Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Reformation of Traditional Judaism

In a previous post, "Forcing the Opposition," I commented on how the problem of arguing my case too effectively is that it results in the parameters of Torah discussion being changed. This was all too well illustrated in the comment thread to the previous post. Here's a paraphrase of how this dialogue has developed over the last six years, culminating in the response to my monograph on The Sun's Path At Night.

Us: Chazal were occasionally mistaken in their statements about the natural world.

Them: - This is kefirah.

Us: But it was said by Rambam and his son.

Them: - It's an aberrant view.

Us: But it was said by many, many Rishonim.

Them: - They were working without the revelations of kabbalah.

Us: But even after the revelations of kabbalah, many Acharonim maintained this view. Besides, we see that ALL the Rishonim, without exception, understood Chazal's statement about the sun going behind the sky at night to be a description of the physical reality. Can ALL of the Rishonim really be fundamentally wrong in their understanding of Chazal? Furthermore, what evidence is there that the Gedolim were even aware of these sources? Several of them claimed that no such sources could exist!


Which brings us to the ultimate conclusion, vital for anyone operating with the basic premise that the Charedi Gedolim must be right:

Them: "The Gedolim must have secret reasons for declaring this view to be kefirah. Furthermore, even if they are not fluent in this topic, they have Divine guidance to say the correct ruling, and even if this means rating the approach of countless Rishonim and Acharonim as kefirah."


What we have here is the overturning of the traditional halachic process. It used to involve analyzing the views of Chazal, the Rishonim and Acharonim in order to reach conclusions. Dominant views were given greater weight, barring extenuating circumstances. Claims of prophetic inspiration were generally not a valid method of overturning other opinions - Lo BaShamayim Hee. Rulings were expected to be based on halachic expertise and correct information - if those were lacking, the rulings were deficient.

Now all that has changed. When a pashkevil is issued - even if the engineers of the verdict are confirmed crooks and are confirmed to have lied in this very case - the Gedolim are declared to be correct, due to their supernatural guidance. This quasi-prophetic inspiration can overturn the approach of all the Rishonim and dozens of Acharonim, and effectively declare them to have been fundamentally mistaken in their understanding of Chazal. No halachic or hashkafic justifications are required; indeed, it is acknowledged that they might not even exist, in the traditional sense! Mesorah in its true meaning - the views of the Rishonim and Acharonim throughout the generations - counts for nothing. All it takes is for people who are accomplished Talmudists (following a very particular derech in becoming Talmudists) to channel God's will as to how traditional Judaism should be reformed. And this is presented not as a social policy, but as a halachic and hashkafic pesak.

Truly frightening.

58 comments:

  1. Natan:
    This whole discussion is bizarre: the people who posted in the previous blog seem to be saying that the obligation of belief is not necessarily connected with the facts. In other words, they admit that the position of the Rishonim might be correct, historically, but nevertheless it is forbidden (lechatchilah!) to believe it. This is a new understanding in the word "to believe." I had always understood belief to mean knowing that something is true - now it seems it is possible to believe in something which I know is not true!

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  2. This is classic Kuhn. “All crises begin with the blurring of a paradigm and the consequent loosening of the rules for normal research.” (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p.84). As the proponents of the old paradigm recognise more serious anomalies, their “attempts to solve the problem become more and more radical.” (Alan Chalmers, What is This Thing Called Science, p.113)

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  3. While I agree with R' Slifkin's post, I would like to get people thinking about the 'us vs them mentality':

    "Don’t let ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality fester"

    http://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/stories/2008/09/15/smallb2.html

    And...

    "The Commission found
    the code of silence and the “us vs. them” mentality present wherever we found corruption."

    http://www.ethicsinstitute.com/pdf/Us%20versus%20Tem%20Mentally.pdf

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  4. Perhaps a glimmer of light-by breaking down the traditional halachic system in favor of a gedolim-guided system-legitimacy has been granted on some level to other great talmudic scholars such as Rabbi David Bar-Hayim to engage in a search for truth which few engage in. A search which involves paskening halacha in accordance with clear truths, manuscripts, etc. as opposed to stubbornly sticking to the view of the Shulchan Aruch or other post-Talmudic conclusions even when emeth indicates otherwise.

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  5. There's a story iirc that the chatam sofer used to leave his letters of psak for his son to mail. once when a letter sat for several days the c"s questioned why. his son responded he wasn't sure that the halachic logic was bulletproof. the c"s is reported to have said something like - mail it you may be right but the psak is still correct.

    I may not agree but iiuc the concern on the other side is for hefkeirut-once you undermine the gedolim in this matter, it's a slippery slope with every natan or joel thinking he can have an opinion.

    btw this is not just a chareidi issue-it's imho the same issue with r' avi weiss and "traditional " (:-)) mo
    kt
    joel rich

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  6. I think this post should have been titled: "The Key to Everything".

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  7. I'm sure you chose your title carefully. How apt the idea of call this aberration yet another "Reformation" of Judaism.

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  8. Rabbi slifkin I am eagerly waiting for your response to my request in the previous discussion for more sources for the Babylonian position you cite in your paper.

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  9. Any book on ancient cosmology/ astronomy will discuss it. See e.g. Christine Garwood's "Flat Earth."

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  10. This is what Prof. Rav Jose Faur has been arguing for years. That judaism was highjacked by the anti-maimonideans and the charedi gedolim are their inheritors.
    Read: Anti-Maimonidean Demons
    http://www.chayas.com/AntiRAMBAM.pdf

    IMHO, his brilliant work is fundamentally flawed in that he glosses over the foreign innovations of the philosophers.

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  11. What truly frightens me is that this might not be the only time in history that this has been done. What if this was done a thousand years ago? What if they altered many things then? Our "Mesorah" would be completely tainted. What does this mean for the veracity of anything in our religion if everything is alterable by the current "gedolim"? Truly frightening! I hope that this is a recent innovation and has not been present throughout history.

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  12. joel, your 'slippery slope' argument should be addressed to the Hareidi gedolim and some MO rashei yeshiva, instead of R' Natan and those who support his view. When religious leaders make wild pronouncements, or allow their names to be used by irresponsible askanim, and who don't censure the latter for unethical conduct, they are the ones who bring torah and religion into disrepute. Their critics are entitled to voice their objections as long as they do so in a respectful manner. If anything, R' Natan has shown admirable reticence in not strongly attacking those gedolim who harmed him and his family, and who has even tried to understand the position of his critics.

    It has gotten to the point where educated religious people disdain halachic pronouncements coming from Israel due to their extremism and chumrah-seeking. Such polarization is not healthy, but if the 'gedolim' wish to place blame, they shouldn't focus on the internet; they need only look in a mirror.

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  13. E-Man,

    You're right on the money. Rav Slifkin can complain about the current highjack. But in the end, he's just supporting an earlier highjacker, RAMBAM. And if you really want to scientifically dissect Judaism and find the ORIGINAL true tradition, you'll find yourself staring into a black hole. See the intro of Prof Kugel's How to Read the Bible.

    Bottom Line: Many start with their own preconceived notion of what they'd like Judaism to be and then finds the Rav or community that agrees.

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  14. "Which brings us to the ultimate conclusion, vital for anyone operating with the basic premise that the Charedi Gedolim must be right"

    Last week, I was browsing through the recently published "On the Derech" in the Seforim store(see link). There is an interesting section titled "Do Gedolim Make Mistakes?" which included the issue of banned books(the merits of specific bans were not dicussed).

    Part of the chapter pointed out that the Gedolim are caring and highly dedicated, which I agree with. At the end, as I recall, the author summarizes that Gedolim make mistakes:

    A) Rarely

    B) Only if Hashem wills it

    I would agree with point B as well, since there is a concept of ruach hakodesh and "meshiv chachamim achor", but I would add that this is not a contradiction to respectfully discussing the pros and cons of decisons. The fact that even charedi writers admitted that there was a problem with the way the Lipa ban happened(even if not blaming the Gedolim), shows that ruach hakodesh, and the will of Hashem, is not a reason why not to make improvements or to rationally and respectfully discuss the pros and cons of a decision.


    http://www.targum.com/product.php/1215/on-the-derech

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  15. Message to those whose comments are not being posted: Please read the post about the comments policy.

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  16. Shades
    Is that 1.a or b
    2, a and b ?


    R'YA -that's how they see it iiuc

    KT
    Joel Rich

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  17. I think it's a serious flaw to characterize an entire segment of the population by the maniacal postings of one or two anonymous individuals.
    Not to mention self-serving.

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  18. Maybe I should make myself clearer. This is the result of those who admit to the existence of the sources, but still maintain that the Gedolim are correct. Some do neither of those - or they claim that the Gedolim did not mean what they said they meant.

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  19. Emeth said:

    "Perhaps a glimmer of light-by breaking down the traditional halachic system in favor of a gedolim-guided system-legitimacy has been granted on some level to other great talmudic scholars such as Rabbi David Bar-Hayim to engage in a search for truth which few engage in. A search which involves paskening halacha in accordance with clear truths, manuscripts, etc. as opposed to stubbornly sticking to the view of the Shulchan Aruch or other post-Talmudic conclusions even when emeth indicates otherwise."

    I don't understand this comment.

    From what I can tell, Rabbi Bar Hayim bases his views on rishonim and gaonim, and aharonim, (and manuscripts and facts, like you indicate). So what connection is there with the irrational view being promulgated in the name of "gedolim," whereby facts are ignored? If anything, it would strongly contradict his approach.

    For one thing, I've spoken to him personally, and he does consider there to be a great distinction between halakha and hashkafa. He also said to me that it's a common mistake people make to confuse these two things. Yet, the view Rabbi Slifkin refers to from commentators like ben uziel blurs that distinction and actually conflates the two things.

    All the moreso, this type of view (ben uziel's) would be opposed to reexamining halachic issues in light of rishonim who seem to explain the issue more clearly than the current standard "accepted halacha" or something zohar-based in the Shulhan Aruch that "we must follow." (Granted, from what I can gather, Rabbi Slifkin also does not agree that halachic issues can be re-examined, no matter how compelling are given sources! But I think the magical-kabbalah-hashgaha-of-gedolim view is only a stronger opposition to Rabbi Bar Hayim's approach, rather than a concession).

    At the end of the day, you either accept his approach or not, but it seems in this environment no one is going to openly stand up and approve of something that goes against their own approach. That's just where we are today. Of course, as an anonymous commentator, I can openly say: I have no problem with you, Emeth, if you go by Rabbi Bar Hayim :)

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  20. Joel Rich,

    I think the author was saying A+B.

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  21. or they claim that the Gedolim did not mean what they said they meant.

    This brings us back to my unanswered comment here:
    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/11/ever-increasing-list.html?showComment=1289506535225#c4269183887146135932

    One can easily and reasonably distinguish between what the banning gedolim personally hold about Chazal's rejected statements by other members of Chazal on the one hand,
    and what they view as heretical because it is a radical departure from the mainstream view: which only denies the validity of post-talmudic rejections of Chazal.

    I won't deny that avoiding this distinction makes the gedolim a VERY easy target. Maybe that's why its so attractive...

    In the name of truth, please verify which position was actually banned.

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  22. I don't think I've caught the correct spirit of the debate because it appears to me that:

    1] Natural philosophies & sciences that comes from Chazal, Rishonim, and Acharonim are prophecy or ruach hakodesh.

    and

    2]Some of these natural philosophies/scientific views are demonstrated to be wrong using evidence.

    Therefore:
    3] We accept that prophecy/ruach hakodesh is a form of transferring false information to the Jewish people.

    I'm SURE that's not what is intended....but I really don't know what else to make of it. Where am I going wrong?

    Thanks,
    Gary Goldwater

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  23. Hey- I animated your post:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fenn2K0ZXg&feature=player_embedded

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  24. Rabbi,
    This I don't get:
    Them: - They were working without the revelations of kabbalah.

    Now, if Kabbalah has any validity, wouldn't it be proper to say that it, like (the rest of) our Torah was handed down from Moshe to Yehoshua and down through the generations until now?

    If so, how can people say that the Rishonim knew nothing about Kabbalah?

    If Kabbalah was some later revelation, of which the Rishonim knew nothing, how can we validate it as normative Jewish belief?

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  25. Rabbi Slifkin, do you have a response to E-man's comment?
    Neal

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  26. "There's a story iirc that the chatam sofer used to leave his letters of psak for his son to mail. once when a letter sat for several days the c"s questioned why. his son responded he wasn't sure that the halachic logic was bulletproof. the c"s is reported to have said something like - mail it you may be right but the psak is still correct."

    The chasam sofer is well known for knowing the psak before creating the justification. (I don't personally know his psakim well enough to comment.) Perhaps he and his "chadash assur min hatorah" should be considered the founder of charedi Judaism.

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  27. " those who admit to the existence of the sources, but still maintain that the Gedolim are correct. "

    One can substitute "Conservative rabbis" for "Gedolim" and still have a true statement. I'm not sure why these folks would not have the status of a ritually observant Conservative rabbi.

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  28. One can easily and reasonably distinguish between what the banning gedolim personally hold about Chazal's rejected statements by other members of Chazal on the one hand,
    and what they view as heretical because it is a radical departure from the mainstream view: which only denies the validity of post-talmudic rejections of Chazal.


    No. The Gedolim themselves (at least, those who have given any kind of elaboration of their views) have made it clear that ALL Chazal's statements were based on Sinaitic tradition/ Ruach hakodesh. There's no difference between the views of Chazal on the sun's path at night and the views of Chazal on spontaneously generating mice.

    I plan to post in future with quotations of their views.

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  29. "What does this mean for the veracity of anything in our religion if everything is alterable by the current "gedolim"?"

    Why would veracity derive from historicity?

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  30. Zohar said and E-man, i think a distinction should be made between the halachic and hashkafic mesorah. In terms of the evolution of halachic torah shebaal peh, there is a clear precident that it is the hands of the chachmei hamesorah to expand, explain, clarify and apply the mesorah depending on reality (based on a Ritvah who brings a midrash which explains the source of machloket). I dont think the gedolim have tainted this.

    Regarding hashkafic issues, we maintain shivim panim latorah and their is certainly more flexibility for individuals to adapt the mesorah. It is this which has been tainted. It is ironic though how the chareidi world have made hashkafic issues more dogmatic than halachic issues!

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  31. Meir said:

    In terms of the evolution of halachic torah shebaal peh, there is a clear precident that it is the hands of the chachmei hamesorah to expand, explain, clarify and apply the mesorah depending on reality (based on a Ritvah who brings a midrash which explains the source of machloket).

    How do they answer Rambam's apparent position that the laws laid down in the Talmud are immutable and can only be changed by the authority of a re-established Sanhedrin? How do they justify canceling d'orayta commandments such as putting tefilin on Yom Tov? Is the Ritvah the primary source for the idea that individual Rabbi's can make halachic rulings that contradict the Talmud?

    At least for me, part of the problem is also the seeming lack of a continuous chain of tradition. If there is a continuous chain of tradition, then how is it that we don't know the proper way to blow the shofar on Yom Kippur, or have a definitive and generally accepted list of exactly what the 613 d'orayta mitzvot are?

    Please understand that I'm not trying to be confrontational. I've just been having a hard time understanding the issue of modern Rabbinic authority, it's origins and how it developed.

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  32. There have been numerous innovations and reformations. What has been accepted by Klal Yisrael is not arbitrary. Titen Emet L'Yaakov. The Charedi reformation of today will die out, as did many before. Give it time. They ban the truth - the truth will strike back. Klal Yisrael will not be fooled. We are small contributors to a big process, heading towards Geulat HaEmet.

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  33. Meir,

    Who are the "chachmei hamesorah" and who is allowed to ignore their decisions?

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  34. "Indeed, as Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky writes in Emes LeYaakov, the goal of the charedi/ yeshivah approach is to minimize any apparent theological differences between the Rishonim,"

    Can R. Slifkin or someone else please tell me exactly where Reb Yaakov writes this?

    thanks,

    Michoel

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  35. Gary Goldwater,

    You have shown that:
    1) Not every statement by chazal was divinely inspired.
    and/or
    2) The ambiguous nature of prophecy and ruach hakodesh allows for misinterpretation.

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  36. Student V-

    You misunderstood my point which was perhaps too brief to be clear. Without a doubt the current approach of "the Gedolim" does not jibe with Rav David Bar-Hayim's approach and they overwhelmingly would reject it out of hand. However, by overriding precedent they on some level give legitimacy to Rav Bar-Hayim's approach which of course acknowledges and respects precedent whether of Geonim, Rishonim, or Aharonim but does not see the need to follow such precedent if truth clearly indicates otherwise. Rav Bar-Hayim is willing to allow for changes in current practice if he feels that a commonly accepted halacha is based on a faulty understanding of whether it is a Gaon, Rishon,or Aharon. (It is rare that he would hold a view which was not already held by at least one Rishon.)

    All I was saying is that by Gedolim showing such little regarding for major precedent among the Rishonim they are on some level declaring "open season" on the perceived need to follow accepted precedent when they do not see fit. Of course, the difference is that Rav Bar-Hayim's criteria for not accepting accepted precedent is when such precedent is clearly false, whereas the Gedolim reject the precedent for other less intellectually honest reasons.

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  37. Meir,

    How do we know they have only tainted the hashkafic sources?

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  38. Hey Krum, Nice addition to the format.

    [Warning: The next section is meant to be humorous.]

    Here's a story about the attempted suppression of your divinely inspired fish dish.

    http://www.icenews.is/index.php/2010/06/30/sweden-pleads-to-keep-rotten-fish-dish/

    Gary Goldwater

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  39. >>>> What truly frightens me is that this might not be the only time in history that this has been done.

    E-man, hang onto your yarmulke because it’s happened many times to varying degrees and rates of change.

    I think the most prominent one and well known is the radical shift of Jewish worship from temple-centric to prayers and related changes as adopted by Rebbi Yokhanan ben Zakkai and his colleagues.

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  40. The funny thing about this is that R' Moshe Feinstein, widely considered the Godol HaDor, himself said that his halachic rulings should not be given any more weight that they deserve based on the quality of his reasoning. If this is the correct approach, then the rulings of rabbis who pasken without a detailed explanation of their reasoning, or with very little -- or perhaps even when they fail to address obvious counterarguments -- should receive very little weight.

    Another interesting thing is that Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, a mystic if there ever was one, said that when coming up with new Torah insights, the only limit is that one must not change a single word of the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch. So semi-prophetic inspiration was seen as a very good thing but not as something that could alter halachic rulings.

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  41. ...hang onto your yarmulke because it’s happened many times to varying degrees and rates of change.

    Elemir (or anyone else) - is there any book or essay that you know of which specifically talks about all of these instances?

    Thanks.

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  42. Yishai - excellent point about Rav Moshe Feinstein!

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  43. true about r'mf yet others (r'oy) are very much more "weight of prior poskim" in approach. btw did you notice the lack of haskamot to iggrot moshe :-)
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  44. Rabbi Slifkin -- there are two points that have been made over and over -- but you incorrectly either deny or reject them. Until you face them honestly you will not understand your opponents and all your writing -- while very valuable on its own merit -- still misses the point when speaking of your opponents.

    1)You can quote all you want from the few people who defended their opposition to you -- but the fact that they wrote doesn't mean they represent the real opposition to your works. And even what they write may be an extreme reaction to you. The reality is (and I am really surprised you don't get this) that most, or at least many, have zero problem with Chazal rejecting Chazal -- meaning the Gemara internally saying something about other statements in Chazal. To them, It is not fundamentally different than them rejecting any Peshat by another Tanna/Amora.

    Others take it further and allow a Rishon to reject some Non-Halachic statement of Chazal, others even an Acharon -- and would have no problem with the position of these scholars being quoted.

    What they don't like is when you take these statements and build on them.

    But again, certainly at least Internal-Chazal is not problematic by many.

    Of course, you are correct that others believe that every word is fully correct -- it depends on the various approaches to Eilu ve'Eilu. But by you arguing with the most extreme position (which of course does have sources) you are setting up a straw man to fight.

    You will almost certainly respond "But that is what they say" -- irrelevant. as I have heard you publicly admit -- not everyone someone screams "Apikorsus" do they even mean it, and it just means they are the loudest not that everyone agrees.

    As long as you keep on arguing the most extreme position, you are getting a lot of pats on the back from your supporters but not addressing the real issue.

    2) All you are doing is defending the Rambam. Great. You are saying that the Rambam's approach is legit. But all your opponents are saying is "The Rama and Maharal say the approach is not legit." Also great. All you add is that you don't understand how they can call it Apikorsus and don't understand how they can reject the fact that other great people (say Rav Herzog & Rav Kook and even Maharam Shick)acccepted these views.

    I don't understand how you don't understand (you probably really do but can't face the ramifications)that:

    A)As above, When they scream Apikorsus it doesn't literally mean it.

    B)Many of these figures received great opposition to their views and werent fully respected because of them.

    C)Most importantly, they feel you are taking their position farther than they ever would allow.

    Why would you expect to get less opposition than Rambam himself?

    Why would you expect them to take the position of the Rambam over the Rama & Rashba?

    The statement "it is not our Mesora" DOES have validity.

    In your article you write things seemed to have changed in the 1600's. Are you surprised to be opposed for skipping four hundred years of history?

    It is re-writing Jewish Intelectual History to deny the Rationalist School ever existed. It is also re-writing Jewish Intelectual History to deny that despite the respect these figures are given, portions of their thought have long been rejected.

    Therefore: Why is it remotely surprising what happened to you?

    Why is it even wrong what happened to you?

    If Rama can reject Rambam, Why Can't Rav Elyashiv reject R. Slifkin. R. Elyashev is not the Rama, but you are not the Rambam.

    Not that its important, but I will add that I write this as one who enjoys and gains much from your work. But you seem to be fighting a battle you don't understand.

    Your like some Litvak who week after week runs into a Chasidisher Shteeble and scream at them to stop Dancing on Shabbos and eating in Shul. Not surprising if he would get hurt.

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  45. You are incorrect on many point.

    1. I have always made it clear that the Gedolim who banned my books cannot be painted with a single brush. There are those who feel that it is unequivocal kefirah to say that Chazal can be mistaken in science, while others disagree. However, the primary forces behind the ban - Rav Moshe Shapiro and Rav Wachtfogel - are of the former view.

    2. This post was not intended to describe the views of the Gedolim, but rather of those people who defend the most extreme views of the Gedolim.

    3. The Gedolim do not differentiate between Pesachim 94b and other statements of Chazal. Those who consider it unacceptable to say that Chazal erred in science, do so because they believe that their statements were based on ruach hakodesh, or that they were talking about pnimiyus - which applies equally to Pesachim 94b.

    4. I have always made it clear that I think that people have the right to consider the approach of Rambam etc. as kefirah or otherwise reject it. What I object to is when they try to pin it on me and not acknowledge that Rambam etc. took the same position.

    5. I did not "take things further than Rambam etc." In my books there were THREE occasions where I said that Chazal erred, and in each case I was quoting an earlier authority.

    THere are other mistakes in what you write, but that's all I have time for at the moment.

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  46. Cool video-may the wellsprings of creativity of our holy rationalist brothers and sisters continue to produce more such works. :)

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  47. The Gedolim themselves (at least, those who have given any kind of elaboration of their views) have made it clear that ALL Chazal's statements were based on Sinaitic tradition/ Ruach hakodesh. There's no difference between the views of Chazal on the sun's path at night and the views of Chazal on spontaneously generating mice.

    I understand that this may very well be their personal view, but that IN NO WAY implies that they view the straightforward meaning of the gemara--That Chazal point out other Chazal's mistakes-- to be heretical.

    I plan to post in future with quotations of their views.

    I hope you realize that in order for you you make your case, they have to state explicitly that anything but their own extreme view above is heretical.

    No vague affirmative statements like "all statements of Chazal are from ruach hakodesh" will suffice. They have to also specify what is the heretical view.

    Please be careful about this.

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  48. Rabbi Slifkin - have you ever seen ther book "Dynamics of Dispute?"

    As pointed out by many Chazal may have "erred" in Halacha that either Bais Shamai or Bais Hillel were wrong.

    Of course there are other views that both are "right." But the view that one may be "wrong" can be found in numerous Charedi books. There is no way Charedim view science as worse.

    So you simply misunderstand your opponents.

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  49. I know that book, and of course I know of sources that discuss Chazal being wrong. And there are certainly people in the charedi world who view it that way. But I also know my major opponents, and I know how they think. They most certainly do not hold that in a machlokes, one side is wrong. Tell me, have you read Chaim B'Emunasam? That is how they think.

    Why did you put "wrong" in quotation marks?

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  50. I put wrong in quotes because while it is wrong in the world of truth it is right in the world of action. A position I am pretty sure you agree with.

    Yes I have read Chaim Be'emunasam thoroughly cover to cover. You are absolutely correct in your description of his position.

    My point is that much of recent writing successfully refutes his position - but you are spending too much time on him. There are many others who have serious problems with your approach who take a more moderate approach. They find no problem with admitting Chazal can say Chazal erred, but still don't like your approach. You have not successfully answered them.

    And you do build on the rationalist approach farther than it has been taken before - except possibly by Rav Gedalya Nadel (prime example would be your discussion of Adam). You take it farther than before, and more importantly gather together varied isolated sources to come up with a picture that goes further than ever before.

    Its funny, like I said before I love your books and articles and have gained much from them. But that's before the ban. After the ban you are far to focused on Shmeltzer, not fully honest in addressing the real issues, and come across somewhat stubborn and bitter - which is understandable - but seems to be affe cting you scholarship.

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  51. I can only respond to that which has been written or publicly stated in criticism of me. I can't respond to vague theories of what might lie behind the objections of some of my opponents, because I just don't know exactly what to respond to.

    It's also much less important to respond to such vague ideas from anonymous people on the internet, than to respond to official positions of people in authority who are actively threatening the rationalist approach.

    I agree that, post-ban, I take the rationalist approach further with regard to the Bereishis issues (but not the Chazal issues). Although perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the rationalist approach of the Rishonim has different results when dealing with 21st century science than when dealing with 13th century Greek philosophy.

    Finally, I am convinced that your distinction about Chazal is largely irrelevant, and that NONE of the Gedolim who opposed my work would say that Chazal mistakenly believed the universe to be a dome over the earth. I would be more than happy to be proved wrong about this!

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  52. I do not know if anyone would say that Chazal believed that the universe was a dome over the earth, because they wouldn't really think into the Science of it. But I do know that many would understand the internal statement in the Gemara that the Chachmei Umos HaOlam were correct to be literal. They would be uncomfortable with it, would be aware of Rabbeinu Tam, but would not remotely be scandelized by being shown Rishonim and Acharonim that hold its literal.

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  53. And you are exactly correct -- it has far more devestating effects when dealing with 21st Century Science. That is exactly the problem.

    And that is why I believe that ultimately this approach really can't work. Because even you don't take it to the most devestating logical conclusions.

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  54. yitzi wrote: "You take it farther than before, and more importantly gather together varied isolated sources to come up with a picture that goes further than ever before."

    And why would this be wrong?

    I like the fact that Rabbi Slifkin uses the sources and tries to form a coherent approach out of them, relevant to our times. At least he's trying. If you don't like it, you can follow your own approach or that of other rabbis.

    Your argument is basically a stance against creativity.

    (This leaves aside the current issue in this post, which is not what you describe but simply explaining a gemara and how the rishonim viewed it. Of course we both refer to something beyond such a discussion).

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  55. But I do know that many would understand the internal statement in the Gemara that the Chachmei Umos HaOlam were correct to be literal. They would be uncomfortable with it, would be aware of Rabbeinu Tam, but would not remotely be scandelized by being shown Rishonim and Acharonim that hold its literal.

    Yitzi, I hereby challenge you to get ANY of the Gedolim to publicly state or write that the Gemara is literal and the Chachmei Umos HaOlam were correct. (I don't even believe that they would say it off-the-record or that they believe it at all.)

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  56. Student V - I make no such argument at all. I merely point out what Rabbi Slifkin is doing, what he should acknowledge he is doing (thereby better understanding his opponents), but make no argument as to its legitimacy.

    Rabbi Slifkin -- I cannot take up youe exact challenge -- because you have pushed them into a corner (just as they have pushed you).

    BUT I accept the challenge as follows: I will show CHAREDI books, with Charedi Haskomos, mainstream Charedi lectures etc. where such a position was not called Heretical at all. It was accepted as a legit mainstream (although not prefered) approach.

    And it is weird that this is a Chidush to you -- your entire original stance was wonder at the ban -- how it goes against what was always a mainstream legit approach.

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  57. Of course there are such books - such as Yehudah Levi's books. But we all know what haskamos mean and what they do not mean.

    And I don't agree that I "pushed them into a corner." What does that even mean? But okay, show me anytime in the past that any of the Gedolim who banned my books said that the Gemara is literal and the Chachmei Umos HaOlam were correct.

    Also, I am not in wonder at the ban. I understand it completely and it can be explained for several reasons. But it nevertheless remains true that the Gedolim who banned it do take the extreme position.

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