Tuesday, June 7, 2016

House of Cards

A number of people were wondering why I spent so much time demonstrating that Rabbi Yaakov Menken was completely off the mark in his claim of there being evidence from the case of Pi that Chazal were ahead of their time. What’s the point? It’s not as though he would ever concede. And after all, there’s lots of people who crusade about negating the rationalist approach. There’s Rabbi Meiselman’s protégé Rabbi Dovid Kornreich, the self-styled “Freelance Kiruv Maniac” (a 67% superb moniker!), who has obsessively spent ten years running a blog solely dedicated to twisting what I write and explaining why it is heresy, and I certainly don’t bother responding to him. So what made this case different?

The answer is that there is much, much more at stake here than an argument about Pi.

The ban on my books was more than just a ban on some books by young Nosson Slifkin. It was an attack on the rationalist approach in general, and an attempt to write it out of Judaism. The Gedolim declared that it is forbidden to state that Chazal were deficient in their knowledge of the natural world. When people protested the ban, the situation took on the added dimension of also becoming about the fallibility of the Gedolim. But there was never an opportunity to openly discuss this with the other side. The Gedolim refused to meet with me or to give any explanation of the ban. Strategically, this was very wise. For to enter into discussion, to give an explanation, would render them vulnerable to being rebutted. The topics were not up for discussion. It was all about the authority of the Gedolim, and that’s that.

Since all this was creating an unparalleled crisis in charedi rabbinic authority, Rav Aharon Feldman published an essay which attempted to justify the ban. However, this made astonishing and easily disprovable claims about rabbinic interpretation and authority, and a number of people wrote devastating rebuttals of it. Rav Feldman did not attempt to respond to these rebuttals. Again, this was strategically very wise, because he would have lost the arguments.

Then Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, who had previously issued the most vicious and personal attacks against me of all my opponents, and who also wanted a piece of the anti-rationalist pie, published his own 700+ page book about why the rationalist approach is heretical. While I responded with an extensive critique, there was no way that he was going to get into a discussion with me. Besides, his anti-rationalist stance was in any case very different from the anti-rationalist stance of the Gedolim – they would consider some of his own views and statements, which are very dismissive of the Rishonim, to be heretical.

But then, after all these years, something new happened. Rabbi Yaakov Menken published a glowing review of Rabbi Meiselman’s book. And he published it in Dialogue, at the request of Rav Aharon Feldman, who is on the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, and who probably saw Rabbi Meiselman’s book as the pie-in-the-sky demonstration of why the rationalist approach is heresy. The rabbinic board of Dialogue includes Rav Shlomo Miller, who is likewise regarded in the charedi world as one of the Gedolim of North America. Furthermore, Rabbi Menken presented Rabbi Meiselman’s book as THE proper explanation of why the rationalist approach is heretical. Rabbi Menken was thereby placed in the position of Official Representative of the Gedolim vis-à-vis the ban.

Now, it’s very dangerous to be in that position. If you get drawn into debate, and you lose, then you have not only compromised your own honor – you have compromised that of the Gedolim. And so when I published my blog post detailing all the problems with Rabbi Menken’s review, the strategically smart thing for him to do would have been to entirely ignore it.

And ignore it he did, for the most part. Yet he couldn’t resist addressing just one point in my critique of his review, regarding his claim about Pi demonstrating Chazal’s advanced knowledge. He cherry-picked a criticism that he thought would be as easy as pie to rebut and defend his claim. And he used that as an example of why he doesn’t need to respond to the rest of my critique.

But it turned out that his claim was indeed problematic. And as the back-and-forth went on, more and more people got to see the absurdity of Rabbis Meiselman and Menken’s insistence that you can start with a statement from the Gemara that pi is three, add Rambam’s unsurprising statements about Pi being irrational and reading of that into the Gemara, and come up with evidence that Chazal possessed advanced knowledge.

At this point, Rabbi Menken became truly stuck. He couldn’t concede that what he wrote in Dialogue was in any way wrong. For if he did, then the obvious next stage is for him to issue a correction in the next issue of Dialogue and to address the rest of my critique. For example, he has to address why he claimed that Chazal were far ahead of their time in their knowledge of the natural world, and that there is none amongst the Rishonim who said that any of Chazal could err in things about the natural world that they knew from the Torah, despite my pointing out that all the Rishonim state that [many of] Chazal believed that the sun goes behind the sky at night, which they inferred from pesukim. Likewise, Rabbi Menken would have to address why he presents Rabbi Meiselman as an honest scholar who reflects the true position of Rav Soloveitchik, when I demonstrated that Rabbi Meiselman utterly misquotes Rav Soloveitchik on a crucial issue.

But if Rabbi Menken does enter into discussion regarding the rest of my critique, and I prove it (or significant parts of it) to be likewise correct, then it’s not just Rabbi Menken who ends up with egg on his face. It’s Rabbi Meiselman, Rabbi Aharon Feldman, and by implication the entire Gedolim/ Daas Torah enterprise. It would severely set back the crusade against the rationalist approach. That was why I kept hammering away at this point, and not allow Rabbi Menken to distort, sidetrack or ignore the issue.

So what was he to do? He had to drag out the argument until he could find an excuse to pull out and blame it on me. And that is exactly what he did. When I got into a Facebook debate with him, he constantly evaded answering my points, and then claimed that I was “spamming him,” deleted my quotations from Rabbi Meiselman which revealed his mistakes, and blocked me from further discussion. He also claimed that my writing style was disrespectful, despite his being at least as bad (if not worse) in the way that he wrote about me and with his insults to others who agreed with me.

Sure, Rabbi Menken ends up looking foolish and intellectually dishonest for repeatedly insisting that Rambam’s statements about Pi demonstrate Chazal’s advanced knowledge, despite my pointing out that the irrationality of Pi was widely known in the medieval period and that there is no evidence whatsoever that Rambam actually derived it from Chazal. But, from Rabbi Menken’s point of view, it’s better to have egg on your face than to eat humble pie and bring down the whole Daas Torah house of cards.

113 comments:

  1. I understand now. It's a kofer - he gave you an opening here, and by taking it on, you take on the entire argument. Interesting. I hope your strategy is effective.

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  2. Rabbi Slifkin: I see your point. But it's not the bombshell I was expecting. Perhaps there is no such bombshell.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  3. While I may believe that you believe every word you write, the only people with a crusade on their mind are the people like you. The "Gedolim" have their followers and don't need to justify themselves to them, the other side is made if people who are open minded and aren't starstruck by the Gedolim.
    You won the argument. There was nothing to add. Then you spammed the messenger and, while certainly getting egg on his face, managed to sufficiently backsplash the yolk all over yourself as well.

    I enjoy reading your writings. But you need to learn internet etiquette or people will just become dismissive of you.

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    1. As long as people still believe the emperor is wearing clothes, it behooves all the children to point out that he isn't. Etiquette be damned.

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    2. No, we can't let etiquette be damned. Doing so weakens one's argument; the more shrill and smug, the more easily dismissed. I wish both sides would employ the phrase, "I respectfully disagree." But especially R. Slifkin, because his is the side I agree with. :)

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  4. Friendly hint: Mixing metaphors (e.g., *both* having egg on one's face *and* eating humble pie) is generally frowned upon.

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    1. Also the taste of the egg that gets into the pie as it drips down is me'us.

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  5. What I think you need to do is open a shul and set up a rationalist judaism kehilla. If it spreads worldwide you will have won. Ho'emes yorah darcho.

    If it does not spread, in 120 years non rationlist judaism will be alive and kicking and rationalist judaism will be in the dustbin. And don't say that RZ is rationalist. Nor is MO but in any event as you often moan MO is becoming either chareidisized or non orthodox.

    If you do not set up a kehilla we all now rationalist judaism is doomed.

    Again ha'emes yorah darcho. Yes, I know that isn't a rational statement.

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  6. 67%! Love it ...
    Where's the FB discussion?

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    1. It was on Rabbi Menken's page, but I can't see it anymore because he blocked me.

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  7. Unlike Torah, where knowledge comes from Divine revelation and is gained by study of ancient texts and tradition, science progresses by an accumulation of data, aided by invention of better instruments enabling both more data and the study of phenomena not previously accessible. Thus I wouldn't say that "Chazal were deficient in their knowledge of the natural world" any more than I would say that Newton was deficient in his knowledge of physics because he knew nothing of quantum mechanics or relativity. Rather, Chazal had the knowledge of the natural world that was available in their time and place.

    I think the very different epistemology of science and Torah underlies much of the concern from the chareidi world. The assumption seems to be that (at least) the masses cannot understand who two such opposite methods of learning can each be appropriate in its proper realm, and therefore can't accept the idea that science has progressed far beyond the knowledge of Chaza"l without losing respect for their Torah.

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    1. The problem is not that there was stuff that Chazal didn't know, like Newton not being aware of quantum mechanics, but that they made many statements that were wrong. A better comparison is Newton's belief in alchemy.

      Unlike someone like Newton, who's good ideas we can accept and bad ideas are of no consequence, if Chazal got their information from learing Torah, and Chazal's interpretations of Torah are always right, then Chzal getting stuff wrong calls Judaism itsefl into question. The simple solution is to say that Chazal could be wrong, but that's anathema to a certain way of thinking.

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    2. Actually, a lot of what Newton said was wrong too. Like matter being infinitely divisible, for instance. Or gravity propagating instantaneously (although he expressed his doubts about that.) But it really doesn't matter, because ultimately what counts in science is not Newton's (or anyone else's) authority but whether it agrees with experiment.

      If you insist that Chazal knew everything they knew either by received tradition or studying Torah, then yes, you'll have a problem with saying they made the same mistakes about science that their contemporaries made. But there is no reason to believe that at all. They learned to walk and talk the same way the rest of us did, after all. I continue to believe the inability to understand the different epistemologies (or the assumption that others can't understand it) underlies this problem. Otherwise there would be no problem in accepting the authority of Chazal in Torah while recognizing that they did not know (by today's standards) very much about science, and had many ideas we now know to be incorrect. For that matter it didn't bother the Geonim and Rishonim who quite correctly insisted we ignore the medical statements in the Gemara.

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    3. > accepting the authority of Chazal in Torah

      Even this can mean different things. I think that you and I would understand this to mean that Chazal are the authoritative interpreters of Torah. They might be wrong about the objective meaning of something, but someone had to be in charge in interpretation, and they were it. There are others who understand it to mean that Chazal were the recipients of an unbroken tradition as to the *right* way to understand Torah. They are authorities in the sense that they were the keepers of the mesorah.

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    4. I am entirely happy to accept that Chazal had a tradition of the right way to interpret Torah. However, that tradition, even according the most expansive definition (at least I hope no one would go further than that) does not include a tradition of all possible circumstances that might ever arise. Can anyone credit the idea that Chaza"l were given an explicit ruling about the permissibility of heart transplants? Or how to determin z'manei t'filah in a polar orbit at 500 km above the Earth? So it is quite possible when they describe realia they were describing things according to the understanding of the times. Nor is it even possible to say that everything Chazal said about Torah was on the basis of an unbroken tradition; for one thing they don't always agree with each other. They even excommunicated R. Eliezer who never taught anything he hadn't heard from his Rebbe, because he would not yield to the majority. And even where they agree within a period there is sometimes "mishnah rishonah" and "mishna Acharona" For another, they often offer midrashim with dramatically different perspectives, and they warn us not to try to compare them too literally. For another, there are things they explicitly say they made up--like g'zeirot and takkanot. For another, many things cannot possibly be based on an unbroken tradition--can any reasonable person really believe God told Moshe that the halacha would be like Rava against Abayye except for the 6 cases known as YaA"L KGa"M? Or tht the Selucids would make antisemitic decrees? Besides the Ramba"m and other Rishonim explain that Chaza"l had leeway in applying the middot she Hatorah Nidreshet bahem. In short, even though I believe Chazal had an authoritative tradition of Torah she baal peh, I don't believe everything they said about Torah, and certainly not everything they said about science, was from that tradition. That would be a claim far beyond anything Chaza"l themselves said, and something I don't see how anyone can believe without twisting their thought processes into an confused mess. We all learn different types of things in different ways; so did Chaza"l. Not everything they knew or believed was part of the tradition they had from Sinai.

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  8. Can't we have a discussion about WHY the Yeshiva-world seems to feel that Chazal have to be treated like supernatural beings? Would it really kill these people to acknowledge that Chazal were simply a greater version of the leading Torah lights of our day? That they were extremely smart and good people, with a strong historical perspective, making it worth our while to treat everything they said seriously.

    I believe that the answer lies in the question.

    There’s simply no way to expect rational people to treat everything Chazal said seriously and respectfully unless you put Chazal on a pedestal. In fact, it’s too obvious that Chazal did NOT have sufficient historical perspective and did not have any idea that many of the statements they made would be irrelevant for people living a millennium later. How can you justify telling people that it’s worth their while to devote their entire lives to studying 2,000-year old texts that have no obvious relevance to how we live today (and that this academic pursuit trumps making a living, serving in the military and being a good citizen), without first asserting that the authors and sources of those texts were supernatural beings? You might say that for practical reasons, we need to follow their Halachic decisions, but you would never get people to treat every word in Shas with the reverence with which they’re treated.

    The truth is that you can’t. To a certain extent, those of us who are aware of these problems and nevertheless learn Torah and practice Halacha according to Chazal are living a contradiction. But that’s OK. Life is complicated. But the Yeshiva-world can never admit this.

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    1. Lion of Israel, I agree with your observations and sentiments. However, I would put it more strongly. The product of human minds is imperfect and cannot be an enduring model for behavior and values over the ages. Not only do we know far more about the world than the sages of the Talmud, but our values have changed as well. The original intent of having an oral tradition may well have been to allow for an evolution of halachic approaches that was more consistent with such changing knowledge and values. Unfortunately, the oral torah is now a written Talmud and authoritative legal works. That greatly reduces the possibilities of evolutionary change. Even so, change is possible but will be controversial. The test for those Observant Jews of a rationalist bent is to adhere to the traditional legal requirements but to favor changes that are both halachically based and which remove some of the inequities of the traditional legal system.

      Y. Aharon

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    2. > Would it really kill these people to acknowledge that Chazal were simply a greater version of the leading Torah lights of our day?

      Why "greater?" Some of them probably were, but some, maybe many, probably weren't. Chazal were the intellectual elite of their day, but in a time when most people were illiterate, when most people never learned to use abstract thinking and were ignorant of everything outside their immediate lives, that's not a high bar.

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    3. The truth is that you can’t. To a certain extent, those of us who are aware of these problems and nevertheless learn Torah and practice Halacha according to Chazal are living a contradiction. But that’s OK. Life is complicated. But the Yeshiva-world can never admit this.


      But that’s OK.
      Not OK for a lot of us

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    4. G*3 - I agree with you. I was mainly writing לשיטתם and didn't want to make my argument any longer than necessary by qualifying it. In fact, I have little doubt that until proven otherwise, the Yeshiva-world attitude towards Chazal is basically the same as the attitude old-timers have about baseball players who were stars when they were following the game - "No one today is as good as Joe Dimaggio" etc.

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    5. DWL - I hear you and would therefore never judge someone who acts differently. But to a certain extent, we all live imperfect lives and can't reconcile every single thing we do with a rational thought process.

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    6. Y. Aharon - I agree completely. My problem is that as I see it, the challenge is actually greater than the one you described. Nearly everything you wrote could also be applied to Torah Sh'Bichtav, which was written down and made authoritative לכתחיילה. How is one supposed to view the clear דאורייתא ban on homosexuality (an abomination) when that very same document, when it contemplates the possibility of a marriage ending in divorce, assumes that a likely (if not the MOST likely) reason for it is כי מצא בה ערות דבר? This is not Oral Torah

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    7. "the Yeshiva-world attitude towards Chazal is basically the same as the attitude old-timers have about baseball players who were stars when they were following the game - "No one today is as good as Joe Dimaggio" etc."
      Actually, Stephen Jay Gould used to use DiMaggio as an example of natural selection--we see that the 56-game hit streak has never been broken, and only a handful of players even come close.

      There are indications that there was a definite "weed-out" process among the Sages as well--(out of a 1000 that learn Tanach, only 1 ends up being able to issue a ruling in halacha) it wasn't like anyone who was able to read and write would get his name written in some baraitha somewhere.

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    8. Yehudah P. - I'm not sure if you're agreeing or disagreeing with me. The streak was mostly a fluke, albeit by a great player. Bill James argues convincingly that extreme performances are an indication of an overall lower level of talent.

      Regarding the weed-out process, it exists in every generation. I'm not sure what it proves.

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    9. > the Yeshiva-world attitude towards Chazal is basically the same as the attitude old-timers have about baseball players who were stars when they were following the game - "No one today is as good as Joe Dimaggio"

      I don't know much about baseball, but weren't the greats so great in part because the physical conditions were different back then? Smaller fields, stiffer gloves, that sort of thing? If so, the analogy to Chazal is apt. They too were so great in part because back then the field was smaller and it was harder to catch mistakes.

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    10. @G*3: The dimensions of the old Yankee Stadium were the same from the time of Babe Ruth in 1923, until it was demolished in 2009. It took almost 40 years to break his home run record. Only a few came close. I think it's more accurate to say that those greats would have been great in any era, and just leave it at that. [One thing is that the pitching is probably much better nowadays: there is a greater variety of pitches, there is greater accuracy in pitching, and more pitchers can throw at over 90 mph.]

      It's true that the Torah is vast now, but it was vast in the times of Chazal as well: The amount of Tannaitic material was much greater than what has reached us in the Tosefta and Baraitas--and one opinion is that there were 600 sedarim of Mishnah, and Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi shortened it into 6. But even then, it was still learned ba'al peh, and not yet committed to writing (according to one girsah in the Epistle of Rav Sherira Gaon). So they had to be pretty brilliant to hold all that material in their heads.

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    11. Lion of Israel, sorry I didn't see your comment before since it requires a response. The torah is in a different category than the Talmud and halachic codes. The latter are the work of fallible men, while the torah is considered of divine authorship. Even so, the torah was clearly first given to men living in a certain time and culture. That culture was patriarchal and the torah is careful not to undermine it. Thus the power in a marriage was left in the hands of the husband who was the only one empowered to end the relationship. The torah, however, left the understanding that divorcing a women should not be something done lightly, but, rather, the result of some shameful behavior on the part of the wife. While Bet Hillel doesn't accept that understanding of the verse in question, "...;ki matza bah ervat davar", that is the clear implication of verses in Malachi about not betraying the woman of your youth. So, it's not a question of the likelihood of a wife's misbehavior, but an indication that only serious matters constitute a valid reason for a divorce. While the halacha is like Bet Hillel, the lesson of the torah is to treat marriage as a more serious and lasting relationship.

      Y. Aharon

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  9. 1) There was never a debate. A debate is about two people talking with each other. Mencky was talking AT you, not to you.
    2) I still don't know why I should care about what Mencky and his Gedolim think. So they're irrational. How does that change my daily life?

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    1. If they're not slandering you, there's no need to care about what they think.

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    2. Please refer to Rabbi Menken with his proper name.

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    3. Sorry, you're right. I will refer to him as "that guy over at Cross Currents who I will not name but of whom you think when the letters Y and M are mentioned."
      And yes, they are slandering Rav Slifkin. The best revenge is living well. For even slander Rav Steinsaltz got from "the Gedolim" he opened another school or published another book. Rav Slifkin, by promoting Rationalism in a positive way and succeeding in his endeavours is providing them with all the frustration he needs to.

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  10. What I find puzzling is Rabbi Slifkin characterizing himself and the rationalist view as "a threat" to Rabbi Menken. I think Rabbi Slifkin is in no way a "threat" as long as he adheres to observing Shulchan Aruch.

    For example: There have already been three centuries of polemics against Chassidism, yet we still see Chassidic Jews, and people who still differ with Chassidic practice vehemently. But neither side perceives the other as a "threat" anymore.

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    1. When it comes to practice of halacha, the folks at YCT don't contest the Shulchan Aruch on kashrus, taharas mishpacha or Shabbos. Their huge innovations are all on ritual issues that are peripheral to the core aspects of Jewish observance. And yet they've been tossed out of Orthodoxy by the Cross Currents gang.
      This is because for the CC folks it's more about ideology than practice. A non-rationalist yeshiva rebbe stealing funds or abusing his students, chalilah, is more in their crowd than Rav Slifkin because the former holds that the world is 5776 years old and that's the entry criteria to Orthodoxy.

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    2. I think Rabbi Slifkin is in no way a "threat" as long as he adheres to observing Shulchan Aruch.

      What about the small K'Zayis? ;)

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    3. I recently heard of a couple of prominent RZ poskim who said that, b'de avad the small, actual size of the kezayit can be used, so they apparently don't view this as a threat to the Shulchan Aruch.

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    4. @David Ohsie: I thought you would mention Rabbi Slifkin eating locusts, or saying that נייגעלוואסער didn't have to be done next to the bed upon waking up.
      He didn't "permit" eating locusts, but consulted his Rav before doing it. And he wasn't the first to say that נייגעלוואסער doesn't have to be done next to the bed.

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    5. I recently heard R' Asher Weiss say that, b'de avad the small, actual size of the kezayit can be used, so he apparently doesn't view this as a threat to the Shulchan Aruch.
      kt
      joel rich

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    6. CI permitts an invalid to eat a זית זמננו of maror if necessary.

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    7. the shuchan oruch says you can use the small kezayis. so says zlach pesachim, where he disagrees with shulchan uruch that a kezayis is half an egg

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    8. The K'Zayis thing was a joke. Yehuda P. is right that he has been attacked for eating kosher food based on Sephardi Mesorah.

      But the problem there would be following the S"A too carefully :).

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    9. Yehudah P., what do you mean that R. Slifkin characterizes himself as a threat? Did he ban his own books?

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    10. @Yechiel: I was referring to this part of Rabbi Slifkin's recent post: "Final words from I, Voldemort":

      "The reason why [Rabbi Menken] can mention the names of WoW or Reform is that they are not a serious threat to people in his circle. But I am, and that is why he is afraid to dignify me or give me any credibility by mentioning my name. It's similar to how the characters in Harry Potter are afraid to say Voldemort's name. Likewise, Rabbi Menken won't link to my posts (and gives the silly excuse that the reason is that he hopes that I will change my mind and remove them)."

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    11. This is what the Gedoilim said in the original cherem letter. Because I am a product of charedi yeshivos, I am a particular threat.

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  11. The ban on my books was more than just a ban on some books by young Nosson Slifkin. It was an attack on the rationalist approach in general, and an attempt to write it out of Judaism.

    Late Rabbi Arye Kaplan wrote an essay about the age of the world, which later was included in a book. I don't recall anyone banned his books. The difference between his approach and yours is R'Kaplan did not speculate why Chazal might say differently. Quite the contrary, he tried to find an answer in classical Jewish sources.

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    1. That has nothing to do with it. In fact, my approach to Bereishis is largely the same as his.
      The reason why my books were banned is (a) I wrote about conflicts between science and Chazal, which is more problematic for the Charedi world, and (b) I published my books with haskamos.

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    2. Also, the slide to the right. I don't think that R Weinberg would have taken the same position that R Feldman did, for example.

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    3. Not to mention that in Rav Kaplan's case the 'movers and shakers' no longer had a 'victim' to move and shake, i.e., to pressure into retraction, since Rav Aryeh Kaplan had passed into the 'world of truth'. Their mistake was thinking that a young Nosson Slifkin would be amenable to such tactics. A great 'yasher koach' for standing up to and exposing their underhanded tactics, as well as the logical and learned presentation of your position.

      Y. Aharon

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    4. There is also not a precise science to bans. You have to have a group of kannaim who are sufficiently motivated to do all the work involved. In my case, it was some kannoim who were out to get Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky and my books provided an opportunity.

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    5. (David:) "Also, the slide to the right. I don't think that R Weinberg would have taken the same position that R Feldman did, for example."

      You *don't think* so... That is because you have no personally held reverence for Rav Weinberg ZTL.

      It is one thing to say that you don't know what he would have said. It is another thing to project onto him your own fantasy.

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    6. It's precisely reverence for Rav Weinberg that leads one to believe that he wouldn't have taken the same position as Rav Feldman did.

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    7. You *don't think* so... That is because you have no personally held reverence for Rav Weinberg ZTL.

      I don't understand this comment. Obviously, I would have more reverence for Rav Weinberg for not supporting the ban if he was alive.

      It is one thing to say that you don't know what he would have said. It is another thing to project onto him your own fantasy.

      Obviously, I'm just guessing, but I've read and heard that Rav Weinberg accepted the elements of modern science that R Feldman rejects (or has come to reject since the ban). From this blog you have:

      "A number of rabbis who are alumni of Ner Israel told me about conversations that they had had with the legendary late Rosh Yeshivah of Ner Israel, Rav Yaakov Weinberg. He had told them that the world was obviously much more than a few thousand years old. He had also told them that there was no problem in saying that man evolved from animals, as long as one accepts that man is on a higher spiritual plane."

      I see this: " always remember what my Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg z”l, said: Whenever there is an apparent conflict between Torah and science, we will have to work out whether the science needs to be fixed, or our understanding of Torah needs to be fixed, or both." http://www.jewishanswers.org/ask-the-rabbi-category/the-basics-of-judaism/science-and-torah/?p=3592

      Also see this page: http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2005/01/banned-iii-age-of-universe.html

      Since you apparently knew Rav Weinberg, what can you say about what he said on the topic?

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    8. "Pookie Number 2" has it right...

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    9. I am not a talmid of Rav Yaakov Weinberg, but I can recount a relevant conversation with Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein concerning the torah codes controversy. Rabbi Adlerstein is a leader among those opposing the codes work (his talmid, Prof. Barry Simon, had written a long article in Jewish Action critical of the codes). He told me of a long meeting that he had with Rav Weinberg on the subject. He was in somewhat of a quandary after 5 leading Israeli rabbinic figures including Rav Shlomo Wolbe and Rav Shlomo Fisher had come out vehemently on the side of Doron Witztum and his codes work. After presenting his arguments, Rav Weinberg told him the he agreed with the anti-codes position, and that Rabbi Alderstein should continue his campaign and not be concerned with the objections of the Israeli Gedolim. That incident bespeaks a rational attitude in dealing with torah and science or mathematics.

      Y. Aharon

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    10. OK, I'll say what everybody's thinking: Sooner or later, someone will say "Rav Weinberg zt'l could say that, but we cannot." :-)

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  12. I think that Sayre's Law comes in to play here: "In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake."

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  13. When the Slifkin Controversy broke originally I asked a Rosh Yeshiva (who asked to not be named) and talmid of Rav Ruderman, if the attack on you wasn't reminiscent of the Church's attack on Galileo. He replied that it was much worse. The Church, he explained, had a very clear dogma that Galileo knew he was violating. You merely expounded on the opinions of a yachidim that in retrospect appear to be quite rational.
    - Victor Hyman

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  14. I know you don't like to rain on the segulah parade espoused by the non-rationalists and think of them as harmless fun. However, I think that in the battle for proper recognition of the validity of the rationalist approach, the folly and potential for avodah zarah in these practices must be harped on. If non-rational fundamentalism is akin to hard drugs, then segulos are the gateway drug. People with no family tradition for these ideas are baking key-challah, saying the tefillah HaShelah for kids, davka yesterday on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan, etc. Once they're hooked on magic beans for their spirituality, good luck trying to tell them that Hashem works within naturalistic means. What to do? Perhaps advocate that people say the tefillah HaShelah davka on any other day than Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan. (The same way there are things we davka do differently to counteract the tzedukim.)

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  15. Victor,

    Have you had a chance to speak with that Rosh Yeshiva more recently? I bet that he now goes along completely the opposition to NS.

    Have a real discussion with him and let us know.


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  16. 1)I think RNS should press the point about how the banned ideas were previously accepted in the Agudah world. For example, he wrote in 2010 “Most significantly, Rav Nachman Bulman, ztz"l, an extremely special person (pictured here), was the mashgiach.” (“The Changing Face of Ohr Somayach”). In private, I’ve spoken to 2 prominent Charedi Rabbonim, post ban, who allow the Hirschian approach on Science and Chazal.

    2) Another point is de facto legalization, as in drugs. You can say something is kefirah, but to prove it rationally, is really where it’s at. That’s why the issue of proving that Chazal knew science comes in.

    3) More fundamentally, the question is how to respond to questions on the level of the 13 ikkarei emunah. If one thinks the kiruv movement is very strong here, then it makes sense to require more on science and Torah. Also, the insularity of Bnei Torah compared to the past (though R. Meiselman is certainly well-educated).

    4) R. Matisyahu Solomon said at the siyum hashas that we don’t want “makeshift answers”. As an analogy, modern day refrigerators have halachic problems for Shabbos, yet they were not banned because there was no replacement (one Chasidishe posiek even opens it with a shinnui), and a company is now making new add- ins to refrigerators to avoid weak hetterim.

    R. Meisleman’s book and approach is thought to be the “new refrigerator”, so the “makeshift answers”, or weak hettirim, are not necessary. The deeper issue is the strength of the kiruv movement, as well the insularity of Bnei Torah which affects the replacement “new refrigerator”, thus avoiding “makeshift answers”.

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  17. I always thought that the 'chazal knew science' argument was flawed - not so much because it's obvious that chazal got some science wrong, but rather from the other side of the coin - if they did know science then it's astounding that they didn't tell anyone, or apply their knowledge. How come they didn't save lives by the application of medical science? How come they didn't use their knowledge to develop the light-bulb and thus learn Torah late into the night?

    The 'chazal knew science' argument is so obviously wrong that it seems funny to have to pick away at it on areas that are obscure (did they know Pi was irrational or not?) when it can be blown out of the water without too great an effort?

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    1. It goes even further than that. If the Chazal knew science then there would never have been churban habayis. They could just have built an F16 to defend Israel against the Romans. Do you know what one F16 would have done to all the Roman legions? The Romans would never even have gotten close.

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    2. Soapbox- While I agree with your overall point, I think the counter-argument from the Yeshiva-world would probably be that Chazal used their סוד ה' ליראיו powers judiciously and only when needed in order to make specific psaks. Again, I don't disagree with you, but the argument that "With all their knowledge, Chazal should've prevented infant mortality" isn't as ironclad as it might seem at first glance.

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    3. Bill that is clearly not true. Obviously Chaza"l were familiar with Confucius. "Do not use a cannon to kill a mosquito"

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    4. Bill - you are confusing science with technology. Even the greatest genius in the world would not be able to create an F16 without a massive technological base, which simply didn't exist in the ancient world.

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    5. Lion.. i'm trying to think of a psak that was made by early chazal that would have been different had they had 20th century science.... I'll get back to you when I come up with one. (or if you find one first let me know...)

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    6. Here's one. Chazal said that if a building collapses on someone on Shabbos, and they are not breathing, you don't clear the rubble away, since they are dead. Had they known modern science, they would have said to do CPR.

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    7. That's where Nishtanu Hatevaim would come in... :).

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    8. Chazon Ish(Emunah Ubitachon, 5:2) points to the advanced knowledge of ancient civilizations, in general, such as the wisdom of Egypt, Rome, and Africa. I think this logically challenges the idea that demonstrating Chazal’s scientific knowledge congruent with current science indicates Ruach Hakodesh, since the Chazon Ish acknowledges other ancient societies’ advanced knowledge. In general, the Chazaon Ish distinguishes between applied sciences versus theory, the latter which he says the ancients understood.

      R. Aharon Feldman wrote," This is not because they considered the Sages greater scientists than their modern counterparts.... That they were in contact with such sources in undeniable. How else could we explain numerous examples where the Sages had scientific information which no scientist of their time had?

      (R. Feldman seems to believe the cases are a “proof”, rather than evidence-see R. Korenriech’s discussion on Cross Currents and on his blog re the difference between “proof” and “evidence”.)

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    9. Thank you Rabbi Slifkin!

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  18. Revealing Point: The chief defenders of the anti-rationalists are all converts. Meaning, they weren't actually raised with the beliefs they are trying to promote. Rabbi Meiselman grew up in YU circles. Rabbi Menken grew up not religious at all. If we include Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum (I don't) then we have a third. They just have the missionary zeal common to converts of any cause, Jewish or not, and are willing to turn a blind eye to reality or to any inconvenient fact that gets in their way. They have all completely altered their life, and are now compelled to defend it or admit (to themselves) a disastrous mistake.

    The rationalists, on the other hand, all grew up fairly normal, leading normal lives. Their parents worked and were shomer torah mitzvos. They don't have any missionary zeal (except to set the record straight) and never had to make any life-altering choices. They don't have to defend anything, because they never changed anything. It's not a life or death struggle.

    This is a very revealing point, and explains much of what is going on here.

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    1. My mother used to say: A "nuchgemachte" (copycat) "Machashefa" is worse than an original "Machashefa".

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    2. RNS grew up in the haredi world?

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    3. Using a tiny sample size, you've shown that the so-called anti-rationalists have utilized people with the best command of English to do their writing in English. Which frankly isn't much of a revelation.

      RM

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    4. The "best command of English" doesn't explain intentional intellectual dishonesty.

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    5. RM - don't be silly. Do you honestly think R. Meiselman and Menken have "the best command of English" in the anti-rationalist world? I sure hope that's not true. How could they possibly know that anyway - have they tested everyone?

      Please, it has nothing to do with one's ability to write. It has to do with who actually is such a true believer that he's willing to write about it. And the answer apparently is, only converted zealots. And that, my friend, is quite revealing.

      Yitz Waxman - From what he has written here RNS did not grow up in the charedi world, he grew up regular working class orthodox. He went all black hat when he was young, as many people do, but eventually came back to his roots. I think so anyway. He can correct me if he wants to or cares to.

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    6. It explains why BTs are the ones writing the English-language polemics.

      RM

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  19. No backsplash occurred. Rabbi Slifkin won. That's because the opposing side can't win this debate and they know it. So they issue fiats, fatwas, whatever, or stay silent and hope for the best. Used to be we had the rabbis of the Talmud. Want to see a debate or analyze how we come to decisions in Judaism? Come, I have 2500 pages for you to read. Today? No debates please, we are charedim. The end of a once great religion.

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

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  20. Rabbi Slifkin, though I haven't read R' Meiselman's book, I am quite swayed by your critique. What I'd like to know is if there any parts of the book that you found compelling, parts that made you change (or at least tweak) your position or understanding about something. I would be impressed if you would share something on that.

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    1. Interesting question! Nothing comes to mind, actually. Maybe David Ohsie can think of something. The only way in which the book enlightened me was in seeing the extraordinary lengths to which people will go to avoid saying that Chazal erred.

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    2. I'm impressed with the wide variety of sources that are in many ways sufficient to defeat Rabbi Meiselman's thesis. He puts a lot of stuff in footnotes that upend his own conclusions that he might have left out to make it harder to see where he was stretching things. Nevertheless, the book requires extreme care because many sources are cited and interpreted to mean the exact opposite of what they are actually saying.

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    3. R' Natan and David, I have no intention of buying the book in question given what I have read about it. However, given R' Meiselman's secular background (Boston Latin H.S., B.S Physics -Harvard, Ph.D. Mathematics-MIT) and his Soloveitchik heritage, I would have thought that he would have had something to contribute in terms of understanding some sugyot in Shas. I have read that he interprets 'problematic' sugyot differently than 'the Rishonim'. If some of these interpretations are not fantasies, they may have some interest. If not, then the entire effort could be judged as a great waste of time that serves only to reinforce those already so convinced, and to further distance those who haven't bought into his ideology.

      Y. Aharon

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  21. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Would a Charedi be insulted if he were told that Mozart (Beethoven)was the greatest musical composer ever? (" No. It was Dovid Ha'Melech!")
    Would he be insulted if he were told that Picasso was the greatest artist ever? ( "No. It was Betzalel/Shlomo Ha'Melech!")
    "Art and Music are not important." "Only Torah!"
    Why does science get them so uptight. "We" don't teach science in our schools. It is equally unimportant-or is it?
    Of course science is discussed in greater detail in the Talmud as well as in the Rishonim and Achronim, but music and art are mentioned as well!

    Libby Ba'Mizrach

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    1. My answer: science proves that portions of the Torah are false, or are not meant to be taken literally. Which opens the serious question: at what point is the Torah to be taken literally? And if God wrote it, why start with a series of parables instead of describing the actual process? R' Slifkin does tackle these questions in his book, but I suspect that Chareidim are afraid of questions that can shake the foundations of faith. "Who is a better artist" is not a question that opens up attacks on core beliefs.

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  22. I hope you don't mind if I change metaphors for a moment.

    It's long been my belief that the narrower the range of hashkafa one will accept--one's "base" of belief--the harder it is to stay centered above it.

    A lot of people manage that, and the hordes of non-rationalists who reject the legitimacy of the rationalist perspective while staying Torah-true are examples.

    Some fall off, and leave Jewish practice entirely.

    Some are pushed off, by people like Yitzchok Frankfurter, whose Ami Magazine editorial (as described by Harry Maryles here: http://haemtza.blogspot.com/2013/12/why-ami-magazine-is-failure.html) advocates how to approach anyone associated with Open Orthodoxy: it's forbidden to answer amein to his bracha or violate Shabbos to save his life.

    One way to keep one's balance is to widen the base. That's why I don't understand the attitude of those cast as heretics those who follow what seems to me to be a prudent course. Not everybody can dwell on the point of a needle--or in a house of cards.

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  23. May I ask about a particular point?

    In Dialogue page 245 middle paragraph RYM says that RGS’s claim that all parties agree that a revealed tradition is necessarily true is contradicted by the Maamar Al Haagados saying that anything except Halachah is open to review and rejection.

    Is RYM’s claim true? Why yes or no? Thank you very much.

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    1. Perhaps you should ask Rabbi Gil Student. Personally, I think that RMM and RYM are making something out of nothing. RGS is talking about traditions that were received BY Chazal (and are assumed to date back to SInai), not FROM chazal, and/or halachic traditions. The Maamar Al Ha-agados is not addressing either of those. Regarding the former, Rabbeinu Avraham is not discussing traditions that Chazal received, rather he is discussing Chazal's own assessments. Regarding the latter, Rabbeinu Avraham says explicitly אם הלכה נקבל.

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  24. R. Slifkin, reading your posts, I am fascinated to see how you have remained stuck on this incident so many years later. It is sad to have allowed a disagreement, even if you were unfairly treated, to become an obsession that defines your life. I hope that all your children will remain frum.

    Reading the comments, I am amazed at the level of basic AmHaaratzus. I have read your books and understand the objections of Talmidei Chachamim towards them, and they are very far from the simple straw man that you have built for the past twelve years, as if the ideas of great Talmidei Chachamim can be reduced to cute one-liners 'the gedolim hate science' 'they say Chazal never make mistakes' 'Charedim believe in irrational Judaism, and not in the words of the Rishonim'.

    All this would be revealed as nonsenscial arguments were one to come in to a Bais Medrash and sit and learn for a while.

    R Meiselman wrote a 900 page book, which has much to say. Using your typical manner of discrediting your disputants, you simply mock him: 'he is dishonest', 'modern talmidim of R Soloveichik know Meiselman is a liar',etc.

    These kinds of silly tricks work on the Internet, but in real life, if anyone listened to you standing together with R Meiselman discussing any subject in Torah, the fraud would be revealed. You are not a Talmid Chacham by any standard, and the fact that you continue to misportray the objections of Torah scholars to your own works is the only dishonesty here.

    Nearly every source that you quote betrays a simplistic understanding of deeper ideas (the Gemara in Pesachim and the path of the sun is a good place to start). The fact that your small fan club here doesn't notice merely indicates that their own world is very far from the Bais Medrash as well.

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    1. If R. Slifkin is stuck on this issue, it may be because it has a tendency to remain stuck to HIM.

      Consider that TC&S was published in the fall of 2013. Dialogue's next issue was Fall 2014, so you can figure a nine- to twelve-month interval between--plenty of time to read and review a book the magazine seems to consider very important.

      But R. Menken's review didn't appear until the NEXT issue, publication date Winter 2016, well over a year after THAT. If the anti-rationalists aren't intent on keeping the issue alive, why publish the review NOW?

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    2. I hope your children stay frum as well, as you engage in ad hominem attacks not only against the author but his commenters as well. Who makes an anonymous commenter the arbiter of who is and who isn't a talmid chacham? Im davening for your kids.

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    3. An additional response to the matter of being "stuck" on the issue.

      I don't know if the various persons mentioned in R. Slifkin's post were thinking strategically, as he claims. But I DO know that the non-rationalist camp includes people with POWER, which they abuse, often contrary to halacha and to the mesorah they claim to cherish so deeply.

      It's non-rationalists who prohibit photographs of women; the Jewish Press seems comfortable enough flouting this "mesorah."

      It's non-rationalists who have rewritten the halachot of yichud to the point of segregation of sexes to sidewalks on opposite sides of the street.

      Beyond that, we find the ANTI-rationalists who banned Adin Steinsaltz's books, leading him (according to my late Rav, Eliezer Cohen) to recant. Anti-rationalists banned R. Slifkin's books, leading to abandonment by his publisher, removal of his name from books in which it appeared, and requests for his resignation from schools that employed him.

      Anti-rationalists moved Rabbi Marc Angel to write:

      "... we should also be concerned about the scandal of what is being foisted upon the public as 'true Judaism.' At an Eternal Jewish Family conference, Rabbi Nachum Eisenstein stated that Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, one of the Haredi world's leading authorities, holds that any rabbi who believes the world is more than approximately 6,000 years old should not serve on the rabbinic courts that perform conversions" (https://www.jewishideas.org/min-hamuvhar/return-conversion-rabbis).

      No one reading this would dispute R. Elyashiv's (a"h) power.

      The attackers have power, they abuse their power, and their attacks have not stopped. Thus neither can the counterattacks stop.

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    4. Rabbi Harry Maryles talks about right-wing abuse of power here: http://haemtza.blogspot.com/2009/12/eternal-jewish-con-of-leib-tropper.html.

      Consider the A-list panel of anti-rationalists shown, and consider that they wouldn't have aligned themselves with Leib Tropper if they hadn't shared his hashkafa.

      He also has a post confirming how anti-rationalists regard rationalism as kefirah: http://haemtza.blogspot.com/2007/11/eisensteins-war-against-jews_10.html.

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  25. Amazing! You write an extremely lengthy comment, in which you accuse me of using insults instead of reasoned arguments. Yet the fact is that all my posts about R. Meiselman are full of reasoned arguments, and your lengthy comment includes no actual arguments at all! All you do is mock me and the thousands of people who read this blog!

    Also, regarding your claim that I am "stuck on this so many years later," can I point out that Rabbi Meiselman's book came out so many years later. So would you describe Rabbi Meiselman as being stuck on it?

    I agree with you that the Gemara in Pesachim and the path of the sun is a good place to start. So please start by explaining why I am being "simplistic" in saying that the approach of most Rishonim and many Acharonim should be considered legitimate.

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  26. We say each Shabbos: הפותח בכל יום דלתות שערי מזרח ובוקע חלוני רקיע. You can see a good explanation if you study שיח יצחק of R Yitzchak Isaak Chaver.

    Obviously, Talmidei Chachamim all study Rishonim and Acharonim and hold the Baalei Mesorah to be legitimate. These games you play work on the Internet with your reading public, but wouldn't last five minutes in a Bais Medrash, so a debate here is really not feasible.

    The reality has been pointed out above in one the earlier comments - while your virtual arguments against R Meiselman make sense on your computer screen, R Meiselman has a few thousand real live practicing Talmidim raising their Jewish families. Your readership only goes from your page to the next blog, and cannot even read one Tosafos straight, let alone one Mesechta, and are probably completely unfamiliar, or never thought about, how the words above, taken from Shacharis reflect upon the Gemara in Pesach 94/thay supposedly proves all those rabbis wrong. But, they feel confident in your ability to argue with the Vilna Gaon, Nefesh HaChaim, Maharal, etc -

    I wish you all the best, but grow up, please.

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    1. I am perfectly aware of the numerous creative interpretations regarding the Rakia. But exactly how do they demonstrate that (a) they are true, and (b) that the straightforward explanations of all the Rishonim and Acharonim are wrong and unacceptable?

      Can I also make a recommendation for your future comments. About a tenth of your comment contained substance, the rest was just insults to me and all the readers here. It doesn't make you look good.

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  27. The authority of Torah is predicated on the authentic teachings of the Baalei Mesorah throughout the generations. Their interpretations are considered to be revelations of deeper truths, and not merely personal opinions of isolated individuals that can be easily discarded.

    When you refer to explanations of the Vilna Gaon (or his Talmidim) as 'creative', you have undermined the entire transmission of the Torah. Further, they did not see themselves, as you do, as presenting an entirely different approach than the recognized Rishonim.

    This approach thar you champion is merely an echo of what Conservative Judaism believed, and it is no wonder that so many of your readers claim - well, why should we believe in anything?

    It is for these, among other reasons that your works were challenged - for undermining the Torah for the sake of modernity, and not as you claim Toah/science, 'rationalist Rishonim' and other clichés that make for good headlines and soundbites.

    If you do not believe what you read every morning, or explain it away by claiming the Siddur is poetic hyperbole, I don't know if your rationalist Judaism will see your own children praying from our Siddur when the time comes that they think on their own.

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    1. Afrumrabbi, it is likely futile to enter into a discussion with someone who simply takes an ideological stance on the issue of the knowledge of the sages and the 'ba'alei mesorah' without a reasoned defense of that position. Let me try this tack, however, and see how you would attempt to refute it.
      The Tosafot on Eruvin 76b s.v. Rabbe Yochanan conclude that both R' Yochanan in the sugya and the Gemara in Succah 8b misinterpreted the geometric rule of the judges/sages of Caesaria by assuming that they were dealing with perimeters of circles and inscribed and outer squares, whereas they were really dealing with their areas. The Gemara in Succah rejects the Caesarian rule that a square is greater than the enclosed circle by half based on their understanding. It is possible, however, that R' Yochanan in Succah was referring to a circular Succah needing an area of 24 sq. amot in order to contain a minimal square of 4x4 amot (Rebbe's shiur), and that the Gemara misinterpreted his viewpoint (as implied in the Tosafot). However, in Eruvin, he clearly refers to the perimeter of the circular hole in a wall separating 2 yards as being minimally 24 tefachim with the bottom reaching just below 8 tefachim from the ground. This is to allow an inscribed theoretical square of 4x4 tefachim to come just below 10 tefachim. While the 24 ama requirement appears to stem from the misinterpretation of the Caesarian rule (the perimeter of the inner theoretical square is 16 tefachim, making the circumference 24 tefachim according to this understanding of the rule). If the circumference is 24, then the diameter is 8 (taking pi as 3 - the talmudic approximation). Such a diameter is equal to the sum of the 4 tefach sides rather than the usual talmudic approximation of 1.4 x the side. In any case, if the vertical diameter is 8 then the parts of the circle above and below the square are 2, and R' Yochanan's view is self-consistent, albeit incorrect. Thus, the Tosafot clearly state that both the Gemara in Succah and R' Yochanan in Eruvin were mistaken. How is that for Ashkenazy 'mesorah'?
      Now comes the interesting part. The glosses of the Gra on the page in Eruvin and Succah reveal that the Gra is aghast (chas veshalom shetau) at the conclusion in the above Tosafot. He attempts to rationalize R' Yochanan's 24 tefachim as referring not to the circular perimeter but to the perimeter of an outer square which is 16*sq.rt 2, or 22.6 tefachim. The Gra even uses a relatively accurate value for sq. rt 2 to get that result, which is still less than the 24 tefachim that R' Yochanan uses. The 2 tefachim that R' Yochanan's circle reaches below the hypothetical enclosed square is then taken as the arc distance of circle from the lower corner of the square to the bottom of the circle (The Gra takes it as 2.1, which hearkens back to a circumference of 16.8 based now on the general talmudic approximation of pi as 3 and sq. rt. 2 as 1.4). This approach appears to be contrived rather than logical (shall we say, creative). If such an attitude is worthy of condemnation, what about the Gra disputing the Tosafot? Is he a 'ba'al mesorah', but not they? When he dismisses the Rambam's view of Shaidim as being under the influence of 'accursed philosophy' does that imply that the Rambam, the primary source and wording of canonical halacha, is not a 'ba'al mesorah'? It would seem that your view of who and what is considered part of the 'mesorah' is rather arbitrary.

      Y. Aharon

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    2. Predicted response: No serious Talmid Chacham is bothered by such questions :).

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  28. "The authority of Torah is predicated on the authentic teachings of the Baalei Mesorah throughout the generations. Their interpretations are considered to be revelations of deeper truths, and not merely personal opinions of isolated individuals that can be easily discarded."

    The Baalei Mesorah considered otherwise. The Vilna Gaon did not see the approach of Rambam as "revelations of deeper truths," but rather as false creations based on Greek philosophy. Likewise, there were those who saw kabbalah and chassidus as being novel and false ideas rather than "revelations of deeper truths".

    "When you refer to explanations of the Vilna Gaon (or his Talmidim) as 'creative', you have undermined the entire transmission of the Torah."

    It is a simple fact that the approach of many early Acharonim towards the Gemara in Pesachim is not rooted in anything said by the Rishonim. "Creative" is a simple factual description.

    "Further, they did not see themselves, as you do, as presenting an entirely different approach than the recognized Rishonim."

    If they were honest, they must have done. It cannot have failed to occur to them that they were presenting new approaches that had no historical precedent.

    "This approach thar you champion is merely an echo of what Conservative Judaism believed, and it is no wonder that so many of your readers claim - well, why should we believe in anything?"

    It's also an echo of what Rambam and Rav Hirsch and countless other traditional rabbinic scholars believed.

    "If you do not believe what you read every morning, or explain it away by claiming the Siddur is poetic hyperbole, I don't know if your rationalist Judaism will see your own children praying from our Siddur when the time comes that they think on their own."

    That is indeed possible. But it's equally true to say that if you insist that Chazal were never mistaken about science, I don't know if your traditionalist Judaism will see your own children praying from our Siddur when the time comes that they think on their own.

    Finally, and most importantly: Note that you still have not presented an explanation as to why the straightforward explanation of the Gemara in Pesachim given by countless Rishonim and Acharonim is wrong and heretical.

    Or, to put it another way: The authority of Torah is predicated on the authentic teachings of the Baalei Mesorah throughout the generations. Their interpretations are considered to be revelations of deeper truths, and not merely personal opinions of isolated individuals that can be easily discarded. When you rate the explanations of the majority of Rishonim and countless Acharonim as being false and forbidden and heretical, you have undermined the entire transmission of the Torah.

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  29. Here are the words of Maharam Schick, which you are apparently discarding without justification:

    Regarding the question concerning what is written in Tosafot, Berachot 2b, s.v. “dilma,” in Rashi, Pesachim 93b, s.v. “mei’alot hashachar,” and in several other places, that the sun enters into the thickness of the firmament [at night]—which contradicts the conclusion of the Gemara on Pesachim 94b, where Rebbi says, “Their view (that the sun travels beneath the earth at night) appears more correct (nir’in) than our own”; and where the word nir’in is used, Tosafot on Eruvin 46b, s.v. “Rabbi Eliezer etc.” writes that we rule accordingly, and the Rosh, in Chapter Kol Sha’ah, and the Tur and Beit Yosef (Orach Chaim 455) concur, as they quote from Rabbi Eliezer of Metz that the sun travels beneath the earth at night, and we therefore knead matzah dough only with water that has sat at least one night since being drawn. Even more perplexing (than Rashi and Tosafot’s contradiction to the Gemara’s conclusion) is the statement established in the Shabbat prayers: “He who opens daily the doors of the gates of the east and breaches the windows of the sky; He brings the sun out from its place, and the moon from its resting-place, and illuminates the world”—which implicitly concurs with the view that the sun enters the thickness of the firmament at night.
    It seems to me that matters that were not received by the Sages as halachah leMoshe miSinai, but rather which they said according to their own reasoning—and with something that is not received [from Sinai] and has no root in our Torah, but rather comes from investigation and experience, it is difficult to determine [that it is true]. And there are many occasions when the sages determined, according to their own intellects, that a matter was a certain way, and the subsequent generation analyzed the matter further and disputed the earlier view. Any conclusion drawn from experimentation can only be considered probable, [not certain]. Indeed, in the dispute on Pesachim 94b, Rebbi said that the gentile sages’ view appeared more correct, but he did not express certainty; for a matter like this, which is investigated only by finding evidence [of one view or the other], cannot be resolved with certainty. In truth, according to the reading of the Gemara found in The Guide for the Perplexed, the Jewish sages recanted their position; but according to our reading, Rebbi said only that the gentile sages’ view appears more correct...
    Regarding the fundamental issue: the text of the [Shabbat] prayer quoted above has already been questioned in Sefer HaBrit, ma’amar 4 – Shnei Me’orot, Chap. 20, where he explains that it is the poetic style to describe things based on how they appear to the human observer [as opposed to how they really happen]. Regardless, in our Gemara it is not decided one way or the other, and we must therefore observe the stringencies resultant from each view. Therefore with regard to water passing the night we implement the stringency resulting from the gentile scholars’ view; while Rashi and Tosafot described the sun’s movement according to the Jewish sages of the time of the dispute in the Talmud. Although scientists now agree—and it is apparent to the eye and by experimentation—that the sun travels below the earth at night, the Shabbat prayer describes it based on how it appears to us... (Responsa Maharam Schick, Responsum #7)

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    1. Figures that you would quote a Maskil :).

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    2. I did look carefully at the Maharam Shick, and also at the Sefer HaBris that he cites in support. As is often the case, you misrepresent his position. If anything, studying carefully both these sources indicate they hold of precisely the approach that I presented. In addition, taken together you will see how the traditional views are resolved in this same manner, and your frequent refrain citing the Gemara of Pesachim 94B is not considered to be a serious challenge.

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    3. you come across as a knowledgeable person. but so do the people who are arguing with you. present your case so we can judge.

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    4. Part of the problem is reducing pages of Teshuvos, each of which requires a few hours of study and have many prerequisites (Sefer HaBris is full of many Kabbalistic sections), and summarizing this onto a few lines, which obviously will distort their meaning and process. There is no shortcut to sitting and learning with focused attention. I am sorry - I would be happy to learn with you, but I cannot explain any more than I did in this forum. You can write to me at: afrumrabbi@gmail.com, if you are interested.

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    5. Maharam Schik's tshuva isn't pages long, nor does it require hours of study. (By the way, do you believe Maharam Schik should be מתפרשת מתוך עצמה?)

      Is anything complicated when Maharam Schik says, "It seems to me that matters that were not received by the Sages as halachah leMoshe miSinai, but rather which they said according to their own reasoning—and with something that is not received [from Sinai] and has no root in our Torah, but rather comes from investigation and experience, it is difficult to determine [that it is true]." (R Slifkin's translation--if you don't like it offer your own.)

      Why does anyone need to be busy learning רעק"א in the beis midrash to understand what Maharam Schik is saying?

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  30. Why do you think Rabbi Meiselman is just another type of anti-rationalist trying to make the rationalist approach heretical? He seems to hold of the Rambam's approach (as he understands it) quite consistently.

    Maybe he is just a different type of rationalist trying to make your type of rationalist approach heretical?

    And if you do think it's just rationalism vs. anti-rationalism, then you have just supplied the answer to why no-one confronts your critiques.

    It's not because they must be afraid of losing (which sounds a little self-serving if you ask me), 'tis simply because there truly is no point in debating someone who has a completely different epistemology than you do!

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    1. Yes, Rabbi Meiselman holds of the Rambam's approach - as he understands it. However, nobody else thinks that Rambam actually has that approach.

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  31. does this really bring anyone closer to hashem ? or bring achdut to am yisrael ? PEACE & LOVE \/

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    1. Regrettably, no. And we won't have either without mutual respect.

      I've been trying to soften the rhetoric from this side of the fence, whose host has managed to find some merit in his opponents' position. It'd help if someone would do the same for the side that's issuing bans and ruining lives.

      Yours,
      The two-T Elliott

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    2. Your right i just feel like this has transformed from a search for the truth to a game where were just trying to show the "other side" wrong the contents is not as important anymore but rather who is right and who is wrong,

      Yours Truly
      The 1-T Elliot

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