Friday, March 2, 2012

A contemporary posek on spontaneous generation

A reader, Joseph, submitted the following comment, which I thought worthy of publishing as a post:

Regarding the claim by R. Bleich that there are no poskim who subscribe to R. Slifkin's thesis regarding halachos based on mistaken factual premises, this is certainly mistaken. Just to give one example, Rav Hershel Schachter, in a recent Q&A session in London (in front of at least 50 people), discussed this exact case, and made reference to the Dor Revi'i. I asked him about the anisakis question, and he said that Chazal believed in spontaneous generation, in accordance with the common belief in that era, and that this is the basis for why they allowed anisakis worms.

He went on to say that despite the fact that we now know this belief to be false the halacha stands, because, as the Dor Revi'i explains, Chazal had the authority to establish the halacha for all generations. He said that the position some report in the name of Rav Elyashiv, namely that worms in the past used to spontaneously generate, and hence were muttar, but have since stopped doing so, and are now assur, is a 'joke'.

Rav Schachter also mentioned that when R. Moshe Feinstein was asked this question, he refused to discuss it, and said that it was ridiculous that anyone should even ask about something that the Shulchan Aruch explicitly permits.

I would add that there are numerous areas of halacha that are based on scientific premises that are now know to be invalid, such as the various se'ifim in Shulchan Aruch allowing certain worms in fruit or cheese for consumption, or the rules of shabbos which allow putting uncooked food in a kli sheni full of boiling water, or many of the dinim of 'belios' in kashrus, and yet we generally do not suggest we should change the established halacha.

To go back to the example of killing lice on shabbos, if one does not accept the apologetics that Chazal would have allowed this even if they understood how lice reproduce (which R. Slifkin provides cogent reasons for rejecting), then there is no different between this case and that of the anisakis. In both, one is subscribing to the codified rule to do something which would be considered forbidden according to the principles that Chazal were using to propagate that law.

A parallel for this can be found in the case of 'okimtos' that the gemara makes on tannaitic statements, even though these explanations are often plainly not in accord with the underlying reasoning behind a given Tanna's ruling. To quote R. David Foldes' elucidation of Rav Shlomo Fisher's drasha on the topic, "the kabalah that later generations would not argue on the Sages of the Mishna, which is mentioned by the Kesef Mishneh, is only regarding the formal halacha but not regarding content and rationale. The amoraim frequently add svaros (rationales) and derashos (homiletics) to the teachings of the tannaim, and similarly they can argue with the legalistic logic applied by the tannaim. The amora is thus bound by the formal teaching of the Mishna, which he cannot dismiss completely. In case he disagrees with the tannaitic rationale (which he is allowed to) he may accept the ruling of the Mishna in a very specific case, and maintain his own ruling as the principle. As with the biblical covenant regarding mitzvos derabanan, which differentiated between biblical and rabbinic law, so too here the kabalah extends only as far as the terms of the original agreement, namely the formal acceptance of the final rulings of the tannaim."

37 comments:

  1. R'HS has been making these points for years.

    Your last point on the interpretation of tannaim is important but considered dangerous by some aiui for public dissemination because it takes away the "what can I do, my hands are tied" approach to explaining certain halachic positions.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  2. Is there a link available Rav Shlomo Fisher's Derashot Beis Yishai 15 referred to here?

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  3. 1. Is kli sheini based on science or is just an unusual way of cooking so it is not halchically bishul?
    2. What halachos of bliyos are inconsistent with science?
    3. Who is R. David Folde? This section seems to make a mockery of Gemara. Is there any rishon or other source for this approach?

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  4. Is there a recording of R. Schachter's speech?

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  5. Again Rabbi Slifkin please read Yabia Omer vol 10 chelek YD Siman 24 let me know what you think

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  6. It seems odd that someone would allow a mistake in the D'Rabanan to override a De'oriata prohibition.

    It seems, in this case, that Chazal should be bringing a sacrifice for making a mistake and we should stop the practice. No?

    Perhaps for the non-rationalists, we can argue that that Chazal had ruach hakodesh, and even though we don't understand their reasoning, they were correct in all that they said, but I don't understand how a rationalist can take this approach, when the Torah gives us the mechanism and awareness of what to do when our elders and leaders make a mistake in a halachic ruling.

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  7. Questions -
    1. The point regarding kli sheni is quite technical and depends on a machlokes between the Chayei Adam and other poskim. If you are interested, please ask R. Slfikin for my email to discuss further.

    2. Regarding belios, it is famously quoted from R. Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg that when mashiach comes, these halachos will be the first to change. It is clear that scientifically there are ways to totally clean a kli, such that no 'taam' at all remains in it, and yet it can still remain treif halachically.

    3. R. David Foldes' article can be found here:
    http://www.thebeis.co.uk/journal.pdf

    The relevant quote is on page 35 of the PDF.

    Rav Fisher's point does not, chas ve'shalom, make a mockery of Gemara. It rather helps us understand the nature of the halachic system and what the discussions in the Gemara are trying to achieve.

    DES - This Q&A session was on shabbos, so it was not recorded. However, it was said in public and if you are seeking further verification, please contact me.

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  8. Just wanted to add two more sources which are highly relevant to this issue. Rav Eitam Henkin recently published a Sefer on the issue of bugs in fruit. In the introduction, on pages 10 and 11, he makes a point that is very similar to the one made by R. Slifkin:
    http://www.michtavim.com/EitamHenkin5770.pdf

    The other source is a fascinating line in a teshuva in Igros Moshe, which although coming from a totally different perspective to R. Slifkin, still serves to illustrate that R. Moshe would certainly not have agreed with R. Bleich, and accords with his comments on the anisakis issue, as reported by Rav Schachter. It also serves to help us understand one reason why it would be important for the halacha to be 'fixed'. He writes that it is inconceivable that the great tzadikim of yesteryear transgessed issurim even 'beoness' due to mistaken scientific beliefs (and therefore we do not take into account certain recent scientific developments when paskening Halacha). According to R. Bleich, when R. Moshe ate the same fish as we do without checking for worms, he was doing exactly that:
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=919&st=&pgnum=246

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  9. From Audio Roundup # 177:
    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/766411/Rabbi_Hershel_Schachter/When_Science_Contradicts_The_Talmud
    Rabbi Hershel Schachter-When Science Contradicts The Talmud

    How we deal with Talmud’s take on spontaneous generation (it exists)? Implications for fish worms? Maybe meant naked eye, etc. Does anyone today say you can’t eat herring??? Dor Rviei, R’SZA, et al.
    “It’s ridiculous” to say scientists are right today and Talmud was right also.
    Follow the doctors of your generation in issues of danger (unclear to me what R’HS would say in Talmud didn’t give danger as the reason for a halacha).
    Blood tests for paternity – ridiculous to reject (me – and what of DNA for inheritance?).
    Most compelling (to me) discussion – how the Chazon Ish (and R’HS?) reject the Shach’s opinion that there are issues that the Talmud/halacha does not have an opinion on!
    Agadita was understood in time of Talmud on “pshat” level – they understood the metaphors!
    Chazon Ish and halachot being set by actual reality at year 4000 – he only said “maybe” and that reality has changed!
    5,000+ years since creation explanations – “it’s” questionable”.


    KT
    Joel Rich

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  10. As a law student, viewing halacha as a legal system, the issue is relatively straightforward. Halachos pesukos in the Talmud do not change, even if the underlying facts that prompted those halachic conclusions are now known to be erroneous because those conclusions were "legislated" into law by those with the authority to do so. We follow the halachic conclusions of the Talmud, even when they say left is right and right is left because, like Congress, they have the power to establish what the law is. Even those halachos that were not truly legislated (in the form of takkanos and gezeiros), but which are the product of halachic decision-making (case-law, so to speak) cannot be altered due to their incorrect factual premises because we have come to accept that the "chasimas haTalmud" effectively "legislated" these rulings into normative law.

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  11. R. Schachter discusses the same topics in this Shiur:

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

    This Shiur was previously linked to on this blog.

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  12. Irony alert: a few years ago you visited our community to speak. When you went to the lectern one of the members of the congregation walked out because his son in kollel had told him that you were not to be listened to because of your heretical opinions.
    Last Shabbos I had dinner with him and mentioned the whole Chazal and science controversy to him including the bit about spontaneous generation. I told him that many people feel that Chazal were and are still right about scientific information that has changed since their times. He snorted and announced "Listen, Chazal knew the science of their time and they dealt with issues according to what they understood. Science has certainly changed since then!"

    I bit my tongue!

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  13. I was thinking of raising the point about R. Schachter. His comments regarding science are available on yutorah. His repeated phrase is that Chazal were aware of the "cutting edge of science" of the times. But that does not mean the halacha changes in ever case where science today differes. I don't see that as irrational. That is a legitimate legal process.

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  14. "As a law student, viewing halacha as a legal system, the issue is relatively straightforward...We follow the halachic conclusions of the Talmud, even when they say left is right and right is left because, like Congress, they have the power to establish what the law is."

    The problem is that lo sassur does not seem to allow one to follow chazal's psak even if erroneous. The dor revi'i doesn't say that lo sassur requires one to follow chazal even if in error - he gives a different reason for this conclusion. (No one has disputed that the dor revi'i has reached the conclusion that one follows chazal even if they err, only the relevance of his position and whether R Slifkin is relying or can rely on his authority for the claim that the halacha remains binding even if decided incorrectly). The dor revi'i maintains that all the halachos of written and sealed tsb"p take on the status of torah shebiksav. They are divine, immutable truth. The dor revi'i says that the halachos of written tsb"peh will stand for all generations, for all time. No future sanhedrin will be able to overturn them. The halachos of written and sealed tsb"p are immutable even if they were decided on the basis of empirical error because they nonethless attain the status of torah shebiksav and divine, immutable truth. Now how it's possible for a halacha decided by human beings in error to take on the status of divine, immutable truth is a question the dor revi'i doesn't fully address, but the reason for following the halacha even if decided erroneously is not, according to the dor revi'i, lo sassur and that our acceptance of chazal's authority includes acceptance of their psak even if decided based on empirical error - it's that what once included in written and sealed tsb"p, it can't be overturned or challenged because it has attained the status of torah shebiksav. This is to say the least an idiosyncratic position of the dor revi'i's and there are several problems. One - one isn't relying on the dor revi'i if one says that the halacha even if erroneously decided remains binding even if decided erroneously because chazals' authority is binding even if they erred - this is a position that is superficially similar to the dor revi'i's, but someone taking this position must deal with the fact that by taking the dor revi'i's conclusion out of the framework of his thesis that written and sealed tsb"p becomes immutable in which he reached it, the question of how one can follow their authority when it's known that their decision was reached based on empirical error returns and requires an answer. Second, and more important, even if one could rely on the dor revi'i, or were accepting his full explanation and rationale, how can one do that? The mainstream halacha that one can not follow chazal lekula if they decided halacha based on empirical error stands, regardless of the fact that the dor revi'i wrote a drasha in his hakdama that sidesteps this issue - can one rely on the dor revi'i to overturn the normative halachic position that one must not follow chazal's ruling if decided based on empirical error on the basis of his idiosyncratic assertion that written and sealed tsb"p is akin to torah shebiksav and no sanhedrin can ever overturn it? Of course not. Finally, it is bloody weird that Rabbi Slifkin says he is relying on the authority of the dor revi'i. If hazal viewed a brain-dead patient as alive, according to the dor revi'i he must be treated as alive and this is not only true now, but will be true for all time. "Pikuach nefesh" will not override this as mai chazis applies. There is no way to rely on the dor revi'i when saying that hazal's halacha can be overridden as he takes an exceptionally strong stance that the halacha as decided by chazal is immutable and will always remain in force, every bit as much as torah shebiksav. (continued in next comment)

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  15. According to the dor revi'i, if hazal did not recognize brain death, one who pulls the plug is a rotzeach and this will be true even if eliyahu hanavi comes and says that was decided based on false premises, moshiach and all the chachaim agree the halacha is wrongly decided - still the halacha will always stand. This is hardly the authority that Rabbi Slifkin is relying on for his rather different understanding of the binding nature of halacha.

    As to the question of how halacha can remain binding even if decided in error, if the solution is not lo sassur - what is it? Rabbi bleich has an interesting solution in section V of his article. Contrary to Rabbi Slifkin's understanding, I think considering his normal style he's almost heavy handedly informing his readers that he's pleased with his proposed solution. As a a side point, not only does he co-opt the hazon ish for the rationalist side (as his bias is hardly to deciding that saying chazal erred is kefira), it's unclear to me how far he's going with that, and while I've wondered for other reasons in the past how literally hazon ish ever intended his position that to say chazal erred is kefira, i'm not sure anymore that the argument that he intended it literally is compatible with what he must mean to be pointing to with his understanding of alpayim torah.
    (Anyway, hazon ish took that position in a personal letter to a student, and I believe one should not use such letters as basis for action unless and until one knows the context in which they were written).

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  16. Oy vey. Student, you are getting your knickers in a twist entirely unnecessarily. Rabbi slifkin didn't commit himself to the dor revii's theological model, and whether it fits in with his opinion on brain death is irrelevant to the subject at hand. All he said was that the dor revii's approach is applicable to the issue of worms in fish, exactly as Rav Schachter told me. The fact that both rabbi Bleich and you are finding this so difficult to comprehend and are instead responding by lashing out in all directions is frankly remarkable.

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  17. a.student

    (Anyway, hazon ish took that position in a personal letter to a student, and I believe one should not use such letters as basis for action unless and until one knows the context in which they were written).
    ....

    I think i saw the chazon ish write in his sefer, criticisng ittim lebinah that took the position that shmuel mistakenly thought that the solar years was exactly 365.25 days, as being minnus (he did have respect for the author though).

    (this may not completely contradict your thesis though as he may have meant that it was being mevazeh an amorah to call him ignorant of basic scientific facts known to everyone. undiscovered scientific facts would be different [although that would not be my interpretation of the chazonish's viewpoint]

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  18. Isn't anyone going to mention the uncomfortable fact that in the lecture of Rav Schachter linked above, he discusses the approach of the Dor ERevi'i and rejects it in favor of Rav Shlomo Zalman's approach to lice--i.e. that they were microscopic and therefore halachicly irrelevant--just as Rav Bleich suggested?

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  19. My apologies for my poor editing of my comments March 4, 2012 8:55 PM and 8:56 PM.

    Joseph wrote:
    "Regarding belios, it is famously quoted from R. Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg that when mashiach comes, these halachos will be the first to change. It is clear that scientifically there are ways to totally clean a kli, such that no 'taam' at all remains in it, and yet it can still remain treif halachically."

    I've never heard this in RZNG's name, but I don't dispute that he says that or have difficulty with his position - I think it's a tenable position and distinct possibilty that this is what will happen when moshiach comes (this disclaimer is so that there's no misunderstanding about what I write next). But note that RZNG is not accepting the dor revi'i's position. For the dor revi'i, when moshiach comes, no currently existing halachos midina degemara will change. Belios won't be the first halachos to change or the last to change, as there will be no change. If RZNG were asked how we can follow the halachos of belios right now, he wouldn't be able to respond "the dor revi'i says that the halacha even if based on empirical error is binding and I rely on his authority" as he is not relying on his authority - he is making a different claim with a different rationale.

    Saying that rabbi slifkin conveys the dor revi'i's position imprecisely and isn't relying on him is not the same as saying that one can't say hazal erred and yet the halacha remains binding. Saying he does the same to rabbi fisher's position, ditto. Arguing that rabbi slifkin's case that chazal's authority is binding even when they decided the halacha based on empirical error is flawed and doesn't stand up to scrutiny doesn't mean one doesn't accept that a different case can be made for the same argument. Rabbi Bleich makes a different case and it's disingenuous of rabbi slifkin to claim he rejects his own arguments.

    It's also particularly galling as when Rabbi Slifkin's books were banned, commenters on hirhurim reported that he told students who asked that it's not kefira to say that chazal erred and that there is no issue with believing this. He also apparently went out of his way to quote Rabbi Slifkin in his article on copepods in NYC water, which was plausibly interpreted by R Gil Student at the time as defiance of the ban (though not decisively, as Rabbi Bleich is wont to quote all and sundry. Still, I don't think he makes a habit of citing those he views as arguing for kefira.)
    Nothing in the original Tradition article or his rejoinder ought to make one doubt the accuracy of these reports from his students - rather the opposite.

    from the post:
    "The first three approaches rest on the presumption that spontaneous generation does or has taken place"

    actually, none of them do, and it's not what he's proposing.
    this post is full of statements like this where you misunderstand/misrepresent rabbi bleich's position. it's hopeless.

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  20. How times change!
    A few years ago, Chaza"l were 100% right & we claimed that our minds were playing games on us.
    Today we say, that Chaza"l were operating under the understanding of an outdated science from 1500 years ago, but their conclusions are still binding.

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  21. On the last section, which someone argued makes a mockery of gemara chas veshalom, especially these words: "The amora is thus bound by the formal teaching of the Mishna, which he cannot dismiss completely. In case he disagrees with the tannaitic rationale (which he is allowed to) he may accept the ruling of the Mishna in a very specific case, and maintain his own ruling as the principle. As with the biblical covenant regarding mitzvos derabanan, which differentiated between biblical and rabbinic law, so too here the kabalah extends only as far as the terms of the original agreement, namely the formal acceptance of the final rulings of the tannaim.""

    How can anyone who learns gemara deeply possibly deny this? Isn't it obvious?

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  22. " He writes that it is inconceivable that the great tzadikim of yesteryear transgessed issurim even 'beoness' due to mistaken scientific beliefs (and therefore we do not take into account certain recent scientific developments when paskening Halacha)."

    But we do CPR today. I'm not sure this can be applied so generally.

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  23. Student - but he didn't convey it imprecisely. If anything, it is Rabbi Bleich who is doing so. He brings in totally irrelevant arguments when describing the dor revii, such as that regarding the moon and green cheese, which leads to misunderstandings about what his position was. To be frank, you have done the same to me. When did I write that the dor revii and Rav Goldberg were following the same theological model?

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  24. from the post:
    "The first three approaches rest on the presumption that spontaneous generation does or has taken place"

    actually, none of them do, and it's not what he's proposing.


    Student, please explain how none of R. Bleich's first three possibilities rest on the presumption that spontaneous generation does or has taken place. I am pasting them here for your convenience:

    "Among the possibilities are: 1) the parasite they described is extinct; 2) it has mutated into the present-day sexually reproducing Anisakis; 3) some Anisakis may arise in the flesh of the fish and others spawn in water"

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  25. "Student, please explain how none of R. Bleich's first three possibilities rest on the presumption that spontaneous generation does or has taken place. I am pasting them here for your convenience:"

    A Reader,
    I'm not Student, but Asexual reproduction, is not the same as spontaneous generation. However, from the practical point of view of the observer, they can appear the same.

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  26. Rabbi Bleich uses the terms synonymously. He is not talking about parthenogenesis.

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  27. There's an error that people like R. Bleich keep falling into that is worth focusing on. R. Bleich, when trying to argue that R. Slifkin's citation of the Dor Revii is irrelevant, writes the following:

    "According to Rabbi Glasner, if the Written Law were to state that the moon is made of green cheese, the halakhic implications would no doubt be irreversible. Once the Oral Law is committed to writing, such an Oral Law statement, according to Dor Revi’i, would also become immutable. That is why, according to Rabbi Glasner, neither the Written Law nor the Oral Law could possibly contain such a statement. Of course, Rabbi Glasner does not employ the hypothetical example of an assertion that the moon is composed of green cheese. But he does present a remarkable insight into another statement of Hazal that establishes the same point."

    And then a few lines further on:
    "I believe it is fair to say that Rabbi Glasner would claim that God bestowed upon the people of Israel the intelligence necessary to ensure that, in expounding the Oral Law and committing it to writing, they would not rely upon specious reasoning."

    What R. Bleich fails to grasp, and I think that this is due to his absolutist frame of mind, is that not all errors or examples of 'specious reasoning' are created equal. It was perfectly legitimate for Chazal to believe in spontaneous generation in the historical context they inhabited. It is not being disrespectful at all towards them to claim that they formulated their rulings in accordance with the biological theories of their era; indeed whenever they discuss biological phenomena, whether it is the structure of the uterus or how insects are formed, their statements clearly fit straight into their historical milieu. For people like R. Bleich, however, an error is an error is an error. That's why he gets so stuck on issues like this.

    Unfortunately this problematic mindset is quite widespread. As Rav Eitam Henkin writes, in the kuntres I linked to earlier, many contemporary authors have difficulty in understanding the various halachos regarding worms in fruit that are permitted in certain conditions, depending on whether they have 'crawled' or not. Because they can't fit these ideas into the contemporary scientific understanding of how insects form, they essentially deny the applicability of the halachos in Shulchan Aruch. What they fail to grasp is that these rules were formulated in a different scientific context (i.e. one that believed in spontaneous generation etc.), but that doesn't mean that we have to try and fit them into to an ad-hoc contemporary theory or be rid of them entirely.

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  28. " He writes that it is inconceivable that the great tzadikim of yesteryear transgessed issurim even 'beoness' due to mistaken scientific beliefs (and therefore we do not take into account certain recent scientific developments when paskening Halacha)."

    But we do CPR today. I'm not sure this can be applied so generally.


    1) R. Moshe himself makes the distinction between issues that deal with human life vs. those that don't. For example, the Halachos of Treifos for animals don't change even when there is a medical advance that can now treat what was formerly a mortal wound. However the Halachos for Treifos for a person does change with medical advances. In general, anything having to do with Pikuach Nefesh is going to change according to pretty much all authorities.

    2) I don't think that there are any prior generations that refused to perform CPR :). In other words, I don't think that he would include advances in medicine in this category, as it would not even be "beoness" if a generation did the "wrong" thing with respect to medical treatment as long as they were doing it in line with medical knowledge of that time. The Halacha is to do the best that you can to cure a sick person, not to actually cure a sick person (this is not given over to us).

    3) That said, I think that your point is important where there is a grey area between the two (general Pikuach Nefesh and other halachos). The Metzitzah B'Peh controversy is perhaps a result the fact that it lies in that gray area (according to some). The argument being: "How can we say that it is a bad idea when we have been doing it for so long?"

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  29. "Rabbi Bleich uses the terms synonymously. He is not talking about parthenogenesis"

    Perhaps his intention is to change the meaning of "spontaneous generation" and not the other way around.

    It's like he is saying that what the world thinks is "spontaneous generation" is actually "asexual reproduction". And so there is no reason to outright reject it. You say "comes from sweat" means it spontaneously generated, he says "comes from sweat", means that sweat was the food source for it to asexually reproduce.

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  30. I take it that you did not see his article. There's no way that he means that.

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  31. Can someone please clarify what exactly about is it about bliyos that does not conform to modern science? I am skeptical of this claim.

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  32. Dov, stainless steel cookware remain shiny after repeated use with strongly colored foodstuffs. Nor is the taste of strongly flavored foods such as garlic or hot peppers detectable in foods subsequently used after the cookware is cleaned with a sponge and detergent. There is no way that it absorbs any foodstuff throughout its volume (the presumption of the Rema with regard to metal pots). Once the surface is clean, whatever was on it is gone. Consequently, finding a 60 fold volume of heter to nullify whatever issur was absorbed by the clean pot should be easy. A similar finding may pertain to aluminum cookware except that aluminum is subject to pitting from acidic foodstuffs and is easily scratched.

    Both types of cookware did not exist in the times of the Rema and can, in principle, be exempted from his halachic stance. However, it would take a posek of stature to so limit the traditional Ashkenazi concern about metal absorption. So far no one seems to have taken the initiative in this matter, although I recall that Rav Herschel Schachter spoke about the issue.

    To elaborate further:
    I believe that the Rema was only familiar with cast iron and bronze metal pots. A metal casting can have many minute cracks and surface irregularities from the casting process. Even today, cast iron skillets need to be treated with heated oil in order to reduce the absorptivity of the surface. The modern pots in question are, however, formed from smooth metal sheets via forging in a press. Their surfaces are much smoother.

    A similar situation occurs with glass vessels. The Rema considered such vessels to be absorptive (as opposed to Rav Yosef Karo who ruled them entirely non-absorptive). Here, too, it seems that the Rema was only familiar with cast glassware, not that made by a glassblower. The latter products have a totally smooth, not absorptive surface as is evidenced by their great resistance to staining. The same is true for modern cast glassware since the mold surfaces are quite smooth.

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  33. "Student - but he didn't convey it imprecisely. If anything, it is Rabbi Bleich who is doing so. He brings in totally irrelevant arguments when describing the dor revii, such as that regarding the moon and green cheese, which leads to misunderstandings about what his position was. To be frank, you have done the same to me. When did I write that the dor revii and Rav Goldberg were following the same theological model?"

    I didn't say or imply that you claimed the dor revi'i and rav goldberg were following the same model, nor did it cross my mind that you meant to say they were. Apparently, I am not sufficiently creative, as how one could conclude that something you wrote in response to a question about belios in the comment section was meant to connect with something entirely different that you mentioned in the post escapes me. I made the point about rav goldberg and the dor revi'i to highlight the issue I was addressing all along. There was nothing misleading about what I wrote except for someone looking to be misled.
    The relevant point re the dor revi'i's model is not theological, but halachic, a point you sidestep by recasting the dor revi'i's model as "theological." It's not possible to separate dor revi'i's claim that halacha, even if decided based on outdated science, is binding, from what you call his "theology" - one can make a different claim that the halacha is binding until a sanhedrin overturns it, of course, but one will not then be relying on the dor revi'i as for him the issues are inseparable. One would also then have to explain why the halacha remains binding, and how one can follow a ruling based on empirical error, as the dor revi'i's explanation is tied to his "theological model." Similarly, anyone who claims that a halacha based on outdated science is binding because of "national acceptance of chazal's authority" is not relying on the dor revi'i' and would have to explain just how the national acceptance model allows one to follow chazal in cases where the halacha is decided based on empirical error. Notice that Rabbi Fisher, who Rabbi Slifkin claims as his source for the national acceptance thesis, does not make such the claim that rabbi slifkin attributes to him and I agree with Rabbi Bleich's assertion that he can't be implying it lekula.

    Rabbi Bleich also did not mislead with his summary of the dor revi'i's approach unless you feel -as rabbi slifkin apparently does - that understanding what the dor revi'i says is irrelevant when one is claiming to rely on his authority. From what Rabbi Slifkin wrote, one would never know just what the dor revi'i said, and therefore what issue there could be relying on him. It's not rabbi bleich's fault that the dor revi'i has a long drasha about how torah she bal peh reflects ultimate and immutable divine truth. Since you bring up rabbi bleich's comment about the moon and green cheese later too, I wish to address your later comment next. I'll try to get back to other comments on this thread another time.

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  34. Joseph,
    In your comment of March 5, 2012 11:20 AM, you quote rabbi bleich's presentation of the dor revi'i's position - a position that is not his own and upon which he claims one has no right to rely halacha lemaase - and write:
    "What R. Bleich fails to grasp, and I think that this is due to his absolutist frame of mind... It was perfectly legitimate for Chazal to believe in spontaneous generation in the historical context they inhabited. It is not being disrespectful at all towards them"
    but you have taken dor revi'i's position to be rabbi bleich's. Rabbi Bleich doesn't fail to grasp what you claim he does and he can't be blamed for the fact that the dor revi'i makes such astonishing claims about the status of torah shebalpeh! The dor revi'i's claims about the truth value of written and sealed tsb"p are not shared by the anti-rationalists - they go beyond anything claimed by the most vehement proponents of anti-rationalism.

    Rabbi bleich is not at all concerned with it being disrespectful toward chazal to say they took from the science of their day. His focus is only halachic decisions based on outdated science, and he presents at length a proposal for how the halacha can remain binding even if decided based on empirical error. In fact, in discussing those who claim scientific infalliblity for chazal, he writes that they make this claim because they are trying to preserve the integrity of the halachic system - not because they can't countenance such a disrespectful view of chazal. You are free to reject his understanding of their motives, but if he's biased, it's away from any concern with respect to chazal and toward concern with the issue of the binding nature of halacha. His concern, and the issue he deals with in the article, is the viability of the notion that halacha is binding even if decided based on outdated science, and I think it's worth repeating that this is true to the point that he ascribes this concern to those who ascribe scientific infalliblity to chazal. He couldn't write an entire section devoted to a framework for understanding how it's possible to follow halacha based on outdated science if he thought chazal couldn't have believed in such science. Whether you do this deliberately or through carelessness, you've taken his words out of context, attributed the dor revi'i's position to rabbi bleich and claimed that an issue in which rabbi bleich evinced no interest - respect for chazal and their acceptance of outdated science outside of the impact on halacha - is his true focus. You could not be misunderstanding the man more thoroughly.

    If I don't get back to this thread in time, an easy fast and a good purim to you and to all.

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  35. What bugs me to no end is that Halachik Judaism is effectively stuck in the middle ages.
    If we say that TSBP is binding regardless of whether the reasons behind them are incorrect than we are stuck.

    While I understand that there is also some danger in halachik progression I think there is equal danger in halachik myopia and stubbornness.
    Many of us disagree with the Chareidi life style because we feel they are stuck in 18th century Europe.
    Most will feel that way about Modern Orthodoxy as well down the road as we continue to abide by rules and thinking no longer applicable.

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  36. Fine, having read Rav Bleich's response to your response and your response to his response to your response, I have a question.
    The gemara mentions the eggs of lice and the excuse given is that "eggs of lice" are a separate species, not lice.
    On the other hand, nits are not microscopic and the sages were not stupid. Why can one not suggest, assuming the existence of spontaneous generation (which I don't but let's say) that sweat spontaneously produces the nits which then hatch into eggs, therefore lice have eggs but are still spontaneously produced?

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  37. a.student - Let's try this one last time. If I had already made the point that neither R. Slifkin, nor anyone else, committed themselves to the Dor Revii's model, then why would you need to point this out again?

    Regarding R. Bleich's exposition of the Dor Revii - I am not convinced you are right. Earlier on in the hakdama, he writes that 'ksivasa zo hi kabalasa', which implies that for him the kesivah of Torah Shebaal Peh acts as a process of kaballah would do for the Kesef Mishneh. I don't know if this is the case, and I'm not committed to it, but I would not be surprised if the Dor Revii would agree.

    But again, this is almost besides the point. The Dor Revii made two observations, one that numerous halachos are based on empirical error (such as those on worms in fruit), the second is that they are still on the books. You take from this that 'only' the Dor Revii provides a theological justification for their remaining on the books, but you miss the broader point that it is not only the Dor Revii who did not suggest we change them - it is the halachic consensus!

    Regarding your assertion that I have misunderstood R. Bleich's characterisation of the Dor Revii, you are wrong once again. R. Bleich wrote the line about green cheese for a reason. He explained that according to R. Glasner, it is impossible for the Torah to contain such an error. Yet what does that even mean in light of what the Dor Revii himself writes, there are numerous empirical errors in what we have accepted as Torah She'baal peh (hence R. Slifkin's connecting his position to the anisakis issue). Thus, this citation can only possibly serve to obscure understanding of the Dor Revii's position, and thus it is misleading. The very fact that R. Bleich mentions specious reasoning here - if it serves any purpose at all (and not, as may be the case, just to provide himself with a cloak of plausible deniability for anything else he writes in his article) - implies that he is linking it in to R. Slifkin's suggestion, which is after all what he is addressing.

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