Sunday, July 1, 2018

Ruach HaKodesh, Kangaroos, SUVs and Cloning

Now here's something interesting. It relates to an earlier post, in which I pointed out that Malbim's explanation of a verse in Barchi Nafshi as referring to whaling is anachronistic. While there was ancient whaling in certain remote regions, there was no whaling in the Mediterranean in Biblical times. A fascinating complaint was lodged in the comments, by a reader going by the nom de plume of JoMorris: 
Rabbi Slifkin, I fear this post is an example of something that happens all too often on this blog, namely taking valid points of Rationalism a stage or two too far.

It is one thing to say of the Rishonim that they lacked a chareidi-ideology-inspired kind of divine inspiration that would allow them to know things about the natural world that they had never seen (such as the size of an olive), and perhaps one could even say such things about the sages of the Talmud (eg. regarding the sun's path at night), although this is more debatable. But it is another kettle of fish entirely to say the same of Dovid Hamelech!

Surely you agree that the books of the Bible are divinely inspired prophecy, and as such your constant mention of the Mediterranean is beside the point. Barchi Nafshi is not necessarily confined to the Middle East, but is a divinely inspired poem praising Hashem for the various creations and their purposes that He created throughout the entire world. You yourself wrote that people have been hunting whales for millennia (see also the Wikipedia article on the history of whaling), and as such the Malbim is perfectly entitled to explain the verse as pertaining to the sport of whaling even though Dovid Hamelech's knowledge of it could not have been naturally acquired.

Now, of course I could argue that my position is defensible from a rationalist standpoint. After all, Rambam says that even the prophet Yechezkel, in his vision of the Divine Chariot, had errors, because he perceived it within the framework of his own flawed knowledge of the natural world. But instead, I would like to discuss whether JoMorris is even expressing a position consistent with the typical non-rationalist worldview.

Initially, it would seem that he is. After all, the standard non-rationalist view is that Chazal had supernatural insight into the world, and knew things that modern science would only discover much later, such as the existence of platypuses. Kal v'chomer, then, that David HaMelech would have ruach hakodesh and would know of things taking place in remote parts of the world. Accordingly, then, there is no reason to object to explaining him as referring to whaling, even though it did not occur in the Mediterranean.

But I don't think so.

Let's start from the other direction. Modern technology raises all kinds of halachic questions. Cloning, brain death, surrogate pregnancy, even electricity on Shabbos. Why doesn't the Torah tell us how to approach them? (And don't say, "But it does! With implicit clues!" Because the greatest poskim of the era are in great debate and uncertainty regarding how to resolve these questions, then clearly the Torah is not giving guidance on them. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach has made some explicit statements to this effect.)

Even more basically, why does the Torah discuss the laws of damages in terms of goring oxen and the like? Why not in terms of SUVs?

There is only one possible answer to this: the Torah speaks in the framework of the generation that received it. True, this statement is understood in different ways. True, the principle of dibra Torah b'lashon b'nei Adam did not originally refer to this notion. But that notion is nevertheless unavoidable. Yes, God knows everything, but there is no purpose in discussing things with which the audience has absolutely no idea as to what is being discussed.

So the Torah (and kal v'chomer for Nevi'im and Kesuvim) does not discuss things that exist in a different time period, outside of the knowledge of the Bnei Yisrael. (Which, of course, is also the reason why it doesn't discuss dinosaurs.) But by exactly the same token, it also does not discuss things that exist in a different geographical region.

Not at the Biblical Museum of Natural History
Tanach abounds with metaphors from the natural world. There are 150 references to lions. There are references to bears and leopards and gazelles and deer and crocodiles - all of which were found in Biblical Israel. But where are the references to Australian kangaroos, Indian tigers, and polar bears?! Why speak of the great cedars of Lebanon, and not of the much more impressive redwoods and sequoias of California?!

Now I suppose a dedicated anti-rationalist would counter, "There are some animal names in Tanach that we don't know the meaning of - perhaps they are indeed referring to such animals!" But I think that most people, even in the anti-rationalist camp, wouldn't go for that. After all, clearly the overwhelming majority of references to animals in Tanach are to animals that lived in Biblical Israel, so would it really make any sense to posit that there is an occasional reference to a kangaroo?! That's as absurd as claiming that there is an occasional reference to helicopters. And once you're going with that approach, how can we know what anything in the Torah refers to?! Maybe there are words which refer to things that we haven't discovered yet?!

And that's why, although you'll get the occasional eccentric like Isaac Betech arguing that David HaMelech spoke about Spanish rabbits, most non-rationalists/charedim don't go for that sort of thing. In fact, we get plenty of the most ultra-charedi visitors at The Biblical Museum of Natural History, all of whom are perfectly fine with this point. Especially since many of them have been to Ein Gedi, they find it perfectly reasonable to say that David HaMelech follows his mention of ibex with a reference to the hyraxes that live near them.

I'll leave you with Rabbi David Sedley's illustration of Dr. Betech's position:
Little (future king) Solomon comes home from Shul on Rosh Chodesh, and says, "Daddy, that was a great song you sang today for Rosh Chodesh."

"Why thank you, Solomon" says King David. "Just one question, Dad. What does that word mean that you used - shafan? According to the KJV it says, 'The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for something', but I don't know what!"

"Ah, good question, my wise son. The shafan is an animal that neither you, nor anyone else in this generation has ever seen. In fact, no Jews will know anything about it for over 1000 years. But G-d told me about it. It will make a cute house-pet, Beatrix Potter will write stories about it, and Warner Brothers will make a cartoon shafan who will popularize the phrase 'What's up Doc?' But that is all in the future."

"Thanks Dad" says Solomon. "But just two more questions - what do we call those brown things that hide in the rocks next to the wild goats? And what's a cartoon?"

47 comments:

  1. I understand your general point, but not what you write about technology.

    In all the discussions about medical and technological questions the Posekim DO bring Torah related proofs. Some very convincing, some much less so. But everybody agrees that hitting someone with an SUV has BIBLICAL obligation to damages.

    Yitzi7

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    1. Halachot about SUV are overriden by availability of insurance. Rabbanim (and rank and file) have more knowledge of secular law than of BK. (After all, David haMelech told his son about shafan and american insurance.)

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    2. Not overridden, merely under different circumstances. The Torah discusses these situations too. אם ריק הוא מכם הוא ריק, all we need to do is learn some more. But the Rashba, amongst others, decries those who have decided that דינא דמלכותא overrides the dinim of the Torah, with precisely that logic, 'if so, why are we studying?'. Obviously not learning was not an option for him.

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  2. Are there any updates about the next volume of The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom?

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    1. No... a lot of it is already written, but I'm very busy with other projects...

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  3. How then did King Solomon know about the KJV?

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  4. (And don't say, "But it does! With implicit clues!" Because the greatest poskim of the era are in great debate and uncertainty regarding how to resolve these questions,
    ....
    Why is this this not an argument against oral law. there is a big debate about tzoras ervah. which proves what. ? It proves nothing. see rambam hakdamah perush mishnayis.

    you say 'Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach has made some explicit statements to this effect.'

    could you bring a source.> some people may take the view He could say it. you cannot.

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  5. How flattering to have a post based on my comment!

    Firstly let me say that my views diverge from those of typical chareidi ideology on numerous points. They also coincide with your views on numerous occasions, but as I say I feel you often take your anti-mystical/anti-chareidi stance to lengths which are not always entirely logically justified.

    With regard to this post, I agree with the general gist and most of the details, but would like with your indulgence to nitpick on some things I feel are not 100 percent watertight.

    Of course the animals mentioned in Tanach are those indigenous to the area. The audience has to be familiar with them. If you want to castigate the Israelites for their sins by comparing them to certain animals, or make a parable of the future peace, it makes no sense to tell them that they have been as promiscuous as penguins or that the Tasmanian devil will lie with the wombat. They would have no idea of the normal behavior of these creatures. God could certainly have informed His prophets of the existence of these animals if He so chose, but had no need to do so.

    But barchi nafshi is a poem to inspire wonder at the amazing purposes of God's creations, and as such does not require as much of a preexisting familiarity with it's creatures. Now, I admit that it is still not logical for Dovid Hamelech to say "you know guys, God created this wonderful creature thousands of miles away with two short legs and two long ones that can jump really high! Isn't that amazing!" Or "God created this amazing black and white bird that lives on ice and can't fly, but can swim really well!" It is hard to engender wonder with verbal descriptions alone if people have never seen the thing in question, even if they are quite amazing. Dovid Hamelech was obviously going to focus on getting his audience to appreciate in a new light the wonders of things they were already familiar with.

    But it is still not quite fair to compare whaling to kangaroos and penguins. His audience were certainly familiar with whales. This must be so, since you admit that the simple explanation of the verse is referring to whales (that play in the sea). Is it really so far fetched for Dovid to be telling his audience, on the authority of divine inspiration, "you know these whales that we see every so often in the mediterranean? One of Gods amazing purposes in their creation is so that in far off lands where they are more plentiful, people can hunt them for sport!"
    It is possible that you may think this interpretation is still unlikely, but admit that you have been a little disingenuous in making a blanket comparison to exotic animals that they would never have seen at all.

    A second point is coming up in another comment, as this is too long.

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  6. Another point I would like to make, and this is something you may condemn as anti-rationalist but which I find perfectly tenable, is the following:

    Different explanations of a verse do not have to be mutually exclusive. There are many layers of meaning to divinely inspired wisdom. Of course a verse cannot be exclusively referring to kangaroos, SUVs or cloning; there must be a main explanation that fits with the realities and audiences of the time. But there may be a divinely inspired secondary meaning, just as true as the first. Now of course I admit that there is no justification to posit such a secondary explanation without good reason if the main explanation suffices, but in this case we have the incentive of an ambiguous turn of phrase where "lesachek bo" can mean two things. I can easily imagine the Malbim, having subscribed thus far to the simple explanation of the whale playing in the water, hearing about whaling and saying to himself "aha, I've always wondered why Dovid Hamelech put that so ambiguously!" Now that we have the advantage of knowing about whaling that his contemporary audience did not, we have the means to appreciate a second layer of meaning in addition to the first. (Of course if the Malbim is saying that his explanation is the only explanation, then he did not mean this, but it is nevertheless a tenable interpretation of the verse.)

    Now there are two ways of continuing this line of thought. Either Dovid himself was also unaware of the second explanation, but God put divinely inspired words into his mouth in such a way as to leave an additional explanation for future generations to find, or Dovid himself was aware of this, and only his contemporary audience wasn't. I personally prefer the latter. To sum up, there must always be a contemporary explanation, but where the syntax warrants and divine inspiration allows, there may also be another explanation, just as true as the primary one.

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    1. Was Shloimo Hamelech aware of fire walking and does it matter ?
      Mishlei - Proverbs - Chapter 6:28

      https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16377#showrashi=true

      Or can a man walk on live coals without scorching his feet?


      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firewalking

      Firewalking is the act of walking barefoot over a bed of hot embers or stones.

      Firewalking has been practiced by many people and cultures in all parts of the world, with the earliest known reference dating back to Iron Age India – c. 1200 BC. It is often used as a rite of passage, as a test of an individual's strength and courage, or in religion as a test of one's faith.[1]

      Modern physics has explained the phenomenon, concluding that the amount of time the foot is in contact with the ground is not enough to induce a burn, combined with the fact that embers are not good conductors of heat.[2]

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    2. "Of course if the Malbim is saying that his explanation is the only explanation"
      the malbim throughout tanach offers what he considers the simplest pshat, but certainly not the only one. by his own admission, he frequently offers a pshat that is not in accordance with the great commentaries (rashi, ibn ezra, etc.) because he feels that they were offering pshat on a deeper level, while he aims for the simplest reading of the pasuk. of course he agrees that what the great commentaries said was true, it's just not the "simple" pshat.
      see malbims hakdama to sefer yeshaya (which is really his hakdama to his entire pirush on nach, his pirush on chumash is a much more complex issue) for a detailed explanation of his methodology.

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  7. To defend and/or expand upon JoMorris, one could argue that, as a king, David HaMelech had heard about whaling, found it amazing (which it is!) and then included it in Barchi Nafshi.

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  8. There's another reason why the Torah doesn't mention future inventions: To render it relevant for us. The biggest geshmak in learning is knowing a sugya so well that you can use the divinely given principles and successfully apply them to present situations.

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  9. (And don't say, "But it does! With implicit clues!" Because the greatest poskim of the era are in great debate and uncertainty regarding how to resolve these questions, then clearly the Torah is not giving guidance on them. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach has made some explicit statements to this effect.)

    To say the Torah is not giving clear or explicit guidance is fine. To say it gives no guidance is plainly not correct. If you want a clear example look at tshuvot Masseit Binyamin 99 and 100 where he uses psukim to derive rules on the sanctity of printed books (which were just becoming popular in his day). He uses the psukim to establish that writing need not be pen and ink, which he then applies to the new technology.

    And while every verse must be comprehensible to the initial audience, so there is nothing explicit about anti-biotics or kangaroos, that doesn't preclude secondary meaning that become clear only much later--Chazal are frequently finding meaning in psukkim for the politics of their day. Think of what they said about R. Yochanon ben Zakkai's interview with Vespasian, for example, or all the psukkim about Edom that they apply to Rome. Or the Nevuot of the Neviim after Churban Bayit Rishon that were initially interpreted to refer to Bayit Shein, and subsequently reinterpreted to refer either to what could have happened in bayit Sheini had the Jews merited or things that will be realized in Bayit Shlishi.

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    1. The link between Edom (a desert natiom) and Rome is most mysterious.

      The Ibn Ezra (in the parsha of yitzchok's brochos) says Edom has nothing to do with Rome.

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  10. If the Torah wants to prove its divinity by stating that there are only 4 animals with only one sign, wouldn't it need to include all such animals even if they do not live in the vicinity of the Middle East? And to take it a step further, couldn't the Shafan of Psalms and Proverbs be different than the Shafan referred to in the Bible? If the Tzvi could have been transposed because Europeans were not familiar with Ayal, would it be sacreligious to posit that the Shafan of the Bible is the llama and the Shafan of King David and King Solomon is the Hyrax? If no one in the Middle East saw a llama (aside for when G-d showed the animals to Moses) until the Americas were discovered - this sounds plausible to me.

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    1. "If the Torah wants to prove its divinity by stating that there are only 4 animals with only one sign, wouldn't it need to include all such animals even if they do not live in the vicinity of the Middle East?"

      Who says that the Torah would *want* to prove its divinity by listing the only such animals, even if they are in distant parts of the world?

      "If the Tzvi could have been transposed because Europeans were not familiar with Ayal, would it be sacreligious to posit that the Shafan of the Bible is the llama and the Shafan of King David and King Solomon is the Hyrax?"

      Eh? Both tzvi (gazelle) and ayal (deer) live in Israel. Europeans didn't have gazelles, so they transposed the name tzvi to the deer. What does that have anything to do with claiming that David was referring to a South American llama?!

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    2. "Who says that the Torah would *want* to prove its divinity by listing the only such animals, even if they are in distant parts of the world?"

      Gan Naul, for one.

      "What does that have anything to do with claiming that David was referring to a South American llama?!"

      The point is, if names can be transposed due to unfamiliarity because of regional constraints, then it is perfectly plausible to say that the Bible is referring to the llama when it says Shafan, yet the Kings of Israel who were unfamiliar with the llama assumed the Shafan to be the hyrax. This would vindicate the Bible when it says the Shafan chews the cud, and there would be no need to contrive that the hyrax "looks like it chews the cud".

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    3. "Gan Naul, for one."

      Whoop-de-do. Incidentally, do you know who he was?

      "then it is perfectly plausible to say that the Bible is referring to the llama when it says Shafan, yet the Kings of Israel who were unfamiliar with the llama assumed the Shafan to be the hyrax."

      You are giving a plausible explanation as to how, IF the Bible is referring to llamas, the Neviim thought thought otherwise. However, it remains entirely implausible that the Torah is referring to llamas.

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    4. "Whoop-de-do. Incidentally, do you know who he was?

      Yes (If you don't like him, we can replace him with Maharatz Chayos).

      "However, it remains entirely implausible that the Torah is referring to llamas."

      Why? It is a lot less probable that the Bible is calling the hyrax a cud-chewer, which it is not.

      A reason why the llama is not plausible for Shafan of the Bible is because it doesn't jive with Shafan of Psalms and Proverbs, but if the correct translation was lost since this animal was not known, then by all means, Gan Naul is correct.


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    5. "It is a lot less probable that the Bible is calling the hyrax a cud-chewer, which it is not." Sure it is, I see it all the time. In fact that's a much more accurate statement than the Torah describing the dew as descending, or the kidneys housing the mind.

      "A reason why the llama is not plausible for Shafan of the Bible is because it doesn't jive with Shafan of Psalms and Proverbs, but if the correct translation was lost since this animal was not known, then by all means, Gan Naul is correct."

      So you believe that the Torah speaks about an animal which, from the time it was given, through the Neviim and Chazal and Rishonim and Acharonim, everybody misunderstood (and even today, most people misunderstand). And you consider that reasonable. I guess you and I have different definitions of "reasonable."

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    6. ...and you believe that the hyrax is maaleh gerah.

      I prefer to have man fallible than the Almighty.

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    7. @Lamah? I don't understand your position. According to you, Dovid HaMelech didn't know that Hyrax don't chew their cud? There are Hyrax all over the place in Israel. None of them were ever seen ripped open by a predator?

      A much better version of your argument would be that over time the meaning of the word changed (words, phrases and even grammar often change over time) and the name Shafan got affixed to a different animal in the popular culture of the day. Not that David and Shlomo didn't know that the Shafan of the Chumash was different.

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    8. First of all, we don't even know if the ancients studied physiology, and whether they were aware that multiple stomachs are associated with Maaleh Gerah.

      The Torah says the Shafan is MG, and the hyrax does not. So how could one posit that the Shafa is the hyrax?

      As R' Slifin writes elsewhere, there was no encyclopedia Britanica in those days. If the Torah wanted to mention all the animals with one kosher sign, then it must include all in the world, even those not in the vicinity of the Jews.

      God showed all the animals to Moses (see Chulin 42) and Moses showed them all to the Jewish People. But obviously, since there were no llamas in the Mid East, the name got transposed over time.

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    9. I still don't understand your position. If the Jews at the time didn't know that Maaleh Gerah meant multiple stomachs, then who said Maaleh Gerah actually means multiple stomachs. Maybe that is an anachronistic reading of the term.

      Additionally, who said that the Torah wanted to mention all of the animals with one kosher sign as opposed to just examples?

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    10. Maale gerah does not mean multiple stomachs. It means bringing up the cud.

      Claiming that the Torah wanted to show all the animals in the world is an assumption that has no source in the Torah itself.

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    11. Benimnuman: MG means literally "bringing up the cud", which is only, in its literal sense, applicable to animals that have multiple stomachs. It is one thing to contrive that the rabbit/hare are MG, as does DR. Betech, that merycism and caecotrophy count, but it is another thing to say that animals that "look like they are chewing the cud" are MG, such as R' Slifkin, Seridei Eish and others...

      Beginning with the Gan Naul in the 18th century, there were many who tried proving the authenticity of the Torah, in that only a divine creator could have known that there are only 4 animals with one sign. Yet the Torah doesn't say this; it is the Talmud Chulin 59a that states that these are the only 4 animals (see rashi and tosfos on chulin 59a).
      Some years ago a Rabbi M. Lubin wrote an article stating that the Shafan is the llama. This took care of the MG issue, but presented new issues, as were pointed out by R Slifkin in his book, (The camel, hare and hyrax), primarily that shafan is described in scripture as hiding among the rocks, something a llama does not do.
      To answer this, I say that perhaps the meaning/identity of Shafan was lost in the long period between Matan Torah and the Kings of Israel. Particularly since the Shafan was not an animal in that vicinity, it is very easy for this to have happened.

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    12. "MG means literally "bringing up the cud", which is only, in its literal sense, applicable to animals that have multiple stomachs." Absolutely wrong. In its literal sense, it refers to bringing up food by way of the throat.

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    13. Not "absolutely wrong", as the word gerah, although many rishonim say it derives from garon, may also be derived from the word gerah, which is a coin, or a size of metal worth, which could well mean "bolus". So the literal translation may well mean bringing up a bolus, by means of throat or otherwise. Although one needn't come on to this interpretation if one translates shafan as llama.

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  11. I think much of the disagreement may come down to how we think about prophesy and prophets.

    It seems that many assume prophets were given a window into all divine knowledge; everything that ever was or would be was right there in front of them. They had the freedom to simply look into the future and see everything they wanted at anytime they liked.

    More likely, prophesy was much more limited in its scope of vision, and prophets were far more limited in their freedom of access to future information.

    If one assumes the first view of prophesy, how could one doubt Dovid HaMelech's knowledge of still undiscovered animals. He just looked into his crystal ball and saw everything. (Maybe he could also tell us the winning lotto numbers).

    But, if he was only given access to very specific and limited information, there is no reason to assume he ever imagined a kangaroo.

    -RBS Dweller

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  12. In my opinion, the problem with Judaism in the digital age is not with the Torah. The problem is with Rabbinical Judaism which has focused on arguing about halakhic minutiae forever, wasting billions of hours (a rough estimate) that could have been better spent on issues of morality, the nature of life and God rather than obedience to the law. Rabbinic Judaism has isolated the Jewish people by creating a closed-loop system where knowledge is kept within instead of sharing its positive values with other nations.

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    1. Worthwhile question, but nothing new:
      שהיה סופר שלש מאות הלכות פסוקות במגדל פורח באויר

      The digital age has nothing to do with it.

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    2. Actually, there is a Gemoro about Mr Unknown's complaint. Sanhedrin 99b אמר רב יוסף near the end of the page. Exactly his point.

      Here is a hint. God made his world and he knew what he wanted. Calling his commandments 'minutiae', is a misunderstanding of God's reason for creating the world.

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  13. People traveled widely. He couldn't have heard of whaling from a traveler?

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    1. As a commenter above suggested, as a king, David might have. And it may be valid as a "deeper" understanding. But can it be the base pshat? Would Berel the Menashite bringing his Bikkurim know about whaling, and would that affect how the he and other common folk understood the singing in the Mikdash on Rosh Chodesh (or whenever it was read/sung)?

      [and yes, I know the name "Berel" is an anachronism. Yiddish was not developed before Rav and Shmuel...]

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  14. "Modern technology raises all kinds of halachic questions. Cloning, brain death, surrogate pregnancy, even electricity on Shabbos. Why doesn't the Torah tell us how to approach them? (And don't say, "But it does! With implicit clues!" Because the greatest poskim of the era are in great debate and uncertainty regarding how to resolve these questions, then clearly the Torah is not giving guidance on them. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach has made some explicit statements to this effect.)"

    So you believe that the Oral Torah was made up? It seems to be what you keep slowly explicating. If something isn't mentioned explicitly then there is no such practice until it was invented later.

    The usual YA

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    1. That's a bit of a jump: from cloning isn't mentioned to total lack of Oral Torah. The Oral Torah talks about oxen and writing and planting and grafting and history and faith and lots of other things. It does not talk about cloning or solid state physics or Martians. Now, can we learn from the things it does talk about to some of these other things? Of course, and we are obliged and obligated to do so! Using discussions about other things to help explicate new situations is exactly how Rabbinic Judaism develops. But learning from prior material - extrapolating, in truth - is a far cry from believing that it is there explicitly!

      Heh - in this case it is not a matter of belief. One can argue against Slifkinesque Rationalism in many ways, but it is hard to put forth the argument that the Torah clearly discusses microwave technology.

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    2. "So you believe that the Oral Torah was made up?"
      Yes because it was. If you spent even a minute thinking about what it means when the Tanaim and Amoraim argue and ultimately decide halacha you would realize that yes it is 'made up'.

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    3. The question was addressed to Rabbi Slifkin and I would imagine his considerations were more than a minute.

      The usual YA

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    4. Probably because he thinks carefully. My point was made to you. Care to answer it, or are you following standard procedure and avoiding difficult issues?

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    5. Let's see you spell out your challenge and by your logic you better be completely unbelieving about Judaism.

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  15. This discussion about rationalizing the Malbim's understanding of the verse in 'borchi nafshi' in connection with the Leviathon is predicated on accepting his 'explanation' of hunting whales as a reasonable interpretation of 'lesachek bo'. It is not. Hunting whales for food or sperm oil was not sport. It was a deadly serious and dangerous occupation. Ever read 'Moby Dick' by Melville? Nor is there a biblical or midrashic precedent for considering the leviathan as a species. Rather, it is a unique individual. The language of sport with the Leviathan is, indeed, used in Iyov (Job)40:29, "Will you play with it like a bird and tie it up for your maids?" The language is clearly ironic. A human or other creature doesn't play with the Leviathan. There is no reason to believe that David knew anything about whaling, either through normal or divinely aided knowledge.
    Y.Aharon

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  16. Please show Rambam where you contend that Rambam holds יחזקאל הנביא made an "error " in his נבואה of מעשה מרכבה.
    M Landy

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    1. See the comments to http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/11/sound-of-spheres.html

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  17. It seems to me that there is a difference between animals mentioned in the Torah for symbolic/metaphorical reasons and animals mentioned for the purposes of kashrus. The former will presumably only be animals that Jews of the time would have been familiar with (although I don't know if that is entirely limited to E"Y). But the latter, we would expect to include animals from more far-flung places where Jews would one day live in the Diaspora. After all, the Torah itself says that the Jews will be scattered across the nations.

    In particular, we should expect that the list of the non-kosher bird species (where the Chumash itself does not give any kosher signs) would include birds that are not native to the Levant.

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    1. Benugnuman, you make an excellent point. I wonder if the good rabbi/zoologist can respond to this...particularly I would like to know if the 24 birds mentioned in the Torah are all native to the Middle East, and more importantly, are there species elsewhere in the world that we wouldn't be able to include in the 24 categories.

      Secondly, I would like if he can respond to my response to him regarding different meanings of the word "Gerah".

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  18. "... the Bnei Yisrael."
    Come on, Rabbi Slifkin, you should know better than that! "Bnei Yisrael" already incorporates a direct object.

    ReplyDelete

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