Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gilad is Not a Number

The impending trade for Gilad Schalit is simultaneously wonderful and terrifying. I must confess that my initial euphoria was tempered when I read details of exactly who is being released. Having said that, in this post I would like to rebut two arguments against the trade that I believe to be mistaken from a Torah perspective.

One argument against the trade is that it simply does not make mathematical sense. Without downplaying the importance of saving Gilad, at the end of the day he is just one person, whereas many more are likely to lose their lives as a result of the trade. Just do the math!

This argument, however, is incorrect. Consider the halachah regarding a town of Jews that is besieged by gentiles who order that one Jew must be handed over, or everybody will be killed. Mathematically, it would make sense to hand over one person. But the halachah is that nobody is to be handed over and all are to be killed. I do not mean to draw an exact parallel between that case and this case (there is a dispute regarding the halachah in that case if an individual is actually specified by the gentiles). Rather, the point is that sometimes it's not a matter of weighing up the number of lives involved. In that case, it is better to lose the lives of everyone rather to actively judge one person's life as being worth less than the others. In our case, it can be argued that the ordeal of Gilad's imprisonment is so great for him, his family and for the Jewish People (or at least, for those who aren't only concerned with Rubashkin) that he must be released even at great cost. That may or may not be a valid argument, but it should not be rejected for simply mathematical reasons.

Others who argue against the trade point to the case of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg (1215-1293) who was kidnapped and refused to allow the Jewish community to pay the ransom. They argue that this shows that such trades should not be done.

But in my view, one cannot draw such an inference. Rabbi Meir was making a decision about sacrificing himself. As Rabbi Dr. David Shatz has shown in his excellent Jewish Thought In Dialogue, the halachah permits a much greater degree of autonomy over one's own life than it does for others. If we consider the previous example of the Jewish town besieged by gentiles, we see this very clearly: while the halachah absolutely prohibits selecting someone to be handed over, a person is permitted (and even praised) if he volunteers himself to be sacrificed. Gilad Schalit has made no such choice, and nor should he be expected to do so - in fact, I would suggest that most of the nation would not even want him to do so. Indeed, one could argue that the situation is reversed: the majority of Israel's population, who apparently support the trade, have collectively volunteered to shoulder the security risk incurred by releasing the terrorists.

Again, all this is not to say that the trade should be done. Although my gut feeling is that it must be done, the bottom line is that I simply don't know. In my humble opinion, there is simply no clear answer as to whether it is right or wrong, and I'm glad that it's not me who has to make such a tough decision. But the decision has in any case already been made. Our task is to pray, as we did today in the misheberach for captured soldiers, that Gilad should return safely, with both a refuas haguf and a refuas hanefesh.


  1. Rabbi Slifkin, shavua tov and moadim l'simcha.

    Regarding the first item that you bring, is it not brought in the same place that if they demand a single person (and name him) that we do in fact hand him over? I believe that is far more analogous as they actually took one person first.

  2. I pointed that out myself when I wrote:
    "there is a dispute regarding the halachah in that case if an individual is actually specified by the gentiles"
    And this is one of the reasons why I stressed:
    "I do not mean to draw an exact parallel between that case and this case."

    Remember, in that case, everyone is definitely going to be killed, so it's not analogous. The point is that we see from that case that it's not about doing the math.

  3. If we had a better strategy to begin with this problem would not even arise. Israel (the left) and the Shalits (parents) caused this problem to escalate to such a situation. If no one would make such public noise Gilad would probably have been freed much earlier with much much less peri-"adam"'s released.
    Best strategy would have been to surround aza and really terrorize the terrorists. Pressure the population to establish the proper society or suffer the consequences. Let them even have civil war for that matter (for example the first born in Egypt making a civil war against Pharoah before the plague of the first born).

  4. See Yabia Omer Vol 10 choshen mishpat 6:16.

  5. I have no problem with the trade as long as the following condition is written into it:
    Every time one of the released terrorists kills an Israeli the Shalit parents will have to go to the shiva house and, in addition to saying "HaMakom yenachem etc" the following statement: Well sorry about your loss but at least we have Gilad!

  6. Emotionally, it may feel very good. Halachicly, Pidyon Shivuyim is a solemn obligation that is to be taken seriously. Politically, it may be a win for Bibi. Tactically, it's a very bad idea.

    From Reuters: "In the past three decades, Israel has released almost 7,000 various Arab prisoners in return for some 16 of its own nationals as well as the bodies of more than 10 others."

    The trade for Gilad is the most lopsided yet, and it will only get worse.

    More from Reuters: "The abduction of soldiers is our strategy," said Abu Mujahed, the spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza, which took part in the operation to seize Shalit... "This deal has sent a message to the Zionist enemy that (our) prisoners will only be freed through abduction of soldiers,".

    While it makes all of us feel very good to know that the Shalit family will have a happy ending; and, I'm sure many are thinking they would want Israel to do the same if it was their loved one in captivity. Militarily, and from the standpoint of providing for the common defense, I don't see how this is rationally defensible.

    Reuters Article

  7. There's also a further consideration - we have no idea what Gilad himself wants. Yeah, yeah, I know there was a video but are you going to draw firm conclusions from this?
    And all this in the absence of any proof he's alive in the first place.

  8. The case cited does not fit because this is not a case of a group threatening death to all if a person is not handed over.

    Here it is an issue of do we consider that the people released will cause death to others in exchange for this person. As Rabbi Slifkin says, Mr Shalit can not be demanded to refuse to be part of this. It reminds me of the question of if a grenade is thrown towards you, are you allowed to deflect it towards another.

    It is an issue one should be glad not to have to decide.

  9. אין פודין את השבויים יתר על כדי דמיהן דלא ליגרבו ולייתי טפי
    Ahg already quoted Reuters, something we all know anyways.

    Rabbi Slifkin I appreciate your books and your blog. But your self admission that you are lacking talmudic erudition leaves me wondering why you constantly comment in a realm the unqualified shouldn't comment.

  10. Eh? Why on earth did you think that I didn't know that Gemara?

  11. Pity we don't have transponders injected into terrorist prisoners upon arrest.

  12. Sorry Rabbi but you whiffed on this one.

    If one Jew cannot be handed over, then all the moreso 6 million Israeli Jews cannot be handed over. If we really went by Torah, there would be no prisoners to give hamas because they would all be dead already.


  13. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    Good Mo'eid.

  14. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

  15. The list of those to be released includes a number of prisoners involved in masterminding and carrying out terrorist attacks against Israeli, including more than 280 Palestinians serving life-sentences.

    More than 100 are hardcore militants, serving multiple life-sentences for high-casualty suicide bombings - one life-sentence for each fatality in the attacks they were convicted of helping to plan and implement.


  16. It would be funny if it weren't so sad - Israel can make a deal with terrorists to get Gilad free, but there is nothing they can do to make a deal with their best friend in the world, USA, to release Pollard.

    Bibi is a joke, but not to laugh about, but to cry about. Too bad we have no one better leading things.

    Aad Mosai!

  17. The halacha regarding a demand that Jews hand over another Jew is not instructive. That halacha forbids the carying out of an immoral action, a "kum w'aseh." Gilad Shalit was taken into captivity by others and was not rendered by Jews. That halacha exists despite the possibility that many Jews could subsequently be murdered because of the inherent immorality involved in taking such a positive action.

    When no one is asking us to take such positive action then the considerations are substantially different.

    The following is from a conversation which I just had with Rabbi David Bar-Hayim:

    During the days of Hazal the formula of not paying an excessive amount for a Jewish captive was an appropriate one since otherwise those seeking ransom (the equivalent of pirates) would understand that taking Jews prisoner was a profitable endeavor.

    Nowadays, we face a situation which Hazal were not addressing- the existence of a sovereign Jewish state faced by enemies sworn to its destruction who exploit the taking of captives and the subsequent negotiating process as a means of weakening and demeaning us.

    Under such circumstances no such deals whatsoever are appropriate insofar as they further our enemy's designs.

  18. without commenting directly on the Shalit deal, allow me to correct your misconception regarding "insanity". The natural world certainly allows doing the same thing over and over again and ACTUALLY GETTING different results. This not only "happens experimentally" but is also built into quantum mechanics - the physics framework for accomodating such inherently probabilistic phenomena. So you ought to change your definition of insanity. It is quite contrary to nature.

  19. Rav Slifkin-
    On this issue, I must beg to differ. Some important points to remember:
    (1) The first responsibility of a state is to defend the population of that state (e.g. read the Preamble to the US Constitution.
    (2) The armed forces of the state are the body charged with this responsibility.
    (3) Any government that fails to defend its civilian population intentionally, for whatever reason is grossly irresponsible, if not criminally negligent.
    (4) Allowing the civilians of the country to be killed for "diplomatic advantage" (i.e. to get foreign countries to "feel sorry" for the country, or to try to get sympathy using an intentionally self-inflicted "victimhood") is also criminal negligence, if not outright treason.
    (5) In the 19th century, up until World War II it was common for European countries other than the US or Britain to view the army not only as the armed force charged with protecting the population, but rather as "the embodyment of the state and its values". This gave the army an independent status that subordinated the interests of the civilian population to the interests of army itself. The classic example of this was the arguments of the anti-Dreyfusards in France during the Alfred Dreyfus affair. These people claimed that it was irrelevant whether Dreyfus was really innocent or being framed, if the French Army decided to frame him, they must have had a good reason and it was unpatriotic to question it.
    (6) Israel, or more specifically its ruling political clique, was founded NOT on British-American lines but on Eastern European Marxist-Socialist lines. This means they view the civilain population as being subordinate to the ruling clique. This also means that they do NOT necessarily view the state as having responsibility to protect the civilian population. Rabin said this explicitly during the suicide bombing campaign that accompanyed the Oslo Agreements. He said the state only had a responsibilty to preserve itself, not the population. Thus, they also view the IDF as being the armed force that is used as an instrument of coercion to protect the interests of the state, NOT THE POPULATION.
    (7) Therefore, the ruling clique of the state of Israel, has decided that G-d forbid, hundreds of Israeli civilians may be sacrificed in order to preserve the "family image" of the IDF or its values, as we see in this tragic case where such a decision was made in order to save a single soldier. In a similar way, the state decided that over 1000 Israelis could be allowed to be killed during the suicide bombing campaign that started with Oslo because the ruling clique thought that brining Arafat and his terror gang to Israel suited their interests (Nobel Prizes, flattery at the UN, etc)
    (8) This "Israeli" view of the state and its relation to the IDF and the civilian population IS IMMORAL. The person being returned is a soldier. His job was to defend the civilian population of his country. It is wrong to knowinly sacrifice civilians to some "Greater good" because in a moral country, there is NO greater moral good than defending the civilian population. That is the job of the IDF and it has not other right to exist other than to carry out this mission.
    I frankly don't know how the "halachic" considerations fit into what I have outlined. All I know is that I am outraged at what is happening.

  20. How about this: Instead of releasing 1,000 terrorists, how about killing 100 terrorists a day until Shalit is released?

  21. I offer this essay by Rabbi Gil Student, which shows that notwithstanding the shouting, the halachah is in fact NOT so clearcut:

    Clearly those who favor this exchange have halachic support for it.

  22. The Mishna is not parallel. There, the gentiles surround a town and demand ploni. Here, they aleady have ploni.

    Mi amar she damo sumak tfei? (than the next victim)

  23. I disagree with this post. The 'gut feeling' is not rational. I don't find that sources cited are good analogies either. Maybe capturing or killing Hamas members still at large could bring his release at a lesser cost? Who can respect a state that projects an image of weakness?

  24. Other things to consider here:

    1) Choice for terrorists is to capture or kill. If they're not capturing they're going to try to kill anyway. Not the same as classic pidyon shevuyim.
    2) We have security forces/army to prevent kidnapping attempts or further attacks by released prisoners. (In the years since Shalit was taken there have been no further kidnappings - proving that we have some deterrent capability to kidnap operations which are pretty complex) We're not completely helpless like we used to be.
    Also shin bet will probably keep close tabs on released prisoners.
    3) Army morale needs to be taken into consideration. Soldiers need to know that all will be done to bring them home.
    4) There is no evidence that released terrorists will actually participate in further attacks. (Unlike a direct threat of an army around a town - In RNS example).

  25. a propos Moshe F's description of "INSANITY" -it doesn't hold up in the natural world. In the physical world, one can doing the same thing over and over again [repeat EXACTLY the same experiment] and possibly get different results. We live in an inherently probabistic world.
    As for the Shalit deal, let us not presume that the average citizen is as informed and as responsible as the duly-authorized officials (especially the prime minister). We are simply not privy to all the considerations (some of which may be entirely out of public visibility both in the short and long term, some of which may ostensibly have nothing to do with the problematics of the exchange itself) that go into this difficult decision. The average citizen is not in a position to "make the call" because he/she simply does not see the full context. Let us hope that Israel copes with and overcomes the clear dangers of the Shalit deal.

  26. Pardong my ignorance, but I would sincerely like to know: Can it be the Israeli government really has no idea where they have been keeping Shalit? We are talking about a tiny area, not much larger than many counties. And it's not a forgein country, its within Israel itself. Of all the Arab militants Israel has arrested or worked with, not one of them had information? Israel's surveillance cannot cover so small a territory? And if they did know where he is, why did they not stage an Entebbe raid to go get him?

    I think I can answer the last question: Because Shalit would have been killed once the raid was underway. But if anyone has any information or knowledge on the subject, I would sure appreciate it.


  27. dont be stupid dont be cruelOctober 18, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    Majority of freed terrorists are recidivist (spelling?).
    Don't try to play us Jews for fools.

  28. A couple things.

    1. Does the halacha ever talk about trading of captives? It seems to me that its always talking about a gold payment, not captive swaps.

    2. I saw a fleeting note somewhere, and I'm curious regarding it's impact in this situation. The note mentioned that many of the terrorists being released, are already involved in the planning of terrorist activities from within jail, and releasing them makes not difference to the security. Curious if true.

  29. 1] Milchemet Mitzva and even Milchemet Reshut overrides, Pikuch Nefesh. Our conflict with the Arabs is a Milchemet Mitzva for several reasons and therefore, since the Shalit hurts the war effort very badly it is forbidden. For example, some soldiers who risked their lives to capture Terrorists are signing a petition that they won't do so again, given the ease in which the Terrorists are released. It also obviously gives an incentive to Terrorists to Kill and Kidnap in the future given the positive benefits they get from their actions. It will further cause Israel to want to withdraw from more territory of the land of Israel. It hurts and does not help army morale, knowing how frivolous the national leadership is about national security.

    There are some acts such as being a Mosair (which includes even handing over Jewish property to violent Gentiles) that Chazal were so sure would lead to endangering Jewish Lives that they consider the person who does the act to be a Rodef. See Rama to Choshen Mishpat 388:10. One can not be a Rodef of an entire nation to save one soldier. Past History proves that every such type of imbalanced prisoner swap has led to a large number of Jewish murders. Netanyahu, himself had admitted this point on an earlier occasion. To put it bluntly you can not Murder A,B,C,D,E,F,G to save Mr. X.

    It is a distortion of the story of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, to say that he forbade others to ransom him, because he had the authority to be stringent on himself. Instead he was establishing a general rule, that one does not destroy the community to save one Jew, who was captured by the Gentiles.

  30. As the Talmudic maxim would have it, ברי ושמא, ברי עדיף - when faced with having to choose between a definite and a maybe, the definite is preferred. What's definite here is Gilad's life; the maybe - possible, even probable, but by no means certain - is the future loss of life and limb caused by the released terrorists. It is worth it, even if the price to pay is a deal with the devil. G-d only knows if this chance might have come around again, given the unstable nature of the Arab world.

  31. As the Talmudic maxim would have it, ברי ושמא, ברי עדיף - when faced with having to choose between a definite and a maybe, the definite is preferred. What's definite here is Gilad's life; the maybe - possible, even probable, but by no means certain - is the future loss of life and limb caused by the released terrorists. It is worth it, even if the price to pay is a deal with the devil. G-d only knows if this chance might have come around again, given the unstable nature of the Arab world.

  32. "Our task is to pray, as we did today in the misheberach for captured soldiers, that Gilad should return safely, with both a refuas haguf and a refuas hanefesh."

    That's not very rationalist of you.

  33. If the polls are correct and 80 percent of the population approves of the deal, then the deal is just the reflection of peoples' will. Why is the whole thing a problem in a democratic society regardless of what I think personally?

  34. reuven said... "a propos Moshe F's description of "INSANITY" -it doesn't hold up in the natural world. In the physical world, one can doing the same thing over and over again [repeat EXACTLY the same experiment] and possibly get different results."

    I thought everyone here would recognize my comment with a definition of insanity as a quotation from Albert Einstein. (My comment about not learning from history is a paraphrase of a quote from George Santayana.)

    Although Dr. Einstein did not get everything right (he was human after all) he certainly was a great scientist who believed in the rationality of the physical world. I'm not sure, reuven, what world you are talking about, where experimental results change every time an experiment is performed.

    As for your argument that the government must know best because they are in power... PLEASE, you sound like a stooge for every dictator the world over.

    My blessings to you for a Refuah Shleima.

  35. Heshy said... "As the Talmudic maxim would have it, ברי ושמא, ברי עדיף - when faced with having to choose between a definite and a maybe, the definite is preferred. What's definite here is Gilad's life; the maybe - possible, even probable, but by no means certain - is the future loss of life and limb caused by the released terrorists. It is worth it, even if the price to pay is a deal with the devil."

    It seems that you think you know the Talmud better than Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg and all other great poskim. The Rabbonim, like the scientists, teach that we have to anticipate what the probable results of our actions will be, and we are not to rely on miracles.

    What will you say when the inevitable bloody results of this irrational "deal with the devil" happen?

    Oh, by the way, for you own safety, please don't try crossing a street with you eyes closed, even though it is not "definite" you will get hit by a car. Refuah Shleima to you too.

  36. Carol-
    There is NO TRUE MAJORITY for this deal. The media manipulates poll results or even lies about them. Look at the comments in the internet. Although not necessarily statitically representative, I see a lot of opposition to this atrocity. In any event, in two years overwhelming majorities will say it was a tragic mistake. The media in Israel is post-Zionist and supports all capitulations and concessions to Arab terror for various reasons. They mobilize themselves to support governments who carry out these policies. Thus, at the time Oslo was made in 1993 and the destruction of Gush Katif was carried out in 2005, the media also reported "overwhelming majorities" supporting it. Today, everyone says those actions were a mistake. THERE IS NO REAL MAJORITTY FOR THIS ACTION. Give me 5 minutes with someone who does think it was good and I can probably change his mind.

    The argument that "the government knows what's best because they have more information" is a tact unscrupolous leaders have used for generations. I and friends of mine have no "special information" that you don't have and we accurately predicted the suicide bomber wars and the rocket attacks that followed the destruction of Gush Katif, even though Peres, Rabin and Sharon assured everyone that "they had information that we can trust Arafat". THEY WERE LYING. They knew as well as I did what would happen, they simply didn't care.
    If you are right, then how can there ever be elections? How can there be democracy? How can we judge the leaders because we don't have the "secret information" we hav?. As Abraham Lincoln said "you can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time". Don't let unscrupulous leaders take you in.

  37. Moshe F.
    I am well aware of misleading allegations made in Einstein's name, including your definition of insanity. But I suggest you do your homework so you get your facts straight. Ask ANY physicist if in an experiment dealing with quantum phenomena, EXACTLY the same experiment may yield DIFFERENT results. The fact is: this can and does happen, especially when performing a measurment on a system described by a state function that is a superposition of different outcome states. Study some physics. The real world is actually much more subtle and complex than the your a priori assumptions.
    AS is, your personal definition of insanity means that the world we live in is insane since the actual physical world in which we live need not always give the same result for the same action.

    Y. Ben David

    You falsely attribute to me the statement: "the government knows what's best because they have more information". Your straw-man misrepresentation/misunderstanding is very different form what I urged , namely: let us not presume that the average citizen is as informed and as responsible as the duly-authorized officials (especially the prime minister).

    I would also urge those of you out there who are not among those-who-already-know-everything, to acknowledge that there is a duly-elected government (like it or not) in Israel who is legally empowered by the Israel electorate to grapple with and make difficult possibly life-and-death decisions. This certainly does not mean that every decision is the best one or the worst one. Anyways, the Shalit exchange is a done thing . so let's make the best of the situation.

  38. Moshe F. and others who may not be inclined to look into the misattributed definition of insanity.
    The "insanity" definition: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result should not be attributed to Einstein who himself was a pioneer in our understanding the quantum world in which we live. And in the quantum world, exactly the same experiment does NOT NECESSARILY give the same outcome. It is true that Einstein did view quantum mechanics with critical dissatisfaction [Quantum mechanics the tremendously successful framework to calculate the probability of the various outcomes of physics experiments]. Einstein considered quantum mechanics as a temporary, incomplete measure. But so far quantum mechanics has robustly passed all tests for over 80 years. Perhaps at one point Einstein did subscribe to the notion that IF two experiments yield different results they must somehow be a priori different experimental setups – there may be some as-yet-unknown hidden difference between the apparently identical experimental setups . In other words, the experiments are not really identical although we may not know how they differ and it this unknown hidden difference (called hidden varialbes) that somehow "explains" the different experimental results. But it turns out that quantum mechanics doesn't "need" hidden variables and is quite adequate quantitatively without any notion of hidden variables. If all this seems obscure to those with no exposure to modern physics, consider the following picturesque apocryphal exchange between Einstein and Bohr (and also Fermi):
    Einstein: God does not play dice with the universe
    Bohr/Fermi: Stop telling God what to do with his universe.

  39. The discussion of "majority support" is funny in multiple ways.

    Am I really supposed to believe that 800,000.25% of the Israeli public supports the deal? Rofl.

    And if a majority does actually support it (not surprising because there are many stupid israelis and many talk goo goo gaga about shalit and freeing him), then its automatically ok and good because a mob of idiots is always right?

    You guys are hilarious.

  40. And if a majority does actually support it then its automatically ok and good because a mob of idiots is always right?

    I personally think that the exchange was terrible. If we were serious about pursuing peace, then we would be serious about holding our neighbors accountable to international law. See more from Arnold Roth on this including essays and interviews

    On the other hand, yes, the majority does carry weight in a democracy even if we are a bunch of idiots!

  41. Yitz Waxman-
    Are you saying that before every decision, the gov't should take an opinion poll and do what the current majority supposedly supports?

    The Israeli media's trumpeteting of polls showing "overwhelming public support" for every disastrous capitulation to Arab terror the regime in power has done since Oslo is a remnant of the old Marxist ideology the founding socialists of MAPAI and MAPAM that formed teh Israeli political Establishment that exists to this day. These polls are designed to show the "Masses" support this policy, even if they don't.

  42. "Why is the whole thing a problem in a democratic society regardless of what I think personally?"

    Because it is against Halacha and logic (Irregardless of what some "poskin" like). Check the facts in the Torah and the writings of Chazal. Anyway G-D says many times not to follow the majority when it comes to evil/stupid things. Their are many examples, but I'm too lazy to post them here right now. (if requested, maybe later)

  43. Reuven -

    Even if you are correct that the quoted definition of insanity is misattributed to Einstein, as I'll willingly concede, nevertheless I submit that the veracity of the statement is attested to by its acceptance as a truthful expression by scientists, politicians, and the general public alike.

    (I suppose for the sake of argument you'd be able to cite someone who agrees with you that the statement itself is inherently false, but I’m not bothered much by that.)

    Meanwhile, the rest of your comments go from bad to worse. One of the main pillars of scientific method remains, and always will remain, the requirement for repeatability of experimental results. See .

    So is it my definition? No. Is it contrary to nature? No, and your reference to issues with quantum measurement effects in no way changes that. At the comparatively macroscopic scale in which we live that would be of no concern.

    While I don’t claim knowledge of quantum mechanics as you do, it seems you are referring to the ideas described for example at :

    “The quantum state of a system is a mathematical object that fully describes the quantum system. One typically imagines some experimental apparatus and procedure which "prepares" this quantum state; the mathematical object then reflects the setup of the apparatus. Once the quantum state has been prepared, some aspect of it is measured (for example, its position or energy). If the experiment is repeated, so as to measure the same aspect of the same quantum state prepared in the same way, the result of the measurement will often be different.”

    But even that article itself starts with an important qualification, which I'll discuss in my next comment (due to length limitations I have to break this into two)...

  44. To Reuven (continued) -

    The wiki article on quantum measurement that I mentioned starts with the statement:

    “The framework of quantum mechanics requires a careful definition of measurement. The issue of measurement lies at the heart of the problem of the interpretation of quantum mechanics, for which there is currently no consensus. The framework of quantum mechanics requires a careful definition of measurement. The issue of measurement lies at the heart of the problem of the interpretation of quantum mechanics, for which there is currently no consensus.

    The article continues:

    “The measurement process is often said to be random and indeterministic. (However, there is considerable dispute over this issue; in some interpretations of quantum mechanics, the result merely appears random and indeterministic, in other interpretations the indeterminism is core and irreducible.) This is because an important aspect of measurement is wavefunction collapse, the nature of which varies according to the interpretation adopted.”

    So much for the certainty of that perspective of reality. At any rate our human experience takes place not on the quantum level, but on a much larger scale than that where plain old Newtonian physics and measurement works just fine thank you.

    In addition, as you noted at the outset, this is a tangent completely off topic from the probable results (really, unfortunately, they are certain) of the freeing of terrorists with blood on their hands who openly proclaim that they will kill again, Hashem yismor.

    I would have here quoted Einstein again with his documented statement that “G-d does not play dice with the universe,” but I see that you yourself have now consented to that. Unfortunately you seem to side with Bohr/Fermi reply, “Stop telling God what to do with his universe.” My contention would be that Einstien’s remark that “G-d does not play dice with the universe” is in conformity with Judaism, especially Rationalist Judaism, while the latter quotation sounds a lot like Apikorsus.

    BTW, the whole quantum theory of which you are so enamored as described in the Wiki article is a mathematical construct. So for now I’ll leave you with a few more quotes from Einstein, and these I believe are also documented:

    "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."

    “Since the mathematicians have invaded the theory of relativity, I do not understand it myself anymore.”

    "I don't believe in mathematics."

    If I have erred in any of this, my slicha to you and the readers, but at this point that is how it appears to me.

  45. Maybe I was overly harsh in responding to Heshy – who supported the exchange of 1027 terrorists for Shalit based on the Talmudic maxim ברי ושמא ברי עדיף, when faced with having to choose between a definite and a maybe the definite is preferred – after all at least one "Rabbinic Godol," i.e., the “spiritual mentor” of the Shas Party, R' Ovadya Yosef says just that. However he said the same thing in years past with regard to other such lopsided exchanges, and each time Israel suffered greatly as a result. R’ Yosef’s track record in this matter is as bad or worse than his own eyesight is.

    So when I wrote to Heshy “please don't try crossing a street with your eyes closed, even though it is not ‘definite’ you will get hit by a car…." – that example was only partly similar to the present situation, for with regard to the release of these terrorists, it is more like crossing a street with your eyes closed all the while knowing that the car divers are now going to include these terrorists, and others who are inspired by them, who are intentionally out to run you over. Not a very sensible idea if you ask me.

    Israel is playing a very deadly game of Russian Roulette and there are multiple confirmed live bullets that they have now loaded into the gun’s chamber… It’s "stupidity" or “insanity” in my humble opinion.

    Maybe too I was overly harsh about dismissing “mathematics” in my previous comment, although in doing so I only cited Dr. Einstein – after all statistics is a recognized branch of mathematics.

    If R’ Slifkin will bear with me, I’ll present a few more comments with links to articles (found quickly and randomly with Google search) that discuss the statistics of the recidivism rates for the terrorists released in past exchanges – and remember these statistics refer only to the released terrorists themselves, and do not include the “copycat” terrorists that they inspire, and that Israel encourages through its weakness and capitulation.


    “Saving Shalit, Encouraging Terror”, (NY Times, October 19th) Walter Reich, former head of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum:

    “Israel’s leaders should have listened to their heads, painful though it would have been. The consequences of past prisoner releases should have convinced them that the exchange would almost surely prove, in the long run, the more costly choice. In the past three decades, according to one estimate, Israel has released about 7,000 Arab prisoners in exchange for about 16 Israelis and the bodies of 10 more.

    “Another estimate has put the number of Arab prisoners exchanged since 1985 at about 10,000. According to a 2007 report by an Israeli terrorism victims group, 177 Israelis were murdered in the five years before the study by recidivist terrorists who had been freed.”

  47. moshe F.
    since you apparently have never studied physics, you are flat wrong in claiming that repeating exactily the same quantum experiment necessarily leads to exactly the same resulut. It just ain't so.
    The result of an experiment involving quantum phenomena is one of a variety of possible outcomes, and not necessarily the same outcome. Each different outcome has a probability of occuring. Repeating the exact same experiment may yield one of the different possible outcomes. This is not a theoretical construct, but an experimental fact of nature. The theoretical framework, quantum mechanics, gives a method of calculating the probability of each different possible outcome of an experiment. And this "theory" works wonderfully. Quantum Field theories for electromagnetic-weak effects are the most precise quantitative theories. The agreement with "theory" and experiment is utterly amazing. In fact you yourself rely on the technology that has resulted from quantum theory -including semiconductor technology. It goes without saying that anyone using modern technology (i.e. medical instrumentation, airplane instrumentation, etc) BELIEVES in quantum mechanics (even if they never heard of the term) and puts his/her life in the hands of technology that is based on quantum mechanics.
    [continued in next post]

  48. moshe F and others who share his a priori notions that contradict actual experiments.(nature)

    Nature is a matter of experiment. An experimental FACT of NATURE is that for quantum phenomena, the same experimental procedure may yield different experimental results (each with a different statistical probability).
    The quantitative theoretical framework for accounting for these experiment facts is quantum theory. It has been and continues to be a wonderfully successfuly theory(for over 80 years)
    The public at large, including Moshe F, is ignorant of both the details and nature of quantum theory. Both nature and physical theory DO NOT CONFORM to mOSHE f'S definition of insanity.
    Nor is there any logical basis for Moshe F's allegation that the annectodal exchange between Einstein and Bohr has relevance to Apikorsis (other than both of them were not theists in the conventional sense).
    Moshe F's adamantly baricades himself in a mistaken notion in this particular issue (defining insanity in a way contrary to what actually can happen in nature) . he insists on a definition contrary to nature but according to his preconceived notions that are utterly at odds with experimental reality .
    Moshe F. - if you don't believe me, as ANY physicist.
    And please do not describe yourself as a rationalist.

  49. Reuven,

    I’m getting seriously concerned for your health. It appears that your study of quantum mechanics is leading you dangerously close to the boundaries for which the safeguards of the Mishna “Ain Dorshin” were enacted.

    Anyone can see that your spelling is not the greatest, but is seems your reading skills are impaired as well. I don’t want to go off on a tangent about quantum mechanics, and I’m not sure what your agenda is in trying to do so (it seems you may be infected with the left-wing virus), but didn’t you at least read what I wrote about quantum measurement (above, October 23, 2011 9:51 PM), quoting from the Wiki article? Yes or No? Wasn’t that what you were referring to?

    How can you write now, “you are flat wrong in claiming that repeating exactily [sp.] the same quantum experiment necessarily leads to exactly the same resulut [sp.]. It just ain't so.” – I never claimed anything about quantum experiments, it is only you who are doing that.

    Your rant is barely intelligible. You say: “It goes without saying that anyone using modern technology (i.e. medical instrumentation, airplane instrumentation, etc) BELIEVES in quantum mechanics (even if they never heard of the term).” – Well now we have a new definition of “belief.” I guess if we don’t accept your definition then we are, by your other famous definition, “insane”? Sorry, it doesn’t work like that in the real world.

    And genius, while you are teaching us about quantum mechanics, why don’t you tell us which version of quantum mechanics you subscribe to? As I highlighted from the Wiki article, “there is currently no consensus” as to how QM works, “there is considerable dispute over this issue” of quantum measurement, “the nature of which varies according to the interpretation adopted.” Maybe, Dr. Reuben, you could recommend us your book where you explain to us and to the rest of the world exactly what the true nature of the universe is?

    In addition, Dr. Reuben, Oh Great Physicist of the World, why don’t you set us all straight about the pillar of the scientific method that I mentioned, the requirement for repeatability of experimental results. Why don’t you challenge those who are contributing to the delinquency of unlearned minds, as in the other Wiki article I referenced (see

    Anyway, unfortunately I have much more severe concerns than debating with you about QM. Arab terrorist do not behave like quantum particles/waves/strings or whatever they are. Arab terrorists kill and maim, and they have to be eliminated, and not set free to terrorize again. The blog post is about that issue. Unfortunately the only doubts about releasing them is HOW MANY Jews they will kill and maim as a result, the fact that this will happen is however 100% predictable and not subject to any doubt whatsoever. The warning that this would only lead inevitably to more Jewish blood being spilled has meanwhile already been confirmed, with the death over the weekend of Israeli Moshe Ami, 56, Hashem yimkom domo.

    By the way, please cite for us one Rabbi who agrees with you that Hashem indeed "plays dice" with the universe. There are probably at least one of two of them locked up in whatever passes today as a home for the mentally ill. I'm sure if you join them you will be able to get into a lively discussion of QM.

    My apologies for being sarcastic. Am Yisroel Chai.

  50. moshe F
    There is no disagreement between any of the standard college texts regarding how to calculate probabilistic outcomes using quantum mechanics. There are philosophical differences of interpretation that do not affect actual calculations. I repeat my enjoinder: ask ANY phyicist. I add to this: look at ANy senior level college physics text on quantum mechanics.
    As anyone who has done serious scientific research knows, there is no algorithm for how to do science. In simpler language, there is no ONE WAY to do science. What is the case is that, no matter how a theory is concocted, the ultimate test of a scientific theory is experiment - namely if the theory adequately corresponds to experiment.
    so please do yourself a favour instead of continuing to spout plain wrong inanities and irrelevant quotations: look into a decent physics book or talk to any physicist so you can learn that: EXPERIMENTALLY for quantum phenomena - exactly the same experimental set-up and exactly the same experimental procedure can yield a variety of results with differing probabilities (and not just the same one result).
    This wonderful aspect of nature in no way detracts from or limits the Creator.
    On the contrary...
    Please make some effort to become scientifically literate instead of barricading yourself in ignorant , false assertions about matters which you obviously know nothing about.

    p.s. better poor spelling of correct content than excellent spelling of narishkeit.


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