Friday, August 13, 2010

Not Everything

Rav (insert name of rav that you heard this story about here) said, "Not everything that one thinks, should one say; not everything that one says, should one write; not everything that one writes, should one publish."

I would like to expand upon this, based on my own experiences:

Not everything that one thinks, should one say;
Not everything that one says, should one write in a letter;
Not everything that one writes in a letter, should one write in an email;
Not everything that one writes in an email, should one publish in an academic journal;
Not everything that one publishes in an academic journal, should one publish in a book;
Not everything that one publishes in a book, should one write on a blog;
Not everything that one writes on a blog, should one publish in Hakira.

(The reverse is also true for most of these.)

80 comments:

  1. Is this a subtle expression of regret over something you have published?

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  2. Which paper/article/book, and how come?

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  3. I'd trade it all in for
    Not everything that is permitted must be done.

    KT
    Joel Rich

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  4. You forgot this one:

    Not everything that one thinks, should one think

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  5. I'm curious about the answer to "Just Asking"'s questions ("Which paper/article/book, and how come?")

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  6. I learned this lesson (the hard way!) with regard to many items on this list. More emails than I care to remember. But especially on my mind is my Rashi article in Hakira, which I should have submitted to an academic journal instead. I didn't realize (but should have) that even though it is fairly well-known that there were Rishonim who were corporealists, people only know this in an abstract sort of way, at best, and react viscerally to the proposal that a beloved, familiar, and prominent Rishon was a corporealist, before even reading my article. See the letter in the latest Hakirah, where a Modern Orthodox writer goes berserk at the idea that ANY Rishon was a corporealist. There are many more like him.

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  7. This brings to mind the distinction between pshat and pedagogy.

    1) How should religious journals such as Hakira regard articles where the truth value is strong (i.e. it makes a very good case) but where the "Jewish" value is questionable?

    2) How do we feel as Jews about this tension, that in some cases what ostensibly looks like pshat cannot or should not be taught because we're worried it will conflict with our concept of Judaism and/or our pedagogical goals?

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  8. "it is fairly well-known that there were Rishonim who were corporealists"

    But isn't it true that R. Zucker has shown that the total number of known corporealist rishonim is four (three who lived at least 100 years after Rashi died, in northern France, and one who lived at least 100 years after Rashi died, in England)? And isn't it also true that none of the four held that God has a fixed form (your claim is that Rashi held that God does have a fixed form). So in effect, your theory posits that Rashi maintained something that NO other known rishon held in specific, and something that only four other known rishonim held in a loose, generic way. Based on this, I would say that you hardly made your case convincing, and while there is no doubt that many readers reacted viscerally, without reviewing the argument itself, there are many who did review your argument, and because of that review they believe that you don't really have a case.

    By the way, I would have no problem if Rashi were a corporealist - I would simply conclude that he made a mistake. But I don't think that the evidence supports your conjecture, and I don't think that a peer review journal would allow an article such as the one you wrote. But that last part is just my conjecture.

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  9. But isn't it true that R. Zucker has shown that the total number of known corporealist rishonim is four

    Irrelevant. As I showed, there were obviously many, many more unknown ones.

    three who lived at least 100 years after Rashi died,

    Irrelevant. As I showed, by Rambam's time they were on the decline due to the influence from Spain. If we know of x number of corporealists 100 years after Rashi, then there would have been even more during Rashi's time.

    And isn't it also true that none of the four held that God has a fixed form (your claim is that Rashi held that God does have a fixed form)

    We only know that R. Moshe Taku held that He doesn't have fixed form. And I am not at all wed to the position that Rashi held that He has fixed form. I just wrote that there is no reason to think otherwise, but it doesn't raise any difficulties if that's the case.

    I don't think that the evidence supports your conjecture, and I don't think that a peer review journal would allow an article such as the one you wrote.

    All I can say is that the numerous professors of medieval Jewish studies that I showed my paper to, were all impressed with my arguments, and most concurred with my conclusion. Two even incorporated it into their classes. And I am not the only one to draw this conclusion; a few months ago there was a symposium on Rashi where one of the speakers (who had not seen my article) also argued that Rashi was a corporealist.

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  10. "Irrelevant. As I showed, there were obviously many, many more unknown ones."

    It's obviously not obvious, since - without knowing who were the unknown corporealists that you refer to (they could have been local, communal rabbis, not rabbinic elite, as R. Zucker pointed out) - if they were not rabbinic elite it *is* irrelevant...to your claim.

    "If we know of x number of corporealists 100 years after Rashi, then there would have been even more during Rashi's time."

    Complete conjecture and speculation. I am amazed that you cite this as evidence! This would never fly in a peer-reviewed journal in any historical subject.

    "I am not at all wed to the position that Rashi held that He has fixed form."

    You certainly are! If God does not have a fixed form according to Rashi, ALL of the categories of evidence that you wrote about in your first article are moot.

    "a few months ago there was a symposium on Rashi where one of the speakers (who had not seen my article) also argued that Rashi was a corporealist."

    Since this was a public lecture, would you be able to share the name of the presenter?

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  11. "And isn't it also true that none of the four held that God has a fixed form (your claim is that Rashi held that God does have a fixed form)

    We only know that R. Moshe Taku held that He doesn't have fixed form."

    I am sorry to contradict you on this point, but it is clear from Dr. Marc Shapiro's book, pages 56-58, that the 3 French corporealists who lived 100 years after Rashi maintained that God does NOT have a fixed form. I don't know about the one from England.

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  12. "And I am not at all wed to the position that Rashi held that He has fixed form."

    While we are on the subject of fixed form, I do not understand the statement above. It seems to me that the arguments in your article about the hanging corpse, the decomposing face, God's two eyes, the Talmudic anthropomorphisms, and the idea of "demut," are all predicated on the assumption that God does have a fixed form according to Rashi. If you are abandoning that idea now, then those parts of your argument seem to fall away. Am I not understanding something correctly here?

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  13. "Irrelevant. As I showed, there were obviously many, many more unknown ones."

    It's obviously not obvious, since - without knowing who were the unknown corporealists that you refer to (they could have been local, communal rabbis, not rabbinic elite, as R. Zucker pointed out) - if they were not rabbinic elite it *is* irrelevant...to your claim.


    Wrong. If they were KNOWN not to be rabbinic elite then it would be much LESS relevant. However since we don't know who they were, and we have testimony from Rambam and others of great Torah scholars who were corporealists at that time, then obviously there were more than the four known ones. And see my article for further evidence.

    "If we know of x number of corporealists 100 years after Rashi, then there would have been even more during Rashi's time."

    Complete conjecture and speculation. I am amazed that you cite this as evidence!


    It is an extremely reasonable position based on the historical context. As I showed in my article, the figures 100 years after Rashi were defending corporealism against the "newfangled" philosophy that was making inroads from Spain. They didn't suddenly make it up! So obviously earlier, it was more prevalent. I don't know why you (and Zucker) seem to think that since they lived 100 years after Rashi, then they are less relevant.

    "I am not at all wed to the position that Rashi held that He has fixed form."

    You certainly are! If God does not have a fixed form according to Rashi, ALL of the categories of evidence that you wrote about in your first article are moot.


    No, they are not. R. Moshe Taku would say exactly the same as Rashi here. Have you studied Ksav Tamim?

    "a few months ago there was a symposium on Rashi where one of the speakers (who had not seen my article) also argued that Rashi was a corporealist."

    Since this was a public lecture, would you be able to share the name of the presenter?


    Avraham Stein.

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  14. Scrantonian - You are correct that the others also didn't see God as having fixed form, but see my earlier comment. If you study Ksav Tamim, you'll see that R. Moshe Taku would say exactly what Rashi says in all these cases.

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  15. I am not posting any more comments on this topic. It's been debated to death, and I just don't have the time to keep this up. If you're not convinced, then there's probably not a lot more that I can do at this stage to convince you. And I think that you are unlikely to convince me; remember, I started off in your position, and I changed as a result of my analysis. I find the overall convergence of evidence to be overwhelming, and to far outweigh any minor difficulties. The same conclusion was reached by most of the people in this field that I consulted. Those who did not agree, still felt that the arguments were weighty and that it is very difficult to argue that Rashi was NOT a corporealist.

    I still suspect that the more a person learns about the historical context (Septimus' book on Ramah is a good start), and understands early medieval Northern France in general, the more they will see the evidence as convincing. Furthermore, while many people will not be as obviously and openly closed-minded as the correspondent in the latest Hakirah, the fact that such people exist should alert everyone to the fact that this bias is deeply rooted, and is likely to affect all of us to some degree, even if we are not consciously aware of it. Of course, the fact that someone is biased does not mean that they are wrong! But it does mean that one should be aware of the possibility that it may account for the different conclusions that people reach. And remember that due to our religious education, we all start off with the assumption that "of course" Rashi was not a corporealist. It's not so easy to shed such preconceptions.

    And again, I am not saying that people who disagree with me are necessarily doing so simply because they are biased! It's just an important factor to be aware of.

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  16. "If you study Ksav Tamim, you'll see that R. Moshe Taku would say exactly what Rashi says in all these cases."

    I actually have gone through the Ketav Tamim twice. I must disagree with you here. R. Moshe Taku could not possibly agree with what you said about God's two eyes, since he maintains that God does not have a fixed form, and therefore while God can choose to appear as a person with two eyes, He could also choose to appear as fire, or a cloud, which clearly don't have any eyes, or He could choose to appear as a cyclops. R. Moshe Taku vehemently argues with R. Saadia and Rambam, saying to them that it is heresy to tell God what He can and cannot do. For this reason as well, R. Moshe Taku could not possibly agree with you about your definition of demut according to Rashi, nor about your concept of the decomposing face.

    While we are on the subject, I must say that your response to Michael leaves me wanting. You reiterate your positions well, but you do not address the arguments that R. Zucker made. You have been unable to identify any known corporealist rabbinic elite before or during Rashi's time, only a guess that they *must* have existed. In my opinion this isn't really evidence.

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  17. That is just not true! Look at p. 60 in Ksav Tamim, e.g. discussing the hanging twin. R. Moshe Taku clearly understands that God basically has human form, even if He is not limited to it.

    And stop saying that I am "guessing" that there must have been more corporealists before the known ones. It's a deduction that is far more evidence-based than your conjecture that there were less!

    As I said, I really don't have time for more of this, so if you write more comments, don't be surprised if they don't get posted. You are, of course, welcome to publish your own material disputing me.

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  18. One final thought. How do you learn the Rashi about Adam having intercourse with all the animals? Eric Lawee has a terrific article showing that despite the assumption of many later interpreters that Rashi couldn't possibly have understood it literally, the evidence indicates that he really did. And yet later generations, removed from that cultural context, couldn't possibly imagine that he understood it that way.

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  19. "That is just not true! Look at p. 60 in Ksav Tamim, e.g. discussing the hanging twin. R. Moshe Taku clearly understands that God basically has human form, even if He is not limited to it."

    I apologizing for causing you trouble, but what you wrote is just a mistake. See Kanarfogel's article, page 122 and footnote 40, where he clearly says that R. Moshe Taku opens his argument with "lo yidmeh lo shum demut" - that God has no fixed form, and can take on various forms as He wishes.

    In addition, I do not know what the citation that you referenced proves. In Ketav Tamim, R. Moshe Taku cites midrash after midrash, which he says proves that God could and did take on the form of a person. Of course Rashi would cite the same midrash, but not necessarily for the same goal, as did Ramban. But without the statement that "I (Rashi) insist that this is literal," the citation alone proves nothing, since Ramban quoted the very same midrash (without any explanation or qualification) and he was not a corporealist.

    Your argument about the French rabbinic elite, it seems to me, is comparable to saying that because we know that there were precious few abolitionists in the South during the years 1850-1860, and we have no evidence of any abolitionists in the south earlier than that, (my dates here are just examples) and we also know that the establishment of the south quashed abolitionists in the years prior to the war, then there must have been even more abolitionists earlier. This, of course, does not hold water. How is it different from you are claiming as evidence?

    Finally, on the issue of Rashi citing the midrash about the animals - I don't know if it is literal or not. To my mind it would depend upon what Rashi maintained about the 6 commandments that Adam received, when he received them, and whether they included bestiality. If he received them as soon as he was created, and they did include a prohibition of bestiality, then I would say that Rashi probably did not view the midrash as literal. But I just don't know. I have no problem if it were demonstrable that he viewed the midrash as literal, and I don't see why you introduced it into this discussion at all.

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  20. This post started with so much promise. It seemed that over the past year, perhaps you had moved past the position you took in your post of last August 17, "My Latest Mistake". Perhaps you had hirhur teshuva- that spark that comes from your soul that maybe you have been pursuing the wrong course despite the investment (emotional, intellectual, etc). However, the comments and your responses over the past few days actually show that you have learned nothing over the past year. How sad.

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  21. Your recent comment about the fact that there was a symposium on Rashi in Israel, and one of the lecturers reached the same conclusion as you - is an interesting one. I must say that when I read it, I got the impression from the context and content of your comment, that an independent academician confirmed your conclusion by arriving at it independently. I think that is the impression that you left the reader. Well, I did a little research and found that the presenter, Avraham Stein, has as his credentials a BA in philosophy from YU, no advanced degree, and is "an autodidact." Please don't misunderstand me. People without proper academic credentials can come up with fantastic stuff. But you kind of left us with one impression, and the truth is different from your (unspoken) implication. I know a bunch of talented autodidacts who have reached a conclusion opposite from yours.

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  22. "That is just not true! Look at p. 60 in Ksav Tamim, e.g. discussing the hanging twin. R. Moshe Taku clearly understands that God basically has human form, even if He is not limited to it."

    I apologizing for causing you trouble, but what you wrote is just a mistake. See Kanarfogel's article, page 122 and footnote 40, where he clearly says that R. Moshe Taku opens his argument with "lo yidmeh lo shum demut" - that God has no fixed form, and can take on various forms as He wishes.


    Wrong. Read through Ksav Tamim pp. 60-61. He is absolutely clear that man was created in the physical image of God. And that the problem with leaving a corpse hanging is that it physically resembles God. Etc., etc. In other words, it's not that God is some kind of shape-shifter having no more innate connection to human form than to the form of a fire or a giraffe. For Taku, these Midrashim are not proving that God can "take on" the form of a person; they are showing that this fundamentally describes him (even if He can choose to display Himself otherwise.)

    Also, regarding your claim that none of the known corporealists saw God in this way, recall the statement by Riaz that there were Rishonim (and even CHazal) who perceived God as being of gigantic human form. So, if you're claiming that this is not the view of the known corporealists, I guess that this shows that there there were many more Torah scholars who were corporealists!

    Your parable about abolutionists is lost on me, because I don't know American history. Each case must be evaluated on the specifics of its context. The context of corporealists disappearing in France/ Germany was the influence from Spain.

    Finally, on the issue of Rashi citing the midrash about the animals - I don't know if it is literal or not. To my mind it would depend upon what Rashi maintained about the 6 commandments that Adam received, when he received them, and whether they included bestiality.

    That's missing a fundamental piece of the puzzle, which is to appreciate the approach of the Northern French school to aggadata in general.

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  23. This post started with so much promise. It seemed that over the past year, perhaps you had moved past the position you took in your post of last August 17, "My Latest Mistake". Perhaps you had hirhur teshuva- that spark that comes from your soul that maybe you have been pursuing the wrong course despite the investment (emotional, intellectual, etc). However, the comments and your responses over the past few days actually show that you have learned nothing over the past year. How sad.

    If I had been given reason to assume that I was wrong, then I would have done so. There's been plenty of times where I have admitted error. In this case, however, I came across more evidence to bolster my case, and people in the field told me that I was likely correct, and the people arguing against me were often transparent in their motives.

    Also, if you're going to give me mussar about teshuvah, please stop being a coward and use your name.

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  24. I know a bunch of talented autodidacts who have reached a conclusion opposite from yours.

    Amazingly, with all of them, their conclusion merely confirmed what they thought before investigating the topic to begin with!

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  25. By the way, it's good that you are interested to know what academics who specialize in this field think. So go ask them! I did, and they overwhelmingly agreed with me.

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  26. > "recall the statement by Riaz that there were Rishonim (and even CHazal) who perceived God as being of gigantic human form."

    They perceived God this way because they felt it reflected reality, or because it helped them boost their awe of God for davening? - just wondering.

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  27. "it's not that God is some kind of shape-shifter having no more innate connection to human form than to the form of a fire or a giraffe."

    If you are correct, then what does R. Moshe Taku mean when he says ""lo yidmeh lo shum demut?" This statement means that NO form can be predicated of God inherently, and if God assumes a form, it is no more predicable to Him than any other form.

    Where is the source for the statement in Riaz?

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  28. They perceived God this way because they felt it reflected reality, or because it helped them boost their awe of God for davening?


    According to Riaz, this is what they thought the reality was.

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  29. If you are correct, then what does R. Moshe Taku mean when he says ""lo yidmeh lo shum demut?"

    I am correct. R. Taku raises lo yidmeh as a question, after discussing how God has human form. He answers that this passuk is referring to His greatness and radiance, not to His essential shape.

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  30. Where is the source for the statement in Riaz?


    It's in my original article. You did read it, didn't you?

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  31. "I am correct. R. Taku raises lo yidmeh as a question, after discussing how God has human form. He answers that this passuk is referring to His greatness and radiance, not to His essential shape."

    I'm sorry - you are mistaken. I asked you about R. Moshe Taku's opening statement and you responded about a completely different statement. I asked about what Professor Kanarfogel quoted (the full quote, as cited in his footnote #39, from the manuscript version of Ketav Tamim folios 27a-28a, is: "velo yidameh lo shum demut, ukeshe retzono leharot atzmo lamalachim..."). You responded with a different quote, from the printed version page 61, "ve'af al gav dichtiv umah demut ta'archu lo..." They are two different quotes (and two different issues - one is that God has no FIXED form whatsoever, and the other is that how can God TAKE ON a form which is comparable to something we can relate to if the pasuk says umah demut ta'archu lo). So your answer is not relevant to my question at all.

    "Where is the source for the statement in Riaz?
    It's in my original article. You did read it, didn't you?"

    I did read it - but in that article you did not quote Riaz in the original; you only referenced it through Ta Shma's article. I was asking here if you know where in the Nimukei Chumash it is written (which parsha, pasuk, etc.?).

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  32. I trust you received my last comment about your mistaken reference from the Ketav Tamim, and I look forward to your response. I had also asked you about where the reference was in the Nimukei Chumash of R. Yeshaya (which in your article you had cited as Riaz). You had not cited it directly - only from a secondary source by I. Ta Shma. As it happens, I had a two hour business flight today, and I took with me as reading material the Nimukei Chumash - Mosad Harav Kook (Chavel) edition. I went through the entire work during the flight (it's only 61 pages long) and no where did he mention anything about any corporealists' conception of God. If you could please cite the direct reference that you had in mind, I would be extremely grateful. Thanks so much.

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  33. Rabbi Slifkin,

    With all due respect, I would have to agree with - to summarize all the "not everything" statements - not everything should be put out there for the general public. Especially when the idea in question is so different from one that the general Orthodox public grew up with from grade school, and especially after you’ve been tarred and feathered for ideas much less radical, and especially when those ideas that you were criticized for earlier were much more essential towards helping a frum Jew’s ability to balance Torah and modern scientific knowledge.

    It is interesting, but of little consequence to me, whether or not Rashi or other Rishonim were corporealists. What I find interesting about it is that it is further proof that Torah has evolved over the past 3,500 years. But there is enough proof of that without trying to prove to me that Rashi or his fellow rishonim were corporealists.

    The cognitive dissonance towards views that are “extremely different” is very strong, and as you saw, this is true even in the Modern Orthodox world. There are just so many boats you can rock, before being banned from riding them all. In other words - take it easy on the Orthodox mind. Even the Modern Orthodox are in a fragile place in this relatively new, modern, technological, G-dless world; a world which holds very few moral principals as sacred, and calls daily for the religious of every stripe to abandon their archaic ways.

    Your efficient, thorough and honest approach to helping the Rationalist Jew balance his/her Judaism and understanding of Torah with the modern world is a huge contribution to religious Judaism. History will give you the acknowledgement and honor that are being withheld from you presently. But in the meantime, please realize your importance to religious Jews who search for, or who hold on to, a Rationalist Judaism that we can reconcile intellectually, and yes, emotionally, with our present and our past. We cannot afford to loose the acceptability you currently have in the Modern Orthodox world, to a fight not worth fighting for.

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  34. Scrantonian - sorry, I misunderstood which reference you were talking to. Look, I don't think that the later reference is contradicting everything that he's written earlier. And it's clear from the earlier reference that the human form is more fundamental than other forms - that's why it is a disgrace to leave a human corpse hanging, but not an armadillo corpse. I think that the later source is just saying that God is incomparable, as we would say in English.

    Sorry, I don't have the original Riaz quote.

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  35. Michapeset - I agree with you, and that was what lay behind this post - it was a big mistake to put my Rashi article in Hakirah.

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  36. "Look, I don't think that the later reference is contradicting everything that he's written earlier. And it's clear from the earlier reference that the human form is more fundamental than other forms..."

    The later reference is clearly not contradicting the earlier one. The later reference is an absolute, clear statement that God does not have any fixed form. The earlier statement speaks of a form that God can assume. The human form, for R. Moshe Taku, is not more "fundamental" to God than other forms - as you claim - it is more "often" to God (i.e., God assumes that form when dealing with human beings, more often than He assumes other forms such as fire, cloud, etc. But in terms of God Himself, there is no more weight attributable to the human form which is assumed than any other form which is assumed. In this way, there is no contradiction, and no need to force an interpretation of "God is incomparable, as we say in English" into R. Moshe Taku's clear words of "lo yidameh lo shum demut."

    Never mind about finding the original source for Riaz. I found it in R. Zucker's essay on page 20. Apparently, you made the same mistake with regard to Riaz as you did with regard to Hame'ili.

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  37. "Your parable about abolutionists is lost on me, because I don't know American history. Each case must be evaluated on the specifics of its context. The context of corporealists disappearing in France/ Germany was the influence from Spain."

    I'm terribly sorry, but this is a cop-out. The example he gave is a good one, and it shows well the flaw in your claim. You need not be a great history buff to know what he's talking about and how it relates to your argument.

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  38. Michapeset - I agree with you, and that was what lay behind this post - it was a big mistake to put my Rashi article in Hakirah.

    It is very big of you to admit a mistake, and I, and I’m sure others, respect you for your ability to do so.

    Perhaps it would be wise to admit that mistake in a letter to the editor in the next publication of Hakira?

    Defending your position and opinion on the Rashi matter, although it backs up your work, and you may be 100% convinced of its correctness, only adds fuel to the fire of this new controversy. If you truly believe it was a mistake to publish it in Hakira, then why continue to defend your position to the Hakira readership and on your blog?

    Even though there are academics who agree with your position, we simply cannot travel back in time in order to prove the matter for certain one way or another. Maybe admitting that your position is essentially unprovable, and is only your opinion and understanding based upon the sources you quoted in your article, and agreeing to disagree on this matter, would help make peace, and keep peace, and even more importantly - keep you in the camp of Modern Orthodox acceptability.

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  39. The later reference is clearly not contradicting the earlier one. The later reference is an absolute, clear statement that God does not have any fixed form. The earlier statement speaks of a form that God can assume.

    Possibly. I need to give it further thought. Right now it seems to me to be quite a kvetch in pages 60-61. Plus it means that R. Taku is really misleading the reader, not explaining until much later what he really means.

    Never mind about finding the original source for Riaz. I found it in R. Zucker's essay on page 20. Apparently, you made the same mistake with regard to Riaz as you did with regard to Hame'ili.

    Apparently, you and Zucker are mistaken. As I mentioned in Hakirah 8, in my original article I had conflated Rid I and Rid II. The source about some of Chazal being corporealists is not from Nimukei Chumash; it's from Sanhedri Gedolah.

    I have a question for you: Since you are obviously very into this topic, have you read the material by Shamma Friedman and Yair Lorberbaum?

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  40. You need not be a great history buff to know what he's talking about and how it relates to your argument.

    I'm not a history buff at all, and I am not American, and I have absolutely no idea what abolutionists were.

    The point is as follows. Zucker (and Scrantonian and others) keep mentioning that the known corporealists lived 100 years after Rashi. But this is only significant if there is reason to believe that the doctrine arose during this time. What reason have they provided? On the contrary - the historical picture shows that this belief would have been on the decline during this period.

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  41. If you truly believe it was a mistake to publish it in Hakira, then why continue to defend your position to the Hakira readership and on your blog?

    Because the position itself is correct. It was the venue of publication that was wrong.

    Maybe admitting that your position is essentially unprovable, and is only your opinion and understanding based upon the sources you quoted in your article, and agreeing to disagree on this matter, would help make peace

    Look, obviously everyone here is giving their own opinion based on their understanding of the sources. I don't see what your suggestion adds. But I appreciate your efforts!

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  42. "As I mentioned in Hakirah 8, in my original article I had conflated Rid I and Rid II. The source about some of Chazal being corporealists is not from Nimukei Chumash; it's from Sanhedri Gedolah."

    I think I am missing something here. You had introduced Riaz in your article to show that "in medieval Europe, and especially in Rashi's homeland of France," the scholars believed that God is corporeal. The Riaz that you quoted from Sanhedrei Gedolah says that the women and amei haaretz can be allowed to maintain their corporealism since even some of the sages of the Talmud, who did not turn their attention to investigate these areas in depth, learned the psukim literally and accepted corporealism. He doesn't say anywhere that the sages of northern France were corporealists - he is talking about the ignorant masses of his own time, and some of the talmudic sages of ancient times. So this isn't testimony about the rishonim at all.

    I have read Friedman and Lorberbaum's articles on the subject of corporealism.

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  43. "the historical picture shows that this belief would have been on the decline during this period."

    What historical picture?

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  44. I already said that I mistakenly conflated Rid I and Rid II in my original article. But I don't know why you say that he specifies that he is referring to women and amei ha'aretz, I don't see that anywhere. You are correct that it is not testimony about people in France per se. However, it is relevant that he attributed this belief to Chazal - something that Zucker ignores.

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  45. What historical picture?

    The one that I described in my second article.

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  46. "But I don't know why you say that he specifies that he is referring to women and amei ha'aretz, I don't see that anywhere."

    It's on page 117 of Sanhedri Gedola.

    "However, it is relevant that he attributed this belief to Chazal - something that Zucker ignores."

    He probably didn't deal with it because it is not relevant to your claim. Whether or not some of Chazal of the talmud were corporealists is a machloket rishonim. Riaz here says that some were; Ramban in his letter to the French rabbis says that all of the sages of the talmud were incorporealists. But your claim was that Rashi could have been a corporealist, from the fact (?) that his colleagues (French rabbinic scholars) were. To prove that fact, you cite Riaz, who, you claim, testified as to the corporealism of Rashi's colleagues. But this just isn't so. Since the idea of whether some of Chazal may or may not have been corporealists is not relevant to your claim, I can understand why R. Zucker did not address it.

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  47. I know what page you were referring to in Sanhedri Gedolah, and that's not what he says. Read it again.

    I think it is relevant to my case to note a Rishon saying that even some of Chazal were corporealists. And it is even more relevant (and devastating) to Zucker's entire worldview.

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  48. "I know what page you were referring to in Sanhedri Gedolah, and that's not what he says. Read it again."

    I did read it again. Riaz doesn't mention anywhere that any French rabbis were corporealists. And you had cited Riaz to prove that there were French corporealist rabbis. That's all I was saying. Riaz does not "do" what you claim he "does."

    "I think it is relevant to my case to note a Rishon saying that even some of Chazal were corporealists. And it is even more relevant (and devastating) to Zucker's entire worldview."

    I don't see at all how it is relevant in demonstrating that there were French sages who were corporealists. Also, I don't know R. Zucker, so I can't speak for him. But for myself, I don't see why it is devastating to say that there is one rishon (and apparently only one rishon) who held that there were some of Chazal who were corporealists because "they didn't delve into the depth of the matter." The only source who says that there were some Chazal incorporealists points out that they were innocently wrong - they did not hold from corporealism b'shitah, but rather because they didn't think into the matter. Why is that earth shattering?

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  49. "The only source who says that there were some Chazal incorporealists ..."

    oops - "...some Chazal corporealists..."

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  50. And you had cited Riaz to prove that there were French corporealist rabbis. That's all I was saying. Riaz does not "do" what you claim he "does."

    I already clarified that I had mixed up the two Rids. But you had claimed that in this quote, he specifies that he is referring to the existence of women and amei haaretz. And I am saying that you are wrong. Riaz does not "do" what you claim he "does."

    I don't see at all how it is relevant in demonstrating that there were French sages who were corporealists.

    It shows that there is reason to believe that such a position existed, not only after Rashi's time but also before, and amongst great Torah scholars. (Not that this is a chiddush in the academic world, but it is to other people.)

    The only source who says

    You mean, the only TRADITIONAL sources. It's a fairly normative belief amongst academics.

    that there were some Chazal incorporealists points out that they were innocently wrong - they did not hold from corporealism b'shitah, but rather because they didn't think into the matter.

    What on earth does that even mean? They weren't philosophers, that's all. And nor was Rashi.

    Why is that earth shattering?

    It might not be earth shattering to you, but it is to YBT theology.

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  51. It might not be earth shattering to you, but it is to YBT theology.

    What does "YBT" stand for?

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  52. YBT is a very unusual yeshivah which believe that Judaism should be, and traditionally always has been, about logical proofs and Rambam's rationalist philosophy (in its 13th century version). One result of this is that, for example, there are YBT rabbis who claim that Rashi did not believe in demons or magic.

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  53. I have a friend who is a musmach of YBT, and I mentioned to him what you had said in terms of Riaz's statement being devastating to them. He laughed, said he doesn't know who you are, but that anyone who would say that has very little understanding about YBT's hashkafa.

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  54. Perhaps we can add one more to the list in the post - Not everything that is written by controversial rishonim, should one translate into English. (I only say this because I heard someone was working on a translation of Ketav Tamim for possible publication).

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  55. "As I showed in my article, the figures 100 years after Rashi were defending corporealism against the "newfangled" philosophy that was making inroads from Spain."

    Kind of like the modern day reactionary anti-science polemics attack the "newfangled" philosophy of a world older than 6000 years and claim that the 5770 year world is ancient belief even though without sources to back it up as such? The proponents of corporealism defending the belief as ancient or claiming the opposing philosophy is "newfangled" should not by default be lent credibility to their claims. They could very well be framing the discussion in this manner to give strength to their own position, whether it's correct or true what they're claiming or not (it may be assumption - I know this is immutable fact, therefore it was always believed, etc).

    "we have testimony from Rambam and others of great Torah scholars who were corporealists at that time, then obviously there were more than the four known ones."

    This may reflect my ignorance, but where does Rambam refer to such people/rabbinic figures as great? That seems out of character for him to do so, given their (in his mind) mistaken belief. So, is there a particular source you are referring to? Thanks.

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  56. I'm actually really troubled by what you're saying here. Because you present a view on an issue that shatters religious people's preconceived notions (since they never posed or analyzed the question), which you uphold in a truthful and intellectually honest manner, and people react with indignation about the shattered ignorance and attack your presentation of uncomfortable topics, you should then confine your writings to an academic journal instead? The truth has no place to be discussed by religious Jews? Why can't there be a discussion? The other side had a fair chance to present its case, just as you presented yours. We can't examine the issue in an honest and open way even if it contradicts grade-school assumptions or misconceptions?

    Sometime, Jews need to grow up. We're not all in grade school anymore. Maybe oversimplified or incorrect the grade school notions/assumptions are supposed to be discarded as part of a maturation process?

    And if you do not present your material in religious journals or sefarim, how will religious Jews access it? And for those people who know certain things that go against "conventional wisdom" based on your writings, "knowing" these things or believing them will be seen as less legitimate if it is only presented outside the orthodox world. Isn't it bad enough as it is with the opposition to these ideas when presented within the orthodox world? This will cause even more opposition to the ideas in question.

    To me, you champion a cause of truth in Judaism, and if the naysayers don't like it because their feelings are hurt, I think that you "running away and hiding" (so to speak) only gives them power and gives them a victory over the truth. I think it's a shame. The intimidation squads win again.

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  57. Kind of like the modern day reactionary anti-science polemics attack the "newfangled" philosophy of a world older than 6000 years and claim that the 5770 year world is ancient belief even though without sources to back it up as such?

    They are absolutely correct that traditional belief was that the world is only a few thousand years old.


    This may reflect my ignorance, but where does Rambam refer to such people/rabbinic figures as great? That seems out of character for him to do so, given their (in his mind) mistaken belief. So, is there a particular source you are referring to?


    It's at the beginning of the Guide. He is careful to say that they are people that are rated by others as great Torah scholars - he himself does not consider them as such, by definition.

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  58. "It's at the beginning of the Guide. He is careful to say that they are people that are rated by others as great Torah scholars - he himself does not consider them as such, by definition."

    I think you meant to write that it's at the beginning of the Treatise on Resurrection, not at the beginning of the Guide.

    In the Treatise there, Maimonides states "I have already met a man who was considered to be one of the sages of Israel, and by God, according to his own estimation he knew the way of discussions in the war of Torah, from his youth, and he was in doubt if God is physical, etc."

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  59. "where does Rambam refer to such people/rabbinic figures as great?... It's at the beginning of the Guide. He is careful to say that they are people that are rated by others as great Torah scholars..."

    In all fairness, and to be accurate, the Rambam, based upon the quote that Robert cited, is not speaking about a "them" - he is speaking about a "him." Also, if he were talking about someone who was recognized as a true Torah scholar by everyone, it's a little hard to believe that the Rambam would say that he was an expert in Torah "in his own eyes."

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  60. Read the full section. He speaks about more than one person. And I think that you mistranslated the second part. See R. Shlomo Sprecher's translation in the letters section of the new Hakirah.

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  61. Sorry - I missed the second part where he speaks about more people. Still, the first part, which I translated from the ibn Tibon Hebrew, said, "yode'a haya derech masa umatan b'milchamta shel Torah *l'fi machshavto* mine'urav..."

    Also, since the Rambam in the later part speaks about the others who were like the first guy, as being "the most foolish of human beings, more astray than animals," it's hard to believe that he is talking about "rishonim" that were recognized as such by everyone. It seems to me that he is talking about rabbis that many of the ignorant masses had viewed as their leaders, but not that they would be recognized as Torah scholars by the "rishonim." If memory serves, the Rambam in various letters spoke of some rabbis (in a different context, on a different issue) that the ignorant masses viewed as leaders, and the Rambam named the rabbis he was talking about - people who today would be like big shul rabbis, not the gedolay hador.

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  62. As (almost) always, I find myself agreeing with my dear friend Joel Rich, "Nisht altz vus iz muttar, miz min tun".
    I am glad you did not publish your essay in some "academic journal" where I (and many others?) would not have read it (at least until it became a subject for the blogosphere). One of Hakirah's greatest strengths is its editors' willingness to publish articles like yours on Rashi. The fact that Hakirah grows larger from volume to volume and appears more frequently than its founders initially envisioned is evidence of a public that is ready to be exposed to challenging and at times controversial scholarship.
    It would be a shame if you were to refrain from publishing certain articles there in the future simply because the subject matter is controversial. No matter where you publish, those who agree and those who disagree will be prepared to engage you and the rest of us will benefit from the exchange.
    W Kohn

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  63. "They are absolutely correct that traditional belief was that the world is only a few thousand years old."

    But there is no source for this belief in chazal. Are confusing the age of man with the age of the world?

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  64. "it's hard to believe that he is talking about "rishonim" that were recognized as such by everyone."

    You're being anachronistic. Today, we look at all great rabbis from that period as "Rishonim" and respect them all. But to Rambam, they were contemporaries, and he didn't feel that way at all. (And there were those who weren't too hot about Rambam either!) There is absolutely no reason to think that when Rambam speaks about someone "who was considered one of the wise men of Israel," that he could not have been talking about someone on the level of Rashi. Why not? And Rambam would certainly have described someone like R. Moshe Taku as "the most foolish of human beings, more astray than animals," even though Rav Taku was clearly considered by others to be one of the wise men of Israel. Rambam had a very, very low opinion of literalists, even in areas other than corporealism, and kal v'chomer in that area.

    (Amazingly, Zucker does not refer to this Rambam at all.)

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  65. "They are absolutely correct that traditional belief was that the world is only a few thousand years old."

    But there is no source for this belief in chazal.


    The source is the Chumash. There is no reason to think that the six days were not generally traditionally interpreted as 24 hour days.

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  66. "(Amazingly, Zucker does not refer to this Rambam at all.)"

    Rabbi Slifkin,

    R. Zucker indeed does deal with this Rambam (pages 20-21 of his essay), and proves that the Rambam was speaking about "darshanim" not rabbinic sages. I hope you post this comment, and not leave people with the mistaken impression from the quote that I have listed above; doing so would show a concern for truth.

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  67. "The source is the Chumash. There is no reason to think that the six days were not generally traditionally interpreted as 24 hour days."

    Yet no one ever actually wrote that the world's origin was 5000 years ago (ie, there is no explicit source), and the Rambam writes that you can't make a statement like that. And yet, they do write in many places that man does date back to 5000 years ago. I don't know what to say, but my Rabbi (you actually know him) disagrees with you, and I think he's right. Let me double check with him about this to be sure I understand properly that there's a disagreement here.

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  68. R. Zucker indeed does deal with this Rambam (pages 20-21 of his essay),

    Ah, I see that he just now added it in.

    and proves that the Rambam was speaking about "darshanim" not rabbinic sages.

    "Proves"??? I think that you mean "argues." And I don't think that his argument holds water at all. Check the texts.

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  69. ""Proves"??? I think that you mean "argues." And I don't think that his argument holds water at all. Check the texts."

    I did check the texts. The Rambam clearly and openly says that he is talking about "darshanim" - that word is used in all translations of the Perush Hamishna - the standard one, Rav Kapach, and Rav Shailat. A "darshan" is the "rabbinic elite sages." So to say that we can see from the Rambam's statement that there were rabbinic elite sages who were corporealists is simply not true. And if you want to argue that the darshanim were *also* rabbinic elite sages, then the burden of proof is upon you to show that. It is interesting that you write "his argument doesn't hold water at all" without explaining why. Surely you must realize that that comment doesn't really add anything real to the discussion.

    By the way, I myself am in doubt about the heart of the whole issue regarding medieval corporealism. I only bring up this point because I think that it's important to be as thorough and as fair as possible in the discussion.

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  70. "his argument holds water at all. Check the texts."

    Can I ask why you think this? I checked the sources that R' Zucker cited, and they say exactly what he claimed they said. Is there any reason to think that the Rambam didn't mean exactly what he wrote? I'm confused...

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  71. For goodness' sakes!

    Zucker claims that "This statement by Rambam in his Ma’amar Techiyas HaMeisim is an almost exact parallel, in phraseology and in content, to his description of “the first sect” in his Peirush HaMishnah, Sanhedrin, to chapter 10). There, Rambam explicitly states that he is referring not to the rabbinic elite, but to the darshanim.”

    Now, in order for him to make his case, we need proof that (a) people who gave derashos about Perek Chelek etc. were not considered top-tier Torah scholars in their communities (which may or may not be the case, but you can't prove it from categories later in history), and even more fundamentally, (b) that these are the same type of people that he is talking about in Ma’amar Techiyas HaMeisim. Zucker claims the existence of an "almost exact parallel, in phraseology and in content" and yet does not provide a single example of any such parallel! If I can paraphrase you - Surely you must realize that that comment, without any examples, doesn't really add anything real to the discussion. To be sure, they are similar in that they are both people he is condemning, but where do we see any similarities of phraseology that leads to the conclusion that the "Sage of Israel" in one text is identical to the darshan of the other text?

    Right now, you are going to check and try to find similarities (or look to see if there are any similarities? It depends what your agenda is). But had you noticed any until now? If not, then the fact that you claimed that Zucker "proved" his case is exceedingly disturbing. (Of course, there is always the possibility that you are simply a sock-puppet, which is one reason why I hate debating people who don't use their full, verifiable name).

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  72. "For goodness' sakes!"

    Wow - kind of a strong reaction!

    "we need proof that people who gave derashos about Perek Chelek etc. were not considered top-tier Torah scholars in their communities"

    On the contrary - you have shifted the burden of proof, and that is not right. You are the one attempting to prove that the Rambam spoke of rabbinic elite sages on par with sages like Rashi, not something less. "Darshanim who preach to the populace" in and of itself suggests something other than rabbinic elite sages. If you want to claim that they were elite sages also, the burden of proof is upon you.

    "where do we see any similarities of phraseology that leads to the conclusion that the "Sage of Israel" in one text is identical to the darshan of the other text?"

    Good question! You are correct in demanding a source. However, first note that Rav Kapach in the perush hamishna (page 136 footnote 41) already identified these darshanim as the ones that the Rambam was referring to in the Mamar T'chiyat Hameitim. I think you'll admit that he didn't have any agenda - right?

    Having said that, as far as I can see, the parallels which I assume R' Zucker is referring to are as follows:

    Mamar T'chiyat Hameitim (ibn Tibon translation):

    1) "k'var pagashnu adam shehaya nechsahav...acheirim shepagashti...shamati al k'tzat anashim"
    2)"Chai Hashem..."
    3) "heivinu d'rashot rabot al p'shuteihem"
    4) "heim has'chalim..."

    Perush hamishna (Rav Kapach translation):

    1) "rove asher nifgashti imahem...va'asher shamati aleihem..."
    2) "Vechai Hashem..."
    3) "meivinim otam k'pshatam"
    4) "hakat hazo...al sichlutam"

    Four linguistic and thematic parallels in phraseology in one paragraph. I think R' Zucker made his case.

    P.S. What's a sock puppet?

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  73. 1. Even assuming that they are referring to the same person, you want to claim that the "chacham gadol" of one text should be defined down as a darshan. Why not define up the darshan as a chacham gadol?

    2. I do not remotely see how your cited linguistic parallels as implying that they are the same people. How you can even cite a phrase such as "Chai Hashem" in support of this is truly beyond me. So if I say "good grief!" in two arguments, it means that I am arguing with the same person?!

    3. A "sock puppet" is internet terminology for someone who posts comments under a different name.

    I realize that I am breaking my own rules about not getting into extended debates, especially with people who don't post their full name, and especially when I have a full inbox of questions from people (who are giving their names). So I guess we are going to have agree to disagree, and end the discussion here, even though I would be curious to discover your view as to what happens to a corporealist Torah scholar when he dies. Kol tuv.

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  74. "Even assuming that they are referring to the same person, you want to claim that the "chacham gadol" of one text should be defined down as a darshan. Why not define up the darshan as a chacham gadol?"

    First, the Rambam never said "chacham gadol" - he said that the person was thought of by others as "echad mechachmei Yisrael." There is a difference between the connotation of these 2 terms.

    Second, I see that R' Zucker (apparently in response to this discussion) answered your question above in his essay by citing a teshuva of the Rambam where the questioner and the Rambam describe the "darshan" as someone who would come and give a speech in shul. Had the Rambam meant the people in the Treatise on Resurrection to be chachamim, he would not label them as "preachers."

    Third, if you want to posit that these preachers were also regarded by the masses as the rabbinic elite scholars, then the burden of proof, as has already been pointed out, is on you to show that that is the case.

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  75. You are correct, Rambam says "echad mechachmei Yisrael." I think that this is quite enough to prove my point. (Incidentally, I was fascinated to see you write a few sentences later that Rambam did not mean that the people were chachamim! So "echad mechachmei Yisrael" means "not a chacham"?)

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  76. I think you are missing the entire point here. The term "chacham" or "echad mechachmei Yisrael" has a broad range in its definition, particularly when it is a term given to someone by the regular amei ha-arets, as is the case that the Rambam speaks of. On its lower end, it can refer simply to some wiser than the one applying the term. This is the case in hilchot talmud torah, where one has to stand for a "chacham." That "chacham" could be an ignoramus by most standards - he's just wiser than the one who has to stand for him. Higher up on the range would be a community shul rabbi; higher up than that would be "rabbinic elite." Which definition did the Rambam mean in his case? From the perush hamishnah, it is clear that he meant a "darshan" and from the teshuvah cited, it is clear that "darshan" means shul rabbi. So, yes the person is a called "chacham" and no, he is not the rabbinic elite. According to you, "chacham" seems to have only one definition - rabbinic elite, and that is simply not true.

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