Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Not So Poshut

There was a furious debate in the comment thread of the previous post centering around one "Poshiter Yid" who put forth a decidedly anti-rationalist view and attacked other views as being heretical. Like some others, I suspect that he might be somebody pretending to have such views in order to study the response or be entertained by it. However, I have certainly heard similar views from many people, so we might as well take him at his word.

As I see it, there were a number of problems with the discussion on the previous thread. One was that many people were completely misunderstanding Poshiter Yid's position. He wasn't out to deny man's moral responsibility for his actions; only to say that ultimately, what happens in the world is entirely directed by God. Another problem is that both Poshiter Yid and many of his opponents assumed that their view is the only authentic Jewish view. In reality, both are rooted in hundreds of years of Jewish tradition, as diametrically opposed as they are. And they are rooted in such fundamentally divergent worldviews as to make debate futile.

Still, I would like to clear up some misconceptions that Poshiter Yid has regarding the limits of Orthodox theology.

Ok, I'm willing to hear this. What would the Rambam and Ramban say? I'm pretty confident they both held from hashgacha pratis as well as klalis. Wasn't it the Vilna Gao who said "If Hashem is not involved with the movement of a single blade of grass, I wish not to live."?


First of all, it's funny to try and prove Rambam's views from a statement by the Vilna Gaon. The former was a rationalist, the latter was a mystic.

Rambam held that hashgachah is solely a function of the intellect, and that most people thus do not merit it. Furthermore, he held that hashgachah is more of a function of how a person relates to the world, rather than God manipulating events for his benefit. In general, Rambam held that the world functions according to the laws of cause-and-effect that God set up, and that it is the goal of man to understand these laws and improve his life accordingly. This is diametrically opposed to the mystical view that these laws are just a disguise and have no real validity.

Someone helpfully quoted Rambam:

"There are sects among mankind who maintain that Divine providence controls all the matters of this world… that when a leaf falls from a tree, He decreed that it would fall…. This approach is far-removed from the intellect."


To which Poshiter Yid responded:

I maintain my position. The last line quoted above is enough to strengthen my belief even more. WHOSE intellect? We are nothing but specks of dust, who have the chutzpah to use our "intellect" to decide what's true and what isn't?


That's a very fair approach and one with a long history in Judaism. It certainly justifies someone wanting to take an anti-rationalist approach. However, it would behoove Poshiter Yid to acknowledge that this is indeed Rambam's approach, and thus to be cautious about dismissing it as outside of Jewish tradition.

Since when does it have to make sense to us? Does the Para Adumah make sense? So let's throw that by the wayside, too! It's not about what makes sense to us. Tefillin make no sense either.


It's certainly true that God's commandments do not HAVE to make sense to us. However, Rambam holds that they certainly for the most part should and do make sense to us. See my post "Rambam on Reasons for Mitzvos". Rambam also held that God's ways should make sense to us. (Personally I think that the rationalist approach is on very thin ice here. But this is nevertheless Rambam's view.)

And yes, God can make a square circle, too. How? Because squares, circles, and all of geometry and physics are natural laws, which He can manipulate, bend and break according to His will.


Again, Rambam disagrees. He says that God cannot do the categorically impossible. A person can legitimately disagree with this. But they should not claim that such a view does not exist in Jewish tradition.

Jack M., disdainful of Prof. Kellner's suggestion that "most of the evil from which we suffer is the result of human stupidity and cupidity; the fires were started by stupid kids literally playing with fire, but they spread so disastrously because too many people were concerned with everything but fire prevention and fire fighting," responded sarcastically:

Right. And the First and Second Temples were destroyed because of poor political decisions and inferior military training.


Ironically, this is exactly what Rambam implies. In his letter to the community of Marseilles, he writes as follows (and thanks to Prof. Kaplan for reminding me of where to find it):

This is why our kingdom was lost and our Temple was destroyed and why we were brought to this; for our fathers sinned and are no more because they found many books dealing with these themes of the star gazers, these things being the root of idolatry, as we have made clear in Laws Concerning Idolatry. They erred and were drawn after them, imagining them to be glorious science and to be of great utility. They did not busy themselves with the art of war or with the conquest of lands, but imagined that those studies would help them. Therefore the prophets called them “fools and dolts” (Jer. 4:22).


My goal on this website is not to try to obliterate the non-rationalist viewpoint. Rather, it is to save the rationalist viewpoint from extinction by showing that it has a long tradition. But aspiring rationalists should also acknowledge that the non-rationalist approach also has a long tradition.

(With regard to those who requested additional voting categories - I want to keep things simple. "Emes" and "Kefira" are simply catchphrases for thumbs-up and thumbs-down.)

135 comments:

  1. Regarding the claim that "weather forcasting is nonsense", it reminds me of the autobiography of Golda Meir I read years ago. After whe discovered the "wonders" of atheistic Marxism as a young person, she mentioned an argument that she had with her mother who said there must be a G-d because "who else can make the rain fall". Golda tried to explain to her that there is a "scientific explanation".
    As someone who has studied Meteorology in the university, I discovered that the situation is not so clear cut in either direction.
    It has been long known that weather forecasts can not be made more than 5 days in advance. Thus, it is impossible to predict exactly what the whether will be in Tel Aviv on some particular date years from now. The problem is NOT that there is not enough information, i.e. having a weather station reporting wind, humidity, pressure and temperature every meter around the world would not help. Weather forecasts are made by numerically solving the well-known time-dependent equations for fluid flow under geophysical conditions using the current "synoptic" situation provided by weather stations around the world as initial conditions. This is the "scientific explanation" Golda was referring to. The predictions based on these numerical calculations are generally pretty good one or two days in advance and are not bad up to five days. After that, they break down. What is the reaons, then, if it is not due to lack of enough accurate data? It is because geophysical flows, particularly in the mid-latitudes where most of humanity lives are inherently unstable. A wind shear, i.e a gradient in wind velocity and direction, combined with gradients in humdity, temperature and pressure can create eddies that then "spin out of control" and then develop into major storms. These are inherently unpredictable. We can look at a large area that has these potentially unstable flow conditions and know in a statistical sense that there is a good chance that SOMEWHERE an instabilty will occur sometime in the near future, but not be able to know exactly when and where this will happen.
    This is similar to the situation where we observe a lump of uranium. We know statistically that half will radioactively decay into lead and other by-products within IIRC 4 billion years, but we can NOT predict in advance which particular atoms will do this. Same with hydrogen atoms whose electrons are in an excited, high energy state. We can know statistically that a certain percentage will drop to a lower energy state and emit a photon, but we can not observe a particular hydrogen atom and know when it will do this.
    We can possibly say that it is this inherent uncertainty in these types of systems where G-d "intervenes" in the natural world's systems. Thus we have both order in the form of natural laws operating with the possibility of divine providence at one and the same time.
    I think it is important not to be satified with simplistic answers to things and to realize that the world can have contraditory natures at one and the same time.
    As IIRC Rabi Akiva said, something to the effect that "all is known, yet free will is given".

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  2. I like the voting, but I think we are able to vote multiple times, so that will skew the results.

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  3. I think it is important not to be satified with simplistic answers to things and to realize that the world can have contraditory natures at one and the same time.
    As IIRC Rabi Akiva said, something to the effect that "all is known, yet free will is given".

    It sounds like you're saying that quantum mechanics could solve the question of free will.

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  4. Bar Kochba said לא תסעוד ולא תכסוף and that was his mistake. Truth is in the middle. The laws of Nature hold a hundred percent but these laws do not determine the details. Not in practice, and not even in principle.

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  5. To Y Ben David-

    "We can possibly say that it is this inherent uncertainty in these types of systems where G-d "intervenes" in the natural world's systems. "

    The problem with this statement is that it trivializes and minimizes God. It leaves a very small space for Him. There is uncertainty in flipping a penny. If we flip 10 times and get tails 7 times is that God intervening? The answer seems to me to be no. That is just how probability and randomness works.

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  6. One of the ironies/tragedies of the Orthodox world is that the MO world always acknowledges the non-rationalist tradition while the charedi world never acknowledges the rationalist tradition. They call it kefira and deny it ever existed.

    It's not just ignorant; it's evil (in a mild sense). Do we rationalists try to re-interpret the Baal Shem Tov? No, we disagree with much of what he said, but we acknowledge that he said it. Why can't the non-traditonalists do the same and let us have our Rambam or Rav Hirsch?

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  7. There is uncertainty in flipping a penny. If we flip 10 times and get tails 7 times is that God intervening? The answer seems to me to be no.
    =============================
    It depends -apparently hkb"h sometimes uses probability theory and practice(to the chagrin of actuaries?) to allow "plausible deniability"to his intervention- see sh"ut chavot yair 61 -שו"ת חוות יאיר סימן סא

    מ"מ גורל שאני דבלה"נ מסוגל להשגחה

    KT
    Joel Rich

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  8. Dr J-
    I am not talking about massive miracles like the parting of the Red Sea. Things like that don't happen very often, we see that the waters of the seas operate according to laws the oceanographers have derived. Things like the famine discussed in the last couple of weekly Torah portions can result from divine interventions on the scale I have mentioned, or the meteorological conditions that enabled the recent Carmel fire to get out of control (e.g. would the bus in which the prison officials were killed have gotten caught if the wind was blowing the other way when the fire was ignited?) and it seems, at first glance, at least, that is how the world operates on a day-to-day level.

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  9. "Rambam held that hashgachah is solely a function of the intellect, and that most people thus do not merit it."

    Where did the Rambam ever say the second part of your claim? Do you have a source for that?

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  10. "It sounds like you're saying that quantum mechanics could solve the question of free will."

    This may be Rav Matis Weinberg's approach in his shiur on Purim and Hachana at thelivingtree.org.

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  11. In the end of all tihngs, why does it matter so much if men cause "evil" tragedies, or if G-d does? Probably because of the Westernized notion, or maybe even the Xtian notion that G-d is all about love and feeling good and rose gardens. All one has to do is see the many events the Torah relates, even enumerating the tally of dead bodies in plagues, wars, etc. The text itself attributes it to G-d, all throughout Tanach. I'd love to know where this notion of "the G-d I believe in wouldn't do such a thing, and if He would then He is not my G-d", comes from. I'm sure it started long before Harold Kushner arrived on the scene to blabber his heresy.

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  12. R. Slifkin, I cannot agree with your conclusion about Rambam’s position on the destruction of the Temple and reasons for tragedies in general.

    See Hil Taanit 1:17

    בכל יום תענית שגוזרין על הציבור מפני הצרות, בית דין והזקנים יושבין בבית הכנסת, ובודקים על מעשה אנשי העיר, מאחר תפילת שחרית עד חצי היום; ומסירין המכשולות של עבירות, ומזהירין ודורשין וחוקרין על בעלי חמס ועבירות ומפרישין אותן, ועל בעלי זרוע ומשפילין אותן, וכיוצא בדברים אלו

    See also Hil Taanit 5:1

    יש שם ימים שכל ישראל מתענים בהם, מפני הצרות שאירעו בהן, כדי לעורר הלבבות, ולפתוח דרכי התשובה; ויהיה זה זיכרון למעשינו הרעים, ומעשה אבותינו שהיה כמעשינו עתה--עד שגרם להם ולנו אותן הצרות

    I would say that when Rambam says in his letter that “They did not busy themselves with the art of war or with the conquest of lands” he meant that this fact compounded their sins of idolatry, thus angering God even more.

    Rambam also clearly states that it is a person’s (religious) deeds that determine a person’s life and death.

    See Hil Teshuva 3:1

    אדם שעוונותיו מרובין על זכייותיו--מיד הוא מת ברשעו, שנאמר "על רוב עוונך"

    I’m not saying that Ramabam subscribed to the mystical view that material actions have no relevance onto themselves. I think Rambam held that God wants every Jew to excel in the material world in matters of character, intellect and accomplishment. This is to a large (but not exclusive) extent accomplished by Torah and Mitzvot. Our failings invoke God’s anger and brings about his punishment.

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  13. Avi - Rambam himself defines the מעשים הרעים in this case as their involvement with astrology which caused them to neglect the art of war or with the conquest of lands. I think that it is extraordinarily forced to say that this happened to be something else that angered God and is not something that Rambam held to have actually been the reason why the kingdom was lost.

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  14. Uncertainties in weather prediction and radioactive decay are stem from profoundly different fundamental reasons and it is a little disconcerting to see them coupled in tandem as above. Basically there is no inherent minimum uncertainty in weather prediction. The uncertainty in prediction can always be reduced, at least in principle, to as low a number as desired (except for the minor matter of lack of computer power to complete the calculation before the sun blows up). So I could, in principle, some day certainly predict all that eddy stuff and whatnot out to as long a time as I want, by taking more and more care with measuring the relevant initial conditions to disturb the system as little as I might wish. Not so with the radioactive decay. There is an irreducible minimum uncertainty that can never, in principle, be further reduced no matter what care could ever be taken. While this may seem an unimportant difference as a practical matter – the result being similar practical limit on our ability to predict the future precisely, it is of cosmic philosophical importance. (there is an exchange of letters between myself and Profs Domb and Aviezer related to this point – they too are in error - in BDD #16, which captures this issue a little more clearly, and is in any event a more appropriate forum than pursuing it here).

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  15. Yehuda:

    "Why can't the non-traditonalists do the same and let us have our Rambam or Rav Hirsch?"

    Because they believe in infallibility of gedolim. You can see someone as a gadol and still believe that some of his opinions were wrong. They don't have this luxury, therefore they need the revisionism.

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  16. Unfortunately, there will never be a shortage of our fellow Jews who would rather have their Rabbis do their thinking for them. It's an "easy way out", but their Rabbanim quote the sources which they see as valid, and many of these followers prefer to the mindless robotic approach to Judaism to the approach which requires that we use the intelligence and the common sense which have been given to us by HaShem Himself.

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  17. It is entirely reasonable to have a philosophical debate on its own merits, but for a Jewish Hashkafa discussion, one needs to reference sources when making bold statements -- particularly those that negate or denigrate diverging views.

    On several threads -- and not just here -- there are all sorts of claims about how (particularly 20th C) gedolim invalidate XYZ (labelling it kefira) because of "Kabbalah" -- and yet no sources are ever presented when challenged. And I have my doubts that the people claiming this have actually done any due dilligence.

    It seems to me that, in the absence of mareh mekomot, this discussion hit the point of diminishing returns long ago. I have no patience for someone who shouts kefira without having sources to stand on, beyond hearsay.

    [An observation: it is interesting to note that Poshiter Yid has twice referenced Harold Kushner as his heretical bogeyman. To me this indicates a deficiency of Jewish literacy and a chip on his shoulder -- a good foundation for fundamentalist brainwashing. You seem like a smart guy, Poshiter Yid, go and learn the glorious diversity of our tradition, where cries of blasphemy have been the exception rather than the rule].

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  18. The test case of the discussion between Avi and R. Slifkin would be - what if the Jews had sinned exactly as described in the Talmud and midrashim, but with one detail excepted: instead of relying on astrology, they had practiced strategic warfare, etc. while still engaging in avoda zara, gilui arayot, sh'fichut damim, etc.? What would the outcome have been? I think it's safe to say from Hilchot Taaniyot that the destruction still would have occurred. If so, Avi is clearly correct.

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  19. Back in March I wrote about the idea that Hashem influences the world through subtle manipulation: http://2nd-son.blogspot.com/2010/03/for-want-of-nail.html

    It’s an idea I came up with myself years ago, but like most religious ideas, apparently other people thought of it first.

    > Do we rationalists try to re-interpret the Baal Shem Tov? No, we disagree with much of what he said, but we acknowledge that he said it. Why can't the non-traditonalists do the same and let us have our Rambam or Rav Hirsch?

    It may be that we can afford to acknowledge the existence of the mystics and even allow for their legitimacy because we can back up our own positions with reasoned arguments, while the mystics cannot afford to do the same for the rationalists because their beliefs are based on the idea that there is a single Torah True way to do things that has been passed down through the ages. Acknowledging that rationalist positions have legitimacy shatters that basis for their beliefs. Because they can’t back up their positions with rational arguments, they have to resort to assertions that they are right and everyone else is wrong. (As a community, and yes, this is oversimplifying both sides’ positions.)

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  20. R. Slifken – If the Temple was destroyed just because of lack of preparedness, as you understand the Rambam, why bring Astrology into the picture at all? Just say, they were inept so they lost the war.

    I understand the Rambam as saying: Astrology=Avodah Zarah=lack of preparedness= the neglect of a Jew’s obligation to behave rationally, responsibly and with “Chachma”=made God angry (angrier) = caused the destruction of the Temple.

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  21. Because Rambam held that it was astrology that was the cause of their not doing sufficient hishtadlus.

    According to your interpretation, it's an incredibly bizarre coincidence that the manifestation Rambam chooses of their not acting rationally and responsibly just happens to be one that, ordinarily speaking, would be the cause of losing a kingdom. Which is why I think that you are completely misinterpreting Rambam.

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  23. Mechy Frankel-
    I pointed out that uncertainty in weather prediction or other types of turbulent flows are NOT due to "lack of information" or "insufficient computing power" but rather due to inherent uncertainty. I explained this in my first comment.

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  24. R. Slifkin, do you believe that Rambam held that
    (A) Lack of preparedness made the Jews lose the war and Temple
    Or
    (B) Lack of preparedness on the part of the Jews made God decide to destroy the Temple

    If your answer is (A), how would you interpret this Rambam in Hil Taanit 5:3

    ותשעה באב, חמישה דברים אירעו בו...., והייתה צרה גדולה כמו חורבן המקדש; ובו ביום המוכן לפורענות, חרש טורנוסרופוס הרשע ממלכי אדום את ההיכל ואת סביביו

    The Rambam mentions “a day ordained for calamity.”

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  25. I feel honored to be the subject of the debate, and for the honorable mention as well.



    There are actual mareh mkomos. The only excuse I have in not citing them is that for 1 thing, when I listen to a shiur or read a sefer, I don't jot down the exact pages or citations to use later because it's not important to me.If a Rabbi Frand says that R' Akiva Eiger said it, thats good enough. It's always been good enough to say that so and so said, just like in the Talmud itself. You don't find anyone saying that Rebbe Meir said in so and so book on so and so page, etc. I also never in my life expected to hear any of this that I am seeing now as of a week ago, before which I had never even heard of this rationalism thing. I only ended up here thru some link when I saw Rabbi Slifkin mentioned somewhere else.
    Relying on Gedolim for hashkafa is not the same as chosing what or how to think for ourselves. We seek their guidance for almost everything. Who is best qualified to tell us how to live a completely Torahdikke life than someone closest to Torah and Hashem? Some PhD in science or one who has been learning Torah for 70+ years?
    And I state again for the record what the Vilna Gaon said:"All that ever was, is or will be is in the Torah." I believe this includes computers, cell phones,nuclear weapons, nanotechnology, the Hubble telescope, and whatever else comes down the pike. Maybe it's all hidden in the Torah codes, which FYI have NOT been "debunked" as some of you I'm sure believe. Until I hear a Rav Kanievsky or someone of his stature say otherwise, this is daas Torah to me and to those I know who consider themselves Orthodox.

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  26. Avi - my answer is (A).

    With regard to the MT - this would hardly be the first time that there is a conflict between the MT and Rambam's other writings.

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  27. Poshiter Yid - I don't think that anyone is disputing that the Vilna Gaon held that everything is in the Torah, and that it includes all the things you mention. Ramban held the same way. It's just that this is not the unequivocal view of all Torah authorities - with Rambam being the most prominent exception. So while you are free to subscribe to that view, you should not consider those who don't to be outside of Orthodoxy - unless you are ready to apply that also to Rambam and various other Rishonim.

    You'll also find that people here will disagree with you as to whether such figures as Rav Kanievsky are the greatest authorities on the views of the Rishonim in these areas.

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  28. "Avi - my answer is (A)."

    So the Temple was destroyed because the Jews didn't prepare adequately for war? Not because it was a punishment for their sins? All the gemarot and the Rambam in the MT are wrong?

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  29. Let me assure the good Rabbi that I am in no way trying to get attention or get a rise out of people or just playing for the audience, if thats what that word "chepening" means.

    I would like to know whom you and your "followers". for lack of a better word, no offense intended, consider to be Gedolei Yisroel in this generation? On another blog, someone mentioned someone named R' Sperber as being, in his words, the greatest Talmudic scholar in the world today. It seems to me that if this were so about anyone, he would at least deserve a mention in some popular publication, ie Modiah, Yated, or even the JP.

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  30. I just wanted to add that after going back and reading some older posts/articles, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no resolve. Issues about turkeys and Torah and certain "unknown" things to the ancients, for example. As if God wrote the Torah based on a certain knowledge base of a certain generation. Please, we all are taught how timeless and endless Torah is, and now you want to say that God didn't mention turkeys because they wouldn't know what a turkey is?
    I'm sorry but this starting to get a bit silly to me, and I have to wonder who is really being provocative after all.

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  31. :"All that ever was, is or will be is in the Torah." I believe this includes computers, cell phones,nuclear weapons, nanotechnology, the Hubble telescope, and whatever else comes down the pike. Maybe it's all hidden in the Torah codes, which FYI have NOT been "debunked" as some of you I'm sure believe.
    =========================
    Poshiter - and according to your understanding-were Chazal aware of all these?
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  32. :"All that ever was, is or will be is in the Torah." I believe this includes computers, cell phones,nuclear weapons, nanotechnology, the Hubble telescope, and whatever else comes down the pike. Maybe it's all hidden in the Torah codes, which FYI have NOT been "debunked" as some of you I'm sure believe.
    =========================
    Poshiter - and according to your understanding-were Chazal aware of all these?
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  33. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Yashar koach for publicizing this letter of the Rambam about the churban. It really is remarkable. I first came across it in "Eim Habanim Semeicha."

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  34. Poshiter Yid, memorizing Talmudic arguments does not in and of itself make a person more good and holy. Nor does it make him any less. It simply means he's spent a lot of time reading and - if we are fortunate - thinking about these texts.

    The physicist may well be a more loving spouse and parent, more charitable, kinder, seek justice more fiercely and even have a stronger drive to seek Hashem albeit with fewer hours spent studying Torah. These are human qualities which have less to do with occupation than with fundamental character.

    So too with a mystical vs. a rational orientation. People may well be predisposed towards one or the other due to subtle childhood influences, convincing personal evidence, training or brain structure. And it tends to be patchy. The same guy who wins his Fantasy Baseball League every week because of rigorous statistical work may also knock on wood or never leave the house without his lucky pen.

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  35. "One of the ironies/tragedies of the Orthodox world is that the MO world always acknowledges the non-rationalist tradition while the charedi world never acknowledges the rationalist tradition."

    It's true. And its common knowledge that while many in the MO say publicly that the mystical tradition is legitimate, privately they think its all complete bunk. The difficuly all such MO's have is that if they say this, they are basically saying most of current judaism is bunk. Anthing based on kaballah, and anyone who believed in kaballah, is out. [There goes the Shulchan Aruch and the Gra.]Also anyone who explains verses in irrational or aggadic ways. [Bye Rashi, bye Ramban.] And when you ger right down to it, why are the tannaim and amoraim exempt? Dont they explain pesukim, with both halachic and non-halachic consequences, in ways which no rationalist beleives for a second is the true meaning of the verse? [Bye-Bye, Shas.]

    Thus, MOs are left with the unhappy double standard, in which the charedim feel free to call their opponents kofrim, while the MO, if they wish to remain within the bounds of what is currently called "orthodox judaism", cannot say the same of the charedim.

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  36. The weather vs. nuclear decay question illustrates a subtle distinction between the chaotic and the truly random which is worth pursuing because it has strong resonance with other things of which we are talking.

    Truly random events are ones which cannot be predicted even in principle. The classic examples are nuclear decay and Brownian motion. Leaving aside truly abstruse unprovable arguments about hidden variables it isn't possible to predict when a radioactive nucleus will decay. It just isn't according to any theory we have. You can say that in a very large sample of atoms half will be statistically guaranteed to decay in a certain time. But you can't say the same for any atom in that sample.

    Weather is a chaotic system. That means it follows certain predictable rules. In principle we could completely model the weather and tell where every breeze will blow. But since there are almost uncountably many variables and interactions between each molecule of gas and every stray drop of moisture at each temperature that model is unbuildable. Chaos to the mathematician is order on a level of complexity which we are unable to encompass. Even then there are characteristics of chaotic systems which make some of their behavior describable and to some degree predictable.

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  37. I totally agree with you. Rationalist Judaism needs to be accepted. However, only a fool would say non-rational Judaism is not part of the Mesorah. The Maharal and Ramban along with many others were non-rationalists, but who would dare say they were not part of the Mesorah? I have said this time and again on my blog.

    However, I am interested in knowing what you, Rabbi Slifkin, think about Chassidic Judaism. As far as I can tell, THAT branch of Judaism was made up in the 18th century and I am unsure why it's original ideas are considered part of the Mesorah. I mean, this whole thing with Rebbes and zmanim not mattering, what is going on? Care to comment?

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  38. "My goal on this website is not to try to obliterate the non-rationalist viewpoint. Rather, it is to save the rationalist viewpoint from extinction by showing that it has a long tradition. But aspiring (and established -- Phil) rationalists should also acknowledge that the non-rationalist approach also has a long tradition."

    This statement is so important, and so easy to forget by people who visit your website, imho.

    Maybe you should put that paragraph right under your tagline, "Exploring the legacy of the rationalist medieval Torah scholars, and various other notes"

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  39. I don't believe that anyone (even a non-rationalist) in the Rambam's time believed that God could square circles, which (by most accounts), is logically impossible. See, Moreh III, 15, where the Rambam says regarding mathematical impossibilities "they are thought possible only by some persons who are ignorant of mathematics. He then takes issue with thinkers who believed that certain things were not logically impossible. I don't believe that the Ramban would have disagreed. It is only centuries later when non-rationalists following the Tertullian's maxim "I believe because it is absurd" took these ridiculous positions.

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  40. Poshiter Yid: Congradulations! You have solved the intermarriage crisis!

    How you ask? Well, R. Kaniefsky says that Jews and Gentiles have different numbers of teeth (32 and 31 respctively IIRC). Since everyone naturally has 32 teeth (barring rare abnormalities), everyone is a Jew. Since everyone is a Jew, there can be no intermarriage!

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  41. So the Temple was destroyed because the Jews didn't prepare adequately for war? Not because it was a punishment for their sins? All the gemarot and the Rambam in the MT are wrong?

    Tom, you're making it sound as though this is my view. It's not. It's what Rambam says in his letter.

    Rambam understood that this is what punishment for sin means. It's the natural consequence of pursuing astrology i.e. idolatry.

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  42. The blog owner is attributing a position to the Rambam that is completely wrong and certainly not what he meant.

    The Rambam means that the Hishtadlus of the people at the time was off base. But that does not mean that G-d could not have them win their wars with zero preparedness and with three inept warriors against an army of a million. The reason why Hashem did not intervene and they lost and were killed and the Temple destroyed, was because of what is described in Yoma 9 and in Mishneh Torah.

    Had their Hishtadlus been in the right direction, it could be that the severity/extent of the cardinal sins was insufficient to have them lose against the odds. It could be it was not. But their misplaced Hishtadlus placed them Divine at a disadvantage, wherein the intervention that they needed to win was not granted.

    I would strongly recommend that both sides of the debate (re)read Rabbeinu Avraham's section on Bitachon in Hamaspik. Your

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  43. But that does not mean that G-d could not have them win their wars with zero preparedness and with three inept warriors against an army of a million.

    God can do anything. But there's no way that Rambam would accept that God would do such a thing. And this whole idea of "hishtadlus" as some sort of fine that has to be paid to merit Divine intervention is entirely alien to Rambam's ideology. You seem to be expressing the standard charedi hashkafah and to be completely unfamiliar with Rambam's philosophy.

    Look, this website aims to explore the approach of the rationalist Rishonim. I've been letting a certain amount of input come in from anti-rationalists such as Poshiter Yid. But ultimately this website is not designed for people who are not familiar with the rationalist approach and do not respect it.

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  44. Maverick, you have successfully demonstrated what leitzanus is, by making fun of and scoffing at Gedolei Yisroel. I will not dispute with you, for it is forbidden to enter a moshav leitzim. Gedolei Yisroel are holy people, the next best thing we have to Moshe Rabeinu himself, if not higher. If you chose not to stand when they enter a room, you are in violation of halacha, and I do not wish to entertain your scoffing.
    Todd:I am going to assume that you misspoke when you say they may read more. Learning Torah on the level that a Gadol does is not reading an Artscroll Talmud on his LazBoy on Shabbos afternoon. Those that are immersed and amailim b'Torah put more work into it than it takes to build a thousand expansion bridges across the Frisco Bay.
    Joel Rich: No, I don't think they knew how to build a Hubble telescope. I think they understood all the science and engineering fundamentals that went into it though, because those ideas are not new, they have always been there, waiting for the day that God reveals it. Or, as the "rationalists" believe (I think) they discovered it and developed it all by themselves without God's help. And He just clapped His hands and said Yippee, look what my people have done now! Wow, who'da thunk it possible?

    This whole thing is very scary, and I think you all are treading in very dangerous territory here. It reminds me so much of that movie, "Inherit the Wind". The scene where Brady says, "If God wishes a sponge to think, it thinks." And Drummond replies, "This man wishes to be accorded the same rights as a sponge. He wishes to think!" Nu, so go think! Just follow the rules. Just like there are things you are and are not permitted to speak, there are also rules about what you can and can not think or learn about, for very good reasons.
    Why do you suppose the Roshei Yeshivas forbid college students to take Philosophy courses? They used to forbid college altogether, until colleges agreed to not force the students to take these apikorsis classes, which may lead the fragile mind to non-Torah ideas. I, for one, am grateful that the clear thinking Torah leaders did that. I'm sure you all are horrified by it, that God forbid there should be restrictions on anything, especially your own thought processes. Sheltering and ghettoization is not a bad thing sometimes.
    I know someone, a frum woman, a BT, who got her PhD before becoming frum. Then one day she found out that after the whole world of secular learning was open to her on any level, she was now restricted to those things that "the Rabbis" said were ok for her to learn, i.e. pretty much anything but Gemara. There were no shiurim offered for certain topics for women. There were classes for men only. She was shocked, mortified, to say the least. Not only that, but she was an ardent feminist, too. So what did she do? Just like you guys, she had to be a wave maker, buck the establishment, set up women's "minyanim", women's hakafos on Simchas Torah. And you know what it got her? Nothing but heartache, 25 years later, she is still battling, still refuses to attend shul (she's a Rebbetzin by the way), and other nonconforming things. My response? You reap what you sow, so straighten up, put on your sheitel, and zip your mouth. This is what the Torah world is. Accept it or leave it, the choice is yours.

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  45. "Tom, you're making it sound as though this is my view. It's not. It's what Rambam says in his letter."

    So, if we go back to my thought-experiment from my earlier comment, you are saying that had the Jews been steeped in avoda zara, gilui arayot, and sh'fichut damim, but had they trained their armies well, then according to you, the Rambam would say that the Temple would not be destroyed?

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  46. WADR, you don't understand the Rambam's position. The Rambam does not deny that the victory of the Chashmonaim was miraculous, and he does not deny that Yehonasan had the right to state כי אין מעצור לד' להושיע ברב או במעט, and act on it! Same goes for David and Goliath.

    I said nothing about Hishtadlus being a fine, and don't put words in my mouth. But it is NOT BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION the be all and end all of the rationalist philosophy, with no role for the miraculous, even depending on it in some circumstances, in the most rationalist of rationlist legitimate Hashkafos. Do yourself a favor and read Hamaspik L'ovdei Hashem, section on Bitachon.

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  47. poshiter yid, this is a blog titled "Rational Judaism". Hence you should expect that most of its readers would subscribe to that outlook. Your outlook is radically different, and I wonder what you expect to achieve here. Few here, I imagine, accept your arguments - actually, fiat statements in the guise of arguments.

    However, since you alluded to statements that I had made about whether or not turkey is alluded to in the torah, let me clarify. First of all, only non-kosher birds are listed in the sedrot, Shmini and Re'ei (with minor differences between them). Turkey couldn't be on the list since it was totally unknown to the Jews in biblical times, and because it has the signs of a kosher bird - as stated by the sages. If something is unknown, what sense would it make to give it a name. The reaction could only be "what's that?". Moshe would then have had to draw a picture of a turkey (assuming he was told what it was)and explain that this bird would only become known to Jews some 3 millenia later. An oral tradition that had no practical effect for millenia would not be something that would be expected to survive. When the new world was ultimately discovered, there was, thus, no longer the possibility of associating a new world species with something on the list of unkosher birds. As it is, the identity of most old-world birds on the list is subject to much debate among the commentators. As to allusion to turkey by means of coded information, that would require a basis for a proper name for the bird. "Turkey" or "tarnegol hodu" are misnomers, since the bird has no connection to those countries. In any case, using the equidistant letter spacing (ELS) code to designate turkey as a biblically kosher bird hasn't been done to my knowledge (I have studied the basic ELS paper in Statistical Science and find it unconvincing and arbitrary).

    Putting codes aside, however, the rational position, it seems to me, is to state that the words of the torah had to make sense to the generation to which it was given. Even the non-rational decrees (chukim) are at least written in an understandable fashion - even if the reasons may be shrouded in mystery.

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  48. I think that Rabbi Slifkin in his book "The Challenge of Creation " said (better than I can) that G-d ultimately controls the world through various mechanisms completely out of human dominion such as quantum theory and the effects of chaos theory without negating the effects of human choices through our G-d given free will.
    I don't think that this necessarily conflicts with the non rationalist viewpoint except for the more extreme forms of it

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  49. Maveric, if u don't provide a source Poshuter might think that u r chepening.
    Poshuter, do a search on 'how many teeth do Jews have' and click on a link to parshablog. Pls give us your take on this subject.
    This board amazes me by all the tmimusdike poshuter yidden who took the bait from this chepeniak. R there any true rationalists left?

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  50. 1. "Poshiter Yid - I don't think that anyone is disputing that the Vilna Gaon held that everything is in the Torah, and that it includes all the things you mention."

    I dispute this point. The question is whether there are sources of knowledge outside of the Torah. The Gaon, I am sure, would say yes.

    2. I was not disdainful of Prof. Kellner. This blog intends to show that the "rationalist" (I really dont like that term) position is widespread in Jewish intellectual history AND rooted in traditional sources. That is not easily done with the issue of divine providence. I thought that Poshiter Yid would have been better off arguing that the in stating his position the Rambam, "was drawn by the accursed philosophy."

    3. I recognize that this is a subject of dispute, but I believe the Ramban's position, is not substantially different from the Rambam's. This isnt really an issue of Kabbalah. Far too many comments on this blog are disdainful of "Kabbalah", about which they know absolutely nothing. The idea that Chazal could not err in science is NOT a kabbalistic position. (See the Ben Ish Chai quoted on this blog) Neither is this. The idea that the world is an illusion is NOT Kabbalah. It is the position of the B"ShT. Poshiter Yid does not represent Kabbalah. Neither do most of the "zealots". They are adherents of yeshivishness - a strange amalgam of various religious ideologies.

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  51. “Look, this website aims to explore the approach of the rationalist Rishonim. I've been letting a certain amount of input come in from anti-rationalists such as Poshiter Yid. But ultimately this website is not designed for people who are not familiar with the rationalist approach and do not respect it.”

    Rabbi Slifkin, if anyone were to call me a Rationalist, I’d take it as a compliment. I agree with the majority of your views (to the extent of those I am familiar with via this blog.) I consider it a privilege to have access to this highly thought-provoking forum. That being said, I and some others here disagree with your interpretation of the Rambam’s view because of the overwhelming contradictory evidence found in MT. I hope that doesn’t take anything away from my Rationalist designation. Otherwise, you’ll need to come up with some new labels; perhaps RW Rationalist vs LW Rationalist.

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  52. Doesn't Rambam (in Moreh) side with the minority view in the Gemara that there is no suffering without transgression -- that is, that "We believe that Providence always brings human beings what they deserve." The example given in the Gemara is that even if you put your shirt on inside out and are annoyed by this, this is sent from heaven as a punishment for your sin. This implies that much of the circumstances of the world are arranged by Hashem to provide punishment.

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  53. It is frustrating dealing with poshiter yid who asserts in the manner of others that authority trumps source citations. He ignores source citations being directly interrogated.

    I am reminded of a saying I have seen attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan. "Everyone is entitled to his opinion but not to his own facts."

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  54. Y. Ben-David said...
    Mechy Frankel-
    I pointed out that uncertainty in weather prediction or other types of turbulent flows are NOT due to "lack of information" or "insufficient computing power" but rather due to inherent uncertainty. I explained this in my first comment.

    You did point that out, but it is unfortunately not true. These types of prediction are indeed due to “lack of information” and “insufficient computing power”. There is NO “inherent” uncertainty to the prediction of fluid shear or turbulent regimes whatever in the physics of turbulent flow – a completely classical problem, where each future “state” is absolutely defined by the present state, and the equations which evolve the future from the present are well known. So the “unexpected” phenomena you describe are absolutely predictable by, and inherent in, the equations of motion and conservation laws, etc. and could we but apply it to a fine enough grid we should certainly see your shears and eddys and other stuff emerge in the solution space. In practice we employ various averaged descriptions of turbulence because of lack of computational resolving power. We do have however extreme sensitivity to initial conditions, so if those initial conditions are not “accurate”, the future predictions will at some point rapidly depart from reality (such sensitivity to initial conditions is the essence of classical “chaotic” behavior). But the point is that in principle we can reduce these inaccuracies by as much as we wish.

    In fundamental contrast, in modern descriptions of things like atomic phenomena, the uncertainty really is “inherent”. When I perturb the system by measuring its initial state, there is an irreducible minimum finite number below which I can never improve my knowledge, no matter how clever and careful I am.

    This may be getting too specialized and off-topic for this forum but I’d be happy to follow up off line if there are any questions.

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  55. The view brought up by Poshuter Yid have been around for quite a while... The Medabrim in the Moreh held the same views- that everything stems from the free will of god. Hishtadlus was invented later to explain why we bother eat drink etc.
    That excuse really shut up the mouths of hard-core rationalists- why eat? Hishtadlus. Why work? Hishtadlus. Why bother write a comment to a blog of some Epikores? Hishtadlus.
    The problem with the "poshut" Hashkafa is less with it's logic, as rationalists would also have to admit to Hashem having free will, but more with it's theological implications.

    According to the "Poshut" Hashkafa, Hashem didn't want to create a world that matches his standards- a world in which a good deed leads to a tangible reward and a bad one leads to punishment. instead the world was made an ilusion, in which the "world" has one set of rules (reason), and Hashem another, and we, Jews, are asked to cover up for God and pretend the world spins on its own (via Hishtadlus), only to be rewarded for not falling for that nonsense called reason. In other words- Hashem is pulling shtik on us, and we are expected to realize that in order to get rewarded.

    We who believe Hashem to be the source of all goodness, and a Just Judge to all, must reject Poshuter Yid's view as Kfira in Hashem's true nature.

    P.S The implication of Poshuter's view appear in Iyov's complaints and are among the foundations of christian theology. We, as believing Jews reject both.

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  56. Christian theology? You gotta be kidding. You compare the opinions of Gedolim and top notch yeshivas to their pagan shtus? About a guy who never even existed? Funny.

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  57. > "instead the world was made an ilusion, in which the "world" has one set of rules (reason), and Hashem another, and we, Jews, are asked to cover up for God and pretend the world spins on its own (via Hishtadlus), only to be rewarded for not falling for that nonsense called reason."

    I actually saw this explicitly in R' Tzadok Hagaon, and it seems to be mashma a little in the Nefesh Hachaim.

    Interestingly, deciding how to "pasken" on this philosophical debate has far reaching consequences, such as how we view AND DO tefillah, mitzvos, etc. How does one decide?

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  58. So, if we go back to my thought-experiment from my earlier comment, you are saying that had the Jews been steeped in avoda zara, gilui arayot, and sh'fichut damim, but had they trained their armies well, then according to you, the Rambam would say that the Temple would not be destroyed?

    The Rambam would probably have believed that it would be near impossible for people steeped in such things to get their act together correctly in the political and military spheres.

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  59. I am not commenting about the Rambam's opinion of the cause or causes of the destruction of the temples, however regarding his general approach to divine providence and reward and punishment, here is another paragraph from the same letter written by the Rambam http://www.mesora.org/LettertoMarseille.htm:

    "The true way upon which we rely and in which we walk is this: We say regarding this Reuben and Simon, that there is nothing that draws on the one to become a perfumer and rich, and the other to become a tanner and poor. It is possible that the situation will change and be reversed, as the philosopher maintains. But the philosopher maintains that this is due to chance. We maintain that it is not due to chance, but rather that this situation depends on the will of “Him who spoke, and (the world) came into being” (Ps. 33:9); all of this is a (just) decree and judgment. We do not know the end of the Holy One’s wisdom so as to know by what decree and judgment He required that this should be this way and that that should be the other way; “for His ways are not like our ways, neither are His thoughts like our thoughts” (Is. 55:8). We rather are obliged to fix in our minds that if Simon sins, he will be punished with stripes and impoverished and his children will die and the like. And if Reuben repents and mends his ways and searches his deeds and walks in a straight path, he will grow rich and will succeed in all his undertakings and “see (his) seed and prolong (his) days” (ibid. 55:10). This is a root of the religion. If a man says, “But look, many have acted in this way and yet have not succeeded,” why, this is no proof. [For] either some iniquity of theirs caused this, or they are now afflicted in order to inherit something even better than this."

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  60. The focus of that paragraph is why people take different paths in life. Please see the latest post.

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  61. "The Rambam would probably have believed that it would be near impossible for people steeped in such things to get their act together correctly in the political and military spheres."

    You mean like all the pagan and idolatrous nations who had such a difficult time conquering almost all of the world, like Egypt, Babylonia, Greece? Those nations who were steeped in idolatry, etc., who had such a hard time getting their act together militarily and politically?

    Seriously?!?

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  62. They had numbers on their side.

    Look, Rambam clearly states that it was astrology/idolatry which caused the Jews to be weak militarily.

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  63. Avi has explained very nicely what the Rambam means, such that there is no contradiction whatsoever between his letter and his Mishneh Torah. The military weakness is not the ultimate cause of the destruction of the Temple; their turning to superstition and away from chachma reveals the lowly state of the people such that they (and we) deserved the churban.

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  64. You say this is a "very nice" explanation; I say it is completely forced and results in the crazy situation of Rambam speaking about a manifestation of their lowly state that just so happens to be the exact thing that ordinarily results in being conquered - but which he did not mean as being the cause of their being conquered!

    (Tom, looking at all your comments over the last few months, I noticed that you consistently resist views which go against conventional yeshivish hashkafah.)

    Anyway, please see my latest post.

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  65. By the way, you never answered my question from before - where does the Rambam say that only a small minority of people merit hashgacha p'ratit at all, as you had claimed? IIRC, he never speaks in terms of numbers, only in terms of the factors necessary for meriting providence. And even then, IIRC, he never puts it in all-or-nothing terms. I mean, he says that one merits providence in proportion to his/her intellectual perfection. Proportion leaves room for more people than "a small minority."

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  66. IIRC, there are various statements throughout Rambam's writings that he considered the masses to be devoid of proper intellectual development. It's pretty much true today, so kal v'chomer it was true back then!

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  67. "I say it is completely forced and results in the crazy situation of Rambam speaking about a manifestation of their lowly state that just so happens to be the exact thing that ordinarily results in being conquered - but which he did not mean as being the cause of their being conquered!"

    But your starting assumption is that there is no special providence with regard to the Temple. If that is true, then of course their military weakness resulted in the Temple's destruction. But if the Rambam maintained that there is providence for the Temple, then its destruction could come about only through the will of God, and therefore military strength or weakness is not the ultimate cause.

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  68. According to Rambam, providence is only for people, not objects. It's a consequence of the intellect, and objects don't have intellects.

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  69. "IIRC, there are various statements throughout Rambam's writings that he considered the masses to be devoid of proper intellectual development. It's pretty much true today, so kal v'chomer it was true back then!"

    Therein lies the problem I have with this line of thinking. It completely disregards the axiom of yerida hadoros. The kal v'chomer is reversed. If we consider ourselves intelligent, then KV how much moreso they were! And if they were dumb, then we are retarded.

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  70. Well, Rambam did not hold of an intellectual yeridas hadoros either. See Kellner, "Maimonides and the Decline of Generations."

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  71. Could you please provide a source for your last claim? Especially since Devarim refers to God's special providence for the land of Israel, and Melachim Aleph refers to God's special providence for the Temple.

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  72. Just study Rambam's views on Providence, as outlined in the Moreh and explained in various articles. It's just not applicable to objects. As for the pesukim, Rambam would explain them away just as he does everything else that does not comport at face value with his philosophy.

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  73. Rabbi Slifkin, I will take your advice and read the next post, but what Daniel T just quoted also coincides directly with what Rambam says in Moreh 3: 17. The view he ultimately takes is quite like this one, and it is in regard to reward and punishment, not in the paths/ career paths people take in life.

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  74. The Moreh I:44 openly states that God's providence applies to the land of Israel.

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  75. Student V, are you talking about that which Rambam explains as the view of the Torah, or that which he explains as his own view?

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  76. Tom said...

    The Moreh I:44 openly states that God's providence applies to the land of Israel.


    And in 3:17-18 he explains at length why it only applies to beings with an intellect. It's vastly easier to reinterpret the passing statement in 1:44 in light of the extensive discussion in 3:17-18 than to do the reverse.

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  77. If you read #:17-18 carefully, you will see that the Rambam is referring to providence extending to man insofar as man has intellect - among all living creatures. Nowhere does the Rambam say that providence does not extend to objects insofar as certain objects were created or designed for man's benefit.

    IIRC, the Rambam in the Moreh says that the first set of luchot were designed by God as a natural phenomenon, purposely so. Let us perform another thought-experiment. The luchot were thus specially formed some time before the revelation. Does it not follow that there is a special providence extended to those luchot such that they would not be destroyed after their formation and before the revelation? Or are you saying that according to the Rambam if an animal came across those luchot before mattan Torah, and kicked them over a cliff, then God's plan would have just crumbled? The same issue is true with regard to the Temple which "carries" God's Name upon it for all of mankind to benefit from.

    Again, remember, the focus of Moreh 3:17-18 is providence regarding living creatures: people vs. animals.

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  78. Mordechai RobertsonDecember 9, 2010 at 11:08 PM

    "There are sects among mankind who maintain that Divine providence controls all the matters of this world… that when a leaf falls from a tree, He decreed that it would fall…. This approach is far-removed from the intellect."

    I see that the above quote was attributed by Rav Slifkin to the Rambam. WADR I think you will find that the author is not the Rambam but the anonymous author of Sefer haHinnuch (Mitzvah 169)

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  79. Tom - Since providence is a consequence of the intellect, and it thus does not function with animals, kal v'chomer it does not function with inanimate objects.

    Mordechai - the person who supplied that quote claimed it was from Rambam. In any case, Rambam says the same thing in 3:17.

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  80. "Since providence is a consequence of the intellect, and it thus does not function with animals, kal v'chomer it does not function with inanimate objects."

    I don't think that this is a response to what I wrote at all. I did not claim that providence extends to inanimate objects in and of themselves. I said that providence can extend to certain inanimate objects insofar as they have a designated place in the scheme of human perfection. You did not address my thought-experiment regarding the luchot.

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  81. “Just study Rambam's views on Providence, as outlined in the Moreh and explained in various articles. It's just not applicable to objects.”

    R. Slifkin, how would you then explain the purpose of fasting for rain? See Hil Taanit 1:16

    ציבור שהיו מתענין על הגשמים, וירדו להן גשמים...

    You are saying that a vast portion of MT contradicts MN. That sounds very farfetched. In fact, to me it smells of an attempt to distort Rambam’s writings so that they fit into a particular secular-oriented thesis.

    Furthermore, many Rationalist individuals, myself included, study MN using a traditional Talmudic approach and have studied it at length in Yeshiva. Why do you assume that academics have a better understanding of MN than Yeshiva students and faculty? I don’t consider myself narrow minded in any way, and will never accept any writing (at face value) that goes against sound reason. But I will not accept that Rambam opposed Chazal (and contradicted his own writings) in a fundamental, strictly religious doctrine.

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  82. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t resist the urge to comment.

    Poshiter Yid said...
    > Christian theology? You gotta be kidding. You compare the opinions of Gedolim and top notch yeshivas to their pagan shtus? About a guy who never even existed? Funny.

    Do you think that of the billions of Christians who lived over the last two thousand years, they were all idiots? Christian theology is very sophisticated. And do you think that Judaism hasn’t been influenced by Christian theology and practices? Tell me, did you give your kids Chanukah presents?

    You want to talk about people who never existed? Prove that Moshe Rabbeinu existed. There is no evidence for him outside of the Chumash, and your faith in the infallibility of the Chumash does not make it a uniquely reliable text, any more than the Christian’s faith in the infallibility of the New Testament makes that a uniquely reliable text.

    Pagan nonsense? Considering that you just finished celebrating a holiday that is astonishingly similar to pagan solstice festivals; probably daven in a shul with an approximation of an Asherah tree at the amud; wave a chicken over your head on erev Yom Kippur in what is almost certainly a pagan ritual; listen to a weekly Shabbos morning drasha modeled on Christian Sunday morning sermons; fast on shiva asur b’Tammuz, the same date that the Babylonians believed the god Tammuz descended to the underworld and fasted in honor of as part of the yearly harvest festival; probably think of the magen David as a Jewish symbol despite its origins as a pagan symbol for the sun; perform a ritual every month that is reminiscent of moon worship; and so on and so forth: it’s strange to see you up on your high horse laughing at pagan shtus.

    Please feel free to call me names now.

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  83. I did not claim that providence extends to inanimate objects in and of themselves. I said that providence can extend to certain inanimate objects insofar as they have a designated place in the scheme of human perfection.

    But you're not understanding "providence" in the way that Rambam uses it. It doesn't refer to God intervening in the world and doing something.

    You did not address my thought-experiment regarding the luchot.

    Sorry, but I'm really not interested in an extended dialogue. Based on your commenting history, I think that the gulf between us is unbridgeable.

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  84. R. Slifkin, how would you then explain the purpose of fasting for rain?

    I've been researching this for the last few days, and I hope to post on it.

    You are saying that a vast portion of MT contradicts MN.

    It's not a chiddush that there are many contradictions between the two (though I wouldn't describe it as a "vast portion).

    In fact, to me it smells of an attempt to distort Rambam’s writings so that they fit into a particular secular-oriented thesis.

    If you consider Rambam's sources for his philosophy, such as Aristotle and Al-Farabi, to be a "secular oriented thesis", then it is indeed about understanding Rambam in light of this, but I wouldn't call it a "distortion." Rather, I would describe your efforts as smelling of an attempt to distort Rambam’s writings so that they fit into a particular yeshivish-oriented thesis.

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  85. Furthermore, many Rationalist individuals, myself included, study MN using a traditional Talmudic approach and have studied it at length in Yeshiva. Why do you assume that academics have a better understanding of MN than Yeshiva students and faculty?

    Because without an understanding of the Greco-Muslim philosophical framework within which Rambam operated, you won't be able to grasp what he's saying. Here's a test: What was your reaction to the essay that I just posted from Prof. Kellner re. reward and punishment? Had you realized that Rambam believed that only philosophers get Olam HaBa? Rashba realized it.

    I don’t consider myself narrow minded in any way, and will never accept any writing (at face value) that goes against sound reason.

    Don't you realize that even the most charedi fundamentalist individual will say the same thing about themselves?

    But I will not accept that Rambam opposed Chazal (and contradicted his own writings) in a fundamental, strictly religious doctrine.

    Which is why your approach to this is fundamentalist-traditionalist rather than Maimonidean-rationalist, and why arguing this point is futile!

    Look, history is full of traditionalist Orthodox figures who could not bring themselves to accept that Rambam went against what they considered to be acceptable. That's why you find people denying that Rambam wrote the Moreh, denying that he denied the existence of demons, denying that he interpreted Bereishis non-literally, etc. And none of them considered themselves to be narrow-minded people who go against sound reason!

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  86. Lawrence Kaplan comments:

    Tom:u In Guide 1:44 the Rambam states that "God's providence extends over the entire earth as we will explain in the chapters on providence." Obviuosly he does not mean that it is literally over the earth itself. So why assume he means that it is literally over the land of Israel?

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  87. R. Slifken, I believe that Rambam INTEGRATED Greco-Roman philosophy within the traditional Jewish/Talmudic framework. Your position appears to be that Rambam was a Greco-Roman philosopher disguised as a traditional Jew.

    Under my belief, Rambam was the originator of Rationalist Judaism. It is because of Rambam’s writings that I personally don’t believe in the existence of demons and interpret certain parts of Bereishis non-literally etc.

    Based on your position, since Rambam was actually nothing more than an Aristotelian in disguise, there is no basis for Rationalist Judaism. I believe you are veering towards a dangerous path of Orthopraxy.

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  88. Sure, he integrated it. And he didn't agree with Aristotle on everything. Nevertheless, it led him to diverge from traditional Jewish thought in many areas.

    I have absolutely no idea why you think that this has anything to do with Orthopraxy.

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  89. G*3:
    There are no outside influences on Jewish practices, in any way, shape or form. To say otherwise is absolute kefira. The names for months in the Hebrew calendar all came from God, to Moshe, on Sinai. If Babylonians used it, they got it from us. Just like the Egyptians so called math abilities came from Torah and God as well.

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  90. "In Guide 1:44 the Rambam states that "God's providence extends over the entire earth as we will explain in the chapters on providence." Obviuosly he does not mean that it is literally over the earth itself. So why assume he means that it is literally over the land of Israel?"

    I thank you for redirecting my attention to this chapter, for I believe it has proven my point. In that chapter the Rambam says explicitly that God's providence extends to the land of Israel and it extends to the Temple - however, when it comes to earth, he states that God's providence extends to everything which "is ON the earth" - not the earth itself, as opposed to Israel and the Temple, where he didn't say everything which is in Israel or everything which is in the Temple. Note the distinction.

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  91. I’m apologize for the Orthopraxy comment. I shouldn’t be judgmental. What I meant was that if there’s no religious basis to Rationalist Judaism; then the only foundation is secular philosophy (as opposed to philosophy integrated into religious Judaism), than we end up with no religious foundation for our beliefs; it’s reason only. Consequently, we will be in danger of losing our Emunah and only perform the Mitzvot out of tradition and custom.

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  92. There are no outside influences on Jewish practices, in any way, shape or form. To say otherwise is absolute kefira.

    Poshiter Yid - it's been very entertaining to host you, but I really don't think that this is the forum for you. Ask your rabbi.

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  93. What I meant was that if there’s no religious basis to Rationalist Judaism; then the only foundation is secular philosophy (as opposed to philosophy integrated into religious Judaism), than we end up with no religious foundation for our beliefs; it’s reason only. Consequently, we will be in danger of losing our Emunah and only perform the Mitzvot out of tradition and custom.

    Oh, I certainly agree with that, which is one reason why I do not agree with the hardcore rationalist approach of YBT. But I noticed that you said "you are veering towards Orthopraxy." I thought that I made it clear that I don't identify with Rambam's approach to emunah. (Although I wouldn't say that Rambam's approach is solely based on secular philosophy.)

    Incidentally, pursuant to our earlier discussion, one sign of fundamental religious bias is the inability to acknowledge that someone you revere holds views that you personally find shocking/ abhorrent/ grossly wrong.

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  94. "In Guide 1:44 the Rambam states that "God's providence extends over the entire earth as we will explain in the chapters on providence." Obviuosly he does not mean that it is literally over the earth itself. So why assume he means that it is literally over the land of Israel?"
    In Guide 1:44 the Rambam explains the meaning of the word 'ain'. No conclusions should be drawn to the working of providence. He doesn't deal with it there. This is how I learn it.

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  95. Why are you telling Poshiter to leave? Perhaps he is right and it's you that is wrong. Or do you only "entertain" those who agree with you.
    Personally, I happen to agree with most of what he says as well. All this business about Aristotle, Babylonians, Christians, etc, is absolutely contradictory in whole, not in part, to what we "irrationalists" are taught in Yeshiva. I attended the Mirrer. Before that, I learned in Ponevezh for a year. For you to sit there and say that kofrim influenced Talmudic thinking or discourses is just wrong wrong wrong in every way. Tanaim and Amoraim couldnt have given a rat hair about what these so called influential philosophers and thinkers thought. They didn't even want to know, because anything outside of Torah was, and is, kefira. That's right, you heard me correctly. All secular works are kefira and nonsense compared to Torah. Stephen Hawking's research? Kefira. Einstein? Kefira. Anything coming out of Harvard, Cambridge, MIT, Yale, all kefirah mamash.
    Torah? TRUTH. This is the basic, most fundamentalist, underlying belief to be an observant Yid.

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  96. R'NS:: "My goal on this website is not to try to obliterate the non-rationalist viewpoint. Rather, it is to save the rationalist viewpoint from extinction by showing that it has a long tradition. But aspiring rationalists should also acknowledge that the non-rationalist approach also has a long tradition."

    (To avoid confusion: If YBT is the Irgun on your spectrum of "rationalisms", then I expect you would peg me as the Lechi.)

    It seems to me that our brother, Poshuter Yid, must reject your historical-sociological notion that a "viewpoint" acquires legitimacy qua Torah by virtue of having had a "long tradition". Rather, I take his tacit (unarticulated) position to be:

    [PY-1] Your historical-sociological categories constitute a category error at the very root of your reasoning and self-definition;

    [PY-2] The appropriate categories are, rather, epistemological; and therefore

    [PY-3] Your viewpoint should be viewed with respect to the legitimate tradition approximately like the Karaite viewpoint.

    Epistemology being more foundational than history and sociology (just as physics is more foundational than biology), Poshuter must regard you as having never even arrived to the field of battle. (It is also true that Poshuter would find that he has neglected studying the relevant "arts of war".)

    It's no accident that this sounds a lot like the wars over ספר המדע in ages past. The Rambam got his categories right. Drs. Kellner, Shapiro, et. al., just won't help you here; appealing to them is like mustering a corps of social workers to stop Hezbollah.

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  97. Azoi and Posuter r one and the same. Pls treat them as such. I am a working man who wants to learn not to exchange barbs. They r here to chepen and can do so in a kave shtib or a mikve. But where can I find kindred spirits? Pls keep them away!

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  98. I LOVE IT when people like Azoi try to deny history along with things that are said straight out by the Gemara, Rishonim and Achronim. For example, I guess Azoi never learned Talmud Yerushalmi Sahedrin that talks about how it is ok to read Homer and other books like that. How Rambam, Ralbag and many others discuss learning Aristotle, Plato, Averroes, Avicenna and others. The list goes on and on, but why bother? He will just deny, deny, deny. I guess people just like to close their eyes to reality and follow their hearts even if it is based on nothing other than their personal bias.

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  99. > Poshiter Yid said...
    G*3:
    There are no outside influences on Jewish practices, in any way, shape or form. To say otherwise is absolute kefira. The names for months in the Hebrew calendar all came from God, to Moshe, on Sinai. If Babylonians used it, they got it from us. Just like the Egyptians so called math abilities came from Torah and God as well.

    I wasn’t aware that there was anyone who disputes that the names of the months are Babylonian. Sources?

    The last sentence is especially puzzling. Are you suggesting that all the knowledge the goyim have comes straight from the Torah? That’s a very different claim than that all knowledge is contained in the Torah. Do you imagine that there is a group of lamden secretly feeding information to the world’s inventors, that all of the accounts of tedious experimentation are lies and that this group hands over blueprints when it is revealed to them b’ruach ha’kodesh that it is time for a given piece of technology to come into general use?

    Perhaps what you’re using to view this should be called a Yankel machine instead of a von Neumann machine.

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  100. I might agree with you if I had any clue as to who von Neuman is.

    Azoi, I appreciate your help, though unnecessary.

    If anyone "knows" anything about the operations of the physical world, such as math, physics, etc., it is only becuz God lets them know. And for you all to say that the RamBam entertained heretical ideas from PLato, etc in his own philosophy is definitely against Torah. Maybe he was aware of what they thought. But you will never convince a frum yid that he incorporated it in his own Moreh Nevuchim or Mishne Torah. I may know geometry, but that doesnt mean I have incorporated Egyptian or Pythagorean thought into my own. They did not develop it, they merely discovered it. It was there all along. God looked into the Torah and created the world.

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  101. But you will never convince a frum yid that he incorporated it in his own Moreh Nevuchim or Mishne Torah.

    I guess you are unaware that the Gra and Rav Hirsch criticized Rambam for incorporating Greek philosophy into the Mishneh Torah! And Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky pointed out that the first perakim, in Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah, are based on Greek philosophy. So I guess they are not frum yidden!

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  102. Azoi said...

    Why are you telling Poshiter to leave? Perhaps he is right and it's you that is wrong. Or do you only "entertain" those who agree with you.


    I'm not interested in futile, endless arguments with people who have an entirely different epistemology. Just as this website is for religious Jews, not secular Jews, it is for those who are interested in the approach of Rambam and similar Rishonim, not those who reject or deny it.

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  103. Everyone knows that the RamBam is kodesh kedoshim. Sometimes he and Rashi disagreed on pshat in Chumash, but thats it. Every Gadol from Moshe Rabeinu to Rav Elyashiv has agreed on all the fundamental basics of Torah, including RamBam. You are distorting things again to suit your own agenda.
    If he were alive today, the RamBam would be wearing a black suit, white shirt, black fedora hat (Borselino), davening nusach ashkenaz, and be a leading officer of Agudas Yisroel. He would be as Haredi as the Neturei Karta, God bless them, and he would not be engaging in this nonsensical debate over nonpractical halacha.

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  104. Aside from that being nonsense, how does it address what I said? Do you deny that the Gra, Rav Hirsch and Rav Kaminetsky said these things? Had you never heard it, before I mentioned it? Were these not frum Yidden who said that Rambam incorporated Greek philosophy into the Mishneh Torah?

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  105. (By the way, I am becoming increasingly convinced that this is some sort of prank. I've met plenty of yeshivishe people with crazy beliefs, but you are really extreme.)

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  106. PY-א: "If anyone "knows" anything about the operations of the physical world, such as math, physics, etc., it is only becuz God lets them know."

    PY-ב: "[...] And for you all to say that the RamBam entertained heretical ideas from PLato, etc in his own philosophy is definitely against Torah. Maybe he was aware of what they thought. But you will never convince a frum yid that he incorporated it in his own Moreh Nevuchim or Mishne Torah. I may know geometry, but that doesnt mean I have incorporated Egyptian or Pythagorean thought into my own. They did not develop it, they merely discovered it. It was there all along. God looked into the Torah and created the world."

    R'NS:-א "I'm not interested in futile, endless arguments with people who have an entirely different epistemology. Just as this website is for religious Jews, not secular Jews, it is for those who are interested in the approach of Rambam and similar Rishonim, not those who reject or deny it.
    "


    1. Why not leave PY-ב to those academic discussions for which "the canons of Western academic scholarship" are sufficient. (PDF, p. 150) Insofar as our interest is in the Rambam's ideas, we may simply note that his footnoting discipline would be rejected by any peer-reviewed publication of which I am aware. [Significantly, the Rambam is much more selective about the species of syllogism he will accept than are "the canons of Western academic scholarship".]

    2. PY-א is a corollary of the יסוד היסודות , so it should be unproblematic for anyone "interested in the approach of Rambam and similar Rishonim". PY-א is also an underpinning (עיקר) of הלכות תלמוד תורה.

    3. Prima facie, it would seem that R'NS and PY might yet discover that they're epistemological brothers.

    P.S. PY: Sorry I misspelled your name earlier.

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  107. No this is not a prank at all. I have sat at many a Shabbos table and have heard this over and over, over a period of 40 some years (i am 59). This is what is taught in every Talmud Torah, every top notch yeshiva that I know of. I have attended shiurim from HaRav Yakov Weinberg, zt"l, the former RY of Ner Yisroel, who said the same thing, and he was a baki in RamBam, having given countless shiurim in MT throughout his life. Never once did he mention anything at all about any Greek influence. Not in MT, nor in the Talmud itself, and nobody I know would even entertain it for a second.
    We believe that the Talmud, with all its opinions, Rashi, Tosfos, etc, was given to MOshe Rabeinu complete, as it exists today, you can even say that he was given the Vilna Shas if you want and you wouldn't be far from the truth. That's right, you heard me. I believe that Teb Yehuda HaNasi had a Vilna Shas in his sefarim shrank, all of it.
    The Yidden lived in shtetlach ever since they went into galus. They did not mingle with the Greeks or any other goyim, until the Haskala tore us apart with its sinful opinions on the world. Until then, nobody entertained such silliness, not the RamBam, not anyone, only a Herzl or another sheygetz like him would do such a thing. The Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah are the only sources we need to make such statements. The fact that they say it is so, makes it so. All frum yidden hold by that opinion. And don't tell me what R' Kamenetsky said about Greeks. Either you are wrong, or he was under the influence of too much wine on Purim, because a Gadol HaDor wouldnt say such a thing.
    By the way, if you need to know who the Gedolei HaDor are, just look up Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, or open an issue of Yated. They are right there in full color. And Kellner, Sperber, and Aristotle aren't mentioned.

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  108. I am amazed. I really thought that you were about 19, not 59!

    Tell me: Would it make a difference how many sources from the Rishonim and Acharonim I quoted, which run contrary to your claims? Or are all sources irrelevant? After all, you claim that the ultimate authority is the Agudah Gedolim, and yet you said that if confronted with a statement from Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky which runs contrary to your claims, you would just say that he must have been drinking. So if the Rishonim, Acharonim, and even Gedolim can't change your mind, I guess you aren't following any Torah authority!

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  109. > Rashi, Tosfos, etc, was given to MOshe Rabeinu complete, as it exists today, you can even say that he was given the Vilna Shas if you want and you wouldn't be far from the truth. That's right, you heard me. I believe that Teb Yehuda HaNasi had a Vilna Shas in his sefarim shrank, all of it.

    Let’s leave aside the minor quibble that the Vilna Shas would have been an awkward format before the invention of the printing press. The assertion that Reb Yehuda Hanasi had a set of Vilna Shas with Rashi and Tosefos raises the question: why do we attribute Rashi’s commentary to Rashi? If the commentary existed for two and half thousand years before Rashi was born, how can he be credited with writing it? Doesn’t the inherent absurdity of your position bother you?

    No, wait, I know. The gedolim have said it’s true, so it’s true, and I’m a kofer for even entertaining the idea that Rashi wrote the commentary that bears his name.

    > The Yidden lived in shtetlach ever since they went into galus. They did not mingle with the Greeks or any other goyim,

    Did you learn the story of Chanukah? Do you remember the part about the Jews who had become Hellenized? You may regard them as rishoim, but clearly the statement, “They did not mingle with the Greeks” is false.

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  110. PY said this: "Never once did he mention anything at all about any Greek influence... Not in MT, nor in the Talmud itself, and nobody I know would even entertain it for a second."

    Why is this relevant (that the people you know wouldn't entertain it)? Why should I care that that is the case? There are rabbis who not only entertain this but know it, and they could teach your friends this information since your friends are obviously unaware of the facts.

    Saying that lots of ignorant people don't realize something does not make the thing untrue (just somewhat less known).

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  111. I'll say this about the opinions expressed here, including the good Rabbi. Whoever told you that you were entitled to an opinion that is worthy of an audience to begin with?
    You know what happens when people with the title "Rabbi" start opining loudly enough with things that run contrary to generally accepted laws and approaches? People start imagining that their Reform and Reconstructionist leaders can have valid opinions as well. Which of course, they can not. Then they imagine that even they, the 2 day a year Temple attendees can have such valid opinions. And they will tell you, in no uncertain terms, that if it's all opinion anyway, then mine should count as much as a Rav Feinstein's, and that thought alone is absolute kefira. Becasue without recognition by the general populace as a true tzadik, gaon, gadol, etc, we are nothing, zero, not even a dust mite on a Rabbi's show. If it's just opinion, so MY Rabbi has an equally valid brain and an equally logical approach, and he decided you're all wrong. And THAT is the danger of all this. Because now, everyone has opinions, that they say well, MY Rabbi says it's ok to drive to shul on Shabbos. MY Rabbi says its ok to marry a shiksa. MY Rabbi says its ok to be gay. Well guess what, IT's NOT! Not by any stretch of the imagination, or stretch of halacha, or stretch of Torah in any way, shape, or form.
    So no, Rabbi, not all opinions carry weight. Not all opinions are worthy of sharing. Perhaps the reason the opinions of Rishonim and others you mention are considered invalid by others greater than they were. Perhaps even the Rambam was wrong if he says as you say he does. The very fact that we don't interpret like he does, is proof positive that he was not accepted. And all the fancy Latin phrases in the world won't make it so. It is what it is. God didn't give the Torah and say I want you to think about these things, and if they make sense to you, please follow them accordingly. He said do or die, right here at this mountain, and yes, He physically raised that mountain over their heads, too.

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  112. It has got to be a prank. Who else would say the Rambam would daven Nusach Ashkenaz? I guess everyone who davens any other Nusach is a kofer?

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  113. Poshuter is not 59, he scoffs at the Torah, Gdoilim and us. He has not presented a single substantive argument nor does he respond to any. He keeps pushing the envelop but except for me not a single person is unequivocally outing him! This is ridiculous! He says Hamodia Gdoilim r greater than Moshe Rabeinu! How can anyone take him seriously!?
    Poshuter, did u check out the sources of R. Konevsky's tshuva that I had posted? What do u say about it?

    SOS! Help! Ratevet! Hazilu!

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  114. Yakov wrote: "He has not presented a single substantive argument nor does he respond to any. He keeps pushing the envelop but except for me not a single person is unequivocally outing him! "

    Yakov, I agree with you. Have no fear!

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  115. Yakov, just get off this post and stop complaining. When I saw the reactions to Poshuter I knew that this post was going to be a brocho levatolo. I just don't get involved. U r too emotional. Why care?

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  116. Yaakov, I’m not sure. I also keep thinking it’s a prank. Then I remember people I’ve met in real life who are like Poshiter, and I’m not so sure.

    Either way, it’s good fun.

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  117. i never said the Gedolei Yisroel are greater than Moshe. On the contrary, it's impossible, because nobody can be greater in their generation that someone in the previous generation, even if they are separated by a mere 20 years, due to yerida hadoros.
    The part about the Shas means they all had ruach hakodesh. Even the Jews in the desert before entering Israel learned Rashi.
    And for the last time, this is not a joke or prank!

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  118. So if nobody is greater than people from a previous generation, how can one declare that Rambam's views are wrong? And how can you declare that Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky was wrong when he said that Rambam incorporated Greek philosophy into the Yad?

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  119. "Greater" does not mean or imply perfect.

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  120. But if you are lesser, how can you declare them to be wrong?

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  121. The same way I can look out my window and say it's daytime.

    I would like to hear your comments on what I said about opinions and the danger of thinking they are valid.

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  122. Poshuter, u did on this very post:
    Gedolei Yisroel are holy people, the next best thing we have to Moshe Rabeinu himself, if not higher.

    R u denying it?

    Do I need to say anything more?

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  123. But nobody would argue that day is night. Here, you are arguing with the Gra, Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, etc., - people who you agree are much greater than you. What advantage do you have over them?

    I agree with you that not all opinions carry equal weight. I am not sure how you decide which ones do and which ones don't.

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  124. Dr. Kaplan - you haven't responded to my last comment about Guide 1:44. Any comments?

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  125. That's the beauty of it all. I don't have to decide which ones do and which don't. The Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah does it for me, leaving me to take care of my own business. How does the entire world know that Rav Elyahiv and Rav Kanievsky are Gedolei HaDor? They just do. And ours is not to question it.

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  126. But Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky was on the Moetzes, and yet you said he was wrong about Rambam including philosophy in the Yad!

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  127. Natan Slifkin said...
    > But if you are lesser, how can you declare them to be wrong?

    Poshiter Yid said...
    > The same way I can look out my window and say it's daytime.

    I would say that’s the rationalist approach in a nutshell. Chazal say X. We look at the world and see Y. We conclude that Chazal were mistaken.

    So what are we arguing about?

    > The part about the Shas means they all had ruach hakodesh. Even the Jews in the desert before entering Israel learned Rashi.

    Did Rashi have ruach hakodesh? Did Rashi learn Shas with Rashi? If so, how can we credit him with writing the commentary that bears his name?

    It’s funny, you have a lower opinion of Rashi than I do. While I see Rashi as a brilliant Torah scholar, you see him as a mere copyist who wrote down what had already been widely known and studied for thousands of years.

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  128. I said he was either wrong or under the influence, I believe.

    Look, you are not going to trip me up with this. What I say or what other Rabbanim say doesn't have to fit your idea of logic to be true. And frankly, after reading all this from other commenters, it seems like 1 giant word game by self-appointed philosophers. I have a degree in philosophy myself (seriously, no joke at all), with a 4.0 gpa i might add, and to be perfectly honest I have never heard of most of the stuff these people are talking about. I never heard words like ethos and pathos and logos or any of it, and thats after 4 years of philosophy.
    I think this is another tool of the yetzer hara to turn us away from Torah. I prefer the traditional ways. Like if you yourself, RS, were to approach a Gadol and ask questions or make statements in Kabbalah-dikke stuff, the Gadol would wave you away and say go learn a pshat in a Tosfos and don't worry about such things.
    Instead, you take it upon yourself to try to learn such things in flagrant violation of traditional law. I supose you think it's ok to learn Ezekiel as well.

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  129. Well, he obviously wasn't under the influence, since he published it in Emes LeYaakov. (And frankly, I am amazed at your chutzpah in saying such a thing about a gadol.) So if you claim to follow the Gedolim, how can you claim that this Gadol was wrong and that no frum Jew would say such a thing?

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  130. "Did Rashi have ruach hakodesh? Did Rashi learn Shas with Rashi? If so, how can we credit him with writing the commentary that bears his name?"

    OF COURSE! I was taught that in 7th grade, sir. One of the very first questions I ever asked upon entering a Talmud Torah school was "How does he (Rashi" know that? And I have carried that answer with me ever since. "He had ruach hakodesh, just like all the other accepted commentaries." Emphasis on the accepted part. I can't even believe you asked such a question. Every single commentary by Rashi was thru Ruach HaKodesh! That is standard belief for all Yeshiva students. In fact, I'll take it a step further. Everythig that is commentary that we possess WAS known prior to their writing. All these scholars and Gedolim did was recapture and rediscover that which was already known. You think the shvatim didn't know that there were 12 paths thru the split Yam Suf? They lived it. Then Rashi made us aware of it later on, and he got it from a malach or from Hashem directly. Same with Malbim, Radak, Ramban, etc etc. The malachim spoke, and they wrote. NONE of it was their own thought.

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  131. So how could Chasam Sofer reject Rashi's discussion of anatomy in favor of Rambam's view, on the grounds that Rashi was not a doctor and therefore didn't understand the sugya? Was Chasam Sofer also "under the influence"?

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  132. Note to all: Please remember that anonymous comments do not get posted.

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  133. > Everythig that is commentary that we possess WAS known prior to their writing. All these scholars and Gedolim did was recapture and rediscover that which was already known.

    So did Rashi have a set of shas with Rashi? Or was Rashi’s commentary lost sometime between R’ Yehuda Ha’Nasi and Rashi, and Rashi rediscovered it?

    > You think the shvatim didn't know that there were 12 paths thru the split Yam Suf? They lived it.

    If you’re referring to Yaakov’s sons, the shvatim were all dead by the time krias yam suf took place. You may argue they knew how it would happen, but they certainly didn’t live it.

    If you mean the people who experienced krais yam suf, of course they knew what had happened to them. So what?

    > Then Rashi made us aware of it later on, and he got it from a malach or from Hashem directly. Same with Malbim, Radak, Ramban, etc etc. The malachim spoke, and they wrote. NONE of it was their own thought.

    Mohamed and Joseph Smith are in good company then.

    If I understand you correctly, there is no such thing as a talmid chochom, just those who were lucky enough to be visited by malachim and those who weren’t.


    I’m curious. Do you think that, say, R’ Elyashiv has a secret library where he keeps copies of all of the seforim that have been lost to the general public over the years and of all the seforim that are yet to be written? Do you think that when he published his own seforim, what he was really doing was taking a sefer from this secret library and making it available to the masses?

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  134. I know I shouldn't be doing this, but I can't help myself. The Poshiter yid's comments are either an intentional or unintentional parody, or just an effort to get attention and to annoy. The expressed ignorance would be appalling if it were meant seriously. I just love the comment about entering the 7th grade 'talmud torah' and assimilating the alleged answer to the question, "How does Rashi know that?" - ruach hakodesh, of course. Note, the teacher doesn't offer an explanation involving the suggestive wording of the text. 'Ruach hakodesh' is simply trotted as a substitute for a real answer. While an impressionable kid might be excused for accepting such non-answers, it is inexcusable for an alleged thinking adult. Heck, even a high school age kid in yeshiva would be aware that the various commentators tend to offer conflicting interpretations. The Ramban, in particular will cite Rashi and/or Ibn Ezra and explicitly disagree. According to 'Poshut' all these contrary opinions are of 'heavenly' origin and unfiltered by the mind of the recipients. That's not a very flattering description of the heavenly world.

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