for his addressees as talmidei chachamim. He did, however, clearly have respect for them as fellow Jews and as fellow human beings. I agree with the Ramban.

    "Now you wrote regarding my addressing this one point, "If not, I for one believe that it indicates your general approach - misrepresent sources to suit you, and not admit when you are clearly wrong." So now that I did address it and I showed that, at worst, it is an error of relying on another scholar, and certainly not "lying" or willfully misrepresenting a source, as you claimed, does this mean that you will acknowledge that I do not have a general approach of misrepresenting sources to suit me, or admitting when I am clearly wrong?"

    I'll let you know when you, in fact, "admit that you were clearly wrong" which you have not done. R. Zucker pointed out a clear, unequivocal misrepresentation on your part. Your response was to say along the lines of, "well, I know I wrote it, but it wasn't really me - I was relying on someone else. And Hame'ili really did write what I said he did, I just didn't include all of the context." When you take clear and unqualified responsibility for your error, I will unequivocally take back what I said. Somehow, I suspect that it may be a while before that happens. The fact that when you are shown a clear and blatant error, you resort to shifting the blame and to saying that you quoted the source accurately, just without complete context is very revealing, and serves only to prove that my original claim about you was correct.

    "obviously I also feel that (R. Zucker) is also completely misrepresenting his sources and not understanding the context."

    You have not demonstrated one example of this from R. Zucker's essay. All you did was to claim that he misrepresented sources and didn't understand context without backing up your claim a whit. In R. Zucker's essay, he cited more than ten specific examples from your article where you misrepresented and took things out of context. Why is he able to cite specifics regarding your misrepresentations but you are unable (or unwilling) to cite specifics regarding his misrepresentations?

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  55. "Do you agree with R. Zucker that Rishonim such as Ramban did not really consider corporealist Torah scholars to be worthy of respect (as talmidei chachamim)?"

    The Ramban openly stated that these unnamed and unnumbered rabbis were chasing after "hevel" and would suffer the fires of hell if they persist in their corporealism. He also said that incorporealism is the backbone of Judaism. So I would say that the Ramban did not have respect for his addressees as talmidei chachamim. He did, however, clearly have respect for them as fellow Jews and as fellow human beings. I agree with the Ramban.

    "Now you wrote regarding my addressing this one point, "If not, I for one believe that it indicates your general approach - misrepresent sources to suit you, and not admit when you are clearly wrong." So now that I did address it and I showed that, at worst, it is an error of relying on another scholar, and certainly not "lying" or willfully misrepresenting a source, as you claimed, does this mean that you will acknowledge that I do not have a general approach of misrepresenting sources to suit me, or admitting when I am clearly wrong?"

    I'll let you know when you, in fact, "admit that you were clearly wrong" which you have not done. R. Zucker pointed out a clear, unequivocal misrepresentation on your part. Your response was to say along the lines of, "well, I know I wrote it, but it wasn't really me - I was relying on someone else. And Hame'ili really did write what I said he did, I just didn't include all of the context." When you take clear and unqualified responsibility for your error, I will unequivocally take back what I said. Somehow, I suspect that it may be a while before that happens. The fact that when you are shown a clear and blatant error, you resort to shifting the blame and to saying that you quoted the source accurately, just without complete context is very revealing, and serves only to prove that my original claim about you was correct.

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  56. "obviously I also feel that (R. Zucker) is also completely misrepresenting his sources and not understanding the context."

    You have not demonstrated one example of this from R. Zucker's essay. All you did was to claim that he misrepresented sources and didn't understand context without backing up your claim a whit. In R. Zucker's essay, he cited more than ten specific examples from your article where you misrepresented and took things out of context. Why is he able to cite specifics regarding your misrepresentations but you are unable (or unwilling) to cite specifics regarding his misrepresentations?

    "it is not normal to go on and on about one's analysis being a model of logic and factual accuracy."

    I counted the sentences where R. Zucker stressed the need for this accuracy. They total 3 sentences in close to 70 pages of text. Is this "going on and on"? Nowhere, by the way, did he claim that his work is a "model of logic..." He merely called for adherence to certain standards, apparently feeling that you have failed to meet those standards. (But this is only an assumption on my part - I do not wish to put words into R. Zucker's mouth). At any event, this seems to really rankle you a lot. Why?

    "So let's say I were to write a response, and you would presumably think that I made good points. Then Zucker would write his response, and we would be back to square one. Don't you see that it's endless?"

    Maybe. And if you want to quit because you don't have the time or inclination to go on, then just say so. But there would have been a lot of new points and refinements raised, as there were with your article and his essay. Don't people benefit from this?

    "R. Zucker's statements and writings have been unlike anything I've ever seen. Claiming that he can "categorically deny any bias" that influences his evaluation of a topic that is intensely religiously meaningful to him!"

    You know what, let's assume R. Zucker to be a delusional biased madman (sorry, Rabbi - it's just for the sake of making a point!). Now how about ignoring him and responding to the substance of his challenges and proofs - they are many, and they are powerful, no matter what the motive behind them! Your theory, as it stands now, seems to have no real basis behind it.

    Mark Schein

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  57. "obviously I also feel that (R. Zucker) is also completely misrepresenting his sources and not understanding the context."

    You have not demonstrated one example of this from R. Zucker's essay. All you did was to claim that he misrepresented sources and didn't understand context without backing up your claim a whit. In R. Zucker's essay, he cited more than ten specific examples from your article where you misrepresented and took things out of context. Why is he able to cite specifics regarding your misrepresentations but you are unable (or unwilling) to cite specifics regarding his misrepresentations?

    "it is not normal to go on and on about one's analysis being a model of logic and factual accuracy."

    I counted the sentences where R. Zucker stressed the need for this accuracy. They total 3 sentences in close to 70 pages of text. Is this "going on and on"? Nowhere, by the way, did he claim that his work is a "model of logic..." He merely called for adherence to certain standards, apparently feeling that you have failed to meet those standards. (But this is only an assumption on my part - I do not wish to put words into R. Zucker's mouth). At any event, this seems to really rankle you a lot. Why?

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  58. "So let's say I were to write a response, and you would presumably think that I made good points. Then Zucker would write his response, and we would be back to square one. Don't you see that it's endless?"

    Maybe. And if you want to quit because you don't have the time or inclination to go on, then just say so. But there would have been a lot of new points and refinements raised, as there were with your article and his essay. Don't people benefit from this?

    "R. Zucker's statements and writings have been unlike anything I've ever seen. Claiming that he can "categorically deny any bias" that influences his evaluation of a topic that is intensely religiously meaningful to him!"

    You know what, let's assume R. Zucker to be a delusional biased madman (sorry, Rabbi - it's just for the sake of making a point!). Now how about ignoring him and responding to the substance of his challenges and proofs - they are many, and they are powerful, no matter what the motive behind them! Your theory, as it stands now, seems to have no real basis behind it.

    Mark Schein

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  59. "Do you agree with R. Zucker that Rishonim such as Ramban did not really consider corporealist Torah scholars to be worthy of respect (as talmidei chachamim)?"

    ...I agree with the Ramban.


    So obviously, for you, it's not just that Rashi wasn't a corporealist; he couldn't possibly have been a corporealist. After all, we all respect Rashi as a talmid chacham! So there's no point arguing it with you, either.

    When you take clear and unqualified responsibility for your error, I will unequivocally take back what I said.

    I took full responsibility for relying on someone without checking their source and I acknowledge that it may turn out (I am not relying on Zucker's citation either) that the source does not say what I thought it said. This is accurate and responsible. You, on the other hand, accused me of lying or deliberately misrepresenting it to boost my case. I have shown this to be false (unless you believe me to be fabricating the story of how that paragraph came about) and yet you are not willing to retract your charge. How disappointing.

    Or are you claiming that I never admit that I am plain wrong? You obviously aren't familiar with my writings, if that is the case.

    "obviously I also feel that (R. Zucker) is also completely misrepresenting his sources and not understanding the context."

    You have not demonstrated one example of this from R. Zucker's essay. All you did was to claim that he misrepresented sources and didn't understand context without backing up your claim a whit. In R. Zucker's essay, he cited more than ten specific examples from your article where you misrepresented and took things out of context. Why is he able to cite specifics regarding your misrepresentations but you are unable (or unwilling) to cite specifics regarding his misrepresentations?


    I cited dozens of specific examples from his first rejoinder concerning his misrepresentations. Now you want me to do it all over again. What on earth for? I did it once, and it didn't accomplish anything for you, and there's no reason to believe that it ever world. You're not going to suddenly decide that Rashi is not worthy of respect as Talmid Chacham!

    I counted the sentences where R. Zucker stressed the need for this accuracy. They total 3 sentences in close to 70 pages of text. Is this "going on and on"?

    He mentioned it in the introduction to his first piece, and he had an entire section at the end of his first piece, about how it presents a model for logical methodology! And even though I called him out on the weirdness of this, he reiterated it in his second response - now for the third time! Yes, that is going on and on and on.

    Nowhere, by the way, did he claim that his work is a "model of logic..."

    Nowhere, by the way, did he claim that his work is a "model of logic..."

    Sure he did! That was the epilogue to his first piece.

    He merely called for adherence to certain standards, apparently feeling that you have failed to meet those standards.

    That's a strange way of reading what he wrote.

    At any event, this seems to really rankle you a lot. Why?

    Because it's so absurd! Here is a topic that is religiously charged for anyone, and a thousand times more so for a graduate of YBT - it undermines their entire weltanscheung. Zucker not only claims that will solely be using logic to address it (when logic is not even applicable) and categorically denies having any bias! It's like a comedy. Imagine one of the Lakewood Gedolim saying that the are going to evaluate evolution purely by logic, and insisting that they have no religious bias!

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  60. "So let's say I were to write a response, and you would presumably think that I made good points. Then Zucker would write his response, and we would be back to square one. Don't you see that it's endless?"

    Maybe.


    Only "maybe"? What's the scenario by which it isn't endless?

    And if you want to quit because you don't have the time or inclination to go on, then just say so.

    I did. And I also stressed that there is a meta-issue which needs to be understood here, just like how when arguing evolution with creationists it has to be understood that it's not really a scientific discussion; there are underlying theological issues which determine matters.

    But there would have been a lot of new points and refinements raised, as there were with your article and his essay. Don't people benefit from this?

    These things get ever more intricate and protracted. After a long article, a long response, and a long rejoinder, I think it's enough for people to work with. At this point, any further discussion is more likely to waste time than to truly shed light for anyone.


    You know what, let's assume R. Zucker to be a delusional biased madman (sorry, Rabbi - it's just for the sake of making a point!).


    I didn't use those words. What he is is a person who sees Rambam as fundamentally defining and representing Judaiam for all time, and is therefore never going to admit that another great Rishon was the antithesis of him. Not to mention the fact that, on principle, he considers himself to be perfectly logical and no susceptible to any bias!

    Now how about ignoring him and responding to the substance of his challenges and proofs - they are many, and they are powerful, no matter what the motive behind them!

    Again, I think that they almost totally lack substance. And for whose benefit would I be responding? You believe that corporealists are not worthy of respect as Torah scholars, so you will never be convinced that Rashi was a corporealist. So what's the point? To prove that I have what to say? I already did that once, and it didn't convince my opponents; Zucker will respond at every point and you'll triumphantly declare that I have nothing to say.

    Your theory, as it stands now, seems to have no real basis behind it.

    Of course it seems that way to you! And to you, it never will. After all, how could the great Rashi not be revered as a Torah scholar? There's always a way to contrive a source to read that you want it to say.

    On the other hand, to a large number of sincere Torah scholars and academics in the field of medieval Jewish theology, my article has tremendous merit. I made my case well and defended it an length against a dedicated, lengthy attack. I am not going to continue with just wasting my time on people who are fundamentally religiously opposed to the very notion, when it is clear that there will be no end to this process. And that applies to you, too. Goodnight!

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  61. All of the points that you made in your last comment can be summed up in one sentence: he is biased and so I will not deal with the substantive issues he raised. Pardon me, but this is rather pathetic. If his issues are wrong, show that they are wrong. If they are correct, then admit that you are wrong. Or just say that you don't have the time and/or inclination to go with the discussion. I must say that your harping (once again) on the issue of bias has the remarkable appearance of your not being able to respond with substance, so you need to resort to ad hominem. As I suggested earlier, - assume that he is completely biased, ignore him, and address the substance of his points. But you cannot seem to do that. I wonder why?

    By the way -

    "...I agree with the Ramban.

    So obviously, for you, it's not just that Rashi wasn't a corporealist; he couldn't possibly have been a corporealist. After all, we all respect Rashi as a talmid chacham! So there's no point arguing it with you, either."

    So if the Ramban would log on to this website and wish to have a discussion about Rashi's corporealism you would tell him as well that you can't discuss it with him since he is biased.

    Amazing!

    Mark Schein

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  62. Your summing-up is subtly but fundamentally inaccurate.

    "he has revealed himself to be very, very fundamentally biased and so I will not continue to deal at length with the issues he raised that I don't see as substantive; when my first long response doesn't convince certain people with a powerful bias, obviously no further responses will either.

    You misrepresentation of my position was rather dishonest and pathetic.

    The rest of your comment just repeat exactly what you said earlier. You obviously fail to understand the point. This is a discussion that never ends. Recognizing that futility, I am pulling out. And in pulling out, I am explaining why R. Zucker is (a) astonishingly biased, and (b) astonishingly unwilling to admit to that obvious truth. If the Rabbinic Elite in France were corporealists, that would completely undermine YBT's entire hashkafic worldview! Being biased does not mean that a person is wrong. But it does mean (in some cases) that he will never, ever concede, and thus that the argument is futile. The reason for this should be spelled out, just as it is important to spell it out with the evolution discussions.

    END OF DISCUSSION (unless someone actually has something useful to offer).

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  63. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I think you made a tactical error here. Had you not engaged in this lengthy discussion, it is likely that not too many people would care, and would not have read R. Zucker's newly posted essay. As it is now, with the "excitement" of charges of bias, controversy, etc., it is likely that more people will go out of their way to read it.

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  64. I noticed that Rabbi Zucker posted a revised version of his essay, with an added footnote on the Me'ili issue, and an added footnote at the end about your "Closing Statement." I must say, you don't come out of this looking too good...

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  65. Sorry that you feel that way. I, and others, think otherwise.

    I noticed that R. Zucker referred to my comments as an "ad hominem" attack. Actually they were an explanation as to why further debate is a waste of time, and why he will never be able to accept that Rashi was a corporealist, no matter how powerful the arguments. And I notice that he does not respond to the substance of what I wrote! Ironic, no?

    This is an exact repeat of my debates with anti-evolutionists. They wanted to endlessly debate the science, and I wanted to discuss why such a debate was futile and misleading. They felt that I was avoiding discussing the substance, and I felt that it was actually they who were avoiding the real issues.

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  66. "And I notice that he does not respond to the substance of what I wrote! Ironic, no?"

    What is the "substance" of what you wrote? That you refuse to discuss the issue further with him because he is biased? The first issue on the table was that of Rashi - he kept to the issue. You attempted to create a diversion by talking about bias, and then you say that he isn't responding to you? *That's* kind of ironic.

    I notice that you keep bringing up the issue of debates with creationists. Bias, in my opinion, should be a factor in closing a discussion, when the bias is injected into the argument itself. I'll explain: Rabbi Zucker never resorted to saying "but how can you possibly say Rashi was a corporealist? He was such a great scholar!" That would be bias within the argument. But he discussed based upon sources and reasoned argument. If you dispute the sources or the reasoning - fine, show why they are wrong, misinterpreted, etc. You seem unwilling to do that. Now, if you claim that you already did it, I would counter by saying that Rabbi Zucker refuted your earlier arguments and brought some new sources. If you think his refutations are wrong, show why.

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  67. "he will never be able to accept that Rashi was a corporealist, no matter how powerful the arguments."

    But what if the arguments are, in reality, not all that powerful? A thorough examination and discussion serves to clarify whether, indeed, the arguments are or are not powerful. Not for him only - for all the readers. Why avoid this?

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  68. In your paper, you made a big deal of the distinction between logic and reason. The top four definitions of "logic" as presented by dictionary.com are as follows:

    1. the science that investigates the principles governing correct or reliable inference.
    2. a particular method of reasoning or argumentation: We were unable to follow his logic.
    3. the system or principles of reasoning applicable to any branch of knowledge or study.
    4. reason or sound judgment, as in utterances or actions: There wasn't much logic in her move.

    Three of the four definitions resort to use of the word "reason." What are you talking about???

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  69. What is the "substance" of what you wrote? That you refuse to discuss the issue further with him because he is biased?

    That there is no way he could ever concede that Rashi was a corporealist, since there is a more fundamental issue at stake for him.

    You attempted to create a diversion by talking about bias, and then you say that he isn't responding to you?

    You call it a diversion. Just like the creationists did. I call it the underlying issue.

    I'll explain: Rabbi Zucker never resorted to saying "but how can you possibly say Rashi was a corporealist? He was such a great scholar!" That would be bias within the argument. But he discussed based upon sources and reasoned argument.

    And do you think that the creationists say that evolution is false because it is theologically unacceptable?! They say that it is scientifically false. And they really believe that their scientific objections are based on a scientific evaluation!

    Take a look at ybt.org. To concede that a scholar as prominent and mainstream as Rashi was a corporealist would undermine their entire approach to Judaism.

    If you dispute the sources or the reasoning - fine, show why they are wrong, misinterpreted, etc. You seem unwilling to do that.

    I already did it.

    Now, if you claim that you already did it, I would counter by saying that Rabbi Zucker refuted your earlier arguments and brought some new sources. If you think his refutations are wrong, show why.

    And if I do, Rabbi Zucker will again issue a response. And we will be back to square one. Tell me, what do you see ideally and realistically as the end point? Ten back-and-forths? A hundred? A thousand? And why would that number be okay?

    Why do you think that Hakirah didn't print his rejoinder?

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  70. But what if the arguments are, in reality, not all that powerful? A thorough examination and discussion serves to clarify whether, indeed, the arguments are or are not powerful. Not for him only - for all the readers. Why avoid this?

    I did it once already. Now you want me to do it again. And then he'll respond, and you'll want me to do it again. How many times? And on what basis do you pick that number?

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  71. In your paper, you made a big deal of the distinction between logic and reason.

    There's a reason why he used the word "logic" instead of "reason." It has to do with the idea of logical proofs in philosophy. And it relates to his stance that there is no issue of bias here.

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  72. "That there is no way he could ever concede that Rashi was a corporealist, since there is a more fundamental issue at stake for him."

    But what if the reason he won't concede that Rashi was a corporealist is because...Rashi was, indeed, not a corporealist?

    You speak as if the only possible reason for his adamant rejection of your thesis is bias. Maybe it's simply because you're wrong.

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  73. Of course it's theoretically possible that I am wrong. And it is possible for someone to disagree with me because they have figured that out. But that is not why R. Zucker is disagreeing with me! For him, it was a foregone conclusion that I had to be wrong, even before evaluating the arguments. His entire worldview of Judaism is at stake (much more so than for the average Charedi person).

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  74. You should see the correspondence with Judah Landa in the latest Hakirah. It sheds further light on the impossibility of discussing this topic with some people.

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  75. "Of course it's theoretically possible that I am wrong. And it is possible for someone to disagree with me because they have figured that out. But that is not why R. Zucker is disagreeing with me!"

    Do you realize how ridiculous this makes you sound? You come off as someone who thinks he can read people's minds. How do you know why someone else does anything?! And furthermore, even if you are correct (which there is NO way of really knowing) - so what? If Albert Einstein was motivated to come up with the theory of relativity just to make himself famous (again, just a hypothetical analogy), does that make the theory less true? Stick to the substance of the argument, and stop harping on your mind-reading skills.

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  76. I'm not reading his mind, I'm reading his words! It was even more clear in his latest piece, where he insisted that the Rishonim couldn't really have respected corporealists!

    And are you familiar with YBT?

    Your analogy to Einstein is misplaced. He presented a theory, he brought evidence, and it was accepted. It's not a matter of convincing people to engage him in endless debate. My analogy to creationists is much more accurate. Maybe they are correct, just like Einstein? So maybe I should debate them ad infinitum?

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  77. Tom, you don't need to take my word for any of this. If you don't want to draw the obvious conclusion from R. Zucker's articles about his underlying religious worldview, then ask around about YBT, and read the articles on their website. They see philosophical knowledge - of Rambam's type - as necessarily being, and always having been, the basis of Judaism.

    Sure, theoretically speaking, he could be right. But he could be wrong. And debating him would never, ever lead to him conceding the latter. So how long should such a debate go on?

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  78. And please explain to me why it is any different to debating a creationist about evolution.

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  79. "For him, it was a foregone conclusion that I had to be wrong, even before evaluating the arguments...I'm not reading his mind, I'm reading his words!"

    This encapsulates so well the reason that so many people have a problem with your "theories." Where, exactly, in R. Zucker's words did he say that it was a foregone conclusion for him that you had to be wrong? Your INTERPRETATION of R. Zucker's words lead you to your own conclusion - but you present it as if he himself said it, not as if it's your interpretation. You present your opinion as if it is fact. By the way, I assume that you would say the same thing to the Ramban - "It's pointless to talk to you, Ramban, about my Rashi article, since you hold that corporealists will burn in hell, and you admire Rashi, so you must be blind to the truth of my article about Rashi." I guess R. Zucker is in good company.

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  80. Obviously he doesn't say it explicitly, just like creationists don't say it explicitly. I am presenting it as a clear inference from his words and from the approach of his alma mater (just as he claims that there is a clear inference from Rashi's words that he was not a corporealist). You might as well say, "Rabbi Zucker is not a mind-reader, how can he possibly claim that Rashi is not a corporealist! How can he present his opinion as fact?!"

    I notice that you have consistently avoided answering my question about how many back-and-forths between R. Zucker and myself would satisfy you. Likewise, you have consistently avoided addressing my analogy to the futility and sham of debating science with creationists.

    Finally, your reference to "so many people having a problem with my "theories" " suggests that you are another of my many fundamentalist opponents. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: This website is not intended for people such as yourself, please stay away!

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  81. It looks like my whole line of posting/questioning from yesterday has taken off on its own direction, which I guess is fine, sometimes these things happen on blogs. I just wanted to point out that Tom never said that he was one of your "fundamentalist opponents." You read that into his words. For all you (and I) know, he might be someone who appreciated your work until being turned off by your attitude here.

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  82. Also, can you please give a typical example of an argument that a creationist might present, to which you feel that it would be futile to respond due to his bias?

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  83. “how many back-and-forths between R. Zucker and myself would satisfy you”

    A powerful method of handling this kind of debate is to respond to the new points that are actually new, and to refer back to an earlier answer when the points are not really new, thus highlighting the futility of further response. You have actually done this before on other posts by referring to specific chapters in your books when someone questions something that you had explained in your books.

    Avraham

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  84. I just wanted to point out that Tom never said that he was one of your "fundamentalist opponents." You read that into his words. For all you (and I) know, he might be someone who appreciated your work until being turned off by your attitude here.

    Not likely! Didn't you see what he wrote about my "theories," in quotation marks?!

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  85. Also, can you please give a typical example of an argument that a creationist might present, to which you feel that it would be futile to respond due to his bias?

    The internet is full of this stuff. Missing links, vestigial organs all having uses, irreducible complexity, etc.

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  86. A powerful method of handling this kind of debate is to respond to the new points that are actually new, and to refer back to an earlier answer when the points are not really new, thus highlighting the futility of further response.

    It's rarely possible to do that. Usually there's some kind of new twist each time.

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  87. "I just wanted to point out that Tom never said that he was one of your "fundamentalist opponents." You read that into his words. For all you (and I) know, he might be someone who appreciated your work until being turned off by your attitude here.

    Not likely! Didn't you see what he wrote about my "theories," in quotation marks?!"

    I was not going to respond any more to these posts, but due to your last comment, I could not resist the temptation. You "deduced" that I was one of your fundamentalist opponents. You could not be more wrong. I am from the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah community. I embrace evolution (in fact I think that your material about that, animals, creation, etc. is really very good, and I was an admirer of yours), I think Chazal can be wrong about science, etc. I have no problem if it were proved that Rashi was a corporealist. I am torn between the Rambam and the Raavad regarding the issue of kefirah - so if there were solid evidence that Rashi was a corporealist, I would have no problem saying that either he was (nebach) a kofer - and that we could still learn from areas where he was correct (like R. Meir learned from Acher) - and this would be the Rambam side; or he was a great Jew who made a mistake (and this would be the Raavad side).

    I wrote the word "theories" in quotes, because your Rashi material, as well as much of your "academic Judasim" material is based on speculation, conjecture, opinion, and "fluff." I see from your writings that you do not adhere to strict academic standards. In fact, I asked a friend of mine who is a professor of Jewish Studies at an Ivy League university what he thought of your work from an academic perspective, and he said that it was laughable. He is writing an article now on the state of Jewish Studies in academia, and said that he may be citing your work as a "counterexample" in his article.

    I could not resist the temptation to write this because your own confident conclusion about me is a great example of your inferring falsehoods and running with them.

    Tom

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  88. So if what you write is true (you don’t give your name, so there is no way of knowing), and you believe that I was correct in my views on cosmology, evolution, Chazal’s science, then what exactly were you referring to when you wrote that “so many people have a problem with your "theories"? And which people were you referring to?

    I showed my Rashi article to a number of leading academics in this field. Not all of them agreed with the conclusion (most did), but all thought it was excellent and had great praise for it. Two professors of medieval Jewish philosophy incorporated it into their classes. I think that the opinion of all these people is much more significant than unnamed “many people” cited by an anonymous commentator!

    With regard to your claim of a professor of Jewish Studies who considers my writings laughable from an academic perspective – depending on which of my material he has read, I may entirely agree with him! Most of my books were written in my charedi days and make me cringe when I look at them now. Even my more recent books, while far superior to my earlier works, are popular books rather than academic works. And my website is a blog, not an academic journal. But my essays from the last few years, which I am gradually releasing, are certainly not “laughable” from an academic perspective. At least, that is the opinion of the numerous academics who have spoken to me about them, and also the opinion all my professors from ML, from which my grade point average in my MA was 96.9%.

    What is especially ironic here is that you are criticizing me for not responding to R. Zucker, and yet although I have repeatedly asked a direct question of how many times I am expected to respond, you always avoided answering!

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  89. I certainly did not mean to avoid your question. I don't think there's a number. Respond as long as new points come up, or until you are tired, too busy, not inclined, etc. So quit whenever you want. My problem with what you've been doing is not that you want to quit (which is fine!) but that you feel that in order to do so you need to put the blame for your decision to quit on your bar-plugta instead of just simply saying, I've said all I want to or need to. Get out gracefully. The way you have done it makes you look a bit pathetic. Sorry - that's just the way I (and a good number of people who have spoken to me about this) see it.

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  90. Well, I'm sorry that you see it that way, but I think that there was an important point to be made here about the very nature of the debate and others like it. Debates where fundamental religious worldviews are at stake are not like ordinary academic debates and should not be misconstrued as such.

    Did you see the correspondence in the latest Hakirah?

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  91. Another thought just occurred to me: why not ask your academician friends (I mean those professors to whom you showed your article in the first place) what they would do if they themselves were in a situation such as yours. Would they:
    (a) continue to respond to the substantive points raised by their opponent?
    (b) walk away saying that they have said all there is to be said, or that they do not have the appropriate time to devote to the discussion, etc.?
    (c) walk away, blaming their non-continuation on the strong bias of their opponent?

    I strongly suspect that in a sample pool of 10 professors, let's say, few if any of them would choose (c), because it comes off as blatantly whiny and, as I said, pathetic. Why not ask them? Also, did you show the same professors R. Zucker's article in Hakirah and his posted essay, and ask them what they thought of those articles in terms of substantive points made?

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  92. Well, take a look at this for one example:

    http://seforim.blogspot.com/2010/07/final-word-to-chaim-rapoport.html

    But it's rare to find a case of a debate between someone coming from an academic perspective and someone coming from a religious perspective - they usually inhabit different worlds. I am in an unusual situation.

    Incidentally, there is a difference between a strategy being innately inappropriate, and it being ineffective due to how it is perceived (e.g. "whiney"). The latter can be a very valid criticism even if the former is not. So I will take what you say under consideration.

    Re. your question - some of them read Hakirah; I did not send Zucker's article to the others. Did you show Zucker's article to your professor friend? By the way, I have heard much sharper comments about R. Zucker and about YBT's overall approach than anything I have written! But I think that we should leave it at that.

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  93. "Well, take a look at this for one example:

    http://seforim.blogspot.com/2010/07/final-word-to-chaim-rapoport.html"

    Good reference! I stopped reading the comments after the first 20, most of which were about how silly the bloggers sounded when they insisted on having the last word. You see - they come off as whiny! I think you really ought to consider that point.

    "I have heard much sharper comments about R. Zucker and about YBT's overall approach than anything I have written!"

    Of course you have. Just as I am sure you know that people have very choice words to say about you. And about Rav Shach. And the Lubavitcher Rebbe. And the Gra. And the Besht. etc. etc. etc. When people have strong ideological differences, they lash out at the "other." In fact, what you heard probably pales in comparison to what your opponents say about you - and I'm sure you already know that. So your bringing up idle chatter doesn't really contribute to this discussion or add any significant point.

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  94. You see - they come off as whiny! I think you really ought to consider that point.

    I already said that I will. I can't dispute that some people dislike this type of thing. That doesn't mean that it is innately wrong, just that it may be ineffective from a practical standpoint. On the other hand, there are other comments which show that other people feel differently - e.g. the guy who writes "Now that you have given them the last word and have made it clear to Rapaport that since he cannot possibly be objective he will not be allowed to respond, you have done a lot to regain your reputation."

    Also, your question was whether professors would take this approach. I showed you two who did. I can't think of another situation where there is a debate between someone coming from an academic perspective and someone coming from a traditionalist perspective. Like I said, the two worlds don't usually meet.

    In fact, what you heard probably pales in comparison to what your opponents say about you - and I'm sure you already know that. So your bringing up idle chatter doesn't really contribute to this discussion or add any significant point.

    I thought that you were interested in hearing what academics say, not what stam people say. Isn't that why you mentioned your unnamed friend who is a professor of Jewish philosophy?

    By the way, did you ask him about YBT? If he's not familiar with it, show him some of R. Chait's articles. He (and you) will see that any discussion about Rashi's views on corporealism is really missing the underlying dispute, which is about whether great Jews are necessarily philosophers.

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  95. "(By the way, according to Rambam, there is no such thing as Hell. People who don't get to heaven just don't go anywhere; they cease to exist.)"

    That's your opinion, but רמב"ן and הגהות מיימוניות argue that רמב"ם does indeed believe in Hell:
    הגהות מימוניות הלכות תשובה ריש פרק ח

    You'll probably argue that they're not rationalists, and that a correct, rationalist understanding of Maimonides yields the ineluctable conclusion that he denies Hell, but this is certainly not explicit anywhere in his writings, and I think it must be acknowledged that they have some fairly strong inferences from the same that he actually does accept Hell, or something like it:

    ואלו הן שאין להן חלק לעולם הבא אלא נכרתים ואובדין ונידונין על גודל רשעם וחטאתם לעולם ולעולמי עולמים ...

    תשובה ג:ו
    http://hebrewbooks.org/rambam.aspx?sefer=1&hilchos=5&perek=3&halocha=6

    ויש חטא שהדין נותן שנפרעין ממנו לעולם הבא ואין לעובר עליו שום נזק בעולם הזה. ויש חטא שנפרעין ממנו בעולם הזה ולעולם הבא:

    שם ו:א
    http://hebrewbooks.org/rambam.aspx?sefer=1&hilchos=5&perek=6

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  96. The Seforim blog refers to this post:
    seforim.blogspot.com/2010/09/no-hell-below-us-controversy-over.html

    http://seforim.blogspot.com/2010/09/no-
    hell-below-us-controversy-over.html

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  97. Interesting! Yitzchak, the truth is that I have never researched this topic, and I assumed that it was pretty much the standard understanding of Rambam. It was a just something that I threw out in passing, and I'm at a bit of a loss to understand why you described my statement as "ex cathedra" - a phrase which is usually used for people who are invoking personal authority to make declarations which are considered binding upon others and not requiring any support. That's how you described my mentioning (my understanding of) Rambam's position in passing?! Does this mean that any time that I refer to anyone's position without giving my sources, I'm going to be described as speaking "ex cathedra"? That's weird, and gives entirely the wrong impression.

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  98. I was using the term ex cathedra loosely, in the sense of:

    "Figuratively, any authoritative pronouncement may be called “ex cathedra.”"

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ex+cathedra

    Your rather casual assertion as unobjectionable fact (and not merely as "[your] understanding") of a position that deeply appalled many of the greatest figures of our tradition (in my post I note that several termed it "libel"), and for which there's almost no support within said tradition, and your subsequent neglect to reply or even to acknowledge my original comment are what motivated me to write that way.

    I apologize if I have been unjust or inappropriately critical.

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  99. "Figuratively, any authoritative pronouncement may be called “ex cathedra.”"

    What on earth made it an "authoritative comment"?! It was a parenthetical, off-the-cuff comment in a blog post!

    your subsequent neglect to reply or even to acknowledge my original comment are what motivated me to write that way.

    As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, I don't have time to respond to every comment, and this was one that required a lot of study. I posted it, so that people would be able to research your response. I have said repeatedly that if people want to get an answer from me about something, they should email me.

    I believe that the way you presented your post and referred to what I said was extremely inappropriate. If you're going to dedicate an entire post to arguing against something that I write, then you shouldn't inflate it to anything more than what it was. You should have written, "In a blog comment, Rabbi Slifkin mentioned offhandedly that Rambam did not believe in the existence of hell. But the matter is far from clear..."

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  100. I stand by my previous comments; הרואה יראה, והבוחר יבחר.

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