Thursday, March 1, 2012

Facing Up To The Facts

This is the final part of my response to Rabbi Bleich's article in Tradition regarding spontaneous generation.

At the very beginning of his article, Rabbi Bleich insists that any and all approaches to the issue of Chazal vs. science are irrelevant to the case of Anisakis, since Anisakis worms are demonstrably spawned outside fish and swallowed by them, and are thus clearly not the subject of Chazal's permissive ruling. At the very end of his article, Rabbi Bleich reiterates this claim, and then addresses the objection to it which I presented in my letter: If Chazal were not describing the Anisakis, what were they describing?

Rabbi Bleich first argues that he is under no obligation to answer this question; it is enough to establish that Chazal could not have been referring to Anisakis. I strongly disagree. The fact that we know that Anisakis worms are born outside of fish does not mean that Chazal knew that! If no viable alternative can be suggested, then the conclusion would be that Chazal were indeed describing the Anisakis worm.

Rabbi Bleich then says "Nevertheless, I did answer that question in my article and it is disingenuous to pretend that I did not." Actually, it is disingenuous to pretend that I pretended that he did not - instead, I addressed his proposed answers and disputed them. Here are the possibilities that he presents in this article:

"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; 4) Hazal were referring to other piscatorial creatures of which there is no dearth."

The first three approaches rest on the presumption that spontaneous generation does or has taken place. As I pointed out in an earlier post, I think that there is more than adequate reason to reject this. I am, frankly, disturbed that a scholar at YU is presenting such claims as being viable.

The fourth approach appears to be that which Rabbi Bleich describes in greater detail in his original article, "Piscatorial Parasites": that Chazal were referring to parasites that are imbibed by fish at a stage when they are microscopic and thus halachically insignificant, whereas Anisakis are imbibed at a stage when they are visible to the naked eye.

But there is no reason to think that this is what Chazal actually meant, and every reason to believe that they did not mean this. Chazal gave a blanket license (as did Shulchan Aruch) that worms found in the flesh of the fish are permitted without qualification - whereas according to Rabbi Bleich, no such permission exists in an overwhelming number of cases. Chazal did not insist that we determine where the worms were generated. They did not know the biological details of the life cycle of parasites. They believed that salamanders and mice spontaneously generated from fire and mud - and they likewise believed that insects are generated from sweat, fruit, and fish.

Rabbi Bleich claims that one who believes that Chazal were simply wrong "should be intellectually honest" and must necessarily conclude that all parasites are forbidden, "unless, of course, that person rejects the canons of halakhic methodology." I do not think that either Rav Herzog or Rav Glasner, who were of the view that Chazal's permissive rulings regarding the spontaneous generation of lice have been canonized, rejected the canons of halakic methodology, or were intellectually dishonest.

(Let me be clear: I am not insisting that the only valid approach is that of Rav Herzog and Rav Glasner. I am certainly sympathetic to those who would follow Rav Lampronti's approach and forbid them - as long as they face up to the ramifications of this for other areas of halachah.)

Rabbi Bleich concludes his article with an extremely revealing citation, from Maharal in Be'er HaGolah, where Maharal says that even if one does not accept his explanation of difficult passages in Chazal, one should not ascribe any defect to the words of the Sages. This is incredibly ironic, since Maharal's approach suffers from exactly the same drawbacks as Rabbi Bleich's article. In my monograph on The Sun's Path At Night, I showed how all the Geonim and Rishonim, bar none, understood the Gemara in Pesachim 94b according to its plain meaning, that Chazal believed the sun to travel behind the sky at night. Maharal, however, insists that Chazal were most definitively not talking about any such thing, due to his 16th century belief that they couldn't possibly have been wrong about such a matter, and simply does not address the fact that he is going against all the Geonim and Rishonim (amongst other problems with his approach). If Rabbi Bleich wishes to castigate me for my criticism of his article as being anachronistic and intellectually dishonest, then citing Maharal is hardly helping his case.

37 comments:

  1. Thank you for a series of interesting articles on Rabbi Bleich and spontaneous generation. A small suggestion - instead of reacting to Rabbi Bleich's borderline ad-hominem attacks on your position with borderline ad-hominem attacks of your own, just ignore them or make sure that all your reactions are ad-rem.

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  2. there is a bias in favor of black and white, right and wrong. This causes people to say that since the Talmud is a great book then everything it says must be literally true. it also causes the exaggerated belief in science even in areas where it does not apply. The mystery to me in all this is the rambam who from what i can tell simply did not see any contradiction between reason and faith and in fact saw a strong connection.

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  3. "(Let me be clear: I am not insisting that the only valid approach is that of Rav Herzog and Rav Glasner. I am certainly sympathetic to those who would follow Rav Lampronti's approach and forbid them - as long as they face up to the ramifications of this for other areas of halachah.)"

    Just to be clear then, do you just coincidentally find Rav Herzog's reasoning correct, or did those possible ramifications you mention affect your judgement? Do you think those ramifications ought to affect one's decision (as you seem to imply)? Chazal declared that a woman prefers (a bad) marriage to being alone. Are you sympathetic to the idea that this is no longer the case?

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  4. "do you just coincidentally find Rav Herzog's reasoning correct, or did those possible ramifications you mention affect your judgement?"

    I can't know what subconsciously motivates me!

    "Do you think those ramifications ought to affect one's decision (as you seem to imply)?"

    Yes.

    "Chazal declared that a woman prefers (a bad) marriage to being alone. Are you sympathetic to the idea that this is no longer the case?"

    No idea. I'm a zoorabbi, Jim, not a sociologist.

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  5. "I can't know what subconsciously motivates me!"

    Sometimes we can. Sometimes we need to trick ourselves into telling ourselves the truth by imagining scenarios where our biases are removed. Imagine a Muslim with a similar problem, would you have recommended maintaining the law?

    "Yes."

    Interesting. So perhaps the influence need not be subconscious? You are saying that even if one believes that the halachic system requires the changing of a law, it ought to be maintained for fear of "ramifications." You seem to be advocating being a-halachic in such scenarios for fear of "ramifications" (presumably some type of social engineering problem, please elaborate).

    "No idea. I'm a zoorabbi, Jim, not a sociologist."

    Perhaps I worded my question poorly. Were the consensus of sociologists now overwhelming in declaring that women no longer prefer a bad marriage to no marriage, would you be "sympathetic" to the idea that halachos which hinge on such an assumption be changed?

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  6. "They believed that salamanders and mice spontaneously generated from fire and mud - and they likewise believed that insects are generated from sweat, fruit, and fish."

    How can you claim that Chazal believed that ALL insects were born of spontaneous generation? They could have believed that some were spontaneously generated and some were not but rather sexually reproduced. Their rulings took both circumstances of possibility. You make a large assumption that Chazal believed all of the common science of the times when they have demonstrated time and time again that they only believe what is derived from scriptures even if it contradicts what science says. All Rabbi Bleich has stated is that Chazal's ruling were stated regardless if the reality was that the worms were spontaneous or not and it is open to interpretation as to the circumstances.

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  7. shmuel silbermanMarch 1, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    "I am, frankly, disturbed that a scholar at YU is presenting such claims as being viable."

    Why be disturbed? It is one thing to say there is no evidence that spontaneous generation ever took place. It is another thing to say it could never have taken place, and another thing to be disturbed by those who say it may have.

    parshainsights.blogspot.com

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  8. "Chazal declared that a woman prefers (a bad) marriage to being alone. Are you sympathetic to the idea that this is no longer the case?"

    I think that a rationalist approach would have to consider the possibility that just as Chazal were wrong about the biology of spontaneous generation, they may have been wrong about the univeral psychology of women - even in their own time.

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  9. "It is one thing to say there is no evidence that spontaneous generation ever took place. It is another thing to say it could never have taken place, and another thing to be disturbed by those who say it may have."

    Whether spontaneous generation may or may not have ever taken place is itself a scientific question subject at least in theory to empirical investigation. The disturbing thing here is not that one would want to raise the question, it is that someone would reject the entire paradigm of empirical investigation that would be used to investigate the question! How can he make any claim, for example, regarding worms in fish, when he has rejected the entirety of the paradigm for investigating the source of the worms? It is intellectually dishonest to reject the entire basis of scientific investigation while selectively using results from such investigations. I expected better.

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  10. see Yabia Omer vol. 10 YD siman 24

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  11. Can you please combine these into a footnoted article and place it on the sidebar?

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  12. I don't think HAZAL were wrong about a woman preferring a bad marriage to no marriage. That was the case back then when there was no social security, no unemployment insurance, no open job market. It was quite possibly a matter of starving to death or not. Today the situation is different and HAZAL would understand it as such. Times change, our view of Torah evolves. Once slavery was allowed, now it isn't. The rules of war in the time of Joshua allowed him to kill the kings he captured, today we don't do that. See Rav Kook's writings in Orot HaKodesh for more information.

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  13. RNS:

    "I am certainly sympathetic to those who would follow Rav Lampronti's approach and forbid them - as long as they face up to the ramifications of this for other areas of halachah."

    I asked this before: What are those "ramifications for other areas of halachah", specifically?

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  14. While I would certainly not support the proposition that spontaneous generation occurred at any time after the earliest living cells appeared, I can see Rav Bleich's ruling on the anisakis worm. The fact that the Shulchan Aruch appears to permit all worms found in the flesh of fish, doesn't mean that the halachic source, the gemara in Hulin, takes that position. The gemara there distinguishes between 2 worms, the kukiani - which is forbidden (according to the Hilchasa) and the durni which is permitted. Tosafot demonstrate that the kukiani case also refers to a fish worm. What proof is there that the durni is the anisakis? Rashi, in fact, believes that the durni is found on the skin of the fish (and in the flesh). It's mode of entry into the flesh is therefore much different than the anisakis which is swallowed by the fish together with the krill and other small crustaceans. Since we know that the anisakis worm is foreign to the fish (mei'alma asa) and is apparently not microscopic when swallowed by a fish, why should we still permit it? We don't always follow the Shulchan Aruch (SA). For example, the SA states that the sunset which marks the end of definite day on Friday doesn't mean the disappearance of the solar disk below the horizon. Rather, it refers to a time which is nearly an hour later (the innovation of Rabbenu Tam). One can still do work until that later time according to the SA. We no longer follow that view, and, instead, treat the visible sunset as the latest time for work on Friday afternoon (actually we normally stop 18-20 minutes before that time). If we have cogent reasons not to follow the SA as to sunset, we should then not follow it when we have reason to differ with its leniency on fish worms.

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  15. So which type of worm is permitted?

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  16. R. Bleich's point about anisakis worms is that Chazal specifically forbade worms that come from outside of the fish. Even if we believe that Chazal were mistaken about this specific worm as spontaneously generating from within the fish, at best then we have a contradiction between two halakhos, one which says this worm is forbidden (because it comes from the outside) and another which says it is permitted (because it was thought to be spontaneously generated). Why should we therefore be מקיל?
    Another way to think about this: the derashah does not concern the anisakis worm specifically, it is about any worm which spontaneously generates within the fish. The worm that we see today does not do so; instead we see that it comes from outside the fish, which is expressly forbidden. נניח that Chazal believed this worm spontaneously generated, but that does not change the fact that applying the rules Chazal themselves gave us, we must forbid it. There is no גזירת הכתוב that anisakis is מותר.

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  17. Like I said, I have no problem if someone decides that Anisakis is forbidden, as long as they do so for the right reasons and acknowledge the ramifications.

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  18. The problem is that without redefining the היתר, there is no היתר left, which is why R. Bleich says that this is not an example of the conflict between halakhah and science--you cannot claim that you are following Chazal even if they tell you assur is mutar if they also tell you assur is assur. Unless you also come up with another explanation for the היתר which removes it from the category of איסור, how can you just invoke the חינוך, דור רביעי & היכל יצחק?

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  19. Why be disturbed?

    If it's a question of YU supporting a variety of approaches and not being a monolithic institution, that's one thing.

    But if what we're seeing with Rabbi Bleich is part of a larger trend of succumbing to social pressure to be less rationalistic (and thereby more "frum"), such that in ten years time YU will - like other yeshivot - become ideologically dominated by non-rationalistic thinking, then perhaps this is cause for being a bit disturbed.

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  20. WFB - Rav Glasner and Rav Herzog feel that in these cases, following Chazal means following their application as formalized in their ruling. I understand the questions as to how they determine this, but I still think that they are big enough authorities to rely on.

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  21. Regarding 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."

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  22. "Another way to think about this: the derashah does not concern the anisakis worm specifically, it is about any worm which spontaneously generates within the fish. "

    I'm not holding in the sugya, but one would think that if both halachos are to be regarded as true and with some scientific basis, the chiluk would be between free-living and parasitic nematodes.

    Rabbi Slifkin, I'll flatter myself and hope my questions are being thought about.

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  23. "But there is no reason to think that this is what Chazal actually meant, and every reason to believe that they did not mean this. Chazal gave a blanket license (as did Shulchan Aruch) that worms found in the flesh of the fish are
    permitted without qualification - whereas according to Rabbi Bleich, no such permission exists in an overwhelming number of cases. Chazal did not insist that we determine where the worms were generated. They did not know the biological details of the life cycle of parasites. They believed that salamanders and mice spontaneously generated from fire and mud - and they likewise believed that insects are generated from sweat, fruit, and fish."

    The Rambam sharply limits the application of Chazal's heter, and forbids all worms found in flesh of live fish. Rambam only permits worms found in the rotting flesh of dead fish. Yet the Rambam emphatically believed spontaneous generation was a real phenomenon; for him those who deny it are *rejecting* science. According to the Maggid Mishne, Rambam limits application of Chazal's heter due to doubt as to origins of the worms in the flesh of live fish. (Rabbi Bleich also cites the Shevet Halevi's different explanation of Rambam, based on Meiri's understanding that the "darna" permitted by Chazal are a specific species. He understands Rambam to have thought that we no longer know how to identify the specific species he believed to be permitted by Chazal and therefore only permitted worms he thought could be seen to arise from dead tissue.)
    Did Rambam have no right to limit the application of hazal's "blanket heter"? Apparently, Rambam doesn't agree that to accept Chazal's scientific permise is to admit no possibility that a large percentage of cases that might be thought to fall under the rubric of Chazal's "blanket heter" are forbidden. Shulchan Aruch doesn't rule according to Rambam, but does mention his position in a manner that later authorities argue reflects his suggestion that a baal nefesh be machmir and follow Rambam's stringent approach. The SA doesn't dismiss the logic of an approach that narrows the scope of application of Hazal's "blanket heter."
    Perhaps both Rambam and SA could have benefitted from your posts on the halachic process* so that they'd have realized that the possibility of narrowing the scope of Hazal's "Blanket heter" is out of the question and retracted their views in favor of your own ex-cathedra pronouncements.

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  24. I have a problem with the application of the position of Rav Glasner and Rav Herzog to the case of worms in the flesh of fish. If the worm has definitely come from the sea (according to the gemara in Hulin - if there is any possibility, however remote, as in the case of the kukiani worm found in organs) then the worm is assur according to torah law. How, then, can the sages' error as to the origin of the worm found in the flesh be used to permit that which the torah has forbidden? To my knowledge, the sages could only cancel a torah law in the case of not fulfilling a positive commandment - not to violate a torah prohibition. If they can't deliberately negate a torah prohibition, how can they do so inadvertantly, i.e., something that they would correct once they knew the facts? Moreover, as I have pointed out, why should we assume that the gemara's leniency with regard to the durni worm pertains to the anisakis. Perhaps they were discussing fresh water fish, and the anisakis work is found only in the sea and in sea creatures. Again, as I have commented, the fact that the Shulchan Aruch (SA) appears to give a blanket heter to consume worms found in the flesh of fish, doesn't ipso facto grant us license to follow that view - if we have good reason to consider their view erroneous (just as in the shkiah issue). The only worm in fish that I could exempt would be one that entered the fish in microscopic form (if there is such a worm). Such a creature could be said not to be included in the torah's prohibition of sheratzim, or that of the sages.

    The issue of worms in foodstuffs that is permitted by the sages and the SA is based on their understanding of the torah verses which forbid only those sheratzim living on land, sea, and air. Foodstuffs no longer connected to the earth are considered a different category on which no prohibition had been declared. The fact that the food worms didn't actually originate in the food (the early belief) wouldn't necessarily change matters if the individual eggs laid in the food by the parental flies were microscopic or undetectable by the unaided eye.

    The issue of killing lice on shabbat is an ancient heter of Bet Hillel. The later Amora, Rav Yosef is the one who adduced a reason based on spontaneous generation. Even if we reject that reason as erroneous, the heter remains since it may have another basis. One such possible basis is the fact that the sages derive the prohibition of killing on shabbat from the activities in the Mishkan. Lice, being human parasites and totally dependent on the human host for survival, are sufficiently removed from all creatures used in the Mishkan construction or daily activities, that they don't fall under the same killing prohibition.

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  25. I'm curious are you positing that we can rely on chazal l'heter because of their authority as in the case of anisakis, but not l'chumra as in the case of organ transplantation? In other words chazal's definition of murder is not authoritative, yet their (to your mind mistaken) heter on anisakis is authoritative? What would be the overarching principle which would lead to this conclusion?

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  26. "The only worm in fish that I could exempt would be one that entered the fish in microscopic form (if there is such a worm). Such a creature could be said not to be included in the torah's prohibition of sheratzim, or that of the sages."

    I may be wrong, but as far as I know there is no real basis to the whole idea that "microscopic" things don't exist halachically. Rav Moshe uses obviously extraordinarily forced logic to support this idea arguing that if chazal said that the donkey of r' pinchas ben yair would not have eaten treif then obviously r pinchas ben yair, who ingested innumerable microscopic organisms, would not have either, so microscopic organisms must not count. Using the same logic, one could say that worms in fish and unnoticed bugs in fruits and vegetables don't either as chazal have been eating all these things without much hassle (until the days of the ou) for millenia.

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  27. I have been reading the various posts here referencing killing insects on Shabbat and I ask that someone kindly answer this question

    The posts are saying that killing an insect on Shabbat is an issur d’oreita (Torah law). I ssem to recall that a m’locha on Shabbat requires “M’locho tzricha l’gufah” (i.e. there has to be a use for the object of the task) to be considered d’oreita. is not killing an insect only a d’rabbonon then??

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  28. Kahan Pe'er - the overarching principle is saving lives!

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  29. "I may be wrong, but as far as I know there is no real basis to the whole idea that "microscopic" things don't exist halachically"

    The halachic basis is "smaller than a barley corn", which the Talmud believed to be the smallest thing possible.

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  30. Sorry, mustard seed.. don't know why I said barley.

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  31. So which type of worm is permitted


    .....

    a worm which enters microscopically ?

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  32. So which type of worm is permitted


    .....

    a worm which enters microscopically ?

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  33. "I'm curious are you positing that we can rely on chazal l'heter because of their authority as in the case of anisakis, but not l'chumra as in the case of organ transplantation? In other words chazal's definition of murder is not authoritative, yet their (to your mind mistaken) heter on anisakis is authoritative? What would be the overarching principle which would lead to this conclusion?"

    I hope there will be more discussion of the progresson of r slifkin's position. His claim in his letter to tradition - and for a long time before that - was that he believes the halacha, even if falsely decided is binding. Next it was that for "pikuach nefesh" it isn't binding, even though if we assume the brain dead patient is alive according to chazal, one is dealing with retzicha. Note that the pachad yitzchak was willing to deviate from chazal's halacha only lechumra - and that to NOT kill LICE. Here the deviation is lehakel on murder of a human being! Even if the notion is to ultimately save lives thru organ donation. Finally, R Slifkin now argues that a true rationalist will not accept as a posek someone who does not accept that chazal had flawed science and consider their rulings invalid - a complete reversal. How can he maintain that he relies on the authority of Rav Herzog or the dor revi'i that chazal's authority is binding.

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  34. "Kahan Pe'er - the overarching principle is saving lives!"

    Is it your contention that Rav Herzog too would say that one can ignore chazal's halacha in the case of brain death due to a "pikuach nefesh" exemption? Hazal's halacha is binding, and mai chazis ought to apply regardlesss of pikuach nefesh. Would he too not offer any coherent principle or rationale for when halacha is binding and a rationalist must follow it, and when any good rationalist must ignore it? Would he like you also not even deign to to define the scope of the pikuach nefesh exception to hazal's authority - does a toothache count or are we totally rejecting chazal's medical models?

    If a brain-dead patient is alive according to hazal, is the one who pulls the plug still a rotzeah? after all, even if one were to be able to ignore chazal in the moment in order to pull the plug because it's "pikuach nefesh", after that, hadar dina and you return to following chazal's fully binding authority! So if according to chazal, you are a rotzeach for what you did when you (made that very limited and narrow exception to the rule you insist you accept that hazal's halacha is binding) pulled the plug based on ignoring their binding halacha? Is it nidche or somehow hutra?

    How about accepting hazal's authority for things akin to pikuach nefesh. There are many things that chazal compared to death, and we do respect chazal's insight into human nature and their values - didn't we learn the value of pikuach nefesh from them that you are now applying to declare brain dead patients dead even against chazal? Chazal compare poverty to death. Can we ignore the binding nature of halacha in order to help a Jew earn a buck? To help cure blindness? To solve fertility problems? I don't even want to know how you approach tzaraas. Remember, we are revoking hazal's authority with respect to brain death because sophisticated rationalists know that their decisions are based on false facts anyway. True, poverty is compared to death and isn't death, but hazal's authority is also only comparitively speaking, binding, it isn't literally binding always, and poverty etc are very unpleasant and one must use all means to help out a fellow Jew. To spare someone from figurative death, can't one commit what amounts to figurative murder?

    If you believe that the issue of organ donation is so important that one must overlook binding halacha, then you should accept that you do not accept the binding nature of hazal's authority and clarify whether you in any way accept halachic methodology and process. The mantra "it's pikuach nefesh" is not a source or logical basis for license to commit what hazal would say is murder any more than the mantra "a woman has a right to her own body" answers the question of whether a fetus is a woman's body. Either chazal's authority to decide halacha is binding or it's not. Your position has deprived the word "binding" of all meaning, and it's dishonest of you to continue to say you view halacha, if decided based on what you consider empirical error, binding, when you don't.

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  35. "WFB - Rav Glasner and Rav Herzog feel that in these cases, following Chazal means following their application as formalized in their ruling. I understand the questions as to how they determine this, but I still think that they are big enough authorities to rely on."

    come on, are you now communing with the dead? There's no logical necessity for someone who believes that the halacha is binding even if based on outdated science to permit anisakis, and you have no way of knowing what they would have determined. The question is hardly how they would have determined what they never determined one way or the other.
    As I noted, following your reasoning, if all one knew is that the Rambam accepted spontaneous generation as a true phenomenon, one would assert that he'd take a fully permissive stance, when in reality he took quite a restrictive one. One sees that the logic that a person who accepts chazal's leniency as valid would accept application of their heter regardless of doubt as to whether their leniency applies to specific circumstances is not valid.

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  36. How about accepting hazal's authority for things akin to pikuach nefesh. There are many things that chazal compared to death, and we do respect chazal's insight into human nature and their values - didn't we learn the value of pikuach nefesh from them that you are now applying to declare brain dead patients dead even against chazal?

    I think that part of R. Slifkin's argument here is that we don't know what Chazal would have ruled based on known Talmudic rulings because "brain death" simply didn't exist as a phenomenon at the time of Chazal. Anyone whose brain stem stopped functioning would also have stopped breathing, since they didn't have respirators.

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  37. How are you getting around the fact that the Gemarah specifically forbids the Kukayani? It is true that the Gemarah permits one species, but it is equally true that it forbids another. How do you Know which species the Gemarah is reffering to?

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