Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Sound of the Spheres


In his fascinating post at the Seforim Blog, Dr. Marc Shapiro (to whom I am indebted for supplying me with the source in Shevilei David that I sent to Rav Feldman), refers to Rambam's discussion about the sound of the spheres in the Guide to the Perplexed 2:8. This is a topic which many people find cryptic, so I would like to discuss it, and also raise a point that I have not seen discussed before.

According to ancient views of the universe, the universe is comprised not of inconceivably gigantic tracts of outer space, but rather of crystalline spheres, nested like the layers of an onion. (I will soon be e-publishing an essay which discusses this in more detail.) In chapter 2:8 of the Guide, Rambam makes reference to the Pythagorean view that just as small objects make a sound when moved through the air at high speed (think of the noise that a yo-yo would make if you whirled it around your head), so too the spheres make noise as they revolve around us at great speed. Rambam says that Chazal were also of this view. He continues to note that Aristotle has disproved this notion, and adds that one should not be surprised that the Sages were mistaken, since they themselves acknowledged that the gentile scholars knew more about these astronomical matters than they did. (Elsewhere, Rambam indicates that even Yechezkel had this mistaken understanding, which was reflected in Maase Merkavah.)

I've started looking into this, and I am not at all sure that when Chazal spoke about the celestial bodies making sounds, they were talking about the same thing as the Pythagoreans, for two reasons. First, contrary to how Aristotle describes it, the Pythagorean concept of Musica Universalis (the music of the spheres) is usually explained to relate to the mathematical significance in the distances between the various celestial spheres, being more of a symbolic harmony rather than an audible noise. Second, even if it was an actual noise, where exactly did this noise come from? Reading Rosemary Wright's Cosmology in Antiquity, I am unsure. It seems that it was thought to be a noise caused by the actual spheres revolving through the air, whereas Chazal, on the other hand, spoke about the sound of the sun boring its way through the firmament (Yoma 20b, Bereishis Rabbah 6:7). As Rambam himself notes, this appears to have been based on their belief that the sun is not embedded in a sphere, but rather is a distinct body that travels through the surface of the crystalline firmament that encompasses the earth, making noise as it tunnels through it.

It thus appears to me that while Rambam was correct in describing Chazal as mistaken in believing the sun to make sound, I am not so sure that this was identical to the Pythagorean belief of Musica Universalis. And I think that if this is so, possibly Rambam himself may have noted this, since he describes Chazal as believing that the sun makes noise due to its moving across the sphere. But I have only just begun to explore this topic.

101 comments:

  1. "Elsewhere, Rambam indicates that even Yechezkel had this mistaken understanding, which was reflected in Maase Merkavah."

    I assume that the "elsewhere" that you refer to is the Guide 3:3, based upon Shapiro's article. Did you actually look up the passage in the Guide? There, the Rambam says that in one explanation the ophanim are the spheres, and in another sense they are bodies that contain flesh, hands, and wings. So the movement of the ophanim that produces sound is not limited solely to the "spheres" sense of ophanim - it can also refer to the bodies with flesh, hands, and wings. And bodies with flesh, hands, and wings do produce sound when they move through the air quickly.

    I would be a bit more careful before ascribing this position to the Rambam.

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  2. The ancient cosmology is very interesting but does it have contemporary relevance or just academic value?

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  3. At first I had nothing to say on this topic, but while looking up some links for another thread, I noticed that some academics believe sefer yetzirah to be influenced by pythagerous belief on the cosmos.

    It might be helpful to look at the later chapters of that book to elucidate the beliefs of the time.

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  4. I assume that the "elsewhere" that you refer to is the Guide 3:3, based upon Shapiro's article.

    No. But I made a mistake - the indication is not elsewhere, it is right here in this chapter (in conjunction with various ideas that Rambam says elsewhere). See the commentaries of Efodi, Shem Tov, Narvoni, and Abarbanel in Ta’anos, 4, all of whom explain that this is the view of Rambam.

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  5. The ancient cosmology is very interesting but does it have contemporary relevance or just academic value?

    The contemporary relevance is with regard to how Chazal and Rishonim reacted to developments in astronomical knowledge. It can serve as a model for how we should approach developments in science since then.

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  6. The ancient cosmology is very interesting but does it have contemporary relevance or just academic value?

    The contemporary relevance is with regard to how Chazal and Rishonim reacted to developments in astronomical knowledge. It can serve as a model for how we should approach developments in science since then.

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  7. I agree that what chazal describe is quite different from the pythagorian doctrine of music of the spheres. However, as I said in my article, I find it very unlikely that chazal came up with the highly counter intuitive idea that the heavenly bodies, or at least one of them make a tremendous amount of noise which is at the same time inaudible. I think that chazal picked up, perhaps unknowlingly, a fragment of this theory and integrated it into their own model of the cosmos.

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  8. For a lovely introduction to the medieval view of the world and the cosmos, read "The Discarded Image" by C. S. Lewis. His students of literature needed this to better appreciate what they were reading...

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  9. Dan,

    I have heard Lubavitchers claim that there are only seven planets. Why? Because Rambam paskened [sic!] this way.

    Let's not even get into the four elements that make up the natural world. I have studied many chassidic texts which simply assume this as fact. I doubt most Lubavitchers have even heard that we have 108 elements.

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  10. Lawrence Kaplan comments:

    While the commentators on Guide 2:8 state that the Rambam is suggesting that Yehezkel's vision reflected the scintifically mistaken view that the movement of the spheres produces noise, it should be noted that the Rambam does not explicitly refer to Yehezkel in this chapter. One has to combine 2:8 with 3:3 to arrive at the commentators' conclusion.

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  11. "One has to combine 2:8 with 3:3 to arrive at the commentators' conclusion."

    And even then, the conclusion of the commentators is not at all conclusive, since the Rambam himself in 3:3 speaks of the ophanim as not only the spheres, but also as bodies with flesh, hands, and wings, as I mentioned in my earlier comment.

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  12. Hey - check out this link:

    curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=735

    Apparently, the consensus of scientists today is that some celestial bodies DO make sounds. Pretty cool stuff.

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  13. But completely irrelevant to Chazal and Pythagoras.

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  14. "But completely irrelevant to Chazal and Pythagoras."

    But not irrelevant to the Scriptures.

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  15. Could you explain, please.

    IF (and that's a big "if") the scriptural references to Musica Universalis is meant to be literal (as opposed to a prophetic vision, which is often an "image" of something not real in the physical world, and is shown only to convey some message) then the fact that scientists now say that it is a fact that there are celestial bodies that produce sound - the scripture is totally consistent with science. How is this irrelevant?

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  16. Look at the Scriptural references. Then look at the scientific report. If you honestly think that you see a correlation, I suggest that you read my latest post about Moslems.

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  17. (Sorry if that sounded harsh, I don't mean to be!)

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  18. "Look at the Scriptural references. Then look at the scientific report."

    I don't understand why you find the idea of the scriptural description of the sounds produced by the ophanim and the scientific description of the celestial spheres making sounds as being incompatible. IF (again, big "if") the prophetic vision describes something physically real, and the vision was given by the omniscient God, then what is the problem here? It sounds to me as though you are starting with the premise that the prophet *could not* know a what we know today to be a scientific truth if it was not available to him at that time through science. Why couldn't he know it through prophecy from God? If the prophet does indeed describe the planets as making sounds, and if the planets do in fact make sounds as scientists now claim, why is this a problem? I don't want to presume anything here, but it sounds to me like you are having trouble with the fact that prophecy can give a person advanced knowledge that he wouldn't know through science. If that is truly your view, then it sounds to me like you are denying the idea of prophecy. I do not mean to sound harsh - and please correct me if I am wrong - but that's the impression I'm getting from what you wrote.

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  19. NatureFan, the verse in the Psalm "The heavens relate the glory of GOD" should be taken figuratively. As it continues, " There is no speech or words, their sound is not heard". Rather, the marvelous complexity yet regularity of the heavens leads us to appreciate and marvel at their creation.

    In terms of physical reality, no sound can reach us on earth from outer space since sound propagation requires a material medium, whether solid, liquid, or gas. Sound is simply a disturbance of such a medium that is propagated by wave action akin to what happens in disturbed water. Free space, in contrast, consists of a high vacuum through which sound can't propagate. One would need a probe on the surface of a heavenly body or its atmosphere to detect any sound produced by quakes, impacts, or volcanic action.

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  20. "Let's not even get into the four elements that make up the natural world."

    Solid, liquid, gas, and plasma
    earth, water, air, and fire

    :)

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  21. Nature fan,
    I have seen many argue that String theory and its vibrations are the music that chazal were refering to.

    Personally, I have a hard time believing that the sounds refereed to by ancient people was any actual sound, unless they were referring to thunder.

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  22. It sounds to me as though you are starting with the premise that the prophet *could not* know a what we know today to be a scientific truth if it was not available to him at that time through science.

    That has nothing to do with it.

    Did you look at the pesukim and at the scientific article? Did it really seem to you that they were talking about the same thing?

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  23. "Did you look at the pesukim and at the scientific article? Did it really seem to you that they were talking about the same thing?"

    I did look at the pesukim and at the article. It is not relevant whether it "seemed" to me or to you that they were or were not talking about the same thing. The question is "could" they be referring to the same thing. At the same time, does "seem" to me that you are not addressing the point that I made.

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  24. It is not relevant whether it "seemed" to me or to you that they were or were not talking about the same thing.

    I guess that's where we differ. To me, that is exactly what is relevant. Is it theoretically possible that a prophet could know about how certain planets have strong magnetic fields such that when charged particles are accelerated through the field, they give off radio emissions that can sound like whizzes, pops, and static? I think that the answer to that is subject to a dispute amongst the Rishonim (as to whether prophets can get all kinds of knowledge, or just theological messages that they see within their own understanding of the world). But I think that the relevant question is not whether it's theoretically possible, but rather whether it's reasonable to say that this is what the pesukim are talking about. And I don't think that it is remotely reasonable.

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  25. OK - I understand your point, although it's clear that we disagree. Could you please provide some sources as to which rishonim (and where they write it) maintain that prophecy can contain mistakes? Thanks.

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  26. Rambam is mentioned in this post and comment thread. I can't remember right now where else I saw it, but I definitely saw it elsewhere.

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  27. But the Rambam on his own is not a legitimate source for this view, as can be seen from Dr. Kaplan's comment and my earlier comments. Any other rishonim?

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  28. What does that mean? All the commentaries on the Rambam agree that this was his view. Do you know of any that disagree?

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  29. I mean that no where - NO WHERE - does the Rambam say this at all. If there are a couple of commentaries who say this based upon their own inferences, it is their position, not the Rambam's. This is clear from what Dr. Kaplan wrote, and from what I wrote earlier. So again, are there any rishonim who maintain this view?

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  30. It is not "their opinion, based on their own inferences" - it is their conclusion as to what Rambam means and the purpose of his discussing this in the Moreh. How much experience do you have with the Moreh. Rambam himself stresses in the intro that there are some things that he will not be saying explicitly, but which people have to figure out from various clues. Now, in some cases, there are disputes as to what these covert views are. However, in this case, I am not aware of any dispute. If Efodi, Shem Tov, Narvoni, Abarbanel and Rav Fisher say that this is Rambam's view, and nobody differs, why should I not say the same?

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  31. He also said in the introduction that anyone who does figure out the hidden ideas in the Guide should not reveal them. If this is a hidden idea that Efodi, et al, discerned and revealed, they violated the instructions of the author. Is one who does so truly reliable in discerning the author's message? More to the point, that which prompted them to interpret the Rambam in the way that they did was based upon their understanding that "ophanim" refers to celestial spheres. But as I write earlier, the Rambam says that "ophanim" ALSO refers to bodies with flesh, wings, and hands - and those bodies certainly can produce sound as they move. So the argument that the commentaries advance is far from conclusive. Or are you suggesting that despite the fact that there is a problem with their approach, since there is consensus among 4 people as to what the Rambam meant, then that must be true?

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  32. I think that their opinion carries much greater weight than some anonymous commentator on my blog!

    And I don't think that they are any the less reliable for explaining his meaning.

    (And I don't think that Rambam believed the Ophanim to be bodies with flesh, wings, and hands)

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  33. "I think that their opinion carries much greater weight than some anonymous commentator on my blog!"

    I a bit surprised to see you say this. It sounds like you are saying that at least part of the validity of a view resides in the status of the person who said it, as opposed to the validity exclusively residing in the merits of the view itself. This doesn't sound too rationalistic to me.

    "(And I don't think that Rambam believed the Ophanim to be bodies with flesh, wings, and hands)"

    Guide 3:3 -

    "In this second description there are further mentioned (about the ophanim) 'their flesh, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings' whilst in the first account none of these is mentioned...This is the additional explanation which the second vision gives of the form of the...ophanim."

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  34. What do you mean, not rationalistic? These figures are acknowledged experts on Rambam's thought. It's very reasonable and rational to assume that they had good reason for explaining him in this way.

    I am aware of that quote about the Ophanim. And I don't think that Rambam understood the ophanim to have physical form of flesh, hands and wings.

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  35. By the way, Marc Shapiro points out that Ralbag also explains that this was Rambam's view, and agrees with it.

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  36. "I am aware of that quote about the Ophanim. And I don't think that Rambam understood the ophanim to have physical form of flesh, hands and wings."

    So the Rambam didn't mean what he wrote. Now this could well be the case here, as per his introduction to the Guide, or it could well NOT be the case, since very often he DOES mean what he says.

    So the best you could say is "the view that prophecy can contain mistakes is held by the Rambam as I, Rabbi Slifkin, understand the esoteric meaning of his words, but I must admit that this view is not contained in the Rambam's words themselves. I am bolstered by the fact that other commentaries of the Rambam saw it this way as well, but again, the view is not contained in his words."

    If that is what you are saying, then I agree. But if you are advancing the view that the Rambam clearly and unquestionably maintained what you say he did, then I think you are mistaken.

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  37. "By the way, Marc Shapiro points out that Ralbag also explains that this was Rambam's view, and agrees with it."

    I know - and there is no question that this was Ralbag's view. At the same time, it's kind of funny, since the Ralbag was wrong about what he said:

    "Since Abraham falsely believed that there are many stars, his prophecy contained this false conception, while in reality according to Ralbag there are actually a limited number of stars."

    As Dr. Shapiro himself points out later in the article, Avraham's nevua was completely correct as written, despite the fact that the ancients thought there were a small number of stars.

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  38. So the Rambam didn't mean what he wrote. Now this could well be the case here, as per his introduction to the Guide, or it could well NOT be the case, since very often he DOES mean what he says.

    But in this case it would go against everything else that we know of Rambam's view of the universe and angels and what entities exist.

    So the best you could say is "the view that prophecy can contain mistakes is held by the Rambam as I, Rabbi Slifkin, understand the esoteric meaning of his words, but I must admit that this view is not contained in the Rambam's words themselves. I am bolstered by the fact that other commentaries of the Rambam saw it this way as well, but again, the view is not contained in his words."

    That's not very accurate. This is better: "The view that prophecy can contain mistakes, while not explicitly stated by Rambam, is understood to be his position by all the commentaries on the Guide, as well as by Ralbag, who also maintains this view."

    I don't see any reason at all not to think that it's Rambam view. It's the whole reason why II:8 was put in there; otherwise, what's the relevance of it?

    And I don't see why you see Ralbag's mistaken view of the stars as being at all relevant.

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  39. "But in this case it would go against everything else that we know of Rambam's view of the universe and angels and what entities exist."

    I have no idea what you are referring to over here. What is "everything else that we know" about the Rambam's view? And what has this to do with the idea that he explicitly stated that in Yechezkel's second vision, he experienced a clarification about the ophanim which included the idea of flesh, hands, and wings?

    "And I don't see why you see Ralbag's mistaken view of the stars as being at all relevant."

    Don't you get the irony? The Ralbag is trying to show that nevua can contain false information, and he attempts to prove his view by citing an example that was factually TRUE information that the ancient scientists had no knowledge of.

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  40. "I don't see any reason at all not to think that it's Rambam view. It's the whole reason why II:8 was put in there; otherwise, what's the relevance of it?"

    I think your comment itself is not relevant. The Rambam never speaks about the ophanim in that chapter (2:8). And the fact that he identifies the ophanim later on in one sense as being celestial spheres is offest by the fact that he explicitly states that there is another sense to ophanim - flesh, hands, and wings - so that the idea of mistakes in nevua is an inference - and only if you ignore the second sense that the Rambam wrote about.

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  41. "But in this case it would go against everything else that we know of Rambam's view of the universe and angels and what entities exist."

    What we know about the Rambam's view regarding prophecy makes it hard to believe that Rambam felt that prophecies could have mistakes in them. Sure somebody now reading them could misunderstand them, and they might confuse a prophecy or dream/vision for reality, but the prophecy themselves could not have mistakes.

    It seems you are talking past each other... and the situation with the Ralbag is very relevant. Who knows what other "sounds" (does radio count as a sound since we can't hear it without a radio?) the heavenly bodies make in other forms of waves. Certainly they move and vibrate and thus if there was some sort of medium surrounding them, sounds would be heard.

    Though personally, I still think you are reading older books ways too literally. It has been shown that "literal" readings of books and positions is something new to the 10th century.

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  42. Natan Slifkin, while your observation about electromagnetic signals coming from Jupiter and other heavenly bodies such as stars and galaxies is correct, it is not the same as sound propagation. Electromagnetic waves and sound waves are fundamentally different. The former have transverse electric and magnetic fields associated with them, while the latter do not. The former propagate through empty space, while sound requires a material medium.

    Electromagnetic waves emitted in a band of frequencies will be perceived as a tone or a series of tones through a speaker. If the emission is chaotic then noise is produced. But that is sound created at the speaker by the conversion of electromagnetic waves to the vibration of the speaker diaphragm. Those vibrations are then transmitted through air to our ears.

    None of this can be reasonably interpreted as the evident meaning of a verse in Psalms or the vision of Ezekiel - as you noted.

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  43. the naturefan said:
    "If this is a hidden idea that Efodi, et al, discerned and revealed, they violated the instructions of the author. Is one who does so truly reliable in discerning the author's message? "

    Now you are really grasping for straws.

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  44. I have no idea what you are referring to over here. What is "everything else that we know" about the Rambam's view?

    That he generally explains angels in any sense other than corporeal beings, and that in his view existence comprises of the earthly domain, God, and the Intellects, and nothing else. I'm sure that a Maimonidean scholar could add more.

    The Rambam never speaks about the ophanim in that chapter (2:8).

    It's very much Rambam's style to split the treatment of a topic between chapters that are very far apart.

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  45. What we know about the Rambam's view regarding prophecy makes it hard to believe that Rambam felt that prophecies could have mistakes in them.

    On the contrary. We know that Ralbag had very, very similar views to Rambam on many matters, including prophecy, and Ralbag explicitly states that prophecies can be based around mistaken scientific views.

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  46. Y. Aharon, thanks for your explanation. (I was just cutting-and-pasting from Nature Fan's link.)

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  47. Lawrence Kaplan Comments:

    I want to make it clear that while I stated that the Rambam does not explicitly state that Yehezkel made mistakes in science-- or better reflected the best science of his day-- in fact I agree with the commentators that that was Maimonides' view, and it may legitimately be inferred from his comments in 2:8 and 3:3.

    Also note Guide 2:9, where the Rambam refers to an ongoing astronomical debate as to whether Venus and Mercury are above the sphere of the sun or below it. Again, it can be inferred that the Rambam thought that Yehezkel believed, in accordnance with the best astronomical view of his day, that Venus and Mercury are above the sphere of the sun, and this view of his is reflected in his vision of the four Hayyot- which certainly refer, in the Rambam's view, to the four spheres. What is critical is that the fact that Yehezkel held this view, does not, however, decide the matter for the Rambam. The debate for him can be resolved only by scientific arguments.

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  48. "On the contrary. We know that Ralbag had very, very similar views to Rambam on many matters, "

    Why bring up the Ralbag when Rambam is as clear as the rambam gets on the issue?

    Prophecy is a natural outcome of being well educated and being a proper person to hear the divine intellect. If the person is not hearing the divine intellect properly then they are not a prophet and it's not prophecy!

    A prophet who makes a mistake is labeled a false prophet and killed. How then can you say that the Rambam accepts mistakes in prophecy?!?

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  49. I cant understand how anyone can see anything controversial about mistakes in the prophets. one member of chazal himself wrote that the prophets all spoke in their own individual styles. This means that only the message was given to them by God, but the means through which they conveyed that message was entirely their own. Thus, a prophet may have chosen to deliver his message through a scientific analogy that we know to be wrong. What's the big deal?

    [Of course, for thos people who think chazal were plain infallible, I suppose its also unthinkable that a prophet should make a mistake, even though the mistake was personal and was not part of the actual prophecy]

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  50. Lawrence Kaplan Comments:

    Ameteur: You have misunderstood the Rambam. The Rambam's view as set forth in Guide 2:36-37 is that the prophet, the man of science, and the diviner all receive the overflow of God's intellect via the active intellect. The difference between the three figures is in what faculties of theirs are perfected in terms of receiving the overflow. The prophet has both a perfect rational faculty and a pefect imaginative faculty. He is naturally well learned. Indeed for the Rambam, Yehezkel had perfected his rational faculty and was very well learned in the science of his day. But that science was, in the Rambam's view, outmoded. This does not negatively reflect on Yehezkel at all.

    Your comment about the prophet's not making mistakes is irelevant. The Rambam is referring to the prophet's accurately predicting the future. The is natural capability which stems from the prophet's faculty of divination. See Guide 2;38.

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  51. Rav Slifkin as you may remember from personal discussions I'm a big fan of your work.

    But in this article you set up a straw man and knock it down, and make very broad conclusions from the straw man you knocked down.

    Given existing science that discusses distinct sounds made by different planetary objects, with "each planet, star, nebula and cluster, containing its own sonic signature" (radio-astronomy.net) there's no reason not to believe that the psukim in question were a reference in human language to an understanding of astronomy received by nevu'ah.

    Especially you, who believes strongly in interpreting nevi'im as using the language of the day to express concepts, should find this likely.

    I think with all due respect that you do your important approach a dis-service by over-applying it.

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  52. "Your comment about the prophet's not making mistakes is irelevant. The Rambam is referring to the prophet's accurately predicting the future. The is natural capability which stems from the prophet's faculty of divination. See Guide 2;38."

    I do not see how it is irrelevant.
    If we are listening to the prophets words, because they are prophecy, then the information is coming from the Active intellect, and it must be correct. If what the prophet is saying is not prophecy, then it does not matter if it is correct or not, and does not matter who is saying it! If Yehezkiel says that he likes blue flowers, kal hakavod.. but its not a prophecy worth debating over. However if he said that blue flowers will be the sign of the rebuilding, then suddenly we care, and if it is found to be mistaken, then he is no longer a valid prophet!

    So while a prophet can be mistaken, a prophecy can not be!
    At best you can argue that this particular statement is not the prophecy itself but just an image used to explain the prophecy. (as if, vs as is)

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  53. Prof. Menachem Kellner was kind enough to refer me to several papers which deal with this topic:

    Harvey, Warren Zev. "How to Begin to Study the Guide of the Perplexed, I.1." Da'at 21 (1988): 5-24.

    Kreisel, Howard. "Esotericism to Exotericism: From Maimonides to Gersonides." In Study and Knowledge in Jewish Thought, edited by Howard Kreisel, 165-83. Beersheva: Ben-Gurion University Press, 2006.

    Lawee, Eric. "'the Good We Accept and the Bad We Do Not': Aspects of Isaac Abarbanel's Stance Towards Maimonides." In Be'erot Yitzhak: Studies in Memory of Isadore Twersky, edited by Jay Harris, 119-60. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

    Rosenberg, Shalom. "Bible Exegesis in the Guide." Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 1 (1981): 85-157.

    I'm currently working my way through Rosenberg's paper; the relevant pages are 143-151.

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  54. Lawrence Kaplan comments:

    Ameteur: The active intellect, for the Rambam, overflows onto the imagination of diviners. Do they possess any accurate scientific information? The active intellect overflows onto the rational faculty of scientists. Do scientists make mistakes? The real moment of prophecy, if you read Guide 2:36 carefully, is the overflow from a person's intellect onto his imaginative faculty. You are trying to force the Rambam into a Procrustean bed.

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  55. I've been in beijing for the last week and so probably enter this thread after everyone has exited. but a few notes will nevertheless satisfy my own compulsion to catch up.

    "..That's not very accurate. This is better: "The view that prophecy can contain mistakes, while not explicitly stated by Rambam, is understood to be his position by all the commentaries on the Guide, as well as by Ralbag, who also maintains this view.
    ..So while a prophet can be mistaken, a prophecy can not be!"

    it seems to me that in this regard, rather than focusing on what Rambam did not quite say and which he might or might not have meant, a more relevant cite is Tos in Rosh Hashshonoh (around 18 or 19). there Tos explains the difference in dating the events in tammuz surrounding the destruction of the temple between the g’moroh (the 17th) and sefer yirmiyoh (the 9th) on the assumption that yirmiyoh recorded the wrong date because of all the confusion (though he may have known that the date being recorded was what the people thought at the time, even if not true. or something like that) so what rambam may have believed is a matter of debate, but Tos’fos’ belief that a mistake may appear in a prophetic text is explicit.

    "..Hey - check out this link: curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=735 .
    Apparently, the consensus of scientists today is that some celestial bodies DO make sounds. Pretty cool stuff…radio emissions that can sound like whizzes, pops, and static.."

    No. there is NO such consensus, as radio emissions are NOT “sounds”.

    "..I doubt most Lubavitchers have even heard that we have 108 elements.."

    108? Nah.

    ..“I have seen many argue that String theory and its vibrations are the music that chazal were refering to.”

    Many? Is there even one? Is this some sort of New Agey thing? Anyway, file it under nonsense.

    R Slifkin also provided citations for the interested student of some helpful review material to introduce some of the academic approaches to the Guide. My own completely objective recommendation would be to review “Maimonidean Controversy and the Story of Creation” at http://www.aishdas.org/articles/rambam_creation.htm, an undergraduate Columbia essay some years back and a painless introduction to the subject.

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  56. "Many? Is there even one? Is this some sort of New Agey thing? Anyway, file it under nonsense."

    Before making such large proclamations, I suggest doing some basic research. It really isn't that hard to find.

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/musicinstinct/video/physics-of-sound/harmonics-and-the-unified-theory/62/

    http://www.musicofthespheres.org/Whatismots.htm

    http://www.amazon.com/Music-Pythagoras-Brotherhood-Universe-Antiquity/dp/0802716318


    "but Tos’fos’ belief that a mistake may appear in a prophetic text is explicit."

    Not everything found inside of a prophetic text is itself considered a prophecy. In this case, it is describing a past event (from the perspective of the prophet), and so it is certainly not a prophecy.

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  57. Ameteur, you can convert any information into music, but it doesn't mean that the information is music!

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  58. "Many? Is there even one? Is this some sort of New Agey thing? Anyway, file it under nonsense."
    “Before making such large proclamations, I suggest doing some basic research. It really isn't that hard to find.”

    Amateur. You may be such but I’m not. You confuse the metaphor with reality. (ALL physical systems vibrate, or “oscillate”. But my rug, held together by molecular and atomic forces which are described by such “vibrational” terms doesn’t play violin concertos or make any other “sound”, despite all the “harmonics” in the expansion of its potential function . and neither do the vibrations of cosmic strings (should they exist) produce “music”, except metaphorically.

    "but Tos’fos’ belief that a mistake may appear in a prophetic text is explicit."
    “Not everything found inside of a prophetic text is itself considered a prophecy. In this case, it is describing a past event (from the perspective of the prophet), and so it is certainly not a prophecy.”

    Well this is a more interesting question. I am tempted to respond with a mai shier d’hai shier? Where is the cutoff ? what within a prophetic text is not prophecy and how may I tell the difference? After all, mostly the prophets did not spend their time foretelling the future. they mostly spent time reproving moral failings – i.e. past events - and delivering the message to live in a god-approved manner. The mantic function is much overrated and I think a consequence of the translation of “novih’ into the english “prophecy”. So from that perspective, anything appearing in a sefer of n’viim, might qualify as “prophecy” and I don’t understand the criteria by which some items appearing in a divinely inspired text are considered more authoritative than others. that’s really a question for Tos but I expect he/they may not be answering any time soon.

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  59. Ameteur, Dr. Mechy Frankel is a senior government scientist. Suggesting that he needs to do basic research on the musical implications of 'string theory' is presumptuous. Instead, you should read your internet sources more carefully. I note that prof. Brian Green only refers to a metaphoric use of musical language as applied to 'string theory' (of which he is a leading exponent). A metaphor is not the same as a physical analog, nor is 'string theory' itself something that has been tested empirically - despite its popularity among theoreticians.

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  60. Ameteur: First you presume to pronounce definitively on the Rambam on prophecy without displaying signs of careful study of the Guide and its commentaries; then you proceed to lecture Dr. Frankel on physics. Y. Aharon got it right. Presumption.

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  61. Your collective hostility is noted.

    However, there is something extremely odd in all your comments. You suggest that I am confusing some metaphor for some reality, yet you fail to even consider that you are missing the metaphor written thousands of years ago, and presume that they are speaking of realities!

    That there are ratios between physical phenomenon, that can be translated into ratios of notes and sounds and thus produce nice music... is that a reality or a metaphor? That the golden ratio produces aesthetic results, is that a reality of art, or is that a metaphor which gives artists the ability to create better metaphors?

    So lets go back to the basics...

    I mentioned that there are people who view the theories of "music of the spheres" to be a reference to the metaphor that life and the universe is one big giant symphony. And that this symphony is further seen in String theory.

    You then proceed to tell me that nobody thinks that, except for some new age people. To which, I provided you with many links to people who said just that very thing, all of whom were academics.
    Then you proceed to tell me that I'm not getting it and confusing things. To which my only response can be that you are seemingly blind to human creativity and art and the meaning of language.

    When somebody titles their music "flight of the bumblebee", do you somehow imagine that this poor non-rationalist actually thinks they are replicating the flight patterns of bumble bees?

    " you can convert any information into music, but it doesn't mean that the information is music!"

    When you convert that information into a musical score, it becomes music. Just as 4'33" lacking any sound waves is also music.

    "First you presume to pronounce definitively on the Rambam on prophecy without displaying signs of careful study of the Guide and its commentaries;"

    Whatever mistakes I may or may not have made, they were not reflected in the comments that people responded. Rambam clearly viewed the vision of the angels as just that a, a vision produced by the prophet. However, that was not the prophecy and the Rambam makes it very clear that a prophecy can not be mistaken. But this is why the Ramban had such a problem with Rambam's division of visions, realities and prophecies. It is hard to separate them and look at the subtle hints in the text to determine what is what.


    "After all, mostly the prophets did not spend their time foretelling the future. they mostly spent time reproving moral failings – i.e. past events - and delivering the message to live in a god-approved manner. The mantic function is much overrated and I think a consequence of the translation of “novih’ into the english “prophecy”"

    Moral failings are not "past events", they are ongoing current events which the Navi uses to warn people about the possible future events that are to come.

    The ability to predict and foretell future events is not a consequence of translation. Instead it is a function of the halachas which the Torah and later Rambam lays out in regarding how to determine if a prophet is a false prophet or not.
    In fact it is discussed that most navis had very little to do with moral lessons, but instead were used to help people find lost property.

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  62. Lawrence Kaplan Commetns:

    Ameteur: Where does the Rambam state that prophets in their visions cannot be mistaken with reference to scientific matters, the point in question? Could you cite chapter and verse? He states that a prophet cannot be mistaken with reference to predicting the future, something else entrely.

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  63. "Ameteur: Where does the Rambam state that prophets in their visions cannot be mistaken with reference to scientific matters, the point in question? "

    Your question has very clumsy phrasing.

    Firstly, what are we discussing when we say "scientific matters." Is the measurement of a kzayit a scientific matter since it can be tested and measured, or is that not part of what we are talking about. Are you asking about history, or about the future?

    Does a statement regarding the future of technology get regulated to "scientific matters" or does that now count as prophecy and if the person is wrong we kill them?


    The point is as follows. If you are reading something from the prophets and its an important aspect of their prophecy, then it can not be wrong without discrediting the prophet.
    If it is not an important part of their prophecy, then it isn't prophecy and the rambam's statements regarding prophecy are irrelevant because we aren't discussing prophecies.

    In the particular instance we are talking about, the Maase Merkavah is prophecy and not a scientific matter, unless you wish to argue that Rambam believed there was a physical throne upon which G-d sits?

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  64. I do not understand the problem here. It seems to me that if a prophet were to say something about the world as part of his prophecy, and that information was incorrect, then surely he is a false prophet. If Yirmiyahu spoke to the Jews telling them, as part of his prophecy that the land of Israel was the highest geographical point on earth, then we know he is a navi sheker. If what the prophet said as prophecy was recorded for posterity, as part of Tanach, then it must be true for posterity, and if not, then while the people of his time wouldn't know that he was a false prophet - we would know today. All that being said, the Rambam clearly states in the Guide that the prophets (aside from Moses) saw visions and representations. So when Yechezkel speaks of the merkavah - assuming that the ophanim are referring ONLY to the celestial spheres (which is not true, since the Rambam explicitly states that they refer to bodies with flesh, etc., but let's go with the celestial spheres alone, for now), then the prophecy uses the *image* of spheres making music, etc. The image need not correspond to physical reality - it is an image. If a prophet were to receive a prophecy with a flying camel as part of the message, we wouldn't say that the ancients believed in flying camels. Similarly, Yaakov saw a prophecy of a ladder from the earth to the heavens. Now it could well be that from a physical standpoint, such a ladder may not be able to exist at all, since the material components, the density, etc. of a ladder reaching thousands of miles in height may not be possible from a physical standpoint. That doesn't mean that Yaakov had a false view of physical reality. All it means is that the image of a huge ladder was the vehicle of the prophecy's message. The same with Yechezkel (again, with the caveat about the meaning of ophanim). I do not understand why, looking at the prophecy as referring to celestial spheres making music, one is compelled to conclude that the prophets surely had mistaken views of the physical world.

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  65. Because Rambam understands the maaseh merkavah as a representation of reality, according to the Yechezkel's understanding. It's different from other prophecies.

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  66. Lawrence Kaplan Comments:

    Ameteur: I asked you for a reference. You beat around the bush, and did not give it to me.

    The prophetic vision of Yehezkel according to the Rambam expresses scientific ideas in imaginative form. That you evidently don't understand such a basic point does not speak well for you understanding of the Rambam.

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  67. "Because Rambam understands the maaseh merkavah as a representation of reality, according to the Yechezkel's understanding. It's different from other prophecies."

    What is your source for this? The Rambam states that there is a difference between the prophecy of Moses and all other prophets. He states that all other prophets experience visions and similies, including Yechezkel. He states in numerous places in the Guide that the merkavah is the study of metaphysics, as opposed to maase bereishit which is the study of physics. Where, pray tell, do you see that the Rambam differentiates Yechezkel's prophecy from that of all other prophets, and that his prophecy is a description of physical reality according to Yechezkel's understanding???

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  68. You said it yourself! "the merkavah is the study of metaphysics"

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  69. Metaphysics = that which is beyond physics. It is a mareh about knowledge of God. Where does the Rambam say it is a mareh about the physical world?

    Also - see Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 7:3 - "The things that they inform a prophet in the vision of prophecy, through allegory do they inform him...like the ladder that Jacob our father saw, with angel ascending and descending it...and LIKE THE CHAYOT THAT YECHEZKEL SAW..." And see Guide 3:3 about the connection between the ophanim and the chayot.

    The Rambam explicitly states that Yechezkel's prophecy was an allegory. So your earlier claim that the Rambam maintains that Yechezkel's prophecy is about the physical world is clearly not the Rambam's explicitly stated view.

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  70. You are retrofitting modern ideas on ancient philosophy. The distinction between the physical and non-physical world was not conceived in the same way that we do. The study of the spheres is part of metaphysics.

    To be sure, Yechezkel's vision contained aspects of allegory. But the allegorical aspects conveyed information about the spheres and so on.

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  71. "You are retrofitting modern ideas on ancient philosophy. The distinction between the physical and non-physical world was not conceived in the same way that we do. The study of the spheres is part of metaphysics."

    I'm sorry - you are absolutely mistaken. See Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 2:11 - "These things that we mentioned about this topic in these two chapters (1 and 2 of Yesodei Hatorah) are like a drop in the ocean...the explanation of the fundamentals in these two chapters is called "maaseh merkavah."

    Then see Yesodei Hatorah 4:10 - "All the things we have spoken about in this topic (in chapters 3 and 4)...are very deep, but not like the depth of the topic of the first and second chapters. And the explanation of all these things in the third and fourth chapters is called "maaseh beresishit."

    Note - the first two chapters do not contain ANYTHING having to do with the spheres. The spheres are the subject of chapters 3 and 4 - maasheh bereshit. Metaphysics, the study of chapters 1 and 2 do not mention the spheres whatsoever. The Rambam says that Yechezkel's prophecy is about metaphysics, maaseh merkavah. So in what sense am I "retrofitting modern ideas" here? I am merely restating what the Rambam himself said openly!

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  72. Here, take a look at this, Friedlander explains it:

    http://tinyurl.com/37bzx33

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  73. That's Friedlander's take on the Rambam. (Friedlander is far from being acknowledged as an expert on Maimonidean language - the criticisms of his translation abound - let alone being acknowledged as an expert on Maimonidean philosophy). You have not addressed what the Rambam himself wrote - that the spheres are NOT part of maaseh merkavah, but rather are part of maaseh bereishit. And therefore, when the Rambam says that Yechezkel saw his vision in allegory, there is no reason whatsoever to think that the Rambam viewed his prophecy as relating to the scientific view of the physical world.

    I do agree that if we were discussing the Friedlanderian view, you would be correct. But as it is we are discussing the Maimonidean view. And whatever Friedlander says, he does not address this explicit Rambam in Yesodei Hatorah.

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  74. I only quoted Friedlander because it was a convenient summary. As far as I know, EVERYONE agrees that Rambam explained Maase Merkavah in terms of the spheres.

    Your question about the Mishneh Torah seems like a good one; I will look into it. But it does not negate what he writes in the Moreh.

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  75. "...it does not negate what he writes in the Moreh."

    This isn't an issue of being "negated." What he writes in the Guide is written in a hidden, obscure fashion, designed to hide the true, deep, esoteric meaning from the neophyte. The Rambam states that explicitly, particularly in reference to maaseh merkavah. Yesodei Hatorah and the Guide go hand in hand. It's not like the Rambam changed his mind here. You are drawing a conclusion from a simplistic reading of the Guide, which itself contradicts what he explicitly stated in Yesodei Hatorah. The correct conclusion, it seems, is that the simplistic reading of the Guide is not what the Rambam meant, and therefore any conclusions from that simplistic reading cannot be relied upon as being accurate. We should take the Rambam at his word when he says that the images contained in the prophecy are deep, deep allegories, not easily understood.

    But, I would appreciate hearing what you have to say after you look into it.

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  76. It's not a simplistic reading of the Guide. Again, as far as I know, every traditional commentator on the guide, as well as all modern experts, agree on this. In the words of Chaim Kreisel: "[Maimonides] does not leave the slightest doubt that the Chariot of Ezekiel is a parable for the structure of the heavens as depicted by scientists and philosophers."

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  77. By simplistic I mean, limited to a literal reading. Which the Rambam himself says is not the way to read the Guide in general and this issue in particular. The fact that Kreisel, Friedlander, and others did read it this way doesn't offset what the author himself (that is, the Rambam) said about Yechezkel's vision being allegorical, and about it being maase merkavah, which he explicitly defines in Yesodei Hatorah as not being about the spheres. You cannot burden the Rambam with the interpretations of others when those interpretations fly in the face of what the Rambam himself says in Yesodei Hatorah. And, as I think you'll agree, the answer to a well-founded kushiya cannot be, "well - everyone else interpreted the Rambam in this way, so it must be correct regardless of the problems."

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  78. Do you have a single traditional commentator or modern scholar who agrees with you? If not, then there are two possibilities:

    a) 800 years of Maimonidean scholars all completely misunderstood part III of the Guide due to a blatant contradiction from the Yad which they never took notice of.

    b) There is an explanation which the two of us do not yet know.

    I think that (b) is much more reasonable.

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  79. Your response is all well and good, except...

    You are attempting to draw a conclusion from the Rambam, that he maintains that nevuah can contain falsehood when it comes to scientific matters. You base this on the assumption that according to the Rambam, Yechezkel's nevuah contains falsehood when it comes to scientific matters about the celestial spheres. Yet, the Rambam himself states that Yechezkel's nevuah is allegorical, about merkavah matters that do not include the issue of the celestial spheres. Your "proof" about the Rambam's position is therefore based not on what the Rambam said, but upon what Kreisel, Friedlander, etc. said about the Rambam. Despite the fact that the Rambam himself says otherwise in Yesodei Hatorah.

    Now, if you can come up with your "(b)" - "There is an explanation which the two of us do not yet know" - then your conclusion about the Rambam can stand at least as a possibility. But without that "b" explanation, it seems to me that you cannot claim to prove that according to the Rambam, prophecy can contain falsehood.

    P.S. - I still find it kind of ironic that a rationalist would resort to "800 years of Maimonidean scholarship cannot be wrong, even if we don't have a rational explanation to the kushiya."

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  80. Why is it ironic? I am far from an expert in Rambam, so why should the fact that I cannot answer a question be reason to think that all the experts on Rambam were wrong?

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  81. "why should the fact that I cannot answer a question be reason to think that all the experts on Rambam were wrong?"

    I never said that the fact that you couldn't answer the question means that all the experts on the Rambam were wrong. Where did you get that from?! I simply said that you cannot claim to have proven that the Rambam says X about nevuah, if X involves a contradiction on the part of the Rambam himself. Relying on the experts, while there is an unresolved kushiya that they did not deal with, is not a solid basis for proving an idea about the Rambam, especially when that proposed idea involves an unresolved contradiction.

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  82. How do you know that they did not deal with the kushya?

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  83. Did they? Where can I find those discussions? My understanding is that they did not deal with this issue. If I am wrong, I am happy to be corrected, so please let me know where they did deal with it.

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  84. I don't know if they did or didn't. You seemed to be definitively saying that they didn't.

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  85. I have read somewhat extensively on this subject - but not exhaustively. As far as I know, those who claim that the Rambam's view of the merkavah involves literal celestial spheres (as opposed to an allegorical image) do not deal with what he said in Yesodei Hatorah. But if you know of any of the experts who have discussed the Rambam's merkavah who DO deal with the passage in Yesodei Hatorah, I would, as I said before, be happy to learn about them.

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  86. I wrote to one scholar who said that he will send me material in a few days.

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  87. At any event, would you agree that your claim about the Rambam's alleged view that prophecy can contain falsehood is now subject to question and doubt?

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  88. You can doubt it if you want. Is it 100% proven? No. But personally I consider the view of all the authorities on Rambam's thought to be sufficiently reliable.

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  89. Despite the fact that their view is contradicted by the Rambam's own words? That leaves you with not the slightest doubt or question, at least until the kushiya can be resolved? It sounds like you are saying that despite the fact that there is as yet an unresolved kushiya, I have "faith" in the Maimonidean experts, and therefore do not view this issue with any doubt whatsoever, despite the outstanding kushiya.

    Let me ask you a question - and please be brutally honest here - if the issue were something else, and one of your chareidi opponents took same type of position you are now taking, would you say, Oh, OK, that's a reasonable position to take"?

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  90. 2010 UK Scientists record sound of the Sun.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbIffp40U8w&feature=player_embedded

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  91. I don't recall which contradiction you are referring to. But these are not casual commentators; they are people who studied Rambam's views very, very carefully. They wouldn't have missed a simple kashya. Nor is there any conceivable motive for them to be distorting his view.

    I can't answer your question because it's too vague.

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  92. 2010 UK Scientists record sound of the Sun.

    Ah yes! That must have been what Chazal were referring to!

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  93. Lawrence Kaplan Comments:

    Tom: Your question is a good one, but there is a very good answer. This is why it pays to be familiar with the Guide.

    You ask: How can the commentators say that according to the Rambam Yehezkel's vision of the ofanim refers to the elements and the hayyot to the spheres? After all, the RMBM says that Yehezkel's vision deals with Maaseh Merkabah (=MM) and the RMBM states in Yesodei ha-Torah (and in the Intro to the Guide) that MM refers to the divine science with treats of God and the angels and not the elements and the spheres.

    Here is the answer. See Guide 3:5, where the Rambam says that according to several of the Sages the visions of the wheels and the Hayyot do NOT belong to MM. Only the vision of the Hashmal belongs to MM. Although the Rambam there also cites the view of Rabbi whc disagrees, I think it is clear that the Rambam's view accords with those Sages who say that the Yehezkel's apprehensions of the ofanim and Hayyot, again, do NOT belong to MM, in which case the belong to Maaseh Berehit or natural science. and can - and indeed do -- refer to the elements and spheres.

    Tom: What I am now saying is no big hiddush. It was well known to the commentators, though evidently not me to you, which is the basis for their saying what they said. Will you now admit that your dismissal of the unanimous view of the commentators was based on ignorance? Or will you try to wiggle your way out of this?

    Rabbi Slifkin: Why didn't you contact me right away for my expert opinon? That way, you would not have had to flail around so much.

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  94. Lawrence Kaplan Comments:

    Tom: I think Rabbi Slifkin's point was that the commentators can, of course, can be wrong about many things, but they cannot all be oblivious to the obvious question as you raised, and certainly they have an answer. As I pointed out in my previous post, they were indeed aware of the data you raised, and have a clear answer in 3:5. Indeed 3:5 supports the commentator's. view.

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  95. Dr. Kaplan - thanks for your input. Prof. Kellner just sent me a relevant article: Freudenthal, Gad. "Maimonides on the Scope of Metaphysics Alias Ma‘Aseh Merkavah: The Evolution of his Views." In Maimónides y su época, edited by Carlos del Valle, Santiago García-Jalón and Juan Pedro Monferrer. Madrid: Ministerio de Cultura, 2007.
    He makes the case that Rambam had to somewhat redefine Maase Merkavah in the interim between writing the Yad and the Moreh.

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  96. Lawrence Kaplan: "Will you now admit that your dismissal of the unanimous view of the commentators was based on ignorance? Or will you try to wiggle your way out of this?"

    Whoa! Your hostility and aggression here are very unbecoming for a regular mentch, let alone for an academician! What's up with that?! I asked a question, a challenge, in a respectful way; I said that I had read extensively but not exhaustively, and that I would be happy to be enlightened. I do not understand your tone above (unless this is the way you talk to everyone?).

    As it happens, I was familiar with the passage in the Guide that you cited. The Rambam there mentions the debate among the sages about what is considered the limits of "merkavah." You assume that the Rambam does not hold like "Rabbi" but rather like Rabbi Meir or Rabbi Isaac. Since the Rambam himself never says which way he holds, you are making an assumption here. I would suggest that it is a poor assumption at that. See Yesodei Hatorah 4:11, regarding what is permissible to teach students concerning the merkavah. The Rambam does not differentiate between any parts of the merkavah in his statement of the halacha, and in fact, the type of instruction that is permissible as the Rambam presents it is most in accord with what he presents in the Guide 3:5 as being "Rabbi's" view.

    The point that the Rambam was making in the Guide 3:5 is that even within the merkavah itself, there is a differentiation of parts according to all - just that according to "Rabbi" the differentiated parts in hierarchy are all subsumed under the category "merkavah."

    If you put Yesodei Hatorah 4:11 together with Guide 3:5, your response is severely challenged. But again, if I am mistaken, I am happy to learn.

    I do, however, have a follow up on a different point, in the next comment.

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  97. Lawrence Kaplan: "Why didn't you contact me right away for my expert opinon? That way, you would not have had to flail around so much."

    Your description of R. Slifkin as "flailing" intrigued me. I believe that your observation confirmed a point that I was trying to make. From what I can tell, you are not at all hostile to R. Slifkin's views; you have no "agenda" or "bias" against him. Yet you described his reaction when confronted with a problem that challenged his position for which he could not readily answer - as "flailing." I had asked R. Slifkin if, while he could not answer the question, he now had a doubt about his claim concerning the Rambam, and he said no. I responded by saying that I could not understand that. Was it due to blind faith in the authorities that he trusted? Was there no "laidat hasafeik" because of the challenge that he could not as yet answer? How is this different from chareidim who, when faced with a rational challenge that they cannot as yet answer, have faith in their authorities? Your description of R. Slifkin "flailing" suggests that he was "fishing around" for possible answers, not succeeding, but clinging to his position regardless. Is this the hallmark of a rationalist?

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  98. There's nothing irrational about assuming that experts have not overlooked a blatant question. Provided, of course, that there is rational basis for considering them to be experts.

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  99. Lawrence Kaplan Comments:

    Tom: I am sorry for my sharp tone. Sometimes on blogs we get carried away. Just like you got carried away with your gratuitous swipe "(unless you talk that way to everyone)," which, I assume, you will now apologize for.

    But I was upset by your assumption that you had a clear knock down argument against the view unanimously held by the commentators on the Guide that in the Rambam's view in the vision of Yehezkel the ofanim refer to the elements and the Hayyot to the spheres, as if the commentators were not aware of and did not have a response (whether you might agreewith it or not) to your very obvious argument.

    As for 3:5. I am suprised that given you knew about it all the time and given its obvious relevance, you didn't discuss it until I raised it.

    As for your reply, it is unconvincing. The Rambam explicitly states that according to the Sages one may teach the visions of the ofanim and the Hayoyt to a single person in a clear fashion (be-feirush), while it is only the vision of the man (or the hashmal) which may be taught, even to a single individual, only in rashei perakim. But this distiction corresponds exactly to the distinction between the natural science (MB) and the divine science (MM), that is the natural sciences may be taught clearly to a single individual, but the divine science may be taught, even to the single individual, only in rashei perkim. Since the Rambam states that, according to the Sages, the visions of the ofanim and hayyot may be taught clearly and need not be conveyed only in rashei perakim, that is clear evidence that for the Sages they belong to MB and not MM. QED!

    Even if you have some comeback to this, and I do not see what it could be, you must admit that your knockdown argument is very far from being as strong as you presented it.

    Rabbi Slifkin, then. was,indeed, rational in assuming that the commentators were aware of and had a response to your obvious question, even if he did not know what it was. My point was that I could have provided it for him much more quickly.

    Obviously there is more to say, but I cannot write an entire essay on the subject.

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  100. I know, I know, Chazal was not referring to this:
    http://www.iflscience.com/space/what-does-space-sound

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