Thursday, January 23, 2014

Guest Post: Response to Some Objections [Can we "pasken" the age of the universe? (Part 4A)]

Copyright 2014 by David Ohsie. All rights reserved

This is a short interlude to summarize some of the reaction to our last post.


We'll reproduce the important quotation here from Moreh 3:48
When in the Talmud (Ber. p. 33b) those are blamed who use in their prayer the phrase," Thy mercy extendeth to young birds," it is the expression of the one of the two opinions mentioned by us, namely, that the precepts of the Law have no other reason but the Divine will. We follow the other opinion.
1. Many commenters try themselves or bring commentaries to resolve the halacha with the opinion that Mitzvos have a purpose and that part of the purpose Shiluach Haken is (or may be) divine mercy (or mercy in general).  None of these are relevant to the Rambam's opinion, because he says explicitly, that in his opinion, the halacha is the expression of the opinion that Miztvos "have no other reason but the Divine will" and that he disagrees and believes that Mitzvos have reasons.  This covers Rabbi Kornreich's attemped resolution on his blog as well.

2. We should point out that the real issue here is not a contradiction between the Mishneh Torah and the Moreh.  The quotation from the Moreh is problematic in itself if you believe that there is p'sak in hashkafah. The Rambam cannot simply discard the fact that this halacha is brought down twice in the Mishnah with no dispute; each time the Gemara implies that that it is the halacha pesukah.   It is hardly a feasible interpretation to say that the Rambam held in the Moreh that we don't pasken like this halacha.   Almost undoubtedly, if immediately after the Rambam had penned the quotation above, the Shatz had gotten up and said "May He who showed mercy on a bird's nest prohibiting the taking of the mother together with the chicks also show mercy on us," he would have politely stopped him.

The fact that he does bring down this halacha in Mishneh Torah simply reinforces that this is the halacha.   What we see is that even if a halacha pesuka is based on a reason, the p'sak enjoins the halacha itself, but there is no p'sak on the underlying philosophical dispute.  Which is precisely the principle that he repeats at least 5 times in his writings.

The problem is that Mr. Ohsie's solution does not reflect the text of Mishna Torah. If all the Rambam intended in Mishna Torah was state the practical halacha without giving a definitive ruling about the hashkafic reason behind it as Mr. Ohsie claims, the Rambam should have just stated that "one cannot invoke Shiluach Haken in asking for mercy". Period. No reasons necessary nor is it appropriate to state them in a book of strict halacha.
The reasoning here is circular.  As we pointed out in the last post, there are lots of halachos in Mishneh Torah that are not "strict halacha" and my argument is precisely that he is not paskening hashkafa, because he says explicitly five times that this is not possible.  In this specific case, the halacha is mostly insensible without the associated reason.  We would be at a loss as to know what exactly was being prohibited.
But in fact, the Rambam does NOT stop at stating the practical halacha. He proceeds to state one of the two hashkafic reasons behind it provided by the gemara in Brochos 33b, thereby rendering a ruling in hashkafa between the two opinions!
As I mentioned, the Rambam is probably forced to give a reason in order to make sense of the halacha.  The reason that he chose to write down the second reason in the Gemara is pretty easy to understand: he believed that was truly the reason behind the halacha as he states in the Moreh.  But even if he was not forced to write it, that doesn't mean that he wouldn't, since he believed it was the true reason for the halacha Pesuka.
The contradiction between the ruling of the Mishna Torah and the ruling of the Moreh over this hashkafic idea is real. [paragraph break] It cannot be evaded it by ignoring what the Mishna Torah actually says or by pretending the Rambam didn't mean it to be taken seriously. (Nor by claiming the Rambam personally disagreed with what he himself stated as the reason for the halacha! Is this something praiseworthy for an Ish Emes?)
The Rambam was meant to be taken seriously.  You really are prohibited from saying such prayers.  And the reason behind the prohibition is that the Mitzvos have no reasons but the Divine Will as he states in the Moreh as well as the Mishneh Torah.  But the reason behind this halacha is actually disputed and you need not agree with that side in the dispute, since there is no P'sak in Hashkafah.  And yes, it is a sign of integrity if you properly quote an argument from the Talmud which you yourself disagree with.
In any event, neither one of these examples show that there is no p'sak in hashkafa to be found in the entire Mishna Torah! At worst, some hashkafic rulings which appeared to be binding in the Mishna Torah were overturned later by the Moreh and replaced with a different binding p'sak in hashkafa there. [paragraph break]  A more cautious conclusion to be drawn from these alleged contradictions (which we need not grant as truly contradictory as per section III above) is that whatever p'sak in hashkafa found in MT that wasn't later overturned and replaced by the Moreh remains binding.
I don't agree with these possible "solutions" because no solution is needed.  But to the degree that they fit Rabbi Meiselman's thesis (these are Rabbi Kornreich's words), they actually demonstrate the difficulties with it.

According to this approach, Judaism prohibits us from believing opinions maintained as true by Tannaim and Amoraim, even though they may be true, because of a P'sak.  And then if a new P'sak is given, we required to believe as false what we were previously required to believe as true, and take up the formerly prohibited belief.  Effectively we are required to have false beliefs.  Which is a wonderful support for the Rambam's principle on p'sak, which eliminates such difficulties.

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.

26 comments:

  1. A simple (perhaps simple minded) resolution to the Mishne Torah / Morah apparent contradiction.

    A. The ultimate reason for Mitzvot is that Hashem commanded them. Rambam doesn't disagree with this. He understood and even states in the Moreh that there are some Mitzvot which we might not understand the reason for, but had we lived at the time of Matan Torah it would have been understood. Our inability to perceive the reason for a Mitzvah, or if our intellect suggests that it is no longer relevant, does not negate the Mitzvah. Everyone agrees to this, and therefore the ultimate reason is that it has been commanded to us by Hashem.

    B. The message of the Moreh (as I understand it) is that the purpose of the Mitzvot is the perfection of Man, the intellect, and character. Rest assured, that even if we don't understand it, there is a practical purpose to each and every Mitzvah. In this context, it makes sense to say, that in the Moreh, Rambam understands (as do others) that the Mitzvah is instructive in nature. It's purpose is to affect our character, i.e. instill mercy, and not tied into Hashem's concern over the birds (and kosher birds only) per se.

    Said a little differently: The Mitzvot are about Man; Man's relationship to God and his fellow man, not God's relation with the rest of his creation. Therefore, we silence the Shaliach Tzibbur who wants to analogize God's supposed mercy on birds, while still drawing a lesson for Man about mercy from the Mitzvah.

    I don't have Rabbi Slifkin's essay of Shiluach HaKein in front of me now, but there's a quote from a commentator that basically says if the Mitzvah was about God's mercy on the birds then he would have forbade Shechita all together.

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  2. "What we see is that even if a halacha pesuka is based on a reason, the p'sak enjoins the halacha itself, but there is no p'sak on the underlying philosophical dispute. Which is precisely the principle that he repeats at least 5 times in his writings."

    Your argument is circular because you are assuming your premise "there is no p'sak in a philosophical dispute" as the only way to explain how the Moreh can dispute the reason given for the halacha.
    If I could provide another way to explain it (which I thought I did, and even if I didn't someone else might) then your conclusion is not based on the evidence but rather on your own premise.

    "And the reason behind the prohibition is that the Mitzvos have no reasons but the Divine Will as he states in the Moreh as well as the Mishneh Torah. But the reason behind this halacha is actually disputed and you need not agree with that side in the dispute, since there is no P'sak in Hashkafah."

    You did not understand my resolution. They are not the same reason given for the prohibition in both the Moreh and Mishna Torah--even if they share the same words.

    "But to the degree that they fit Rabbi Meiselman's thesis (these are Rabbi Kornreich's words)"

    I was in fact borrowing your phraseology. I'm sorry I did not give you the credit.

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  3. "And then if a new P'sak is given, we required to believe as false what we were previously required to believe as true, and take up the formerly prohibited belief.",

    The same "difficulty" exists about halacha. Take hilchos Shabbos for instance and the reversals that are routinely made from one generation of poskim to the next.

    Rebbi Eliezer's community was permitted to do melachos on Shabbos to make mila preparations because they were following their posek. (T.B. Shabbos 130a) It was the correct behavior.

    Once their posek was overruled by the decision of the majority, their prior activity now became chilul Shabbos and would now be guilty of a capital crime. What used to be correct behavior became incorrect behavior because of the ruling of the majority of Sages.

    What used to be a correct belief about Judaism can become an incorrect belief about Judaism and visa versa through the very same halachic process. I don't see the difficulty.

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  4. "But to the degree that they fit Rabbi Meiselman's thesis (these are Rabbi Kornreich's words)"

    I was in fact borrowing your phraseology. I'm sorry I did not give you the credit.


    Rabbi Kornreich, I think that my language was unclear and therefore misunderstood.

    I was simply saying that while I was addressing Rav Meiselman's thesis, I was doing it according to your words, so I made a small qualification so as not to attribute your interpretation directly to Rav Meiselman.

    I wasn't complaining about anything or claiming credit for anything. I apologize for being unclear.

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  5. Said a little differently: The Mitzvot are about Man; Man's relationship to God and his fellow man, not God's relation with the rest of his creation. Therefore, we silence the Shaliach Tzibbur who wants to analogize God's supposed mercy on birds, while still drawing a lesson for Man about mercy from the Mitzvah.

    I will not argue with your interpretation, but again, the Rambam in the Moreh states that there *is* a contradiction between this halacha and his view on the existence of reasons for Mitzvos. So your interpretation cannot fit the Moreh. You are falling into the same error as the commenters on the previous post, in my opinion.

    I don't have Rabbi Slifkin's essay of Shiluach HaKein in front of me now, but there's a quote from a commentator that basically says if the Mitzvah was about God's mercy on the birds then he would have forbade Shechita all together.

    It is the Rambam who says this in the MT. In the Moreh, he says that it would be unhealthy to never eat meat, so eating of meat could not be prohibited.

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  6. "And then if a new P'sak is given, we required to believe as false what we were previously required to believe as true, and take up the formerly prohibited belief."

    The same "difficulty" exists about halacha. Take hilchos Shabbos for instance and the reversals that are routinely made from one generation of poskim to the next.

    This is not a problem at all because practical halacha does not try to reach an absolute truth. Whatever our practice is, we study all Shitos, and attempt to understand and explain all of them because they are all "the words of a living God". Difference in halacha does not require you to change your beliefs from generation to generation or community to community.

    By contrast, having two different communities, one required to believe "A" and one required to believe "not A" means that you are requiring belief in a falsehood. Which again is why the Rambam says that there is no p'sak in theoretical matters.

    Rebbi Eliezer's community was permitted to do melachos on Shabbos to make mila preparations because they were following their posek. (T.B. Shabbos 130a) It was the correct behavior.

    Once their posek was overruled by the decision of the majority, their prior activity now became chilul Shabbos and would now be guilty of a capital crime. What used to be correct behavior became incorrect behavior because of the ruling of the majority of Sages.


    No problem as stated above.

    What used to be a correct belief about Judaism can become an incorrect belief about Judaism and visa versa through the very same halachic process. I don't see the difficulty.

    Because belief is an assertion about truth, and changing required beliefs, among other paradoxes, requires you to believe falsehoods. As I wrote in my post, this destroys the Torah, God forbid.

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  7. "What we see is that even if a halacha pesuka is based on a reason, the p'sak enjoins the halacha itself, but there is no p'sak on the underlying philosophical dispute. Which is precisely the principle that he repeats at least 5 times in his writings."

    Your argument is circular because you are assuming your premise "there is no p'sak in a philosophical dispute" as the only way to explain how the Moreh can dispute the reason given for the halacha.

    Not circular, but inductive. I'm arguing and bringing evidence that my interpretation of P'sak fits well with all the words of the Rambam in various places and is internally consistent, while others interpretation of P'sak either don't fit the Rambam's words or are not internally consistent. If so, it is evidence for my interpretation. This is induction, not circular reasoning.

    If I could provide another way to explain it (which I thought I did, and even if I didn't someone else might) then your conclusion is not based on the evidence but rather on your own premise.

    You are correct that if your interpretation of P'sak fits the Rambam's words better than mine and is internally consistent then evidence for my interpretation would be lacking. What my argument attempts to establish is that this is not the case. This is not circular.

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  8. " Difference in halacha does not require you to change your beliefs from generation to generation or community to community."

    In one sense, it actually does.
    See this response:
    http://slifkinchallenge.blogspot.com/2014/01/understanding-truth-of-torah-through.html

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  9. ahg,
    There's nothing "simple minded" about your resolution. It reflects the general consensus of מפרשים on the issue. Look again at my comments in previous posts, and you'll see that you're not alone in your approach. Indeed the Ramban summarizes your post in this gem:

    והנה המצות האלה בבהמה ובעוף אינן רחמנות עליהם אלא גזירות בנו
    להדריכנו וללמד אותנו המדות הטובות

    He explicitly calls the מצוה as גזירה while at the same time ascribes to them a purpose for refining Man's personality.

    Note that both in these sections of the Yad and Guide, the Rambam mentions שחיטה. In the Guide, he mentions it as a way to avoid needlessly inflicting pain, but in the Yad he refers to שחיטה as necessarily being cruel. Another contradiction? When he's talking about mercy in the Guide, he's talking about a lesson for man. In the Yad, he's referring to God's mercy.

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  10. "but again, the Rambam in the Moreh states that there *is* a contradiction between this halacha and his view on the existence of reasons for Mitzvos."

    He absolutely does not. The מפרשים had noted the apparent contradiction and resolved it by showing that the contradiction doesn't really exist.

    The Friedlander translation of the Guide ("When in the Talmud...") is inaccurate here. Here is how Kapach translates:
    ואל תקשה עלי באמרם ז"ל האומר על קן צפור יגיעו רחמיך...
    The Rambam is thus forming the citation of the Gemara as a hypothetical question. This hypothetical question assumes a non-conventional understanding of the gemara. The way the Guide interprets the second opinion is thus different when that opinion appears in the Yad-
    In the Guide, that opinion is represented as negating any reason for the מצות whatsoever. That opinion is rejected. In the Guide, the same opinion is presented as allowing for suggesting reasons by way of דרוש or מוסר. (At least that's how many/most מפרשים understand it.) And that opinion is accepted. In other words, the Rambam remains consistent in his opinion that we may suggest reasons by way of דרוש/מוסר. There is no real contradiction.

    The contradiction that does exist is that the two opinions are understood differently in the Guide and the Yad. I can only guess that the Rambam's presentation of the מחלוקת in the Guide is rhetorical as indicated by the phrase "And don't ask me". Perhaps the Rambam is answering the hypothetical questioner on his own terms.

    (In any case, it's ridiculous to categorically claim that the Rambam is paskening hashkafa here and anywhere else in the Yad. That would involve tossing away the מסורה of the Tosfos Yom Tov.)

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  11. Ephraim, thank you for your thoughtful comments.

    "but again, the Rambam in the Moreh states that there *is* a contradiction between this halacha and his view on the existence of reasons for Mitzvos."

    He absolutely does not. The מפרשים had noted the apparent contradiction and resolved it by showing that the contradiction doesn't really exist.

    The Friedlander translation of the Guide ("When in the Talmud...") is inaccurate here. Here is how Kapach translates:
    ואל תקשה עלי באמרם ז"ל האומר על קן צפור יגיעו רחמיך...


    I looked at the Rav Kapach translation, and Rav Kapach actually supports my interpretation.

    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/mahshevt/more/c16-2.htm#2

    He translates as follows:

    ואל תקשה עלי באומרם ז"ל האומר על קן צפור יגיעו רחמיך וגו' 30, כי זו אחת משתי הסברות אשר הזכרנום, כלומר: השקפת מי שסובר שאין טעם למצוות אלא הרצון המופשט, ואנו הלא הלכנו אחרי ההשקפה השניה

    And do not ask me about about that which they of blessed memory said "One who says that your mercy reaches to the birds nest...", because this is one of two opinions that we mentioned. That is to say, it is based on the viewpoint of one who holds that there is no reason for the Mitzvot other than God's will, and as for us, is it not the case that we have followed the other viewpoint?


    This matches the Friedlander translation.

    Moreover, Rav Kapach says in a footnote:

    ואלמלי שאיני כדאי הייתי אומר, כי האומר שהן רחמים מצידו יתעלה על קן הצפור משתקין אותו, כי אילו היו רחמים לא התיר השחיטה בכלל, וכמו שכתב רבנו שם. אבל ניתנו כדי להחדיר לתודעתנו ולקבוע בלבנו מידת הרחמים החמלה והחנינה. וראה לעיל בחלק זה פרק כו ופרק לא.

    If not for the fact that I'm not fit to do so, I would say the following: That one that who says that [the mitzvah] represents mercy on the part of God on the bird's nest should be silenced, since if it was really mercy, then God would not have permitted animal slaughter at all as the Rambam states in the there [in the Mishneh Torah]. Rather the Mitzvah was given to us to instill into our minds and to establish in our hearts the trait of mercy, compassion, and forgiveness[? חנינה another word for mercy or compassion used in modern hebrew to mean "pardon"].


    Thus Rav Kapach interprets the Rambam as saying there is a contradiction; then Rav Kapach gives his own resolution which he acknowledges is not that of the Rambam. Thus the self-deprecating language at the beginning of the note.

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  12. Indeed the Ramban summarizes your post in this gem:

    והנה המצות האלה בבהמה ובעוף אינן רחמנות עליהם אלא גזירות בנו
    להדריכנו וללמד אותנו המדות הטובות

    He explicitly calls the מצוה as גזירה while at the same time ascribes to them a purpose for refining Man's personality.


    This is a wonderful Ramban, but the Rambam doesn't agree. In the Peirush HaMishnayos, he says explicitly that the Mitzvah has no reason.

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  13. Note that both in these sections of the Yad and Guide, the Rambam mentions שחיטה. In the Guide, he mentions it as a way to avoid needlessly inflicting pain, but in the Yad he refers to שחיטה as necessarily being cruel. Another contradiction? When he's talking about mercy in the Guide, he's talking about a lesson for man. In the Yad, he's referring to God's mercy.

    I don't think that this holds up either.

    1) In the Moreh, he indicates that killing the animal is "cruel", but necessary for nutrition:

    The commandment concerning the killing of animals is necessary, because the natural food of man consists of vegetables and of the flesh of animals: the best meat is that of animals permitted to be used as food. No doctor has any doubts about this. Since, therefore, the desire of procuring good food necessitates the slaying of animals, the Law enjoins that the death of the animal should be the easiest.

    2) He goes to some length to explain how animals really do feel pain:

    It is also prohibited to kill an animal with its young on the same day (Lev. xxii. 28), in order that people should be restrained and prevented from killing the two together in such a manner that the young is slain in the sight of the mother; for the pain of the animals under such circumstances is very great. There is no difference in this case between the pain of man and the pain of other living beings, since the love and tenderness of the mother for her young ones is not produced by reasoning, but by imagination, and this faculty exists not only in man but in most living beings.

    3. The Rambam says that the purpose of the Law is to avoid causing unnecessary pain to animals. He separately says that we should learn a lesson. He does't say that it is "pseudo-mercy" only to teach us a lesson:

    If the Law provides that such grief should not be caused to cattle or birds, how much more careful must we be that we should not cause grief to our fellowmen.

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  14. "In the Moreh, he indicates that killing the animal is "cruel"...The Rambam says that the purpose of the Law is to avoid causing unnecessary pain to animals. He separately says that we should learn a lesson. He does't say that it is "pseudo-mercy" only to teach us a lesson."

    To summarize:
    1) It's cruel
    2) Despite #1, we should avoid unnecessary pain
    3) It teaches a lesson of mercy

    So the Rambam limits the reasons of מצות to lessons. Nothing in the Yad would imply otherwise. בן ידיד resolves the apparent contradiction in this manner:
    וס"ל לרבינו דלדרוש שרי וכמו שעשה הוא וכהמדרש רבה פרשת תצא וכהתרגום יונתן בפרשיות אמור ותצא
    And the פרי אדמה writes similarly:
    ודוקא בתפלה שכשאומר התפלה מחליט הדבר ולהכי משתקין אותו לא כן דרך דרש או טעם
    And the Rambam on מגילה implies this as well:
    לפי שהטעם אינו צד רחמניות מהשם יתברך
    (i.e. from Hashem's perspective there no reason. But from human perspective, i.e. ethical instruction, it's OK to suggest reasons)

    I disagree with your claim that R' Kapach's resolution is not meant as his (humbly) suggested interpretation of the Rambam. He could simply disagree with the Rambam and no resolution would be necessary. He clearly is offering an interpretation of the Rambam (the same interpretation offered by others).

    Indeed, R' Kapach in that footnote refers to 3:26 of the Guide, in which the Rambam introduces his theory of reasons for מצות. There he shows that Chazal believe that the מצות do have a purpose, even if unknown. He then adds:
    "I have, however, found one utterance made by them in Bereshit-rabba, which might at first sight appear to imply that some commandments have no other reason but the fact that they are commanded"
    This refers to בראשית רבה מד:א which deals with the posuk: - אמרת ה' צרופה . Friedlander translates צרופה as "test", which is appropriate for the הוה אמינא that מצות have no purpose other then to test us. Of course, the word actually means refine, but it's being initially understood as to refine via a test. Here's how the Maharzu explains the midrash:
    ועיקר הכוונה בזה שאין הקב"ה כ"י צריך בענין מעשה כל המצות לצורך שלימות עצמו אלא לזכות אותנו לצרפינו
    The Rambam writes in the Guide, that the initial reading of the Midrash appears to state that מצות have no purpose. In fact, they do have the purpose of refining the personality. See the midrash and the מפרשים there who all pretty much say the same thing.

    Many (most?) authorities, while not necessarily referring to the Rambam, agree with the concept that we can only suggest reasons for purposes of דרוש and מוסר. This appears to be the consensus. Are we to believe that the Rambam disagreed with all these authorities? And those authorities who understood the Rambam in that way, are incorrect?

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  15. To summarize:
    1) It's cruel
    2) Despite #1, we should avoid unnecessary pain
    3) It teaches a lesson of mercy


    Nope. Here is the correct summary:

    1) God has mercy on animals, but we have to eat them to remain healthy, so he permitted eating them.
    2) Thus God commanded us to kill them to eat them in the most merciful way and also prohibited other acts painful to the animals, because they really do feel pain.
    3) If God showed such mercy on animals, we should certainly show mercy to people.
    4) The prohibition on the the prayer "Thy mercy extendeth to young birds" is based on a different opinion that we don't follow, so not contradiction to 1-3.

    So the Rambam limits the reasons of מצות to lessons. Nothing in the Yad would imply otherwise.

    Did you mean the "Moreh"? Lot of the reasons are not "teaching lessons". Part of the reason for Shabbos is to give men a day of rest. He does not say that it is to give teach us the value of rest. Some foods are prohibited because they are unhealthy, not because God is teaching us a lesson about how healthiness is important.

    I disagree with your claim that R' Kapach's resolution is not meant as his (humbly) suggested interpretation of the Rambam. He could simply disagree with the Rambam and no resolution would be necessary. He clearly is offering an interpretation of the Rambam (the same interpretation offered by others).

    Sorry, you are misreading R. Kapach. If he is offering an explanation of the Rambam, he just offers it. This is his own personal explanation of how the Mitzvos can have reasons, but the prayer be prohibited. The Rambam holds that the principles conflict, as he clearly translates.

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  16. ndeed, R' Kapach in that footnote refers to 3:26 of the Guide, in which the Rambam introduces his theory of reasons for מצות. There he shows that Chazal believe that the מצות do have a purpose, even if unknown. He then adds:
    "I have, however, found one utterance made by them in Bereshit-rabba, which might at first sight appear to imply that some commandments have no other reason but the fact that they are commanded"
    This refers to בראשית רבה מד:א which deals with the posuk: - אמרת ה' צרופה . Friedlander translates צרופה as "test", which is appropriate for the הוה אמינא that מצות have no purpose other then to test us. Of course, the word actually means refine, but it's being initially understood as to refine via a test. Here's how the Maharzu explains the midrash:
    ועיקר הכוונה בזה שאין הקב"ה כ"י צריך בענין מעשה כל המצות לצורך שלימות עצמו אלא לזכות אותנו לצרפינו
    The Rambam writes in the Guide, that the initial reading of the Midrash appears to state that מצות have no purpose. In fact, they do have the purpose of refining the personality. See the midrash and the מפרשים there who all pretty much say the same thing.


    I apologize for being somewhat peremptory, but you are simply reading this wrong. Rav Kapach is referring this to the beginning of 3:26 where he says very clearly:

    "As Theologians are divided on the question whether the actions of God are the result of His wisdom, or only of His will without being intended for any purpose whatever, so they are also divided as regards the object of the commandments which God gave us. Some of them hold that the commandments have no object at all; and are only dictated by the will of God. Others are of opinion that all commandments and prohibitions are dictated by His wisdom and serve a certain aim; consequently there is a reason for each one of the precepts: they are enjoined because they are useful."

    Many (most?) authorities, while not necessarily referring to the Rambam, agree with the concept that we can only suggest reasons for purposes of דרוש and מוסר. This appears to be the consensus. Are we to believe that the Rambam disagreed with all these authorities?

    Yes, of course, the Rambam says what he thinks, which is what led to his books being vigorously opposed by some. Do you think "most/all" other authorities think that Karbanos are there as a concession to human nature to wean us off of Avodah Zarah?

    And those authorities who understood the Rambam in that way, are incorrect?

    If someone reads the Rambam contra the translation and interpretation of Rav Kapach, then yes, I disagree, unless they can show a mistake in the translation from the Arabic which I have no way to argue with. What he said is very plain. The principle of "reasons for Mitzvos" and the halacha of the Mishnah contradict.

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  17. " Rav Kapach is referring this to the beginning of 3:26"

    The rest of 3:26 covers the same material. In the beginning the Rambam introduces the two opinions. Note that the first opinion does not allow any reason whatsoever. The Rambam cites the Midrash as a possible source-text against the second opinion, and in support of the first opinion. The Rambam writes that only at first glance does the Midrash appear to be against any reasons at all. There's no reason to believe that the Rambam has changed the topic; his understanding of the Midrash necessarily follows from the opening to the chapter. It makes no difference which part of that chapter I cite- it all covers the same material and is one continuous unit.

    "Here is the correct summary:
    1) God has mercy on animals"

    Where does the Rambam write this explicitly? He doesn't mention God until he brings up the Gemara. He writes that שחיטה is more merciful, but he doesn't write that it's God being merciful. That's why he writes in מגילה:
    לפי שהטעם אינו צד רחמניות מהשם יתברך
    And that's why he concludes his discussion of שילוח הקן with:
    "how much more careful must we be that we should not cause grief to our fellowmen."
    It's not mercy from God's perspective. It's teaching mercy from a human perspective.
    And when the Rambam does mention the gemara, the מפרשים interpret (the Rambam's presentation) of the dispute as being whether מצות have any reasons whatsoever.

    There are three possible opinions:
    1) We can ascribe reasons to מצות, even ascribing reasons from God's perspective, e.g. saying that some מצות are expressions of God's mercy.
    2) We can ascribe reasons for מצות, but by way of דרוש or מוסר. However, מצות still remain decrees.
    3) מצות are decrees, and no reason whatsoever is appropriate.

    Now, when the Rambam states the dispute, the negative position is given as the third option above. The dispute as understand by most, if not all, authorities doesn't not include the third option. In other words, the Rambam is presenting a straw-man version of the dispute.

    When the Rambam introduces 3:48 he writes he is following פירוש המשניות on אבות. R' Kapach writes that this refers to
    "בהקדמה סוף הפרק הרביעי"
    What does the Rambam write there? That מצות serve to refine the human personality. It's not about God. The Rambam here in the Guide, writes that he's following that train of thought.

    Where does the Rambam explicitly write that שחיטה or שילוח הקן is about mercy from God's perspective?

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  18. Here's what Nachum Rabinovoch writes in his יד פשוטה to solve the apparent contradiction:
    נמצא שתכליתן של המצוות הנוהגות בבעלי החיים היא רק תועלתן של בני אדם, ולא לזכותן של בעלי החיים עצמן, כי כך היא הגזירה מלפני יתברך. והרי זה ברור שאין הטעם רחמים על בעלי חיים שאילו היו מפני הרחמים לא התיר לנו שחיטה כל עיקר

    כל זה הוא לשיטתן של רבינו שכל המצוות יש להן טעם לתועלת האדם ורק האדם מושגח בהשגחה פרטית


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  19. There are three possible opinions:
    1) We can ascribe reasons to מצות, even ascribing reasons from God's perspective, e.g. saying that some מצות are expressions of God's mercy.
    2) We can ascribe reasons for מצות, but by way of דרוש or מוסר. However, מצות still remain decrees.
    3) מצות are decrees, and no reason whatsoever is appropriate.

    Now, when the Rambam states the dispute, the negative position is given as the third option above. The dispute as understand by most, if not all, authorities doesn't not include the third option. In other words, the Rambam is presenting a straw-man version of the dispute.


    This doesn't make sense to me. Why would the Rambam use #3 if #2 is what he really believed to be the truth behind the Mitzva and he himself believed #2. He should use the Mitzva as a support for his position #2, not as a question. That is the fundamental problem behind all these "resolutions".

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  20. Here's what Nachum Rabinovoch writes in his יד פשוטה to solve the apparent contradiction:
    נמצא שתכליתן של המצוות הנוהגות בבעלי החיים היא רק תועלתן של בני אדם, ולא לזכותן של בעלי החיים עצמן, כי כך היא הגזירה מלפני יתברך. והרי זה ברור שאין הטעם רחמים על בעלי חיים שאילו היו מפני הרחמים לא התיר לנו שחיטה כל עיקר

    כל זה הוא לשיטתן של רבינו שכל המצוות יש להן טעם לתועלת האדם ורק האדם מושגח בהשגחה פרטית


    I'm repeating myself, but:

    1) If you "solve" the contradiction, then you are not explaining the Rambam, as he felt there was a contradiction.

    2) I don't see how this explains any contradiction.

    3) I don't really get the idea. A Mitzvah is something given to man; is not providence to animals even if it reflects mercy on animals. And even if it was, then it would be providence to the species as a whole which the Rambam endorses.

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  21. Where does the Rambam explicitly write that שחיטה or שילוח הקן is about mercy from God's perspective?

    Where does he write that it is not really mercy, but only a lesson? The plain meaning is that God wants to prevent pain to animals, lets us kill them only because it would be unhealthy not to, and that we should learn a lesson about our actions from the mercy of the Mitzvah. I don't see where the psuedo-mercy idea is introduced.

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  22. Here's what Nachum Rabinovoch writes in his יד פשוטה to solve the apparent contradiction:
    נמצא שתכליתן של המצוות הנוהגות בבעלי החיים היא רק תועלתן של בני אדם, ולא לזכותן של בעלי החיים עצמן, כי כך היא הגזירה מלפני יתברך. והרי זה ברור שאין הטעם רחמים על בעלי חיים שאילו היו מפני הרחמים לא התיר לנו שחיטה כל עיקר

    כל זה הוא לשיטתן של רבינו שכל המצוות יש להן טעם לתועלת האדם ורק האדם מושגח בהשגחה פרטית


    My bad, I see now where the relationship to Providence comes in.

    There is a rule laid down by our Sages that it is directly prohibited in the Law to cause pain to an animal, and is based on the words: "Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass?" etc. (Num. xxii. 32). But the object of this rule is to make us perfect; that we should not assume cruel habits: and that we should not uselessly cause pain to others: that, on the contrary, we should be prepared to show pity and mercy to all living creatures, except when necessity demands the contrary: "When thy soul longeth to eat flesh," etc. (Deut. Xii. 20). We should not kill animals for the purpose of practising cruelty, or for the purpose of play.

    It still seems to me to be real mercy. The Rambam is just saying that this is not enough to mean that God will extend individual providence to animals, not that it cannot be mercy to animals because then the mitzva itself would be individual providence.

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  23. "Where does he write that it is not really mercy, but only a lesson? The plain meaning is that God wants to prevent pain to animals..."

    If God wanted to prevent pain to animals, he would have banned שחיטה entirely.

    Let's look at the evidence:

    1) On מגילה:
    לפי שהטעם אינו צד רחמניות מהשם יתברך
    It's not about mercy from God's perspective. By implication, it can be about mercy from Man's perspective. He is not ruling out all reasons. (Also note that he says "the טעם isn't such and such", not "there is no טעם".)

    2) שאילו היו מפני רחמים לא היה מתיר לנו שחיטה כל עיקר
    This doesn't preclude mercy from Man's perspective, since he slaughters out of necessity, and with the least amount pain for the animal. It's sufficient for Man that he limits his own actions in order to develop the trait of mercy. (Though, I suspect the poor cow may not be so appreciative!) Thus, the מצוה can still serve to inculcate mercy in Man, despite it not being an expression of mercy from God.

    3) In the beginning of Chapter 48, he refers to his commentary on אבות. R' Kapach writes that this refers to sections 4 (and 5) of the introduction. There the Rambam writes that מצות serve to refine Man. He does not write it's an expression of Divine mercy.

    "It still seems to me to be real mercy."
    Of course it's real mercy. But it's mercy coming from Man. Consider the billions of creatures that are not the subject of שחיטה or שילוח הקן. What mercy is there? The few animals that do receive mercy due to the מצות are a מיעוט שבמיעוט. Such a insignificant minority can't possibly be an expression of Divine mercy. (Nevermind theories of Providence.)
    But Hashem wants Man to be merciful, and so commands him to avoid cruelty to those few creature he does encounter. The מצוה doesn't benefit the creatures of the world, it benefits Man by inculcating him with mercy.

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  24. And by the way, congratulations on a fine series of posts. My criticism is little more than a quibble which does not detract from your basic argument.

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  25. "Where does he write that it is not really mercy, but only a lesson? The plain meaning is that God wants to prevent pain to animals..."

    If God wanted to prevent pain to animals, he would have banned שחיטה entirely.


    But he answers that objection in the Moreh by saying that man has to eat meat to stay healthy.

    At this point, I think that I'd be repeating my points, so I'll leave it as a disagreement. Thank you for your efforts in discussing this with me, it definitely helps to sharpen the understanding of the Rambam. I certainly saw some things that I had missed previously.

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  26. And by the way, congratulations on a fine series of posts. My criticism is little more than a quibble which does not detract from your basic argument.

    Thank you, Ephraim. I much prefer criticism to silence, so thank you very much for posting your comments.

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