Saturday, April 11, 2020

A Maimonidean View of Why Coronavirus Happened

In my earlier post, "Why Did God Send The Coronavirus?", I pointed to Rambam's view (as written in his letter to the Jews of Marseilles), that the Destruction of the Temple happened because the Jewish People were focused on bad theology rather than on military preparations. I noted that a similar approach could be taken to the coronavirus pandemic. It's the consequence of global society not placing sufficient emphasis on medical preparations.

Now, a number of people raised an objection to this from Rambam's words in the Mishneh Torah. There, he writes as follows:
"It is a positive mitzvah of the Torah to cry out and to blow the trumpets whenever any danger afflicts a Jewish community... This is part of the procedure of repentance, for when difficulties occur and people come to pray, they realize that these happenings befell them because of their sins... and this will cause the troubles to be removed. However, if they do not pray, but instead say, 'Such is the way of the world...' - this is a cruel approach, that causes people to maintain their evil ways, and will bring further suffering." (Hilchos Taanis 1:1-3)
In response, I would like to point out that while there could well be differences in approach between the Mishneh Torah and Rambam's other writings, in this case there is no conflict between what Rambam writes in Hilchos Taanis and what he wrote to the Jews of Marseilles. As Rambam says, when tragedies happen, we must not just brush them off, saying "that's just how things are". Rather, we have to engage in soul-searching and introspection as to how we might have been responsible for it. With the Destruction of the Temple, Rambam does precisely this, and says that there was a neglect of military preparedness caused by bad theology.

With coronavirus, I proposed the similar wrongdoing of a neglect of medical preparedness. Just because it doesn't sound like a frum sin, like a lack of tzniyus or lashon hara, does not mean that it isn't a sin! And if you want it presented in frum terms: Just as there is a mitzvah of maakeh, to make a safety fence around a balcony, so too we are obligated as a society to make sure that we have the necessary precautions and medical equipment to deal with a pandemic. To the extent that countries and societies failed to do so, they suffered the consequences (and countries which were better prepared, such as South Korea, suffered less).

Imagine if someone falls off their balcony because they didn't install a proper fence. Do we need to think of what Lashon Hara they said to deserve such a fate?! It's not "attributing it to mikreh" to say that lack of preparedness is a cause; lack of preparedness is a serious shortcoming!

Some still asked that according to this, why does Rambam call for fasting and prayer? The answer is that according to Rambam, fasting and praying is what helps people (A) be human beings, feeling connected to the community and so on, and (B) contemplate where they went wrong.

All this is doubtless somewhat jarring to people who are not well grounded in Maimonidean theology. One must bear in mind that in Rambam's view, God does not spontaneously choose rewards and punishments for our actions; rather, He has set up the world such that correct actions generally lead to beneficial consequences, and vice-versa. I strongly recommend reading Menachem Kellner's essay on Rambam's concept of reward and punishment, which can be downloaded at this link.

There's another point to be made with regard to those who want there to be a more "spiritual" or "frum" message/reason in God sending coronavirus. What would such a message be? Sending something in order to send a message only works if such a message is clearly there. (It reminds me of those who creatively reinterpret the pesukim of Bereishis to match modern science, in ways that nobody has ever translated the pesukim before, and then claim that Bereishis is "teaching" modern science!)

What messages did God send us with coronavirus - that He doesn't want us to go to shul? Every shocking event can help us pause and engage in introspection, and there may be plenty of valuable lessons that we can choose to learn in this crisis, but there is only one absolutely clear and unambiguous message, which is that society needs to take the dangers of pandemics more seriously.

Incredibly, there are some people whose cognitive dissonance prevents them from seeing even that which is clearly true. On Friday, I had a long back-and-forth with one of the many charedi rabbanim who read this website. He insisted that coronavirus is a testimony to the amazing protective powers of the prayer and Torah of Rav Chaim Kanievsky and others, since the mortality rate in Bnei Brak has been so low, despite the crowded conditions! And he said that it was a pity that they stopped the shuls and yeshivos in America so early, because they would have been better protected had they continued.

I responded to him by pointing out some facts. Like that the low mortality rate is true in all of Israel, and it's because of Israel's healthcare system as a whole. And that within Israel, Bnei Brak and Jerusalem have been the worst affected. And even though very few have died so far, there are nearly two thousand sick in Bnei Brak, with new cases being diagnosed at a far greater rate than anywhere else, and the hospital there can't even receive any more patients and has to send them to other hospitals, and even those who don't die are likely to suffer considerable long-term health problems. And that the greater suffering of Bnei Brak is, to a certain degree, precisely because of the shuls and the yeshivos and the Daas Torah. And that in the US and UK, it's the "Torah" communities and rabbanim that are being the hardest hit.

But it was no use. Nothing that I said had any impact. As far as he was concerned, coronavirus merely confirms that Torah is the best hishtadlus against physical threats.

Of course, there are many people in the charedi community who would disagree with what this rabbi said. And there are some people in the charedi community who are ready to do some soul-searching - see this article for an excellent example. But as long as there are a substantial number of people in denial - and people in key positions who are in denial about the denial - there is a serious problem. The lack of concern and hishtadlus for pandemics, as well as the related lack of concern and hishtadlus for military and economic threats, will remain a danger for us all.
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A reminder: Coronavirus has not stopped the Biblical Museum of Natural History from inspiring and educating people! We've been running live online tours for the last week, and they've been fantastic! As well as a brief "Highlights" tour, we also have six in-depth tours of different halls. You can sign up for our Pesach tours at Please share the word!


  1. When Rambam states that more effort should have been focussed on military preparation and this would better have prevented the destruction of the temple, is he really claiming that the Judean Jews were like to defeat the night of the Roman Empire which was close to approaching its zenith? Did not the last herodian king exclaim that it was foolish to believe the walls of Jerusalem were a stronger defence than the seas around Britain?
    A better claim would be that the original cause of the destruction was trying to play off Rome against Parthia and the proximate cause was not finding an accommodation with Rome which until the Judeans revolted had arguably treated the Jews better than any other conquered nation and had formally recognised the right of the Jews to practice their faith (and went on to permit this later even when passing law against Christianity). In fact, it is arguable that Judaism could have continued to influence Rome in a positive way and the rise of Christianity and even potentially Islam would never have happened had the Jews reached an accommodation with Rome.
    Moreover this was a lesson that should have been learned from the events of 700 years earlier when playing off the Assyrians against the Egyptians led to the loss of the northern kingdom and the ten tribes.
    So, although not writing as a historian, it seems strange to me that Rambam omits such arguments and focuses on the lack of military preparedness. The only rationale I can think of is that given where the Talmud Bavli was written, it had an extreme anti Roman perspective that then influenced Rambam.

    1. Good point. But Perhaps that's his point. If they weren't militarily prepared, then they shouldn't of thought they could win.

      Either seriously prepare militarily, or make peace, instead of political taunting etc.

      Granted it's a yeshivish interpretation.

      Alternatively Maybe he didn't grasp the physical strength of the Roman military of that time? Not likely.

  2. Nearly 2000 infected in Bnei Brak does not mean there are nearly 2000 sick. 80% of infections can have zero to very mild symptoms.
    And because the health system is seriously lagging behind in testing, we don't really know yet if that is a high number of infections.

    I know Rabbi Slifkin is hoping there are 2000 sick in Bnei Brak from this virus, but his wishful thinking doesn't mean Bnei Brak is actually suffering a health crisis.

    1. Dovid, any comments on the Kizayis post??

    2. Dovid, that was a disgusting reply. You state: "I know Rabbi Slifkin is hoping there are 2000 sick in Bnei Brak". Rabbi Slifkin never ever stated that he would want a single person to be sick with this disease. I am sure that he would state it more eloquent than me, but his interest here is for the safety and health of klal Yisrael. And to even suggest otherwise means that you should rethink how you interpret what others say.

      Even if 80% of the infections are mild as you state, it is not fully known what the long term effects of Corona are, and whether it is mutating and can be caught again. And the fact is that the Haredim DO have the largest number of cases per capita. This is fact. This means that the largest number of resources have to be devoted to their care. This might have been different if they had paid attention earlier to the warnings of competent health professionals instead of Rabbis who have NO medical training whatsoever. This same complaint of the Haredim transcends the situation of Corona. Because most Haredi (men) do not serve or work this means that they force others to take up more of the burden in society than they would otherwise have to. (They also demand more social assistance taking it away from people who really do not think it is noble to be poor). Maybe you should use this period of isolation to ponder these thoughts and watch how you address others.

    3. "Nearly 2000 infected in Bnei Brak does not mean there are nearly 2000 sick."

      Dead wrong. 2000 infected means 20,000 infected, because infections are infectious.

      "80% of infections can have zero to very mild symptoms."
      Dead wrong. Those will zero/mild symptoms are the most dangerous since they are less likely to be tested and self-isolate. They, not those with symptoms, are the leading cause of further infections and DEATH. Running around infecting the elderly and the health compromised is not non-symptomatic!

      "but his wishful thinking doesn't mean Bnei Brak is actually suffering a health crisis."
      But Bnei Brak is suffering a health crisis! As far as your nasty claim that RNS in engaging in "wishful thinking"- PROVE IT.

    4. Here's my evidence:
      Of course in the background, we have over ten years of non-stop scorn and vitriol poured upon the notion of Daas Torah and chareidi leadership. Clearly we are dealing with a pathological obsession with the chariedi society which rejected him and an utter disgust for their leadership. This alone makes it plausible to suggest that Rabbi Slifkin would eagerly anticipate more deaths in Bnei Brak if it would deliver a spectacular blow to the notion of Daas Torah.

      In addition, in a recent post, Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin wrote:
      "It's a shocking thing for believers in Daas Torah to accept. It's not just that Torah turns out not to protect against coronavirus. It's that the mouthpieces of Torah, the living embodiments of Torah, the guiding lights of the community, gave utterly disastrous guidance, with fatal consequences. As I pointed out in my post "The Death Of Daas Torah," what is "Daas Torah" worth, when the average non-charedi, non ben-Torah, was correct, and Daas Torah was wrong, in a life-and-death matter?!"

      Meaning, Rabbi Slifkin is already claiming that the Daas Torah guidance of Rav Chaim Kanievsky has actually led to a disproportionate number of deaths by those who followed his guidance.
      This claim was questioned in the comments to that post by Yoni2:

      "And yet the official death count in Israel stands at 36. Is this accurate? If so how come with 75,000 infections in one city (your number) the death rate is so low?"

      Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin replied on April 3, 2020 at 2:15 PM:
      "It takes a while for the infections to kill people."

      So here we have Rabbi Slifkin eagerly anticipating a greater number of deaths in Bnei Brak, rather that do the prudent thing and simply wait for those deaths to materialize and prove his point.
      He (still) refuses to back down from his premature triumphant declaration of the death of Daas Torah-- and he seems to prefer a higher death toll in Bnei Brak in order to continue this refusal.

    5. Just Pointing OutApril 12, 2020 at 5:56 PM

      Rabbi Kornreich, you ran a blog that was named and dedicated to attacking Rabbi Slifkin as a heretic, for TEN YEARS. Clearly we are dealing with a pathological obsession. Should we therefore conclude that you would eagerly anticipate his death by unusual means, if it would spectacularly demonstrate Divine Providence?

    6. I'm glad you asked that question, JPO, because there are many relevant differences between my former blog and Rabbi Slifkin's.

      1) If you will compare the archives you will see that Rabbi Slifkin posts multiple times a week and averages about 15 posts per month. Contrast this with my blog whose average is lower than 5 posts per month and 45 posts PER YEAR. Clearly, Rabbi Slifkin output ranks as an obsession while mine was a mere hobby. (Concluded 3 years ago. We'll see if Rabbi SLifkin is ever capable of freeing himself of his obsession)

      2) Furthermore, the attacks leveled on my blog often transcended Rabbi SLifkin's specific writings and dealt with the broader academic approach to Judaism generally which lies and the root of Rabbi SLifkin's approach. By contrast, Rabbi SLifkin's attacks rarely venture off chareidi targets to vilify other Jewish groups.

      Thirdly, the deep and consistent level of vitriol poured on Chareidi society by Rabbi Slifkin is simply unparalleled. (Except for maybe Of course I'm not denying that there is a simple reason for this--Chareidi zealots destroyed his life 15 years ago and he has yet to put it behind him.
      But the fact remains that his underlying personal animus for Chareidi society has no parallel in my ideological opposition to Rabbi SLifkin's views, my low esteem of his personal integrity, and a deep disdain for his vile characterizations his Chareidi opponents.

      And lastly, (and perhaps most importantly) I haven't staked any positions which require his unnatural death to vindicate my opposition of him!

    7. "So here we have Rabbi Slifkin eagerly anticipating a greater number of deaths in Bnei Brak"

      No, we don't. You need help.

    8. My friends, Dovid Kornreich is a guy who not only ran a blog against me for ten years (!), he also exhibited a consistent pattern of always trying to interpret my words in the most uncharitable way possible (I think I recall that he once even acknowledged this), and imparting nefarious intent when there was none. So it's entirely to be expected that he would also accuse me of wanting people to die.

    9. A rabbi tries to warn chareidi Jews about coronavirus and this is the thanks he gets? Amazing.

    10. "Here's my evidence:"
      Not evidence- rationalization or perhaps justification.

      "gave utterly disastrous guidance"
      Allowing for some exaggeration, is this statement true? Was the guidance of the leadership in the early days of the crisis, correct? Is there a problem with a Torah loyal community which even has to ask a posek to close the yeshivos in the face of פיקוח נפש- especially when nothing prevents a dedicated person from learning in the home? Keep safe and only then ask!

      משנה ברורה שכח:ב

      אותו האיש שהוא מתחסד וירא לחלל שבת בחולה כזה כ"א ע"י מורה הרי הוא
      שופך דמים שבעוד שהוא הולך לשאול יחלש החולה יותר ויוכל להסתכן והרי הכתוב אומר לא תעמוד וגו' ובירושלמי איתא הנשאל הרי זה מגונה פי' משום שהתלמיד חכם במקומו היה לו לדרוש בפרקא לכל כדי שידעו כל העם ולא יצטרכו לשאלו ואם החולה בעצמו מתיירא שיעברו עליו את השבת כופין אותו ומדברים על לבו שהוא חסידות של שטות [רדב"ז]

      "So here we have Rabbi Slifkin eagerly anticipating"
      Prove it.

      The overwhelming population of all segments of Israeli society have done reasonably well in following gov't orders. (Heck, over שבת there were more violations in Tel Aviv than Bnei Brak.) However, something is fundamentally lacking. The Health Ministry guidelines are meant to keep the amount of ill/dead from overwhelming the health care system. It's about the general welfare- not about individuals. If the guidelines can reduce new infections to a linear n a day (whatever n is) - then the ministry has succeeded. But do you want to be one of those n? We've got to be more מחמיר than the gov't! This has been the only time the Charedim have accepted gov't standards as sufficient!

    11. Why is no one considering the benefits of natural immunity?
      We know that the virus is hardly a danger to most people. It is the old with underlying conditions that die (mostly).It could be argued that A. Hashem created the human body with infinite wisdom and he created the immune system to protect and heal us. B. This could be said to be an example of 'He creates the cure before the illness'. C. Developing immunity by being exposed to the virus protects not only the individual but also the community. D. Therefore we are obligated to make use of the natural means Hashem gave us and thereby promote health, protection for the future and save lives.
      I read in another blogpost how the question was asked: do jews really believe the Torah protects? And to my astonishment the answer was NO, and even that it should not be believed. Apparently, ALSO it "should not be believed" that the natural solutions Hashem gives us can possibly work, they should not even be considered (except as worthless). Instead, we are all to blindly follow "the government" (and wait for a very questionable probably mandatory vaccin?).
      I really cannot understand this way of thinking, i.e. "we must believe, but hey NOT REALLY!", "we must use our brains but only to follow the rules of the controllers of this world", are they who you REALLY believe in?
      What's the use of any faith if it is followed by a 'but not really..'?
      Serious question. Very.

  3. See Rambam Melachim 12,2 that one should not occupe himself with stories that don't bring to Yir'a and Ahava. Clear enough I think, although it's totally right one have to busy himself with hishtadlout.
    People believe themself to be talmidei hahamim and understand Rambamist point of view, and they only lead everyone to lack of concern about one's midot and mitsvos.
    This was the fear of all those who put a ban on Morei Nevouhim, we see here how right they saw.
    Please don't censor.

  4. You are so darned ignorantApril 11, 2020 at 11:50 PM

    You REALLY NEED to study HAMASPIK LEOVDEI HASHEM by Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam, regarding Bitachon, who both directly addresses the question of utilizing natural means along with fasting and prayer, and also would teach you why your marshaling of statistics with regard to projected mortality in Bnei Brak is an outright contradiction to Bitachon and places you in the category of the faithless.

  5. I do not believe that G-d caused coronavirus. Certainly not "because of our sins" and for no other reason. Instead, I see coronavirus as a natural event. Thus, I agree with Maimonides, who said that G-d has no emotions. I do not think that G-d has emotions. Thus, he does not become angry. When the Bible speaks about G-d becoming angry it does so because people needed to believe that G-d would punish them if they did not act properly.

    Whether the charedi community and others agree or not, I think people need to recognize another concept. The world works according to the laws of nature. One of these laws is that every act has consequences. Whether or not G-d forgives, the consequences do not go away. For example, the Rambam wrote in a letter to Jews in Marseilles that when the temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE it was because Jews focused on bad theology and neglected military preparations. Similarly, the world is now suffering from coronavirus pandemic because of lacking medical preparations. Yes, the Rambam wrote in his MT that we should pray and fast, but these procedures do not change nature. Rather, they help us recognize the damage done and help prompt us to find new creative ways to deal with the situation.

    In short, people need to realize that repentance alone will not suffice (David also repented), if they do not do teshuva properly by doing all that they can to remedy the situation. We need to believe that by doing teshuva we can actually fix the damage done, not merely beat on our chest, sit passively, and cry as if expecting G-d to perform a miracle. I just finished reading Micah Goodman's book about Maimonides today. He agrees with what I wrote.

    1. I agree with Maimonides, who said that G-d has no emotions. I do not think that G-d has emotions.

      If God does not have emtoions how does he have free will? Doesn't free will require every single being in existence to have emotions? All things with emotions have free will and it's true vice versa. I can't think of a case where some being with free will doesn't have emotions.

    2. > I can't think of a case where some being with free will doesn't have emotions.

      This is probably multiple fallacies in one.

    3. @Steve Luong Not exactly. Maimonides believed in free will. Humans have free will. Since Rambam stressed G-d’s perfection, it must mean that His “will” is different than that of humans (without emotions). G-d does not suddenly change His will like humans, as this implies imperfection. For example, a human's will may be changed due to external factors. If a person is hungry and lacking for food they will want to eat, however, if their desire is to study they will not be aroused by food, a change in will. Divine will, in contrast, is spontaneous and self-creating. This was how Rambam was able to justify the creation of the world in Genesis 1. It was G-d’s will to create the world. G-d “willed” creation into existence. But G-d's "will" is not subject to natural laws nor external causes, since it is an independent cause (Guide, 2:18).

  6. "I know Rabbi Slifkin is hoping there are 2000 sick in Bnei Brak from this virus..."

    How exactly do you "know" this? I'd be interested to see some evidence, failing which I would just have to assume that you're a disgusting individual who epitomises כל הפוסל במומו פוסל.

    1. ""I know Rabbi Slifkin is hoping there are 2000 sick in Bnei Brak from this virus...""

      Because it is a rational deduction of following him for decades.

    2. Hmmm. I wonder what ever could "HG" stand for? I can't possibly guess...And after lobbing a disgusting accusation like that you'll say, "What? Why are you attacking me so personally?! I just want to keep things professional! Don't you have any substantive comments to make?"

    3. "Because it is a rational deduction of following him for decades."

      That is a "rational" (sic) deduction made only by a sick mind.

  7. Rabbi Slifkin, how do you apply this to fasting for rain? Our actions had no natural effect on the climate until the industrial revolution.

    1. Good question. The answer appears to be that for Rambam, it's the same as petitionary prayer - just like you can't change the rain, you can't change God's mind. See Marvin Fox, Interpreting Maimonides, for an explanation of what Rambam sees as the function of such things.

  8. You attempt to find some sort of universalistic "medical preparedness" lesson from the virus, and claim this fulfills the Rambam's mandate. Why not drop the pretense altogether and tell us its meant to teach us Tikun Olam? Or if you prefer, Global Warming?

    No. This is a bad misreading of the Rambam. When the Rambam said people should not ascribe events to "Mikreh", it is precisely universalistic platitudes such as the one you invented that he meant we should avoid. "Mikreh" doesn't mean literally *random*, as though anyone ever thought events had literally no source or root at all. That we don't need a Rambam to negate. It means, rather, that we should not ascribe them to non-religious reasons - like "pandemic preparedness" - that apply equally to everyone, anywhere, and are just part of the natural ebb and flow of life. Instead, Rambam says, we are to find religious inspiration, AS JEWS. And THAT is why he speaks of prayer and fasting - b/c these are Jewish reactions, and we are to react to external stimuli with uniquely Jewish soul-searching.

    Having said as much, I will meet you halfway. Perhaps there is a rationalist lesson for us Jews after all. For one thing the virus has taught us is the value of a JOB. Many people have lost theirs. Many others who haven't are forced to work from home in constrained circumstances. Perhaps the message is that we took a wrong turn as a society with the proliferation of Kollelim. Perhaps, when this is over, we should reexamine our priorities and contemplate once again on יפה תלמוד תורה עם דרך ארץ.

    1. perhaps Hashem is teaching every person and every community what it needs to be taught, each its own thing.

    2. Anarchist - the approach throughout the ages was to focus on national issues, not localized or individual failings. The sages, for example, said the second Temple was destroyed b/c of sinas chinam, period. They did not ascribe different sins to different people and different communities.

    3. Sinas chinam was a widespread phenomenon of a personal failing though.

      Another point is that absent of a navi, every attempt to figure out why Hashem did this (including giving "no reason" as a reason or "he didn't" — which both sound heretical to me) is just futile navelgazing.

    4. While I agree with what you're trying to prove, this doesn't work to prove it. Because sin'as chinam brought with it paractical problems that in a pragmatic way motivated the Romans to take away our autonomy. Seems to be the message of the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. Or the way our own people burned the stored food during the siege of Jerusalem. Or our inability to form unified forces...

  9. I appreciate the Rambam photo. It resembles my Rambam picture in the comments.

  10. "One must bear in mind that in Rambam's view, God does not spontaneously choose rewards and punishments for our actions; rather, He has set up the world such that correct actions generally lead to beneficial consequences, and vice-versa. "

    You should have a look a Morei 3,50-51 (about Sodom and Amora for example) and in Yad Hahazaka (about the blessings and cursing of Parashat Behoukotai). It's so clear you did total FALSIFICATION of Rambam view, Rambam never said HERESY like this.
    Why didn't anyone of the greatest Rambamist and scholars in the past, like Ralbag, or Morei commentators, and even Abarbanel never held such pont of views (it's clear from all their texts, I would be pleased to give references for who wishes)? Or R' Gedalia Nadel (biggest Rambamist and scholar of the past generation)?
    Even Ramban, which contradicts Rambam on every topic like this, never speaks about Rambam having so different point of view on our subject.
    It's a new interpretation of heretic people in last generation. "God's doesn't get angry " means there is no change from God's point of view, only from people behavior, but then, there is rewards and penalties, Like Rambam says in lot's of places.

    Conclusion: have a look at R' elhanan wasserman letters, about people distorting basics and fondamental concepts, because of their will to practice Torah and mitsvos as they wish, i don't need to give examples.

  11. How about the Guide 3:17-18:

    > I do not believe that it is through the interference of Divine Providence that a certain leaf drops [from a tree], nor do I hold that when a certain spider catches a certain fly, that this is the direct result of a special decree and will of God in that moment; it is not by a particular Divine decree that the spittle of a certain person moved, fell on a certain gnat in a certain place, and killed it; nor is it by the direct will of God that a certain fish catches and swallows a certain worm on the surface of the water. In all these cases the action is, according to my opinion, entirely due to chance, as taught by Aristotle...

    > HAVING shown in the preceding chapter that of all living beings mankind alone is directly under the control of Divine Providence, I will now add the following remarks... in accordance with what I have mentioned in the preceding chapter, that the greater the share is which a person has obtained of this Divine influence, on account of both his physical predisposition and his training, the greater must also be the effect of Divine Providence upon him, for the action of Divine Providence is proportional to the endowment of intellect, as has been mentioned above.

    1. @Aryeh I agree with what you wrote.


    3. Chossid, I accept his philosophical views in the Guide more than "implications" you gleaned from few statements in Hilchot Teshuva (which has other things in the agenda). The resolutions you provided to these two books are very farfetched.

  12. The torah is replete with passages in which god promises to intervene with reward and punishment based on our behavior. You say it literally every day in kriat shmah. Rambam in hilchot teshuva takes these passages at face value, he just adds that we shouldn't mistake the reward/punishment as ends in of itself, rather it is god giving or taking away the opportunity to be settled and have the ability to focus on spiritual perfection.

  13. Perhaps this isn't connected to the Rambam's philosophy of how to respond to a calamity--but, I was discussing with my children the incident of שמעי בן גרא cursing דוד המלך when David was forced to leave Jerusalem to flee from Avshalom. שמעי בן גרא is absolutely certain that David's suffering is a punishment for usurping the throne from Shaul, and killing Ish Boshet and Avner. David says that he will stoically absorb שמעי's insults and execrations, because it serve as an atonement for him.

    However, David himself is aware of the true reason for his tribulations: the prophet Nathan told him explicitly that it will be part of the punishment for the killing of Uriah and the incident with Batsheva.

    I see this as an example that people can have all sorts of clever explanations of why a calamity occurs, and people should repent when calamity occurs, ח"ו--but the true reason can only be divulged by someone with prophetic ability.

    1. @Yehudah P there is another concept that I think you need to recognize. The world works according to the laws of nature. One of these laws is that every act has consequences. Whether or not G-d forgives, the consequences do not go away. For example, King David was afflicted, save his sin of the census, due to the consequences that followed his adulterous relationship with Bat Sheva and the murder of her husband and the soldiers with him. The consequences may still occur even after one makes repentance (David also repented).

  14. I'm sorry but it clearly seem we have big apikorsout on the comments, I can't understand who allow Turk Hill to publish such comments. Or he is Apikores, or pure Am Haaretz to my sorrow. May God protect everyone.

    1. My bet is that you would add Rambam and many others as being apikorsus if you ever studied them. Again, I just finished reading Micah Goodman’s book. He agrees with what I wrote.

  15. "What messages did God send us with coronavirus - that He doesn't want us to go to shul?"

    Could be. "לָמָּה־לִּ֤י רֹב־זִבְחֵיכֶם֙ יֹאמַ֣ר ה".

    But the answer to theodicy isn't deism.

    You ignore Moreh 3:18, as well as the Rambam's belief in hashgachah kelalis, not to mention the fundamentally non-deterministic nature of Artistotilian physics. The Rambam rejects Aristotilian eternalism because he embraces the idea that nature as we know it can be violated. Never mind his embracing the idea that Divine Intellect can be the indirect cause of the impetus behind providential events.

    Redefining his belief in reward and punishment to near non-existence is also unsupportable. How would you explain his discussion in the introduction to Pereq Cheileq? And not all Providence is necessarily reward or punishment.

    The words you're putting in the Rambam's mouth is beyond the Ralbag's position on miracles and providence. It simply doesn't fit the man's writings. (Nor his son's description of his position.)

    You can write post after post on the subject. The idea is still wrong.

    1. +++ Very good.

    2. Yes, Maimonides writes that he rejects Aristotle’s view of the eternity of the universe and prefers creation because it fits in with miracles. However, some scholars felt that Maimonides did not believe in miracles or at least minimizes them. More importantly, other scholars feel that he wrote his Guide in an esoteric fashion. Scholars note that he generally agreed with Aristotle, hinting that he could accept the view that G-d formed the world out of pre-existing matter, that is eternal:

      “We do not reject the Eternity of the Universe because certain passages in Scripture confirm Creation; for such passages are not more numerous than those in which G-d is represented as a corporal being... We should perhaps have had an easier task in showing that the Scriptural passages referred to are in harmony with the theory of the Eternity of the Universe if we accepted the latter, than we had in explaining the anthropomorphisms in the Bible when we rejected the idea that G-d is corporeal.” (from the easy to read Friedlander translation).

      Thus, the Rambam did not reject Aristotle’s view out of hand. In fact, it is more likely, as Micah Goodman pointed out, that he did not espouse either view. Goodman writes that Rambam does not seem to know and that the Torah could support either view. My own opinion is that he did accept the notion that G-d formed the world out of pre-existing matter.

    3. Give it up, Micha. As long as you argue with Menachem Kellner and the academics who RDNS holds in such high regard, you'll never be taken seriously.
      It's a lost cause.

    4. Stop to false scholarsApril 13, 2020 at 12:51 PM

      When you say 'scholar' please say 'academic people' instead.
      Scholar is called someone who really first of all learnt Thora and HALACHA his whole life and also philosophy and so, not some philosoph and academic professor who hardly understands hebrew, and distorts everything according to his will to access freedom, and flee from Thora and mitsvos burden.

      NONE of Rambamists real sholars of the pasts like Ralbag, Morei commentators, Abrabanel, and so many others took things that way. Even Ramban never criticize Rambam on that point of view.

      Let me ask one question: in order to be considered a rich person, it's not enouch to have few appartments. So why to be called 'scholar' is it enough to know a bit Tanach and Rambam? Scholar is someone who knows the WHOLE TALMUD, including halacha and hagadeta, rambam in his psakim until choulhan arouh halacha. (Quote from the Rambam itself) Only then can he affirm he maybe understands Rambam words.

    5. I use the terms interchangeably since they mean the same thing. A scholar does not only refers to halakhah. There are scholars of history, for instance. In any event, I meant Maimonidean scholars. For example, Menachem Kellner is such a scholar. But it is fine to refer to them as academics. This is all semantics.

    6. I would add that Leo Strauss considered himself as a scholar on Maimonides.

    7. The Rambam says outright in the book he rejects Aristotle eternalism because it overturns the basics of what our prophets and sages teach. Strauss can turn that into his not really rejecting Aristotle if he wants; but that's no longer discussing anything like what the Rambam says.

      You're invoking names; I asked you to argue the merits of ideas.

      You haven't yet addressed the Moreh 3:18 says about people who merit hashgachah, the concept of national or species hashgachah, Nor the fact that Providence and nature weren't in strict conflict in Aristotelian physics.

      The Rambam simply wasn't as close to Deism as either the blog post or the academics you mention suggest.

    8. The Rambam felt that just as vision protects a person from stumbling, so too, reason protects us from potential danger. Divine providence is not G-d watching over specific individuals, rather it is as Goodman writes “our intellect, the godly within us, saves us from danger.” Thus Guide, 3:18 is a metaphor that explains the failures of humans as stemming from blindness (ignorance is the primary source of evil). Yes, the Rambam writes that he rejects Aristotle’s view of the eternity of the universe, however, scholars note that he generally agreed with Aristotle. Maimonides wrote for two audiences the intellectual and the common person. One needs to read the entire Guide to get a feel for what he understands is true. While Maimonides’ concept of including “essential truths” – what Plato called “noble lies” – has good intentions, this misled many people.

  16. "fasting and praying is what helps people (A) be human beings, feeling connected to the community and so on, and (B) contemplate where they went wrong."

    In that case, why is praying to G-d any better than praying to an idol?

    1. The Rambam values living according to the Truth.

      In any case, prayer isn't supposed to be viewed as merely a means of getting what you want.

    2. Oh, I agree. But according to the perspective in this post, praying is fundamentally not living according to the truth.

      If the only purposes are to be connected with the community and contemplating where you went wrong, then G-d is not רופא חולי עמו ישראל or שומע תפלה or any of the other things we say. You're lying for a benefit. And so you might as well be praying to an idol.

      Again, I don't agree with the perspective, but that seems to be what Rabbi Slifkin is saying.

    3. that is exactly the point of the rambam academics (see the end of kelner's chapter on reward and punishment for example) - god does not respond to our prayers or reward/punish us in the traditional understanding. its just benefitial for us to think he does so that we behave. basically, they believe that half our practiced religion (prayer in the nusach we say it, repentance, etc. etc.) is actually fake/false and is just to manipulate us.
      And rabbi slifkin finds this compeling.

  17. Leo Strauss and his esotericism turned the Moreh Nevuchim into a Rorsach test by which every heterodox ideologue can turn the Rambam into precedent. And so, secular scholarship on Maimonides simply lacks the objectivity they claim they're adding to the field. Throwing around names like Strauss, Goodman or Fox mean little to me. Speak only to the merits of their arguments, not try to prove by authority.

    Meanwhile, we have 3:18 saying that there are individuals that merit Divine Providence, 2:29 which talks about the occasional violation of nature, and his notion of national or species-wide providence.

    There is also the fact that Artisotilian physics starts with minds imparting impetus to cause motion. Which means that providence, a chain of causality that starts with the Divine "Intellect", has a lot it can do without choosing to defy nature.

    As for his rejection of eternity... The Rambam says the notion defies mesorah and the fundamentals of the Torah, and that is enough to reject it. Even if he can't reject the idea out of hand for philosophical grounds.

    1. Menachem Kellner's wife said Rambam is a Rorschach test.

    2. He isn't. Strauss turned him into one. The variation between classical commentators, such as Abarbanel and the Narbonni, is nothing like what moderns do to the guy. And they lived in the same Aristotelian milieu.

    3. My rabbi made a good case that he was. He said that it is interesting to note that all the ancient Maimonidean scholars (i.e. Abarbanel, Ralbag, ibn Ezra) viewed Rambam correctly, it is only recently that people began to reinvent him to be a mystical chassid. Thus, Strauss's interpretation of him being a rationalist is a rediscovery on Maimonides and not the other way around.

      Rabbi Soloveitchik’s interpretations of Maimonides was a false Maimonides. People often need to make Maimonides say things he never said. By doing so they are reinventing Maimonides.

  18. And now for an opposing viewpoint of "why Corona":
    It's a Hidabroot slick production.
    1) Pope Gregory IX caused the Black Death by convincing people to kill cats which caused an overpopulation of rats which carried the disease. (Historically false, but that sort of fact checking is only for those into banned Zoo-Torah stuff.) The Christians then blamed the Jews- just like the media is now blaming the charedim.
    2) From a mundane perspective it's because the Charedim are forced into cramped cities where social distancing is much harder. Furthermore because of secular society, they must insulate themselves and thus have little/no access to live saving health information. The gov't has money to waste on secular culture but won't install a big TV screen (!) in the center of Bnei Brak and broadcast public service messages. It's because of the secular that Charedim don't know what's going on.
    3) From a spiritual perspective it's because Charedim are being tested (that great pre-messianic refinement) to see if they will remain isolationists or give into the temptation of exposing themselves to the wider secular world.

    Summarizing the summary: We've learned absolutely nothing!

  19. Another perspective:

  20. Turk Hill: Each one of your comments shows clearly you surely never opened neither Talmud and Halacha, nor judaism history. Everything you write is full of foolishness and childish comparisons.
    And by the way, how do you dare compare all your academics to Ralbag, Abrabanel and other Rishonim???

    1. Last night I read another excellent essay by Menachem Kellner. Like it or not, Fox, Shapiro, Kellner, Strauss, and Pines are Maimonidean scholars. To say otherwise suggests you never read their work. Let's not argue over semantics.

      Isn't your name “False scholar” perfect irony?

  21. Every year in about November/December, my children come home from school and tell me around the Shabbat table about how Yaakov Avinu prepared for possible battle with Eisav in 3 ways: He tried to appease him, he prepared militarily, and he davened to Hashem for help.

    Thank G-D my children are being taught to prepare in every possible way including trying to avoid the catastrophic occurrence (appeasement), dealing with it if it happens despite our best preparations (splitting the camps), and always realizing that ultimately regardless of what we do, we ALSO ask Hashem for protection (davening). We never do just one. It is our jobs to do ALL of the above. Make EVERY effort available.

    If my first grader can begin to understand the importance of adequate preparation straight from the torah, why can’t our leading rabbonim???

    If it was kosher enough for Yaakov Avinu, it should be kosher enough for us.

  22. Basically a fine example of how Maimonides, lacking any modern understanding of empiricism, substituted his personal dogmas for those of various others. It's good to see Rabbi Slifkin keeping up this misunderstanding of the essentially sociological nature of religion today.

    1. You can bash the Rambam all you want, but you're putting Slifkin in some very nice company.

    2. "From Moses to Moses there was none like Moses." It is possible, and certainly no exaggeration to say that Maimonides was probably the greatest Jewish scholar.

    3. Sammy, the Rambam lived before the scientific method was invented. Saying that he didn't understand empiricism is no insult. Unlike someone living today still not getting the memo.

  23. Late to the party but if you read the whole letter to Marseilles I think its pretty clear Rabbi Slifkin misrepresents the Rambam's position. The Rambam makes it very clear in a number of places in the letter that we should the difficulties we we experience are the result of sin. In this way we differ from the "philosophers".see below:

    Imagine this situation. Here is Reuben, a tanner, poor, and his children have died in his own lifetime. And here is Simon, a perfumer, rich, and his children stand before him.

    (1 ) The philosopher will maintain that this is due to chance. It is possible that Reuben could become a perfumer, grow rich, and have children; and it is possible that Simon could become impoverished, turn into a tanner, and witness his children’s death. All this is simply fortuitous. There is no nature in the world and no power emanating from a star that caused this individual to be or not to be thus. This is the position of the philosophers.

    (2) The second position is that of those who believe in judicial astrology and whose sayings you have heard and whose follies are widespread among you. They maintain that it is impossible that a given thing should ever change. Never will Reuben be anything other than a tanner and poor and childless, for it was thus fixed by the power of the sphere at the time of his birth. Similarly, it is impossible for Simon to be anything other than a perfumer and rich and with surviving children, just as it was fixed by the power of the sphere at the time of his birth.

    (3) The true way upon which we rely and in which we walk is this: We say regarding this Reuben and Simon, that there is nothing that draws on the one to become a perfumer and rich, and the other to become a tanner and poor. It is possible that the situation will change and be reversed, as the philosopher maintains. But the philosopher maintains that this is due to chance. We maintain that it is not due to chance, but rather that this situation depends on the will of “Him who spoke, and (the world) came into being” (Ps. 33:9); all of this is a (just) decree and judgment. We do not know the end of the Holy One’s wisdom so as to know by what decree and judgment He required that this should be this way and that that should be the other way; “for His ways are not like our ways, neither are His thoughts like our thoughts” (Is. 55:8). We rather are obliged to fix in our minds that if Simon sins, he will be punished with stripes and impoverished and his children will die and the like. And if Reuben repents and mends his ways and searches his deeds and walks in a straight path, he will grow rich and will succeed in all his undertakings and “see (his) seed and prolong (his) days” (ibid. 55:10). This is a root of the religion. If a man says, “But look, many have acted in this way and yet have not succeeded,” why, this is no proof. [For] either some iniquity of theirs caused this, or they are now afflicted in order to inherit something even better than this. [But not afflicted in the senses that they are sinners, and a subsequent good will be a “reward”. Maimonides means they are dealt a trail through which they will emerge with a greater good. An example is when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. This was not commanded as a means of suffering so that Abraham might thereby be ‘owed” a subsequent good. Rather, it was to actualize Abraham’s potential, for his own good.]

    The summary of the matter is that our mind cannot grasp how the decrees of the Holy One, blessed be He, work upon human beings in this world and in the world to come.


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