Friday, January 24, 2014

Guest Post: Does the Rambam Pasken Hashkafa Using Halachic Principles? [Can we "pasken" the age of the universe? (Part 7)]

Copyright 2014 by David Ohsie. All rights reserved

“Even a cursory examination of the Mishneh Torah and Moreh Nevuchim reveals that the Rambam clearly rejected hashkafic dictums that he believed to be minority views” -- Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, Torah, Chazal and Science, pg 620.

[Update: To provide better organization, I gave the posts more informative titles and set them up to be easier to navigate.  Content has not changed.]

In our last post, we demonstrated that the age of the universe was not subject to P’sak according to the Rambam. In this post, we’ll look at Rabbi Meiselman’s evidence that the Rambam used halachic principles to reject minority views in “hashkafah”.  In my humble opinion, Rabbi Meiselman’s thesis is directly contradicted by the Rambam himself.

Does the Rambam Decide All Issues Using Halachic Principles?


Rabbi Meiselman notes the Rambam’s apparent use of the principle of Rov to decide non-halachic questions. He writes that "Even a cursory examination of the Mishneh Torah and Moreh Nevuchim reveals that the Rambam clearly rejected hashkafic dictums that he believed to be minority views" (TCS pg. 620). As an example, in Moreh 2:29, we see the following:
Our opinion, in support of which we have quoted these passages, is clearly established, namely, that no prophet or sage has ever announced the destruction of the Universe, or a change of its present condition, or a permanent change of any of its properties. When our Sages say, "The world remains six thousand years, and one thousand years it will be waste," they do not mean a complete cessation of existing things; the phrase "one thousand years it will be waste" distinctly shows that time will continue: besides, this is the individual opinion of one Rabbi, and in accordance with one particular theory. [Emphasis mine.]
Here we see the Rambam rejecting the opinion of what he describes as “the individual opinion of one Rabbi” and upholding his theory that the world, although created, will not be destroyed.

Rabbi Meiselman’s thesis is that the Rambam is simply “paskening” as he would with any other halacha, and thus follows the majority view and is forced to discard the minority view.  Thus, according to Rabbi Meiselman, we see that the Rambam is simply following the rules of P'sak in areas of Haskafah.

In my humble opinion, the evidence here for Rabbi Meiselman’s thesis is exceedingly weak.  Just because someone makes an appeal to authority or consensus doesn't mean that he is "paskening".  The Rambam is advancing specific theories and, like any honest investigator, he is careful to bring up possible objections and evidence that runs counter to his theories. Thus, he mentions the places in Talmud where doctrines inconsistent with his own theories are proffered. Since he and the reader both assume that the opinion of the sages have great weight, it is important for the Rambam to show that it is at least possible that these theories were not widespread among the sages of the Talmud.

This kind of argument is going to be present in any kind of discipline that involves either judgement or uncertain evidence. For example, if one is evaluating the efficacy of a protocol in medicine with conflicting evidence on both sides, the number of studies coming down on one side or the other is going to figure preferring one direction over another. But there is no such thing as an authoritative ruling in medicine.

Rabbi Meiselman brings an another example in the following words of the Rambam (Moreh 3:17):
We, however, believe that all these human affairs are managed with justice; far be it from God to do wrong, to punish any one unless the punishment is necessary and merited. It is distinctly stated in the Law, that all is done in accordance with justice; and the words of our Sages generally express the same idea. They clearly say: "There is no death without sin, no sufferings without transgression." (B. T. Shabbath, 55a.)
Rabbi Meiselman notes that Rav Kapach translates the emphasized words as "דברי המון חכמנו" (the words of the great multitude of our sages) and he elaborates on this as meaning "רוב, או כמעט כל" (most or almost all of the sages) in note 57.   Thus, according to Rabbi Meiselman, the Rambam is "paskening" the question.

It turns out that using this as evidence that the Rambam follows the rules of P'sak in Hashkafa is quite problematic.  As Professor Marc Shapiro notes in his paper "Is there Pesak for Jewish Thought", this is an explicit example of the Rambam deviating from the rules of P'sak! The Rambam is enunciating the words of Rav Ammi that "There is no death without sin, no sufferings without transgression.".  However, the Talmud (Shabbat 55b) records the following:
An objection is raised: Four died through the serpent's machinations, viz., Benjamin the son of Jacob, Amram the father of Moses, Jesse the father of David, and Caleb the son of David. Now, all are known by tradition, save Jesse the father of David, in whose case the Writ gives an explicit intimation. For it is written, And Absalom set Amasa over the host instead of Joab. Now Amasa was the son of a man whose name was Ithra the Israelite, that went in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister to Zeruiah Joab's mother. Now, was she the daughter of Nahash? Surely she was the daughter of Jesse, for it is written, and their sisters were Zeruiah and Abigail? Hence it must mean, the daughter of one who died through the machinations of the nahash [serpent]. Who is [the author of this]? Shall we say, the Tanna [who taught] about the ministering angels? — Surely there were Moses and Aaron too! Hence it must surely be R. Simeon b. Eleazar, which proves that there is death without sin and suffering without iniquity. Thus the refutation of R. Ammi is [indeed] a refutation.
The Gemara describes the words of Rav Ammi as refuted!  If the Rambam treats "hashkafah" with the same rules of P'sak as he does in halacha, then he should reject the words of Rav Ammi as this is the clear conclusion of the Gemara.  We see again that the Rambam does not use the rules of P'sak to decide hashkafah, as he states many times.

In addition, if the Rambam is simply “paskening” hashkafah like halacha, then we should find this consistently throughout the Moreh. But R. Meiselman admits that in deciding whether or not Mitzvos have reasons or are just an expression of God’s will “he chooses one hashkafic principle over another on account of more general reasons”. (TCS pg. 621) Even on the topic of the indestructibility of the universe (quoted above), the Rambam does not begin his discussion with the positions of the sages in the Talmud. Instead he goes on for many chapters before finally discussing the view of Rav Katina that the world will last for 7000 years as a possible objection.

Most importantly, as Rabbi Meiselman notes, the Rashba points out that, in fact, there is no dissenting view brought in Perek Chelek to Rav Katina’s view.  It seem clear since the Rambam was convinced by many other pieces of evidence that his view on the non-destruction of the world was true, he was merely insisting that there is no proof that the view of Rav Katina was adopted by the other sages. There is certainly no evidence from Perek Chelek itself that any of other sages argued with Rav Katina or that Rav Katina was a lone opinion. If this was really the lynchpin of the Rambam’s evidence, and the reason for his decision, then his decision would have quite a weak basis.

However, we can do better. It is simply categorically wrong to say that the Rambam treated this matter of hashkafah as a halacha and made a definitive ruling. We know that because the Rambam himself says so!
There remains only the question as to what the prophets and our Sages say on this point; whether they affirm that the world will certainly come to an end, or not. Most people amongst us believe that such statements have been made, and that the world will at one time be destroyed. I will show you that this is not the case; and that, on the contrary, many passages in the Bible speak of the permanent existence of the Universe. Those passages which, in the literal sense, would indicate the destruction of the Universe, are undoubtedly to be understood in a figurative sense, as will be shown. If, however, those who follow the literal sense of the Scriptural texts reject our view, and assume that the ultimate certain destruction of the Universe is part of their faith, they are at liberty to do so. But we must tell them that the belief in the destruction is not necessarily implied in the belief in the Creation; they believe it because they trust the writer, who used a figurative expression, which they take literally. Their faith, however, does not suffer by it. (Moreh 2:27) [emphasis mine]
In my humble opinion, this Rambam is inconsistent with everything in Rabbi Meiselman’s thesis. Here we have something that Rabbi Meiselman clearly categorizes as Hashkafah.  The Rambam clearly says that he believes that all of Tanach and Chazal support his theory, except perhaps one sage who may not even disagree.  Rabbi Meiselman uses this very example as evidence that Hashkafah is not different from Halacha and that we must bow our heads to rulings in Hashkafah.  Yet, the Rambam himself gives us license to follow our own beliefs and explicitly tells us our faith does not suffer if we disagree with his assessment.

We’ll complete this series of posts with a summary of our conclusions.

The views in this post are mine and may not represent the views of the blog owner. I encourage comments and will make every attempt to address any questions in the comments section.

29 comments:

  1. Thank you for this well-stated series of essays.

    To comment on the broader context of Rabbi Meiselman's argument, apparently its result must be--whether intentionally or not--the categorization of the vast majority of non-chareidim as heretics.

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  2. Thank you for this well-stated series of essays.

    To comment on the broader context of Rabbi Meiselman's argument, apparently its result must be--whether intentionally or not--the categorization of the vast majority of non-chareidim as heretics.


    Thank you for your kind words.

    I actually think that Rav Meiselman might say that they (or I suppose, we) are simply very misguided, something that he broaches on page 626.

    Nevertheless, I agree that we are needless dividing up Orthdodox Jewry and beyond into warring camps without foundation, in my humble opinion.

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  3. I think the focus on Rabbi Meiselman's argument that these issues are subject to psak is misguided. A more fundamental issue is the issue of the authority of chazal. The only way that it would make sense for us to be able to or obligated to accept chazal's determination of the age of the universe is to assume that they had some infallible source of knowledge. Otherwise, their conclusions would be subject to revision as more information becomes available.
    However, the gemara makes it clear that there chazal didn't claim to have any infallible source of knowledge. Instead, the minority was forced to follow the majority in psak because of achrei rabim lehatos. The gemara makes it clear that majority rule is required because there is no other alternative. Otherwise, the Torah would become many Toros. For this reason we accept the authority of the Bavli. To paraphrase the words of Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson "chazal are not final because they are infallible, they are infallible only because they are final."
    Once the lack of infallibility is accepted on the basis of the sources in the gemara,it becomes obvious that the reason we follow the Bavli is to prevent differences in practice and a requirement to follow views that may be mistaken in other area is unnecessary.

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  4. Did you comment somewhere on R' Meiselman's proof from Eiruvin 13 - nimnu v'gamru? If you did I must have missed it. I thought that was his strongest piece of evidence.

    The only thing I could think of in response to that proof was that it's a strange aggadeta in any case, so it's hard to bring a definitive proof from there.

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  5. Did you comment somewhere on R' Meiselman's proof from Eiruvin 13 - nimnu v'gamru? If you did I must have missed it. I thought that was his strongest piece of evidence.

    The only thing I could think of in response to that proof was that it's a strange aggadeta in any case, so it's hard to bring a definitive proof from there.


    Correct. I did not talk about that Gemara yet because I was focusing on the Rambam and Rav Meiselman's thesis that Rambam means something 180 degrees opposite of what he seems to say. That Gemara could be interpreted in lots of ways but this is very clear: “And I’ve already said to you once that if the sages argue in any Hashkafah or view whose result is not at all practical, then it is not appropriate to say ‘the halacha is like so-and-so’”

    Rabbi Meiselman's argument relies on the fact that all the authorities agree, especially the "big" ones, so getting the the Rambam to fall in line is very important. I find the idea of P'sak in theoretical matters to be an "incoherent" idea indepennt of the Rambam, but rather than giving my opinion and ideas, I want make sure that the Rambam is understood as he intended.

    If someone wants to make their own theory about P'sak based on that Gemara, they are free to do so. My intention here is to make the Rambam's opinion on the matter clear.

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  6. I think the focus on Rabbi Meiselman's argument that these issues are subject to psak is misguided. A more fundamental issue is the issue of the authority of chazal.

    Perhaps. Rabbi Meiselman's book is very long and detailed, so I had to pick a starting point, and defense of the approach of Rabbis Carmell and Kaplan is important to me.

    Also, he does in fact use this point in the Rambam to bootstrap other arguments such as that of the authority of Chazal.

    For example, see page 114 note 326. Where he says the following A full discussion of why the Amora'im could not argue with the Tanna'im is beyond the scope of this work. I will note, however, that Mori veRebbi, ztz"l opined that it was due to technical halachic considerations. The Kesef Mishneh, on the other hadn, writs in Hilchos Mamrim (2:1) that the Amora'im simply recognized that they were on a much lower level and conducted themeselves accordingly.

    In Kuntres Divrei Sofrim Rav Elchanan Wasserman, ztz"l, cites the Kesef Mishne's explanation as the definitive one.


    Note the use of a "P'sak" by Rav Wasserman to derive a "definitive" conclusion about the relative infallibility of the Tanna'im even over the position of his Rebbe, the Rav.

    If you do want other topics addressed, please let our host know, and perhaps he'll allow me to write on them as well, just as he has graciously allowed me to post this series.

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  7. I Find it ironic that the ramba"m quoted earlier says that whatever he sees as the truth he will shoehorn that idea into any scripture that seems to contradict that position, then nine hundred years later r miesalman does that to the ramba"m's words and you can't see this is shitas haramba"m

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  8. If you do want other topics addressed, please let our host know, and perhaps he'll allow me to write on them as well, just as he has graciously allowed me to post this series.

    One vote! (It would be more than one, except that I suspect that one vote is all I'm allowed.)

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  9. A number of points:

    1) Mr. Ohsie says:

    "The Gemara describes the words of Rav Ammi as refuted! If the Rambam treats "hashkafah" with the same rules of P'sak as he does in halacha, then he should reject the words of Rav Ammi as this is the clear conclusion of the Gemara. We see again that the Rambam does not use the rules of P'sak to decide hashkafah, as he states many times."

    But you are no better off. If you are indeed correct that the Rambam did not feel restricted to the rules of p'sak, and he truly felt at liberty to follow any position of Chazal that he personally agreed with, why was the Rambam compelled to buttress Rav Ami's opinion by claiming "the words of the sages generally express the same idea"?

    2) Next point:

    "But R. Meiselman admits that in deciding whether or not Mitzvos have reasons or are just an expression of God’s will “he chooses one hashkafic principle over another on account of more general reasons”. (TCS pg. 621)"

    This is a misleading, incomplete quote.
    Later at the end of this same section on the next page, Rav Meiselman clarifies:

    "The Rambam refers the reader to his discussion of this question in a previous chapter. In that earlier passage he makes it clear that in this matter, too, his decision was made solely on the basis of Torah considerations.47
    Decisions can be rendered on many grounds, in accordance with the rules of the Torah shebe’al Peh. But regardless of how a point of hashkafah is decided,the conclusion reached has the same status as any other halachic
    decision."

    Here, Rav Meiselman alludes to the fact that there may be different ways of rendering decisions between halcha and hashkafa. Only the bottom line is the same--that both types of conclusions have binding status.
    Much of your critique in this post is mistakenly assuming Rav Meiselan's position is that they are exactly identical.

    3) Final point:
    "Yet, the Rambam himself gives us license to follow our own beliefs and explicitly tells us our faith does not suffer if we disagree with his assessment."


    This is a gross exaggeration.
    The Rambam only gives us license to follow a literal reading of the Torah sources which point to a differing Torah-based conclusion.
    He is acknowledging the validity
    of another Torah-based conclusion even though he is convinced of the correctness of his Torah-based conclusion.
    This is not an objective issue of determining who had the more authoritative sources on his side, but rather one of interpretation.

    The Rambam was humble enough to acknowledge that his personal interpretation of the sources did not bind anyone else.
    But identifying which source among Chazal on this hashkafic issue was more authoritative would be binding. This is why he was compelled to contain Rav Katina's view as a singular one.
    It was necessary to give the Rambam the license to interpret all the other sources figuratively.

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  10. vafsi ode said...
    I Find it ironic that the ramba"m quoted earlier says that whatever he sees as the truth he will shoehorn that idea into any scripture that seems to contradict that position, then nine hundred years later r miesalman does that to the ramba"m's words and you can't see this is shitas haramba"m


    I'm not sure I'm following this comment very well. I don't think that I'm going out on a limb to say that the Rambam believed in both the Torah and what his eyes and intellect told him, which is the approach that Rabbi Carmell and Rabii Kaplan take. While, I don't agree with Rabbi Meiselman's interpretation of the Rambam, I don't think that Rabbi Meiselman is justifying his interpretation as a "shoehorning for good reasons".

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  11. 1) Mr. Ohsie says:

    "The Gemara describes the words of Rav Ammi as refuted! If the Rambam treats "hashkafah" with the same rules of P'sak as he does in halacha, then he should reject the words of Rav Ammi as this is the clear conclusion of the Gemara. We see again that the Rambam does not use the rules of P'sak to decide hashkafah, as he states many times."

    But you are no better off. If you are indeed correct that the Rambam did not feel restricted to the rules of p'sak, and he truly felt at liberty to follow any position of Chazal that he personally agreed with, why was the Rambam compelled to buttress Rav Ami's opinion by claiming "the words of the sages generally express the same idea"?


    Rabbi Kornreich, your reasoning here presents a "false choice".

    The Rambam obviously cares about the opinions of Chazal and he gathers much evidence as he can gather for his position. If Rav Ammi was appears to be defeated in the language of P'sak, he doesn't take this a literal P'sak, since, as he states 5 times, there is no P'sak in theoretical matters. That doesn't mean that he doesn't care about trying to prove that his principle is as consistent as possible with as many statements of Chazal as possible to convince both himself and his reader of his likelihood that his conclusions are correct.

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  12. "That doesn't mean that he doesn't care about trying to prove that his principle is as consistent as possible with as many statements of Chazal as possible to convince both himself and his reader of his likelihood that his conclusions are correct."

    So you agree that the Rambam felt if more members of Chazal agreed to a position, that meant it was more likely that this position was the correct one?
    Wonderful!

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  13. "But R. Meiselman admits that in deciding whether or not Mitzvos have reasons or are just an expression of God’s will “he chooses one hashkafic principle over another on account of more general reasons”. (TCS pg. 621)"

    This is a misleading, incomplete quote.
    Later at the end of this same section on the next page, Rav Meiselman clarifies:

    "The Rambam refers the reader to his discussion of this question in a previous chapter. In that earlier passage he makes it clear that in this matter, too, his decision was made solely on the basis of Torah considerations.47
    Decisions can be rendered on many grounds, in accordance with the rules of the Torah shebe’al Peh. But regardless of how a point of hashkafah is decided,the conclusion reached has the same status as any other halachic
    decision."

    Here, Rav Meiselman alludes to the fact that there may be different ways of rendering decisions between halcha and hashkafa. Only the bottom line is the same--that both types of conclusions have binding status.
    Much of your critique in this post is mistakenly assuming Rav Meiselan's position is that they are exactly identical.


    This is exactly what I'm saying and this is exactly why Rav Meiselman's evidence is lacking, in my humble opinion. His evidence here for the fact that the Rambam is "ruling definitively" is that he is using rules of halacha like "Rov". If it turns out that he is using whatever argument is most convincing, and he is not following the same principle that he would with halacha, then this provides no evidence that he is "ruling definitively". I agree 100% that his reasoning in halacha and reasoning elsewhere is not the same: because as he says at least 5 times there is no p'sak in theoretical matters.

    Also, while my argument does not depend on this, Rav Meiselman's statement that the Rambam only uses "Torah Considerations" is not correct, in my humble opinion, using the definition of "Torah Considerations" that Rabbi Meiselman intends. In the case of the destruction of the universe, the Rambam starts out with philosophical considerations:

    WE have already stated that the belief in the Creation is a fundamental principle of our religion: but we do not consider it a principle of our faith that the Universe will again be reduced to nothing. It is not contrary to the tenets of our religion to assume that the Universe will continue to exist for ever. It might be objected that everything produced is subject to destruction, as has been shown; consequently the Universe, having had a beginning, must come to an end. This axiom cannot be applied according to our views. We do not hold that the Universe came into existence, like all things in Nature, as the result of the laws of Nature. For whatever owes its existence to the action of physical laws is, according to the same laws, subject to destruction:
    the same law which caused the existence of a thing after a period of non-existence, is also the cause that the thing is not permanent: since the previous non-existence proves that the nature of that thing does not necessitate its permanent existence. According to our theory, taught in Scripture, the existence or non-existence of things depends solely on the will of God and not on fixed laws, and, therefore, it does not follow that God must destroy the Universe after having created it from nothing.[...]
    In short, reasoning leads to the conclusion that the destruction of the Universe is not a certain fact. There remains only the question as to what the prophets and our Sages say on this point; whether they affirm that the world will certainly come to an end, or not.


    First the Rambam considers the logic of the situation. Once he sees that you can't prove logically that the world must come to an end, then he says we only have to consider what the Torah sources say.

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  14. "Yet, the Rambam himself gives us license to follow our own beliefs and explicitly tells us our faith does not suffer if we disagree with his assessment."

    This is a gross exaggeration. The Rambam only gives us license to follow a literal reading of the Torah sources which point to a differing Torah-based conclusion. He is acknowledging the validity of another Torah-based conclusion even though he is convinced of the correctness of his Torah-based conclusion.


    Thus, he is not rendering P'sak! Even though, according to the Rambam, all opinions agree with only one lone opinion that may disagree and may be consistent. If he is forced to base his opinion based on Rov, as Rav Meiselman claims, that his readers must also be so forced. But he says that they are not.

    This is not an objective issue of determining who had the more authoritative sources on his side, but rather one of interpretation.

    The Rambam was humble enough to acknowledge that his personal interpretation of the sources did not bind anyone else. But identifying which source among Chazal on this hashkafic issue was more authoritative would be binding. This is why he was compelled to contain Rav Katina's view as a singular one.
    It was necessary to give the Rambam the license to interpret all the other sources figuratively.


    By Rav Meiselman's view, he should demand it. Once he has determined that Rav Katina's view is a Da'as Yachid, the Rambam should be compelled to reject it and his readers should also be so compelled.

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  15. "That doesn't mean that he doesn't care about trying to prove that his principle is as consistent as possible with as many statements of Chazal as possible to convince both himself and his reader of his likelihood that his conclusions are correct."

    So you agree that the Rambam felt if more members of Chazal agreed to a position, that meant it was more likely that this position was the correct one?
    Wonderful!


    More likely than if far fewer or no members did, yes. Or more convincing to others depending on the topic. More likely than not in absolute terms? I don't presume to understand how the Rambam weighed his evidence.

    It goes the other way too. If the Rambam considered something to be compelling, then it appears that he would assume that Chazal agreed, lacking compelling evidence otherwise, which makes sense, if he was very convinced. This is what the Gra objected to with regard to the effectiveness of incantations and such. It also may explain his view that Rav Katina was a singular opinion.

    Finally, he did not take the same view with regard to scientific or "speculative" matters where we did not feel compelled to explain how they fit with the understanding of Chazal since science was deficient in their time and "for speculative matters every one treats according to the results of his own study, and every one accepts that which appears to him established by proof."

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  16. "For example, see page 114 note 326. Where he says the following A full discussion of why the Amora'im could not argue with the Tanna'im is beyond the scope of this work. I will note, however, that Mori veRebbi, ztz"l opined that it was due to technical halachic considerations. The Kesef Mishneh, on the other hadn, writs in Hilchos Mamrim (2:1) that the Amora'im simply recognized that they were on a much lower level and conducted themeselves accordingly.

    "In Kuntres Divrei Sofrim Rav Elchanan Wasserman, ztz"l, cites the Kesef Mishne's explanation as the definitive one."


    This isn't the main theme of this post, but 1. the Kesef Mishneh does not actually say that the amoraim recognized themselves on a lower level--that is the Chazon Ish'es reading of Kesef Mishneh, but REW writes to CI in Kovetz Inyanim that KM cannot be read that way. 2. AFAR REW does not cite KM as definitive. He finds KM's explanation difficult and proposes his own.

    --

    @David, the posts are cogent, well written and pleasantly civil. Chazak :)

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  17. iarwain:
    Nimnu v'gomru means that they came to a conclusion. It doesn't necessarily mean that they paskened.

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  18. I was refering to the rambam about olam kadmon beening fit into scriptures if observation required, so to even though r meisalman can never admit that he is shoehorning that is what he is doing so that the rambam can fit with the dogma that all " qualified torah experts" (aka himself) paskened to be the true mesorah

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  19. reject said...
    "For example, see page 114 note 326. Where he says the following A full discussion of why the Amora'im could not argue with the Tanna'im is beyond the scope of this work. I will note, however, that Mori veRebbi, ztz"l opined that it was due to technical halachic considerations. The Kesef Mishneh, on the other hadn, writs in Hilchos Mamrim (2:1) that the Amora'im simply recognized that they were on a much lower level and conducted themeselves accordingly.

    "In Kuntres Divrei Sofrim Rav Elchanan Wasserman, ztz"l, cites the Kesef Mishne's explanation as the definitive one."


    This isn't the main theme of this post, but 1. the Kesef Mishneh does not actually say that the amoraim recognized themselves on a lower level--that is the Chazon Ish'es reading of Kesef Mishneh, but REW writes to CI in Kovetz Inyanim that KM cannot be read that way. 2. AFAR REW does not cite KM as definitive. He finds KM's explanation difficult and proposes his own.


    Reject, thank you for that update. I did not follow Rabbi Meiselman's sources to validate them. I did chance upon this from Seforim Blog which supports your point:

    When dealing with the famous question dealt with by many of why can’t Amoraoim disagree with Tannoim he [R. David Neito in Mateh Dan] writes (p.68):

    שלא חילקו האמוראים על התנאים מפני שהכירו שהיו גדולים מהם בכל הבחינות ודלא כמו שכתב הכסף משנה שקבלו על עצמם שלא לחלוק...


    He is saying the Kesef Mishneh holds the opposite (as you say).

    I guess I need to actually read the source myself at some point :).

    @David, the posts are cogent, well written and pleasantly civil. Chazak :)

    Thank you for your comment; I am aiming to enlighten, not to engender controversy, although some of that is inevitable. I'm very happy to have commenters like yourself supply the scholarship that I lack myself.

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  20. vafsi ode has left a new comment on the post "Guest Post: Does the Rambam Pasken Hashkafa Using ...":

    I was refering to the rambam about olam kadmon beening fit into scriptures if observation required, so to even though r meisalman can never admit that he is shoehorning that is what he is doing so that the rambam can fit with the dogma that all " qualified torah experts" (aka himself) paskened to be the true mesorah


    I caught the reference, I just think that Rabbi Meiselman is sincere and doesn't feel that it is shoehorning. In my humble opinion, it doesn't fit the Rambam at all.

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  21. Moreh 3:17 proves the OPPOSITE of R. Meiselman. He cites the passage:

    "We, however, believe that all these human affairs are managed with
    justice; far be it from God to do wrong, to punish any one unless the punishment is necessary and merited. It is distinctly stated in the Law, that all is done in accordance with justice; and the words of our Sages generally express the same idea. They clearly say: "There is no death without sin, no sufferings without transgression." (B. T. Shabbath, 55a.)

    But not only is not the Rambam paskening like this view, but he goes on to say that his own view differs from this understanding of the Torah view. Note also the introduction to his discussion of the fifth view of providence. "The fifth view is our view, that is, that of our Torah; And I will inform you as to what is found in the books of the prophets and this is the view that most of our Sages accepted; and I will also inform you as to what a number of more recent scholars (the (Geonim) said, and then I will let you know my view." So the Rambam's understanding of the Torah's view is NOT that of most of the Sages.

    Moreover, in Guide 3:17 the Rambam at least presents these three views as variations of the Torah view. In his discussion of Job in Guide 3:23, however, the Rambam presents the Torah view as understood by most of the Sages as the view of Elihpaz, while he presents his own view as a separate view, that of Elihu, which is SUPERIOR to the Torah view as understood by most Sages. So much for pesak.

    One last point: All the above is discussed at length in the scholarly literature on the Guide. One ignores this literature, as R. Meiselman does, at one's opwn peril.

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  22. Lawrence Kaplan Writes:

    Anonymous Jan.28, at 12:57 AM was I.

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  23. To elaborate on the point I made as anonymous: The Rambam in Guide 3:17 explains the grounds for his own view as follows: "In my view, as I will describe it to you, I am not relying on any demonstrative proof; but I am relying on what has become clear to me is the intention of the Book of God (the Torah ) and the books of our prophets. This view which I believe in is less objectionable than the previous views and closer to syllogistic reasoning."

    Notice first that the Rambam does NOT appeal here to the views of the Sages. Second, his whole manner of presentation is about the furthest thing from pesak as can be imagined.

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  24. But not only is not the Rambam paskening like this view, but he goes on to say that his own view differs from this understanding of the Torah view. Note also the introduction to his discussion of the fifth view of providence. "The fifth view is our view, that is, that of our Torah; And I will inform you as to what is found in the books of the prophets and this is the view that most of our Sages accepted; and I will also inform you as to what a number of more recent scholars (the (Geonim) said, and then I will let you know my view." So the Rambam's understanding of the Torah's view is NOT that of most of the Sages.

    I'm not 100% sure about that one. Yes, he is expressing his own theory about individual providence to man but no other species. But I think that is in the context of further refinement of theory the Sages without necessarily contradicting them.

    I can't comment on his commentary on Job, because I haven't ever understood it well.

    Perhaps if I spent more time with commentaries on the Moreh it would be clearer.

    Thank you for spurring me to further study.

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  25. Lawrence Kaplan said...
    To elaborate on the point I made as anonymous: The Rambam in Guide 3:17 explains the grounds for his own view as follows: "In my view, as I will describe it to you, I am not relying on any demonstrative proof; but I am relying on what has become clear to me is the intention of the Book of God (the Torah ) and the books of our prophets. This view which I believe in is less objectionable than the previous views and closer to syllogistic reasoning."

    Notice first that the Rambam does NOT appeal here to the views of the Sages. Second, his whole manner of presentation is about the furthest thing from pesak as can be imagined.


    Agree 100% that he is not Paskening. I wasn't 100% sure about this part of your interpretation:

    But not only is not the Rambam paskening like this view, but he goes on to say that his own view differs from this understanding of the Torah view. Note also the introduction to his discussion of the fifth view of providence. "The fifth view is our view, that is, that of our Torah; And I will inform you as to what is found in the books of the prophets and this is the view that most of our Sages accepted; and I will also inform you as to what a number of more recent scholars (the (Geonim) said, and then I will let you know my view." So the Rambam's understanding of the Torah's view is NOT that of most of the Sages.

    You made it sound here like the Rambam is "arguing" with the Sages rather than giving his own additional opinion consistent with, but not necessitated by the view of the Sages. To my uninformed self, it appears to be the latter (a "Chiddush", but not contradictory).

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  26. The Kesef Mishneh, on the other hand, writes in Hilchos Mamrim (2:1) that the Amora'im simply recognized that they were on a much lower level and conducted themeselves accordingly.
    The Kesef Mishneh doesn’t say specifically that after the tanaim or after the Talmud, the later generations recognized that they were at a lower level, just that they accepted not to disagree with the earlier authorities. I would argue that it wasn’t purely because the later generations saw themselves as a lower level, but also because the loss of the centralization meant that innumerable disagreements and divergent practices would have arisen if they didn’t accept the earlier authorities. There was no reason to accept the earlier authorities in areas such as factual determinations.
    The hard cases that we see discussed are areas where the halakha is based on a factual determination that seems to be inaccurate. On one hand, we don’t recognize the authority regarding factual determinations, while on the other hand, we don’t want to disagree with chazal on matters of practice. Hence, the discussions in the rishonim regarding trefa eina Chaya or in later authorities regarding killing lice, etc.
    I must confess that I haven’t read Rabbi Meiselman’s book, but from the discussions of the book in this blog, it appears to me that he is applying certain concepts from Rav Soloveitchik as if Rav Solovethik were a Rishon. I agree with you that it is useful to examine Rabbi Meiselman’s work by looking at the early sources for all the assumptions and arguments he makes.

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  27. I must confess that I haven’t read Rabbi Meiselman’s book, but from the discussions of the book in this blog, it appears to me that he is applying certain concepts from Rav Soloveitchik as if Rav Solovethik were a Rishon. I agree with you that it is useful to examine Rabbi Meiselman’s work by looking at the early sources for all the assumptions and arguments he makes.

    I don't think that much if any of what we've discussed is tied to the Rav. A plain reading of the Rav's address on page 705 indicates that he endorsed the Tiferes Yisrael's reconciliation of an older than 6000 year old earth with the pesukim, although Rabbi Meiselman claims that this is an error.

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  28. I don't think that much if any of what we've discussed is tied to the Rav. A plain reading of the Rav's address on page 705 indicates that he endorsed the Tiferes Yisrael's reconciliation of an older than 6000 year old earth with the pesukim, although Rabbi Meiselman claims that this is an error.

    Meaning that it's an error to interpret the Rav that way.

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  29. I don’t think that Rav Soloveitchik would agree with Rabbi Meiselman’s views. My point is that Rav Soloveitchik viewed our acceptance of chazal’s conclusions as a fundamental step in the mesora, rather than as necessity so that there shouldn’t be large disagreements in practice. Rabbi Meiselman takes Rav Soloveitchik view and argues that the mesora includes psakim that we have to accept in all realms.

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