Sunday, June 18, 2017

When Snails Attack Gedoylei Toyrah

Two weeks ago, we heard R. Dovid Lichtenstein's fascinating interview with Rav Nochum Eisenstein, in which the latter said that there is no particular problem of charedi poverty, and to the extent that there is a problem, the best way to solve it is not to talk about it, lest one prevent miracles from helping people. This week, R. Lichtenstein interviews Rav Eisenstein again, this time about techeles, and the response is no less fascinating.

R. Dovid points out that there are innumerable lines of evidence all converging to the conclusion that the Murex trunculus snail is the source of techeles. Why, then, is the general charedi practice not to wear it?

Rav Eisenstein explodes. He screams about how anyone wearing techeles is attacking the Gedoylei Toyrah, who said not to wear it. He yells that they are exhibiting chutzpah, claiming that they are smarter than the Gedolim, and they are contravening the mitzvah to listen to the chachomim.

But what is the actual reason why the Gedoylei Toyrah are against it? Rav Eisenstein vacillates on this. At times, he says that the proofs for the Murex are not absolute and could easily be overturned tomorrow and the Gedolim certainly heard all the proofs and found them lacking. But at other times, he shouts that it doesn't matter what the proofs are, the mesorah is not to wear techeles, and we don't change the mesorah for anything.

R. Lichtenstein pushes hard. He raises several examples from history where great Rishonim and Acharonim did indeed evaluate scientific and other lines of evidence to adjust halachic practice. Rav Eisenstein avoids answering these questions and keeps yelling about Gedoylim and Mesoyrah.

Now, contrary to what you might expect, I actually agree with Rav Eisenstein to a large extent (as I discussed a few years ago). I do not wear techeles (though I certainly don't object to others wearing it). This is not because I have any doubts that the Murex trunculus is the correct source of techeles; I am certain that it is (for reasons that I discussed in my post about my murex-hunting expedition). Rather, it is because I am strong believer in being conservative with regard to halachic practice. Especially since my field of study - the intersection between Torah and the natural sciences - so often leads to the conclusion that earlier generations were mistaken in their beliefs, I think that it's particularly important for me to be conservative about halachah.

Rav Herzog and others stated that Chazal's ruling about killing lice on Shabbos remains in force even though it was based upon the mistaken belief in spontaneous generation, due to the canonization of halachah - a topic that I explained at length in the final chapter of Sacred Monsters. The canonization of practice is especially important in the modern era, when traditional Judaism is under such threat from both academic investigation and social forces. Critical investigation into traditional sources is a Pandora's Box. When restricted to the realm of theory and belief, it is harmful, but unavoidable. Letting it affect halachic practice, on the other hand, is something that can and should be avoided wherever possible. Those who say otherwise often don't realize how far down the rabbit hole this path leads.

(Having an olive-sized kezayis and eating locusts are not a violation of that approach. In both those cases, there were still those who always had a tradition of acting that way.)

But I part company from Rav Eisenstein on two issues. First, Rav Eisenstein attempts to claim that this is always how things were. It's not. As R. Lichtenstein ably demonstrates, the Rishonim and early Acharonim did not act this way; they were ready to re-evaluate practice in light of new evidence. This approach is a new one, and it is a response to the threat of modernity. Rav Eisenstein keeps yelling that "Chadash assur min haTorah", but apparently is not aware that this approach is itself new. Again, it's an approach that's understandable and necessary - see my monograph on the development of Orthodoxy for a longer discussion - but it's new.

The second is that, notwithstanding the arguments that I presented above, one could still certainly cogently argue that techeles is a mitzvah and one should wear it. And it's perfectly legitimate for someone to decide that way. This is not an "attack on the Gedoylim" or a "contravention of the mitzvah to listen to the chachomim." The latter is applicable to the Beis Din HaGadol, not to the contemporary chareidi pantheon. A person is perfectly entitled to have a different rabbinic authority, or even to decide matters himself if he is competent. See my post from six years ago, Disputes vs. Deference, where I explain at length why it is perfectly legitimate for a person to dispute "The Gedolim." In that post I discuss a particularly important responsum from Rav Moshe Feinstein, where he permits (and even encourages) a young rabbi to follow his own views against the Chazon Ish. The notion that it is forbidden for, say, Rav Hershel Schechter to decide to wear techeles, is absurd and has no basis in halachah.

And it's also against the Mesoyrah.

136 comments:

  1. I'm under the impression that some chassidic rebbeium say that the discovery of techeles is a sign of moshiachs imminence. Perhaps I'm paraphrasing liberally. The point remains, couldn't it be argued that the gedolim who speak against techeles are preventing moshiach from coming?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here is a letter from a benei berak rosh yeshiva that addresses these points very well, betuv ta'am veda'as, cogently and accurately, in words that are mi'ut hamachzik as hamerubah.
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=578168832356882

    ReplyDelete
  3. R' Natan, I fail to understand why your halachic conservatism disallows techeilet while using a much smaller 'kazayit' measure than the traditional Ashkenazy 1/2 or 1/3 of an egg volume. I'm not aware that there is an halacha to not don techeilet. It's just that the source and dyeing method had become lost in antiquity. Why should there be an objection to fulfilling a clear torah command once the source and dyeing method were recovered? On the other hand, clear Ashkenazy tradition was to assume a large zayit for mitzvot, i.e., matzoh. If the Netziv and possibly others argued for a realistic zayit shiur, that was an deviation from traditional Ashkenazy practice. Why is that acceptable, but not wearing techeilet in our tzitzit?

    Y. Aharon

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just as an FYI - Rav Yisroel Belsky ZT"L accepted the scientific evidence on the Murex, and wore Techeiles on his Talis Katan on Shabbos. I know this as I personally saw it and discussed it with him. He said that the reason he only wore it on Shabbos and only on his Talis Katan was that he did not want to be obvious about it - he thought it might be Yuhara - but on Shabbos, he wore a Kappota (long rabbinic frock), which covered the Tzitzis of his Talis Katan.

    Then again, Rav Belsky was one of a kind in many ways.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Moshe Mordechai Karp, the latter being one of Rav Elyashiv's most prominent talmidim (an actual posek, not just a hanger-on), would disagree not only with Rav Nachum, but with you.

    They both maintain that someone who has investigated murex techeiles and thinks it's the real thing is OBLIGATED to wear it.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed. I don't understand how alleged meta-halachic principles like "respect for Gedoylim" or "conservatism of halacha" can justify a bitul aseh. (Of course it's quite another matter if you aren't convinced that the murex is techelet.)

      Delete
    2. R. Slifkin, are you sure that's a rabbit hole, and not a hyrax hole?

      Delete
    3. Pleases please, enough hare splitting!

      Delete
  6. Why do you consider wearing techeilet per the identification of the chilazon a Halakhic novelty that one who's "conservative about halachah" can/should ignore? There is no change whatsoever in the halakhic code or canon; the only issue is a zoological identification of an established halakhic entity. Halakha itself does not undergo any change.
    Killing lice on Shabbos is an entirely different issue; forbidding the practice expressly contradicts a specific accepted ruling.

    R Stefansky

    ReplyDelete
  7. Not sure that I agree with the analogies. There is no re-evaluation of halacha or practice here. The halachah was always that we should wear Techeiles. It just wasn't practical because it wasn't available. I think that this could be better analogized to Ashkenazim not eating locusts.

    That said, I do get the conservatism as long as some problems remain, and there does seem to be factual dispute as to whether they had a analogous process to produce the blue color as is used today by the modern Techeiles makers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This 'factual dispute' is of zero relevance whatsoever. There is no source that implies in any way whatsoever that a particular process is needed for the dye to be kosher.

      The increasingly bizarre contortions that people are willing to go to find reasons not to perform an easy mitzvah that they read about twice a day is a thing to behold. It's enough to make one wonder whether this sitra acher thing really does exist (ר''ל).

      Delete
    2. This 'factual dispute' is of zero relevance whatsoever. There is no source that implies in any way whatsoever that a particular process is needed for the dye to be kosher.

      Well, let's start off simpler. Would it be kosher if it was purple (Argaman)?

      Delete
    3. Tyrian purple, which some claim is Argaman, is made from a different snail, the Murex Brandaris. The purple-indigo colour made by the Murex Trunculus under certain conditions (which are actually hard to create outside a lab) is not, according to anyone, Argaman. If memory serves, the false claim that the Murex Trunculus also produces Argaman comes from a an extremely poorly argued tract by some unworldly chap in Bnei Brak.

      If you are asking whether the purple-indigo colour would be kosher ... Who cares? We know that the pure indigo-blue colour is kosher. How on earth would such a question exempt anyone from anything? It's like saying 'I'm not sure whether an Italian etrog is kosher, so I won't take an etrog at all'.

      Delete
    4. We know that the pure indigo-blue colour is kosher.

      How do you know that? Maybe the violet is the right color and indigo-blue is no good. For example see here:

      Ancient recipes for making imitation tekhelet substantiate that ancient tekhelet was a violet colour. Thus a 7th-century document recently discovered describes the imitation of hyacinthine purple by double dyeing with woad and madder. This chemical composition has also been reported in a new analysis of the violet wool tassel from the Dead Sea Cave of the Letters, previously considered to have been dyed with woad and kermes as an imitation of tekhelet for use on ritual tassels. Such a dye combination corresponds to the Talmudic description (Midrash Sifrey, on Numbers 14:41) of forging ritual tekhelet: ‘Behold! I use red dye and indigo so that they resemble tekhelet: who could then expose me?’


      The hyacinth connection

      Tekhelet was translated ‘hyacinth’ in Greek by Hellenistic Jews and in Latin by the Romans. What does the term signify in this context? In classical Greek, ‘hyacinth’ had meant a flower and not murex purple. In the Hellenistic period, however, several Jewish translations of the Bible into Greek appeared, in which tekhelet was consistently rendered ‘hyacinth’. This translation is surely authentic, having been made at a time when the use of tekhelet in the Second Temple was completely familiar to both the translators and their readers. The new usage of ‘hyacinth’ for a dyestuff would appear to have derived from its similar hue to Hyacinthus orientalis L., a violet-coloured flower native to the Phoenician hinterland.

      Concurrent with this usage in Hellenistic Greek, ‘hyacinth’ was one of the two classes of purple dyeing described in Latin by the Elder Pliny (Book XXI.xxii.45–6; also called ‘amethyst’ and ‘ianthine’).18 In an earlier passage (Book IX.lxi.130–lxiv.140), Pliny describes two hyacinthine dyeings: namely, hyacinthine purple, made from a mixture of bucinum and pelagia molluscs, and a paler one (also called conchylia), made from pelagia alone.19 Bucinum appears to be today’s dogwinkle, while pelagia is a category for the various dye-murexes.20 Thus Pliny’s description of ‘hyacinth’ is compatible with identification of banded dye-murex as the source for tekhelet. In classical Greek, two terms describe the colour purple.21 Porphorous is from porphora, murex shellfish. Phoinikous means red, scarlet or purple: it is of uncertain origin and was not used for murex. Did they perhaps correspond to the two purple products, hyacinthine and Tyrian?

      [...]

      Delete
    5. Photolytic debromination

      In order to produce a bluish colour that could be marketed as tekhelet for the ritual tassels, the purple from banded murex (largely MBI) has been photolytically debrominated to indigotin, which was vat-dyed in situ onto wool.31 Driessen discovered photolytic debromination of DBI in 1944.32 An aqueous solution of the halogen-containing indigoid in the leucoform is first prepared by reaction with the powerful reducing agent sodium dithionite. Then the solution is exposed to sunlight or an equivalent ultraviolet source, while held in a transparent glass vessel for effective irradiation. But dithionite is a modern synthetic reagent that was not known in antiquity, and neither were glass reaction vessels. Therefore it is questionable whether photolytic debromination was available in antiquity to make indigotin. Furthermore, it would have been unnecessary in that era to make indigotin from purple, considering the ready availability of inexpensive woad and/or indigo from plants, then used for producing indigotin dye. Besides, the highly precious value of the purple dye would have been squandered. But it should now be possible to prove murex provenance of an indigotin dyeing by using analytical chemistry. A diagnostic test could be performed by high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). This sensitive technique can detect the presence of residual traces of DBI and MBI that are too minute to affect the colour, but must be present in every dyestuff originating in shellfish. HPLC analysis of archaeological textiles dyed blue with indigotin has not hitherto detected a vestige of brominated indigotin.33 Accordingly, they are vegetable dyes, either woad or indigo. Hence, analytical evidence has not yet been presented to suggest that shellfish were used for dyeing blue by debromination of purple to indigotin.

      Conclusion

      The new understanding of the status of MBI in the banded dye-murex dye, as described above, should lead to the development of a marketable tekhelet dye that is not merely indigotin. Firstly, the thermal transition of the purple to form blue would seem to be a more acceptable process, as an alternative to photolytic debromination to indigotin. Secondly, investigation of the chemical reactions of the natural dye precursors from banded dye-murex should reveal the empirical conditions required for direct synthesis of a stable dye mixture of indigotin and DBI that resembles the violet colour of the hyacinth flower.

      Delete
    6. As far as which snails produce which color, Murex Trunculus produces all the colors in different proportions and can produce "Tyrian purple":

      [FYI: Banded dye-murex = Trunculus; Spiny dye-murex = Brandaris].

      The revival of tekhelet dyeing in Israel has been undertaken in order to renew its use in ritual corner-tassels. The initiative began with a scientific study that determined the historical source of the required dye to be banded dye-murex, the colour to be violet and the chemical composition to be indigotin and DBI. Experiments with shellfish glands confirmed that a violet colour may be made with banded dye-murex and a purple with spiny dye-murex and with dogwinkle. But usually a purple colour was obtained, which was considered inappropriate as tekhelet since it was the same colour as the Tyrian purple from spiny dye-murex.

      Delete
    7. BTW, the "Photolytic debromination" that the author says would not have been done in ancient times is what the the current Tekhelet people do, IIUC.

      Delete
  8. And it's also against the Mesoyrah.

    Pretty sure that's Mesoyreh. :-D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Should it not be 'mesorah'?
      Where did the 'y' come from but then we are not supposed to ask 'why'!
      Enough nit picking.

      Delete
    2. Nope, both wrong.
      Mesayreh.

      Delete
    3. Let's verify which word we are speaking of:
      Is it מסורה?

      Delete
    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  9. "I think that it's particularly important for me to be conservative about halachah".
    How is it conservative to not perform a mitzvah from the Torah? This doesn't make sense to me. The main objection to techelet is based on ignoring the archeological evidence. The case of the louse on Shabbat is different - that's a law from the Talmud and codified in the Shulchan Aruch. Not wearing techelet is not a halacha from Chazal. It's the ignorance of many modern day leaders.

    ReplyDelete
  10. For video of Rav Chaim, contra Nochum Eisenstein and your own conservativism, http://techeiles.org/debate.php#rck

    For Rav Karp,

    http://techeiles.org/haskamos.php#rmmk

    ReplyDelete
  11. I didn't hear any explosion, screaming or yelling...

    ReplyDelete
  12. We are seeing a similar phenomenon regarding the so-called "New TANACH Studies", which largely originated in the Har Etzion Yeshiva in Gush Etzion, which combine a renewed emphasis on the peshat of the TANACh pasukim along with modern historical and archaelogical studes, combined with the traditional commentaries. Those who oppose it use the argument that it is new, therefore it is invalid.

    A parallel example is the dispute that began more than 100 years ago when new manuscripts of famous halachic and Talmudic commentaries appeared which had variant texts from the known ones and which sometimes clarified difficult passages. Again, the argument was used that since these new versions weren't known in the past, we weren't supposed to have them and so the new, corrected versions should be rejected.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It depends on what you meant by rejection. From a scholarship perspective, it makes sense to use them. But from a halachic perspective, we don't practice based on the most advanced sholarship on what the Talmud means. Tradition plays a large role and that doesn't change with scholarship (at least not directly and immediately).

      Delete
    2. That's interesting. Dangerous, though, from a frum POV. How does one integrate history and archaeology and maintain a traditional understanding of Tanach?

      Delete
    3. G*3-
      We all see that in ambiguous pasukim in the TANACH that the different classical commentators will cover all conceivable permutations of understanding them. If archaeological or historical studies come to light which allows a more clear understanding of the pasukim, we can now say which of the old commentaries "makes the most sense" to us.

      Delete
    4. So archaeology is only used to choose between different traditional interpretations? I guess that could work. Though you still have the danger of legitimizing archaeology and history.

      If archaeology is trusted to tell you that "Ur Kasdim" means, "Ur of the Chaldeans" and not a fiery furnace, then it should follow that it's also trusted to tell you that Yericho didn't have a wall when Yehoshua was supposed to have conquered it, or any one of a hundred other things that undermine the traditional understanding.

      Delete
    5. Why would new manuscripts of "famous halachic and Talmudic commentaries [with] variant texts" be problematic, but corrections that appear in haghos on the very page of the Talmud not be?

      Delete
  13. "A person is perfectly entitled to have a different rabbinic authority, or even to decide matters himself if he is competent."

    Rav Moshe F. writes the same in his hakdamah to Igros Moshe. In fact, it's essentially the main point of the hakdamah.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Arguably, the main objection to techelet is based on the cost.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, if they weren't expensive, they wouldn't be real. :-)

      But seriously, forgo the black hat and get two or three sets. Forgo the shtreimel and get dozens.

      Delete
    2. You can buy the thick Ptil strings separately (ie, no begged) for about $30. So for what many people pay for a weeks use of an esrog, you can have techeleis on both your talis and your tallis kotton, with some extra to spare.

      Delete
    3. Not saying that I buy it, but there has been an argument that if all people who wear Tzitis tried to wear Techeiles, then the cost would skyrocket because the sources would become strained.

      More formally, widespread adoption of Techeleis would move the demand curve to the right, and the current supply curve is probably inelastic (has a steep slope) and it also may be difficult to move the supply curve to the right in response to the move of the demand curve because there are only so many snails available per year.

      Delete
    4. Here is what one of the pro-Tekhelet groups are saying, which indicates that it is simply not possible now for all Tzitzis wearers to use Tekhelet at this time:

      "The trunculus-tekhelet has become available in recent years, but it is not manufactured in sufficient quantities for universal use.

      We are looking for partners with vision, for whom the Jewish tradition, religion and keeping mitzvot are close to their hearts.

      We hope to find people who are interested in our initiative and in our work plan, which includes three years of research and development and then two years of preparation for mass production of tekhelet for the Jewish World, with the aim of reaching:

      50,000 sets in 2017
      100,000 sets in 2018
      250,000 sets in 2020

      The program includes initial marketing through the Internet.

      We are calling upon you to join us, to show interest, to come and hear, to examine our program and to take part in the great challenge of our times – to renew the mitzvah of tekhelet in all Jewry after a break of 1,300 years.

      Delete
  15. The tekhelet produced by the Ptil Tekhelet organization comes with certification of the Badatz Mehadrin of R. Avraham Rubin, whose certification is widely relied on by the Israeli haredi public. Admittedley, the certification only applies to the process, not to the actual identification of the murex as the true tekhelet, but he wouldn't grant the certification if he thought it qualified as a slap in the face to the gedolim.

    ReplyDelete
  16. When I asked Rav D. A. Morgenstern שליט"א about wearing תכלת his answer was that there's a מחלוקת ראשונים how to prepare the die - and the 2 ways are mutually exclusive (either method makes it Pasul for the other opinion). Since this מחלוקת was never resolved (as it wasn't of practical relevance) we "don't know how to proceed".

    He didn't tell me what the מחלוקת was.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Danny, as I recall there may be a dispute between the Rambam and possibly the Aruch (an early Rishon)as to the use of 'samemanim' (chemicals) in the dyebath. I don't know that this issue would invalidate the techeilet dye as long as the snail origin and color produced were correct. It's unlikely that either savant knew the process since the dye production was secretive and had been abandoned centuries before their time. In any case, the process used by the Ptil Tekheiet people differs significantly from what is known of the ancient practice - at least that described by Pliny, the Roman historian. In that process the Murex gland is extracted and kept in brine until ready for use. Then the collection of Murex glands is slow cooked for a number of days to cook the meaty portion and allow it to be separated from the liquid. There is much bacteria that grows in the broth under those conditions. These bacteria reduce the dye materiai to a soluble form. The tzitzit (or the wool yarn) is dipped in the clarified broth and turns into the blue dye upon exposure to air (and the sun). In contrast, the Ptil process first dries the smelly glandular extract in air. The powdered material is then placed in a glass beaker containing a chemical bath - including a strong reducing agent, to form the soluble dye component. The insoluble blue color forms on the tzitzit upon removal from the bath in air and the presence of sunlight. The dye process is thus different from what we gather in ancient sources, but the color may be the same. It seems to me that it's the Murex Trunculus dye source and the color produced that is the key, rather than the process.

      Y. Aharon

      Delete
    2. Y. Aharon, I don't understand the Chemistry like you do, but there is some disagreement about whether or not the ancients could have got blue out of the Murex because there would be no step of exposure to the Sun. I'd have to google again to find the places where this dispute is recorded.

      Delete
  17. The subject of the post seems mocking Gedoylei Torah or take them likely. Is there no concern about loosing olam haba?

    ReplyDelete
  18. the shiurim i've heard on the "downside" of wearing tcheilet focus on the titzit not being the same color as the beged (imho not overwhelming), so as r'hs says (and i wonder especially about briskers) if u have an opportunity to maybe get a torah mitzvah (me-especially tzitzit which was kiyumit and we made chiyuvit), why wouldn't you? (except for the chadash argument)
    KT

    ReplyDelete
  19. I understand some have an argument that if there is even a small doubt we don't wear T'cheiles because of Godol Mitzvas Lavan etc. Most arguments against T'cheiles were already dealt with by the Radzyner, who was quite probably greater than R' Eisenstein.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "the Radzyner, who was quite probably greater than R' Eisenstein."

      For sure. But if "greater" matters, the hundreds? of Rabbonim who didn't act on the Radzyner's recommendation need also to be put on the scale.

      Delete
  20. "The latter is applicable to the Beis Din HaGadol, not to the contemporary chareidi pantheon."

    merriam-webster.com offers four definitions for "pantheon." I assume you mean "a group of illustrious or notable persons or things," and not "the gods of a people; especially the officially recognized gods."

    I hope the same is also true of their constituency. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Isn't the pronunciation of the cholem as "oy" (or "oi") also based on an individual's mesorah? Why mock it?

    Andy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not mocking the mesorah. In many communities here, charedi deliberately emphasize the "oy" to sound more frum. And thus non-charedim will mock that in turn.

      Delete
    2. And your evidence that they deliberately emphasize the "oy" in order to sound more frum is......?

      Is this typical thinking among Daati Leumi? Or just your own opinion?

      Andy

      Delete
    3. Andy - of course some people were taught from birth to speak that way, that's obvious. But have you never been to a yeshivah? Changing one's pronunciation, along with dress, to accord with charedi norms is a time-honored step in the "frumming out" process. And that includes emphasizing the oy or the aiy as the case may be.

      Delete
    4. So you believe that R' Slifkin was mocking only those who CHANGED their pronunciation to accord with Chareidi norms, in order to sound more frum.

      Do you know for a fact that R' Eisenstein, whose pronunciation he mocked, is one of those who changed?

      Andy

      Andy

      Delete
    5. After the Slifkin affair 12 years ago, I knew I could never be a Chareidi. And I've come to believe that the Dati Leumi do have a point about Chareidim needing to join the work force and the army.

      But we have here gratuitous mocking of a man because of his valid mesorah on the pronunciation of a cholem, and NO ONE ON THIS BOARD THINKS THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG.

      This is why I don't blame Chareidim for not trusting that Dati Leumi speaks to them and about them in complete good faith. There's just a bit of gratuitous hatred mixed in with the admittedly valid points, for some in the Dati Leumi camp.

      Andy

      Delete
    6. I would never mock anyone for their mesorah of how to speak. This has to do with a way of sounding frum. I didn't come up with this observation - it's commonly made here. I suspect that you don't live in Israel.

      Delete
    7. Andy-I suggest you read Prof Marc Shapiro's book "Changing the Immutable" and see how Rav Kook has been completely written out of Jewish history by Haredi propagandists in ways that are completely bizarre, such as publishing the hesped of Rav Kook given by a relative of Rav Haim Ozer Grodzinski in which Rav Kook's name is completely expunged so the reader has no idea whom the hesped is for. This tiny example of a much larger phenomenon might give you a taste of why many DL people are not completely comfortable with the Haredi world. To call it "gratuitous hatred" is going too far....I would call it "problematic channels of communication".

      Delete
    8. R' Slifkin--

      Do you have evidence that R' Eisenstein originally pronounced his cholem as "o", but changed to "oi" in order to sound more frum? That's a yes or a no.

      If the answer is "no", then would you at least consider the possibility that there's just a bit of gratuitous hatred mixed in with the admittedly valid points, for some in the Dati Leumi camp?

      I'm surprised to hear you of all people rely on "commonly made" observations. You mocked a specific individual for a specific pronunciation, and assigned a motive ("appearing frum") to it. Doesn't this require evidence, or at least some indications?

      Andy

      Delete
    9. To Y. Ben-David:
      If you read Prof. Shapiro's book, you know that the censorship of Rav Kook is more extreme, and more substantive, in the Dati circles than in the chareidi circles.

      Delete
    10. Andy: rav Eisenstein is from schicawgo. His masorah is Chicago. Not yerushalmi.

      Delete
    11. But we have here gratuitous mocking of a man because of his valid mesorah on the pronunciation of a cholem

      A Mesorah that stretches back a few hundred years, to Eastern Europe, isn't much of a Mesorah. Considering the importance Charedim supposedly put on Lashon Hakodesh, you'd think they'd learn something about it.

      Nothing is sillier sounding to me than an Israeli accent and a Yeshivish mispronunciation.

      Delete
    12. Yehoshua-Not sure what you are referring to regarding supposed "DL censorship of Rav Kook". Much of the Haredi world have turned him into a non-person. I am aware that there were arguments regarding the withholding from publication of some of his works, and there are certain DL's who say that his teachings are no longer relevant today, but at least some of his unpublished works HAVE been released and most DL's don't agree with the "no longer relevant" arguement, so I am not sure what you are talking about.

      Delete
    13. Andy - I don't know R. Eisenstein's history, though I wonder if someone called Norman attending HTC in the 1960s spoke that way. However, spelling their pronunciation in the way that such people say it, e.g. Toyreh, is often done in literature - because that's the way that they say it!

      Delete
    14. MiMedinat HaYam---

      You know for a fact that NO Chicagoans pronounce the cholem as "oi"? I know for a fact that there are PLENTY of Americans who do.

      Avi---

      There are examples in standard Ivrit that are probably not the way they were pronounced at Sinai--the chof and the chet the same; tof and tet the same. Certainly no one should be mocked for that reason, correct?

      Andy

      Delete
    15. R' Slifkin--

      If R' Eisenstein's family was Yiddish-speaking from Eastern Europe, then there's a good chance that they DID pronounce it that way.

      You did not mean it as mockery?? Not even a little bit? Just as literature?


      Andy

      Delete
    16. However, spelling their pronunciation in the way that such people say it, e.g. Toyreh, is often done in literature - because that's the way that they say it!

      Perhaps, but that's not why you did it :).

      Delete
    17. This is why I don't blame Chareidim for not trusting that Dati Leumi speaks to them and about them in complete good faith. There's just a bit of gratuitous hatred mixed in with the admittedly valid points, for some in the Dati Leumi camp.

      I don't think that the mocking of the pronunciation moves the ball forward, but your generalization is unwarranted. The Charedim don't recognize the existence of non-Charedi Talmidei Chachamim, while those to the left (DL and other more centrist groups) generally recognize those to the right, even when they disagree with them. There is a fundamental asymmetry that won't go away just because you find some unfortunate mockery on a blog.

      There is the issue of an orphan begging for a lenient sentence for patricide. When you delegitimize everyone else, then you are likely to engender resentment. Using that as a justification for your delegitimization of others is quite circular.

      Delete
    18. It is hard to keep track of threads here, but responding to Y. Ben-David: The Dati censorship of Rav Kook began with R' Tzvi Yehuda changing his wording in Orot HaTorah and has continued until this day. You are correct that b"h there are some subversives in the Dati community who have essentially stolen some of Rav Kook's suppressed writings and published them. But other writings are still suppressed, and many in the Dati community outlaw learning the works that have been recently published. This was done deliberately in order to keep people in the dark re. some of Rav Kook's "bolder" opinions. I am surprised that you do not seem to be aware of this.

      Delete
    19. David Ohsie said- "The Charedim don't recognize the existence of non-Charedi Talmidei Chachamim, while those to the left (DL and other more centrist groups) generally recognize those to the right, even when they disagree with them".

      That "asymmetry" is not because the non-Chareidim are more tolerant or open-minded than Chareidim. It stems from the fact that any responsible posek - Chareidi or otherwise -knows that he cannot do his job without heavily relying on gedolei poskim such as R' Moshe Feinstein and R' Shlomo Zalman who were mostly Chareidi (for whatever reason).

      Delete
    20. David Ohsie---

      Your comment had enough straw men to fill out a football team. I never said that Chareidim are innocent---and I've told them so. (Correct, I don't have many friends.)

      Maybe we can summarize our disagreement as follows:

      David Ohsie: given all that Chareidim have done, DL is justified in displaying even gratuitous hatred (i.e. hatred unrelated to anything Chareidim have actually done).

      Andy: per Torah hashkafah, I think BOTH sides are obligated to at least work on getting rid of the gratuitous hatred (maybe work on the more substantive resentments later.)

      Agreed?

      Andy

      Delete
    21. David Ohsie said- "The Charedim don't recognize the existence of non-Charedi Talmidei Chachamim, while those to the left (DL and other more centrist groups) generally recognize those to the right, even when they disagree with them".

      That "asymmetry" is not because the non-Chareidim are more tolerant or open-minded than Chareidim. It stems from the fact that any responsible posek - Chareidi or otherwise -knows that he cannot do his job without heavily relying on gedolei poskim such as R' Moshe Feinstein and R' Shlomo Zalman who were mostly Chareidi (for whatever reason).


      Two huge problems here.

      1) This reasoning is circular. The reasons that you believe that there are no great "non-Charedi" poskim is that is precisely because they are not Charedim and "obviously" any non-Charedi cannot be a great posek. So Rav Herzog, Rav Unterman, Rav Shapira (and Rav Goren to a degree), Rav Yehuda Herzl Henkin, and Rav Rabinovitch are all not considered despite their greatness. The best example is Rav AI Kook who was the posek for the non-extremist litvish in his lifetime, but has no been written out of their history. Another example would be Rav Elyashiv himself! He only because an authority once he left the Rabbinate (at the time when it was prohibited for a Charedi to be in the Rabbinate; Rav Elyashiv changed that P'sak).

      2) No idea at all, whether p'sak or not, can ever be quoted from a non-Charedi. So RYB Soloveitchik, Rav Lichtenstein, RZY Kook, etc are never mentioned by name in a positive way.

      I'm not sure why you need to distort reality in order to defend their position. The Charedim don't consider any non-Charedi significant (and the definition changes over time). I'm sure that they have principled reasons for this, even though I disagree with them. You don't do them any favors by distorting their position.

      Delete
    22. It is hard to keep track of threads here, but responding to Y. Ben-David: The Dati censorship of Rav Kook began with R' Tzvi Yehuda changing his wording in Orot HaTorah and has continued until this day. You are correct that b"h there are some subversives in the Dati community who have essentially stolen some of Rav Kook's suppressed writings and published them. But other writings are still suppressed, and many in the Dati community outlaw learning the works that have been recently published. This was done deliberately in order to keep people in the dark re. some of Rav Kook's "bolder" opinions. I am surprised that you do not seem to be aware of this.

      Yehoshua, what is your point here? The DL censorship of Rav Kook, while perhaps misguided, is precisely because they revere Rav Kook and think that his ideas will either be misrepresented or will be too radical for the masses. The Charedim remove his haskamot when they republish books because, while he was actually a revered posek at the time, he has since fallen out of favor, and has been written out of their history. While there is some superficially similarity between the two (much as shooting terrorist and shooting a policeman have superficial similarity), they have polar opposite meaning. What you are trying to derive from this?

      Delete

    23. David Ohsie: given all that Chareidim have done, DL is justified in displaying even gratuitous hatred (i.e. hatred unrelated to anything Chareidim have actually done).

      Andy: per Torah hashkafah, I think BOTH sides are obligated to at least work on getting rid of the gratuitous hatred (maybe work on the more substantive resentments later.)


      No, I agree with you. I was only trying to avoid the false equivalence and claims of "Chredi-bashing". I gather that you would agree broadly with this piece from Rav Aviner?

      "Love the Charedim as yourself.

      The first reason: Obviously, they too are Jews. Loving your fellow Jew means loving the entire Jewish People and not just those similar to you. You don’t need a Torah source for this. It’s natural. Torah sources serve where the act does not come naturally, but requires in depth analysis and effort.

      The second reason: Charedim means Torah: Torah learning, Torah observance, devotion to Torah. When they talk, it’s based on Torah. Even if they err, for example, regarding Zionism, it’s based on Torah. They’re not like the secular, whose starting point is not Torah. So the Charedim are closer to us than are the secular. We and the Charedim share precisely the same goal. Our argument has to do with the means, the path. The secular, however, have a different goal. Obviously, deep in their souls their goal is the same, but they express themselves about a different goal."

      Continued at Love the Charedi as Yourself

      Delete
    24. Your comment had enough straw men to fill out a football team.

      I think it was an accurate description of the position of many, but I apologize for mis-attributing it to you.

      Delete
  22. pardon my skepticismJune 19, 2017 at 6:31 PM

    Rabbi Dr. Slifkin wrote:

    "Especially since my field of study - the intersection between Torah and the natural sciences - so often leads to the conclusion that earlier generations were mistaken in their beliefs, I think that it's particularly important for me to be conservative about halachah."

    I'm glad you stated this for the record so unequivocally.

    Next:

    "The canonization of practice is especially important in the modern era, when traditional Judaism is under such threat from both academic investigation and social forces.
    Critical investigation into traditional sources is a Pandora's Box. When restricted to the realm of theory and belief, it is harmful, but unavoidable. Letting it affect halachic practice, on the other hand, is something that can and should be avoided wherever possible. Those who say otherwise often don't realize how far down the rabbit hole this path leads."


    So for anyone involved in "critical investigation into traditional sources" (like yourself) your policy is to practice Orthopraxy.
    Interesting.

    (And you teach Torah subjects in yeshiva programs to impressionable teenagers and tell them that academia is often right and the traditional view is often wrong, but they should follow halacha anyway?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you stated this for the record so unequivocally.

      If you feel that this is not the case, perhaps you would like to volunteer alternate solutions to the list of conflicts that I have?

      So for anyone involved in "critical investigation into traditional sources" (like yourself) your policy is to practice Orthopraxy.

      What on earth does Orthopraxy have to do with that I wrote?!

      And you teach Torah subjects in yeshiva programs to impressionable teenagers and tell them that academia is often right and the traditional view is often wrong, but they should follow halacha anyway?

      No. There are very, very few cases where it is relevant to halacha.

      I'm curious: What do YOU teach them - say, where Chazal say that you cannot be mechalel Shabbos to save a baby born after 8 months, because it is not viable?

      Delete
    2. You make it seem as if people don't realize that reality and the traditional explanations are not always in accord. There's a whole spectrum of responses to that, ranging from denying all of Torah all the way to denying all of reality. You seem to sit towards the latter extreme, while rational people stray towards the other. I don't know that one is objectively better, but I do know that we're supposed to use our minds.

      Delete
    3. pardon my skepticismJune 20, 2017 at 5:27 PM

      "If you feel that this is not the case, perhaps you would like to volunteer alternate solutions to the list of conflicts that I have?"

      I'll try my best, but unlike you, I never assumed the burden of resolving everyone's conflicts. Like Rav SR Hirsch in his Commentary to Lev. 11:5&6, I am quite comfortable admitting that I don't yet have the answer to even an obvious, glaring conflict between Torah and science.

      "What on earth does Orthopraxy have to do with that I wrote?!"

      Everything. You basically wrote that even though accepting the conclusions of academic investigation which can undermine belief is unavoidable, one should still not express that disbelief in one's outward practice of Judaism.

      That is the definition of an Orthoprax Jew: Doesn't believe XYZ is true or binding, but outwardly practices it anyway because he wants to socially belong to mainstream Orthodox society.

      No. There are very, very few cases where it is relevant to halacha.

      Well, if you teach that the Sages of the Talmud were capable making of gross scientific errors because they got their knowledge of the reality--including realia which determine halacha-- from their ignorant superstitious contemporaries, then you are giving them an awful good reason to discard many, many halachos.

      "I'm curious: What do YOU teach them - say, where Chazal say that you cannot be mechalel Shabbos to save a baby born after 8 months, because it is not viable?"

      That's an easy one.
      I'd go through the sugya in Yevamos daf 80a-b and the Tosfos HaRosh to Shabbos 135a, and then ask them if they still had any issues after that.

      Delete
    4. (I'm responding to your points out of order)

      You basically wrote that even though accepting the conclusions of academic investigation which can undermine belief is unavoidable, one should still not express that disbelief in one's outward practice of Judaism.

      And you would argue that such a person *should* express that disbelief in one's outward practice of Judaism?

      if you teach that the Sages of the Talmud were capable making of gross scientific errors because they got their knowledge of the reality--including realia which determine halacha-- from their ignorant superstitious contemporaries, then you are giving them an awful good reason to discard many, many halachos.

      I don't think that it's "many, many" halachos. Also, I think that most people are in any case going to realize that the Sages were mistaken in science. They aren't going to listen to silly apologetics or to your saying that they should just live with the question.

      "If you feel that this is not the case, perhaps you would like to volunteer alternate solutions to the list of conflicts that I have?"
      I'll try my best...


      Great! Here goes. And I am just giving examples from my own fields, not from human physiology, terefos, etc., with which there are many more. Furthermore, I am not listing cases which can be interpreted non-literally, such as the Rabbah bar bar Chana stories; just texts which, based on both the context and universal tradition, are to be understood literally:

      1) "The gestation period of a fox and all kinds of creeping creatures is six months...The gestation period of the wolf, lion, bear, leopard, cheetah, elephant, monkey, and kifof is three years... The gestation period of a viper is seventy years... The gestation period of a serpent is seven years..." (Bechoros 8a). These figures are not consistent with scientific observation.

      2) "Everything that gives birth to live young, lactates, and everything that lays eggs, gathers food for its young; except for the bat, which, even though it lays eggs, lactates." But bats don't lay eggs. And platypuses lactate.

      3) "Everything mates front facing back, except for three species that mate face-to-face: fish, humans and snakes... It was taught that the camel mates back-to-back." Sloths mate face-to-face. Camels do not mate back-to-back.

      4) "Any species in which the male has external genitalia bears live young; any in which the male has internal genitalia, lays eggs." (Bechoros 8a). Exceptions to this principle are whales, giant anteaters, elephants, and hyraxes, all of which have internal genitalia and yet bear live young. It’s problematic to say that this is an example of a general rule where Chazal were not bothered by exceptions, because the Gemara in the same sugya lists exceptions to its other rules.

      5) Salamanders are generated from fire.

      6) Certain mice are generated from dirt.

      7) Lice are spontaneously generated.

      8) Hyenas change gender.

      There's many more, but I have to go. Perhaps you can start with these.

      Delete
    5. pardon my skepticismJune 20, 2017 at 6:31 PM

      "And you would argue that such a person *should* express that disbelief in one's outward practice of Judaism?"

      I'll just note that you are now shifting the conversation.

      I first want to establish that you are in fact advocating Orthopraxy for anyone exposed to "critical investigations into traditional sources". You don't see any alternative.
      Once that's established, I'll give you my response.

      "Also, I think that most people are in any case going to realize that the Sages were mistaken in science."

      Again, you are dodging the issue.
      You are apparently willing to give impressionable teenagers an awful good reason to think halachos that are determined by realia can be based on factual mistakes and have no basis in truth. Let's establish this for the record.

      And of course it includes "many, many" halachos!
      You yourself admit later that there are many conflicts regarding human physiology. This area alone touches on grave halachos regarding niddah, chillul shabbos, pikuach nefesh and organ donation.
      Conflicts about treifos touches broadly on basic halachos of kashrus. Additionally much of the kashrus issues that come up in everyday life have to do with invisible beliyos of taste entering and exiting pots and utensils at a temp. of yad soledes bo which I'm sure generate conflicts with science all over the place.

      So don't try to minimize the Pandora's box you seem quite capable of opening for these teenagers when you teach them that Chazal were often mistaken about the physical reality--even in areas of halacha.

      Regarding your list of conflicts, I get the distinct feeling that I won't be receiving a balanced hearing in this forum for my responses.
      Your challenge requires a more neutral, less constrained venue then a moderated comment thread on a popular blog.

      Delete
    6. This venue is not constrained and virtually never moderated. And if you don't like it, why not just go ahead and publish a book with the solutions? Because they don't exist. The simple fact is that Chazal were incorrect in many of their statements about the natural world. Someone like you, with no role other than making anonymous blog comments, has the luxury of ignoring that. But I am in the position where people look to me to address conflicts between Torah and the natural world. And most of them are not going to be as intellectually dishonest as you. They are going to realize that Chazal really did have certain mistaken beliefs about the natural world. Now, someone like yourself can lead them to believe that they might as well therefore give up halachah. Personally, following the approach of Rav Glasner and Rav Herzog, I feel otherwise. They were not advocating Orthopraxy, and neither am I.

      If you haven't got anything true or useful to say to people who acknowledge the conflicts between Chazal and science, then you're better off just keeping quiet.

      Delete
    7. @Pardon my skepticism: Your reasoning is easily shown to be false. Halacha was developed by the Rishonim based on the Gemara. Yet even your Rebbi admits that the Rishonim made mistakes in realia (e.g. belief in spontaneous generation, ignorance of the microscopic world, geocentrism, etc.). So if admitting that the Baalei Masorah had mistaken beliefs that could affect their p'sak makes you orthoprax, then you Rebbi is Orthoprax. Neither of us believe that.

      You could also call the Chasam Sofer Orthoprax by your reasoning:

      "What are the meanings of the anatomical terms mentioned in this Mishna? After I researched medical books and medical writers as well as scholars and surgical texts, I have concluded that we cannot deny the fact that reality is not as described by Rashi, Tosfos and the drawings of the Maharam of Lublin. We have only what the Rambam wrote in the Mishna Torah and his Commentary to the Mishna - even though the latter has statements which are unclear. However, you will find correct drawings in the book Maaseh Tuviah and Shevili Emuna…. Therefore, I did not bother at all with the commentaries of Rashi and Tosfos in this matter since it is impossible to match them with true reality. You should know this." (Chasam Sofer to Niddah 18a) (from http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2011/08/but-rashi-had-ruach-hakodesh.html).

      Delete
    8. “Personally, following the approach of Rav Glasner and Rav Herzog, I feel otherwise. They were not advocating Orthopraxy, and neither am I.”

      Did Rav Glasner and Rav Herzog maintain that one may, in pressing circumstances, differ with Chazal on matters of halachah, as you do? (I refer to your posts regarding the definition of death and organ donation). I do not think so.
      This is a subtle but very crucial difference – a red line separating Orthodoxy from Orthopraxy. They were not advocating Orthopraxy, but you (perhaps unwittingly) are.

      Delete
    9. NS,
      let's try to be more explicit in playing out your idea.
      1. chazal had many mistaken notions regarding the reality of this world.
      2. these mistaken ideas had (in many cases) practical affects on halachik notions.
      3. chazal codified "mistaken" concepts into practical halacha.
      4. god has no mistaken notions regarding the reality of this world (i'm taking that as a given, i assume you will agree with that as well).
      5. as such, the halacha as codified by chazal (in many instances) is not what god intended, and is therefore against his will.
      6. god allowed this to happen, and, we wise moderns, being aware that halacha is (in many cases) not what god intended, still feel obligated to practice this corrupted halacha as codified by the ignorant chazal.
      7. does this seem correct to you? and is this not the very definition of orthopraxy?

      signed: one of your neighbors

      Delete
    10. It's no more "against his will" than tannur shel Achnai. And it has nothing to do with Orthopraxy.

      Incidentally, I assume that you would agree that whether food cooks depends solely on the nature of the food and the temperature of the environment. Yet for hilchos Bishul, we rate it as dependent on kli rishon and kli sheni. Are you not being Orthoprax?!

      By the way, it's not very nice to comment as "one of your neighbors" without telling me (either online or offline) who you are!

      Delete
    11. how can this possibly be compared to tannur shel achnai? there the issue is lo bashamyim he, so the judgement of a properly trained scholar is as legitimate as god's (so to speak). here the issue is one of factual errors, not judgments or opinions.

      if the melacha of bishul equaled cooking (in the sense of an irreversible chemical change taking place in the cooked item) than you would be correct, and the halacha would reflect that. in fact though, the melacha of bishul is only peripherally related to "cooking". for instance, heating water from room temperature to "yad soledes bo" is bishul, even though no one (including chazal) was under the impression that any "cooking" (in the chemical sense) is taking place. kli rishon/sheni affects the halachik category of bishul, not the chemical process of "cooking".

      b"n, if i remember, the next time i bump in to you, i'll identify myself, since you want to know who i am.

      Delete
    12. "Incidentally, I assume that you would agree that whether food cooks depends solely on the nature of the food and the temperature of the environment. Yet for hilchos Bishul, we rate it as dependent on kli rishon and kli sheni. Are you not being Orthoprax?!"

      Whatever the reasons are for Chazal's determinations regarding bishul or any halachos, and whether I understand them or not, I consider them absolutely binding. You do not. That is what makes your approach Orthoprax.

      Delete
    13. To David Ohsie:

      "You could also call the Chasam Sofer Orthoprax by your reasoning..."

      No, you miss the point! The Chasam Sofer ruled in accordance with his understanding. He did not advocate believing "a" is true yet following "b" in practice. No comparison.

      Delete
    14. Whatever the reasons are for Chazal's determinations regarding bishul or any halachos, and whether I understand them or not, I consider them absolutely binding. You do not. That is what makes your approach Orthoprax.

      You've got things exactly backwards. I consider them absolutely binding. Others (such as R. Bleich and R. Schechter) consider them to be binding only insofar as they reflect factual reality.

      Delete
    15. And I think that Chazal etc. did consider bishul to correlate to cooking, which is why it was refined with categories such as kalei habishul. Also, teh point of Tanur Shel Achnai is that halachah is binding even if it does not correspond to objective reality ("Hashem's opinion").

      Delete
    16. " I think that Chazal etc. did consider bishul to correlate to cooking"
      even people as (scientifically) primitive as you believe chazal to be, can clearly see that water doesn't change when heated and then cooled and then reheated (especially as it doesn't have to come anywhere close to the boiling point).

      "point of Tanur Shel Achnai is that halachah is binding even if it does not correspond to objective reality"
      the gemara says biferush that that the issue was "lo bashamayim he". in other words, in questions of halacha hashem does not privilege his "opinion" over ours. but in questions of fact? that doesn't make any sense at all.

      unless you are making the brisker rav's argument that halacha is not determined by empirical facts, but rather by halachik facts (which is certainly not a rationalist point of view, is generally not accepted by the poskim, and undermines your entire thesis that chazal where ignorant of science, as they could easily be referring to halachik facts, once you decide that empiricism is irrelevant), there is no way to justify keeping a halacha based on an empirical mistake. the only reason to keep doing it is either "tradition" or societal need, which is the definition of orthoprax.

      Delete
    17. "I consider them absolutely binding"

      Really? If so, you agree that one cannot take the life of a brain-dead patient under any circumstances - even to save someone else's life. I'm glad to hear you have retracted your previously-stated opinion on this matter.

      Delete
    18. pardon my skepticismJune 21, 2017 at 2:03 PM

      I just want to point out that from Rabbi Slifkin's response to my comment at 10:51 June 20, it should be abundantly clear to everyone that he is wildly prejudiced against any solution I would offer that does not concede Chazal made a factual error.
      He has made it obvious that presenting my suggested resolutions in such an environment would be pointless.

      David Ohsie's misconstruing of my position was already rectified by others. The Chasam Sofer is a perfect example of being logically consistent in practice with what we know to be the objective truth of the matter.

      Delete
    19. I actually think R. Asher Weiss and R. Eitam Henkin hy"d put it best when it comes to understanding why halachos based on realia that we know now not to be fully accurate are still binding. See R. Eitam Henkin's introduction to לכם יהיה לאכלה, which has been quoted on this blog before. Here's R. Asher Weiss' take:

      "The halachic process required of them to rule on these issues based on their perception of the world with the basic tools they had at their disposal. The halchis rulings they arrived at, then became the established halacha."

      http://en.tvunah.org/2017/05/23/chazal-and-science/

      Delete
    20. "I consider them absolutely binding"

      Really? If so, you agree that one cannot take the life of a brain-dead patient under any circumstances - even to save someone else's life. I'm glad to hear you have retracted your previously-stated opinion on this matter.


      Shai, you assume that it is absolutely obvious from the Gemara that "brain death" is not death. In that, you assume your conclusion. The Gemara did not deal with the concept of "brain death" because there was no such phenomena at that time. Total cessation of brain function including the brainstem would have resulted in cessation of cardiac activity and all other physiological function for the simple reason that they did not have respirators and respiration ceases without brainstem activity.

      I'd also point out that in matters of health, the poskim distinguish and say that you always go with the latest health knowledge. So Treifos of animals are fixed based on Chazal's medical knowledge, but Treifos of humans are not. For example, according to the Chazon Ish, if the animal has a non-fatal injury by current medical knowledge, but by Chazal's medical knowledge, the animal could not be saved, then the animal is a Treifah, but this would not be the case for a person. The reason is, I think, obvious: life and death matters trump halachah anyhow.

      Delete
    21. To David Ohsie:

      "You could also call the Chasam Sofer Orthoprax by your reasoning..."

      No, you miss the point! The Chasam Sofer ruled in accordance with his understanding. He did not advocate believing "a" is true yet following "b" in practice. No comparison.


      Really? Where does he say that we must re-examine or discard the p'sak of Rashi or Tosafos or Rambam in Hilchos Niddah because they had the wrong facts? He says that he won't quote any of their anatomy because they are wrong or unclear and you can better explain them from recent textbooks. He doesn't say to throw out their p'sak in halachah.

      Delete
    22. David Ohsie's misconstruing of my position was already rectified by others. The Chasam Sofer is a perfect example of being logically consistent in practice with what we know to be the objective truth of the matter.

      Where does he say that Rashi, Tosafos and Rambam have no authority in P'sak about Niddah issues?

      Delete
    23. BTW, this whole discussion is silly for another reason. What people mean by orthoprax is a phenomena where people keep halachah even though they don't believe it has a divine origin and/or because they don't believe it is actually binding. Instead they keep it to keep to the norms of the social group that they would like to continue to participate in.

      This has nothing to do with what to do with Halachos that appear to be based on mistaken science. Calling the Dor Revii and Rav Herzog Orthoprax seems quite insulting to them.

      Delete
    24. "how can this possibly be compared to tannur shel achnai? there the issue is lo bashamyim he, so the judgement of a properly trained scholar is as legitimate as god's (so to speak). here the issue is one of factual errors, not judgments or opinions."

      You wrote: "5. as such, the halacha as codified by chazal (in many instances) is not what god intended, and is therefore against his will."

      Tanur Shel Achnai proves you that you are wrong in step #5. Rewrite your argument and we can re-examine it.

      Delete
    25. Everything. You basically wrote that even though accepting the conclusions of academic investigation which can undermine belief is unavoidable, one should still not express that disbelief in one's outward practice of Judaism.

      By this definition, lots of Rishonim were orthoprax. They interpreted Maaseh Merkavah, Maaseh Bereishis and Kabbalah as very deep, very important truths that should not be revealed to the masses so as not to undermine proper belief. The Chasam Sofer said explicitly that the Nistar should not change the halachah. (Not everyone agrees with this).

      Delete
    26. BTW, this whole discussion is silly for another reason. What people mean by orthoprax is a phenomena where people keep halachah even though they don't believe it has a divine origin and/or because they don't believe it is actually binding. Instead they keep it to keep to the norms of the social group that they would like to continue to participate in.

      This has nothing to do with what to do with Halachos that appear to be based on mistaken science. Calling the Dor Revii and Rav Herzog Orthoprax seems quite insulting to them.


      Exactly what I was about to write! Thank you.

      Delete
    27. David Ohsie wrote - "Really? Where does he say that we must re-examine or discard the p'sak of Rashi or Tosafos or Rambam in Hilchos Niddah because they had the wrong facts? He says that he won't quote any of their anatomy because they are wrong or unclear and you can better explain them from recent textbooks. He doesn't say to throw out their p'sak in halachah."

      He mostly sides with the Rambam, and he clearly rejects the approach of Rashi and Tosafos. The practical ramifications of that discussion are quite minimal, as I recall, but there is no reason to think he would pasken like Rashi and Tosafos after he rejects their opinions so strongly - that is your assumption, and nothing else.

      Delete
    28. I see no reason why Rabbi Slifkin or anyone else must accept Rav Henkin z"l's or Rav Asher Weiss's definition of ANYTHING, be it bugs, brain death, techeiles, bliah in stainless steel kaylim, or apparent conflicts between realia and and any other halacha.

      Rather, our responsibility as Orthodox non-poskim is nothing more than to not make up our own piskei halacha.

      We have no right to invent something called halachic brain death, but since there are legitimate poskim who accept it, we are entitled to do so as well, if we feel that approach makes more sense to us.

      Ditto with bugs, bliyos in stainless steel keylim, techeiles, Zionism, etc.

      Ay, It does say "Aseh l'cha Rav" -- and we should, at minimum, follow one posek consistently.

      True, but don't call me -- and those like me -- Orthoprax because, while I always follow only legitimate poskim and never make up my own psak, I fail that one rule.

      Delete
    29. Rabbi Slifkin,

      Please be so kind as to address my question: You have said that you consider Chazal's halachic determinations to be absolutely binding, even if they are (in your view) based on mistaken science. It would seem to me that, if so, one may not forfeit the life of a brain-dead patient to save another patient. This would, in fact, be retzichah, which is forbidden even in a case of pikuach nefesh. Do you agree or disagree?

      Delete
    30. And BTW, for those who wish to see an approach far more radical than what Rabbi Slifkin is even being ACCUSED of -- but not true (in his case) -- see the shiurim and writings of the prolific Rav Dr. Michael Avraham, a prominent thinker and serious educator, talmid chacham, and DEFENDER of Torah Judaism.

      For instance (and you can use Google Translate for a working translation, BTW):
      https://mikyab.net/%D7%A2%D7%9C-%D7%AA%D7%99%D7%95%D7%92%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%95%D7%93%D7%99%D7%95%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%90%D7%95-%D7%94%D7%90%D7%9D-%D7%90%D7%A0%D7%99-%D7%90%D7%A4%D7%99%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%A1/

      Delete
    31. Shai - as David pointed out, I do not accept that Chazal considered taking the organs of a brain-dead person to be retzicha. They never addressed such a case. I think that brain-death, if we are comparing it to something that Chazal did rule on, should be compared to decapitation - which they rated as death.

      Delete
    32. "He mostly sides with the Rambam, and he clearly rejects the approach of Rashi and Tosafos."

      Could you cite some examples of this phenomena? Long ago, I spent time on those halachos, but never studied the Chasam Sofer.

      Delete
    33. To David Ohsie-

      What I meant is that in the citation you posted he basically sides with the Rambam against Rashi and Tosafos - not that he does so in general (sorry if I was unclear). I believe that, if it were relevant, he would rule like Rambam on the basis of his scientific understanding. But my impression is that this dispute does not have significant halachic ramifications, so it is hard to check.

      Delete
  23. The "mesorah" argument is bogus and hollow, and everyone knows it (including the ones who make it.) There are dozens of innovations in the charedi world; that whole world itself is an innovation. The only reason techelis isn't used is because the impetus for it came from other religious Jews, and the self-image of the charedi world, depends on convincing themselves that they are the sole source of authority on Jewish matters. It is that simple.

    RNS - there's halacha and there's halacha. Suggesting wholesale changes in public matters, such as education, tefillah, Shabbos & yomtov, etc., is one thing. Making such changes is where Jewish movements go to die. Personal matters, like techelis or the size of a kizayis, is very different. I changed the amount of time I wait between meat and milk almost 20 years ago, and still haven't gone down the slope.

    ReplyDelete
  24. "The only reason techelis isn't used is because the impetus for it came from other religious Jews, and the self-image of the charedi world, depends on convincing themselves that they are the sole source of authority on Jewish matters. It is that simple."

    I suspect that you are entirely correct.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not sure I understand this. The impetus came from the Radzhiner, a Chassidic Rebbe, so why is it that we find YU types wearing them and not the Chassidim?

      Delete
    2. The impetus came from the Modern Orthodox and Mizrachi world, who brought the wearing of techeiles into the mainstream. The Radzhiner variety has remained a fringe element.

      Delete
    3. R Eisenstein pretty much explicitly says that the issue that those who are pro-Techeiles are Reformers. That is why he claims that the same Reformers that go up to the Har Habayis are the ones to push the Techeiles and you have to fight Techeiles to avoid further "reforms".

      Delete
    4. 1. The Radzhiner was among the first to argue for a modern revival of techelet. Unfortunately, he was duped by a chemist who took cuttlefish (the species the Radzhiner identified) and added Prussian blue (the chemical, not the neo-Nazi pop band) to make blue dye. With Prussian blue, you can make blue dye out of anything.

      2. Radzhiner hassidim continue to use his techelet. Most other hassidim never used it. Many hassidic leaders have idiosyncratic practices which do not spread to hassidism as a whole.

      3. The techelet that "YU types" (and many others) use is derived from murex trunculus, which does not require external blue dye. This was identified in part by using archaeological and historical evidence. "YU types" are more likely than hassidim to find this kind of evidence convincing.

      For a dissenting "YU type" opinion see (or rather, hear)
      http://www.yutorah.org/sidebar/lecture.cfm/761970/rabbi-yisroel-reisman/techeles-hachodosh/

      Delete
    5. R' Reisman is far from being a "YU type."

      Delete
    6. david, you are mistaken about the process for making a blue dye from cuttlefish. The Radziner hasidim still make that dye, and they don't add Prussian blue (a well-known blue dye that isn't really organic in nature). However, the process used converts the very strongly heated cuttlefish residue to Prussian blue, just as it would convert any organic material containing nitrogen to that dye chemical (ferric ferrocyanide). The actual cuttlefish dye use by that organism is sepia (brownish black), not blue. It is also a cephalopod (the same family as an octopus) rather than a sea snail (gastropod) like the Murex Trunculus which produces an actual deep blue color. The Radziner dye is clearly not techeilet, and those who wear it detract from the mitzvah of tzitzit rather than adding to it.

      Y. Aharon

      Delete
  25. R' Slifkin - If you're 100% convinced that this is the real techeles, wouldn't it be considered an 'issur asei' to wear tallis or tefillin without them? (I think R' Hershel Schecter makes that point)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is not the argument that he makes, IIRC. If you couldn't afford Techeiles, you could still wear white. He says that since we know what Techeiles is, someone that nevertheless consciously decides not to use it is violating Bal Tigra.

      Delete
    2. Ok so you're changing the argument a bit but my point remains - according to R' Slifkin's approach, how do you get around that problem of Ba'al Tigra?

      (Also, I meant tallis or tallis kattan, not tefillin)

      Delete
    3. Yes, I agree that it doesn't address your question. I was just mentioning something interesting from when I listened to Rav Schachter.

      Delete
    4. Actually R' Shachter holds that not wearing techeiles is a violation of בל תגרע as you are doing the mitzva in a bdieved way. This is not R' Shachter's chiddush, teh Beis Halevi says this in one of his teshuvos and in fact states that the only reaosn that we wear tzitzis is because of עשה דוחה לא תעשה. Now that we have techeiles that would not apply

      Delete
  26. I think Alex made an important point which is being overlooked. I listened to the interview after reading Rabbi Slifkin’s post and I was quite surprised. Rabbi Eisenstein did not yell, scream, or do anything which could be interpreted as exploding. He made his point calmly, if forcefully. I do not agree with his thesis - which was very similar to the argument made by Rabbi Bleich right before him – but there was nothing lacking in his delivery. It was far more grating to hear the host constantly talking over all three guests. Especially as he consistently repeated his historical anecdote about Murex dye discovered on tzitzis at Masada, which as Rabbi Barkin pointed out, was inaccurate.

    Rabbi Slifkin,
    You of all people should understand the importance of making discussions about issues and not people. A רודף should not become a נרדף, and a victim of distortion should not become a distorter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess that it is in the ear of the beholder, but I also didn't hear the explosion. In contrast, in the podcast on learning and not working, he did explode in that he advocated figurative violence against someone who questioned the wisdom of having a large number of children when you don't have enough food.

      Delete
  27. I meant to say a נרדף should not become a רודף. I apologize for the mistake, it was not intended as a personal comment about Rabbi Eisenstein.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I listened to the interview and actually found it chilling davka because R. Eisenstein does not explode or scream. He is passionate. But he actually refers to Techeiles as a machla-an illness. To me, saying that in a [relatively] calm manner is far scarier than an angry temper tantrum.
    On the other hand, having had the misfortune of encountering R. Eisenstein a number of times over the last decade and a half or so, I'm not surprised. He is undoubtedly very knowledgeable in Torah, but is first and foremost a polemicist for R. Elyashiv era-Israeli-Litvish supremacy. He is merciless towards anyone who disagrees, and perhaps most dangerously portrays a world of blacks and whites, on which there are only the Gedolim [not even sure who that is at this point] and those who obey on one side and those who are violators of Torah on the other. It is not clear to me why Lichtenstein brought Eisenstein on his show. His official job title may be Rav but at the end of the day his actual mission is polemics.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Yehoshua- Re. DL CENSORSHIP OF RAV KOOK,

    Apparently you didn't carefully read what I wrote, but I pointed out that I certainly am aware of the suppression of certain writings of Rav Kook and I did state that there are those, in the DL community, who think some of his writings should be suppressed. But, these are only certain groups within the DL world that think this way. They may say they are the only ones qualified to explain his views, or that they are the only official guardians of his writings, but I don't see how you can compare this to the ideological, blanket erasure of Rav Kook and their turning him into a non-person that much of the Haredi world has done. The DL world is large enough and liberal enough to be able to prevent any single person or group from taking total ideological control of the community. Already in the 1990's, Haggai Segal wrote a seminal piece in the old "Nekudah" journal calling for the release of suppressed writings of Rav Kook. No one put him into herem for that and no one threatened him by saying "no one will marry your kids", even if it did displease certain circles. I do not see how you can compare the attitudes of the DL and Haredi communities regarding this matter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are entitled to your opinion, but I disagree. First, it is far more odious to actually change what Rav Kook wrote and print it in sefarim under his name, as has been done many times by the R' Tzvi Yehuda camp. Second, the chareidi censorship of Rav Kook is due to their viewing has opinion in many Torah matters a passul, and not wanting chareidi Jews to be drawn after his writings. In the dati world, you have people who purportedly hold Rav Kook in the highest regard, but feel that the can nevertheless "overrule" him and keep his opinions hidden.

      Delete
  30. Regarding the matter of the pronunciation of Hebrew vowels, I think the point is this.....I have encountered certain observant Jews who say, and I quote "I am an AUTHENTIC Jew", unlike the non-observant, or non-Orthodox, as you may prefer. Now, as far as I know, anyone born to a Jewish mother is an "authentic" Jew. There is no ideological test involved. Ben-Gurion is just as much an "authentic Jew" as this fellow who stated that. We CAN go into a discussion about what "authentic JUDAISM" is, but no Jew can, on his own, remove another Jew from his membership in the Jewish people. However, having said that, those who do go around saying they are "authentic Jews" based only on their observance of the mitzvot will then claim that all the peripheral characteristics of his Jewish culture also are part of this "authenticity", and this includes their pronunciation of Hebrew. In their eyes, saying "oy" instead of "oh" for the holam , is another manifestation of "authenticity". I believe Rav Slifkin was making a wry comment about this when he wrote the title of the thread the way he did, wanting to show that there are other "authentic" pronunciations besides the one the Rav quoted has and not just his alone.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Here is a link to a free ebook that explains the multiplicity of pronunciations of Hebrew today and which one is most likely the correct one

    B'kitzur - it's the Yemenite consonants (with the exception of ג like a J sound) with the Ashkenazic vowel system according to the Vilna Gaons writings

    It is clear from an honest study that the 'oy' instead of 'oh' is grossly inaccurate and does not really have a mesorah

    According to Rav Hamburger in Shorshei Minhagim Ashkenaz, saying 'oy' instead of 'oh' started around 500 years ago when there was a reformation of the polish language

    https://avrahambenyehuda.wordpress.com/book/

    ReplyDelete
  32. הרולד הרקוביץJune 21, 2017 at 5:28 PM

    While I disagree with the Rabbi, Ido give Rabbi Eisenstein a lot of credit for being honest. His point of view is the reason why most chareidim do not wear techeiles, and although there is a place to question whether the Murex is indeed the Chilazon, we all know it is not because of the questions that the chareidim do not wear.

    ReplyDelete
  33. "I do not wear techeles (though I certainly don't object to others wearing it)."

    I don't shake a lulav (though I certainly don't object to others shaking one).

    "This is not because I have any doubts that the Murex trunculus is the correct source of techeles; I am certain that it is (for reasons that I discussed in my post about my murex-hunting expedition). Rather, it is because I am strong believer in being conservative with regard to halachic practice."

    You can believe what you want. Unfortunately, G-d told you to wear tekhelet.

    "Especially since my field of study - the intersection between Torah and the natural sciences - so often leads to the conclusion that earlier generations were mistaken in their beliefs, I think that it's particularly important for me to be conservative about halachah."

    Let's all come up with specious reasons why we can disobey G-d. Here's one: I don't want to keep Shabbat this week because I'm busy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What's your excuse for taking so long to rebuke the sinner? I was expecting
      something a bit sooner.

      Delete
    2. Busy. Didn't see the article till 5 minutes before I wrote that.

      Delete
    3. Busy... Sure. Kinda like "I don't want to keep Shabbat this week because I'm busy." ;).

      Delete

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.

Another View On How Torah Protects

A few years ago, in a post entitled What Is The Mechanism Via Which Torah Protects? , I discussed the concept that Torah protects from har...