Monday, January 27, 2014

Guest Post: Summary and Conclusion [Can we "pasken" the age of the universe? (Part 8)]

Copyright 2014 by David Ohsie. All rights reserved

“[This] is a principle (klal) that the Rambam makes in his Perush HaMishnayos. When one has a question of historical fact or hashkafah – there is no p’sak. In a question of halachah, after there is a discussion of different opinions, we must come to one conclusion. Anyone not abiding by that conclusion is going against halachah – ke-neged halachah. However, in the case of hashkafah, or historical questions, this is not true” -- Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, The Age of the Universe: A Torah True Perspective

“Say a great Sage comes to a conclusion opposed to that of the Sanhedrin, but the Sanhedrin rejects his reasoning. The Sage is entitled to keep his opinion; there is no ‘thought control’ in the Torah.” -- Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, Freedom to Interpret”.

In prior posts, we have seen that in his book, Torah, Chazal, and Science, Rabbi Moshe Meiselman attempts to counter the approaches of Rabbi Kaplan and Rabbi Carmell to resolving potential conflicts between Torah and Science. Both Rabbi Kaplan and Rabbi Carmell leveraged the principle that P’sak does not apply outside of halacha to enable us to pursue novel interpretations of pesukim in order to reconcile such potential conflicts. They both based themselves, in part, on the repeated, explicit statements of the Rambam supporting the view that there is no P'sak in hashkafa or any other theoretical matter.

Rabbi Meiselman, in my humble opinion, attempts a radical reinterpretation of the Rambam’s words in order to assert that hashkafah is just like halacha. Just as in halacha, we follow the system of P’sak and do not allow each individual to follow his own opinion of which Tanna, Amora or Rishon he prefers, so to, in Rabbi Meiselman’s opinion, our opinions in hashkafah must conform to a “haskafic” decision making process determined by great authorities. According to Rabbi Meiselman, “There are times when a person must serve God through the use of his logic, but there are times when he must serve Him through the relinquishing of his logic.” (TCS pg 689).

In this series of posts, I believe that we have successfully shown that the Rambam simply doesn't admit of this interpretation. His plain language (אין מקום לפסוק כאחד מהם) says that he doesn't allow for P'sak outside of Halacha.  The Rambam would theoretically admit of interpretations of pesukim that are consonant even with an eternal "Providential" universe; he emphatically rejects the eternity of a "Providential" universe due to a lack of evidence.  And when the Rambam discusses the possibility of the universe's eventual destruction, an area which Rabbi Meiselman takes as an example par excellence of p’sak in Hashkafah, the Rambam himself says “those who [...] reject our view [...] are at liberty to do so. [...] Their faith, however, does not suffer by it.”   I believe that we’ve established that, at least according to the Rambam, it is valid to say that we cannot "pasken" the age of the universe.

I’d like to to take the liberty to make a few more comments about Rabbi Meiselman’s book as a whole and to bring one more argument from his book that is relevant to this topic. In general, while I personally disagree with many of the book’s conclusions, I respect the fact that Rabbi Meiselman does not simply bring his own interpretation of his sources, but instead quotes large sections of the sources themselves. This gives a reader like myself the ability to more easily form his own conclusions on the topic. A large portion of the sources for these posts were in fact derived from Rabbi Meiselman’s book. I hope that I've similarly provided the reader with sufficient source material to form their own judgement.

Rabbi Meiselman repeats many times in his book that the interpretation of the Torah is not a “free for all”.  I want to emphasize my agreement with Rabbi Meiselman on this point. I believe strongly that Rabbi Carmell, Rabbi Kaplan, and others are also not advocating a “free for all”. Rather, they are attempting, as the Rambam did before them, to interpret the Torah in a manner that fits with the basic observable facts of the world around us.  In fact, I believe that this essay supports the conclusion that Rabbi Carmell and Rabbi Kaplan are engaging in the farthest thing from a "free for all"; they are following the plain meaning of the Rambam's words quite closely.

These posts have targeted the Rambam’s position on P’sak in hashkafah. However, Rabbi Meiselman also brings a source outside of the Rambam to prove that there is P’sak in hashkafah:
Our Rabbis taught: For two and a half years were Beth Shammai and Beth Hillel in dispute, the former asserting that it were better for man not to have been created than to have been created, and the latter maintaining that it is better for man to have been created than not to have been created. They finally took a vote and decided that it were better for man not to have been created than to have been created, but now that he has been created, let him investigate his past deeds or, as others say, let him examine his future actions. (Eiruvin 13b).
I’m sure that there is much to be said about this Gemara, but I’ll leave that to others. What I will say is that I believe that one’s interpretation of this Gemara is a kind of litmus test for their approach to this topic. Rabbi Meiselman sees in this Gemara a straightforward and literal explication of of his principle: when you have a philosophical dispute, it is to be resolved authoritatively by a vote of the authorities. I believe that we’ve shown clearly that the Rambam simply does not interpret this Gemara literally, and I believe it clear from the rather abstract issue that Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel were arguing about, that neither side ever envisaged a definitive solution, let alone a “P’sak”.

I’d again like to thank Rabbi Slifkin for allowing me to be a guest poster on his blog. I’d also like to thank him for his continual support in providing important source material such as Rabbi Carmell’s essay as well other sources that he’s made available to me in the past. And of course for all the hard work exemplified in his books and his blogs which we've all benefited from. And finally, for standing up, at a not inconsiderable cost, for some important principles.

I'd also like to thank the various commenters who have helped to sharpen by my views and added important sources.   I encourage further comments and will continue to answer questions and comments to the best of my ability.

71 comments:

  1. I'm wondering if R. Meiselman thinks that every single one of R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik's apparent "piskei halakah" on matter of hashkafah which have been rejected by the majority of Hareidi Rabbis are now similarly out of bounds.

    Also, the Rav's position in The Emergence of Ethical Man is that biological Man existed before the creation of Adam. I take it that this too is now paskened as Kefira?

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  2. The very notion that psak can apply to haskafic questions is absurd, Rambam or no Rambam.
    Having said that, there are beliefs, like ikrei emunah, which are required. Indeed many have asked how such a commandment is possible (R Elchonon Wasserman answers that ikrei emunah are obvious logically..to which I will only say, lol).
    It is worth noting that some, like the drashos haran, claim that ANYTHING chazal say must be believed midin ikrei emunah- otherwise one is kofer in torah min hashamayim. But that's a different story.
    Concerning the gemara in eiruvin, you have chosen wisely to leave to others to babble about that incoherent gemara which contradicts God in Genesis- vayar..vihinei tov meod.
    Also R Meiselmans interpretation is demonstrably false, because beis shamai and beis hillel were having the argument, but within each school there was agreement- since when did the two schools settle their disputes through rov? In fact, the gemara in yivamos 14A says that beis shammai was larger than beis hillel, so if they followed rov they would never have argued..The netziv in meishiv davar explains that this is possible because rov only works within a beis din, not to different batei dinim. The point is, it can't be the rov of psak, since rov was never used between b"s and b"h's arguments, or else there would be no disputes. Perhaps it was more like a consensus of sorts, go figure.. The babbling has officially begun!

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  3. "The very notion that psak can apply to haskafic questions is absurd,"

    Why is it absurd? It is exactly what Christianity does. Perhaps even most religions do this.
    For many people, this is the very definition of religion!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Why is it absurd? It is exactly what Christianity does. Perhaps even most religions do this.
      For many people, this is the very definition of religion!"
      No, religions claim that their doctrines are right, and so must be accepted (e.g. papal infallibility), this Judaism includes as well; the notion of psak however implies that regardless of right and wrong one position is chosen as an arbitrary agreement- this is absurd to apply to beliefs since beliefs are by nature what we think is true...

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  4. Ya'akov Friedman said: "you have chosen wisely to leave to others to babble about that incoherent gemara which contradicts God in Genesis- vayar..vihinei tov meod"
    The Gemara says
    נוח לו לאדם שלא נברא יותר משנברא
    I'm always reluctant to quote Chabad sources on this blog, since I can be accused of tooting my own horn--but here I can't resist: The Ba'al HaTanya notes in Likkutei Torah the Gemara didn't say that it's טוב לו לאדם שלא נברא, but rather נוח לו--it would have been easier for man to not have been created, so as not to struggle with a yezter hara, etc., but certainly it's better that man was created.

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  5. I'm wondering if R. Meiselman thinks that every single one of R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik's apparent "piskei halakah" on matter of hashkafah which have been rejected by the majority of Hareidi Rabbis are now similarly out of bounds.

    Also, the Rav's position in The Emergence of Ethical Man is that biological Man existed before the creation of Adam. I take it that this too is now paskened as Kefira?


    Rabbi Meiselman's explanation on pg 647 note 5 is as follows:

    [i]t is my opinion that it is wrong and unfair to take unfinished manuscripts and notebooks of an early period of a person's life and present them as if they reflected his final thinking. This is especially true when the views contained therein are at odds with those the author subsequently voiced in public [...] It is very common for a creative thinker to begin a line of argument and even develop it quite far, and then to conclude that there are serious problems with it and put it aside [...] An additional problem with this collection is that the material has been adapted and not merely transcribed [...] [t]he reader has no way of knowing where the author's ideas end and the editor's interpretation begins.

    There is more, but I don't have an electronic version of the book, so it would be a lot of typing.

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  6. Yaakov Friedman, while I appreciate your effort to comment, I'd prefer if we can avoid phrases like "that incoherent gemara". I think that the authors and transcribers of that statement had probably read Genesis. They probably also read Tehillim 8:

    When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You have established, ד. כִּי אֶרְאֶה שָׁמֶיךָ מַעֲשֵׂה אֶצְבְּעֹתֶיךָ יָרֵחַ וְכוֹכָבִים אֲשֶׁר כּוֹנָנְתָּה:

    5. what is man that You should remember him, and the son of man that You should be mindful of him? ה. מָה אֱנוֹשׁ כִּי תִזְכְּרֶנּוּ וּבֶן אָדָם כִּי תִפְקְדֶנּוּ:

    ReplyDelete
  7. "The very notion that psak can apply to haskafic questions is absurd,"

    Why is it absurd? It is exactly what Christianity does. Perhaps even most religions do this.
    For many people, this is the very definition of religion!


    Is the Galileo trial something that we want to copy?

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  8. Was the purpose of the entire multi-post discussion just to critique Rabbi Meiselman book or to really analyze if according to the norms of Judaism the age of the world can be pasken? If the goal was the latter, why the entire discussion was centered on the positions of Rambam? Why nothing (except for brief mentioning of Rav Soloveitchik) was said about the positions of contemporary gedolim who certainly know Rambam views and who certainly know everything the participants of this discussion know?

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  9. Could you please explain, in short, how the rambam could have written the 13 ikrei emuna if there is no psak in hashkafa.

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  10. @YF, the apparent conflict between the genesis story and the gemara in eruvin is already addressed by tosfos and others, more civilly.

    Beis HILLEL was larger than Beis SHAMAI.

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  11. Here:
    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=37969&st=מהרש%22א&pgnum=578
    Maharsha interprets the gemara eruvin in a non literal manner, and since even literally there are interpretations other than R Meiselman's, his (RMM's) "proof" is further weakened.

    Briefly Maharsha says that BS & BH argued whether there are more positive or negative Mitzvos. Later they COUNTED THE MITZVOS AND CONCLUDED that the negative outnumber the positive by 365 to 248.

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  12. "In general, while I personally disagree with many of the book’s conclusions, I respect the fact that Rabbi Meiselman does not simply bring his own interpretation of his sources, but instead quotes large sections of the sources themselves. This gives a reader like myself the ability to more easily form his own conclusions on the topic. "

    Fair enough. However since I recently began reading the book, too many citations seem to have been brought incorrectly, (such as in my comment to the previous post).

    An important omission on p. xxxii note 1, is that R Dessler says that according to Ramban's "al derech haemet" in bereishis 1:3, we may say the world is older than 6000 years. Ramban is a "Posek Achron" of sorts-- R Meiselman enlists his authority against R Kaplan's understanding of a lesser-known rishon that the world is older than 6000. Yet according to R Dessler Ramban's advocacy of a young earth isn't true. It isn't pleasant to read a book/sefer with the gnawing doubt that one might be imbibing inaccuracies.

    --

    @Lazar, DO says explicitly that he is focusing only on the Rambam's view. IMHO that is sufficiently relevant. At the same time, the view of our revered Torah authorities who were never asked to address the possibility of a 15 billion year old universe are of limited relevance.

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  13. "Rabbi Meiselman's explanation on pg 647 note 5 is as follows:

    "[i]t is my opinion that it is wrong and unfair to take unfinished manuscripts and notebooks of an early period of a person's life and present them as if they reflected his final thinking. This is especially true when the views contained therein are at odds with those the author subsequently voiced in public [...] It is very common for a creative thinker to begin a line of argument and even develop it quite far, and then to conclude that there are serious problems with it and put it aside [...] An additional problem with this collection is that the material has been adapted and not merely transcribed [...] [t]he reader has no way of knowing where the author's ideas end and the editor's interpretation begins."

    January 27, 2014 at 4:19 PM

    --

    Frankly, that is terrible. When he was young, a given writer had heretical views that he recorded without caveat, Rahmana litzlan...!

    --

    Lazar said,
    "Why nothing (except for brief mentioning of Rav Soloveitchik) was said about the positions of contemporary gedolim who certainly know Rambam views and who certainly know everything the participants of this discussion know?"

    If the positions of contemporary gedolim were to be cited, would you allow for the positions of R Gifter and R Y Weinberg, who passed away earlier than R Elyashev, zecher kulam levracha, and LBCLC of RSK and RYB as cited by RDE of Daattorah blog? He asked them personally.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Was the purpose of the entire multi-post discussion just to critique Rabbi Meiselman book or to really analyze if according to the norms of Judaism the age of the world can be pasken? If the goal was the latter, why the entire discussion was centered on the positions of Rambam? Why nothing (except for brief mentioning of Rav Soloveitchik) was said about the positions of contemporary gedolim who certainly know Rambam views and who certainly know everything the participants of this discussion know?

    Thank you for your comment.

    I don't really understand your question. If I had written about "Issue X", you would then have said "Contemporary Gedolim know about issue X and certainly know everything the participants of this discussion know".

    In any case, my point here was not to, God forbid, criticize any person. I wanted to support the view of Rabbi Kaplan and Rabbi Carmell that we can't pasken the age of the universe. I discussed Rabbi Meiselman's book because it is very recent and presumably includes all the arguments that he felt relevant from any source including Contemporary Gedolim. If you have other sources to discuss, then I'm happy to respond to them as well, time permitting.

    Finally, as I've said many times, I'm not a Rabbi or a scholar and I'm not qualified to sum up the total of knowledge in this area. I comment where I think that I have something useful to say, and then I hope that others find the comments useful.

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  15. Frankly, that is terrible. When he was young, a given writer had heretical views that he recorded without caveat, Rahmana litzlan...!

    I think that what he was saying was that he developed ideas, realized that they were false and put them aside; or else the editor's PoV is showing. I'm not endorsing this view, but I don't that Rabbi Meiselman would say what you said. I do think that Rav Meiselman's interpretation of the Rav's public words are also a bit strained, but this is again a topic for another essay.

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  16. reject said...
    "In general, while I personally disagree with many of the book’s conclusions, I respect the fact that Rabbi Meiselman does not simply bring his own interpretation of his sources, but instead quotes large sections of the sources themselves. This gives a reader like myself the ability to more easily form his own conclusions on the topic. "

    Fair enough. However since I recently began reading the book, too many citations seem to have been brought incorrectly, (such as in my comment to the previous post).


    Yes, I agree that there are places where the source is not quoted or assertions are made that "no one argues" or "no one agrees" that need to be followed up. And there are important sources left out, in my humble opinion. But there a lot of sources there, that are quoted with large excerpts. As an example, his I don't agree with Rabbi Meiselman's interpretation of Rav Shlomo Zalman on changes in nature, but he does bring the whole quote.

    I also think that someone more knowledgeable than me will find more issues to dispute.

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  17. @Dovid, your's is an old question, and in short, ikrim are different. First explain to yourself why for example whether we are the 2nd 7000 year shmitta or the 7th 7000 year shmitta isn't an ikar. What qualifies as an ikar and what doesn't and why doesn't it qualify...? The rest should explain itself easily.

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  18. "Frankly, that is terrible. When he was young, a given writer had heretical views that he recorded without caveat, Rahmana litzlan...!

    "I think that what he was saying was that he developed ideas, realized that they were false and put them aside; or else the editor's PoV is showing. I'm not endorsing this view, but I don't that Rabbi Meiselman would say what you said. I do think that Rav Meiselman's interpretation of the Rav's public words are also a bit strained, but this is again a topic for another essay."
    January 27, 2014 at 7:59 PM

    True. RM interprets those writings as very far from conclusive to their author, hence the writer is no heretic. I believe that those writings reflect a genuine belief of the writer at that time and RM's categorizing them as heresy does characterize their author as a heretic. (My personal belief is that these are genuine opinions but aren't heresy. Only RM's expansive parameter of heresy, coupled my view that the views are "genuine" [or whatever the precise term may be] maligns the author as a heretic.)

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  19. If the positions of contemporary gedolim were to be cited, would you allow for the positions of R Gifter and R Y Weinberg, who passed away earlier than R Elyashev, zecher kulam levracha, and LBCLC of RSK and RYB as cited by RDE of Daattorah blog? He asked them personally.

    While we're on this topic, does anyone know what "Ma'amar" Rav Gifter was referring to in this letter?

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  20. Thank you for these posts. Can you combine them into a PDF?

    Thanks again!

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  21. Yaakov Friedman: 18 halachic matters were decided by majority vote of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel, see the first chapter of Shabbat. 3 halachic disputes between Hillel and Shammai themselves were decided by vote. The question is whether this was a good thing or not, and the Gemara seems to indicate that it was not. Nevertheless, they are apparently the halacha until a furture Sanhedrin say otherwise.



    Davif Ohsie.
    First, kol hacavod for these series of posts. Secondly, please take the following in the spirit it is intended. When you write "In my humble opinion" frequently it doesn't sound modest and conciliatory (which presumably is your intention), but overbearing and preachy. Of course it's your opinion, otherwise why would you say it? I say this because minus certain stylistic quirks of which this is the most obvious, I think you are 90% of the way here to an article that could and should be published in a journal.

    Yehuda P.
    As usual, what the Ba'al haTanya is quite untenable. If he was correct, Beit Hillel would have to be arguing the insane position that it would not have been easier for a man to not have been created.

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  22. Yehudah P. said: "I'm always reluctant to quote Chabad sources on this blog, since I can be accused of tooting my own horn--"
    Honestly, I'm shocked a chabadzker would say that!
    "The Ba'al HaTanya notes in Likkutei Torah the Gemara didn't say that it's טוב לו לאדם שלא נברא, but rather נוח לו--"
    If so, what was the disagreement about? Isn't it obvious that it is 'easier' for man if he doesn't exist? Also, does noach really mean easier or does it mean better? In any event this is not the simple meaning of the gemara, see for example the maharsha which interchanges the lashon noach with tov.

    Reject said: "Beis HILLEL was larger than Beis SHAMAI"
    Thank you for the correction!

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  23. @reject

    At the same time, the view of our revered Torah authorities who were never asked to address the possibility of a 15 billion year old universe are of limited relevance.

    How do you know what the Gedolim were asked? People are coming to them with all kind of questions. I personally can't believe they were not asked about the interpretation of the events in Bereshis and about other science related issues.

    @David Ohsie
    I don't really understand your question. If I had written about "Issue X", you would then have said "Contemporary Gedolim know about issue X and certainly know everything the participants of this discussion know".

    What I meant was basically this. If we had to discuss (say) a scientific issue on which scientists differ, would we cite only the view of one or two scientists whose approach makes most sense to us, or would we try to cite the views of others as well- specifically those scientists who might have a different view on the the subject while knowing of course all other approaches?

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  24. Davif Ohsie.
    First, kol hacavod for these series of posts. Secondly, please take the following in the spirit it is intended. When you write "In my humble opinion" frequently it doesn't sound modest and conciliatory (which presumably is your intention), but overbearing and preachy. Of course it's your opinion, otherwise why would you say it? I say this because minus certain stylistic quirks of which this is the most obvious, I think you are 90% of the way here to an article that could and should be published in a journal.


    "Gavriel M", thank you. I was trying to use the usual English version of Lefi Aniyut Daati. Because these posts deal with religious issues and because I have *no* authority here I wanted to emphasize that my disagreements were from my understanding of the specific issues and not because I feel I know better than other authors and to give them due respect. As has amply been demonstrated, many commenters know much more than I do about these areas. And as much as I disagree with Rabbi Meiselman on these topics, I'm sure the he knows a lot more Torah than I do, in general.

    Do you you think that "in my opinion" would be a better qualifier in English to avoid the implied pomposity, but retaining the implication of restraint?

    Yes, a Journal article would be different stylistically from a blog post.

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  25. me123 said...
    Thank you for these posts. Can you combine them into a PDF?

    Thanks again!


    Time permitting and without promising, I'll merge them back into a google doc and share the URL. I'm glad that you enjoyed them.

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  26. Dear "reject", do you have a reference for the following?

    An important omission on p. xxxii note 1, is that R Dessler says that according to Ramban's "al derech haemet" in bereishis 1:3, we may say the world is older than 6000 years. Ramban is a "Posek Achron" of sorts-- R Meiselman enlists his authority against R Kaplan's understanding of a lesser-known rishon that the world is older than 6000. Yet according to R Dessler Ramban's advocacy of a young earth isn't true. It isn't pleasant to read a book/sefer with the gnawing doubt that one might be imbibing inaccuracies.

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  27. Thank you for a superb series of posts. There is one aspect of the discussion that, in my opinion, has not received sufficient consideration. Even if one were to grant that hashkafa issues can be paskened like halachic ones, doesn't that also require the process to be the same? It would be laughable for example to pasken a complex matter in medical halacha without serious analysis of all the relevant sources in Shas and Poskim as well as the related scientific issues. Are the "poskim" on an issue like the age of the universe thoroughly familiar with the extensive sources in machshava that address the sugya of the parameters of literal Biblical interpretation? (Have they learned the Moreh Nevuchim with the same depth as the Yad?) How about the scientific evidence on the topic? (Are they still basing their objections on the 'research' of Rav Avigdor Miller z"l?) The sad reality is that as serious and sophisticated as the Torah world is regarding Halacha, it is naive, superficial and even uninterested with regard to machshava. Until this issue is approached by Gedolim with the due diligence it deserves,the fascinating topic of whether we can "pasken the age of the universe" will remain largely a moot one.

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  28. As to the gemara in Eruvin on the issue of the worthwhileness of human creation, it is a matter of subjective vs. objective viewpoint - also human vs. divine. From an objective, divine point of view, creation - including man, is very worthwhile (tov me'od). From a subjective view, i.e., that of a majority of the Hillel/Shammai schools, a person has the right to feel that the creation of man was not worthwhile, but that he can accord meaningfulness to his own life. I don't believe that the issue is about the temptations in life or the relative number of positive and negative commandments. Rather, it is a matter of human happiness and suffering.

    More generally, I am disappointed in the extensive discussion of RMM's book by R' Natan and David. While individual points were ably analyzed by the 2 posters, it seems like a largely wasted effort for what appears to be an unimpressive work. I would have been happier had an interesting analysis of a sugya by RMM been presented. Otherwise, it appears to be much ado about little.

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  29. Thank you for a superb series of posts. There is one aspect of the discussion that, in my opinion, has not received sufficient consideration. Even if one were to grant that hashkafa issues can be paskened like halachic ones, doesn't that also require the process to be the same? It would be laughable for example to pasken a complex matter in medical halacha without serious analysis of all the relevant sources in Shas and Poskim as well as the related scientific issues. Are the "poskim" on an issue like the age of the universe thoroughly familiar with the extensive sources in machshava that address the sugya of the parameters of literal Biblical interpretation? (Have they learned the Moreh Nevuchim with the same depth as the Yad?) How about the scientific evidence on the topic? (Are they still basing their objections on the 'research' of Rav Avigdor Miller z"l?) The sad reality is that as serious and sophisticated as the Torah world is regarding Halacha, it is naive, superficial and even uninterested with regard to machshava. Until this issue is approached by Gedolim with the due diligence it deserves,the fascinating topic of whether we can "pasken the age of the universe" will remain largely a moot one.

    Thank you.

    According to Rabbi Meiselman, the Torah is never allegorical, although Nach can be, so Beresheis cannot be allegorized. In addition, everything that the Rambam wrote is P'sak and since he wrote about 6 literal days, that is the P'sak. Finally, the scientists make sense internally, but once you assume a 6 day "extra-normal" period of incomplete physical laws + 1 year of flood "suspension" of physical laws, none of their conclusions survive, since they assume constancy of nature. So by Rabbi Meiselman's approach, it is not "complicated".

    I agree that, in reality, it is much more complex.

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  30. The Emergence of Ethical Man was written in the 1950s, not "early" in Rav Soloveitchik's life. Of all the volumes in Toras Horav it is the most finished and carefully worked out, and was obviously intended to be a book, requiring a bit more editing and polishing. There is NO indication that the editor "adapted" the work, altough he did edit it. This is NOT like Rabbi Besdin's Reflections of the Rav, which is an adaptation. it should be pointed out that Rav Lichtenstein approved the editing and publishing of the work.

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  31. Yehudah P.: Contra the baal ha-Tanya, "Noah lo" means "it would have been better" not "it would have been pleasant." See "Noah lo le-adam she-yashlikh atzmo le-tokh kivashan ha-esh," "It would be better for a person to throw himself into a fiery furnace rather than embarrass his friend." Here it clearly means does not mean "pleasant."

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  32. DO & GM, I have no problem with "in my humble opinion" etc. I think it's actually quite good. This might also be the opinion of the silent majority who said nothing. GM, judging from the sharpness of your comments, you are consistent when you ask him to skip the "IMHO". If a significant majority goes with you so I guess DO should change. If not--which I suspect is true--he might as well continue to follow his own heart.

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  33. "The very notion that psak can apply to haskafic questions is absurd."

    Some things are falsifiable, others are not. Others are in between, you might argue that they are "ridiculous". What is absurd about Psak deciding whether sin X is punishable by Mita Bidei Shamaim or not. How would one know otherwise?

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    Replies
    1. Reject said, "What is absurd about Psak deciding whether sin X is punishable by Mita Bidei Shamaim or not. How would one know otherwise?"

      Such a psak is mere semantics. It doesn't change the reality of whether there is or isn't misah bidei shamayim for sin x, and it doesn't change what people think the truth is either; you don't become convinced about something just because you took a vote on it. So if psak in hashkafa doesn't change fact or opinion, what does it do? Does it require one to pay lip service to the beliefs of the majority regardless of one's true feeling? If so, wouldn't you agree it's absurd?

      Delete
  34. Yaakov Friedman said,"If so, what was the disagreement about? Isn't it obvious that it is 'easier' for man if he doesn't exist?"
    I'm just answering off the top of my head, but perhaps Beis Hillel's view would be like the statement in Pirkei Avos that one hour of Teshuva and Ma'asim Tovim in this world is "better" than the whole World-to-Come--it's true that there's the inconvenience of having to struggle with a yetzer hara, but the benefits of this world are greater nonetheless.
    The reason I brought the quote was not to discuss the Ba'al HaTanya's vort (Likkutei Torah, Re'eh 28d), which would derail the whole discussion of this blog. I mentioned it because he points out the apparent contradiction you stated with the Gemara in Eiruvin and Hashem declaring everything as טוב מאוד.
    I bli neder will check the Maharsha, as you suggested.

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    Replies
    1. Yehudah P. said, "I'm just answering off the top of my head, but perhaps Beis Hillel's view would be like the statement in Pirkei Avos that one hour of Teshuva and Ma'asim Tovim in this world is "better" than the whole World-to-Come--it's true that there's the inconvenience of having to struggle with a yetzer hara, but the benefits of this world are greater nonetheless."

      If noach means better and not easier then we are back to the contradiction from genesis! God evaluates the world as very good! How isn't this obvious?

      Delete
  35. See michtav m eliyahu V. 2 p 151. However I now see how one could worm out of that.
    See also here:
    http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/sources.html

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  36. Prof. Kaplan wrote," "It would be better for a person to throw himself into a fiery furnace rather than embarrass his friend." Here it clearly means does not mean "pleasant.""

    Excellent point--but even here I can apply a forced explanation: it's more "pleasant" to throw myself into a furnace--to suffer immolation in this world--than to have to suffer the punishment in Gehinnom for embarrassing someone in public, which is a spiritual form of murder.
    In any event, are the words טוב לו and נוח לו really interchangeable? דרשות such as these are based on the supposition that Chazal chose one formulation over another.

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  37. lawrence kaplan said...

    The Emergence of Ethical Man was written in the 1950s, not "early" in Rav Soloveitchik's life. Of all the volumes in Toras Horav it is the most finished and carefully worked out, and was obviously intended to be a book, requiring a bit more editing and polishing. There is NO indication that the editor "adapted" the work, altough he did edit it. This is NOT like Rabbi Besdin's Reflections of the Rav, which is an adaptation. it should be pointed out that Rav Lichtenstein approved the editing and publishing of the work.


    Professor Kaplan, I gather that this work was not published in the Rav's lifetime. Do we know why that is, if it was written in the 1950's?

    [By the way, thank you, it is easier to recognize your posts with your name on top.]

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  38. More generally, I am disappointed in the extensive discussion of RMM's book by R' Natan and David. While individual points were ably analyzed by the 2 posters, it seems like a largely wasted effort for what appears to be an unimpressive work. I would have been happier had an interesting analysis of a sugya by RMM been presented. Otherwise, it appears to be much ado about little.

    Y. Aharon, thank you for your honest opinion. I think that perhaps not everyone is as convinced as you are that Rabbi Meiselman's conclusions are not well-founded. If people are convinced that they cannot adopt both Judaism and the basic conclusions of science, then I believe that this may lead to suboptimal outcomes. To me, it is equivalent to insisting that a fundamental belief of Judaism is that the sky is green. People may indeed believe their lyin' eyes.

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  39. What I meant was basically this. If we had to discuss (say) a scientific issue on which scientists differ, would we cite only the view of one or two scientists whose approach makes most sense to us, or would we try to cite the views of others as well- specifically those scientists who might have a different view on the the subject while knowing of course all other approaches?

    This series of posts was specifically designed to analyze opposing points of view on the permissibility of believing the fundamentals of modern science. Both the "pro" and "con" side cited the Rambam because both sides thought the Rambam was important. If you think that Rav Meiselman was a bad representative to take from the "con" side, then can you suggest another? Also, the book is very recent and is something like 800 pages long, and Rabbi Meiselman is very knowledgeable; what leads you to think that he left out the arguments of any relevant modern authorities on the "con" side. I think that most people on the "con" side (at least those who speak English) would be pointing to Rabbi Meiselman's book as a basic text for their side. (Note that "pro" and "con" here are not value judgments, but labels).

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  40. Ya'akov Freidman said:"If noach means better and not easier then we are back to the contradiction from genesis! God evaluates the world as very good! How isn't this obvious?"
    I think the ambiguity is over what is the meaning of נברא and לא נברא: Here נברא means being a neshamah + body; לא נברא means being just a neshamah in the repository of souls, enjoying Gan Eden, etc. The question then is whether it's more "pleasant" (as per Prof. Kaplan's translation--which matches with the Aramaic, ניחא ליה) to have to struggle with a yetzer hara, but still garner up Torah and good deeds anyway, or not to have to go through the whole ordeal.

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  41. just weighing in that i too find imho to have unfortunate pompous overtones.

    in general all language for this sort of thing is language of uncertainty-- i.e. "it seems to me" "perhaps it is" "i think that".

    however, one has to tread carefully using too much of that in an essay it becomes annoying.

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  42. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  43. Among other things, I'd like to thank you for linking the articles by R' Aryeh Kaplan and R' Carmell.

    R' Aryeh Kaplan had a profound impact on my development, and I'm sure, on that of my entire generation. I have learned a little since I was a teenager, but his work still amazes me in its depth and breadth.

    To me, it feels blasphemous - nay, heretical! - that someone would dare attack him, especially since he is not around to defend himself. It is up to his talmidim to do so.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Anonymous has left a new comment on the post "Guest Post: Summary and Conclusion [Can we "pasken...":

    just weighing in that i too find imho to have unfortunate pompous overtones.

    in general all language for this sort of thing is language of uncertainty-- i.e. "it seems to me" "perhaps it is" "i think that".

    however, one has to tread carefully using too much of that in an essay it becomes annoying.


    The problem with "perhaps" is that I'm quite certain of some points of disagreement :). I just want to express them with respect and deference to others in the style that is used in other religious literature. The question is: how translate Lefi Aniyut Daati, which captures what is being said.
    I think that leaving out the "humble" and going to "in my opinion" might be the best solution.

    Actually, I think that the literal "IMHO" four-letter abbreviation is probably the best translation, as it indicates a term of art. But it is too "internet/IM/SMS culture" for this context, I think.

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  45. Kira said...
    Among other things, I'd like to thank you for linking the articles by R' Aryeh Kaplan and R' Carmell.

    R' Aryeh Kaplan had a profound impact on my development, and I'm sure, on that of my entire generation. I have learned a little since I was a teenager, but his work still amazes me in its depth and breadth.

    To me, it feels blasphemous - nay, heretical! - that someone would dare attack him, especially since he is not around to defend himself. It is up to his talmidim to do so.


    Thank you, Kira. As it happens, my wife recently went to the bookstore and bought a couple of Rav Aryeh Kaplan books, so I know that he is still teaching people in Olam Hazeh while he is in Olam HaEmes. I'll also say that people don't bother to argue with someone who they don't consider worthwhile, so consider this disagreement to be a sign of respect.

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  46. I'd like to point out that there seems to be a clear source for the Ramban holding, and claiming the same for the Rambam, that the 'forming' of earth took place close to Adam. The Ramban on parashas Noach,10:5, and in drashas Toras H' Tmima, brings Moreh Nevuchim 3:50, saying that geneologies are listed to show chidush haolam by giving 4th or 5th hand eidus of the chidush by linking back to Adam. What kind of rayah would this be if there was a long history on earth before Adam? "...being that a foundation of the Torah is that the olam is mchudash, and that one man was created first from the species of man, and he is Adam haRishon..."(Moreh 3:50, my translation) (as far as I know, the rishonim and Rambam always use 'chidush' to refer to the creation of earth or universe).

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  47. psak said...
    I'd like to point out that there seems to be a clear source for the Ramban holding, and claiming the same for the Rambam, that the 'forming' of earth took place close to Adam. The Ramban on parashas Noach,10:5, and in drashas Toras H' Tmima, brings Moreh Nevuchim 3:50, saying that geneologies are listed to show chidush haolam by giving 4th or 5th hand eidus of the chidush by linking back to Adam. What kind of rayah would this be if there was a long history on earth before Adam? "...being that a foundation of the Torah is that the olam is mchudash, and that one man was created first from the species of man, and he is Adam haRishon..."(Moreh 3:50, my translation) (as far as I know, the rishonim and Rambam always use 'chidush' to refer to the creation of earth or universe).


    There is no claim here that the Rambam himself believed in an ancient universe, only that he was not "paskening" the age of the universe. The Rambam did not know of radiometric dating, the speed of light, stellar parallax, continental drift or any of the other myriad phenomena that would have indicated an ancient universe; therefore, he probably would have reckoned the age of the earth as indicated by a literal interpretation of the pesukim.

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  48. Could you please explain, in short, how the rambam could have written the 13 ikrei emuna if there is no psak in hashkafa.

    The Rambam maintained that these were 1) basic truths and 2) there were essential to Jewish belief, such as that if they were ever falsified, then Judaism would be falsified. Therefore, they were never disputed by those otherwise holding to the religion and never paskened and there could be no such thing as even a Daas Yachid, let alone a minority opposition to these beliefs.

    What if someone did in fact some group dispute such a belief while maintaining their orthodoxy?

    There could be two solutions:

    1) We continue to accept the group or person despite this belief and let God deal with it. E.g. the Ralbag, if he did put a limit on God's Omniscience.

    2) Schism. E.g. Tzedukim vs. Perushim.

    Taking up the contrapositive, if there was if there was ever a legitimate argument over some issue, then this would perforce not be an Ikkar we would say "each are the words of living God". We would only be able to possibly Pasken the practical issues, but matters of belief would remain open.

    The converse is not true. Just because a belief is universal and there is no argument, that doesn't make it an Ikkar. Belief in a stationary earth among rotating crystalline spheres would be an example.

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  49. Oahie:"I believe that we’ve shown clearly that the Rambam simply does not interpret this Gemara literally,..."

    Please help me locate where you showed this?

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  50. David Ohsie:

    Some things don't translate, at least not into all language:, lefi aniyut dati into English is one of them. In any case, even in Hebrew works it is often being used being used as a cinui for "this is so bleeding obvious that anyone who doesn't realise it must be some kind of idiot". I think you are correct that IMHO comes closest to matching the different possible resonances of the phrase.

    If you really feel the need to qualify your statement I suggest some variation on "as I will attempt to demonstrate" or "on the evidence of the sources we/I shall now examine". But in general just say what you think: if you've done your research properly it shouldn't be a problem and, anyway, people are free to argue with you if they disagree. That is what civilized debate is about.

    I don't think there is any reason to be deferential, as opposes to civil, to R. Meiselman. He is trying, without any exaggeration, to destroy Judaism and he must be stopped.

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  51. Lazar said...
    @reject, ... How do you know what the Gedolim were asked? People ARE coming to them with....

    Sorry for cutting you off mid-sentence, but it is clear from your word "ARE" that I emphasized, that you thought I was refering to recent gedolim. My fault. Let me reword myself with 2 more words:

    At the same time, the view of THOSE OF our revered Torah authorities who were never asked to address the possibility of a 15 billion year old universe are of limited relevance.

    My intent is and was to the gedolim of the centuries before the 15 billion year universe was proposed. The rishonim say the world is only 5/6000 years old and not eternal.
    What would they say about a 15BYOU? (R Hirsch already answered this question, but there may be other views.)

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  52. Reject said, "What is absurd about Psak deciding whether sin X is punishable by Mita Bidei Shamaim or not. How would one know otherwise?"

    Yaakov Freidman said… Such a psak is mere semantics. It doesn't change the reality of whether there is or isn't misah bidei shamayim for sin x, and it doesn't change what people think the truth is either; you don't become convinced about something just because you took a vote on it. So if psak in hashkafa doesn't change fact or opinion, what does it do? Does it require one to pay lip service to the beliefs of the majority regardless of one's true feeling? If so, wouldn't you agree it's absurd?


    I see your objection was more substantial than I realized. I was coming from say… a lay observer at a debate during a medical conference. He can believe the unfalsifiable (to him) conclusions of the majority since he’s clueless to differ. When we study about Mitah Bidei Shamayim, it’s a subject of which we too are clueless. What would compel us to oppose the majority? We wouldn’t toe the line, as you write, “regardless of one’s true feelings”. (OTOH what would compel us to follow the majority?)

    But you appear to be coming from the perspective of, in my example, an outvoted doctor from the minority who in fact has strong feelings, and later when the majority’s opinion is backed up by the government… he has to concede in deed, but not in mind. How can he be commanded to believe what he doesn’t believe, just because that’s the majority opinion?

    Among the rationale for following the majority for deeds are the following words of the Ramban Devarim 17:18, in a comment that is actually more nuanced, (see there for details):

    יש לך לחשוב על ימין שהוא ימין, כי רוח השם על משרתי מקדשו ולא יעזוב את חסידיו לעולם נשמרו מן הטעות ומן המכשול
    This might not qualify as rationalist. But it means that majority opinion at least in certain circumstances does not create the truth, as some anti-rationalist would think, but rather is symptomatic, the result, of certainly being true. The Ramban clearly says that some divine manipulation is happening and you are forced to set aside your own opinion. Or better, you are forced to recognize that your opinion should be set aside. This applies to both deed and thought.

    It’s ironic that recently www.rationalistjudaism.com/2014/01/why-people-dont-wear-techeles.html?showComment=1389823787916#c7721102569445288024 I cited at length an opposing, more “rationalist” explanation of another authority and now I’m citing Ramban who goes the other way. If you go with the other authority I believe your question remains. If you go with Ramban I believe it is resolved.

    Actually Ramban concedes that at times the Rov may be wrong. That could be by something actually falsified; in those specific circumstances your question remains.

    Kt.

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  53. Another thing is that hashkafic rulings fall into two categories, those about what happened in the past and those that are supposed to happen in the future. Chassidim say that originally demons existed, but when the Ramban said that there are no demons they ceased to exist. Then when the Gra said that they do exist they began to exist again. (Please I don’t want to discuss this, it’s only an illustration.) If one accepts that Torah giants are worthy of having their opinions impact the existence of spiritual beings, Rambam’s ruling would effect the existence of demons from after the time of his ruling. But his ruling wouldn’t banish them from existence retroactively, assuming that they had existed beforehand. Ditto the Gra. His ruling would bring them into existence from after the time of his ruling but not before.

    There’s a principle that G-d abides by the Halachic decisions of humans. So if they rule that sin X is punishable by Mitah Bidei Shamayim, which is a ruling concerning what G-d is meant to do in the near future, their ruling should in theory be Halachicly “binding”, if we may so say. And if later humans rule the opposite, such as outlined by Rambam Mamrim 2:1, He will “act” according to the new ruling.

    IIRC, (the new “read more” option makes it more difficult to find things), 4 of the 5 Rambam citations deal with “futures”.

    Only regarding things that happened already is there a difficulty for a ruling to recreate the past. (But I wonder if the alleged scientific discussion what would happen if someone went back in time and killed their ancestor before they had any children, is relevant here.) And in that case Ramban says you must assume that the truth exists independently of the Rov, only that G-d makes the Rov get to the truth.

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  54. While we're on this topic, does anyone know what "Ma'amar" Rav Gifter was referring to in this letter?

    Just a lead:
    The addressee is Rabbi Stopler, a former head of NCSY, and the letter is from 1988. If the Maamar was published, presumably OU/NCSY did so at about that time, so the interested can turn to OU/NCSY to find out.

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  55. Tyler Tripp said...
    Oahie:"I believe that we’ve shown clearly that the Rambam simply does not interpret this Gemara literally,..."

    Please help me locate where you showed this?


    The Rambam says clearly that P'sak does not apply to theoretical matters many times over and I have shown (in my opinion) that attempts to reinterpret those statements to mean something different (or the opposite) are not well-founded.

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  56. I don't think there is any reason to be deferential, as opposes to civil, to R. Meiselman. He is trying, without any exaggeration, to destroy Judaism and he must be stopped.

    Gavriel M., you've unwittingly supplied a good reason for me to be deferential. I don't want people to think that I am expressing or agree with the sentiment that you express here.

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  57. Another thing is that hashkafic rulings fall into two categories, those about what happened in the past and those that are supposed to happen in the future. Chassidim say that originally demons existed, but when the Ramban said that there are no demons they ceased to exist. Then when the Gra said that they do exist they began to exist again. (Please I don’t want to discuss this, it’s only an illustration.) If one accepts that Torah giants are worthy of having their opinions impact the existence of spiritual beings, Rambam’s ruling would effect the existence of demons from after the time of his ruling. But his ruling wouldn’t banish them from existence retroactively, assuming that they had existed beforehand. Ditto the Gra. His ruling would bring them into existence from after the time of his ruling but not before.

    These precisely are the kinds of odd results that the Rambam's Shita enables us to avoid.

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  58. David, you're being too kind. The idea that reality must conform to the judgment of various savants such as the talmudic sages, Rambam, and Vilna Gaon is simply irrational - as is the idea that GOD is bound by the decisions of men. The latter idea is only found in some writings of men, it is not a divine dictat.

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  59. Tyler Tripp said...
    Oahie:"I believe that we’ve shown clearly that the Rambam simply does not interpret this Gemara literally,..."

    Please help me locate where you showed this?

    The Rambam says clearly that P'sak does not apply to theoretical matters many times over and I have shown (in my opinion) that attempts to reinterpret those statements to mean something different (or the opposite) are not well-founded.

    January 29, 2014 at 8:05 PM

    So then how do you explain the Gemara according to the Rambam ? If you answer that you don't know, then this is just one of countless examples that would demonstrate that your understanding of the Rambam can't be justified instead of turning every gemara like this one into meaning something it can't possibly mean unless you assign meanings to gemaras by just pulling them out of a hat eg. fictionalizing gemara after gemara after gemara. Instead, the thing to do is to refrain from explaning the Rambam i na way that can't be upheld except by ignoring countless other gemaras in ways that arent upheld by anyone at all.

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  60. @Y. Aharon, David isn't being too kind; I'm being too brief. Ramban explicitely states that at times the Rov is wrong. Y. Friedman's contention that "The very notion that psak can apply to haskafic questions is absurd" is oversimplified. There is more nuance.

    The idea that reality must conform to the judgment of various savants such as the talmudic sages, Rambam, and Vilna Gaon is simply irrational

    I don't understand why you express it in the reverse of how I did, and precisely the way I said that it should not be expressed? The truth/reality bends to no one. Subsequently it is possible that the רוח השם clues the משרתי מקדשו to be נשמר מן הטעות ומן המכשול.

    - as is the idea that GOD is bound by the decisions of men. The latter idea is only found in some writings of men, it is not a divine dictat.

    You got me on this one. The only thing G-d wrote was the Luhot, and this idea isn't there.

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  61. David Ohsie said These precisely are the kinds of odd results that the Rambam's Shita enables us to avoid.

    These "odd results" already exist in practical halacha. The Kazar king protests this and the Hacham defends it here-
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=30637&st=&pgnum=339&hilite=
    (See also the previous page or 2.)

    I only noted that the "odd results" extend into futuristic hashkafa. Does that create an essential problem?

    Alternatively, the process of psak in the area of practical halacha creates these "odd results", so why not eliminate psak also from that area so we'll be scott clean from this problem everywhere?

    To reiterate, the easy way to divide is between pre-existing fact and halacha (whether "imposed" on man or on G-d) rather than between practical halacha for man and everything else.

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  62. David Ohsie. What do you think the likely consequences for Judaism are if Rabbi Meiselman's view that it is heresy to believe the world is more that 6,000 years old becomes generally accepted?
    The only possible result, I submit, is that Judaism will become a religion of ignorant simpletons led by nutcases. Israel will either (I) become a completely secular country or (ii) a third world basketcase.

    Why is "destroy" an inappropriate term to describe this result?

    There is actually really rather a lot at stake here. Pretending there isn't is not mark of virtue.

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  63. The idea that reality must conform to the judgment of various savants such as the talmudic sages, Rambam, and Vilna Gaon is simply irrational

    I don't understand why you express it in the reverse of how I did, and precisely the way I said that it should not be expressed? The truth/reality bends to no one. Subsequently it is possible that the רוח השם clues the משרתי מקדשו to be נשמר מן הטעות ומן המכשול.


    My apologies, I made a mistake. Later I'll have time to correct myself. Or you can do it beforehand.

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  64. Gavriel M said...
    David Ohsie. What do you think the likely consequences for Judaism are if Rabbi Meiselman's view that it is heresy to believe the world is more that 6,000 years old becomes generally accepted?


    Remember what Woody Allen wrote: "If everybody went to the same restaurant one evening to eat blintzes, there'd be chaos. But they don't."

    Rabbi Meiselman is providing an intellectual justification for an already dominant view among the right wing of Orthodox Judaism. To pull one example out of a hat, Rav Moshe was quite explicit on this topic as well, I believe. If you read Dr. Jeremy Brown's book on the Jewish Reception to Copernicus that I blogged about, you'll see that this split has always existed. You can see it in the reception to the Rambam's views as well.

    The only possible result, I submit, is that Judaism will become a religion of ignorant simpletons led by nutcases. Israel will either (I) become a completely secular country or (ii) a third world basketcase.

    Why is "destroy" an inappropriate term to describe this result?

    There is actually really rather a lot at stake here. Pretending there isn't is not mark of virtue.


    While I don't fear this becoming a generally accepted view, as I outlined above, I also don't feel that this would be the consequence. People are always hand-wringing about the resistance to belief in evolution by some religious groups in the US. Perhaps if people's brains were operated with 100% consistency, we would have a disaster if people rejected basic science for religious reasons. But isn't the way that our brains work. We can function just fine in the real world even if we have some odd misconceptions about basic principles hanging around in the back of our heads.

    Finally, reread what you wrote above. You wrote that there was intention to destroy something. This argument doesn't support that language, even if I accepted it.

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  65. David Ohsie said These precisely are the kinds of odd results that the Rambam's Shita enables us to avoid.

    These "odd results" already exist in practical halacha. The Kazar king protests this and the Hacham defends it here-
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=30637&st=&pgnum=339&hilite=


    The results are not odd in practical halacha because, as Kuzari notes, we are commanded to listen the the judge at the time. So God "agrees" to both conclusions in the sense that people living at time A need to do X and people living at time B need to do Y according to the "current" ruling. No one is required believe that the other conclusion is wrong, nor do we know based on a P'sak whether Moshe Rabbeinu wore Rashi Tefillin, Rabbeinu Tam tefillin or a third option.

    Please reread my first post. If you don't believe me, you can trust Rav Moshe that this is a valid way of viewing P'sak Halacha.

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  66. So then how do you explain the Gemara according to the Rambam ? If you answer that you don't know, then this is just one of countless examples that would demonstrate that your understanding of the Rambam can't be justified instead of turning every gemara like this one into meaning something it can't possibly mean unless you assign meanings to gemaras by just pulling them out of a hat eg. fictionalizing gemara after gemara after gemara. Instead, the thing to do is to refrain from explaning the Rambam i na way that can't be upheld except by ignoring countless other gemaras in ways that arent upheld by anyone at all.

    If you think that interpreting "Nimnu V'Gamru" as "they got together and agreed" is fictionalizing the Gemara, while reversing the clear meaning Rambam's language and his explanation is not a big deal, then I agree that my essay will make no sense to you.

    You are also going to have a hard time understanding many, many statements of the Rambam if you are going insist on trying to figure out how he interpreted every Gemara. This case doesn't present any problem at all, but consider his interpretation of Olam Haba in introduction to Chelek and how well it fits with the plain meaning of Chelek. There is a reason he made his well-known statements about avoiding literal interpretation of Agadah over in that location.

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  67. The idea that reality must conform to the judgment of various savants such as the talmudic sages, Rambam, and Vilna Gaon is simply irrational

    I don't understand why you express it in the reverse of how I did, and precisely the way I said that it should not be expressed? The truth/reality bends to no one. Subsequently it is possible that the רוח השם clues the משרתי מקדשו to be נשמר מן הטעות ומן המכשול.


    My apologies, I made a mistake. Later I'll have time to correct it. Or you can correct me beforehand.

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  68. reject, I did not wish to directly attack your comment, so I used David's language as a more indirect means. However, if you insist, you proposed the idea that demons existed because the talmudic sages believed in them, then ceased to exist because the Rambam viewed the idea as foolish, then were 'resurrected' because the Gra adamantly rejected the Rambam's stance. Presumably, they have again disappeared since very few still believe in them. You also cited a 'rationale' for such an odd belief, namely, that GOD follows the decisions of men (of a posek stature). So, apparently, he creates and uncreates 'spiritual' beings based on the current concepts of men. That, it seems to me, is demeaning to the concept of GOD to require Him to adopt and effectuate the mistaken notions of men. Either that or GOD keeps changing His 'Mind' and implanting the corresponding notion in men. Would you also extend such dictations to the physical world. For example, there has been discussion here over the heliocentric vs. geocentric views of the solar system. The sages believed the earth to be the center of rotation of space, few educated rabbinic figures still believe that. Would you say, that once everything rotated about a stationary earth, then some centuries ago, the earth and planets started rotating about the sun?

    You realize, that the idea that GOD must implant the correct ideas in the decision making majority is merely a conjecture. It is at least equally valid (and more rational) to take the position that truth and legal standing are different matters. We may be obligated as a matter of law, without it being a matter of truth. In any case halachic decisions may dictate behavior, they don't constrain the operations of the physical world.

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