Monday, June 13, 2016

Do You Know That You Know It?

Consider something that you know to be true. The earth is a sphere. George Washington existed. Dinosaurs lived a few thousand years ago/ lived many millions of years ago/ never existed. Barack Obama is a secret Muslim who is plotting to destroy Israel. (Hey, there are probably some readers of this blog who believe that!)

Now, the question is as follows. Do you know that you know these things to be true? Or do you just believe that you know these things to be true?

An honest answer is that we can never know that we know things to be true. We can only believe that we know things to be true. There is always the possibility that there are mistaken assumptions or other things that are leading us to incorrect conclusions. No doubt, there are certain "facts" that we "know" today which will one day turn out to be quite different.

This seemingly arcane question has become very relevant to the recently-revived crusade to delegitimize the rationalist approach to Chazal and science.

Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, in Torah, Chazal and Science, claims that Chazal would not make a definitive statement unless they knew with absolutely certainty that it is true. "A major thesis of this book is that if Chazal make a definitive statement, whether regarding halachah or realia, it means that they know it to be unassailable" (p. 107; see too p. 33). In other words, when they say something about the natural world, it is not the case that they merely believe that they know it to be true. Rather, they know that they know it to be true. Accordingly, to say that they are mistaken is an attack on their integrity, and is therefore utterly wrong and heretical.

And thus, according to Rabbi Meiselman, when Chazal say definitively that any species in which the male has internal genitalia, lays eggs, this must be true, and accordingly, either elephants used to lay eggs or they used to possess external genitalia. When Chazal say definitively that the gestation of animals such as wolves is three years, it must be that this used to be the case. Similarly, when Chazal said that the atalef (bat) lays eggs, they must have been referring to creatures such as the duck-billed platypus, rather than mistakenly referring to the animal that every Torah scholar always understood the word atalef to refer to - the bat. Likewise, when Chazal say definitively that there is a salamander that is generated from fire, this must be true.

There are innumerable other such cases. In all these instances, according to Rabbi Meiselman, if you say that Chazal merely sincerely believed such things to be true (as did countless others in antiquity, and as we do about everything we think we know) and could thus be mistaken, you are a heretic. Instead, you are obligated to believe that Chazal knew these things to be true, and thus that these things are indeed true. (It remains unclear to me why Rabbi Meiselman considers the spontaneous generation of insects to be impossible, and thus insists that Chazal never believed in any such thing, but accepts the spontaneous generation of salamanders.)

Rabbi Yaakov Menken applies this to Rambam as well, at least in one case. Rambam says firmly that pi is irrational, and adds that only fools think otherwise. It happens to indeed be correct that pi is irrational, but did Rambam actually know this, or just believe it? According to Rabbi Menken, this cannot be simply a matter of Rambam's belief, similar to the way in which many other people in the medieval and possibly even the classical era believed pi to be irrational, since Rambam says it so definitively. Rabbi Menken argues that even though the irrationality of pi was only formally proved in the 18th century by Lambert, Rambam was uniquely privy to another, even more conclusive source - namely, some mysterious source in Chazal that he refuses to mention (!). Just as Rabbi Meiselman argues regarding Chazal, Rabbi Menken argues regarding Rambam, that if he states it definitively, he must have had conclusive knowledge of the fact. He didn't just believe it to be true - he knew it to be true.

But is that itself actually true? Let's take a look at some other definitive statements of Rambam:
"It is not impossible… that vermin be created from rot inside food, except as far as the fools who have no knowledge of the natural world are concerned, as they believe that all creatures cannot be generated except via a male-female relationship since this is what they see transpires in most cases." (Rambam, Sefer HaMitzvos, Lo Sa’ase 179)
Here we see Rambam likewise stating definitively that spontaneous generation takes place, and dismissing those who think otherwise as being fools. Yet did Rambam know this to be true? Of course not - because it is actually false! The "fools" are correct, and there actually is no such thing as spontaneous generation! Rather, Rambam believed it to be true. And it is not mocking Rambam's integrity or intelligence to point out that it is false. Belief in spontaneous generation was perfectly normative until quite recently, and it is only to be expected that even an extraordinary genius such as Rambam would subscribe to such a belief.

In exactly the same way, when Rambam said with certainty that pi is irrational, it does not mean that he had any more reason for his certainty than when he said that spontaneous generation is a fact. He sincerely believed pi to be irrational, and he may well have had very good reason to do so - after all, the existence of irrational numbers had been demonstrated a thousand years earlier, and mathematicians had spent centuries failing to calculate an exact value for pi. As we have seen, there were several mathematicians in the medieval period who asserted that pi was irrational, and this was a common belief that turned out to be correct. But Rambam did not have the basis to know that pi is irrational. (And nor, let us again point out, has Rabbi Menken proposed what this alleged basis actually was.)

And in exactly the same way, when Chazal said various statements about the natural world, it does not mean that they knew these to be true. Rather, they believed them to be true. Accordingly, it is not remotely impugning Chazal's integrity, or the authority of the Gemara, to note that these statements are not necessarily true.

(Hat tip to R. David Ohsie for inspiring this post)

167 comments:

  1. As is often the case, you misunderstand or misconstrue the basis of your disputant's position.

    Yes, a person can know things to be true. The one thing we know is that we exist. Everything should flow from that in an ideal world. The idea that Chazal said only things they knew to be true is highly sourced in traditional literature and is expressed by: אליבא דהאי תנא, meaning the ideas and laws that they expressed were held through and through, from head to heart and their intellectual rulings were a harmonious reflection of their personal essence and identities, not mere guesswork, as we mostly do today

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What does "personal essence and identity" have to do with the nature of the world outside oneself?

      Delete
    2. How do you know that we exist?

      Delete
    3. This is a pretty good example of why I don't follow frum rabbis anymore.
      The over simplification of so much of life in earlier times coupled with the demeaning of more sophisticated contemporary approaches in support of current norms - one of the defining features of frum life and so apparent in this comment - is just laughable. Let me know when frum Judaism becomes as sophisticated as my secular studies and I'll give you another chance.

      Delete
    4. I guess you haven't studied Bava Kamma, Ketzos HaChoshen or Rebbe Akiva Eiger in quite a while (they are not available on Twitter feed or Facebook). Refuah Shleima.

      Delete
    5. An Honest ReporterJune 13, 2016 at 10:29 PM

      "Afrumrabbi," you have a typo in your moniker. It should be "AnArrogantPretentiousRabbiWithNoRealContentToSaySoIJustInsultPeopleInstead."

      Delete
    6. Alan Rosenthal: אם אני כאן הכל כאן or ואהבת לרעך כמוך

      Delete
    7. Enlighten me. Here's your chance to prove me wrong.

      Delete
    8. I would be happy to discuss in person. I am not trying to prove you wrong, merely to demonstrate that there is good reason why to observe and respect the Torah and its wisdom. Email me privately at: afrumrabbi@gmail.com if you are sincere and interested in an honest discussion.

      Delete
    9. Anhonestreporter: Actually, my initial comment was a mostly substantive comment. It is the basis of how we KNOW the Rambam's Ikkarim to be true.

      Delete
    10. Chazal said things which they believed to be true. When they made statements regarding the physical world they expressed nothing more than the accepted knowledge of the time. Often they were flat out wrong.

      It cannot be demonstrated that Chazal possessed supernatural knowledge which provided humanity with new understanding into physical, medical, astronomical, geological, biological, chemical, etc., phenomena. Nor can it be demonstrated that deep insights into such phenomena are "encoded" in the "Blueprint-for-Creation". Such (unsupported) claims are usually made by Kiruv workers who chant the mantra that Torah and science do not conflict and make very silly attempts to show their compatibility. My advice is that they should just get comfortable with Stephen Jay Gould's idea of non-overlapping magisteria and stop all of the nonsense.

      Delete
    11. "heir intellectual rulings were a harmonious reflection of their personal essence and identities"

      Sounds like Graetz repackaged in yeshivisher terminology. Who would have ever imagined?

      Delete
    12. > The one thing we know is that we exist. Everything should flow from that in an ideal world.

      If you're a radical empiricist. But you can't get anywhere from that. I can know I exist, but I can't even know anything about my own nature with certainty, let alone the outside world. The best we can do is contingently accept that it is pragmatic to accept our perceptions as reflecting reality.

      Delete
    13. To afrumrabbi

      I was calling you out - but I will email you shortly if you prefer a private conversation. But to be clear, I have no problem following Torah or it's wisdom. But I have plenty of problems when people dumb it down and then ask we follow the dumb version.

      The frum version is dumb (sorry to be offensive, but it's true) because it's isolationist and ignorant of secular wisdom and it's benefits. It is honor bound to axioms that are easily disproven. It is one version of Judaism that for no good reason commits itself to positions that don't need to be held by Torah - committed Jews.

      Your initial comment doesn't show how we know the ikkarim to be true, it just repeats that claim that they are true. "it all flows from the knowledge that we exist..." is trite and meaningless beyond belief.

      Delete
    14. Actually, as Russell pointed out, even saying "I exist" goes too far. What is certain are things like "there is red" (referring to the immediate sensation of red in what we term the visual field).

      Delete
  2. Not directly related but the thought occurred as I was reading this post... and it may be obvious to you all out there already but...

    Doesn't a plain reading of Pesachim 94 imply that Chazal beleived in a flat Earth?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And Tanach describes the world exactly the same way it was pictured in Mesopotamian cosmology. The world is a snow globe, a flat plate inside the solid globe of the firmament, which is floating in the endless water of the void.

      Delete
    2. It definitely implies that some of Chazal did. Chazal are not a monolith.

      Delete
    3. David, yes ok. Barur. OK I'll go and do my homework now. But thanks for confirming that I'm not wildly off track.

      Delete
  3. Whilst I agree with the thrust of your post, I think you misrepresent the Rambam.

    The Rambam does not say only fools deny spontaneous generation. He says only fools claim spontaneous generation is insensible, and not theoretically possible. Whether it actually occurs is a different question.

    Of course this is still difficult for Rav Meiselman who does indeed consider spontaneous generation to be impossible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rambam definitely believed in spontaneous generation. The context of his comments are specific mitzvos prohibiting the eating of certain kinds of animals spontaneously generated.

      Delete
  4. Why is it relevant that the Rambam echoed the conventional wisdom of his time?
    The possibility that several Medieval mathematicians asserted pi to be irrational does not in any way make it conventional wisdom on par with spontaneous generation.

    What's the comparison?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't understand what you are asking. My point is that when Rambam confidently asserts something as being definitely true, this does not in any way mean that he must have had definitive knowledge that this is the case. We see this from the case of spontaneous generation.
      Thus, when Rambam confidently asserts that pi is irrational, this does not mean that he had special knowledge about this. There is no reason to take Rambam's statement any differently from that of all the other pre-Lambert mathematicians who asserted that pi is irrational.

      Delete
    2. You are avoiding my point.
      My point was the Rambam was clearly and demonstrably echoing the conventional wisdom of his time w/ regard to SG. That is where his confidence came from.

      So even if you can find isolated pre-Lambert mathematicians who asserted pi is irrational, that does not make it the conventional wisdom.
      Therefore, assuming it wasn't conventional wisdom the Rambam's confidence in pi's irrationality is surprising, and that it was borne out with mathematical proof centuries later is even more surprising.

      Delete
    3. It does not matter whether Pi's irrationality was conventional wisdom in the time of the Rambam. All that matters is whether the Rambam could have learned of the idea from a secular source. It only takes one, and the Rambam is known to have studied the works of Greek and Arabic scholars. It is not inconceivable that he read of the idea in such a source.

      Delete
    4. Rambam say that the irrationality of pi was conventional wisdom. Also if you understand math, you'll understand why people would have widely speculated pi to be irrational, yet generally not written it down as a result. (Hint: it has to do with the inadmissibilty of induction in mathematical proof.)

      Delete
  5. Hey frum rabbi: We "know" the Rambam's 13 ikkarim to be true? Are you for real? Haven't you read Prof. Marc Shapiro's "The Limits of Orthodox Theology"? (Littman Press, 2004)? It's an entire BOOK that demonstrates that all 13 have been hotly debated by rabbis for 2000 years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps he wouldn't consider R' Yehuda HaChassid as "frum" ;-)

      Delete
    2. Presumably that book is 'mere guesswork as we mostly do today'

      Delete
    3. Yes, I happened to have read carefully Marc Shapiro's book. His understanding of the Rambam, of Chazal and of the supposed disagreements that he discovered are mostly silly, though he does mention a few interesting tidbits. There is nothing in the book that would remotely sway a Talmid Chacham, and only those who have no connection to Torah learning would actually believe that he shakes in any way the foundations of the Ikkarim.

      Delete
    4. Ok. A serious reply then. Let's allow that R.Shaoiro's book doesn't shake the foundations of the ikkarim nor did he intend to but rather he demonstrates that there have been disagreements here and there over the years about each and every one of them. On the contrary you could say his book demonstrates the the 13 ikkarim broadly sum up jewish belief and there has been more consensus overall on each one than argument ever since Rambam wrote them..... (barring of course the huge massive controversial God has no body thing... )

      But let's accept that his ikkarim have more or less been the gold standard ever since he wrote them.

      It's still the case that they are not written (as it were) in stone.
      They've never been totally accepted as the ONLY way to think about Judaism but rather they are a convenient summary. If you wanted to and could make a convincing argument against one or more of them then there would be no problem with that. Agree?

      Delete
    5. The differences in 'knowing' are related to the differences between Torah and secular knowledge. It also relates to the different terms the Torah uses for wisdom: חכמה, בינה, דעת, שכל. Without defining those terms clearly, it is impossible to have a fruitful discussion as to the Torah's positions on these subjects, nor understand what Talmidei Chachamim are referring to when discussing Torah knowledge.

      At the risk of sounding trite, (and yes, I do understand that discussing these issues in this forum will always be perceived as reducing elevated ideas to simplistic sayings): the knowledge of Torah can be compared to a good diagnostic physician, who understands the disease before him and how it is damaging the body. He knows how it works and understands what to prescribe to combat it, and why the prescription can be effective.

      In contrast, a pharmacist also know that the book taught him to prescribe a red pill when he sees symptom A, and a blue pill for symptom B. He may then go on to kill a third patient who expressed both symptoms A&B, for whom he prescribed both red and blue. Not knowing how the medicine works, he knows only how to read external symptoms, and to spit back what it says in the book.

      Here is a clearer example: compare your sense of direction when driving in your hometown with your knowledge of the direction to take while using GPS in an unknown locale. In your home, you KNOW the way, and need no stimuli, while on unfamiliar territory, you can only follow what others tell you.

      In the same way, a Talmid Chacham knows (somewhat) how life works, where he stands with G-d, and what G-d wants of him. These facts cannot be known externally, nor through physical and worldly signs, but reflect only an internal truth that man can KNOW to be true. This is what I refer to when saying that knowledge begins with 'I KNOW I exist' - a fact for which I need no proof, nor to adduce support from external evidence, and I would sense internally my own existence independent of whether or not anyone around me confirms or acknowledges that.

      This type of knowledge is why we value Talmud study, and why it alone is perceived as truth by Talmidei Chachamim. Every single angle of every single question must be analyzed, with all false premises rejected, until only the truth can emerge. I KNOW the Gemara's conclusion.

      This is why the constant refrains on this blog criticizing Yeshiva Bachurim for blindly following authority is so laughable. Those who spend any time inside the walls of a good Yeshiva witness daily how 16 year old students are encouraged to challenge every word of their Roshei Yeshiva, and a Maggid Shiur cannot say three full sentences without facing a barrage of challenge.

      This results in KNOWING.

      Delete
    6. Gosh, all you had to to do was invoke the Eliashiv Principle: they could say it, we can't.

      Delete
    7. It is very sad if your Yiddishkeit has been reduced to mocking Rav Eliashiv

      Delete
    8. You've got to be kidding "frum" rabbi. You read the book? I highly doubt it. If you read only the chapter on corporeality it should leave you shaking like a leaf. And "talmudei chachamim" of today? The vast majority of them know no Hebrew grammar, so basic dikduk Rashis are beyond them completely. They know nothing of Jewish history. They don't know Tanach. They know a lot of the Bavli and its commentators but no midrashim, the Yerushalmi, the Tosefta, etc. the picture is bleak. Don't bring proofs from contemporary "Talmidei chachamim" please.

      Delete
    9. And 16 year olds don't blindly follow their roshei yeshiva? Delighted to hear but not true.

      Delete
    10. Oh, and your knowledge of pharmacy and what pharmacists know is beyond laughable. My dad was one and he saved several lives by recognizing the incompatibility of two meds prescribed for a patient. Do you frum rabbis know ANYTHING besides false Talmudic "science"?

      Delete
    11. Zfriend:

      Thank you for your comments. My example of a pharmacist was simply a Mashal, not a comment on any pharmacist you may know.

      If you would like to come in to a good Yeshiva amd meet live Talmidei Chachamim, please email privately at: afrumrabbi@gmail.com, and I will try to make that possible. Afterwards, we can judge the validity of your claim that they are all ignorant. I can also introduce you to many 16 year old Yeshiva Bachurim whose lives and studies are not as you describe.

      I live in Israel, so I don't know if your experience with Yeshivos matches mine.

      Yes, I did read Shapiro's book, and quite carefully. I repeat: it is mostly very silly, and no, Talmidei Chachamim are blown away only by the childish nature of some of his mistakes, not by any supposed revelations that you have discovered in his work.

      Delete
    12. I think it boils down to this: you are axiomatically committed to the idea that Chazal know Truth (capital T) and everything else is just guesswork. Thus you keep repeating the same argument in different forms.
      It's an axiom and unproven and you provide no evidence to support it.
      I'm not bound by your axiom and find it to be easily disproven. I still think Chazal were a bunch of smart guys but not magicians.

      Thus the difference between Frumkeit (you) and Judaism (me).

      Delete
    13. Perhaps if you had more secular knowledge you would understand the problem with the claims to Truth. But your dogma prevents you from critical thinking.

      Delete
    14. > In contrast, a pharmacist … may then go on to kill a third patient who expressed both symptoms A&B,… Not knowing how the medicine works

      This doesn't speak to the substance of your argument, but just FYI, pharmacists are the ones who know how medicines work, while doctors are the ones who know that you prescribe medication A for symptom Y.

      > … reflect only an internal truth that man can KNOW to be true.

      The problem with this way of subjective "knowing" is that Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and even Scientologists experience the same type of "knowledge." If you're going to say that the knowledge of monks and Operating Thetans are unreliable, then you have to say that the knowledge of talmedie chachamim is also unreliable.

      > Every single angle of every single question must be analyzed, with all false premises rejected,

      But that's not how it works. Certain premises are inviolate, such as the premise that the taanaim, amoraim, and rishonim were all in greater and smarter than we are, or the premise that what they are discussing accurately reflects reality.

      > Those who spend any time inside the walls of a good Yeshiva witness daily how 16 year old students are encouraged to challenge every word of their Roshei Yeshiva, and a Maggid Shiur cannot say three full sentences without facing a barrage of challenge.

      There is a difference between challenging a rebbe's interpretation of a gemara, which is allowed, and challenging the validity of the gemara's assumptions, which is not allowed. One can ask why the Torah says one thing here and a different thing there, and what do we learn from that. One can never ask whether the Torah contradicting itself points to multiple authorship. One can ask why bad things happen to good people. One may never ask whether the evil in the world makes a tri-omni God logically impossible. And so on. When people talk about not being able to question and being expected to blindly follow authority, they're talking about the second type of question.

      Delete
    15. Rabbosai, it is not worth wasting your time with this "frumrabbi." Just look at the comments at the end of the previous post, where he claims that we've got it all wrong about Chazal's view regarding the sun's path at night, but is completely incapable of explaining why the straightforward view of the Rishonim and the Acharonim is unacceptable. He's full of arrogance and insults, but there's no substance to him.

      Delete
    16. R' Slifkin, the point of engaging in these debates is never to convince the person you're debating with. Debating isn't about determining the truth, it's about winning, and no one likes to lose. The point is for other people who accept Afrumrabbi's premises, might read the comments here and, not having to "win," can be persuaded that Afrumrabbi is mistaken.

      Delete
    17. Nobody ever claimed that straightforward views of the Rishonim and Acharonim are unacceptable.

      Delete
    18. @zfriend:"Do you frum rabbis know ANYTHING besides false Talmudic "science"?"
      That's a rather broad and insulting generalization. The great Poskim have to keep up with developments in all the sciences.
      A few years ago (it's amazing that I have been following this blog for years already--how time flies!), Rabbi Slifkin gave a link to a Science-Torah lecture by Rabbi Herschel Schachter. Rabbi Schachter related that, in the previous century, there was a rabbi who ruled that we can't use a blood test on a child to determine the father, since the Gemara in Niddah says that only the mother contributes the blood to the child. This rabbi was berated by a Posek of the time (I forgot whom), that blood typing is already established and known, and that it can be used to establish the father of a child. (I say that the Posek "berated" him, but the way Rabbi Schachter said it was more like, "What, are you crazy?!")

      Delete
    19. Yehuda P.: That was Rav Yitzchak Herzog ztl who did the berating. You can find the issue discussed at length here: http://98.131.138.124/articles/JME/JMEB1/JMEB1.18.asp.

      However, the real issue there is not scientific, IMO. Even if blood tests are reliable in determining paternity, it is arguable that since they would create many new mamzerim, that they should not be paid attention to halachically, even if they have they are scientifically valid.

      Delete
    20. Wow. Nu, what do you say about the veracity of that Gemara in Nidda?

      Delete
    21. @zfriend: What do Isay? I rationalize it by saying that 1) that Gemara is a somewhat aggadic, about what the mother contributes, what the father contributes, and what Hashem contributes, in the formation of a child. It's not necessarily a physiological statement.
      Even if it is a physiological statement, I would say that 2) if the Rabbis of the Talmud were around today, they would modify their position, based on new evidence. Just like we see the phrase חזרו בית הלל להורות כדברי בית שמאי when they were bested in an argument.
      I hope my position is not heretical.

      @David Ohsie: You remind me of a story the Rav of my university once related: A student came into his office, and said that he thinks he's a mamzer. Why? His mother went many years without conceiving a child, and she had an adulterous relationship. The student was afraid that he was the product of that relationship. The Rav calmed him down: 1) The only person who admitted to this relationship was his mother--that would not be admissible evidence, because a person cannot incriminate himself, and 2) רוב בעילות אצל הבעל, and this adulterous relationship was a one-time thing--there were other proofs that the Rav provided as well. This Rav consulted other poskim, and they found his arguments compelling.

      Delete
    22. If the rabbis of the Talmud were around today they'd modify their stances on things? I agree. And on a lot of things. So nu, what do I do with the nitzchiyut of Torah? The whole idea gets tossed because mankind developed a microscope and a telescope?

      Delete
    23. @zfriend: I don't think changing a ruling based on more evidence affects the eternity of the Torah. Also, there is the concept of a beis din overturning the ruling of a previous beis din, if they're greater in wisdom and in number.
      Rabbi Slifkin discussed various Rabbis' opinions about the issue of killing lice on Shabbos--some indeed ruled that if we have observed that they reproduce sexually, it seems it should be ossur to kill them, despite the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch saying otherwise.

      Delete
  6. The question "how do we know what we know" is quite important and can be frustrating. Most people think they know George Washington existed but can't express how or why they know that. I would say that we don't really "know" that, but we choose to believe it based on multiple primary historic sources that seem trustworthy to us. How we "know" other things, such as that there once was a Beit Hamikdash on the Temple Mount, is a dicier question. Some Palestinians don't "know" that because they don't trust the sources that we do, maddening as that may be for us. As for what scientific or other facts that Chazal "knew," we have no way of "knowing" that unless we are able to identify their particular sources of information.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It comes down to Donald Rumsfeld's brilliant (but tragically mocked) statement: "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

      Delete
    2. Of course there's also the wisdom of Woody Allen, who asked, "Is knowledge knowable? And if so, how do we know?"

      Delete
  7. There are serious people who have serious issues with Obama and his attitude toward both Islam and Israel. If the last eight years weren't proof enough, this week has sadly brought more. They don't deserve the flippant dismissals of them you seem so fond of.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nachum, you missed the birtherism of the esoteric R Slifkin. Note that he omitted Obama's title. That could only be because he knows that Obama is actually a Keynesian and thus not eligible for the presidency (just as George Washington is dead and thus ineligible). Monetarism rules and #AlwaysTrump!!!!

      Delete
  8. The difference between the irrational and rational groups is that the latter allow nuance and shades of grade while the former allow only black and white.
    For example, for the rationalists Bilaam can be a villain while still having had some redeeming qualities. For the irrationalists he is Morgoth's mentor.
    It's the same with the approach to Chazal's statements. For the rationalists Chazal could be spiritual and intellectual geniuses who nevertheless were speaking according to the knowledge of their times. That doesn't mean we respect them or their achievements one iota less. For the irrationalists anything less than blind admiration and obedience is kefriah incarnate. And as God's self-appointed policemen they are simply trying to lay down the law.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Re Obama - why would you say this? I personally don't agree with the statement in your opening paragraph, but great numbers of highly intelligent people do. And it not an unfounded belief, nor, if true, would it be the first time in history someone in high office carried comparable secret designs or beliefs. You do yourself no favors by mixing that comment in with the others. It makes it appear as though you enjoy stirring the pot. And now I see Nachum preempted me, as he does often.

    Re Chazal, as defined - Chazal also state, to pick at random: 1) a Tereifah cannot live more than 12 months; 2) a Mamzer cannot live more than 30 days; 3) an Ant cannot live more than 6 months. Like you said, such statements are endless. One has to have a certain mindset to explain away each and every case as chazal meaning something different than what the words say. What can be done about such people? Nothing. Its a permanent feature of the orthodox landscape.

    ReplyDelete
  10. And blood turns into mothers milk. And lice are spontaneously generated. And eight month old preemies are not viable. And the sun circles the earth and cooks the water in the bowels thereof. And somethings called "adnei hasadeh" exist. And cats have poison in their claws. Yes, yes, the Tallmud is all true and correct because....because....some anonymous frum my said it is. I am THIS close to checking out of this mass insanity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Um, mother's milk DOES come from blood in that it originates in the bloodstream. You can google it.

      If you choose to check out of Yiddishkeit, that's your prerogative. But please don't blame the Talmud and Chazal for your choices.

      Delete
    2. Actually, the statementns that you cite are all Aggadata Gemaras, which are written in a language of their own and quite inscrutable to the casual reader who knows only how to translate from Aramaic into English.

      Delete
    3. Actually, the statements that you cite are all Aggadata Gemaras.

      Not true. The fact that the blood comes only from the mother is used to justify ignoring blood tests to determine paternity to avoid creating Mamzeirus through modern technology. It is true that there is a secondary motivation to be lenient in that case, but those "aggadata" are cited l'halachah.

      Delete
    4. David Ohsie,
      That's a very strange Tzitz Eliezer. I asked in the Beis Medrash many times why a DNA test is any less than a donkey's saddle.

      Delete
    5. that drives me crazy, though, the claim that only 'proper' rabbis know how to read a gemara.... in other words, only those who interpret it a proper way have the proper reading... it's so circular. if you interpret it another you then you by definition aren't a proper rabbi.
      no wonder most of us Jews ignore 'proper' rabbis. they claim unchallengeable authority, gets things wrong and then deny your ability to dispute them.

      In regular english this sort of behavior is known as 'a dictatorship' or 'a cult'

      there might be other, better, terms for it, i suppose

      Delete
    6. I would suggest that it is for the same reason that you would not make a Sefer Torah pasul if a microscope revealed an otherwsise invisible connection or break in the letters. You don't make Mamzerus from modern technology; you need to prove it the old fashioned way. Otherwise you get a lot more of them.

      However, I am an Am Haaretz. What is the dokey's saddle reference?

      Delete
  11. To Afrumrabbi:
    Shalom Aleychem.

    Even though one may concede that that the world of lomdus is highly-sophisticated, and Rabbi Akiva Eiger's being at least as sophisticated as anything the secualr world has to offer, I wonder to what extent this is relevant to the debate with your questioner, who was not speaking about Rabbi Akiva Eiger, but the Frum Rabbis he encounters TODAY.

    While it is true that maggidei shiur are bombarded with questions, those questions are limited to the very narrow range of what is "acceptable."

    For instance, would the maggid shiur allow questions that challenge the historical accuracy of a verse in the Torah, for instance whether or not Yetzias Mitzra'im describes an actual historical event? WHat would happen to the student who bombarded his maggid shiur with questions like that or with ones that question the scientific accuracy of statements of Chazal -- especially if the student then questions the scientific / historic accuracy of the "nature has changed" answer that the maggid shiur might respond with?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my experience, they get told to stop asking questions, and if they're lucky, they get sent to Kiruv workers who feed then the standard kiruv "proofs." If they're unlucky, they're branded as troublemakers.

      Delete
    2. Obviously, not every Charedi Jew is a major Talmid Chacham. My response was to the person who denies the intelligence, breadth, and depth of all Talmidei Chachamim, and thank G-d, we are blessed with thousands of such men in Israel today.

      In good Yeshivos, ALL types of questions are encouraged. Most of the questions that you raise, which you consider to be VERY SERIOUS, are of no concern to those who are immersed in Talmud, because people who truly know what they are doing and why, and understand the depth of Torah, recognize those questions as silly, petty and missing the entire point. Obviously, I can not explain why and how the Torah is true and knowable in this forum.

      Delete
    3. Those who agree with me are in the category of "major Talmid Chacham". Those who disagree are not.

      Delete
    4. > In good Yeshivos, ALL types of questions are encouraged.

      So what you're saying is that there are no good yeshivos?

      > Most of the questions that you raise, which you consider to be VERY SERIOUS, are of no concern to those who are immersed in Talmud, because people who truly know what they are doing and why, and understand the depth of Torah, recognize those questions as silly, petty and missing the entire point.

      1. Why do you seem to have the need to belittle those who disagree with you by calling their concerns silly and petty?
      2. People who are immersed in Talmud are, well, Talmudists. They aren't theologians. If they think that the questions are silly, it's only because they don't know what the questions are. These are people who think that if only the Biblical scholars would read Rashi, they would understand that the problems they find aren't problems. It doesn't occur to them that the academics have read Rashi and the other meforshim, have also read the Septuagint and other variants of Tanach, and have come to well-reasoned conclusions that don't support Divine authorship. You yourself reference Descartes' cogito, yet you don't seem to understand its implications or be aware of the centuries of philosophical discussion of it. I have no doubt that you know far more gemara than I do, but I don't think that either you or "those who are immersed in Talmud" are in a position to judge the merits of the serious questions.

      Delete
    5. Dear Afrumrabbi:

      The commentator was reacting to the types of answers he hears from the Rabbonim he has contact with, including the types of responses offered by Rav Meiselman.

      If I understand you correctly, you are saying that there are thousands of talmidei chcahmim in EY who could provide answers far more profound than Rav Meiselman's.

      Perhaps so.

      But the commentator you addressed has not had the good fortune to encounter them, nor read their writings.

      (Perhaps, rather than criticize the commentator, you could offer to introduce him to these great thinkers who have answers better than Rav Meiselman's? Obviously, I refer only to those who would take his questions seriously, not to those who would dismiss them as "silly, petty and missing the entire point.")

      Thanks!
      Looking forward!


      Delete
    6. Afrumrabbi:
      You refuse to discuss anything of substance here since a forum is not the correct medium in which to do so. And I definitely see your point.

      So you instead resort to insults, unsubstantiated claims, and calling anyone who disagrees a non-talmid chochom.

      To quote my father, if you don’t have anything positive to say, don't say anything.

      And as far as your claims about real talmidei chachamim are concerned, I would suggest the numerous roshei Yeshivah and maggidei shiurim who I have personally discussed these issues with qualify as talmidei chachamim. And they still managed to appreciate the questions. And agreed with RNS.

      I myself was in full time learning for many years, was Iyun seder chavrusa with a Rosh Yeshiva who is considered one of the most choshuva roshei yeshivos of the generation, and have finished rov Shas. I don't consider myself anything close to a talmid chochom, but I would rather you didn't cast aspersions on the readers of this blogs ability to open a Gemoroh as you have done previously.


      In short I would appreciate it if you quietened your tone and gave intelligent thought out replies that we could discuss, or don't comment at all.

      Delete
    7. "In good Yeshivos, ALL types of questions are encouraged."
      I agree.

      Unfortunately in my experience very few good yeshivos exist (at least in the charedi world). I've never been shy, but in every Yeshivah I was in I always knew there were some questions I couldn't ask, and when I did I was regularly suspected of being an apikorus. I haven't heard of anyone who had different experiences, but would be delighted to meet them if you do.

      And I am not talking about those who ask easy questions which the Maggid Shiur is only too happy to give the standard answers. I'm talking about those who ask deep questions that cut to the core of Jewish philosophy. G*3 gave a few examples above.

      Delete
    8. Afrumrabbi - subjects like pshat in Chumash ('whether or not Yetzias Mitzra'im describes an actual historical event'), or a clearer understanding of statements made in the Talmud outside the realm of halacha ('the scientific accuracy of statements of Chazal') are of NO CONCERN to today's lomdim? You may be right, but I hope you are not!

      Delete
  12. The problem is that science is not religion, not faith. In science, or nature, anything is open to challenge. Electricity, the distance to the moon, the speed of light, anything you name can be challenged. If you're wrong, then you will be called wrong, or even a fool, or deluded. If you're right, you go into the history books.

    In religion, especially our own present version of frumkiet, somethings, actually many things, are off limits.It started with the age of the world, evolution, and has extended to anything that has found its way, somehow, into the frum domain. If it touches on some writing, then it can't be questioned.

    Peretz Mann

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really, Peretz Mann? You obviously do not keep an open ear to the scientific community, which openly laments that some "science" is acceptable (i.e., funded, published, lectured on) and some is not.

      One can argue that many of today's "rabbis" are closed-minded and undereducated. But that is not an excuse to hoist Almighty Science onto a pedestal it does not deserve.

      Delete
    2. Okay, take climate change. There seems to be a consensus ( or mob, if you're nasty) that it is here. You are allowed to argue against it, and you will be called a blinkered denier. But if you bring solid data, you can build a case, albeit not a strong one.

      My point is that it's based on evidence and challenging accepted knowledge. the idea of calling somebody a heretic for having an unusual view, and not bothering to refute that position just doesn't wash.

      Delete
    3. Philip - ClooJew is right. Scientists are not any better than rabbis, or any other organized body. They have their own received wisdoms, their own dogmas, their own apikorsis. After a generation passes a new idea might become accepted, but the same is true in the orthodox world.

      There is consensus on "climate change."

      Delete
    4. The description in this thread seems wildly off. No matter how solid a consensus, if you can do an experiment proves the consensus wrong, then that will become the new consensus. Everyone thought that the universe was steady state until the Hubble showed that it was expanding. HRT was thought to be an almost universal good until they cancelled an HRT experiment in the middle because it became so obvious that it wasn't.

      The reason that most climate scientists believe in AGW is that there is a lot of evidence behind it. The opposition on this thread is itself political and not scientific.

      Yes, scientists are people and will try to prove their own politics using their science just like anyone else. That doesn't invalidate the science they produce if the experiments support it. And no one will spend money funding the building of a perpetual motion machine, because we know that it won't work. That doesn't prove the existence of dogmas.

      Delete
    5. should be "no" consensus, above.

      Delete
    6. "The reason that most climate scientists believe in AGW is that there is a lot of evidence behind it. The opposition on this thread is itself political and not scientific."

      Has it occurred to you that you might have it exactly backwards?

      Delete
    7. I'm willing to consider the evidence. Anyone on this thread sympathetic to the politics associated with AGW, but convinced of its falsity by their deep knowledge of climate science?

      FWIW, I'm a conservative libertarian who absolutely doesn't want to believe in AGW. And I believe that many or most of the prescriptions (subsidies for solar panels!) are just pet projects loosely related to the probably unattainable goal of limiting CO2 levels. People need to heat their houses, use electricity, etc. It is not some set of unnamed profit-seeking polluters that is causing the problem; it's everyone who is trying to lead a good life.

      Keep the science and the politics separate and you can retain clarity of thought.

      Delete
    8. I agree with you in principle. The problem, as always, is reality. We know that science and politics CANNOT be separated. As we have come to learn, scientists have agendas like everyone else. How one interprets evidence - 99.9% of which they know will never be scrutinized by others - is colored by how one wants the evidence to come out. And much of the so-called science is funded by organizations with specific agendas. [As any lawyer will tell you, the expert opinion always magically comes out the way the person paying for it wants.] [On the rare times it doesn't and cannot be twisted, the report is just never published.]

      On the specific example of global warming, which used to be called global freezing, and is now called climate change so as insulate their beliefs completely - many have studied the available evidence and either concluded that 1) there is no evidence of anything whatsoever; or 2) we are in the middle of a climate shift, but it is consistent with such shifting through recorded history; or 3) it has nothing to do with man; or 4) some parts of the world are currently in a cooling phase, while others are warming. In short, the "evidence", such as it were, is all over the map, literally, from outright denial to outright belief. Like other forms of religion - one of which "Science" clearly has become - there are true believers, skeptics, and deniers.

      One can be perfectly sincere and apolitical in accepting what the proponents think. And one can be equally sincere and apolitical in accepting what the opponents think. That's what I meant by you might have it backwards.

      Delete
    9. "many have studied the available evidence and either concluded that"

      Are there any people in that category who do not have right-wing political views?

      Delete
    10. There are right-wing climate experts who support the consensus, such as Kerry Emanuel and Katharine Hayhoe. But the skeptics/deniers are exclusively right-wing ideologues. Just as creationists are exclusively religious ideologues.

      (For the record, I lean right, and as a scientist I find right-wing global warming denial appalling.)

      Delete
    11. Of course. Many thousands.

      Look at it this way. You often, as a rhetorical device, rewrite articles of your opponents in a mirror image. You ask them to step outside their boxes to consider the opposite view. You dislike them trying to dismiss their opponents broad-brush style as mere haters of Torah with an axe to grind.

      Surely you should be capable of the same? Don't seek to characterize those who don't share your views on global warming as "right-wingers." As you want others to recognize different viewpoints of the Torah (i.e., rational vs mystic), recognize the same when it comes to climate. There is no material distinction, whatsoever, to advocate for different viewpoints of Torah, but seek to enforce strict monolithic orthodoxies and dogmas when it comes to science. Try writing one of those mirror-image articles and you'll see what I mean.

      Delete
    12. Physicist - and there are numerous left wing intellectuals who deny alleged "global warming" entirely, like Dave Noble and Alexander Cockburn. What's your point?

      The whole issue is silly. "All the true believers are left wing and all the deniers are right wing." What does that even mean? That all of one group wants more government regulations, and all of the other want less? That one group consists entirely of atheists, and the other entirely of religious?? Even within political parties many people are not exclusively "right wing" or "left wing", so how can someone say it about whether or not we accept a hypothesis? Come on, now, this is juvenile.

      How about each side give the benefit of the doubt

      Delete
    13. DF, the names that you mention are not climate scientists. According to wikipedia, Alexander Cockburn thought that the rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere are not a result of burning fossil fuels. In other words, he had no idea what he was talking about. So your examples are not a counterpoint.

      There is no material distinction, whatsoever, to advocate for different viewpoints of Torah, but seek to enforce strict monolithic orthodoxies and dogmas when it comes to science.

      You are still confusing "weight of the evidence" with dogma. Let me ask you a question: all scientists agree that perpetual motion machines are impossible. If you claim to design one, the only reason that they might bother looking at it is to find the flaw. Is this a dogma enforced by a strict monolithic orthodoxy? How about "the sky is blue"?

      Delete
  13. Frum rabbi, you're a joke. You keep repeating the same line about Shapiro's book being "silly" and how "Talmidei chachamim" think it's "silly" and full of mistakes and silly silly silly etc etc ad nauseous. You don't demonstrate a single source to back it up. Name a Torah scholar who read it and thinks so. Let me read his book review. Again, again, until you concede, have you read the chapter on corporeality? Since there's nothing silly about that concept/ controversy, and since many greats disagreed vehemently with Ranbam, you're whole argument is destroyed. QED.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @zfriend
      Firstly, due to their arguably lamentable - and correctly noted - avoidance of it, the vast majority of otherwise learned chareidim remain blissfully ignorant of its contents and assume that there is no way a professor, and presumably a misguided heretic as well, such as Marc Shapiro, could ever know more about their own tradition than their venerated Roshei Yeshiva. And it's probably מלא טומאה and will poison your pure Jewish soul. And many of the Roshei Yeshiva themselves have not read it for similar reasons, namely, Marc Shapiro in no way understands the mesora better than our masoretic forebears.
      Secondly, the people who have read it are not walking away dazed and questioning everything they ever believed in for a number of reasons, some objectively intellectually honest, some based on presupposed chareidi principles. Essentially, despite the hype surrounding it, and the tantalizing implications of its title, the book did not, in the eyes of learned TC, succeed in mounting a case for the dismissal of the fundamentals of the ikkarim, or at least the ones the chareidim actually care about.
      A couple of notes:
      Firstly, not all principles are created equal. Although many - I'm sure - chareidim recite the Ani Ma'amin liturgy daily - itself a poor reflection of the views of Rambam himself, starting with the use of "ma'amin" instead of "yode'a" - and certainly profess unequivocal belief in them, upon questioning many of them will reveal that they, for practical purposes, do not subscribe to some of them - most prominently the rejection of intermediary prayer. Most yeshivot I have davened in, save those with a strong theological backbone - still recite the words מכניסי רחמים, and almost everyone I know, - despite R. Moshe's objections - recites ברכוני לשלום, although in that they have support from Ya'akov Avinu. The professed belief in the 13 principles, for many, means practically "I believe in the contemporary charedi conventions of required belief, most of which have their roots in the words of Rambam" as opposed to, "I have studied Rambam's thought and am convinced of the truth of his ikkarim as he meant them". Others, such as the uniqueness of Mosaic prophecy, they just don’t think about.
      Moreover, since most chareidim do not maintain belief in the 13 principles as Rambam meant them, some of the objections made by classical authorities are, for their purposes, not really objections. For this reason, although Rambam believed there could be no dispute in dogma, the fact that other authorities disagreed doesn’t bother them. Wrt to the unity of God, there were authorities who raised views that Rambam would deem heretical, but those authorities maintained they nevertheless met the unity threshold and were not denying it, and therefore, for the purposes of the chareidim, this principle has not been challenged. An analog of this is some authorities' limitations imposed on God's omniscience. Also, many of the views held in opposition to Rambam are held by those whose opinions are not considered authoritative by the Chareidim – e.g. Ralbag, or are merely objections to details of the principles, not their fundamental basis. Most learned chareidim also know that R. Yosef Albo rejected Rambam's formulation, and therefore are not terribly surprised that additional authorities did so as well.

      (cont'd)

      Delete
    2. (cont'd)
      The only two principles whose historical opposition should cause an uproar are incorporeality and the divinity and mosaic authorship of the entire Torah. Wrt to these, there are a number of reasons why it did not, besides the aforementioned. The fact that many learned people held anthropomorphic beliefs is of no consequence since they are not considered "חכמי המסורה". Wrt to the Torah, firstly many are aware of the opinion that is cited in Bava Batra that Yehoshua wrote the concluding verses in the Torah, as is it is part of the standard Yeshiva curriculum. Only slightly less known is the gemara in Kedushin that we are no longer experts in defective and plene spelling – although many might still be shocked by the midrash that Ezra edited the Torah -. And a prominent authority no less famous than R. Aryeh Loeb Guenzberg held that therefore one should not recite a bracha on the writing of a Torah scroll. The opinions held by those considered authoritative do not deny Mosaic authorship any more qualitatively than the above gemarot, and certainly do not allow for entire sections of the Torah to be deemed of pure human construct.
      Lastly, many believe that although there may have been historical opposition, the widespread acceptance of the principles among contemporary authorities makes them binding. (I have heard this ascribed to the Chafetz Chaim – but the source is questionable).
      The book may not be “silly”- an entirely subjective view, but it did not succeed in achieving what its notoriety purports it to do.
      R Stefansky

      Delete
    3. R Stefansky,

      As I see it, the book is an academic work. The author is a fully observant Orthodox Jew and his point was not to debate the halachic status of the 13 Ikkarim. Rather it was to show that the statement "All orthodox* agree on the 13 Ikkarim". What he showed was that this was false and many orthodox Rabbis and thinkers had disagreements with the Ikkarim. The implications of that may be disturbing to some, but the book is not a polemic, but a detached study (or as detached as anyone can get in examining his own thesis).

      To be honest, you don't need Prof Shapiro's book to get people upset. The Moreh Nevuchim itself has plenty of stuff that upset people, but they aren't generally aware of it, since as Prof Shapiro points out, very few study theology today. This is just an anecdote, but I once copied a few page of the Moreh for my son to take to school to show his Rebbi. His Rebbi (presumably unaware of the author) declared the pages to be heresy.

      *I'm using orthodox, even though it would be an anachronism applied to earlier thinkers.

      Delete
  14. Yes, I agree, you won't find many book reviews online written by Talmidei Chachamim. As I said, I will be happy to discuss this further in a Bais Medrash. I provided my email address above. Sorry, it's hard to reduce a lifetime of Torah in one soundbite and explain to you why thousands of Jews throughout the generations have remained faithful to the Torah rather than accepting the criticsms of the Appikorsim.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gunuck!
      Your name drips arrogance even well before your daggered daitribes are even read!
      Your name says it all. "A Frumma Rabbi".
      Frum iz a galach. Ehrlich iz a Yid! A litvak from lita (of old) would scorn frumkiet. they believed in living life with the derech of ehrlichkeit! Which is diametrically opposite to frumkiet. What is your purpose here if not to exchange ideas? If this isnt the place for discussing than why are you here??

      Delete
    2. Just realized that the spelling i used wasnt the best choice.what i meant was "genug!"

      Delete
    3. > Sorry, it's hard to reduce a lifetime of Torah in one soundbite and explain to you why thousands of Jews throughout the generations have remained faithful to the Torah

      Maybe I can help you. Let's see.

      The gedolim of the present/past are much smarter than we are, they surely know about these questions, and they believe, so who are we to disagree with them.
      Many Jews in the past died for their frumkeit.
      Emunah is way of knowing that is beyond other ways of knowing. You just know that Yiddishkeit is the emes.
      The Kuzari proof.
      Being frum clearly makes people good and wholesome, in contrast to the debauched goyim.
      Look at the pretty trees! Surely they didn't happen by accident.
      The Jewish people survived despite millennia of persecution.
      You totally know someone who had a real nes happen to him.

      Did I miss any of the good ones?

      Delete
    4. Any problem can be solved by learning more Torah. All suffering comes from abandoning Torah (or from Reform or from Goyim).

      Delete
    5. Our Torah was all received from Hashemi directly to us and is identical to that. Nothing has been added or taken away from this great Chain of Torah.

      Delete
    6. But g*3 otherwise brilliant and perfect

      Delete
  15. Please name these good yeshivos.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Give me any book review! Online, offline, doesn't matter. There aren't any. That book fell like a bomb on the yeshiva world and they do what the yeshiva world does best when confronted by painful truth: it acts like it's not there. Ignores it. Then it's not there!

    Look, I feel your pain: it has to hurt when modern science rips apart Talmudical "truths" and makes a mockery of teachings you hold sacred. All together now: fiery salamanders! Mice with dirt for legs! Geocentric universe! Spontaneous generation! Gestation period for animals! Non viable 8 month preemies! Treifot dropping dead on cue! Rock hard firmament! And so much more! Not of it true. This doesn't bother you? Why? Because you and your friends are part of the ostrich team?

    Look, to be a Talmud Chacham today means one knows a lot of Talmud and commentaries. But one also knows no economics, world history, biology, chemistry, physics, math, music, foreign languages, accounting, architecture, medicine, etc.

    When Reb Moshe needed to know biology for a Shiaila, he called in his son in law to teach it to him. No harm, that was correct. But Reb Moshe knew kol HaTorah kula! Why the need to go outside his Torah knowledge?
    Oh and sorry , I live in the U.S. Can't get to Israel tomorrow to meet your heroes who know so much about the world around them.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "That book fell like a bomb on the yeshiva world", let's keep a sense of proportion here. the vast majority of the yeshiva world never heard of it. i personally never read it, but some issues brought up in the book where mentioned to me by friends, there was nothing that i found impressive. if i had felt "bombed" as you put it, i would have taken the time to actually read the book.
      that having been said, afrumrabbi's larger point is that if you seek answers to what you feel are real questions, online forums like this are not the place to seek them. true scholars don't spend their time hanging out online, and the medium itself is not conducive to deep thoughts.
      in addition, feeling self righteous and over sure of yourself (no offense intended, we all get that way sometimes) leads to a closed mind, which makes it impossible to appreciate even obvious errors that you may be making.

      finally, despite this not being the proper forum, i would like to ask a question that might help all of us to start thinking about these issues in a different way. let's take the examples that you gave above "fiery salamanders! Mice with dirt for legs! Geocentric universe! Spontaneous generation! Gestation period for animals! Non viable 8 month preemies! Treifot dropping dead on cue! Rock hard firmament". why would chazal believe any of this? and to say that it was what passed for science in their primitive day, and they where as gullible as everybody else, is simply punting the question. why would the primitive "scientist" believe these things? in the case of a geocentric universe or spontaneous generation, one can argue that on the surface these things appear to be true. but fiery salamanders, Mice with dirt for legs? presumably the ancients never observed these things, so why would they believe in them? why would chazal, who presumably knew that these things hadn't been observed accept them as real (unless you argue that chazal thought that they had been observed, which leads to the obvious issue of why would they think so)?
      many moderns arrogantly assume that ancient people where not only technology deprived, but where foolish and gullible as well. it's a wonder that they managed to survive the challenges of ancient living long enough to bring about us clever moderns. if we are a little more humble, we begin to realize that often we are missing the point, and then we can begin a real search for answers.

      Delete
    2. >… presumably the ancients never observed these things

      The ancients had a different epistemology than we do. Thanks to the successes of science, pretty much everyone today has adopted its empirical epistemology. Most thinkers in the ancient world were epistemological rationalists. They argued from first principles and accepted truths. Not only did they not bother to check those truths with observation, it wouldn't have occurred to them that there might be value in doing so. Which is why Aristotle (and some Jewish thinkers who read him) thought that men and women have a different number of teeth despite it being as easy thing to check.

      Delete
    3. to G*3
      that is the beginning of the point i was trying to make. the next 2 questions that you need to ask are 1) why did serious thinkers from Aristotle to as recently as the french school of medicine (a mere 200 years ago) feel that the best way to arrive at the truth of an issue was by starting from first principles rather than by observation? and 2) what where the first principles that caused chazal to believe in "fiery salamanders! Mice with dirt for legs! Geocentric universe! Spontaneous generation! Gestation period for animals! Non viable 8 month preemies! Treifot dropping dead on cue! Rock hard firmament", and where those first principles correct?

      Delete
    4. Anonymous, the answer to your second question most likely is that these are ideas that arose spontaneously, became accepted common knowledge, and then became part of the material used in rational arguments rather than having been arrived at through reasoning from principles. For instance, I can imagine someone seeing a mouse half-way out of its hole after a heavy rain and (especially if he's had too much to drink) telling his friends about the mud-mouse. The story caught on and spread and eventually showed up in an authoritative work. Kind of like how urban legends regularly end up in the news as supposedly real items. The prevailing way of thinking didn't include questioning authorities, so once it was established, a mistaken piece of "knowledge" was there to stay.

      That last bit is, I think, the answer to your first question. If one doesn't ever challenge authorities, then there is no way to change the dominant way of thinking. It takes a revolution to change it.

      Delete
  17. "we can never know that we know things to be true. We can only believe that we know things to be true."

    Do you know this statement to be true?

    ReplyDelete
  18. It's practically axiomatic that if you're discussing a theological topic, where the conclusion of the discussion might warrant far-reaching changes in your beliefs, religious practices and social affiliation, and if you head into the discussion knowing (whether you admit this to yourself or not) that you will NOT in fact make those changes, no matter how convincing a case is made for those changes, then you aren't really having an honest discussion at all, can't claim to have really discussed the issues with an open mind and you certainly can't claim to have made an actual 'decision' at all.

    Obviously, this applies to anyone who has any set of beliefs, but it's particularly true of discussions that supposedly take place to address certain 'questions' in the Yeshiva-world.

    ReplyDelete
  19. In my view, it boils down to this - Judaism is a philosophy and way of life that teaches us how to treat each other, how to take care of ourselves, and how to have a relationship with the Creator. Topics like science, arithmetic, geography, history, etc., while important overall, simply hold no bearing on Judaism's goal of teaching its adherents to live a holy and ethical life. Those who have decided to canonize every word on every topic written by Jewish scholars since the closing of Tanach have created a big problem and made 'apikorsim' out of anyone who values actual knowledge over dogma in subjects which are at best peripheral to Judaism.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Judaism makes forays into history, for example, like claiming a worldwide deluge 4,000 years ago. If those forays are proven false, all that philosophy and way of life mumbo jumbo has no more claim of legitimacy than the fortune cookie that came today with my chinese takeout.

      Delete
    2. Not all meforshim hold by a worldwide flood.

      Delete
    3. > Not all meforshim hold by a worldwide flood.

      So does the story of Utnapishtim corroborate Noach, or does the story of Noach corroberate Utnapishtim?

      Delete
    4. e
      One cannot come to Torah with a set of prior assumptions - unless of course there is significant basis - , and maintain that if the "truth" of Torah cannot be squared with these assumptions, Torah must be discarded. Evidence must be adduced, or convincing arguments made, as to what the purpose of these "historical forays" is. Literary conventions, ANE history including approaches to historical writing, and theological and philosophical considerations must be taken into account.

      R Stefansky

      Delete
    5. So does the story of Utnapishtim corroborate Noach, or does the story of Noach corroberate Utnapishtim?

      This has always struck me as one of the most ridiculous questions possible on this topic. There's absolutely no reason to think that other cultures wouldn't have their own stories about cataclysmic events that were experienced by their ancestors or were simply part of the regional history. Ironically, it seems that those who question the Torah's rendition assume that the Torah's version would be the only one, while those who do not question it have no problem with other versions of the story existing.

      And of course the stories do differ, and one will believe on or the other, or neither. That's not my point. I have seen the same underlying assumption brought up virtually every time historicity of the Mabul is questioned or discussed. It's just utterly ridiculous to state that just because other cultures from the same part of the world have similar stories must mean that the Torah's version was borrowed.

      Delete
    6. I believe the issue is that utnapishtim seems to be a literary precedent to נח, rather than a mere retelling of the same story. In other words it seems that the author of נח had seen some version of the utnapishtim story. However I am an am haaretz on such matters so don't trust me, and please look into it yourself.

      For those who like me reject a historical reading of נח and instead view it as mnemohistory the issue raised is deeper. Utnapishtim was written before נח, so that means the myths that make up our mnemohistory aren't even our own myths.

      Personally I don't view that as a major issue. Other people might though.

      Delete
    7. Utnapishtim was written before נח, so that means the myths that make up our mnemohistory aren't even our own myths.

      You seem to be making the same mistake that I am bemoaning. The Flood stories, as much as they represent an actual event, would be shared amongst all cultures who have a memetic history from those who experienced it. To think that only Judaism would have a version of the story is ridiculous.

      It doesn't matter whether you think the stories are both complete myths, represent a cultural explanation for a real event, or you think they are literal retellings of history. As long as such an event was experienced by the ancestors of different cultures, you would expect similar stories. This isn't surprising to Orthodox Jews, and it shouldn't be surprising to those who use it as a question of such beliefs. (Those who take either of the stories literally have to reconcile them somehow, and I will leave such mental exercises to those who do.)

      As for which was written first, only those ultra-right wingers who think that every word of the Chumash literally preceded Creation have an issue. Otherwise, you can simply believe that Moshe wrote down the general history before catching up with what were, to Moshe, current events in Shemos. That doesn't preclude others having written stories about the same prehistoric events.

      Delete
    8. You guys would probably enjoy these two books. Fascinating studies from Hebrew U professors about how the Tanakh tells the stories (and how the same stories are told in other - mainly Jewish - sources)

      https://www.e-vrit.co.il/%D7%9C%D7%90_%D7%9B%D7%9A_%D7%9B%D7%AA%D7%95%D7%91_%D7%91%D7%AA%D7%A0_%D7%9A-details.aspx


      http://www.booknet.co.il/prodtxt.asp?id=49399#.V2J0krt96mw

      Delete
    9. > It's just utterly ridiculous to state that just because other cultures from the same part of the world have similar stories must mean that the Torah's version was borrowed.

      The point is not that it " must mean that the Torah's version was borrowed," but that there's no reason to privilege the Torah's version as the "real" one. It also takes the story of the mabul out of the assumed-to-be-real category and puts it in the same category as other myths. You may not have a problem with that, but for most frum people putting tanach in the same genre as the Illiad is kefirah.

      Delete
    10. G*3 I think the point is not the we as Jews should see the Torah as the 'real' version of stories, but rather as the 'Torah's' version of real stories. i.e. the Torah retells stories in a particular way to further it's own particular agenda. Like all histories, really... no?

      Only, in this case it's G-d's agenda (as it were)... so we take the text very seriously in order to mine it for a better understanding of G-d's intention. We don't (or shouldn't) get sidetracked by considerations of how much the text conforms to historical truth as that would be making a 'category mistake' with regards to what sort of text the Torah is. (Or is that all too obvious..)

      Delete
    11. > We don't (or shouldn't) get sidetracked by considerations of how much the text conforms to historical truth as that would be making a 'category mistake' with regards to what sort of text the Torah is.

      I agree that reading tanach as a history book is a genre mistake, but it does make statements about history. We can allegorize stories like the mabul without causing problems, but what about yetzias Mitzrayim and matan Torah? If those didn't happen, it undercuts Judaism's foundations.

      Delete
    12. Not necessarily.... or at least it depends on what you mean by 'didn't happen'....

      Delete
    13. > or at least it depends on what you mean by 'didn't happen'.


      If yetzias Mitzrayim and matan Torah didn't happen as described. If it was a couple of hundred people, or worse, no one at all, then the justification for keeping the Torah evaporates.

      Delete
  20. Gentlemen:

    I thought about it overnight and regret the sarcastic and biting tone of my comments. However, I do stand by my assertions that Talmidei Chachamim have very solid basis for their beliefs, and it would be worthwhile for sincere and intellectually honest people to study this, on the Torah's terms.

    I would be prepared to address challenges to the Torah and faith at my private email: afrumrabbi@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. > I do stand by my assertions that Talmidei Chachamim have very solid basis for their beliefs, and it would be worthwhile for sincere and intellectually honest people to study this, on the Torah's terms.

      The problem is not that you stand by your beliefs, but that you think we haven't studied the issues. How many books must one read and how many years must one spend looking before it is acceptable for him to disagree with you?

      Delete
    2. Why won't you address challenges here?

      Delete
    3. Because its less of an embarrassment to himself and the views he defends if he is demolished in a one-on-one discussion than in a public forum.

      Delete
    4. I love this. You readers need to be "intellectually honest," but study the topic "on the Torah's terms." It's one or the other. You can have an intellectually honest discussion, or a discussion that accepts the package of assumptions inherent in "the Torah's terms," but not both.

      BB

      Delete
    5. @mevaseretzion: I don't know if it's embarrassment--I had a very close friend (from Greece, no less) who used to use a Socratic method in discussing various topics in religion or politics with me. I was struck by how he could demonstrate that my opinions are self-contradictory, or not consistent, just by asking me a few questions.

      Also, this forum isn't really one-on-one: there is only one Afrumrabbi vs. G*3 and zfriend and Soapbox and David Ohsie and Rabbi Slifkin and ... and... and...

      Delete
    6. > this forum isn't really one-on-one: there is only one Afrumrabbi vs. G*3 and zfriend and Soapbox and David Ohsie and Rabbi Slifkin and ... and... and...

      You do have to admire his tenacity. And it is good to have a dissenting voice to keep it from becoming an echo chamber. Though I always wonder about people who show up on a forum and argue with people. What's the attraction? I don't frequent yeshivish sites and try to argue with them.

      Delete
  21. IIRC, the Roman Naturalist Pliny wrote about dirt-footed mice he observed at the river Thebes in Egypt. And there's your answer: it was common "knowledge" back then. And the rabbis, hearing about the common knowledge from a respected source like Pliny, adopted it. And why not? Would you expect them to waste Torah time to travel to Egypt to investigate and confirm common knowledge? No, not any more than you'd expect them to travel to the Galapagos Islands to confirm what Darwin observed there. I think Dr. Shneur Leiman wrote on this topic recently.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that's just punting the question. why would pliny write that he had observed such creatures, if he had not? either he did, in which case at least at one time they existed, or he didn't, in which case we need to understand what his true intentions were. until we can explain that, we can't attempt to have any kind of intelligent discussion regarding what chazal meant. likewise regarding the other things that you list, which seem strange to us.

      Delete
  22. I don't know any of you, so obviously am making no judgment on whether any of the readers here have studied the issue.

    Reading books (I am assuming that you are not referring to accepted Sifrei Kodesh) is not an effective way to understand the positions of Talmidei Chachamim.

    My thoughts were only addressed to the comments that I have seen here, and nearly all of the challenges begin from premises different than those shared by Talmidei Chachamim.

    There are certain premises necessary for understanding Torah, and without that, we are not sharing the same language.

    For instance: what is the Torah? When was it created? What is life? How can man relate to G-d? What is time? Where does it come from? What is the essence of man? What is existence? Where does the physical earth fit onto that existence? What precisely is being described in Maaseh Breishis?

    I am not attempting to prove anything, merely to explain that the perspective shared by many of the comments on this blog to these issues (and we all think about them at some time) is not the same as that of people immersed in Torah study in Yeshivos. This makes a discussion impossible.

    Ex: while a secular person judges the Torah from the outside, assessing its truth and viability based upon physical and other evidence he brings from his known world, the traditional view sees the Torah as life itself, and judges life experiences based upon the premises he brings from the Torah. In Hebrew: 'התורה מתפרשת מתוך עצמה'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Having read ספרים I can tell you that the answer to every one of those questions is
      "it has been hotly debated by תלמידי חחמים over the generations".

      Thus your claim that תלמידי חחמים come to the תורה from a shared set of premises is simply unfounded.

      Delete
    2. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me based purely on the questions you're asking that you're basing yourself on the maharal and his heirs in Jewish philosophy. But he himself was a huge breakaway from any Jewish philosophers before him, and in fact only became widely accepted in the last two hundred years or so.

      Delete
    3. No, I disagree with both of those assumptions. The fact there is Machlokes does not preclude shared assumptions and a common intellectual language. In many ways, the Ikkarim of the Rambam encompass most of these shared principles.

      The questions that I propose above have nothing to do with Maharal or any specific thinker or teacher. The Maharal, Vilna Gaon, R Chaim Volozhin, Ramchal are all part of the Bais Medrash, as is the Rambam, Kuzari, Ibn Ezra and Ramban.

      Delete
    4. How about Rav Hirsch and Rav Herzog?

      Delete
    5. Sorry to belabor the point here, but writing that the answer to your questions in the Sefarim is:'it has been hotly debated... over the generations' is really highly inaccurate and misleading. Assuming that Talmidei Chachamim don't know anything, or just disagree about even the most fundamental and basic questions of life is why we cannot easily engage in serious discussions in this forum.

      Delete
    6. What you are saying here, afrumrabbi, is 'either you see it my way, or you don't'.

      R. Slifkin was right. There really is no point in engaging in debate. I wish you weren't so representative of your segment of the Jewish world, but in my experience you are so representative as to be almost a caricature of it.

      I appreciate your sincerity and willingness to engage in debate as far as you can (i.e. you are willing to talk about it, but not to actually take seriously anything we have to say)

      Delete
    7. I think your accusation is completely unfair personally. I would be happy to engage in a debate or discussion on these or similar ideas. That would need to take place in person, or perhaps in writing, in a respected journal with professional standards.

      I think we can agree though, after taking an honest look at the blog culture and venue, both religious and secular, that the comments section is not the right forum for serious discussion of subtle, sensitive and esoteric ideas that require intellectual rigor.

      Delete
    8. > Reading books (I am assuming that you are not referring to accepted Sifrei Kodesh)

      Why would you assume that?

      > Ex: while a secular person judges the Torah from the outside, assessing its truth and viability based upon physical and other evidence he brings from his known world, the traditional view sees the Torah as life itself, and judges life experiences based upon the premises he brings from the Torah.

      This goes back to the discussion of what is acceptable to ask in a yeshiva, and contradicts your assertion that all types of questions are welcome. As you say, the "traditional view" takes is for granted that the Torah, in the maximal sense of the word, is true, and works from there, while others, including many here, are trying to figure out what is and isn't true. What you're saying is that we have to agree that you're right before you can have a discussion about whether you're right.

      Delete
    9. Afrumrabbi, if the comments section is an inapropriate venue, then why are you here? Ye cannot eat your cake and have it too

      Delete
    10. How about Rav Hirsch and Rav Herzog? Their honest answer (if they would say what they think) is that Rav Hirsch and Rav Herzog believed in "odd things" (TIDE and Zionism respectively), so their odd views on science can be discarded.

      Delete
    11. afrumrabbi
      OK, fair point, you have offered to talk in a bette forum, fair enough. But I wasn't trying to accuse you sorry if I offende. but i was trying to just point out that you might not have noticed
      the implications of what you are saying:

      Re-read your comment from June 16, 2016 at 8:53 AM

      1. you deny the validity of non-seforim books as sources of knowledge
      2. you say we don't share the same premises or language
      3. you say we don't share the same perspective and thus 'discussion is impossible'
      4. you deny the validity of empirical observations and only accept Torah as a basis for Truth.

      and then you take the hump (at June 16, 2016 at 1:20 PM) when I call you out on it? It would appear the only reason this isn't the forum for such debate is that you won't engage in it (as e pointed out at June 16, 2016 at 4:12 PM)

      I would happily come to your yeshiva to discuss it in a non-blog forum. Perhaps we could post a summary of the conversation here...?


      Delete
    12. Soapbox, how can you discuss anything with someone who makes it a precondition that you agree with him that he's right about the topic of the discussion?

      Delete
    13. I used to live in Boro Park so I'm used to it

      Delete
    14. To respond in general to the above objection, which I do emphatize with and understand:

      I am not claiming here to prove that the Torah is true, or to prove anyone else wrong. I am simply stating that Torah study, as traditionally understood and practiced has certain premises, and many of these are not shared by outsiders to the process. In that case, we don't speak the same language.

      If I understand the Torah to be life itself, and a substantive spiritual reality without which all of life would automatically cease to exist, and a second person sees it as a a book written by someone that may, or may not be accurate and true, when we each say 'Torah', we use the same word but are just talking past each other.

      I am not saying at all that we can't have a discussion, or that you must first accept my views as correct, only that we first must UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER in order to engage in a fruitful dialogue. If we can do that, the arguments between us would not so quickly descend to insults, mocking and name-calling, of which I admit (and my family tells me often), I am equally guilty as well.

      Delete
    15. David Ohsie: I see that you do this often, and it is a little bit disingenuous and sneaky. Please let Charedi leadership speak for themselves, and not to repeat publicly what 'they would say'. I am certainly not a leader of anything, but R Slifkin asked me the question, and I asked him to clarify, and I would be happy to respond on my own.

      Delete
    16. When you use the word "Torah" in the previous comment, what are you referring to? If you are referring to things such as the discussion on Pesachim 94b about the sun's path at night, then your premises about "Torah" are simply not shared by most Rishonim and many Acharonim.

      Delete
    17. 1) Yes, I agree that Pesachim 94B is lart of Shas. 2) I dispute your assertion that the premises I refer to for studying Torah on its own terms are not shared by most Rishonim and many Acharonim.

      Delete
    18. 2) And are any premises required in order to debate whether this is indeed the case?

      Delete
    19. afrumrabbi, you state "I don't know any of you, so obviously am making no judgment on whether any of the readers here have studied the issue."

      Did you not previously write the following:

      "I guess you haven't studied Bava Kamma, Ketzos HaChoshen or Rebbe Akiva Eiger in quite a while (they are not available on Twitter feed or Facebook). Refuah Shleima.

      You obviously don't know how to learn, nor spend much time actually studying the Talmud you supposedly admire in a live Bais Medrash."

      "Reading the comments, I am amazed at the level of basic AmHaaratzus."

      "You are not a Talmid Chacham by any standard"

      "Your readership only goes from your page to the next blog, and cannot even read one Tosafos straight, let alone one Mesechta"

      Please ban this troll. The most likely scenario he is some back bencher in his yeshiva who trolls the internet instead of learning.

      As stated in a recent article (Trolls just want to have fun, Erin E. Buckels, Paul D. Trapnell, Delroy L. Paulhus, Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 67, (September 2014)) "... the associations between sadism and GAIT (Global Assessment of Internet Trolling) scores were so strong that it might be said that online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists."

      While no diagnosis can be made, based on his writings this individual appears to suffer from a severe personality disorder. Do not argue with him, but rather pity him.

      Delete
    20. You are right, not I did clearly apologize for those comments and admitted they were harsh and inappropriate.

      Delete
    21. afrumrabbi... at the risk of being overly repetitive... what we are trying to do is to get you to discuss WHY you stick to your understanding of Torah given the excess of evidence that mitigates against such as understanding.

      Your constant response has been. "Because that's how Talmidei Chachamim understand Torah."

      We then say "But that is demonstrably not the case. Many Talmidei chachamim clearly didn't agree with that view."

      You then say "well, you guys just don't understand what the Talmidei chachamim were saying. If you did you would agree with me."

      Denial isn't a debate technique. (It's a river in Egypt.)

      Delete
    22. Steven...it's not that afrumrabbi is a troll or a sadist. (I assume he's not.) But he is a typical Haredi / frum advocate.

      Thus there is value in demolishing his arguments publicly so that young Jews will be discouraged from following his 'derekh'.

      Certainly he shouldn't be left unchallenged. It would be to give the impression that we think it's ok that he peddles that line of thinking. When we really we know the Emperor has no clothes. God's honor needs defenders in these dark times.

      Delete
    23. I don't believe that I have denied anything, nor do I think that you have portrayed accurately my own comments here.

      I have not seen any evidence that would mitigate my understanding of Torah. If you would like to ask a specific question, please do so, and I will attempt to answer as best as I can. (Please don't assume that I had seen a question that was posted on the blog, and send me a private copy as well).

      I have never seen anything written in any of the classic Sefarim that would indicate differently, or wpuld lead me to believe that my own understanding may be misguided. If you have a specific author that you would like me to address, please ask.

      I never claimed that you would automatically agree with me. I might have said that most people immersed on learning Gemara (at least in my own experience), believe in and understand the 13 principles, which is a good formulation (not that it requires my approval) of the basic fundamentals of a traditional perspective. Nefesh HaChaim also seems to be a nearly universally accepted guide and text for traditional Yeshiva thinking.

      In conclusion,I would like to thank R Slifkin for allowing my comments and responses to be posted. It is his blog, and I don't need to dominate this space any further. I would be ready to continue the discussion via my own email, which I have provided above.

      Delete
    24. > I might have said that most people immersed on learning Gemara (at least in my own experience), believe in and understand the 13 principles,

      Is this because they think that the ani maamins necessarily follow from the Gemara? Or is it that immersing oneself in Gemara and accepting the ani maamins at face value (along with a bunch of other things) are part of the yeshivish package? Someone inside the yeshivish world is immersed in a culture that constantly reinforces these things as true.

      Delete
    25. No, the 13 principles are derived from the Torah itself. You will find most of them listed in the Ramban AlHaTorah as well, at the end of Parsha Bo. These principles underline the Mitzvos we perform. Here is an example: many Mitzvos are predicated upon Yetzias Mitzraim, so apparently the lessons taught by Yetzias Mitzraim are fundamental principles underlining the Torah, exactly as the Ramban says.

      As I have mentioned, I not trying to prove anything, and I would be happy to pursue a further discussion of the 13 Ikkarim in a private forum. One idea that you mention is simply a false accusation: those who accept the principles merely at face value have no understanding of them. That is not at all what the Rambam had in mind. I am not an expert, but I certainly can explain each of them to you and WHY we believe in them as a basis for Judaism.

      Delete
    26. >the 13 principles are derived from the Torah itself.

      That means less than you might think. It's not at all difficult to read ideas back into the pesukim, especially when you have the freedom to take things out of context and interpolate parentheticals into the text.

      But that's not what I meant. I meant do those who are immersed in gemara believe the ani maamins to be true because, had the Rambam not articulated them, they themselves would have derived them from the gemara? Or are the ani maamins part of the cultural package?

      Delete
    27. I am not sure why 'that means less than I might think'. If the Rambam, Ramban and others derived the principles from the Torah itself, these are authentic and authoritative positions.

      I cannot speak for others, but I would not say that all (or any) individuals immersed in Gemara are on the level of the Rambam and would have been able to be מחדש as he did.

      As I said, those who accept the principles without any understanding, but merely as 'part of the cultural package' are - of course - not doing as they should, and are not learning properly. An important goal of learning is to understand what you are learning and why these principles, or any other teachings, are מוכרח, and are expressed precisely in this way and not differently.

      In any case, I enjoy having a conversation with you, but I will not be able to check back here often, so if you, or another reader, want to pursue it further, please write me directly at; afrumrabbi@gmaii.com

      Delete
    28. It means less than you might think because using the Gemara's style of textual derivation you can make all the same observations from any large text. You could derive all of the Halachos from Lord of the Rings, or all of Christianity from War and Peace, or for that matter, all of Christianity from the Torah. So the fact that you can read Ani Mammins into the Torah does not establish that they are what the Torah intended.

      Delete
    29. Judaism is the sum total of the Torah SheBaal Peh revealed by Chazal, and the interpretations of the Rishonim of varied Sugyos. You are free to express ypur own opinion, but it has nothing in common with our religion.

      Delete
    30. > Judaism is the sum total of the Torah SheBaal Peh revealed by Chazal, and the interpretations of the Rishonim of varied Sugyos.

      Well, the Orthodox version of Rabbinic Judaism, anyway. But what has that to do with your bolstering the legitimacy of the ikkarim by saying they "are derived from the Torah itself" and the point that deriving things from the Torah proves very little beyond the cleverness of the exegete?

      Delete
  23. How about them? What exactly is your point?

    ReplyDelete
  24. I would be happy to engage in a debate or discussion on these or similar ideas. That would need to take place in person, or perhaps in writing, in a respected journal with professional standards.

    @Afrumrabbi: Are you Dr. Betech?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I not Dr. Betech. I don't even know who he is.

      Delete
  25. Looking at all these comments, going back and forth, I wonder. If we were able to talk to the average person living in the time of the chazal, how many of them would listen to what was being said, then roil, their eyes and say "Give me a break!", or something similar.

    Peretz Mann

    ReplyDelete
  26. I went to yeshiva from kindergarten thru some Beis Medrish. This is a long time ago. Although there was an underlying understanding amongst many students that there were some secrets of science, some secrets of prophecies in the Torah, Gemerah etc: these sorts of notions were rarely taught by the Rabbis. It seems to me the "OTD crisis" of the early 1990's lead to Kiruv and Kiruv Rabbis who had PROOFS for Torah. One style of these proofs are secrets in our Holy Texts. So today many Rabbis are committed to defend such a notion because such arguments either convinced them to become Frum ( and they can not admit they were wrong, who can ? ) and are being used to convince others. I will compliment Rabbi Slifkin for speaking Emes and I hope people do not hold this compliment against him. If Rambam had secret knowledge of the irrationality of PI, how could he get other scientific facts wrong. I dont believe for a second Rambam ever thought the he had secret facts. He'd roll over in his grave if he heard today's Rabbi's make such claims on his behalf.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Rabbi Slifkin,
    I like this blog a lot more when you share your own ideas, as opposed to refuting those of others. The books were excellent! Please, please, please let it go with Rabbi Meiselman. Just tell us about your own ideas, not his.

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.