Monday, December 5, 2011

"Nothing But The Truth"?

Last week's Mishpachah had a feature story, by Eytan Kobre, on Rabbi Moshe Meiselman. He was pictured on the cover, with the title, "Nothing But The Truth." In the part of the article dealing with his forthcoming book on Torah and science, we find the following:
"Through a systematic discussion of the views of all the Rishonim, he demonstrates their consensus on a foundational tenet of Torah: that Chazal's halachic pronouncements, including those that implicate scientific matters, were based on a deep and comprehensive perception of physical reality of this world that emerged from their knowledge of Torah, the blueprint of that reality. This is a truth that was acknowledged even by the non-Jewish scientists of Chazal's time. The Rosh Yeshivah points out that 'even in regard to areas of pure halachah, of course, Chazal sometimes said, "Teiku," and left the matter unresolved; but where they spoke unequivocally, their word is definitive and binding. What emerges very clearly from every Rishon, bar none, is that Chazal don't make mistakes'."

Really?!

If it is a "foundational tenet of Torah" that Chazal's halachic pronouncements were never based on incorrect beliefs about the natural world, then how is it that so many outstanding Torah scholars, such as Rav Yitzchak Lampronti (author of Pachad Yitzchak and rebbe of Ramchal), Rav Moshe Shmuel Glasner (author of Dor Revi'i), Rav Aharon Marcus, and Rav Yitzchak Herzog (described by Ridvaz as the world’s outstanding Talmudists) thought differently? Rabbi Meiselman is entitled to disagree with these Torah scholars - but would it not be appropriate to acknowledge that several great Torah scholars disagree with his "foundational tenet of Torah"?

If Chazal had a "deep and comprehensive perception of physical reality of this world," then why are there dozens upon dozens of statements in the Talmud that seem to reflect ancient erroneous beliefs about the natural world, while claims about "advanced scientific knowledge" in the Talmud invariably turn out to be things that Chazal didn't say, things that aren't actually true, or things that non-Jews also knew?

If Chazal's "deep and comprehensive perception of physical reality of this world" is a truth that was "acknowledged even by the non-Jewish scientists of Chazal's time," then why do we find so many instances of Chazal consulting non-Jewish experts on various matters? And why do we find Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi conceding that the non-Jewish astronomers were correct (and the Jewish sages incorrect) about a very basic fact of cosmology?

What proportion of even frum physicians today would say that Chazal's statements about the human body and about medicine are based upon a "deep and comprehensive perception of physical reality of this world"? Rav Sherira Gaon didn't think so! Most people to study the topic (without a charedi agenda) would say that Chazal's statements about physiology and medicine pretty much reflect standard beliefs in the ancient world.

At this point I want to retract a claim that I made previously. I had written that the Rashba's claim regarding Chazal's inerrancy was limited to terefos. Checking it again, I see that it was in fact more broad. But I still don't see him claiming that “all statements of Chazal regarding science are absolutely true.” And to reiterate, Rashba does not represent the unequivocal (or even normative) view. Which brings us to the statement by Rabbi Meiselman that leaves one breathless: "What emerges very clearly from every Rishon, bar none, is that Chazal don't make mistakes." I know that Rabbi Meiselman claims the famous words of Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam to be a forgery (as unreasonable as that may be). But what about Rambam himself?
"It is one of the ancient beliefs, widespread among both the philosophers and ordinary people, that the motions of the spheres produce mighty and fearful sounds... This belief is also well-known in our nation. Thus the Sages describe the greatness of the sound produced by the sun in the daily circuit in its sphere... Aristotle, however, rejects this, and explains that they produce no sound... You must not find it far-fetched that Aristotle differs from the opinion of our Sages in this. For this theory — that is, of the sounds of the spheres — stems from the belief that the sphere is fixed and the constellations revolve [within it]; and you already know that in such matters of astronomy, the matter has been decided in favor of the gentile scholars over the Sages. Thus, it is explicitly stated, “The wise men of the nations have defeated them.” And this is appropriate; for with speculative matters everyone speaks according to the results of his own investigation, and everyone accepts that which appears to him established by proof." (Guide for the Perplexed 2:8, translated from Schwartz edition)

In fact, most of the Rishonim followed the straightforward meaning of the Gemara, that the Chachmei Yisrael were mistaken in their beliefs about the basic structure of the universe. I documented this in my monograph "The Sun's Path At Night," (which, in my view, is the most fundamental topic for understanding the Chazal/ science issue and how approaches to it change over time). Perhaps Rabbi Meiselman would claim that in this case Chazal were only speculating and not speaking definitively. But they seemed pretty definitive about it; note that this Babylonian cosmology was also derived by Chazal from pesukim (see Bava Basra 25a-b, discussed in the monograph). And how does the belief in a flat earth that is covered by an opaque dome behind which the sun travels at night, supported from pesukim, reflect "a deep and comprehensive perception of physical reality of this world that emerged from their knowledge of Torah"?

So in the topic of cosmology alone, we have R. Sherira Gaon, R. Hai Gaon , Rambam, R. Shmuel ibn Tibbon, R. Yitzchak b. Yedaiah, R. Yeshayah di Trani, R. Eliezer b. Shmuel of Metz, Rosh, R. Yerucham ben Meshullam, Semag, Ritva, R. Manoach b. Yaakov, R. Bachya b. Asher, R. Menachem ben Aharon ibn Zerach, R. Todros ben Joseph Abulafia, R. Eliyahu Mizrachi, R. Yitzchak Arama, Maharam Alashkar and Radvaz, all of whom say that the Chachmei Yisrael were incorrect. In the view of all these Geonim and Rishonim (as well as plenty of Acharonim), Chazal's view on this basic matter clearly did not stem from a "deep and comprehensive perception of physical reality of this world that emerged from their knowledge of Torah."

"Nothing But The Truth"? It's the dictionary definition of a puff-piece.

69 comments:

  1. Should be renamed, "Nothing OF The Truth."

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  2. Startling is that an accomplished Talmud Chacham like Eytan Kobre who is also well versed in secular knowledge would fall for this...

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  3. I don't find it startling in the least.

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  4. The strangest part of the Mishpocha article was where R. Meiselman reported that someone who met him said that he was surprised to find that Rabbi Meiselman was such a nice person. So he freely admits that he has a bad reputation, but claims that one person's encounter with him proves otherwise!

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  5. I read something interesting this past shabbat.

    It said that learning Halacha and Agadatah together is Kilayim.

    This puff piece is a great example of exactly why that is.

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  6. What emerges very clearly from every Rishon, bar none, is that Chazal don't make mistakes

    Despite all the proofs to the contrary, I'm afraid this statement is now true. Why? Because R. Meiselman made it, and he has been inducted as part of the Mesorah "in group" whose words are Daas Torah and which are "Divinely ordained" and therefore infallible, just like Chazal. Slightly Orwellian, but there you have it.

    Compare that to your statement:

    I want to retract a claim that I made previously

    You're coming from a completely different paradigm - one where fallibility is embraced. Because it implies humility, honesty, desire to learn and grow. So mazel tov!

    If Chazal were around today, they'd thank you for working against a paradigm that equates greatness with infallibilty and encourages near-deification. True greatness is all about learning, about falling and standing up again, and being all the better for it. Chazal ve'ematz!

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  7. I meant to write "Chazak ve'ematz" but the mistake was even better! :-)

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  8. I'm truly curious; what is it about the yeshivish or hareidi worlds that R. Meiselman's dishonest, l'hatchila, scholarship is considered so acceptable that the author is lionized on the front page of a popular magazine?


    Gary Goldwater

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  9. David Meir -- your typo was fantastic! I think it should be the title of Slifkin's next article. For that's the big nafka mina to all these discussions: Who has the COURAGE (ometz) to take an objectively critical view of Chazal...

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  10. Thanks yy. Though I'd put it like this...

    The goal is not to be critical of Chazal. It's to appreciate their true greatness - their knowledge, wisdom, middot, parables, foresight, and so on. By making them out to be untouchable and god-like instead of outstanding and very much human, it actually detracts/distracts from the real thing.

    After all, who can possibly aspire to be like Chazal if they're infallible/untouchable? It's "human" greatness that's inspiring!

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  11. David Meir, you put that really well! I don't think any Jewish figure has resonated through the ages as much as David HaMelech, and I think a large part of the reason for that is that scripture portrays him as a human being, not an image. His struggles to achieve perfection are relevant for everyone.

    L'havdil, this issue has arisen in the secular world as well. When George Washington died, he was practically deified by many. And, similar to what we see now in the Jewish world, many people used Washington's memory, and sometimes misrepresented his positions, to push their political and ideological agendas, just as they did later, and sometimes still do, with Thomas Jefferson and others.

    Abigail Adams wrote the following words to Washington's widow, and I think they are beautiful words that we should consider with respect to our attitude towards our leaders: "Simple truth is his best, his greatest eulogy. She alone can render his fame immortal."

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  12. I'm truly curious; what is it about the yeshivish or hareidi worlds that R. Meiselman's dishonest, l'hatchila, scholarship is considered so acceptable that the author is lionized on the front page of a popular magazine?

    These magazines probably need to cover themselves with this fluff so that they can get away with all the undermining of the Charedi world in other articles.

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  13. R Natan, thank you for the article and comments. I think you could have been harder on them with the preceeding paragraph.

    "Rav Meiselman's role of as expositor of Torah hashkafah oon issues of the day has, if anything, only intensified. With the publication of a series of books on the interplay between Torah and science that were deemed by gedolei harabbanim to have overstepped the bounds of a legitimate Torah viewpoint, the Rosh Yeshivah has been cast into the role of explaining what is problematic with the view espoused in these booksm which have gained currency within the precincts of Mordern Orthodoxy."

    I will leave it to others on the site to comment on this rant.

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  14. The Gedolim must think that the Charedi world are stupid. By banning the rationalist viewpoint and calling it heretical the only answer they can give is "nishtane hatevah".

    Right! Up until 2000 years ago the world was flat, mud mice existed and lice spontaniously generated from sweat and dust. But as soon as the gemoroh was written - nature changed its course. Anyone who believes this nonsense is undermineing their own intellegence.

    Would it not be easier for everyone concerned if they accepted reality that the Tanoim & Amoroim based their scientific facts on myths or the erroneous knowledge of their day. Easy, acceptable, case closed..
    The Charedi Gedolim are their own worst enemies if the rationalist view is heretic - I don't want to learn gemoroh.

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  15. For the record, Rabbi Meiselman believes (or says) that Chazal themselves never believed in mud mice. (I have noted previously why this is completely unreasonable.)

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  16. I was appalled at the whole premise of the article, a paean to a living rabbi and his views, which are admitted in the article to be controversial, while at the same time those who disagree with him are not even named and dismissed without representation. I can't recall anything of this scale in Mishpacha before (especially making it the cover story.)

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  17. nishtane hatevah

    A daf yomi teacher gave over a Tosfos from Avodah Zara that asked about the gemara that states that no cows give birth until their third year. Tosfos pointed out in amazement that we indeed see cows giving birth in their 2nd year. Tosfos answers "nishtan'eh hatevah".

    I asked the maggid shiur if Tosfos was earnest, or perhaps they did not want to say outright the obvious answer - the gemara was wrong.

    He replied that of course Tosfos was being earnest. After all, another gemara states that the penis has one vessel to expel urine and a separate vessel to expel semen, and we see that has changed, so why not the cows? q.e.d.

    sigh

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  18. After all, another gemara states that the penis has one vessel to expel urine and a separate vessel to expel semen


    That Gemara also contradicts the Mishna (Mikvaot, 8, 4)

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  19. Why shouldn't the bovine and human bodies change over time? Haven't you ever heard of evolution? Looks like the rabbis are the ones that are in tune with modern science!

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  20. Sometimes it seems to me there is no objective reality. One's reality is simply what one makes of what one sees around him.
    For Rav Meiselman there are no Rishonim who disagree with his assertions and if you want to share space with him in that reality you have to accept that any evidence to the contrary is based on fiction and lies.
    This is no different than Rav Gottleib saying that God planted dinosaur bones in the ground to test our emunah. That's what the truth is in his reality. You cannot argue with him any more than I could argue with him that the sky is purple. These folks are working with a completely different set of references along with a healthy sense of denial.

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  21. I think the "healthy sense of denial" is a big part of all this. A lot of people just don't want to believe anything that makes them uncomfortable or forces them to reevaluate their core beliefs and assumptions. So, give them stuff like this article in Mishpacha, and they can be happy and dismiss anyone that says overwise as a crank or a heretic.

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  22. "This is no different than Rav Gottleib saying"

    Rabbi Gottlieb is a talmid of Rabbi Meiselman, so no surprises there.

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  23. Does anyone have a scan of the article, so I have something to base my letter to the editor upon? The issue is already off the shelves in Passaic.

    Cheers to the 5TJT which published critical comments (including my own) to their version of this piece. Looks like the propa... publicity mills are really starting up in anticipation of the new book.

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  24. Rabbi Gottlieb is a talmid of Rabbi Meiselman, so no surprises there.
    My interest in the haredi community, once so important to me, is ever-waning. But this comment caught my eye and I want to bring something to light: Interestingly enough, there is an important distinction between what Gottlieb's written and what Meiselman's now writing.

    Reb Gottlieb wrote that "the real age of the universe is 5755 years, but it has misleading evidence of greater age." However, "only someone who [perversely] decides to ignore the statement of the Creator and rely only on what he can investigate will be lead to a false conclusion." Perverse! Not mistaken, perverse!

    Interestingly, the spin coming out of the tools Meiselman uses to communicate is that he now has decided that he has no idea how old the universe is: could be young, could be old (despite several talmidim writing in the past that it was certainly old). According to what Gottlieb wrote, Meiselman not adopting what the Torah clearly told us is "perverse" of him! Somehow though, I don't think Gottlieb's going to be panning this book and declaring its' conclusion a threat to Torah :P

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  25. (despite several talmidim writing in the past that it was certainly old).
    Should be "certainly young," my bad.

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  26. "What emerges very clearly every Rishon, bar none, is that Chazal don't make mistakes'."

    OK - so please explain Rashi's view on dolphins being half human, or is it another case of nishtane hatevah.

    From what I understand that Rashi also writes a view on the womans reproductive system which is at odds with reality - is this also nishtane hateva or would it be eaiser to explain this how the Chassam Sofer writes that Rashi was wrong his sources at that time were wrong. Or is that Chassam Sofer also a koifer?

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  27. Rashi is not Chazal. R. Meiselman doesn't have a problem with Rishonim being wrong.

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  28. R. Meiselman doesn't have a problem with Rishonim being wrong.

    Why would the infallibility end with the closing of the Talmud?

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  29. Total lack of emunas chachamim here. Rav Meiselman is correct, you are wrong.

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  30. Dear R Natan please can you answer me two questions that I have based on the brain washing I recevied as part of my Charedi upbringing:

    1. The Tanoim & Amoroim had absoloute knowledge of all that exists in every field. We are also tought Yeridas Hadoros - so they were on a lower level than Moshe Rabanu. So that must mean Moshe is God?

    2. I was brainwashed that Rashi was written with Ruach Hakodesh so according the Charedi narrow thinking how could he have made any errors.

    Many thanks for your blog and articles, they are helping me find some semblance and understanding to my relegious observance, I was on the verge of leaving completly now I see there is another path. That the world is not black & white as I have been brainwashed.

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  31. Sorry, but isnt' R' Meiselman essentially arguing with R' Eliyashiv?

    After all, R' Eliyashiv said "They could say it, we cannot" not "They didn't say it"!

    Moreover, the refrain we heard was that those opinions under discussion are what was rejected from the mesorah....again, not that they didn't exist.

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  32. R. Meiselman doesn't have a problem with Rishonim being wrong.

    Ok, let's try to understand the belief system here.

    1) Who are we talking about?

    - Pre-Avot
    - Avot
    - Dor Hamidbar
    - Shoftim
    - Melachim
    - Neviim
    - Anshe Knesset Hagedolah
    - Chazal
    - Geonim
    - Rishonim
    - Achronim
    - Gedolim of today / Agudas Yisroel

    2) What's the definition of "infallibility" being used?

    - Scientific knowledge (of the day)
    - Scientific knowledge (absolute)
    - Historical knowledge
    - Future knowledge
    - Ideas re: human nature
    - Ideas re: men & women
    - Socio-political ideas
    - Torah interpretation
    - Halachic rulings
    - Advice/leadership decisions
    - Personal conduct
    - Challenge-ability (even if objectively wrong)

    I'm sure I'm missing some categories here.

    In any case, if the Agudas Yisroel has said that its Daas Torah can't be challenged, because they are "Divinely ordained", is that to say they are "infallible" (or fallible in theory but it's assur to call them on it)? And if so, are we experiencing an "alliyas hadoros", since the Rishonim could be wrong (or at least we're allowed to say so), but yet the Aguda/today's Gedolim are untouchable?

    Can someone please explain what I'm supposed to believe here?

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  33. "What emerges very clearly from every Rishon, bar none, is that Chazal don't make mistakes."

    They forgot to add the end of the sentence, " for those who learn only from Artscroll seforim."

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  34. I had a rebbi in 10th grade who, thankfully used his head when it comes to science/torah issues. his position was that to say that "Hashem put the dinosaur bones there to fool you, or test your emunah" was silly.
    I was lucky to have a rebbi like that.

    of course, I went to Ohr Reuven in Monsey NY, not the most yeshivish of yeshivos.

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  35. These gradations, as to what the rashba said or what this achron said, and in what cases they said it, have grown riddiculous. I dont need anybody to tell me that chazal made mistakes, and not just a few, and not just in science. Chazal - all 2,000 of them, spread out over 500 years, in two different empires - made mistakes all the time because THEY WERE MEN. Don't you, RNS, feel silly marshalling "sources" to prove what anyone with a brain in his head already knows? As if the Rashba limited his remarkes to livers it makes a whit of difference?? This is asinine beyond belief.

    Not trying to say you shouldnt attack Rabbi Mesielman's foolishness. You should. But dont cheapen the rationalist approach by pinning it upon sources, as though the rationalist approach depended upon such sources. The rationalist rishonim didnt justify their views by citing viewpoints in chazal, they justified it by using their BRAINS. So should you. So should everyone.

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  36. I will add also, I really dislike the way Meiselman refers to you as Slifkin. In his article in that Monolouge magazine that came out a few months ago, he twice referred to R. Aryeh Kaplan z"l as "Kaplan." I dont think you have any obligation to afford him the honorific if he refuses to do the same. It's sad, but one reaps what he sows.

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  37. I have not listened to this yet but it seems that it would be of interest to the blog host and followers

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/766411/Rabbi_Hershel_Schachter/When_Science_Contradicts_The_Talmud

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  38. This entire concept of gedolim and Chazal and other tzadikim being infallible is very sad.

    The Torah itself shows that our greatest ancestors weren't perfect.

    We read this past Shabbos about how Ya'akov Avinu made a critical mistake when cursing the person who stole Lavan's terafim, and accidentally caused his favorite wife to die prematurely.

    We know that Moshe made a critical mistake when he struck a rock he was supposed to speak to, thus causing God to forbid his entry into Israel.

    The Torah is not afraid to show that our ancestors were human, and fallible, but were great men despite their flaws.

    It is nothing short of extreme arrogance to claim that Chazal, today's gedolim and other tzadikim were superior to Moshe Rabbeinu and our other ancestors from Tanach. And it is a sad disgrace that some communities are willing to accept this nonsense without question.

    It doesn't detract from a tzadik's greatness to admit that he is capable of error. It shows that he his a human being, which is not something to be ashamed of.

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  39. Baruch Gitlin's ironic remark (or, at least, implication) about how the fundamentalist invocation of 'nishtaneh hateva' is a case of relying on a theory (evolutionary change) whose fundamentals they reject is well taken. Those who would invoke 'nishtaneh hateva' to account for the discrepancy between what we know of nature and what the sages assumed can't logically deny that evolutionary changes have occurred during the creation period. From a scientific perspective, however, the lack of any evidence for such changes in the post-talmudic period makes such an assertion problematic.

    The issue of the sexual maturity of cows is another matter, however. The sages were sufficiently aware of animal husbandry that their statement about the earliest age for the birth of a calf should be taken seriously. This is what they observed. The fact that this was no longer true in medieval Europe is not surprising given long-standing breeding practices whose objective was to induce earlier sexual maturity as well as to increase milk production. Furthermore, European cows are different in appearance than the Afro-Asiatic cows (zebu's have a shoulder hump). They may also differ in the age of sexual maturity (R' Natan, care to contribute?).

    The point is that 'nishtaneh hateva' (defined expansively)because of human intervention is not a novel idea. We observe it daily in the form of the great variety of shapes and sizes of dog breeds, for example. Spontaneous species changes or even important physical changes is, however, a much slower process in the higher organisms. We can readily accept the former while being skeptical of the latter.

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  40. Googling Zebu cattle (Bos Indicus) revealed a site that lists the onset of puberty of European cows (Bos Taurus) as 8-15 months depending on breed, while that of Bos Indicus (zebu) is either 17-27 months or 16-40 (another site). Adding a 9 month gestation period yields a first calving age of about 1.5-2.5 years for European cows and 3 years or more for some Zebu cows. That would account for the different observations of the sages in the middle east and Tosafot in Europe.

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  41. Shamino -
    Your comments are spot on. They demonstrate how far our leaders are from the true Yahadut. It is an aspect of yeridat hadorot that they tend not to recognize.

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  42. You refuted your entire post when you acknowledged that:

    Perhaps Rabbi Meiselman would claim that in this case Chazal were only speculating and not speaking definitively. But they seemed pretty definitive about it;

    Only Rav Meiselman would be claiming this? Did you not in this very post cite the Rambam in Moreh which says this very thing?

    "And this is appropriate; for with speculative matters everyone speaks according to the results of his own investigation, and everyone accepts that which appears to him established by proof." (Guide for the Perplexed 2:8"

    Rav Meiselman seems to be following the Rambam's view very closely. After going through this very long post, I don't really see what your criticism is.
    That Mishpacha wrote a puff-piece?

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  43. It's not actually about truth.

    It's about asserting authority.

    Of course asserting the authority to teach demonstrable falsehoods brings Torah into disrepute among all those outside the narrow community that values submission over all.

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  44. This is not a new point. but you find amoroaim, saying they made a mistake. eg rava, said something like ivra ta'us haya beyadi.

    the charedi viewpoint as explained I believe by chazon ish, is that the gemara was written with koach nevui and is infallible.

    not necessarily rav ashi himself.

    the implication is that immense heavenly help descended on the sealers of the gemarah, so that no errors can creep in.

    if that is the approach, then the the chazorah in pesachim 94 of wise men of israel is irrelevant to proving your thesis.

    please could you comment as I think you said before to such an approach. highly unlikely.

    why so ?

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  45. David T has it right when he said "These magazines probably need to cover themselves with this fluff so that they can get away with all the undermining of the Charedi world in other articles."

    Mishpacha is actually smarter than that and so are most Charedim who are actually capable of independent thought.

    Why are there no voices speaking up against this stuff except those like RNS who have already been ostracised?

    Charedim with brains are AFRAID!!!!
    And there is much to fear from these bullies.

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  46. only someone who [perversely] decides to ignore the statement of the Creator and rely only on what he can investigate will be lead to a false conclusion

    I personally sympathize with Rabbi Gottleib. Based on a personal conversation with him, my judgement is that he hates this whole young earth creationism business. Nonetheless, he values fealty to the chareidi leadership more so than his personal thoughts on the matter, so he has to write stuff like this. Do we have the right to condemn the man for being loyal to his value system?

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  47. But dont cheapen the rationalist approach by pinning it upon sources

    "Pinning it upon sources" carries great value to those of us striving for loyalty to authentic Judaism.

    Some Jewish young earth creationists such as Rabbi Meiselman and Zvi Lampel argue that all of Chazal were adamant young earth creationists, and therefore all good Jews must likewise hold these beliefs. Without addressing the merits of the arguments (I'll leave that to RNS, thank you), why can't they consider that the entire pursuit is apocalyptic! Look at the comments to Lampel's post, and I quote from one comment on the blog:

    I am not trying to be provocative, rabbi Lampel is right, if I am convinced that the universe is billions of years old, there is no place for me in the Torah world.

    Is this the victory that they are pursuing?!

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  48. ... he values fealty to the chareidi leadership more so than his personal thoughts on the matter, so he has to write stuff like this.

    I think that's true of a lot of rabbaim. I guess we do have to respect their value system, as Yitz says. But on the other hand, I think it is exactly this choice that so many astute rabbis seem to be making to put fealty to the "gedolim" above what they truly believe that is destroying the credibility of any rabbi that subscribes to the supremecy of the haredi "gedolim." At least that's how I feel, can't speak for anyone else.

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  49. "my judgement is that he [R.D. Gottlieb] hates this whole young earth creationism business. Nonetheless, he values fealty to the chareidi leadership more so than his personal thoughts on the matter, so he has to write stuff like this."

    Same is true about Jonathan Rosenblum and, I have to believe, Yitzchak Adlerstein. There is simply no way they truly believe some of the things I've seen them write. [By contrast, some of ther other writers on corss currents will apparently believe anything.] Listen, in PC America, many of us have to say things we don't believe, and in fact, that's been a constant in religious life since religion began.

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  50. Re young earth - forget all the evidence against it, since when is the 5772 figure a matter of dogma? It better not be, because it's almost for sure wrong, and many ancient sources say so. The 5772 figure is bottomed upon a series of assumptions and estimates that often don't stand up to scrutiny. in fact, RNS, I'm surprised you've never written an article [sorry, "monograph"] about it.

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  51. Yitz Waxman

    "Do we have the right to condemn the man for being loyal to his value system? "

    Garbage in, garbage out. Why is he entitled to respect that he will not give? Is it because his value system demands respect but doesn't allow it to be gives? Things don't work that way.

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  52. If Rabbis Gottlieb, Adlerstein and Rosenblum truly don't believe what they write, how can they call themselves Torah scholars? Isn't Torah equal to truth? How can they be loyal to falsehood in the service of Torah?

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  53. "Pinning it upon sources" carries great value to those of us striving for loyalty to authentic Judaism.

    What is "authentic judaism"? If you mean historical Judaism, I'll tell you the entirety of talmudic law is not authentic, as it is clear from tanach that it was never practiced in those days. Even in talmudic times itself - just like today - there were pockets of rabbinic strength, but many more cities where Jews did not keep the laws of the prushim.I got news for you, their brand of Judaism is just as "authentic" as that of the prushim.

    Yitz, don't fall for the Agudah propaganda. There is much to be justifiably proud of the American orthdox society, but it is no more and no less "authentic" than Reform. We have matured as a community by now, I hope, that we don't have to make ourselves feel good by demeaning the other or by repeating lies.

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  54. "If Rabbis Gottlieb, Adlerstein and Rosenblum truly don't believe what they write, how can they call themselves Torah scholars?"

    I don't know about Gottlieb, bur Rabbi Adlerstein regularly denies that he is a Torah scholar (or to be more specific, denies that he is anything but the bottom tier - this is not true and he is being overly modest). Rosenblum doesn't claim to be a Torah scholar or at all, or really even a rabbi, although evidently he doesn't protest when people add that word to his byline.

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  55. I do not think that Rabbi Adlerstein does not believe what he writes.
    I also think that Rabbi Gottlieb truly believes the world to be 5772 years old.
    Jonathan Rosenblum is a different matter - but if he were to truly write what he believes, he would be out of a job and no longer able to influence the charedi world in a positive way.

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  57. Yitz, don't fall for the Agudah propaganda. There is much to be justifiably proud of the American orthdox society, but it is no more and no less "authentic" than Reform

    1. Please try not to patronize.

    2. While defining "authentic Judaism" is indeed a large task, I would start by saying that Reform ain't it - sorry! I'm not seeking a definition that would encompass Karaite beliefs and opponents to Prushim etc. That's my opinion FWIW.

    3. Why not sign off with your name? What is "DF"?

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  58. "Based on a personal conversation with him, my judgement is that he hates this whole young earth creationism business. Nonetheless, he values fealty to the chareidi leadership more so than his personal thoughts on the matter, so he has to write stuff like this. Do we have the right to condemn the man for being loyal to his value system?"

    God yes. My assumption is that he is both ignorant and judgmental at the same time. Your defense is that he's dishonest and judgmental at the same time. He is dishonest if he knows the universe is ancient but lies and pretends it is not, and he is dishonest if he knows that exalted rabbis believe in foolishness but pretends (or perhaps less nefariously, convinces himself that) they are sagacious.

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  59. Please keep the discussion on the topic of the post.

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  60. Actually, the Tosphot about Nishtane hatevaim regarding the age at first birth of cattle is almost certainly correct. And not necessarily in a way that implies any evolution over the intervening 800 years. Both Chazal and contemporary Gentile observers from whom they might have accepted scientific data were living in societies where cattle herding was a common enough profession that the age at which cows delivered their first young would have been well known, and the observation would not require any particular instrumentation, expertise or knowledge. This is quite different from reports of exotic animals in faraway places or things (like the life cycles of nematodes in fish) that are best learned with aid of a microscope. Or observations of medicine which are bound to be of limited reliability without a concept of germs or genetics. heck, we have plenty of uncertainty about that even with modern scientific methods.

    Differences between what Chazal report and what was true in medieval Europe regarding cattle maturity are surely due to differences in either the species, subspecies or breed of cattle, or the environmental conditions under which they were raised.

    Of course, that does not mean that nishtane hatevaim makes a good or correct general explanation for discrepencies between talmudic and modern science.

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  61. He is dishonest if he knows the universe is ancient but lies and pretends it is not

    He doesn't "know" and neither do you. Rather, we have physical evidence that indicates a multi-billion year old physical universe. If you read his article then you will see that he acknowledges the evidence.

    Similarly, you do not "know" that his leaders are not sagacious. It is sad that you can't accept that an alternative paradigm is valid.

    I suppose that it is pure folly to attempt to advocate a bit of tolerance on this type of forum as someone will inevitably step forward and trash the opponent in question, rendering the effort counter-productive.

    Perhaps this is why the Chofetz Chaim teaches that praise can fall under the prohibition of "avak lashon hara" if it prompts another to just knock down the object of the praise.

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  62. I see this as Mishpacha's response to the warning they gave it at the convention. R. Sherer said he didn't know which magazine you were referring to. I took that be a warning that Mishpacha was being called out annnymously, for now. As if he was saying, be careful or we'll do to you waht we did to (Rabbi) Slifkin. Mishpacha has to put in these frum puff pieces or they'll get killed.

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  63. "He doesn't "know" and neither do you. Rather, we have physical evidence that indicates a multi-billion year old physical universe. If you read his article then you will see that he acknowledges the evidence. "

    Yes; I do know. Unless you take an extreme skeptic approach to everything, in which case you know literally nothing, the universe is factually billions of years old.

    "Similarly, you do not "know" that his leaders are not sagacious. It is sad that you can't accept that an alternative paradigm is valid."

    Certainly this is more a matter of opinion than the age of the universe, but I find it perfectly obvious that they are not. In any case, what you are claiming is that this sagacious group of people has declared that scientific fact (or, in your erroneous belief, well-supported opinion)is heresy.

    "I suppose that it is pure folly to attempt to advocate a bit of tolerance on this type of forum"

    Why would any non-ignorant person tolerate the idea that scientific fact is heresy? Any even if there were a reason, I find charedi leadership to be amongst the least tolerant themselves.

    "Perhaps this is why the Chofetz Chaim teaches that praise can fall under the prohibition of "avak lashon hara" if it prompts another to just knock down the object of the praise."

    It is; so please do not praise the gedolim.

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  64. "Perhaps Rabbi Meiselman would claim that in this case Chazal were only speculating and not speaking definitively. But they seemed pretty definitive about it;"

    Only Rav Meiselman would be claiming this? Did you not in this very post cite the Rambam in Moreh which says this very thing?

    "And this is appropriate; for with speculative matters everyone speaks according to the results of his own investigation, and everyone accepts that which appears to him established by proof." (Guide for the Perplexed 2:8"

    Rav Meiselman seems to be following the Rambam's view very closely


    "Speculative" here does not mean that they were guessing! It refers to knowledge gained via philosophy/science. As Rambam says, it was that which appeared established by proofs. And in this case, they also backed it up from a pasuk.

    It makes no sense to say that Chazal ever had a "deep and comprehensive perception of physical reality of this world that emerged from their knowledge of Torah" if they darshened pesukim to mean that the sun goes behind the sky at night.

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  65. I subscribe to Mishpacha, and before I finished reading that article I had the feeling that I'd find a response here. You have not disappointed.

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  66. yaawwn..
    I don't see why you have to write a new post each time. surely this has all been said a hundred times, why don't you just link to it?

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  67. I took that be a warning that Mishpacha was being called out anonymously, for now. As if he was saying, be careful or we'll do to you what we did to (Rabbi) Slifkin. Mishpacha has to put in these frum puff pieces or they'll get killed.


    I really wonder if that is so true anymore. From this forum and others, and from my own experience with people, it seems likely that any open ban today would backfire bigtime.

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  68. R. Meiselman: PhD in Mathematics
    R. Gottleib: PhD in Phil of Mathematics
    R. Meiselman: Grew up MO (went to a non Jewish prep school) then became radically Hareidi in Israel.
    R. Gottleib: Grew up not religious then became kind of MO when he was still in the US, then became radically Hareidi in Israel.

    Some day this will come up in a doctoral dissertation about the origins of Hareidi fundamentalism.

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  69. It could be that for things that are relevant to Jewish law they had some sorta divine knowledge, but for everything else they simply knew what was popular at that time.

    In 500 years from now we too will be laughed at as to how primitive we were.

    Great article and comments, helped me with a school project.

    Thank You

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