Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Question of the Kidneys' Counsel

I am pleased to announce the publication of my latest monograph, The Question of the Kidneys' Counsel. It discusses the Scriptural, Talmudic and Midrashic accounts of the kidneys providing counsel to the heart, and explores the response of Rishonim, Acharonim and contemporary figures to this topic. The topic also has broad and significant ramifications for other conflicts between Torah and science, some of which are discussed in the document.

You can obtain the monograph at this link. If you feel that you have benefits from it, please make a donation to The Torah and Nature Foundation, using this link. Thank you for your support!


  1. To give money to a Rasha, it's also called a "Donation"?

  2. Well, Anonymous from Mexico, you must be getting something out of this website, since, judging by the endless torrent of hateful comments that you submit, you read the website religiously! (I don't post your comments, but they are funny, in a pathetic sort of way.)

  3. Wouldn't it be better to edit your MA papers into a coherent book(s)?

    Is the number of people who are willing to pay for these short PDFs really comparable with your book sales?

  4. I can certainly understand why some people post their comments anonymously. I'd be embarrassed to reveal myself to the world as well if all I had to share was ignorant hate-filled drivel...

  5. Is it a donation or payment?

  6. Maybe timesavers (courtesy Machon Mamre, Even-Shoshan and Google):

    Kidneys in תנ"ך

    Kidneys in MN

    (Please e-mail me if there's a bug.)

  7. B"H

    "Anonymous from Mexico".

    FWIW I am against anonymous and pseudonymous posts, specailly if they are derogatory.
    Ask your Posek before you write this kind of comments.

  8. I wasn't referring to you. But the person's style of transliteration was indicative of Mexican origin.

  9. Shimon said...
    Wouldn't it be better to edit your MA papers into a coherent book(s)?

    I plan on publishing them in a book at some point. But that's not happening anytime soon, so in the meanwhile I am making them available this way.

  10. Fred said...
    Is it a donation or payment?

    It's a payment for the monograph, and a donation to support the website in general.

  11. I assume the base amount is $5 as before?

  12. Yes. (Astonishingly, two people gave one cent!)

  13. Fred, I view it as a contribution.

  14. People - if you care enough to download the article, and if you recognize and appreciate the time and effort that goes into this website, even if you totally or partially disagree with its views, then it's chutzpah to download and donate one cent!

  15. Dr. Betech, let me also assure you that not for a moment I thought it was you and have been following the controversy. I am puzzled by your violent reaction.

  16. I really can't believe some of the negative posters on this blog, especially in referring to Rabbi Slifkin as a 'Rasha' ( which couldn't be farther from the truth). I was taught as a child that if you don't have anything nice to say than don't say it. I guess my Jewish education was different than yours. If you don't like the site then leave. Is there a gun pointed at your head? And yes, I consider this a donation and worthy one at that!

  17. B"H
    My reaction was directed to the "Anonymous from Mexico" not to the blogowner.
    As you can remember, everytime I wrote to the blogowner, I wrote: "Dear Natan" or at least "Natan".

  18. I wonder how many people thought Rabbi Slifkin was referring to Dr. Betech when he addressed "Anonymous from Mexico" and only adjusted their impression when Rabbi Slifkin clarified he wasn't.

    I'll start with myself.

  19. Do you address the little-known statements of some members of chazal made in Masechet Niddah? I know very little about female internal medicine [thanks G-d] so maybe they got it right. But when I see statements like "the blood that comes out during the first 7/14 days after childbirth comes from a diffrent source than the blood in the next 33/66 days", I have to wonder. And other statements oichet.

    [BTW, RNS, please see my lenghty comment in your previous post.]

  20. Doctor, this makes sense and fits wth your character. I misunderstood you. We all on the same page and this is great! Please accept my apology.

  21. I wonder how many people thought Rabbi Slifkin was referring to Dr. Betech when he addressed "Anonymous from Mexico" and only adjusted their impression when Rabbi Slifkin clarified he wasn't.

    Not me. David, if you remember the dialog with Dr. Betech on this website, you will remember that Dr. Betech never used such derogatory name-calling language in his comments on this blog. Calling Rabbi Slifkin a "Rasha" is very extreme. As much as I disagree with Dr. Betech's views, IIRC he has not shown such a low level of extreme disrespect in his comments here. Also, Dr. Betech has no problem using his real name to say what is on his mind. And finally, Dr. Betech always puts B"H before his comments. So, I was sure it wasn't Dr. Betech that left the anonymous comment, and I was sure that Rabbi Slifkin was not addressing him. Sorry, you're alone on this one so far.

    But how about another vote. I wonder how many people would like to see a collection of all the hate-filled, ignorant, vitriolic, and nonsensical comments Rabbi Slifkin has gotten over the years which he didn’t post? Kind of like a “Bloopers” video but for blog comments and emails. I think it would be kind of interesting, and to quote Rabbi Slifkin “funny in a pathetic sort of way.” Or is putting up such a post too distasteful?

    I’ll start with myself.

    1 - For a post of a collection of hateful comments.

    0 - Against (it's too distasteful).

  22. re monograph:

    In genreal can you post an excerpt from the monograph so that we can decide if we want to pay for more

  23. Moishe, in general if you like the posts you will like the monograph.

  24. The monograph is great! I would just comment that regarding the issue of Scripture I think you should elaborate more on the Yerushalmi in Taanit that you refer to in note 42. Tosfos in Taanis bring it down and clearly explain that the pasuk wrote according to what people thought.

    Also, note 43 seems to be imply that it is an exhaustive list of the seemingly unscientific verses in the Torah. What about snakes eating earth, sheep fur color affected by the mother's sight of colored rods, existence of magic (the vilna gaon's attack on rambam), and many others.

  25. It makes a lot of sense to me that one isn't born a tzadik. Moshe Rabbeinu had to start somewhere, and he started as a baby growing up in Pharoh's Palace. thus he must have become the greatest tzadik ever somewhere along the way, rather than from birth.

  26. Donation? Payment?

    Rabbi Slifkin seems perfectly happy to discuss Torah and his reasoning on it for free. But he has expenses and his time is worth something. It seems perfectly reasonable for him to charge for finished works like these monographs.

  27. Just call it a PAYMENT already....jeeez. No one will be offended.

    On the contrary, continuing to call it a DONATION causes confusion.

  28. On the issue of semantics: payment, contribution, or donation. The Hindus call it an "unconditonal love offering." How about that?

  29. Interesting "food for thought", in classical Chinese medicine tradition (that dates back 5,000 years), the kidneys store the life force (energy from our very beginnings/ancestry) and do all of the body's "energetic" work--and they excel through "cleverness". :-)

  30. You're incredible. Please never stop posting, teaching, writing, researching, questioning, etc. Such an important contributor to the world of Orthodoxy!

  31. If neurons in your skin can do math, then maybe your kidneys can contribute to counsel.
    OK, so maybe that was a stretch. :-)

  32. The word in question is cilayos. The Talmud says it means kidneys. The Zohar says it refers to the testicles. Atop the kidneys rests the adrenal glands, which do indeed give counsel to the brain to fight or flee. The testes counsel to have sex. The brain of course has the final say! I suggest that this "cilayot" refers to the endocrine system. Someone should research this. If true it means that the rabbis has an understanding of the body's function greater than we give them credit for, and they acquired this knowledge from other than the scientific method. I also refer the reader to the Tanya which quotes various sources that the sperm begins it's development in the brain. Today we know that the brain includes the pituitary gland which secretes hormones that tell the testes and prostate to create testosterone, semen etc. A man with a tumor on his pituitary cannot father children (unless he gets a Brachah from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, as a friend of mine did ;>)

  33. While lying in hospital recently, my (Jewish) urologist gave me a lesson in biology, and explained the passage of a 4mm kidney stone from my kidneys down to the bladder and beyond. I asked him (while high on strong pain medication) - why are the kidneys so far from the bladder? and all he had to reply was "Ask God!"
    But thinking about "bochen klayos v'laiv" and also about the Chinese medicine view of the kidneys, I wondered if it's because the kidneys are part of a different 'subsystem' of the body.
    So I'm glad to have stumbled upon this, and looking forward to learning more about the topic! Thank you!

  34. Further to my earlier comment, and having now read the monograph, I have also shared and discussed with a couple of experienced practitioners of Chinese medicine.
    While R Slifkin points out a clear disconnect between statements in the Torah and by Chazal about the kidneys and science, his definition of 'science' is limited to Western medicine which looks at human physiology, and in which the kidneys are the filtering system, the heart is the pump, etc.
    Eastern medicine has a totally different view on the organs, what functions they perform, and the role of energy flow within the body. This perspective of the human body is *very* consistent with many of the statements of Chazal about various organs, particularly the quote from Berachot 61a. There is also a statement in Tanya about blockages in (blood) flow around the body being the source of illness, which is again consistent with the Eastern medicine perspective.
    While Eastern medicine may not qualify as 'rationalist', this apparent alignment looks worthy of further exploration.

  35. Are you interested in selling one of your kidney for a good amount kindly Contact us now as we are looking for kidney donor, Very urgently who are B+ve , O+ve and A+ve. Donor should be 18 years or above. Interested Donor should contact us now.
    Dr. Micheal Varghese
    Email: drmichealvarghes@gmail.com
    call number: +919500703584
    WhatsApp: +919500703584

  36. Assuming that the function of korbanot is symbolic, we can come around full circle: they symbolism of mitzvot goes according to the way it will impact people's feelings, and that is going to be contextual.

    Additionally, the statement in the Talmud can be considered a guide to the symbolism of different organs when they appear in Tanach and ritual.

  37. To R. Slifkin:
    I was greatly dismayed after reading this article. You seem to have no hesitation whatsoever to call the words of chazal wrong. To me, this is an inherently mistaken position. If Chazal said that there is a connection between the kidneys and some thought processes, then there is. Whether this was meant to be understood literally (through an as of yet undiscovered process), allegorically, metaphorically, or metaphysically, I don't know. Current scientific thought sees no connection. Rather than be so quick to say that they were wrong, I would say that the matter requires further study.
    I do not have a good explanation, but I will not say categorically, that chazal were wrong!
    The gemara in Yevamos says that when asked a bad question, Rabbi responded by saying that it appears that he has no brain in his head. That would indicate that they knew that thought comes form the brain. Yet, they still said what they said about the kidneys.
    I have a harder time understanding how you explain the words of the Navi. This is a communication from Hashem! Would Hashem convey false information!?!? Do you not think that Hashem would have said בוחן המוח, and then the Navi would know that his previous notions are incorrect.


Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

Tzedakah: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

How do you tell apart a good charity from a bad one? It can be very difficult to know who is actually honest. But the first step is to be aw...