Friday, May 15, 2015

Guest Post: Placing the Discourse into a Modern Context

Copyright 2015 by David Ohsie. All rights reserved

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. "It does not at all follow," Abraham Maimuni [Rabbeinu Avraham] declares in his classical introduction to the Aggadah, "that because we bow to the authority of the sages of the Talmud in all that appertains to the interpretation of the Torah in its principles” and details, we must accept unquestionably all their dicta on scientific matters, such as medicine, physics and astronomy. We ought to be quite prepared to find that some of their statements coming within the purview of science, are not borne out by the science of our times... -- Judaism: Law & Ethics, Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog, p. 152

Placing the Discourse into a Modern Context


In prior posts, we showed that the conclusions the Discourse was consonant with the thought of the Rambam with Rabbeinu Avraham’s other writing.   What about modern reactions to the Discourse since its rediscovery?

Rav Herzog, quoted above, maintains that the words of Rabbeinu Avraham are in fact a summary of “attitude of the orthodox Jew towards the scientific matter embedded in this colossal mass of Jewish religious learning”.   In other words, according to Rav Herzog, the Discourse is hardly an outlier.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach seems to agree.  The Sefer Lev Avraham mentions that one should not follow the medical advice of the Talmud.   Rabbeinu Avraham is quoted as one of the authorities who explain why: the medicine of the Talmud was based on contemporary understanding and does not derive from the Torah.  Obviously then, we are not obligated to follow it.  Rav Shlomo Zalman notes in his approbation that the Rabbeinu Avraham's explanation should be quotes with the preface "some say" (Yesh Omrim) indicating that this is not that majority position.

Based on this, one might imagine that Rav Shlomo Zalman, while not discounting Rabbeinu Avrahams position entirely, doubted the position of Rabbeinu Avraham.  However, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Lerner followed up with Rav Shlomo Zalman to ask who he was referring to when implied that the majority disagreed with Rabbeinu Avraham.  Rav Shlomo Zalman answered as follows (emphasis mine):

כעת אינני זוכר אם יש מישהו שממש חולק או אפילו אם יש מישהו שיכול לחלוק עליהם, אך יתכן שכוונתי דהואיל ורבים כתבו הטעם של שינוי הטבע ולא הזכירו כלל מפני שיפור הידע בדרכי הרפואה בזמנינו, לכן העירותי שראוי לכתוב בשם "יש אומרים", ובפרט שבעניני שבת יש שמתירים מלאכת שבת אף שלדעת הרופאים אין שום סכנה
At this point, I don’t remember if there is anyone that actually argues with them or even if there is anyone that could argue with them.  Rather it is probable that my intention was that since many bring down the reason of the change in nature (שינוי הטבע) and did not mention at all the improvement in medical knowledge in our times, therefore I noted that it is fitting to cite this position as “some say”.  And in particular since with regard to Shabbos, there are those that permit violation of Shabbos even if according to the doctors there is no medical emergency.
Thus, Rav Shlomo Zalman makes clear what is clear to most people in modern times: there have been obvious advancements in medical knowledge that supersedes the understanding of the Talmud and no one can really doubt this.   Those who give other reasons cannot argue with the fact that medical science is much improved over that of ancient times.  However, in halachic contexts, the other reasons (e.g. changes in nature) are often cited without mentioning the position of Rabbeinu Avraham.

In addition, in the religious context, we sometimes do permit Sabbath violations based on the dangers mentioned in the Talmud even though we don't actually treat the situation as dangerous medically.  For example, we perform Metzitzah even though it seem to have no medical benefit and would otherwise be prohibited on Shabbos.  As another example, a healthy postpartum mother is permitted by many to violate Shabbos even though we don't treat her as in danger medically.  In those halachic contexts, the reason brought down most often should given priority while the reason given by Rabbeinu Avraham is secondary.

Secondarily, we see from Rav Shlomo Zalman that the explanation "changes in nature" is not contradictory to a belief that modern medicine has made progress since Sages of the Talmud.  Those that proffer "changes in nature" for following modern medicine over that of the Talmud need not argue or disagree with Rabbeinu Avraham's position.

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch also explicitly supports Rabbeinu Avraham's approach:
However, it seems to me that the guiding principle every student of our sages' words should bear in mind is that our sages were the scholars of the Godly religion and were the recipients, transmitters and teachers of God's guidance, ordinances, commandments and statutes; they were not especially natural scientists, geometers, astronomers or physicians except as it was necessary for their comprehension, observance and performance of the Torah – and we do not find that this knowledge was transmitted to them from Sinai. 
To these voices, we can add the words of Rav Yonah Merzbach in his polemic against the modern geocentrists.  His position is that it is Mitzvah to continuously grow our understanding of the physical universe over time (translation mine):
Man was commanded to "replenish the earth, and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28) -- the command includes subduing the forces of nature, forces that were hidden in the creation, which was created by the maker of all things.  In order to subdue them, one must investigate and understand them.  It is well known, and a tradition in our hands, that before the end-times there will slowly be revealed to the eyes of all, many of the secrets of the creation, and God's honor will be thereby elevated.
And in truth, within the past few hundred years, and especially in the past few decades, [1] many of the of the secrets of nature have be deciphered by Man.  The vast distances of space in the universe and the paths of the stars have been clarified;  hidden waves invisible to the eye have been revealed.  The structure of the tiny atom has been deciphered, and within it is contained a mighty power capable of destroying worlds, except that its creator restrained it with a mysterious power that holds it together.  If not for that, all things would disintegrate in an instant...Blessed is the one who in his goodness renews, every day, the act of creation.

Rav Merzbach implies that that we are commanded to increase our knowledge of natural law and that we have in fact rapidly done so, and that this is a sign of progress.  To those who try to learn science from the Torah, he says:
To the masters of [those infused with] the holy spirit, and to them alone, are revealed the ways of nature and its laws from the verses of scripture and the words of our sages of blessed memory.  Others are liable to make errors in this.  The Torah was not written to be a book of natural science, and it was not for this purpose that our sages of blessed memory said what they said.  Whoever wants -- and there were some like these -- to prove that there is a boundary to the sky in the east and the west, or that the earth is flat and not spherical, relied on the statements of our sages of blessed memory and erred, because they didn't understand that "the Torah speaks in the language of man" (see Rambam, Yesodei Hatorah, 1:9 and 1:12) and in like manner spoke our sages of blessed memory and similar things can be found in the figurative language of our prayers and our praises.  These words are only an outer vestment for the extremely deep matters, and riddles by which to express secrets (see the Rambam's introduction to the Commentary on Mishnah).
Finally, we can add Rav Avraham Yishaya Karelitz, (the Chazon Ish) who asserts that medical knowledge today is greater than that at Chazal’s time, at least in some ways.  According the Chazon Ish, if Chazal had achieved the level of medical knowledge of our modern times, they would have decided the Halachos of Treifos differently than they actually did (חזון איש - אבן העזר (27:3:
In truth it appears that God created cures even for Treifos (animals considered mortally wounded) [...] but they were not revealed in every generation or every place.  That there are those that were revealed and then forgotten and all of them were ordered and organized from God at the time of the creation and it was given over to the sages [of the Talmud] to establish the laws of Treifos according to their holy spirit which rested upon them [...] we have no new Torah [laws] after them so the laws of Treifos were established according to God’s providence at that time [of the close of the Talmud] and those diseases which were fatal at that time, because God had not yet given to his creations a cure for them, would considered the fatal conditions [Treifos] that the Torah forbid both at that time and for the later generations.  And it is possible that it was not only in the discovery of medicinal drugs and the like alone that our time is different, but also in the changes in living things[...] (emphasis mine)
We also see that the Chazon Ish affirms that "changes in nature" and "progress in medicine" are not two mutually exclusive explanations, but can exist side by side.  An authority citing "changes in nature" is not thereby expressing disagreement with Rabbeinu Avraham.

Despite these references, Rabbi Meiselman in TCS claims that the Discourse is unsupported in modern times. We’ll address that assertion in the next post.

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

Notes


[1] Written in 1975

33 comments:

  1. ###According the Chazon Ish, if Chazal had achieved the level of medical knowledge of our modern times, they would have decided the Halachos of Treifos differently than they actually did##

    ...
    yes. but he did not accept the position of rav avroham, that chazal were fallible.

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    1. I'm not sure what you mean. Chazal had to make a halachic determination as whether or not something was a Treifah based on whether or not they could effect a cure. They made a decision based on their knowledge of medicine to say that situation "X" was not curable so the animal is a Treifah (and their decisions could have been different from those in Moshe Rabbeinu's time based on their knowledge). In modern times, with a greater knowledge of medicine, we say that the situation is curable, but we leave the halacha (according to the Chazon Ish) because these decisions were closed after the "2000 years of Torah".

      So we say: they were great men and we respect them, but medical knowledge has advanced past theirs, even though they were discussing a topic pertaining to Halacha (although we don't change the Halacha). Factually, it is pretty obvious that this is true, and my understanding is that the Chazon Ish studied biology and medicine on his own, so he probably would also have understood this well.

      Also, note that he doesn't explain the fact that we don't argue with the Gemara in halacha to overwhelmingly superior understanding. He says that it is because of the rule that we don't change things after the 2000 years of Torah.

      The fact that he follows up with the alternate possibility of "change in nature" reinforces this interpretation. Clearly, where possible, he would rather not attribute any lack of knowledge to Chazal, so he mentions that we should always consider "change in nature" as a possibility.

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    2. My understanding of the chazon ish is that in accordance with God's will, treifos was decided in the times of the gemarah according to the ability of animals to live 12 months with the medicines revealed by God at that point in time. no errors were made as it was true that this how long animals could live at that time

      the lack of of knowledge chazal had about future medicines which would God would reveal to later generations, does not count as a mistake. so imo no support can be brought to rav avraham from this chazon ish.

      shmuel says that the solar year is 365.25 days long. the chazon ish (138:4) calls the idea that shmuel was basing himself on gentile sources which has since been superceded as (inadvertant) heresy.

      http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14336&st=&pgnum=459

      I would say this is at least partial evidence he would disagree with rav avraham.

      what would you say the chazon ish would have said to someone who says we have superior knowledge of history than chazal and we now know that the the second temple stood for 586 years.

      rav avraham may have conceded the principle. I think the chazon ish strongly fought against it. (its in ovetz igros somewhere)

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    3. First off, I agree with you that the Chazon Ish is not identical to Rabbeinu Avraham. Rabbeinu Avraham would have no problem saying that the notion that babies born at 8 months old babies are less viable then those born at 7 was simply a mistake, whereas the Chazon Ish treats it as a "change in nature".

      Your evidence regarding the length of the year shows that Chazon Ish drew the line at something that would directly impact halacha or perhaps at something which he regarded as part of the Sod HaIbur. We can definitely contrast this with Rav Yitzchak Lampronti and Moshe Shmuel Glasner who both ask the question of what do with with a halacha based on faulty science (e.g. those based on the theory of spontaneous generation). Probably, the Chazon Ish would have regarded that question as out of bounds.

      However, the case that I mention above proves that sometimes when Chazal say one thing and we see another, we are allowed to assume that "we" (or course it is really the few specialists and not "we") have superior knowledge as indicated in the Discourse. The fact that he innovates/discovers the 2000 years of Torah idea to avoid this causing a mistake in Laws of Treifos combined with the source that you cite indicates that he might draw the line at a fact that implicates a halacha, as indicated above.

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    4. the chazon ish writes in kovetz igros letter 15: ''from the roots of faith are that every thing that is said in the gemarah whether in in mishnah or gemarah those are the things that were revealed through the power of prophecy which is the power of the neshikah of sechel hanetzal, with the sechel joined to the body"

      imo this implies infallibilty

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    5. Is this online?

      The problem is that this implies there should never be argument about anything and that Pesachim 94b is impossible. I would take this to mean: despite the obvious fact that the the Gemara was produced by fallible humans arguing with each other, making and admitting their mistakes, it is holier than the sum of its parts. But I would need to see the context, and I'm not even a beginner in understanding the philosophy of the Chazon Ish.

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    6. Is this online?

      The problem is that this implies there should never be argument about anything and that Pesachim 94b is impossible. I would take this to mean: despite the obvious fact that the the Gemara was produced by fallible humans arguing with each other, making and admitting their mistakes, it is holier than the sum of its parts. But I would need to see the context, and I'm not even a beginner in understanding the philosophy of the Chazon Ish.

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  2. R' Avraham is also quoted favorably twice by R' Dovid Sinzheim in Sheva Chakiros:

    ועם כי הרשות נתונה להוציא דברי חז"ל בהגדות מפשטן לא כן בדברים הנוגעים לדינא ואף גם באגדתא דוקא כשאנו מוכרחים לכך כמו שפי ר' אברהם בנו של הרמב"ם במאמרו שחיבר על ענין הגדות והוא בכ"י ומכ"ש כשנמצא מחכמי א"ה מסכימים לדבריהם ואף אם לא יהיה כן הדבר עכ"פ דברו לפי המפורסם בזמנם כמו שבע"כ צ"ל כן בכמה מאמרים המדברים מענין התכונה אשר הם דברים זרים והם אמרו כפי המפורסם בזמנם וכמו שאמרו שא"י באמצע העולם וירושלים בטבור הארץ שכל זה לפי המפורסם בזמנם


    מ"ש ר"מ בענין הגדות הזרות זו מחלוקת ישנה היא וכבר האריך בזה הרמב"ם במשנת חלק וחלק בני אדם לג' כתות וכבר עמד ר"מ על דברי הרמב"ם ור' אברהם בנו חיבר על זה מאמר קצר הנה הוא בביליאטעק בפאריז והקיצור ממנו כמדומה יש בידי שהעתקתי לי

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    1. Another great citation. It is also interesting that he mentions that when Chazal are agreeing with the general understanding of their time, that you have a greater reason to attribute the statement to the knowledge of the time.

      Since I'm ignorant, could you give more background on R' Sinzheim? I can't find the book on either hebrewbooks or otzar.

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    2. 1745-1812. He was the top Rabbi in France of his time. At one point Napoleon created some sort of Sanhedrin with R' Sinzheim as its head. He is probably most well known for his commentary on Shas, Yad Dovid.

      A contemporary of his, R' Tzvi Hirsch Segal Spitz, sent him seven questions. R' Sinzheim responded to them, R' Spitz responded back, and R' Sinzheim responded back again. This correspondence is the Kuntres Sheva Chakiros. It is about 25 pages long and it is printed in the back of Minchas Ani chelek aleph, also by R' Sinzheim.

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    3. Thank you, I found it on Otzar. I'll take some time to read it soon, God willing.

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    4. The whole kuntres is fascinating. He touches upon corporeality, gilgulim, and other interesting things. I definitely recommend it.

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  3. David, that citation from Rav Karelitz (Chazon Ish) is interesting. He appears to dispute the conventional notion that the 18 simanei treifot mention by the sages was from Sinai. If it were, then we have a problem in that some of these simanim don't lead to near-term death under modern veterinary practice. Instead, he claims that the sages instituted these rules based on inspired guidance, and that these rules both have biblical authority, and no one subsequent to the closing of the Talmud has the ability to change them. While, the latter may conform to a conventional view of the relative authority of the Talmudic sages vs. later poskim, it does not preclude a future Sanhedrin from changing those rules to conform to reality - as per the Rambam.

    I don't see the mention of possible changes in nature being significant. It is an afterthought, as opposed to the main thrust of his argument. The only situation where an argument about changes in nature is realistic is the akin to the argument raised by the Tosafot about when a cow is first able to give birth. They state that the 3 years mentioned in Talmud is commonly violated in the European experience. That, actually, is an argument for changes due to breeding or a difference between the Afro-Asian cow (Zebu) and the European one rather than a change in nature.

    Y. Aharon

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    1. I don't see the mention of possible changes in nature being significant. It is an afterthought, as opposed to the main thrust of his argument.

      Not sure if you followed the link, but he goes on at some length and attributes many difference between Talmudic medicine and ours to changes in biology (or climate), including the former practice of bleeding and the viability of premature babies. I think that this actually strengthens the argument that he aligns with Rabbeinu Avraham's basic premise, since he feels compelled to explain that, of course, it is not always increases in knowledge that explain the difference.

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    2. David, I hadn't read the Hazon Ish commentary that you referenced - only the excerpt. Having now read it, I see your point, but I still disagree as to the significance of the 'change in living things or nature' that he alludes to near the end of his essay. That argument is the default rationale used by many poskim to explain away the discrepancy between views of the sages and reality as we perceive it. It is merely an ad-hoc rationale which doesn't sit well with those of us who have some understanding of nature. The novel rationale that the Hazon Ish advances is that creation contained the concept of 2 millenia of torah. Those 2 millenia started with matan torah and ended with the close of the talmud. Only then, in this view, could halacha be formulated having the authority of torah. Hence, the 18 treifot listed by the sages is as valid now as it was in their time despite the change in reality in the intervening timeframe. That is, in fact, the situation whether or not one subscribes to the mystical aspect of his commentary. This is basically the position of the Rambam in his Mishne Torah, hilchot treifot.

      Y. Aharon

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    3. I don't disagree. I think that it may be that he goes on at length with the "nature changed" explanation because he understands that some will be put off by the "we know more" explanation. But that is speculation. When I said "of course, it is not always increases in knowledge that explain the difference," I was speaking from a Charedi PoV.

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  4. Thus, Rav Shlomo Zalman makes clear what is clear to most people in modern times: there have been obvious advancements in medical knowledge that supersedes the understanding of the Talmud and no one can really doubt this. Those who give other reasons cannot argue with the fact that medical science is much improved over that of ancient times
    #####

    is he as clear as all that. this would be my preferred wording.

    Thus, we can clearly see that Rav Shlomo Zalman states the real possibility that there have been obvious advancements in medical knowledge which could potentially supersede the understanding of the Talmud . Those who give other reasons may not necessarily argue with the fact that medical science is much improved over that of ancient times

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    1. או אפילו אם יש מישהו שיכול לחלוק עליהם

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    2. I was understood the "OR" as a possibilty, not as a statement of fact

      at this time I do not remember if somebody disagrees [with rav avraham] or not.

      (so there may be someone who disagrees, just I cannot remember the name just now.)


      OR is it even possible to disagree

      (so there will be no one who disagrees)

      both equal possibilities.

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    3. I though that 'or' means a possibilty. not definitely decided

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    4. The phrase is או אפילו which is "or even" in English. An example would be like this:

      "Can he play shortstop?"

      "I don't know if he can play shortstop or even play baseball at all"

      The first phrase answers the question ("I don't remember if anyone argues"). The next gives the wider view and reason "or even if anyone can argue". It is not stating two alternatives.

      In any case, if Rav Shlomo Zalman is not sure if anyone could possibly argue with X, then we can be 100% sure that he didn't regard X as remotely heretical.

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    5. agreed not 2 possibilities or remotely heretical but with the shortstop, he is not ruling out that he may be able to play baseball

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  5. I completely agree with the overall point being made here, namely that there are statements related to
    science and medicine in Chazal that were clearly made by Chazal based on the knowledge they had at the time etc.

    However, what I think this fails to address is exactly how this knowledge should affect how we relate to Chazal in general. Specifically -

    1 - Can we really claim that when learning these statements, we're learning Torah, other than in a very, very general way? And please don't argue that any statement by Chazal constitues Torah.
    2 - These statements are made alongside all kinds of other non-scientific pronouncements by Chazal, such as opinions (and ultimately halachot) regarding legal and cultural matters. It defies belief to claim
    that the scientific statements are merely based on the best-known science of the time, whereas other
    statements made by the same people on the same pages deserve to be canonized and treated as divine revelation and Halachically binding regardless of cultural changes over thousands of years. I think that the classic distinction between Aggada and Halacha is a weak attempt at resolving this.
    3 - The very fact that Chazal themselves don't really appear to have been aware that they were only
    working with the best information available, subject to future changes, is quite troubling. Were they
    arrogant? Completely oblivious to the fact that things might change? And why would Ravina and Rav Ashi just bring these things down without any caviats whatsoever?


    In short, once you use the 'science issue' to dent the aura of near-infallibility that the yeshiva-world
    has constructed around Chazal, you're opening up a pretty sizeable pandora's box. I think the box needs to be opened, but I sure don't know what goes out and what stays in. I think that this goes a long way towards explaining the extremely irrational approaches taken by people like Rabbi Meiselman and Slifkin-banners.

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    1. Thank you for your comment.

      I don't fully understand what the pandora's box is, intellectually. Anyone who looks at the post-Talmudic commentaries and poskim can see the exact same thing. Either you believe that the Rishonim are also infallible, in which case, the question post here is not relevant. Or else you realize remain orthodox despite the fact halacha is handled by people and not angels, and you realize that this goes back to the Talmud. Morever, just open a Tanach and see that our ancestors were quite human.

      Responding to questions:

      Can we really claim that when learning these statements, we're learning Torah, other than in a very, very general way? And please don't argue that any statement by Chazal constitues Torah.

      Good question, but is this really related? Look at Pesachim 94a; the Gemara has refutes as incorrect a measurement of the size of the earth. In learning that, did you learn Torah? When the Talmud tells you to stay away from a rabid dog, is that Torah? Good question, but unrelated, I think.

      These statements are made alongside all kinds of other non-scientific pronouncements by Chazal, such as opinions (and ultimately halachot) regarding legal and cultural matters. It defies belief to claim that the scientific statements are merely based on the best-known science of the time, whereas other statements made by the same people on the same pages deserve to be canonized and treated as divine revelation and Halachically binding regardless of cultural changes over thousands of years. I think that the classic distinction between Aggada and Halacha is a weak attempt at resolving this.

      Please read my posting Can we pasken the age of the universe? to see that the distinction between halacha and other source is not due to infallibilty in halacha, IMO.

      The very fact that Chazal themselves don't really appear to have been aware that they were only working with the best information available, subject to future changes, is quite troubling. Were they arrogant? Completely oblivious to the fact that things might change? And why would Ravina and Rav Ashi just bring these things down without any caviats whatsoever?

      I have to say that I don't get this question at all. What Talmud are you reading? :). Mine has lots of doubts and questions raised and left unresolved all the time. I'll have to go dig up the reference, but my favorite is where the Gemara tests the "snake poison" theory on the prohibition on uncovered food (maybe on a boat or something), and after offering many alternatives on how the snake got in, and then eventually says that that can't be the explanation in that case.

      Let me modify your theory a bit to get to what I think is the right place. Judaism is, among other things, a religion. Some people look for certainty and black/white in religion as a refuge from the everyday world. The concern of Rabbi Meiselman and Rabbi Feldman, perhaps, is that those people will be thrown off track by this approach.

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  6. Lion of Israel, I agree that the concern for the erosion of the traditional aura of near-infallibility accorded the Talmudic sages was likely primary in the minds of R' Natan's attackers. After all, if the sages were no less fallible than we, simple, mortals, why devote all our efforts to the minute study of their work? However, R' Natan was not the first to broach this aura or to discuss conflict between torah and science. In modern times, the AOJS book, Challenge, dealt at length with the latter issue. Rav Aryeh Kaplan also wrote about a realistic age of the earth and that Adam wasn't the first human In his essay on Immortality (published post-humously by Ktav). Earlier, Rav Yisroel Lipshitz (Tiferes Yisroel) had written an essay (at the end of Nezikin) about earlier stages of earthly existence - including one with dinosaurs, and that a global catastrophic impact had destroyed that prior world. In sum, the information is now widely available to any curious mind, i.e., the Pandora's box is wide open. How much this will impact the Yeshiva world and Hareidism is unknown and is probably less than the economic conundrum that this world faces. In any case, it is important for those of us who accept well-established scientific findings, but who also maintain allegiance to halacha and its authoritative sources, to state our position. Finding error in the sages view of the physical world and history doesn't detract from their authority in areas where such authority has been clearly granted over the ages. Even when their apparent source of the error is their reading of biblical verses (such as adducing that the 2nd temple lasted 420 years), that does not diminish their authority in verse interpretation that leads to halacha. At the same time, it behooves poskim with a modern bent and knowledge to use reinterpretation to reduce, as much as possible, some idiosyncratic ideas and practices such as those pertaining to the role of women in modern life.

    Y. Aharon

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    1. At the same time, it behooves poskim with a modern bent and knowledge to use reinterpretation to reduce, as much as possible, some idiosyncratic ideas and practices such as those pertaining to the role of women in modern life.

      The funny thing about that, at least in America, that battle is 90% won even in the "right wing". Ask anyone what "Nashim Daatan Kalos" means and you'll get anything but a direct translation of the words. The prohibition to teach them Torah? The only think that they can't touch (in the right wing) is Gemara, and even there, Agadah is open. And of course learning a profession and working is encouraged including becoming a doctor or lawyer as acceptable, if not encouraged. (I'm not speaking of the ghetto communities like New Square.)

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    2. http://www.dailyhalacha.com/m/halacha.aspx?id=2737

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    3. " (such as adducing that the 2nd temple lasted 420 years)"
      See The Challenge of Jewish History by Alexander Hool. He makes a very convincing case that the "standard" history is wrong and Chazal, correct.

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    4. Interesting link, but the method of analysis is faulty:

      Interestingly enough, the Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909), in his work Od Yosef Hai (Parashat Vayishlah), relates that while his father recited Tikkun Hasot at night, his mother would learn eighteen chapters of Mishna. It is hard to imagine that the Ben Ish Hai’s father – who was a towering Torah scholar and Sadik – would have allowed his wife to study Mishna if he thought this was forbidden. It seems likely that the Ben Ish Hai’s mother simply read the Mishnayot, without studying them in depth, and thus this account can easily be reconciled with Rav Moshe Feinstein’s ruling.

      WADR, this reasoning is a bit silly. The Ben Ish Chai is not compelled to follow Rav Moshe.

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    5. according to machzeh eliyahu (12:3) , the new maharil (based on beruriah and others) says they can learn but not be taught. so no contradiction

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    6. But we do teach them Torah including Oral Torah. And if you want an open contradiction, of course the Rav taught them Gemara.

      If you asked me, I would say that "nature changed". The reason given for not teaching them Torah is not longer operative.

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  7. Avraham, secular histories are based on the chronology of the imperial Persian period from Cyrus the great to Darius III which is recorded in contemporary Persian chronicles and Greek historical works. There is simply no way that this 2 century period can be collapsed to less than 50 years as per Seder Olam. Not to mention that there are mausoleums in Persia for Cyrus, Darius I, and Artaxerxes so that calling them the same person, as does T.B. Rosh Hashana, is unsupportable. Historians also claim contemporary Babylonian inscriptions attesting to events in Nebuchadnezzar's reign - including the conquest of Judea and the destruction of Jerusalem. If you wish to advance your claim for the credibility of your source, you should cite some relevant material that contains supporting evidence.

    levi, we don't need your more contemporary sources to teach that women can study all of torah, it is clear in the Rambam's Mishne Torah hilchot Talmud torah (the source of the Shulchan Aruch teaching on the subject). He merely adds that her study of torah is not as meritorious as comparable study by men since they were commanded to such activity while she wasn't.

    David, I assume that your "nature changed" phrase related to teaching women Gemara was 'tongue-in-cheek'. The change in women's interests isn't biological, but social and cultural, and it never was pertinent to some women. It is also unclear why the Rambam rules on the matter according to R' Eliezer whose disputed rulings are normally disregarded as being Shamai'itic or that of a banned scholar (shamuti).

    Y. Aharon

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    Replies
    1. "Nature changed" doesn't have to mean a biological change. I used that phrase, because to the degree that it is sometimes a correct explanation, this one fits the bill.

      That said, it helps that there is some irony in the usage...

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