Thursday, May 7, 2015

Guest Post: Is Rabbeinu Avraham Ben HaRambam an Outlier?

Copyright 2015 by David Ohsie. All rights reserved

"... we are not in duty bound to defend the opinions of the sages of the Talmud, concerning medicine, physics and astronomy, as right in every respect simply because we know the sages to be great men with a full knowledge of all things regarding the Torah, in its various details." -- Rabbeinu Avraham Ben HaRambam in Discourse on the Sayings of the Rabbis

Introduction

Were Chazal fallible in scientific matters?   Are they authoritative in their statements about the natural world?  Does traditional Judaism mandate a belief  in Sages' scientific worldview?  Rabbeinu Avraham Ben HaRambam's Discourse on the Sayings of the Rabbis is a work often cited in response to these questions. The reasons are quite simple.  
  1. He is a recognized traditional Jewish authority.
  2. He answers these questions quite clearly: Chazal's authority in religious matters does not carry over directly to their statements about the natural world. 
Both the clarity and relevance of the Discourse was noted by Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog (Judaism: Law & Ethics, p. 152)
The attitude of the orthodox Jew towards the scientific matter embedded in this colossal mass of Jewish religious learning may be best summed up in the words of R. Abraham Maimuni [Rabbeinu Avraham], the great son of the greatest codifier of Jewish law and the foremost Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages.
Not that Rabbeinu Avraham was the first to make this point. Rav Sherira Gaon writes in a similar vein: "We must inform you that our Sages were not physicians. They may mention medical matters which they noticed here and there in their time, but these are not meant to be a mitzvah." Nevertheless, Rabbeinu Avraham's statement is arguably the clearest and most expansive medieval statement on the topic.

There are, however, traditionalists who take a more fundamentalist approach to the science of the Talmud.  For them, it is important to show Rabbeinu Avraham's Discourse is an outlier; mainstream traditional Judaism rejects Rabbeinu Avraham's viewpoint, and we should do so as well.   For example, Rabbi Aharon Feldman states that Rabbeinu Avraham's view was shared by various traditional authorities [1], but is now "a minority opinion which has been rejected by most authorities" and and while "[t]hey were permitted to hold this opinion; we are not."

Rabbi Moshe Meiselman [2] takes this approach one step further.  In his opinion, the Discourse is incongruent with the views of any mainstream traditional authorities, past or present, including Rabbeinu Avraham's own writings [3].   In addition, the text itself is suspect and should be given little to no weight.  In other words, the Discourse is such an outlier that it is not to be believed [4].

In this series of posts, we hope to show that Rabbeinu Avraham's approach is well within the mainstream of authorities both in Rav Avraham’s time and ours, and that it is a completely reliable indicator of Rabbeinu Avraham's opinions as well those of his father.  We'll address the purported contradictions between the Discourse and the Rambam.   We'll also attempt to show that attempts to cast doubt on the text and translation of the Discourse are without foundation.  Let us begin with a short summary of the Discourse.


A Brief Summary of the Discourse

(The Hebrew text of the discourse can be found here and a partial English translation is here.)

The stated goal of the Discourse is to explain apparently fantastic Derashot (interpretations or homilies) and stories of Chazal.   The reader of these statements can commit two kinds of error: (1) mocking of the words of Chazal or denying their truth,  (2) or taking what they say at face value as describing a strange and unfamiliar world where miracles are commonplace.  The key to understanding these fantastic stories is to understand that they often contain a hidden esoteric lesson in addition to their plain meaning.  To this end, the Discourse classifies, with examples, various types of derashot and stories of Chazal and explains the proper attitude towards each one.

This leads to the following question: what to do with medical or scientific claims of Chazal which are intended literally, yet appear to be false?  For example, Pesachim 94a implies that the earth is flat and is surrounded by a sky-shell (Rakia) of specific “thickness”. [5]   Dr. Fred Rosner points out that you can find a mix of true and false observations in the Talmud’s treatment of rabies. [6]  Countless additional examples could be produced.  Are we to treat all of these statements as parables?

Rabbeinu Avraham’s solution is to propose a different approach entirely to these scientific and medical matters.   In matters of medicine, nature and astronomy, we are required to come to our own understanding of the matter and not rely on authority.  This contrasts with explanations of the Torah, where we rely on the statements of Chazal,   Rabbeinu Avraham points to the discussion on Pesachim 94b as proof that Chazal themselves took this attitude; in a scientific dispute between the Jewish and Gentile sages, they stated that “their view is preferable to ours”.   We treat the scientific statements of Chazal as we treat the scientific claims of all people in all eras: those supported by evidence are to be accepted, while those not so supported are rejected. [7]  It is only after Rabbeinu Avraham explains his approach to scientific matters, that he goes on to classify the derashot and stories of Chazal. [8]

A theme that runs through the Discourse is that an intelligent person should not believe seemingly impossible facts, stories, or interpretations because they are stated by Chazal.  The statement that a “preserving stone” (even tekuma) wards off miscarriage should be treated as a scientific claim to be confirmed, or as in this case, disconfirmed by evidence. If the statement is non-scientific, then it is likely an exaggeration, describes elements of a dream or was intended to convey an esoteric meaning.  In this way, the reader avoids accepting obvious absurdities, on the one hand, and missing the hidden values of Chazal's statements on the other.

A secondary theme of the Discourse is that not all statements of Chazal are received Oral Torah. Scientific statements are not inherently matters of Torah to begin with; thus they may sometimes conflict with our observation.  Derashot, even when attached to Pesukim, are not always to be regarded as received interpretation of the Torah.  Instead, they reflect the opinions of their respective authors, and thus they may conflict with other Derashot based on the opinion of other sages.

This approach towards Chazal is anathema to some modern authorities, as we described above. These authorities claim that the approach of the Discourse is novel and in opposition to other traditional authorities including the Rambam.   In our next post, we will place the Discourse in historical context and show that it aligns exactly with the positions of the Rambam.

I'd like to give credit in advance to the work of many others whose material provided references for these posts.  Undoubtedly, a lot of the analysis here is either a restatement or a rediscovery of their work.  In particular, I'd like to mention the excellent Torah, Science, et al. website.

Comments are both welcome and encouraged.  I'll make every effort to address any questions or arguments posted in the comments.

Edit: you can find a listing of other Rationalist Judiasm posts related to the book Torah, Chazal and Science here: http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2013/10/torah-chazal-and-science.html


Notes:

[1] Rabbi Feldman mentions Rav Sherira Gaon, the Rambam, the Pachad Yizchok, Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch and Rav Eliyahu Dessler (as reported by his student Rav Aryeh Carmel).

[2]  Torah, Chazal and Science (henceforth TCS).

[3] Rabbi Meiselman writes that the Discourse indeed implies that "Chazal's Mesorah is authoritative with respect to halachah, but not with respect to realia," but that
... such a position cannot possibly attributed to Rabbeinu Avraham ... this was certainly not the Rambam's opinion". (TCS p. 105) Furthermore, "the tone is ... highly disturbing" and "[I]t is hard to imagine ... that any mainstream halachic authority could have penned these words." The Discourse advocates a "radical position ... not even hinted at in any of Rabbeinu Avraham's writings. ... It is at odds with the Rambam's position. ... [A] similar position by Azariah De Rossi ... prompted Rav Yosef Karo to ... order ... his books be burnt. (TCS pg. 115; ellipses mine)
[4]  "[I]t is surely unsound to base a revolutionary new approach to Torah upon this document."

[5] (Soncino Translation): “Come and hear: Tanna debe Eliyahu: R. Nathan said: The whole of the inhabited world is situate under one star. The proof is that a man looks at a star, [and] when he goes eastward it is opposites [and when he goes] to the four corners of the world it is opposite him. This proves that the whole of the inhabited world is situate under one star.” We can certainly admire R. Nathan’s conjecture that the stars are very far from us and thus very large, based on the lack of parallax that one observes with even such large faraway objects as mountains. However, his statement seems factually incorrect: as you travel farther south, the altitude of the stars certainly does change and new stars are revealed in the southern sky. This fact was one of Aristotle’s proofs for the sphericity of the earth and was used by Eratosthenes to measure the earth’s circumference based on the difference in the Sun's altitude at different latitudes.

[6]  On the one hand, we have the following accurate description of the behavior of a rabid dog:
Our Rabbis taught that five things were mentioned in connection with a mad dog: its mouth is open, its saliva is dripping, its ears flap, its tail hangs between its thighs, and it walks on the edge of the road. Some say it also barks without its voice being heard.
Dr. Rosner goes on to explain:
The Talmudic discussion then mentions that even if a person only rubs against the mad dog, there is danger, and he should remove and destroy his clothes. Samuel further said that one should kill it by throwing something at it, avoiding direct contact with the rabid animal. From these Talmudic statements, it is obvious that the etiology of rabies was not at all understood, although the symptomatology was correctly recognized.
[7] The outsized authority of Aristotle slowed down the the development of modern physics and astronomy. Had more the natural philosophers and scientists throughout the ages taken Rabbeinu Avraham’s approach, the era of modern empirical science might have ushered in at an earlier time.

[8] He classifies the derashot of Chazal into five categories: (1) Those that are literal and intended to be understood as such; (2) Those where there is a literal meaning and and esoteric meaning and where the literal meaning is to be discarded in favor the the esoteric meaning; (3) Those where the literal meaning is intended, but is very difficult to interpret and thus often mislead the reader; (4) Homiletics on Pesukim which, while they take the form of “explanations” of a pasuk, are actually just the opinion of the author and are neither the true meaning of the pasuk, nor an explanation received as part of the Oral Torah. Rabbeinu Avraham opines that this category actually constitutes a majority of derashot;(5) Those which are exaggerations.

He also classifies the stories of Chazal as follows: (1) True stories told for halachic implications, their moral lessons, their lessons in correct belief or because they contain an unusual or surprising element; (2) Stories which occurred in dreams, but are told as stories that happened with the understanding the intelligent reader will understand that could only be dreams, such as those that involve demons. If the reader takes these literally, he is lead to believe possible that which is impossible; (3) Stories which actually happened, but are described in exaggerated fashion in a way that an intelligent reader will be understand that they are exaggerated; (4) True stories that are told in the form of a parable and riddle so that only the truly wise could understand them.

39 comments:

  1. Are there any sources to the idea that Chazal might not have been accurate in their historical accounts as well?

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    1. Azariah dei Rossi's Me'or Enayim? But he was not as universally accepted as Rabbeinu Avraham. Someone who knows much more than me can answer better...

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    2. it makes less sense to say history (of events yet to come) was given at siani than to say some scientific facts were given at siani so certainly they can be mistaken in historical accounts

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    3. rashi says there were 5 persian kings based upon josephus. ramban disagrees with seder olom about the counting of 400 years from mitzrayim, (because he does not like ein mukdam umechar in the torah ) heard a shiur from rav shacter that mahrshal I think disgrees about burning edim zommemim

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  2. "A secondary theme of the Discourse is that not all statements of Chazal are received Oral Torah. Scientific statements are not inherently matters of Torah to begin with; thus they may sometimes conflict with our observation."

    Why is this only true with regard to matters of science? It's pretty self-evident to anyone who learns Gemara that many of the svaras of the Amoraim on Halachic topics are just that, svaras. They are presented as such and there's no real reason to assume otherwise. At some point, we decided to elevate these statements to something that they simply aren't, presumably because some people felt that the only way to get people to treat 2,000-year-old statements that were so obviously a product of the social climate of their time with any real reverence was by pretending that they were made by borderline angels.

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    1. Well said. If you look at scholarly texts, you will see that scholars take your assertion for granted. I believe that as an Orthodox Jew I am required to follow the laws which were derived from the Talmud but I have no obligation to believe that said opinions are even divinely inspired. I merely must accept that G-d has told us to accept the laws of the rabbis.That does not mean that the laws are infallible. It simply means that the laws are to be followed.

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    2. At some point, we decided to elevate these statements to something that they simply aren't

      Can you be more specific? Rambam says that we don't dispute the Gemara's rulings because they were accepted everywhere. See 31 and 32 here. He doesn't mention angels.

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    3. I'm not sure exactly what you mean. All I was saying was that the Gemara is full of statements by Chazal, including svaras on, say, Nezikin-related topics. When learning them, these statements usually appear to be the opinions of people who are Basar VaDam, which should be subject to the usual kind of analysis and critique. There doesn't seem to be any reason to believe that every such statement represents divine 'truth', any more than the science-related statements. But in the Yeshiva-world, including the non-Charedi Yeshiva-world, we treat these statements as if they came straight from Sinai. In the article, you seemed to be saying that Chazal's science-related statements could be treated as something less than Sinaic. I was saying that it's not just the science but that it's true of many other things Chazal say

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    4. @David,

      The Rambam also never met a twentieth century Charedi.

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    5. @Lion of Israel

      The reason its treated as Sinaitic is because for practical Halacha it has the same authority. If their opinion is the accepted Halacha we should try top understand what they were thinking and what the parameters of their rule is.

      @Avi

      in other news, the Rambam never met George Washington....

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    6. But in the Yeshiva-world, including the non-Charedi Yeshiva-world, we treat these statements as if they came straight from Sinai. In the article, you seemed to be saying that Chazal's science-related statements could be treated as something less than Sinaic. I was saying that it's not just the science but that it's true of many other things Chazal say

      OK, that make sense. My response is that I don't think that the Discourse's "special" treatment of science implies that. The reason for treating science differently, even though the there is no notion of infallibility in any area, will be discussed in a later post. Please keep reading and see if you agree with what I say there.

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    7. Also, see my post from last year where I talk about the meaning of "P'sak" and how it doesn't correspond to "absolute truth". http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2014/01/guest-post-can-we-pasken-age-of.html

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    8. Lion of Israel is correct. The reason "we" have elevated their halachic statements to the realm of infallibility is because, obviously, if we didn't, the entire house of orthodox Judaism would collapse, and we don't want that. But as a matter of intellectual honesty - it is clear that they simply interpreted verses as best as they could an in accordance with methods of interpretation prevalent in their time. I don't think any of us today would ever interpret a verse telling us not to cook a kid in its mothers milk (no matter how often repeated) that it means you cant eat any milk and meat together. (let alone poultry, let alone waiting, let along separate dishes, etc.)

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    9. The reason "we" have elevated their halachic statements to the realm of infallibility is because, obviously, if we didn't, the entire house of orthodox Judaism would collapse, and we don't want that.

      Or maybe it is a legal system? Does any country's legal system collapse because we recognize the lawmakers and judges to be fallible?

      I don't think any of us today would ever interpret a verse telling us not to cook a kid in its mothers milk (no matter how often repeated) that it means you cant eat any milk and meat together.

      Do you think that was interpretation or tradition? One way of looking at the halachic disputes between the Sadducees and Pharisees is that the Pharisees preserved tradition while the Sadducees re-examined and reinterpreted the texts.

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  3. For rabbis Feldman and Meiselman, what is the parade of horribles that follows from Chazal being incorrect in matters of science? From a philosophical perspective, one of the ways that we distinguish God from that which is not God is infallibility. So, unless they are trying to claim that Chazal are in fact, God, then Chazal have the ability to be in error.

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    1. They claim that Chazal were divinely inspired. Its really not complicated.

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    2. I believe that it is part of the defense against accepting the notions of modern science on, among other things, the age of the universe. If you can accept what science tells you, then you overturn the traditional views. If however, all of science is encompassed in the Torah itself, the you to go the Rabbis to pasken these things for you, and they can uphold the traditional view. Rabbi Meiselman says explicitly that when the Sages statements do not hold up in areas of "realia", they are really erring in Torah, not in science. So if there is no infallibility, you must must still submit to the religious authorities in science. At least I think that is it.

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  4. Aryeh, the Ba'al Hama'or commentary on the RIF early in Masechet Rosh Hashanna disputes the claim made in the Gemara that Koresh, Daryavesh, and Artachshasta (Cyrus, Darius, and Artexerxes) were the same emperor with different royal names. He states, in accord with historical accounts, that these were 3 different Persian emperors.

    David, I hope that you won't spend too much time critiquing R' Meiselman's book given the time already spent by R' Natan on the subject. Let me just cite one example where R' Meiselman's ideology flies in the face of facts. He, apparently, claims that the son of the Rambam could not have said that we don't consider the words of the sages about the world to be necessarily authoritative since that would contradict his father. Really! In hilchot Kiddush Hachodesh, the Rambam states that the interval between the last sighting of the old crescent moon and the sighting of the new moon is about 2 days. In T.B. Rosh Hashana, that interval is given as 1 day. Furthermore, the Rambam goes on to state that the sages were not astronomers and didn't have the more accurate knowledge of Greek scholars/natural scientists. He, therefore, intends to follow the observations and calculations of the latter in determining the details of the appearance of the constellations and seasons. This is in addition to the well known view of the Rambam against the existence of Sheidim (demons) and the efficacy of magic despite their frequent mention in the Talmud.

    Y. Aharon

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    1. Thank you for that citation. Will you believe me when I say that I knew that your reaction to my posts would be that they are unnecessary? :)

      Rabbi Meiselman is quite learned and responds to the arguments that you mention. If you read my posts last year, you know that he endorsed the theory that the Rambam supported the notion of P'sak outside of halacha, even though he explicitly says otherwise and brings many arguments and sources to bear.

      The reason to respond is that he is in fact very knowledgeable and marshals the best argument that he can, and that the book was written in English to an audience that may be convinced by these arguments. Since I feel that mandating antiquated scientific beliefs as a principle of the Torah can be very harmful to those who are scientifically literate, I think that it is worthwhile to respond. Read on and see if you can find anything worthwhile...

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  5. Whether or not Rambam "aligns exactly" with the position of his son -- I don't know. But one thing is certain -- he views many of Chazal's Aggada/Medrash style statements as being parables, having deeper meaning, etc. as he explicitly writes in Peirush HaMishna (and nowhere does he backtrack on it). So it seems pretty clear that before rejecting anything just as mistaken science, it must be analyzed if it really has a deeper meaning. This position of the Rambam is frequently ignored, overlooked, or downplayed in these discussions.

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    1. You are correct. This is addressed directly in the next post. But I'll say here that the Rambam does interpret some statements of Chazal as literal, but false (as well as interpreting some as non-literal, but false). Not in the Commentary on Mishnah that you refer to, but in other places.

      But to be more direct, do you really think that the examples that I gave are allegories? Do you think that when they appeared to discuss rabies, that they were really discussing metaphysics? That seems far-fetched. And does it really dishonor Chazal to admit that they hadn't yet discovered the germ theory of disease?

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    2. An interesting source regarding Chazal and germs:
      http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=9540&st=&pgnum=111

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    3. Great source!

      1) Do you accept the attribution to the Tanna Rabbi Eliezer? It seems doubtful. See this Hebrew wikipedia article.

      2) The source mentions "Hevel" which sounds like the "miasma" theory which preceded the germ theory of disease. A really wonderful book related to this is The Ghost Map.

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    4. 1) I don't see any clear evidence in either direction.

      2) It does say הבל, but on the other hand, according to the miasma theory, the sharing of the drink wouldn't be so relevant.

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    5. It does say הבל, but on the other hand, according to the miasma theory, the sharing of the drink wouldn't be so relevant.

      We need to separate observation from theory. The observation that one can transmit disease in some case by sharing food is an accurate one and, depending on the context, may have been novel. The various Talmudic injunctions against eating uncovered food are most likely correct observations about food poisoning.

      However, the germ theory of disease was simply unknown to them. This is why you get references to hevel, demons, and snake poison (or just "poison" generally). They were trying to make sense of something that you just can't make sense of until you discover the world of micro-organisms.

      So it could be that the author was stretching the miasma theory to cover his observation. That doesn't mean that he had uncovered the germ theory.

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  6. David, I didn't mean to imply that your proposed posts are unnecessary. You are an intelligent and knowledgeable person who should have useful things to contribute. Perhaps my anticipated boredom (or aggravation) with delving again into Rav (I should have given him an appropriate title) Meiselman's polemical book made it seem that the entire enterprise would bore me. That is not really the case, and I look forward to additional material on the subject - even if it's unlikely to change my thinking.

    One of the more aggravating aspects of the Meiselman approach is that it is unexpected from someone with his secular education. He went to the best secular schools in the Boston area: Boston Latin, Harvard (major in physics), and MIT (Ph.D. in mathematics). His Jewish/Talmudic education was private (with his uncle). He should be familiar with western philosophy as well as literature and the subject matters of his specialty. Yet, all of that is thrown to the winds, and a non-rational approach to the words of the Sages is adopted. While this may endear him to the Hareidi world, it distances him from the modern one. His combative tone and, apparently, personality also distances him. The more time spent on his views, the more aggravated I expect to become. Instead of a figure bridging the western and Talmudic worlds with strong credentials in both, he is just another Hareidi figure with conventional Hareidi views. It's a shame.

    Y. Aharon

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    1. We're off on a tangent, but why not? :)

      1) It is the the credit of the Rav that his students have gone off in so many different directions. A truly great Melamed (what the Rav called himself) doesn't product clones. His Grandson (and Rabbi Dr. Isidore Twersky's son) Rabbi Moshe Twersky HY"D similarly went to the "right" while other went off in different directions.

      2) My understanding is that Rabbi Meiselman is one of the few "Yeshiva World" accepted Rabbis who will openly endorse the Rav with the highest praise. It is true that the Rav's students all tend to paint their portrait of him while looking at their own image in the mirror, but I still think that he is performing a great service there opening people minds to the Rav.

      3) Before TCS, there were vague assertions of "Rabbi Slifkin's answers are no good, but I have the real answers". Now that TCS was published, there ideas of the intellectual "opposition" can be truly evaluated. I find that to be a very good thing. Now it is incumbent for anyone with a different PoV to put up or shut up. At least that is how I view it.

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    2. re: point number 3 his book is 700 pages

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    3. re: point number 3 his book is 700 pages

      Can you elaborate?

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  7. shalom,
    Some of the participants in this discussion might be interested in my book,
    Maimonides on the Decline of the Generations and the Nature of Rabbinic Authority. Albany: SUNY Press, 1996.
    Without getting into the broader issues, many of R. Meiselman's claims about Rambam and the authority of the Sages are demonstrably incorrect.
    kol tuv,
    Menachem Kellner

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    1. Professor Kellner, thank you for your comment. I'm in the middle of reading "Maimonides Confrontation with Mysticism", so I'll need to wait on your other book...

      Here is a link to the book for those interested: Maimonides on the "Decline of the Generations" and the Nature of Rabbinic Authority. You can read samples from the book there.

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  8. ohsie

    you write well and am looking forward to reading what you say. without getting too personal what is your background that gave you the skills to do this

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    1. Thank you for the vote of confidence. I am actually utterly unqualified to write on any topic like this, and even more unqualified to give advice, but here goes:

      1) Sit in a Yeshiva for a with people much more knowledgeable than than yourself
      2) with a Rosh Yeshiva in a shiur where he exposes his method of reasoning
      3) and who emphasizes that things have to actually make real sense or it's not learning
      4) Learn slowly enough to get it right
      5) Learn how to use dictionaries.
      6) Set aside regularly scheduled time to learn Torah subjects other than Gemara
      7) "Secular" studies
      8) Read a lot
      9) Spend time reading things that you don't agree with (at least at first and maybe never)

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  9. thanks for that.
    who was your rosh hayeshiva who exposed his method of reasoning. also you seem highly intelligent. what is your iq. ?

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    1. Sorry, I'm too old for selfie-sticks and facebook updates on my breakfast cereal, so we'll leave it at that.

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  10. Hello David. I am a little confused. I am not as intelligent as you are or as academic and I tend to be simple minded and would like to better understand your intentions.

    The question you ask is "was Rabbenu Abraham's opinion about Chazal and science an outlier?" And nowhere in this article did you state the traditional opinions that stated what he said. He state Rav Shierra Gaon, but he makes a very different statement from Rabbenu Abraham and you even agree to that! In footnote #1 you state some opinions, but it seems only Rav Hirsch said it as clear as Rabbenu Abraham. With all that it does seem like a minority opinion.

    So it seems to me the answer to the question would be Yes! Rabbenu Abraham IS an outlier opinion. Can you please explain further if this was your intentions.

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  11. Hello David. I am a little confused. I am not as intelligent as you are or as academic and I tend to be simple minded and would like to better understand your intentions.

    Hi Eddie, you don't need to be coy :). You can disagree with me openly and I won't be angry. I think that my intention was clearly stated:

    In this series of posts, we hope to show that Rabbeinu Avraham's approach is well within the mainstream of authorities both in Rav Avraham’s time and ours, and that it is a completely reliable indicator of Rabbeinu Avraham's opinions as well those of his father.

    The question you ask is "was Rabbenu Abraham's opinion about Chazal and science an outlier?" And nowhere in this article did you state the traditional opinions that stated what he said. ... In footnote #1 you state some opinions, but it seems only Rav Hirsch said it as clear as Rabbenu Abraham. With all that it does seem like a minority opinion.

    Yes, you need to read the series. Or visit here and explore: http://torahandscience.blogspot.com/

    He state Rav Shierra Gaon, but he makes a very different statement from Rabbenu Abraham and you even agree to that!

    I believe this to be false. Rabbi Feldman, Rabbi Meiselman, Rav Shlomo Zalman and others all put the two together. The difference is that Rabbeinu Avraham goes on much longer and with more detail.

    So it seems to me the answer to the question would be Yes! Rabbenu Abraham IS an outlier opinion.

    You are entitled to your opinion.

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  12. Thank you David for correcting my error. (I am very well aware of the website Torahand science and have read it many times. I believe many of the sources are not taken to what the author was intending based on the context.)
    Rav Sheirra Gaon is not "very different" from Rabbenu Abraham as I originally posted rather he is a little bit different. But you yourself say, "Nevertheless, Rabbeinu Avraham's statement is arguably the clearest and most expansive medieval statement on the topic." Everybody would agree (all of Chazal) were not physicians, and their comments about medical and science are not "a Mitvah", but Rabbenu Abraham makes a slightly different statement about the fallibility of Chazal. Just because they are discussed in reference with each other (By Rabbi Meiselman, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman, Rabbi Feldman) does not make it the same statement. Please enlighten me with you Rabbenu Abraham is not an outlier. Maybe you can start by being objective by quoting the opinions who state the exact opposite so we can compare. Or is that not something you are interested in researching?

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  13. Everybody would agree (all of Chazal) were not physicians, and their comments about medical and science are not "a Mitvah", but Rabbenu Abraham makes a slightly different statement about the fallibility of Chazal.

    I think that the point is the same, given that Rav Sherira Gaon uses that argument to prove that you should not follow Chazal's medical advice.

    Rabbenu Abraham is not an outlier. Maybe you can start by being objective by quoting the opinions who state the exact opposite so we can compare. Or is that not something you are interested in researching?

    This series doing precisely that. Rabbi Meiselman is a very learned person who takes that position and I an examining his arguments.

    ReplyDelete

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