Friday, May 8, 2015

Guest Post: Placing Rabbeinu Avraham's Discourse in Context

Copyright 2015 by David Ohsie. All rights reserved

If the style of the parable is applied to the words of the prophets, how much more then should this style be applied to the words of the sages which cannot be understood in any other way? And concerning this, my father, my teacher, blessed be his memory, has long ago called attention to this particular fact in his "Commentary on the Mishnah." -- Rabbeinu Avraham Ben HaRambam in Discourse on the Sayings of the Rabbis

Placing the Discourse in Context

It is easy to place Rabbeinu Avraham's Discourse in context because, for the most part, he does the work for us.  In the quotation above, he tells us explicitly that his approach is based on that of the Rambam in his introduction to the Perek Chelek in his Commentary on the Mishnah.  Here the Rambam introduces what was once a controversial idea: the references to the Olam Habah (the world to come) in the Talmud are distinct from the references to the Tchias HaMeisim (the resurrection of the dead). The consequence of a life properly led is the continued eternal existence of a person’s non-physical soul after its separation from the physical body.

Why was the Rambam’s idea controversial? There are two basic reasons. The first is that if the Olam Habah is the ultimate destination for the virtuous soul, then of what value is Tchias HaMeisim? This led some to question his belief in Tchias HaMeisim despite its inclusion in his list of 13 principles of faith. But the more direct reason for controversy is that the Rambam’s interpretation conflicts with the straightforward meaning of the Talmud: Olam Habah and Tchias HaMeisim are identical and the reward for a good life is revival from the dead and eternal life on earth after the coming of the Mashiach. [1]

The Rambam objects to this identification, because sending the soul to an earthly, physical reward would be like sending a king back to play ball in the street. Rather, the reward is the greater level of understanding of God and his creations achieved by the soul after its separation from the body. But how to deal with the Talmud?

In order to explain this, the Rambam launches into what at first glance appears to be a tangent. He classifies people into three categories based on their approaches to the words of Chazal.
  1. Those who take all statements of Chazal at face values no matter how fantastic. If the Gentiles understood the beliefs of these people, they would judge the Jewish people to be a foolish nation.
  2. Those who take the statements of Chazal at face value and deride and mock Chazal for their apparent foolishness.
  3. Those who understand that the statements of Chazal have both a plain meaning and a secret meaning.  When they spoke of impossible events they were actually conveying ideas by way of riddle and parable.
This approach explains the Rambam's apparent conflict with the Talmud.  The true identification of the world to come was not revealed to the masses because they might not be on the level to accept that Mitzvos are not done for an earthly reward.  It is better that they be done for a reward than not done at all.  So Chazal's statements about the world to come have a plain meaning for the masses and an esoteric meaning intended for those who can accept it.

The explanation of the Rambam here is the basis for Rabbeinu Avraham’s approach in the Discourse. The Rambam places a very high value on avoiding any interpretation of the words of Chazal which conflict with our basic understanding of the world. [2]   This places in context of most of Rabbeinu Avraham’s statements about the Derashot and stories of Chazal. 

But Rabbeinu Avraham adds another category: scientific and medical statements of Chazal that are outside the context of Torah and that are actually false.   Are these a new category not contemplated by the Rambam?

Rambam on the Science and Medicine of Chazal

In fact, Rabbeinu Avraham indicates that his approach to the science of the Talmud is rooted in the Rambam's Guide for the Perplexed. [3]  In the Guide, the Rambam explains that the heavenly spheres are silent.  In stating this, he sides with Aristotle over Chazal who maintain that the spheres produce sounds.

Clearly then, the Rambam does not treat the science of Chazal as received truth. More generally, he states that "speculative matters every one treats according to the results of his own study, and every one accepts that which appears to him established by proof." [4]  Elsewhere in the Guide, the Rambam confirms explicitly that Chazal's statements "were not based on the authority of the Prophets, but on the knowledge which they either themselves possessed or derived from contemporary men of science." [5]

The Rambam is perhaps even more expansive in his Letter on Astrology.    Here, the Rambam deals with the following issue: if claims of astrology are completely false, why do we find statements of Chazal that seem to support astrology?  He answers that it not proper to abandon reason in favor of a sage's mistaken statement.  In addition, it possible that the sage intended the statement as a parable or had some ulterior motive.  The bottom line is that "[a] man should never cast his reason behind him, for the eyes are set in front, not in back." [6]

What about the many accurate scientific dicta of Chazal?  Unsurprisingly, both Rabbeinu Avraham [7] and the Rambam [8] both emphasize that credit be given when Chazal's opinions are upheld by investigation.

The following table summarizes the parallel passages on this topic that can be found in the writings of the Rambam and Rabbeinu Avraham:



Rabbeinu Avraham Rambam
Know that it is your duty to understand that whoever propounds a certain theory or idea and expects that theory or idea to be accepted merely out of respect for the author without proving its truth and reasonableness pursues a wrong method prohibited by both the Torah and human intelligence.For speculative matters every one treats according to the results of his own study, and every one accepts that which appears to him established by proof./Similarly it is not proper to abandon matters of reason that have already been verified by proofs, shake loose of them, and depend on the words of a single one of the sages from whom possibly the matter was hidden.
Although it is true that in so far as knowledge of our Torah is concerned, we must Believe the sages arrived at the highest stage of knowledge, as it is said (Deu. 17, 11.) In accordance with the instructions which they may instruct thee, etc., still it is not necessarily so concerning any other branch of knowledge. Their statements were not based on the authority of the Prophets, but on the knowledge which they either themselves possessed or derived from contemporary men of science.

[W]hat the sages - blessed be their memories ! said, "When thou art hungry, eat ; if thou art thirsty, drink ; if thy dish is ripe, pour it out while it is hot," is undoubtedly true, because that theory is the main key to human health ; it has been proved by many physicians as well as by physical tests, that a man should not eat untill he is hungry, nor should he drink untill he is thirsty ; and when he feels the need of relieving himself, he ought not to delay such action.


But I will not on that account denounce what they say correctly in accordance with real fact, as untrue or accidentally true. On the contrary, whenever the words of a person can be interpreted in such a manner that they agree with fully established facts, it is the duty of every educated and honest man to do so.

These quotations from the Rambam place the approach of the Discourse firmly in the Rambam’s own tradition, as one would expect from a work of Rabbeinu Avraham.  Neverthless, Rabbi Meisleman argues that the Discourse is a departure from the writings Rabbeinu Avraham himself in his work Kifayat al-Abidin.  We'll take up this issue in our 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] For example, the first Mishnah in Perek Chelek (Sandhedrin 90a) states the following:

MISHNAH. ALL ISRAEL HAVE A PORTION IN THE WORLD TO COME, [...] BUT THE FOLLOWING HAVE NO PORTION THEREIN: HE WHO MAINTAINS THAT RESURRECTION IS NOT A BIBLICAL DOCTRINE [...]
GEMARA. And why such [severity]? — A Tanna taught: Since he denied the resurrection of the dead, therefore he shall not share in that resurrection, for in all the measures [of punishment or reward] taken by the Holy One, blessed be He, the Divine act befits the [human] deed.
Here the Gemara explains that reason that one who denies that the resurrection of the dead is a principle of the Torah has no portion in the world to come. The reason is as follows: since he denies the resurrection, he will not partake in it (Middah K’neged Middah). This implies that the resurrection and the world to come are identical. For an example of an authority who opposed the Rambam based on the plain meaning of the Talmud, see Rav Meir ben Todros HaLevi Abulafia’s Yad Ramah.

[2] What is striking that the Rambam allows what we could consider to today to be philosophical speculation about the nature of reward and punishment and the eternity of the soul to override the straightforward reading of the Talmud.

[3] “In matters such as these [medical, scientific, and astronomical], on should not evaluate statements based on their authors greatness in wisdom, but from the proofs that they supply. My father wrote similarly in the Guide to the Perplexed.”

[4] "It is one of the ancient beliefs, both among the philosophers and other people, that the motions of the spheres produced mighty and fearful sounds. [...] This belief is also widespread in our nation. Thus our Sages describe the greatness of the sound produced by the sun in the daily circuit in its orbit. [...] Aristotle, however, rejects this, and holds that they produce no sounds. [...] You must not find it strange that Aristotle differs here from the opinion of our Sages. The theory of the music of the spheres is connected with the theory of the motion of the stars in a fixed sphere, and our Sages have, in this astronomical question, abandoned their own theory in favour of the theory of others. Thus, it is distinctly stated, "The wise men of other nations have defeated the wise men of Israel." It is quite right that our Sages have abandoned their own theory: for speculative matters every one treats according to the results of his own study, and every one accepts that which appears to him established by proof." (Guide 2:8).

[5] “You must, however, not expect that everything our Sages say respecting astronomical matters should agree with observation, for mathematics were not fully developed in those days: and their statements were not based on the authority of the Prophets, but on the knowledge which they either themselves possessed or derived from contemporary men of science.”  (Guide 3:14)

[6] "What we have said about this from the beginning is that the entire position of the star gazers [astrologers] is regarded as a falsehood by all men of science. I know that you may search and find sayings of some individual sages in the Talmud and Midrashim whose words appear to maintain that at the moment of a man's birth, the stars will cause such and such to happen to him. Do not regard this as a difficulty, for it is not fitting for a man to abandon the prevailing law and raise once again the counterarguments and replies (that preceded its enactment). Similarly it is not proper to abandon matters of reason that have already been verified by proofs, shake loose of them, and depend on the words of a single one of the sages from whom possibly the matter was hidden. Or there may be an allusion in those words; or they may have been said with a view to the times and the business before him. (You surely know how many of the verses of the holy Law are not to be taken literally. Since it is known through proofs of reason that it is impossible for the thing to be literally so, the translator [of the Aramaic Targum] rendered it in a form that reason will abide.) A man should never cast his reason behind him, for the eyes are set in front, not in back..." Letter on Astrology

[7] "We infer from this that they did not arrive at the true ultimate conclusion of everything outside of the Torah. [...] However, thou shalt take note that this rule has some exceptions and therefore, what the sages - blessed be their memories!, said, "When thou art hungry, eat ; if thou art thirsty, drink; if thy dish is ripe, pour it out while it is hot," is undoubtedly true, because that theory is the main key to human health."  (Discourse)

[8] "But I will not on that account denounce what they say correctly in accordance with real fact, as untrue or accidentally true. On the contrary, whenever the words of a person can be interpreted in such a manner that they agree with fully established facts, it is the duty of every educated and honest man to do so."  (Guide 3:14)

73 comments:

  1. Regarding the music of the heavenly spheres. Do not all heavenly bodies generate, deflect or reflect waveforms (light, rf, xray, etc)? Could this not be considered music?

    It is not our own lack of depth in natural science that prevents us from fully understanding what chazal meant? (Especially the simple face value meaning /pshat)

    Fantastic! I am.so thrilled to have found this blog.

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    1. Thank you for your kinds words. Certainly, the Rambam felt that learning more of philosophy including natural philosophy was key to understanding the Chazal's hidden meaning. Nevertheless, he disagreed on some points where he felt that he understood their meaning.

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    2. I'm also interested in this point. For example, all planets with a magnetic field (Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, etc.) have a "dawn chorus" (see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawn_chorus_%28electromagnetic%29 ), electromagnetic noise that can be received with radio equipment and sounds a bit like a chorus of birds. Earth's Dawn Chorus was well known since the dawn of radio. When the Voyager probes passed Jupiter and Saturn, their respective Dawn Choruses were also heard.

      It's also well known that the Sun produces all kinds of "sounds" in its electromagnetic emissions.

      Could this be evidence of the sphere's making sound? Maybe. The description seems to fit. On the other hand, since it can't be heard without radio equipment, this couldn't possibly be what Chazal had in mind.

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    3. The Rambam is referring to a Greek dispute, not some kind of Mesorah miSinai. The Rambam is favoring Aristo (silence) over Pythagorus (noisy).

      Pythagorus noticed that harmony and dissonance is based on the ratio of the strings or tubes being played. (Our ears hear two frequencies of a simple ratio to each other as more pleasant. Has to do with beats. Google it.) And then he noticed that the orbits of the sun, moon, planets and background stars were also in simple ratios. Ah, must be harmony theory!

      By the way, the planets are not spheres. Spheres are these purported transparent thing that the heavenly body you can see is embedded in. As the sphere spins, we see the motion of the sun, moon, or whatever. That's why I spoke of orbits in the previous paragraph; it's the nearest equivalent in our way of seeing things.

      Pythagorus, and following him, Chazal, were probably making a statement about Grand Design more than anything physical. Although odds are they thought the sound was really there because... well that's the way the cosmos ought to work, so we'll assume it does.

      And while this does mean that the Rambam chose Aristo over Chazal, he is also saying that Chazal followed the same process he is: Chazal chose the then-most-accepted Natural Philosophical theory, and the Rambam chose the theory most accepted theory in his day. In fact, the Rambam notes along the way that the tannaim and first generations of amoraim accepted Persian astronomy, in which the stars weren't all embedded in a single sphere and wandered separately. This is the astronomy where the raqia is a semispherical shell that the sun goes behind at night. Then Rebbe was convinced in Athens of the Ptolmeic model (except according to Tosafos's take on that gemara), which eventually reaches the rest of Chazal.

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  2. The Iqarim also lists techiyas hameisim, as a shoresh (a mandatory but derived belief) under the iqar (a mandatory postulate) of Divine Justice. (I defined the terms because R' Yosef Albo uses them differently than we are used to.) But the Iqarim, following the Ran, also believes that techiyas hameisim is to a temporary life and "olam haba" refers to the place we go between the two lives, and after the second.

    Note also that although the Iqarim doesn't seem to consistently with the Ran's hashkafah, their connection is through the Ran's student and R' Yosef Albo's rebbe, R Chasdai Crescas. The author of the anti-Maimonidian Or Hashem, a sefer in hashkafah that avoids and shows disdain for Greek Philosophy. It would be hard to pin this particular dispute on the Maimonidian controversy, to dismiss the Rambam's position as deriving more from Aristo than from Chazal.

    Who are we to take sides in a dispute between rishonim? Teiqu!

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    1. Thank you for the informative comment. I will respond to one part:

      It would be hard to pin this particular dispute on the Maimonidian controversy, to dismiss the Rambam's position as deriving more from Aristo than from Chazal.

      Please see Rabbeinu Avraham's Milchamos Hashem where he includes his father's definition of Olam Habah as non-physical as one of the elements of the controversy where he must defend his father. I linked to the page where this part of the discussion starts.

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    2. This ignores what I wrote tp prove the point. I gave an existence proof. There were anti-Maimonidians who agree with the Rambam on the duration of post-techiyas hameisim life, and thus the definition of olam haba.

      So, regardless of R' Avraham's need to defend his father against those who insisted the Ramban's view was the only valid one, it was NOT an issue of Maimonidians vs anti-Maimonidians if the same opinion was held by members of the opposition.

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    3. I fear that I'm missing the point. Are you trying to delineate a monolithic or universally agreed upon "anti-maimonidean" position? My limited understanding is that he was opposed for a variety of reasons on a variety of topics. The fact that Rabbeinu Avraham picked a topic upon which to defend his father indicates that it was a point of dispute. The Ramah that I referenced is further evidence. I make no claims as the universality of the dispute.

      I would also say that part of the dispute had to do with whether souls ultimately rest in a physical or not-physical "Gan Eden". The notion that there is a difference between the Days of the Messiah and the World to Come is there in the Talmud. The agreement to different stages doesn't indicate an agreement with the Rambam.

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    4. I thought you cited the Rambam's position on techiyas hameisim as an example of how some of his, and his son's, beliefs were at the outskirts of normative. I was just replying that this was a poor example, since his position was not unique to the Rambam, his son, or even to the pro-Qalam / Aristotle camp. The Rambam's idea that life after techiyas hameisim is temporary, and that olam haba refers to post-death existence, is at least as broadly accepted as the Ramban's.

      Personally, I think a better example is the Rambam's view of akrasia -- why people do things they know are wrong -- and consequently the central position he gives yedi'ah. To the Rambam bad choices come from wrong opinions. Emotions follow ideas.

      And therefore connecting to G-d comes from understanding. Ahavas Hashem is retranslated into wanting to know about Him (Yesodei haTorah 2:1). Philosophy is the step before prophecy, and one's reception of Divine Providence is proportional to one's knowledge of Him (Moreh 3:18). The Rambam opens the Moreh with this idea, when he lauds pre-sin Adam as being entirely about choosing truth from falsehood. And he closes the Moreh with the idea when he ranks intellectual perfection the pinnacle of human perfection, even above moral.

      I think the idea that Judaism is more about philosophical knowledge of G-d than knowing G-d as Beloved, Father, and King (c.g. Yedid Nefesh) and than refining oneself ethically and morally is a huge departure from both Chazal and any hashkafah that survived the collapse of Aristotelian Scholasticism.

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    5. I thought you cited the Rambam's position on techiyas hameisim as an example of how some of his, and his son's, beliefs were at the outskirts of normative.

      Ah, OK. No, I was just explaining this statement from the Discourse: "my father, my teacher, blessed be his memory, has long ago called attention to this particular fact in his "Commentary on the Mishnah."

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  3. Hello David. Your footnote #3 says "it matters such as these... And then you place in brackets "medical, scientific and astronomical". I am assuming that is your interpretation for what "these matters" are since this is the point you are trying to make. Can he be referring to some other matters? Since you did not sight the context of the source I am unable to look it up. Is this open to some other interpretation besides for yours? Maybe it is only referring to astronomical?

    I am also disturbed by footnote #5. Rambam is clearly ONLY discussing ASTRONOMICAL as indicated in the footnote. By you seem to be broadening his statement to be referring to all of science in the context you placed it above.
    Please explain.

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  4. I think you must reread the letter if rav aron feldman( rav alyashuv) and then you will be wiser

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    1. Thank you for your comment. Could you be more specific?

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  5. Please enlighten me Yosh in what you are talking about.

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  6. Your footnote #3 says "it matters such as these... And then you place in brackets "medical, scientific and astronomical". I am assuming that is your interpretation for what "these matters" are since this is the point you are trying to make. Can he be referring to some other matters? Since you did not sight the context of the source I am unable to look it up.

    20 lines down after the first paragraph break second column here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=47606&st=&pgnum=18. He refers to what is written 7 lines done from the top of the second column. If you have TCS, it will be easier to read there.

    I am also disturbed by footnote #5. Rambam is clearly ONLY discussing ASTRONOMICAL as indicated in the footnote. By you seem to be broadening his statement to be referring to all of science in the context you placed it above.
    Please explain.


    Some unsolicited advice that I have found useful: if you allow yourself to be disturbed by an idea, then you are preventing yourself from analyzing objectively.

    You are correct that in that quotation, he refers to explicitly astronomy because that is the context of his remark. However the logic is that since that science (astronomy) was not well developed, we would not expected Chazal to always be accurate, so it applies to everything that Rabbeinu Avraham lists and is likely one of the places in the Moreh that he refers to. That would apply to medicine and physics as well. The other quotation is explicitly more general to any "analytic" science.

    In addition, the Rambam puts a very high value in understanding astronomy, placing it in the category of Maaseh Breishis. If he is willing to grant limitations in astronomy, then other areas would be even easier for him to accept.

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  7. Thank you David. But that is YOUR logic, not the Rambam's logic. Anyways the logic is incorrect, because the Rambam says we originally had the art of astronomy, but the Mesorah was lost, not that it was underdeveloped!

    But at least Hashem blessed you with humility to admit the context of the Rambam was within Astronomy and not science. Therefore we can all agree the Rambam never made such statement about science. (Science is also within Maase Beriesheit, so I don't understand what your Kal Vechomer is.)

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    1. R. David made the kal v'chomer clear. Rambam held that astronomy was a crucial part of understanding Torah. And yet he said that Chazal (and even Yechezkel!) were deficient in their knowledge of it. Kal v'chomer for other fields of science that are not a crucial part of understanding Torah.

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    2. Thank you David. But that is YOUR logic, not the Rambam's logic.

      Dear Eddie, in order to converse productively, we need to be talking about the same thing. I assume that you refer to this statement of mine:

      "the logic is that since that science (astronomy) was not well developed, we would not expected Chazal to always be accurate, so it applies to everything that Rabbeinu Avraham lists and is likely one of the places in the Moreh that he refers to.".

      In fact that logic comes directly from the text of the Moreh. Do you see what I'm referring to? If not, then please reread my reference carefully, because you are missing something.

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  8. Rabbi Nosson- I hear the Kal V'chomer you and R David are trying to make.
    1) It is a very weak argument, because The Rambam never actually made the statements you are attributing to him, which is the bases for this whole series. (It is also misleading in your article).
    2) Can you at least strengthen your argument by showing as evidence the Rambam held astronomy on a higher level as other science.
    3) Rambam claims we once knew all of Astronomy from Sinai and the Mesorah was eventually lost. You can't make the opposite Kal Ve'chomer- it must mean since Astronomy is greater than other sciences then other sciences were not received at Sinai and never part of the Mesorah. Please explain. Thank you.

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    1. Have you never actually learned the Moreh?!

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    2. Or Mishneh Torah for that matter? He makes it quite explicit.

      Rambam claims we once knew all of Astronomy from Sinai and the Mesorah was eventually lost.

      Actually, I don't believe he did. And if he did, that still doesn't support your point. But I'll address that, with God's help, in a later post.

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  9. Why don't you refer to me the part that the Rambam says in the Moreh that We don't have to uphold their views in all of their sayings in medicine, in science and in astronomy, or to believe them [in those matters] as we believe them regarding the explanation of the Torah.

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    1. Eddie, if you are looking for a single statement from the Rambam that precisely matches the statement of Rabbeinu Avraham, then you will not find it. If this is your criterion, then your criterion is wrong and further discussion of the details is not productive. These posts proceed with a premise that since we can't interrogate the Rambam, we have to do with taking what he says and understanding his position.

      Understand that Rabbi Meiselman takes the same approach, and in fact you are also taking the same approach. You will also not find any text where the Rambam says "All of science was known to Moshe Rabbeinu, but using the methods of the Torah and not through usual logic or empiricism. This was then lost in part, but whatever Chazal states definitively is part of that tradition and cannot be questioned".

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  10. Rabbi Nosson and Rabbi David. I am very well aware of the sources you quote and have been reading very carefully everything that has been said. But the two of you seem very contradictory. One I ask of the two of you to bring a single source of the Rambam that says anything similar to Rabbenu Abraham's statement I am responded with "haven't you ever read the Moreh," or "haven't you ever read the Mishne Torah". Yet after being insulted neither of you have provided a single source to support your thesis. Then David responds that there is no statement that precisely matches Rabbenu Abraham's statement. (Even though I am not looking for a precise source, rather where does the Rambam say we don't follow the statements of science or natural world from Chazal).
    You have brought me the statement the Rambam writes in regards to astronomy trying to pass it on as a statement regarding all of science, while it is placed in kiddush Hachodesh. If there are other sources you would like to bring as support- my ears are still listening.

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    1. Well, because your version of the Rambam is so far from what he wrote, it's hard to even know where to begin. Maybe Moreh 3:14. The Rama takes issue with this in Toras haOlah.

      I am guessing you're thinking of Hil' Qiddush haChodesh 17:24 which doesn't speak about our knowing all of science from Sinai and having lost the knowledge, but specifically about being given (and consequently forgetting) the astronomy necessary for precisely calculating qiddush hachodesh.

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    2. One I ask of the two of you to bring a single source of the Rambam that says anything similar to Rabbenu Abraham's statement I am responded with "haven't you ever read the Moreh," or "haven't you ever read the Mishne Torah".

      I (and I believe that R Slifkin as well) was responding to your question: "Can you at least strengthen your argument by showing as evidence the Rambam held astronomy on a higher level as other science." I apologize for stating the answer with some sarcasm, but this question does indicate a lack of familiarity with the Rambam.

      PS: I'm not a Rabbi. If you see someone write R in front of my name, it means "Reb". You can just call me David.

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    3. I gave you a place to start, I'm guessing you wrote this before my comment was approved. In any case, I am not one of "the two of you" anyway.

      The Rambam really only considers the astronomy involved in qiddush hachodesh to be a special case, related to chazal on "hachodesh hazeh lakhem", and that the "pointing" implied by "hazeh" not only means pointing to an image, but explaining the whole calculation.

      But he does also consider astronomy special, halfway between physics and metaphysics. This is why the 9 spheros (today we would call them "orbits", I guess) figure in to Yesodei haTorah 3:1-9, between mal'akhim (pereq 2) and physical objects made from the 4 elements (3:10-11).

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  11. Thank you Micha Berger for supporting my point! I never said Rambam writes "knowing all of science from Sinai and having lost the knowledge," I said specifically ASTRONOMY. PLEASE READ MY POST AGAIN. And yes I was referring to Kiddush Hachodesh 17:24- which directly contradicts David who said the Rambam writes Astronomy was underdeveloped. (However the logic is that since that science (astronomy) was not well developed, we would not expected Chazal to always be accurate, so it applies to everything that Rabbeinu Avraham lists and is likely one of the places in the Moreh that he refers to. That would apply to medicine and physics as well. - direct quote from non-Rabbi David). Which means his whole Kal Ve'chomer falls apart (which was very weak in the first place). This brings us back to our main point RAMBAM NEVER MADE A STATEMENT ABOUT CHAZAL BEING FALLIBLE IN SCIENCE. He made the exact opposite point in Shechita 10:13 in the Mishna Torah (yes, I have read it- have you?) that says "we dismiss the words of the medical doctors in light of the words of Chazal". Please someone make sense of all this my faith in rationalist Judaism is slipping away...

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    1. And yes I was referring to Kiddush Hachodesh 17:24- which directly contradicts David who said the Rambam writes Astronomy was underdeveloped.

      The Rambam said it himself. I don't think that there is a contradiction, but if there is one, it is between two statements of the Rambam.

      He made the exact opposite point in Shechita 10:13 in the Mishna Torah (yes, I have read it- have you?) that says "we dismiss the words of the medical doctors in light of the words of Chazal"

      Whoever gave you that translation did a bad job of translating. http://www.hebrewbooks.org/rambam.aspx?sefer=5&hilchos=29&perek=10&halocha=13&hilite=

      non-Rabbi David

      How about just "David"? :)

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    2. And yes I was referring to Kiddush Hachodesh 17:24- which directly contradicts David who said the Rambam writes Astronomy was underdeveloped.

      The Rambam said it himself. I don't think that there is a contradiction, but if there is one, it is between two statements of the Rambam.

      He made the exact opposite point in Shechita 10:13 in the Mishna Torah (yes, I have read it- have you?) that says "we dismiss the words of the medical doctors in light of the words of Chazal"

      Whoever gave you that translation did a bad job of translating. http://www.hebrewbooks.org/rambam.aspx?sefer=5&hilchos=29&perek=10&halocha=13&hilite=

      non-Rabbi David

      How about just "David"? :)

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  12. David. Can you please reference where Rambam writes that astronomy was underdeveloped? (Mathematics and astronomy are two different fields). When the Rambam contradicts himself I supposed we turn to the Achronim who tried to solve the answer instead of just choosing one side.

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    1. David.

      You have to admit that you are obsessing a bit over this :).

      Can you please reference where Rambam writes that astronomy was underdeveloped? (Mathematics and astronomy are two different fields).

      That is an interesting interpretation. So the Rambam demanded not to be asked to justify all the astronomy of the sages because a different unrelated field, mathematics, was not developed in those days? Before, I give an interpretation, what is your interpretation?

      When the Rambam contradicts himself I supposed we turn to the Achronim who tried to solve the answer instead of just choosing one side.

      I don't think that there is a contradiction here. I'll try to deal with it in more detail in a later post.

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  13. David. Can you please translate this quote in your language. "Similarly, with regard to those [conditions] which [our Sages] listed as [causing an animal to be] deemed trefe even though it appears from the medical knowledge we possess that some of them will not kill and it is possible for the animal to live - we follow only what the Torah says,90 as [Deuteronomy 17:11] states: "According to the Torah in which they will instruct you."- Chabad.com of Shechita 10:13.

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    1. That translation, while not perfect, is better and contradicts your original statement of "we dismiss the words of the medical doctors in light of the words of Chazal".

      וכן אלו שמנו ואמרו שהן טריפה אף על פי שיראה בדרכי הרפואה שבידינו שמקצתן אינן ממיתין ואפשר שתחיה מהן אין לך אלא מה שמנו חכמים שנאמר על פי התורה אשר יורוך:

      The actual translation is "And these [cases] that the [Sages] listed that they are Treifah [mortally wounded], even though it appears through the medical knowledge that we have that some of them will not die, and it is possibly that they will live, you only have that which the Sages listed, as it says "According to the teachings which they will instruct you".

      What this means is that even though they really are not Treifah by the rules of Treifah, we go by the list given by the Gemara and not based on our knowledge.

      Why?

      1) Rav Moshe says that nature changed and we go by nature as it was at Sinai (which is also how during Chazal's days).

      2) Chazon Ish says that Chazal lacked the medical knowledge to effect a cure while we have this knowledge. Had they known the cure, then the animal would not be a Treifa. However, after the closing of the Talmud (or 2000 years of torah), we cannot make any more changes.

      3) Dor Revii says that once the halacha is committed to writing, even if mistaking, we stick with it.

      None say that we "dismiss the words of the medical doctors".

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  14. David. You are really good at confusing us simple minded people. You build a whole premise and a series of many essays proving the fact that the Rambam believes to dismiss the words of Chazal for modern scientific knowledge. When I ask for a single source you and R Nosson reply as if it is written on every page of the Moreh and the Yad. When I am not returned with a source I give you the source for the Rambam that favors the words of Chazal over the words of the contemporary medical knowledge of the doctors. His words are very explicit. Then you quote me three explanations of this Rambam (which I am very familiar with) that all agree we take the words of Chazal over modern science. Somehow you say the actual translation "contradicted" what I originally posted (that we dismiss the words of the doctors in light of the words of Chazal), when what I said is actually what the Rambam says along with all three explanations. Please shed some light on this topic because I am very confused. You can even message me privately so as not to burden this forum with my small-mindedness, because there is obviously something I am missing and need a longer explanation. Thank you in advance for spending your time on explaining this to me, because it is important to me.

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    1. Actually, the Rambam wrote that the pasuq tells us to only rely on tradition when it comes to teereifos even when it is scientifically wrong. Not that our Sages had scientific knowledge that was more correct than current veterinary medicine or doctors. This shows through even in the chabad.com transaltion you pointed us to.

      Just as the Rambam says that the calculations for qiddush hachodesh was given to us at Sinai. He really does make a statement about one set of calculations. Not all of math, all of astronomy, or all of natural philosophy.

      From the Moreh 3:14, note the following line after the comment about math:
      You must, however, not expect that everything our Sages say respecting astronomical matters should agree with observation, for mathematics were not fully developed in those days: and their statements were not based on the authority of the Prophets, but on the knowledge which they either themselves possessed or derived from contemporary men of science.

      And in 2:8:
      The Pythagoreans believed that the sounds were pleasant, and, though loud, had the same proportions to each other as the musical notes. ... This belief is also widespread in our nation. Thus our Sages describe the greatness of the sound produced by the sun in the daily circuit in its orbit. The same description could be given of all heavenly bodies. Aristotle, however, rejects this, and holds that they produce no sounds. You will find his opinion in the book The Heavens and the World (De Cœlo). You must not find it strange that Aristotle differs here from the opinion of our Sages. The theory of the music of the spheres is connected with the theory of the motion of the stars in a fixed sphere, and our Sages have, in this astronomical question, abandoned their own theory in favour of the theory of others. Thus, it is distinctly stated, "The wise men of other nations have defeated the wise men of Israel."

      On the Rambam's girsa, which differs from our gemaras, Rebbe not only says "their words appear to be more correct than ours" but outright states they forced us to change our position.

      As per the quote I just provided from 3:14, the Rambam tells you in 2:8 that Chazal were following Pythagoras, not Sinaitic knowledge.

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  15. Thank you for your kind response Micha. I am not sure if you are reading what I am writing, because I am being very clear and you keep missing the point. I never said Rambam writes all of science in from a Sinaitic tradition. I keep stressing the point that he says it only in reference to astronomy, but you keep stressing that point as if I disagree, when I was the one to make the original statement that ONLY ASTRONOMY WAS FROM SINAI AND WAS LOST IN TRADITION, NOT OTHER FIELDS OF SCIENCE.
    Another point I was trying to make which everyone seems to ignore is that when the Rambam agrees with Aristotle over the sages in regards to the music of the spheres it is a matter of ASTRONOMY, not all science. And he says clearly "it was an astronomical question" and he brings the example of the wise men of the nations versus the sages - WHICH IS IN REGARDS TO ASTRONOMY and limited to astronomy, not other fields of science.
    Now I made a statement quoting the Rambam in Shechita 10:13. You want to limit it in regards to Teriphot. I understand your point of view. But please bring a proof that this idea should be limited to only Teriphot and not a general rule. I will bring a proof why it should be generalized. Because he brought a verse to back it up! Is this verse placed in the Torah only within the context of Teriphot? Should it be limited to one category? It would seem to me this verse in talking about all the words of Chazal. Why else would he quote a generalized verse? Can someone help me on this point and enlighten me? Maybe I am missing something here?

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    1. No, I do not limit Shechitah 10:13 to tereifos -- I am saying the Rambam himself is doing something far different. He is only speaking of halakhah, not biology. He never says Chazal are right with regard to tereifos; he says there is a pasuq telling us that tereifos can get disconnected from what we thought was the underlying biology. So, while "min haTorah asher yorukha" is a general statement about pesaq, the Rambam is saying uniquely about tereifos that it's a matter of pesaq unconstrained by science. Tereifos simply are treif, nothing to do with determining the metzi'us correctly or incorrectly. Or, to put it another way, the whole point of that halakhah is that the list of tereifos is Torah (asher yorukha), not mada (in this case, darkhei harefu'ah) about what would actually be fatal.

      As for the Rambam on qiddush hachodesh, he doesn't make a statement about astronomy, he makes one about the formula for qiddush hachodesh. For which there is a maamar chazal (quoted by Rashi on parashas Bo) that Hashem taught Moshe how to determine a new moon. Generalizing the Rambam beyond the maamar chazal would require proof; and one can't use this Rambam to prove more than his specific claim. Meanwhile, I quoted the Moreh where the Rambam specifically tells you that in general Chazal's astronomy was to take the latest scientific findings as they learned of them.

      As for whether I read what you wrote... I often find out after a long discussion that I read what I expected the other person to have written rather than what was really there. If that's the case here, my apologies.

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  16. Now I made a statement quoting the Rambam in Shechita 10:13. You want to limit it in regards to Teriphot. I understand your point of view. But please bring a proof that this idea should be limited to only Teriphot and not a general rule.

    It is a general rule. Whenever we see that the assumption underlying given for a halacha is scientifically false, we don't change the halachah, whether in regard to Treifos or killing lice on Shabbos. (Except in cases related to human health where we do generally change the halacha to conform to improved medical knowledge or technique). How does this support your point?

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    1. I do not agree with David Ohsie that this is a general rule. I don't see the Rambam invoking the principle anywhere other than tereifos, so I would not assume he is indeed saying that whenever we find halakhah stated in terms of a false scientific claim, the halakhah stays the same. Since I only see tereifos being mentioned, i would not assume a rule.

      To me it would seem more natural to conclude that the bit about these deformities being fatal within a year was a post facto justification of a list of tereifos, and therefore if it turns out the justification doesnt' exactly work, it would not change the pre-existing list. That the list itself is simply Torah and therefore defined by pesaq, not the consequence of applying Torah to broken theories about how the world works where we could invalidate that pesaq. But what I find more natural isn't important -- I simply refrained from generalizing from a sample of one, unless the Rambam would have said he is generalizing.

      And all the more so for Eddie Rahmie's generalizing from qiddush hachodesh to astronomy in general. Chazal say that Hashem taught Moshe the science of the new moon, based on the "hazeh" of "hachodesh hazeh lakhem" (Shemos 12:2) -- "kazeh re'ei veqadeish". I would therefore be VERY careful claiming that the Rambam meant anything more than this Chazal, that it's some kind of general rule about astronomy. But more than that, in his version of the gemara, there is no question that Rebbe capitulated to Athenian science. (Unlike our version, where Rabbeinu Tam can say Rebbe didn't really change his mind.) According to the Moreh, Chazal learn the astronomy the Rambam thought was true from Athens. No mention there of having once known, forgotten, and relearned it from them.

      But you are ignoring the more important part, about which David and I agree, because it's what the Rambam actually says. Shechitah 10:13 admits that Chazal could have the biology wrong. It is not a claim that they had miSinai or ruach haqodesh knowledge about which deformities are fatal. It is a statement about the power of chazal to decide what is a tereifah -- despite science. This halakhah in the Rambam can be taken off the table as off topic, regardless of how broad or limited you take the Rambam's intent.

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    2. I do not agree with David Ohsie that this is a general rule. I don't see the Rambam invoking the principle anywhere other than tereifos, so I would not assume he is indeed saying that whenever we find halakhah stated in terms of a false scientific claim, the halakhah stays the same. Since I only see tereifos being mentioned, i would not assume a rule.

      This is a good point. I would say though, in practice, we don't change the halachah. Witness lice and metzitzah on Shabbos.

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    3. I know most of us don't change the halakhah. (We've discussed this over on Avodah a number of times.)

      The question is: Would the Rambam change the halakhah, not whether we would. We do not eat fish and meat, the Rambam did away with that one. Indications are, the Rambam would change halakhah as theory changes.

      This is what R' Avraham b' haRambam writes, and given the fish-and-meat thing, I would faster guess he is following his father than the Rambam holds the way we do. Also, RABhR defines "nishtaneh hateva" as being about theory, that human understanding changed. Not that the world actually works differently.

      The Gra and R AY Kook hold we do change the halakhah alone with theory -- lechumerah. In particular, R Kook prohibits killing lice. The idea is that we never know if we have every reason for a din. So, if you eliminate one reason to be meiqil, you now have enough reason to be machmir. But if you eliminate one reason to be machmir, you may still have sufficient reason remaining to be machmir.

      And that's why I opened with "most of us". Talmidei haGra and their wannbes would change the halakhah, in some cases.

      My own rebbe, R' Dovid Lifshitz zt"l, holds that maggots found within meat are kosher because microscopic eggs don't count. Like the reason why we don't worry about microscopic mites and whatnot in the drinking water. (Only visible copepods... <grin>) Then, it's only what the maggot eats after hatching that is the halachically significant cause of the visibly sized maggot. This would work for lice too, perhaps. But his approach is casewise.

      I am not sure metzitzah is only medical. While I inherited a pesaq that allows use of a pipette (Litvisher minhagim), I do not think we hold like the Chasam Sofer that the mouth doesn't have to be used at all. And there is also the din that tzitzin that are not me'aqvin may be cleaned off on Shabbos until the milah is over -- which is until metzitzah is done. Implying that metzitzah is part of the ritual, and not (like the mishnah's mention of cumin) only for medicine. Yes, the gemara does then imply that metzitzah is for medicinal reasons, that a mohel who skips that step risks the life of the baby and should be dismissed. Why not both ritual and medicinal?

      If the law of tzitzin on Shabbos proves that metzitzah is part of the rite of beris, although (like peri'ah) not me'aqev, we would have to take that example off the table.

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    4. Micha- can you please state for me where in Shechita 10:13 the Rambam "admits chazal had the biology wrong"? That is a gross mistranslation of his words. David accused me of mistranslating by saying "dismiss the words of the doctors in light of the words of the rabbis"- when that is exactly what the Rambam was saying! Does your dictionary translate the words דרכי רפואות שבידינו as "the reality of biology"? Please see the Nishmat Abraham volume 1 page 178 that equates this Rambam with the Shoot Harashba Siman 98!

      Micha- How do you know to limit this Rambam only to Teriphot. If you say because this is where he placed it, then that is a good point but the Rambam backed it up with a verse from the Torah that states we should always follow the sages! It would appear he is making a general rule, why else would he quote a general verse if you are limiting it in scope. David wanted to generalize this Rambam to other cases of practical halacha (lice, metzita), but David what makes you limit it? Maybe the Rambam meant it in regards to all statements of Chazal, even those in regards to the natural world, except in areas of astronomy because we had a lost mesorah for astronomy and there is a precedent when Chazal gave in to the nations of the world. They only gave in to astonomy and no other area.

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    5. He says the medicine as we now know it is irrelevant, and you should follow (quoting a pasuq) the Torah which they decide for you. He doesn't tell you to follow their better opinion, he tells you the list is pesaq halakhah. "Yorukha".

      I am limiting this Rambam to tereifos until you explain why a purported general rule doesn't go as far as meat and fish.

      BTW, if Chazal did have some supernal knowledge of science in general, why does the medrash make a point of telling us Hashem gave Moshe Rabbeinu knowledge of computing the molad in particular?

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    6. We do not eat fish and meat, the Rambam did away with that one. Indications are, the Rambam would change halakhah as theory changes.

      This is not a good case, because that is Sakanta and not Issura.

      The better example is that in a letter, he does actually defend adding one case to the list of Treifos. But it is really hard to find cases like that.

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    7. Please see the Nishmat Abraham volume 1 page 178 that equates this Rambam with the Shoot Harashba Siman 98!

      Reference? I don't see it here. I assume that he refers to the Kesef Mishnah's reference, but the other authorities don't think that is aligned with the Rambam. Rav Moshe goes so far as to say that the Rashba would admit that he was wrong and has done so in Olam HaEmes.

      And yes, דרכי רפואות שבידינו means what he believes to be accurate scientific knowledge.

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    8. The saqanah is tzora'as, not simply a normal disease. Otherwise we would have done away with it too. But I'll accept that it's unclear enough to be proof material.

      I should note your example undermines my argument, reconnecting tereifos more directly do the biology of which animals would live.

      You might enjoy this essay by the not-yet-R' Gil Student (2001)
      http://www.aishdas.org/toratemet/en_method.html
      and
      http://www.aishdas.org/toratemet/en_pamphlet1.html
      They were written in response to "Daat Emet" who subtitle their web site "Enlightenment, education, and freedom from religion" (Yes, that says "from".)

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  17. Thank you everyone for your inputs!

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  18. I do not deny there were examples when chazal took their knowledge from contemporary scientific experts of their time, or that they actually conducted their own experiments. We see many examples like this throughout the Talmud. But there are other examples when they seemed to know reality from the Torah itself. Like the gestation period of the snake was learned out from a verse (regardless if that scientific fact holds up today is a different point- the fact is that they claimed they knew it from a calculation based on a verse). Or Shemuel's example of how he knew the astrology of the heavens like the streets of Nehedria. The midrash says he learned it out from his studying of the Torah. It seems to me you guys (David, Micha, R Nosson) deny Chazal ever learned a fact about reliea from the Torah itself either through a divine inspiration or through verses or a mesorah. Is this true?

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    1. Of course Chazal attempted to learn facts from the Torah itself. For example, in Bava Basra, Chazal learned from the Torah that the sun goes behind the sky at night.

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    2. Like the gestation period of the snake was learned out from a verse (regardless if that scientific fact holds up today is a different point- the fact is that they claimed they knew it from a calculation based on a verse).

      You are quoting and argument from a different chapter of the book that perhaps I'll post on a some future date. For now, suffice it to say that the following:

      1) As R. Slikfin points out, derivation from a Pasuk doesn't indicate Torah Mi'Sinai.

      2) The Discourse explicitly says (in a part that Rabbi Meiselman admits is authentic) that things that seem to be derive from a pasuk may actually just be an opinion of the author and not truly derived from the Torah at all.

      3) The argument "they thought they were right even though they appear to be wrong scientifically" is hardly evidence of Science Mi'Sinai.

      4) Even if there was some science learned Mi'Sinai, if a statement turns out to be wrong, then it's good evidence that the statement in question wasn't.

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    3. This example clearly shows that when chazal make a derivation from a passuk they believe it to be truth! Otherwise they wouldn't go up against a philosopher, rather they knew it wasn't just a made up assumption or a lone opinion -it must've been Torah MeSinai, where he had a mesorah for this derivation or a ruach hakodesh to learn the verse in this manner and he knew it was real. For this point, I'm not interested in what you and I or scientists today think; if you want to know what Chazal were thinking, it's clear from this example that "they thought" their facts about reality came from Sinai/Torah/Mesorah/Divine inspiration and not from secular knowledge.

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    4. Of course they believed it to be truth! But it doesn't mean that this derivation was based on a mesorah from Sinai or ruach hakodesh! They believed that they had correctly inferred something about realia from the Torah.

      "Eddie," the crucial point here, that can avoid many hours of pointless debate, is whether you will acknowledge that Chazal attempted to learn from a passuk that the sun goes behind the sky at night - and that they were incorrect.

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    5. That was a matter of Astronomy which the Rambam clearly says (kiddush hachodesh 17:24) that they once knew all of Astronomy but was a lost mesorah. (Don't you agree the Rambam is saying that about Astronomy or do you differ?)
      And what was the passuk in regards to sun going behind sky?

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    6. It doesn't make a difference what the topic is. You claimed that Chazal would not make a statement about realia unless it was based on mesorah from Sinai or ruach hakodesh. The case about the path of the sun (Bava Basra 25a-b) shows that you are wrong.

      Furthermore, what Rambam writes about astronomy makes things even worse for you. At least with astronomy, he claims that there was originally a mesorah for their knowledge about science in this field, relating to the description of Bnei Yissacher as knowing matters relating to the calendar. With other fields, there is no claim that they had a mesorah for these things.

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    7. Well... I guess someone *could* say that Hashem provided us with incorrect information, such as the path of the sun. Perhaps because it makes it easier to remember some details necessary for halakhah that would be less obvious with a more accurate model of reality.

      For example, the apparent squashing and slowing of the sun when its near the horizon is easier to think about in Persian astronomy than if you think in terms of spheres or orbits and then have to factor in refraction and seeing the sun when it's actually *below* the horizon.

      I am not saying I buy into any of the above. Just that for intellectual rigor, one would need to disprove this possibility.

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    8. R Nosson. Please read carefully what I wrote on June 1st 8:09 PM that I don't deny Chazal took some statements about reality from contemporary scientists or experimentation so don't accuse me of "claiming chazal would only make statements of reliea unless it was based on mesorah from Sinai or ruach hakodesh". I believe both can be true; some statements could have been taken from other nations and some statements of reliea were learned through mesorah/ruach hakodesh /derivations of verses. You are the one that seems to be denying ANY statement of reliea from a divine inspiration or a mesorah which contradicts the midrashim I brought above. The burden of proof is upon you. I hope you are looking forward to my new monograph "The Sun's path at night: the expansion of a useful concept".

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    9. No, I have never denied the possibility of Chazal making a statement about realia based on divine inspiration or a mesorah from Sinai. Bu you (and R. Meiselman) claimed that IF they derive it from a passuk (and R. Meiselman adds - if they state it definitively) then it MUST be true. That is what I was disproving, based on the Gemara about astronomy.

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    10. Thank you R Nosson for clarifying your opinion. It is very much appreciative. I have never heard you state before that you believe there are statements Chazal made about reliea that was from divine inspiration/mesorah. Maybe you should quote it on your front page so people do not convolute your true views.

      How do you determine which statements were made from divine inspiration/mesorah and therefore cannot be challenged and which statements were made from the gentile contemporaries?
      It would be difficult to accept all statements made about reliea were from di/mesorah unless contradicted by modern science. That means we would follow science wherever it takes us and believe is divine inspiration as a default until proven wrong. That's hard to accept. Do you have a better solution?

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    11. Eddie, you've got this thing backwards. From my perspective, there is no need for complicated rules to determine what was divine inspiration. If something is shown to be scientifically correct, then any contrary statements must either be parables or mistaken science.

      It is Rabbi Meiselman that needs the complex rules, because his conception is that the statements of Chazal generally override what we believe based on science. But he also realizes that if you take this as a general rule, this is obviously false. When we go to doctors, we just listen to what they tell us without determining whether or not they are going up against a Talmudic statement. Same for every other area of scientific investigation. Besides the fact that lots of Talmudic statements on science are pretty clearly incorrect.

      So to get around this, he must come up with various arbitrary rules in order to make his theory conform to reality.

      That means we would follow science wherever it takes us and believe is divine inspiration as a default until proven wrong. That's hard to accept.

      Then you don't accept the Rambam's rules for accepting a prophet. He says that a prophet who proves himself is provisionally accepted to suspend halacha temporarily until such time that he makes a false prediction or tries to make a permanent change to halacha or permit idolatry. Then he is rejected as a false prophet.

      BTW, I don't agree with divine inspiration "as a default", but he argument above doesn't depend on that.

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    12. Thank you David for your clarification. I may sound "backwards" to you, but that's because you are "backwards" to me, which now it all makes sense.

      I do believe that Chazal come first and foremost and when science contradicts Chazal we find a way to still uphold their words. (A good example is the statement from Chazal that lice do not reproduce sexually, even though the science of today says they do. Rabbi Moshe Levy in Menuchat Ahava says maybe Chazal meant they do not reproduce sexually in any environment, rather they can only reproduce with the atmosphere of sweat. If this would be true scientifically, he would be upholding the words of Chazal fitting into modern science and the halacha remains.)

      Your priority is science and if Chazal fit in, they happened to get it right and if not they are wrong. (Correct me if I am wrong on your viewpoint).

      The Rashba, the Ribash, Rav Kook, Chacham Ovadia and everyone else we mentioned all support my line of thinking.

      Who supports yours (besides for Rabbenu Abraham). The example you gave for the Rambam is very weak. It's not a comparison to equate the rules of a false prophet to scientist contradicting Chazal. If you have another quote from the Rambam (not about astronomy) I am willing to listen. Until then Shechita 10:13 and the keseph mishna satisfies me.

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    13. "Bu you (and R. Meiselman) claimed that IF they derive it from a passuk (and R. Meiselman adds - if they state it definitively) then it MUST be true. That is what I was disproving, based on the Gemara about astronomy." - R Nosson.

      How did you disprove it from the Gemara about Astronomy (Pesachim 94?) if their definitive statement was the conclusion of the wise men of the nations. Their statement about the sun going behind the Rakia was not a definitive statement, agreeing with the nations of the world was definitive.

      And can you please quote the verse from this Gemarah that they were making their statement?

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    14. You are mixing up different sugyas and different members of Chazal. Plus R Meiselman claims that anything derived from Torah IS definitive.
      The chachmei Yisrael said that the sun goes behind the sky at night. They were definite about it. R. Yehudah HaNasi rejected their view.
      The Tannaim in Bava Basra also said that the sun goes behind the sky at night. They derived it from pesukim and were definitive in their view. Nobody retracts or disputes it there.
      You can see all the sources in my monograph on the sun's path at night, which is a free download. Why don't you read it, so that you can actually familiarize yourself with this topic which you are passionately arguing about?

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    15. Thank you David for your clarification. I may sound "backwards" to you, but that's because you are "backwards" to me, which now it all makes sense.

      I didn't say that "it sounds backwards". I made a specific argument that you were attributing a difficulty in Rabbi Meiselman's position to the rationalist position. You did not address this.

      I do believe that Chazal come first and foremost and when science contradicts Chazal we find a way to still uphold their words.

      This is not the thesis of TCS. The thesis of TCS is that we reject modern when there is a a contradiction with Chazal and accept what they say due to their deeper knowledge of the universe.

      The example you gave for the Rambam is very weak. It's not a comparison to equate the rules of a false prophet to scientist contradicting Chazal.

      You are quoting out of context. I made that argument because you said that you found it odd that we could determine that a statement of Chazal was not divinely inspired because it contradicts that facts. I showed that is exactly our approach when it comes to a already verified prophet.

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  19. David. The version from hebrewbooks.org was different from the one I was looking at. Mine version must have been an earlier version because it didn't even have rabbenu Abraham's opinion in yesh omrim- like the version on hebrewbooks.org (page 9). Please see page 428-429 it's siman 328 seif 6- where aligns the Rambam with the shoot harashba.

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    1. 1) He's arguing with Chazon Ish's view of Rambam (and Rav Moshe's view).

      2) He's aligning Rambam with his own personal theory of Rashba that he admits practically there can be rare exceptions, but that "in principle" we don't pay attention to modern science.

      Which is all very nice, but entirely unconvincing. In any case it is his Chiddush in opposition to the standard view which was that the Rambam saw that medical knowledge did not align with the Treifos. Rav Moshe doesn't just take this from the Rambam. He takes it as a matter of fact.

      But it is an interesting argument. Thank you for the reference.

      Delete
  20. I'm sorry David, but can you please be a little bit more clear.
    1) Please explain what is your own personal theory of the Rashba and how does that differ with his theory of the Rashba?
    2) How is this his chiddush, in opposition of the standard way of understanding the Rambam if this is what the kesef mishna said?
    3) I don't think Dr Abraham made this up himself, he was under the guidance of Reb Shlomo Zalman, I would think he was in congruence with what was written otherwise he would have changed what he wrote if his rabbi didn't agree and his source is the kesef Mishna- can you quote any of your sources to back up your side?
    4) Can you please clarify how this is in opposition to Reb Moshe and the Chazon Ish (and please provide sources) because it doesn't seem Dr Abraham thought he was opposing them.
    Thank you for your time.

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  21. Please explain what is your own personal theory of the Rashba and how does that differ with his theory of the Rashba?

    Rav Moshe was correct. Dr Abraham offers his own theory.

    2) How is this his chiddush, in opposition of the standard way of understanding the Rambam if this is what the kesef mishna said?

    Differs from Rav Moshe and Chazon Ish who don't align Rambam with Rashba and don't defend Rashba. Kesef Mishna doesn't explain Rashba.

    I don't think Dr Abraham made this up himself, he was under the guidance of Reb Shlomo Zalman, I would think he was in congruence with what was written otherwise he would have changed what he wrote if his rabbi didn't agree and his source is the kesef Mishna- can you quote any of your sources to back up your side?

    I don't know whose idea it was.

    Can you please clarify how this is in opposition to Reb Moshe and the Chazon Ish (and please provide sources) because it doesn't seem Dr Abraham thought he was opposing them.

    He tries to explain Rashba, while Rav Moshe thought Rashba indefensible.

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  22. David. You may be a Gra, but I do not know how to decipher one. If this is too time consuming to elaborate on something that is obvious to you then I understand. But Ian still confused.
    What is Dr Abraham's theory of the Rashba and how does it contradict everyone else?

    All the kesef Mishne said about the Rambam was "and so says the Rashba". Are you saying everyone (Rav Moshe and Chazon Ish) argued on this kesef Mishne and disagrees the Rambam is aligned with the Rashba?

    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate them.

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  23. Are you saying everyone (Rav Moshe and Chazon Ish) argued on this kesef Mishne and disagrees the Rambam is aligned with the Rashba?

    You can answer this yourself as follows:

    1) Does Rav Moshe reject Rashba?
    2) Does Rav Moshe reject Rambam?

    You can find the reference to Rav Moshe in TCS on pp 186ff.

    ReplyDelete
  24. David. Which ever shita you hold like (Rambam, keseph mishne, or Rashba, or Rav Moshe's understanding of Rambam, or Chazon Ish understanding of Rambam, or Nishmat Abraham's understanding of Rambam or his theory of the Rashba) there is one thing that they definitely are not saying - "Chazal's statements about reality were mistaken."

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    Replies
    1. You started off with ""we dismiss the words of the medical doctors in light of the words of Chazal". Now we're at: when science seems to contradict halacha, we don't reject the science.

      How you reconcile in a specific case and in general is a question. Dor Revii addressing this Rambam says that there was a mistake. Chazon Ish says that we know more than Chazal knew.

      Delete

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