Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What Do The Gedolim Hold?

Since I have been accumulating more and more sources from Rishonim and Acharonim who clearly say that Chazal made various incorrect statements about the natural world, especially vis-a-vis basic cosmology, some have reacted by insisting that the Gedolim couldn't possibly believe differently. But I have in my possession a manuscript of a book that has not yet been published; I don't know if there are plans to publish it. I obtained it from someone that I know who was in touch with both the kanna'im who engineered the ban on my books, as well as being in touch with some of the Gedolim who signed on the ban. I don't know exactly who put this manuscript together; I suspect it was a joint effort of the kanna'im. It is a collection of sources to oppose my books, similar to Chaim B'Emunasam. But it also includes the following:


שאלנו בע"פ לכמה גדולים שליט"א בנוכחות מו"ר ר יוסף יגן שליט"א מה דעתם בקשר למקור הידיעות במדע ובטבע שבחז"ל. וכך תשובתם:

(הכל רוח הקודש (הגאון הרב מיכאל יהודה לפקוביץ שליט"א

הכל רוח הקודש ( הגאון הרב חיים קנייבסקי שליט"א

הכל רוח הקודש, ואם משהוא נראה אחרת יכול להיות שהשתנו הטבעים (הגאון הרב חיים גריינמן שליט"א

הכל אמת, אפילו דברי רפואה ומדע (הרב הגאון זונדל קרוזר שליט"א, מחבר פירוש אור החמה על הש"ס

כל מה שאמרו בתלמוד זה (ע' למשל סנהדרין מח על פודגרא) 1. סוד ה' ליראיו 2. גמירא גמירי (קבל מרבותיו) 3. חקירה עצמית. בשלושת האפשריות לא יכולים לטעות, ואם רק, רק הוא מכם (הגאון הרב דב לנדו שליט"א) והוא הוסיף שכך משמע מהגר"א על יו"ד.

כמובן לא נעלם מאתנו מקורות אחרי שמשתמע אחרת, ובחלקם הגדול פלפלנו בדבריהם באריכות, והצלחנו בס"ד להוכיח שאין הכרח שזוהי מסקנתם, ובמקום שנראה מפורש אחררת הארכנו והבאינו דברי המאירי בהקדמתו למסכת אבות, ע"ש ותנוח דעתך. כ"ז נמצא מלוקט אצלינו בקונטרוס בפני עצמו. וכידוע שהלכה נפסקת כהרוב מול המיעוט, כמו שכתוב אחרי רבים להטות, וכמקובל בכל הדורות כולם שהלכה למעשה היא כהרבים.




There is also a long letter from Rav Scheinberg in which he says the same thing. He adds that, with regard to the ma'amar of Rabbeinu Avraham b. HaRambam, "since such things are not in accordance with our tradition, one may not believe that he said them."

Frankly, I'm a little amazed that anyone is challenging the fact that this is what the Gedolim believe. It's a pretty standard belief in the Charedi world, and one can find numerous statements to that effect from Rabbanim of the last few centuries. In fact most Charedim even believe this with regard to Rishonim, and even Acharonim - kal v'chomer with regard to Chazal! My monograph on Sod Hashem Liyreyav shows how this belief evolved, culminating in the following statement from the Leshem (Rav Elyashiv's grandfather) which expresses the normative Charedi view:

The main thing is: everyone who is called a Jew is obligated to believe with complete faith that everything found in the words of the Sages, whether in halachos or aggados of the Talmud or in the Midrashim, are all the words of the Living God, for everything which they said is with the spirit of God which spoke within them, and “the secret of God is given to those who fear Him.” This is just as we find in Sanhedrin 48b that even regarding something which has no application to Halacha and practical behavior, the Talmud asks regarding [the Sage] Rav Nachman, “How did he know this?” and the reply given is [that he knew this because] “The secret from God is given to those who fear him….” (Leshem Shevo Ve-achlama, Sefer HaDe’ah, Sec. II, Derush 4, Anaf  19, Siman 7 p. 161)

33 comments:

  1. One wonders: if the Chazal were to come back to life and hear about this, what would their response be?
    "Kol hakavod"? or "What the hell?"

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  2. I have no reason to question your assertion. However, the prevalence of inaccuracy and imprecision in similar documents on record (such as Chaim Be'emunatam and the kol korei banning your books) suggests that the specific quotations you present in this post should not be taken too seriously. Who knows what these rabbis really said, and in what context?

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  3. In a similar vein as DES: R' Slifkin, who says that those quotes were not taken out of context? Is perhaps your bias against charedim effecting your rational judgment?

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  4. These quotes are completely consistent with everything else that I know about them, with everything else that they have said and written, with the view of the Leshem and many Acharonim, and with the views of many people in that world with whom I have personally spoken. There is no rational reason to question that this is their view. The only reason why people are questioning it is that they are uncomfortable with the notion of the Gedolim being so out of touch with the Rishonim in this area. But there is often a great disconnect between the Rishonim and the Gedolim/ recent Acharonim. Shiluach HaKein is another example.

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  5. " some have reacted by insisting that the Gedolim couldn't possibly believe differently"

    Not me. I haven't "reacted". This is what I've been saying all along. The top gedolim haven't given as much thought to the slifkin affair as even the most casual reader of the blogs

    The lower tier gedolim just sign on to whatever the top tier signs on to.

    There is also a massive amount of manipulation of the gedolim. Askonim explain to them the importance of paskening one way on the issue for todays generation.

    This isn't just what I was saying all along, it's what you started out saying. Only a couple of years after the banning you changed your name to Nathan and started defending the ban for "that" community.

    I kind of wish you would have stuck it out and tried to remain chareidi.

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  6. Garnel, WTH would not be strong enough.

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  7. 1. Intressante circular reasoning in Leshem's argument: "Everything in the Talmud comes from God. How do we know this? Because it says so in the Talmud."

    2. You write in a comment above mine that men question if this really can be the attitude of charedim, because they are uncomfortable Gedolim being so out of touch with rishonim. I would modify that with one important change: it's uncomfotable to see men so out of touch with COMMON SENSE, not merely with rishonim.

    3. In that regard, you have to lower your expectations of charedim. Such people represent the masses, and in all societies of the world, the masses are usually ignorant. Do you think charedim are different because they spend so much time in yeshivah, and are thus, ostensibly, educated? No. Even if all their time is spent in actual study, which is usually not the case, it is still meaningless. It is possible to spend years and years in study, and yet still be a fool. [This is not only true about Charedim. Have you seen the dunces in Academia lately?]

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  8. In Mishpacha's Kolmunus two weeks ago the issue of worms in fish was presented, with (lower tier) gedolim on both sides presenting their halachic reasoning (for allowing or disallowing worms in fish).

    I was amazed to see the "reality changed" argument rolled out, as well as the side permitting fish with worms because "scientists haven't disproven the spontaneous generation of worms in fish flesh".

    These are the gedolim of today??? First making halachic decision on the basis of spontaneous generation, second believing that science allows for it.

    How can they possibly poskin on any issues which involves physical interaction with the world when their knowledge basis of the world is so deficient?

    Listen, if I went to a gadol and asked to poskin that use of a cell phone was allowed on Shabbos because...

    a. The electricity in the phone can't have a halacha of fire because fire can't be detached from it's source.

    b. Messages are carried between cell phones by message-fairies, who memorize the voice and whisper it back into the ear on the far side.

    Any reason why my cell phone shouldn't receive gadol approval for Shabbos use?

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  9. Never mind science. The Rambam himself writes (and in Mishne Torah, not Moreh Nevuchim) that we have no clear nevuah nor a tradition about the details of yemot hamashiach, and all the statements of Chazal in the Gemara nad elsewhere are each Tanna or Amora understanding the p'sukim, which God did not permit the Nevi'im to write clearly, as best he can. See Hil. Melachim Umilchamoteihem, 12:2. How, then, can anyone learned think that everything Chazal said is based on ruach hakodesh?

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  10. "scientists haven't disproven the spontaneous generation of worms in fish flesh".
    ========================
    they really said that in the article?
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  11. Rabbi Slifkin- This particular issue may have been dealt with already but I have one problem with the approach that is being put forward here.

    It may be correct that some Rishonim agree with your approach but to my mind we pasken hashkafah the same way we pasken halachah and the fact is that the poskim and gedolim have "paskened" the issue a certain way.

    This is a bit like saying it is ok to use electricity on yom tov because according to an opinion in Tosfes it is ok (if electicity is boneh). Anyone who does this is mechallel yom tov because we pasken against this opinion. You can't dismiss the opinion of modern-day gedolim because they disagree with tosefos.

    Hashkafah is exactly the same. We simply don't pasken like many of the opinions you state.

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  12. Please see my essay "They Can Say It, We Cannot" on the Hakirah website. I completely agree that if you are part of the Charedi world, you cannot publicly express the idea that Chazal erred in science. However, outside of that world, people are fully entitled to follow a view that is normative since the times of the Rishonim.

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  13. R' Ahron Lichtenstien emphasizes strongly that when it comes to hashkafa we do not apply holchim achar harov. As long as you have one rav that espouses a halachic derech in life you can follow him even against the massive majority who disagree with him.

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  14. We don't always follow the majority in halachah, either! If we did, then all Jews would follow exactly the same psak in everything!

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  15. Obviously not every time do we pasken halacha lifi harov, but for sure most of the time we do

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  16. R' Slifkin writes: "I obtained it from someone that I know who was in touch with both the kanna'im who engineered the ban on my books, as well as being in touch with some of the Gedolim who signed on the ban."

    Did you write this? The grammar is far below your standards.

    Anyway, when you write "the Gedolim" in the title of this post, just what percentage of Gedolim is required for the word "the" to be deserved? That word "the" so often carries with it negative connotations. (Like "the Jews", "the blacks," etc.)

    Y'know, maybe it was today's type of post that Rabbi A. Feldman had in mind when he wrote, "it is you who have kept the flames of disrespect towards gedoley torah burning." You defended yourself then by saying you have a right to defend yourself. (And I completely agree with you there.) But is today's post really about defending yourself? If you felt that some commenters (like Garnel, perhaps?) were adding unnecessary oil to "the flames", would you do anything about it?

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  17. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Since you used to be in the yeshiva world, I'm surprised that you keep on claiming that any rishon or acharon who interprets that Gemara in Pesachim literally is on your side. You know very well that the first (or second) thing that any yeshiva-type person will say is, "That is an exception. In that case Rav Yehudah was modeh to the non-Jews. But in every other case, where they were not modeh, the chachamim were right."

    I disagree with this argument, but you know tons of people will make it and it is not utterly absurd either. (In other words, there may well be acharonim who interpret that Gemara literally but who believe that, in general, all the statements in the Gemara dealing with science are ture.)

    Just because a rishon or acharon interprets that Gemara literally doesn't mean he is on your side! If you're going to "win" this debate, your arguments need to be stronger (or at least more nuanced, in this case).

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  18. Pliny - you should have seen the comments that I didn't let through!

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  19. Yehudah - I think that the Rishonim of Ashkenaz would probably only have thought that Chazal were incorrect in this case, where R. Yehudah HaNasi said so. On the other hand, we don't know what they would have said if confronted with today's knowledge about the non-existence of spontaneous generation.

    Again: My opponents are claiming that due to ruach hakodesh/ sod Hashem liyreyav, Chazal were always correct - and that there is no authentic mesorah otherwise. All these sources clearly dispute that, since they say that Chazal were wrong on something very basic, that even the gentiles could show them wrong about. Furthermore, it's davka an area which is supposed to be a field that Jews are knowledgeable in. If they were mistaken about where the sun goes at night, when even the goyim knew otherwise, why should they have known the intricacies of how lice and mice reproduce, which nobody discovered until many centuries later?

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  20. "Obviously not every time do we pasken halacha lifi harov, but for sure most of the time we do"

    That's not really true. Pick any rishon you like - for the purpose of my example, let's take the Rif. Now, suppose the Rif holds that the halacha about issue X is "mutar." And suppose that most other rishonim during his time, or before his time, hold that it is "assur." Do you think that the Rif himself would have to go against his own psak because the majority hold against him? Surely that is not the case. And wouldn't you agree that the Rif's talmidim, holding like their rebbe, would also hold "mutar." And they would be doing nothing wrong. There is no indication at all - not one hint - that the rishonim themselves and their talmidim did not adhere to their own views when those views were in the minority.

    Even if you say that there is such a thing as psak in hashkafa, the very same thing applies as described above. R' Avraham ben Harambam clearly held his own view EVEN IF it was in the minority. I, as a member of "his beis medrash" hold like him - exactly like his talmidim did.

    The "gedolim" today have every right to "pasken" these issues as they want to. They can certainly use "majority rules" as a factor in coming to their psak. But their psak applies only to them and their talmidim. It does not apply to me, who is not one of their talmidim. If it is true that they hold that their psak applies to everyone - including people who are not their talmidim - then they would be doing something that not one rishon ever did - insisting that their psak in a given area applies to everyone, including people who are not their talmidim.

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  21. DES et. al:

    Believing that the Gedolim don't really hold these opinions is so 2005.

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  22. Ploni- I think you misunderstood my point. I was saying exactly what you are alluding to, that that when it comes to hashkafic "psak" the rov is not important, and as long as you have you are following a rav even if he is a yachid its fine. However, in halachic psak rov plays a much bigger role.

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  23. This "shittah" of virtual infallibility has only arisen in the past century or so. It was never part of the rishonim's writings or of chazal. This is so clear that only someone who willfully ignores divrei chazal can assert otherwise. Only the "other' religion asserts infallibility. The Torah talks about "korbanot' for mistakes by the Nassih, the Kohen Godol,etc... And that is for a psak- kal vachomer for physical matters.
    So why do we find this twisted shittah today? Look at the time line- since the enlightment and emergence of the Reform movement, the chareidi world is so afraind of anything that may disturb their world that they have put up that wall of "emunas chachomim" to deflect any questions. The solution is simple. Just ignore it.

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  24. Yakov R writes:

    "There is also a massive amount of manipulation of the gedolim. Askonim explain to them the importance of paskening one way on the issue for todays generation."

    If the Gedolim are supposedly so wise did you ever ask yourself why they are so easily manipulated? Doesn't this call into question their good judgment, let alone their omniscience and infallibility?

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  25. "since such things are not in accordance with our tradition, one may not believe that he said them."

    To write out of our mesorah something that has been accepted as part of our mesorah for almost eight centuries is the kind of thing that Reform Rabbis do!

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  26. "We simply don't pasken like many of the opinions you state."

    My rabbis do.

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  27. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I think this is a good argument. I merely objected to you chalking up every mefaresh who interprets that Gemara literally as definitely and certainly on your side.

    (And to continue an argument that others might make, which I would disagree with: They would probably say it's conceivable that Hashem would allow Chazal to make a temporary mistake. It's inconceivable that he would allow them to make a mistake that is recorded l'doros and accepted by world Jewry for hundreds of years. I don't agree, but I imagine people in the charedi world would advance some argument of this sort.)

    Again, I agree that you have a pretty decent argument. I just object to how you were using it. People who claim Chazal erred once are not definitely on your side. You need to examine their general attitude. Can chazal be wrong in general about non-Torah matters? And on this question, it's not clear if the majority are on your side (not that I think it matters).

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  28. It seems to me that many people are starting to believe that the normative orthodox view is what the chareidi Gedolim say. Whether this is because of demographics changing or because we seem to be moving in a direction accommodating more fundamental views (eg re Kashrut)
    This is apparent in some of the blog comments here "acceptable hashkafah what the gedolim say it is" - this ignores the views of many streams of orthodoxy

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  29. "Intressante circular reasoning in Leshem's argument: "Everything in the Talmud comes from God. How do we know this? Because it says so in the Talmud.""

    Pretty similar to chazal's authority. The torah gives it to them. How do we know this? That's how chazal darshan.

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  30. A reminder to those who are wondering why their comments are not appearing: read the comments policy!

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  31. Seeking the factsApril 1, 2011 at 12:04 AM

    some have reacted by insisting that the Gedolim couldn't possibly believe differently...
    Frankly, I'm a little amazed that anyone is challenging the fact that this is what the Gedolim believe...


    You keep shifting the question.
    Again, the question was never if the gedolim hold that Chazal could not be wrong. It is clear that they personally committed to and strongly advocate the Leshem's view. (To think the Leshem was ignorant of these rishonim is patently absurd. He had a very thorough knowledge of Moreh Hanevuchim, etc.)

    But the question is only if the gedolim deem it heretical to take the gemara at its word when one member of Chazal IN THE GEMARA asserts that another member of Chazal was mistaken, as many rishonim do.

    To date, you have not produced any such letter suggesting this is the case.
    As others have mentioned, this collection of snippets is quite inadequate.
    If you have the letter of Rav Sheinberg in your possession, why not post it?

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  32. For the nth time - if everything that Chazal said was with ruach hakodesh/ sod Hashem, how could they have mistakenly believed that the sun goes behind the sky at night?

    I will no longer be allowing comments that ignore this point. I'm fed up of repeating myself.

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  33. "For the nth time - if everything that Chazal said was with ruach hakodesh/ sod Hashem, how could they have mistakenly believed that the sun goes behind the sky at night?"

    This is a really peculiar objection coming from you.

    According to you, the Torah uses the word Rakia which must mean a fixed firm dome over the earth.

    By demanding that this point (regarding the sun) be addressed, you are arguing that its not possible for the Torah to have been written with ruach hakodesh / sod Hashem!

    I can think of only two conclusions from this.
    1. You don't think the Torah was written with Ruach hakodesh /sod hashem.
    2. You recognize in some cases that ruach hakodesh / sod hashem isn't literal or factual but can't accept that argument from your opponents for some yet unexplained reason.

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