Thursday, February 18, 2021

My Greatest Mistake

I've made many mistakes in my life. But probably one of the most consequential, at least in terms of Jewish thought, was my failure to have sufficient expertise in the topic of Torah and science during the Great Controversy of 2004-2005. It was a period when I had a unique power to directly and indirectly get people to talk about particular topics and sources, and I messed it up.

Had I possessed sufficient expertise, I would have realized that the whole framing of the discussion regarding Chazal being mistaken in their statements about the natural world was wrong. It was purportedly about the legitimacy of following the statements of authorities such as Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam and Rav Hirsch. My opponents dismissed such sources as forgeries, or as an obscure minority view that no longer had any validity. The mainstream mesorah, they insisted, is that Chazal's statements about the natural world are divinely-inspired and cannot be mistaken.

But there is a single passage in the Gemara which unequivocally proves otherwise. I'm talking, of course, about the topic of the sun's path at night. Here you have a statement by Chazal - that the sun doubles back and travels behind the opaque dome of the sky - which is certainly not correct. No less than Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi even observes that it is not correct. And all the Geonim and Rishonim, without any exception whatsoever, interpreted this passage literally, as a discussion about astronomy. It's only beginning in the 16th century that various authorities reinterpreted the Gemara to absolve Chazal of being mistaken. And even after that period, there were still plenty of authorities who maintained the classical, traditional understanding of the Gemara (which is also, of course, the one which is by far the most reasonable).

So, those who claim that it is forbidden to say that Chazal erred in their statements about the natural world, are themselves doing something much worse than what they accused me of doing. Not only are they going against the mainstream interpretation - they are attempting to entirely delegitimize it!

Sixteen years ago, I missed my chance to get people to confront this topic. But there's another opportunity. Daf Yomi reaches this topic on this coming Tuesday! And so I have now prepared a single page which clearly summarizes the topic - including observing that notwithstanding the mainstream, classical approach being to learn this Gemara according to its straightforward meaning, a number of recent rabbinic authorities have declared this to be heretical. They might be afraid to acknowledge the positions that I cite, but I'm not afraid to cite their position.

You can download the page in PDF format at this link. Please circulate it, especially to those learning Daf Yomi!

A full-length discussion of the topic of the sun's path at night can be found in my new book, Rationalism vs. Mysticism: Schisms in Traditional Jewish Thought. The book can be purchased from the museum website, with proceeds going to the museum.



176 comments:

  1. Your distorted and misleading presentation of the gemara is perfectly appropriate for the level of learning experienced in Daf Yomi.

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    1. Amazingly, my "distorted and misleading presentation" is exactly that of countless Rishonim and Acharonim!

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    2. No. That is just your slanted presentation of their position. This facade works for an audience who never saw those rishonim, but as soon as someone analyzes the sugya, your distortions are apparent.

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    3. Walter, can you please elaborate on why R' Slifkin's presentation is "distorted and misleading", for those of us who are not as skilled at learning the sugya?

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    4. Dr. Slifkin's presentation is based upon a misreading of the rishonim. He attributes to them positions that they do not profess. Merely because they do not elaborate, he presents this as if they are disputing explanations of the gemara provided in later generations by great geonim who illuminated these sugyos. His approach is similar to those who deny Har Sinai revelation because no physical evidence of a Jewish presence has been excavated in the Sinai desert. Another distortion is his glossing over abstract concepts that he doesn't understand, such as the Rakia. Slifkin says this means: 'firmament' or 'opaque dome', meaningless words that reveal he has no idea what he is talking bout, much less to pretend to understand an obscure gemara which is based upon a prior understanding of the Rakia. There are Talmidei Chachamim alive today who can explain these concepts, and I suggest that Slikin should stop pretending that he is one of them

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    5. So you think the son doubles back and goes under under and opaque dome at night ?

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    6. The words "opaque" and "dome" have very precise and clear meanings. These are the meanings that are used by all the Rishonim and many Acharonim in explaining this Gemara. Namely, that the firmament is something which would conceal the sun when it passes behind it, as per the view of the Chachamei Yisrael, but which we now know that the sun does not pass behind. Walter doesn't have a way to contrive a reinterpretation of all the explanations of the RIshonim and Acharonim, so instead he hides behind claims of secret superior knowledge and insults.

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  2. This doesn't prove anything. It is like any הוה אמינא and מסקנא in the Gemara. You are saying that from the fact the Gemara changes its mind from the הוה אמינא, we can therefore say Chazal are wrong??

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    1. Of course it is. Rebbi, part of the chachmei yisrael, changed his mind based on the "evidence". Just like any time a member of Chazal changes his mind because of a ראיה. See :נדה ז and :ב"ב י for other examples of "...נראין דברי" as well as many other places. Nothing to see here, folks.

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    2. Great point. This chazal actually shows that anything chazal said from Rebbe and onward IS ACCURATE!

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    3. Rebbi concluded that the Chachmei Yisrael did not appear to be correct. It doesn't say that the Chachmei Yisrael agreed. Incidentally, the chachmei yisrael's view is also found in Bava Basra. Also, Rebbi's reason for agreeing with the non-Jews is actually NOT correct - the wells are not heated by the sun overnight.

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    4. Ok, if the Chachmei Yisrael didn't change their minds, then it's a machlokes, them and Rebbi. Just like any other machlokes in Shas. Nothing to see here.

      And it's irrelevant if you in your opinion Rebbi's reasoning is wrong, I too think the Gemara is wrong about many things on almost every daf. What's relevant is the opinion of rishonim such as the RABMBM, that you are now saying is not so important.

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    5. Huh? It's not machlokes about halacha, in which there is no objective right and wrong. It's a machlokes about metziyus.

      And I'm not sure what you mean about Rambam. Rambam himself brings this Gemara to show that Chazal could be mistaken on things.

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    6. So what. There are many machlokes about objective metzius. Such as if Yisro came before or after Matan Torah. Or how the leviim carried the kerashim. Count this one among them.

      And I know the Rambam brings this gemara. I thought the whole point of this post is that you can rely on this Gemara, without the aid of the Rambam and his son. If you want to rely on the Rambam, well, ok.

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    7. Mr happy
      Meet Walter. He apparently thinks this Gemara as presented by Slifkin is a real problem. Why, I have no idea.

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    8. It is a machlokes about halacha. Matzos are made with Mayim Shelanu. (Although in my opinion the earth ain't flat.)

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    9. No, Shlomo - the gemara presents not the slightest problem to people of intellect and faith. It is simply a show by Slifkin that carries no weight. That is why no serious talmid chacham bothers to take any of his claims seriously

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    10. Notice how Walter refuses to ever actually explain what he insists the Gemara must mean. All he does is continually issue insults.

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    11. Any minute now, Walter will come up with some excuse as to why he won't explain what the Gemara means, nor how to reconcile his view with all the words of the Rishonim and Acharonim. He'll say that we're not capable of understanding it, or that we're leitzanim, etc.

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    12. Oy vey, this is what I wake up to. Walter, you have to understand that sometimes we can't explain a certain gemara. There are countless sugyos I cannot explain, nor can my rebbeim, such is the nature of Torah. This gemara is one of them. Now, Rabbi Slifkin has a great explanation, his explanation is that the gemara is simply wrong. How convenient such an explanation would have been in my yeshiva years, to explain many shver sugyos! Perhaps Rabbi Slifkin's rebbeim taught him that this is an acceptable approach. However, my rebbeim, and I suspect yours as well, would disagree. Our mesorah is that if we come to part of the Torah we cannot explain, we say צ"ע and move on.

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    13. Oy vey. So it's not acceptable to accept the pashut peshat of the Gemara, which also happens to be perfectly in accordance with all the Rishonim and plenty of Acharonim, who explicitly explain the Gemara this way and have no problem with it. But Happy's mesorah is that if the Rishonim and Acharonim say something that doesn't fit with the contemporary yeshivish approach, then declare it "shvere" and move on. I just hope you don't think that your use of the term "mesorah" has anything to do with actual historical tradition.

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    14. "But Happy's mesorah is that if the Rishonim and Acharonim say something that doesn't fit with the contemporary yeshivish approach, then declare it "shvere" and move on."

      No, not contemporary yeshivish approach. But with our observations. That the sun doesn't appear to move like that, that there doesn't appear to be an opaque rakiya, that there doesn't appear to be manna-grinder in the sky. All of these gemaras defy explanation. To you, the explanation is simple, they are wrong. To myself and my rebbeim, if we can't explain them, we declare them shver and move on. Just like any other shver sugya.

      As for whether Rebbie actually conceded to the chachmei haumos, I have no problem saying he did. Hava amina and maskana. Just another Tuesday in the bais medrash.

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    15. Walter,
      Does the Maharal agree with the Rambam that there could be/are errors in Aggada? Does he let us know that he's arguing on the Rambam?

      Mr. Happy
      You point out there's no big chiddush to the fact that there's a mistake in the Gemara because it's just a hava amina. Do you have any clue then what is getting Walter so worked up? He thinks this pshat in the Gemara is impossible and pure am haratzus! It seems that someone on the right (I suspect a R' Moshe Shapiro disciple) absolutely agrees with Slifkin that if his pshat *were* correct, it would be devastating for the Yeshivishe approach.

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    16. Mr happy Would you ever admit a Gemara could be wrong? R. Slifkin does seem to say this Gemara wrong because of how the Gemara differs from science. I just watched a movie about Galileo Galilei. The Church was convinced that the earth was the center of the universe. Galileo proved with the tides that the earth circles the sun. So up until the 17th century, we still believed the sun circled the earth. If it wasn't for Galileo we would still accept the Gemara literally. When they asked Galileo why the Bible contradicted science, he said that it wasn't the error of Tanakh, but rather how we interpret the Tanakh was wrong. It is so with the mesorah.

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    17. Mr. Happygoluckypersonage, it's not a "hava amina and maskana." The Chachmai Yisrael maintained a certain view. Rebbi observed that they were not correct.
      If the chachmei Yisrael could be mistaken in believing that the sun goes behind the sky at night, then they can also be mistaken in believing that there are mice which are generated from dirt.

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    18. "To you, the explanation is simple, they are wrong. To myself and my rebbeim, if we can't explain them, we declare them shver and move on. Just like any other shver sugya."

      But in this case, the Rishonim THEMSELVES did not consider it shver to accept that Chazal mistakenly believed that the sun goes behind the sky at night. So you are not following in the path of the Rishonim.

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    19. @RNS,

      1. I also don't consider it shver to say that the Chachmei Yisrael were mistaken here, since Rebbi said that! I AM following the path of the Rishonim. So what do I consider shver? Well, many other things about this sugya, starting with the fact that Rebbi also appears to be inconsistent with observation, as you mentioned. You say Rebbi is wrong, I say chas veshalom, we don't say such a thing on our own (as I mention below), rather we work on it for hours and days (perhaps consulting astronomers if that helps), and when we still can't explain it, we give up, and say מצוה ליישב, and we move on. Just like we would do with any other sugya.

      2. There seem to be Rishonim/Achronim who go in your derech and say Chazal was wrong even about other things that there was no machlokes about, such as refuos, or other astronomy in general. I don't have a great answer for how those authorities fit with what I was taught (that we don't say Chazal is wrong, even when we can't explain them). But the whole point of this post was that you could avoid those sources and prove it straight from the Gemara in Pesachim (according to most Rishonim save for Rabbeinu Tam). Which I dispute, since this is just another example of a machlokes, Rebbi vs. the Chachmei Yisrael (I will tentatively concede this is a regular machlokes rather than a hava amina and maskana.)

      So actually, this wasn't your greatest mistake.

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    20. What is shver about a scientific statement made in the Gemara which is later proven to be incorrect? The Gemara is not a science book. It *is* an invaluable insight into the minds of chazal, what they believed, how they lived, how they thought, debated, and reached their conclusions.

      Those who believe the Gemara comes to teach us science would be well advised to listen to modern doctors if ever diagnosed with something serious, lo aleinu, instead of going for a bloodletting.

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    21. @happy & Co: I find it funny that certain topics like the sun's path and the hyrax issue seem to have rebirth a few times a year. As a Yeshiva boy who has read the cyclical conversation over and over, the maskana never changes. It is quite empiricaly clear that chazal erred in science. There is also a long mesorah of believing that. There is also an explicit gemarah telling us this.

      You guys are reverse engineering an idea into the sugyas so you can keep RNS as the krum guy. Sheesh

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    22. MV, what is shver about a halachic statement in the gemara that's later proven incorrect. Ma'asim bekol yom in the bais medrash!

      Btw, you could listen to modern doctors while still maintaining you don't understand the gemara medical advice. Yes, I know some rishonim say the medical advice is wrong.

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    23. It's not (just) Rabbi Slifkin saying chazal were wrong. It's the gemara saying chazal were wrong. And saying that the top thinkers of the goyim were correct on that thing which chazal were wrong about. It is pretty obvious there would be ramifications to this opinion in terms of hashkafa and how we treat chazal's statements, unless we put our heads in the sand and pretend this gemara doesn't exist.

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    24. Student v, see below where I assert that it's in fact extremely common for the gemara to say Chazal are wrong, on almost every daf.

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    25. On every daf? You have a source for that?

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    26. I said almost every daf, which might be an exaggeration, since I am not a baki in Shas. So I literally just flipped to random daf, Kesubos 46a and it says right at the top (continuing from the previous page) רב פפא אמר מאי בעל לוקה דקתני התם ממון וקרי ליה לממון מלקות. So we have Rav Pappa saying another member of Chazal, Rav Nachman bar Yitzchok, is wrong about what Rabbi Yehuda was talking about when he said "לוקה".

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    27. Happygolucky, that's the same mistake you're making at the beginning of this thread. You're attempting to create a confusion of maskana and hava amina, and conflating these produces a sort of smoke and mirrors negating the uniqueness of this passage.

      Unlike your assertion, the gemara does not routinely state that its own conclusions are wrong.

      It does not routinely elevate the conclusions of outside sources, including non-Jewish sources, as the superior answer.

      It is peculiar that you argue this way considering how many people insist that this passage is NOT suggesting chazal were mistaken, and that it is in fact forbidden to make such a suggestion on this or any other topic.

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    28. happygolucky,
      an halachic statement which is later proven to be incorrect is a real issue, since halacha is actually what the gemara comes to teach - not science.

      scientific statements made in the gemara aren't hard to understand. one can only go with the best knowledge available at the time they lived.

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    29. Student v, my mistake??? No my friend, it is you who is making the mistake. The gemara in fact does routinely state that the conclusions of members of Chazal are wrong. And by "routinely", I mean "almost every daf". See below where I explain this in more detail. You want to say there is something unique about this because it "elevates" a non-Jewish source? Ok, I will give you that. By the same token, the Gemara that paskens like Beruria is also unique because it "elevates" a woman.

      So you don't like the way I argue? You would prefer I use the pitiful, ineffectual arguments that other people use? The truth is, in my opinion, saying Chazal were mistaken depends on the context and the way in which one says it. I think the way I'm using it is perfectly acceptable and the way RNS is using it is not.

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    30. MV, ok. No need for the qualifier "scientific", you could just say all statements in the gemara aren't hard to understand. Doesn't that make Talmud learning much easier?

      But joking aside, if you want to assert the Sages only had knowledge available at the time, you don't need this gemara at all, you could just make that assertion. This gemara doesn't add anything.

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    31. "The gemara in fact does routinely state that the conclusions of members of Chazal "

      Why do you insist on obfuscating?
      Notice the difference here: "CONCLUSIONS OF MEMBERS OF CHAZAL"

      Whereas what I said was:
      "the gemara does not routinely state that ITS OWN CONCLUSIONS are wrong."

      If the gemara's role was to tell us it had no authority, then it serves no purpose, and it certainly wouldn't be central to our religion.

      Try harder.

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    32. HGL, If you're in med school, maybe the gemara won't help much. But that doesn't mean "we don't need this gemara." if you find no value in a window into the minds and real lives and times of Chazal, that's your opinion.

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    33. Student v, what in the world are you talking about? What does "its own conclusions" mean? You mean stama d'gemara? This gemara in psachim is also not stama d'gemara. It is just a braisa with Rebbi disputing the Chachmei Yisrael. Which is not unique in the slightest (except for the involvement of non-Jews, which I already agreed was unique).

      MV, I just meant you don't need this gemara to show that we could say Chazal were wrong about science. And it doesn't show that.

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    34. Happy -we would need (or perhaps some would need) this Gemara as a mattir. Had we not had that Gemara, it would be more difficult to say that Chazal were wrong on science. Sure, you are correct, we probably would. But WITH this sugya, we are on safer theological ground that it is OK to say that they were scientifically incorrect, and it doesn't change a thing about how we feel about them in terms of halachic and hashkafic authority.

      Also, to megalgel a comment about your earlier postings: your point that the Gemara saying that Chazal are wrong happens on every page, in every day in the Bais Medrash. If you feel that way, then wonderful, there is no problem here FOR YOU. Unfortunately for the Great Torah-Science Debate (alas that there is such a thing), there are those who state unequivocally that this NEVER happens, even in THIS Gemara. You are trying to undermine the pro-rationalist argument by disagreeing with the anti-rationalist opinion!

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    35. Yosef R, if one initially thought that Chazal were more correct about science than halacha, in that he imagines there is never any machlokes about science, then I can see how this gemara would disabuse him of that notion. Because it shows a machlokes in science. Also, if somebody though that non-Jews could never know more than Jewish sages, it would also show that is not the case. But I don't see any reason to say it's unique to science. A non-Jew could be victorious over a Jewish sage in areas of halacha as well.

      Also, regarding my other point, I think that Rabbi Shlomo Miller, for example, who is infinitely greater than me, is well aware that machlokes and tyiuvtas happen all the time. But he doesn't open up his mouth to say, therefore, that Abaye is wrong in case X. Or even that the Rashba is wrong. If he has a problem with Abbaye or the Rashba, he says צ"ע. Such is his reverence for Chazal. Such should be our reverence for Chazal as well.

      What about RABMBM + others who say Chazal weren't scientists? I think as long as you acknowledge that you are using them as a source, there is nothing wrong with that. That doesn't contradict reverence of Chazal, since we are relying on them saying a rule, specifically about scientific gemaros. And of course we must acknowledge there are Rishonim who disagree.

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  3. Thank you. Where can I read the full essay on the sun's path at night?

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    1. If you order the book, I can email it to you.

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    2. That sounds great. I'll get a copy from Amazon right away.

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    3. No, that doesn't apply to Amazon orders! You have to order from the museum website. https://www.biblicalnaturalhistory.org/product/rationalism-vs-mysticism/

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  4. You openly admit to writing your book without sufficient knowledge to that which pertains to the subject matter. That Talmud you quote is very famous, how could you author such a book without knowing it?

    It seems akin to RMBM's harsh criticism of the insufficiently learned students who prematurely issue halachic decisions.

    "These young students, who have not studied sufficient Torah, seek to gain prestige in the eyes of the commoners and the people of their city, they jump to sit at the head of all questions of law and Halakhic judgments in Israel. They increase dispute, they destroy the world, extinguish the light of Torah and wreak havoc in the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts. Regarding them, Shlomo said in his wisdom, “Take for us foxes, little foxes that spoil the vineyards…” (Shir haShirim [Song of Songs] 2:15)."

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    1. I did discuss this Gemara in the book. I just didn't realize the significance of it in the ensuing controversy. I didn't realize that every single Rishon learned it kpshuto.

      Then again, I was just a kid. But senior Gedolim didn't know about all the discussion on this Gemara either!

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    2. You are simply spouting falsehoods. The Siach Yitzchak (R Yitzchak Isaac Chaver)explains the gemara very well. That explanation coincides with the explanations of Rav Dessler in Michtav MeiEliyahu, edited by Rabbi Carmell. Nowhere does he, nor the Maharal, even allude to the fact that they are introducing a novel approach and arguing with proper generations - as you claim.

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    3. Of course they don't want to explicitly admit that they are going against all the Rishonim!

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    4. Yes, a conspiracy theory...all the rabbanim have conspired against rational thought...and the courageous hero Nattan Slifkin comes to the rescue...This works for your fan club and at the zoo, maybe on CNN or Fox News. You are simply being laughed at by serious scholars.

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    5. Are you seriously arguing that all the Rishonim secretly also agreed to the deep mystical explanation of Maharal, or that of R. Chaver, and simply never gave any hint of such a thing? And likewise for all the Acharonim? Well, in that case, you might as well say the same about me. I also secretly agree with R. Chaver!

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    6. I believe you really (deep down) do agree with R' Chaver, however your writings give the impression otherwise and may lead people astray 😊

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    7. Are you seriously arguing that Rav Yitzchak Issac Chaver (who faithfully transmitted the teachings of the Vilna Gaon, and the Maharal (who when arguing with the Rishonim always stated so vociferously and specifically) were actually overturning traditional understanding of this Gemara while keeping this secret, and that nobody in the last five hundred years before Nattan Slifkin has ever noticed nor indicated this major dispute? I guess the alternative is too painful for you - your own understanding of this Aggadeta is simply wrong.

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    8. I must say, I am finding this exchange fascinating.

      OF COURSE they were overturning the traditional understanding! And they weren't keeping anything secret. They were open with their explanations of the Gemara. They just preferred not to address the fact that none of the Rishonim gave any such explanations. They may even have convinced themselves that there must be Rishonim who agree.

      Everyone who seeks to make a revolution in Judaism has to convince others (and even themselves) that they are not really making a revolution. Thus Rambam implied that the statements in Chazal supporting various astrology etc. are not the unequivocal view of Chazal. But not many people today seriously believe that Chazal had Rambam's Greco-Muslim understanding of Torah and the universe.

      Maharal's entire approach to Gemaras which were always explained as discussing metziyus - that they are actually referring to "inner metaphysical realities" rather than the physical universe - was completely revolutionary and has absolutely no precedent in the Rishonim. This should be obvious.

      Just as you yourself are extremely uncomfortable acknowledging the notion of revolutions in Judaism, so are and were most people in history. That's why they preferred to ignore them and blind themselves to their existence.

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    9. Additionally: Since those such as Maharal were seeking to boost the honor of Chazal by saying that they weren't mistaken about such seemingly basic things as where the sun goes at night, nobody was in a rush to point out that Maharal was making an innovation with no precedent in the Rishonim.

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    10. Let's take one concrete example. Here are the words of Maharam Alashkar on this sugya:
      "Rabbeinu Tam believes that there are two sunsets: the first, when the sun begins to enter the thickness of the firmament and no longer shines on the earth – for according to his view, the sun must travel the entire thickness of the firmament in its path in order to rise above the firmament’s covering. The second sunset is that time at which it finishes rising through the thickness of the firmament but is still at the firmament’s opening, not yet having risen above the covering. … It is known and obvious that this description is true only according to the opinion of the sages of Israel, who believe that the sphere is stationary and the constellations circle it, and the sun travels behind the firmament’s covering at night. But the authors and commentators other [than Rabbeinu Tam], and also the Rambam…, and the Geonim, accept the view of the gentile sages, that the sphere revolves and the constellations are stationary, and that the sun travels below the earth at night, according to which theory it is not necessary for the sun to travel through the thickness of the firmament or opposite the opening in it, for it is the sun that descends below the horizon, there being only one sunset."
      Are you seriously arguing that Maharam Alaskhar took the view of Maharal, that the Gemara is not actually talking about where the sun physically goes at night, and that Chazal were not actually mistaken about this?!

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    11. Where in the world do you see from this citation an argument between him and Maharal and R Yitzchak Isaak Chaver? Are you so one-dimensional to assume that each and every explanation of Gemara disputes alternatives? Your sleight of hand works with Amhaaratzim who don't know any better, but everyone else sees through your phony facade of scholarship.

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    12. Maharam Alashkar's explanation is exactly what the Maharal condemns as unthinkable: "They understand that the intent of the Sages was to say that the sun passes through the sphere, and that this is what was said by, “at night it travels above the firmament”; and if so, this would mean that the firmament was being temporarily pierced as the sun passes into the sphere. And this is impossible; it is also contradicted by the senses, for the sun only sets from the horizon; it does not set [at that time] for those that have a different horizon. And this cannot be contradicted by any intelligent person." Etc., etc.

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    13. I am absolutely fascinated that you claim that Maharal is not disputing Maharam Alashkar. How about Rav Hirsch, do you believe that there is likewise no dispute with Maharal? Here are Rav Hirsch's words:
      "We find that Chazal themselves considered the wisdom of the non-Jewish scholars equal to their own in the natural sciences. To determine who was right in areas where the non-Jewish sages disagreed with their own knowledge, they did not rely on their tradition but on reason. Moreover they even respected the opinion of the non-Jewish scholars, admitting when the opinion of the latter seemed more correct than their own. In the Talmud we learn: The Jewish sages said, By day the sun passes beneath the firmament and at night above it. The sages of the nations maintained, 'By day beneath the firmament and at night beneath the ground.' And Rabbi [Yehudah the Prince] said, 'Their opinion seems more correct than ours.' To my thinking, this clearly proves what I have been saying."

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    14. You could also point out the Radvaz.
      How about Radvaz, do you believe that there is likewise no dispute with Maharal?

      The Radvaz (who agrees with the halachah of R. Tam that night fall is 4 mill after sunset) says (from memory) after sunset one can see the reflection of the sun under birds 'wings. So the sun is traveling below the Earth not above the Rakia like R. Tam says.


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  5. This gemara actually shows that Hazal were "up to speed" on astronomy. They really tried to understand the world with the information available at the time. While many Haredim today show an alarming lack of knowledge in basic science (biology, medicine, physics...).

    It reminds me this WhatsApp vocal message that were circulating in my community where a man with a strong sefardic accent advised his friends to put an onion in the pocket against the virus. You cant make this stuff up...

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  6. Funny how you say chazal made a mistake when you have no clue what chazal are even discussing. Even the goyim are wrong in this Gemarah! Maybe just maybe they're not talking about what you think they are referring to?! You have any idea what Rakiya is?!

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    1. I know exactly what they are discussing. It's standard ancient cosmology. The Rakiya is an opaque dome above the earth.

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    2. Chazal say that there are seven Rakios. Your 'rebbe' Aryeh Carmell explains this very well. Please tell us, Nattan what this Rakia is. If you can't explain cogently even a simple word at the beginning of Breishsis, should we really believe that you understand all the Rishonim and Acharonim on this subject (or on any matter other than zoology)?

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    3. There are lots of plenty of very clear and completely unambiguous statements in the Rishonim and Acharonim about the nature of the rakia as understood by Chazal. Here's one particularly explicit discussion, from Maharam Schick:

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

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    4. Perhaps stop obfuscating with long unrelated citations - poorly translated - and explain in real time what the seven rakios in shamayim are?

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    5. The only one of the seven that concerns us here is the one which the Gemara in Chagiga says is called Rakia. It's a solid dome behind which the sun passes at night (according to Chazal).

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    6. And the citation above is not unrelated. It's completely on point - demonstrating that the rakia is an opaque dome through which the sun was believed to travel. I'm sorry if it's too long of a source for you to deal with, but I suspect that it's not actually too long for you to deal with - just too uncomfortable.

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    7. @Walter many pasukim in Tenach indicate Rakia was a firm substance. See Job 37:18. Breshis has the birds flying below Rakia and water was above it. Many other pasukim support notion of a firm substance. THERE IS NO RAKIA above planet Earth. Simply put the Cosmogony of Tenach represents ancient understandings which we now know are incorrect. ACJA

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    8. Walter. RNS was not obfuscating, perhaps over-simplifying, but definitely not obfuscating. Poorly, translated? Provide an example. Here's the original: https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1494&st=&pgnum=260

      But here's the execute summary:
      דהדברים דלא קבלו חכז"ל מהלכה למשה מסיני אלא שלמדו כן לפי סברתן
      i.e. some knowledge was obtained via reason and not tradition.

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    9. "THERE IS NO RAKIA above planet Earth."

      Nope. The sky is a dome. Birds fly below the atmosphere which carries clouds (rain/water).

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    10. @Shmuel What about Job 37:18 ? What about Bereshis ? Are you arguing the Rakia is the atmosphere ? Where does it end and begin ? How thick is it ? Is it supported on pillars ? Be sure to reconcile with ALL pasukim in Tenach. ACJA

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    11. Obviously, I don't think there is a literal dome, just that the sky acts like a dome.

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    12. Shmuel: that is fine, except that the texts fit better if we understand that THEY understood that the dome was solid. Reconciling with the text of Bereishis? Enjoy. Reconcile with the text of Gemaros, little more difficult.

      Walter et al: is the ultimate truth here that Chazal actually knew modern science? Really? If so, then why DIDN'T they actually teach it properly? Sure, their purpose was to teach Torah, not how to build rockets, but to write things in a deliberately confusing manner? Especially in a manner that they knew was a lie?

      Like I have posted before, those who object to the Rationalist approach, seem to believe that by saying that Chazal did not know Something, we remove all reason for respect, and therefore poof goes the mesorah. It is really less strenuous and more reasonable to accept that they were gedolim, and wise, and honorable, and worthy of all of our respect and admiration and also that they understood science the same way everyone else did at the time.

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    13. Yosef: I agree that they understood the dome to be solid. What I wrote about the sky is one reconciling attempt, theoretical truth. I don't even give it much thought or time of day. Just a thought. Yeah, the Gemaros is much little more difficult. That's why I accept RNS's view of it here.

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  7. I think your biggest mistake is thinking so many people are idiots. The overwhelming majority of people know that some commentators learn these Gmaras literal and was said based on their knowledge at the time and others learn that it is referring to deeper concepts like aggadata Gmaras. (Even though I’m sure there are some that learn aggadata Gmaras literally.)

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    1. That depends on whether you are talking about charedim or non-charedim. Certainly none of my opponents were open to acknowledging that the Rishonim learned these Gemaras literally.

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    2. That’s exactly what I’m saying you’re wrong about. Chareidim aren’t stupid and they also know the rishonim, especially the ones in kollel and they all know the different ways of learning these Gmaras.

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    3. In my experience, they don't. And just look at the commentators here, like Walter and Happy. They refuse to acknowledge what the Rishonim are saying.

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    4. Excuse me, with all due respect, please don't put me in that category. I don't fail to acknowledge, in your own words: "We now know that the non-Jewish scholars were correct. Significantly, the Talmud records that Rebbi (Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi) himself acknowledged this. All the Geonim and Rishonim, without any exception whatsoever, interpreted this passage literally, as a discussion about astronomy"

      My only objection is that this is not some great epiphany. We already know from countless places that Chazal could change their minds when presented with a rayah. This is no different, and doesn't give us license to say Chazal were wrong whenever we want. Even when they say something that defies explanation.

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    5. So Chazal could be mistaken about where the sun goes at night, but they can't be mistaken about obscure aspects of zoology? Why not?

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    6. RNS, they could be mistaken about obscure aspects of zoology. They could also be mistaken about יאוש שלא מדעת, or מין במינו לא בטל, or סוף זמן ק"ש. And in fact they are definitely mistaken about all those things, since all of those are machlokes, and one side is mistaken. They are also wrong in every case of hava amina and maskana, since the hava amina is mistaken.

      So, we can acknowledge they are wrong when they say they are wrong, such as in this case, and all cases of machlokes when there is a psak, and all cases of hava amina and maskana. Theoretically, I would even say they could be wrong about other things as well, even without a machlokes or hava amina.

      BUT...................

      We don't have license to say they are wrong just because WE have difficulty with their words. Even extreme difficulty. If we were able to, you just made every magid shiur's job much easier! And not just magidei shiur, but every commentator or mechaber sefer from the times of the Geonim! Or every yeshiva guy!

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    7. Happy

      You fail to make a distinction between an argument over how a halachic ruling is perceived by two different tannaim as opposed to a distinction about how a natural phenomenon works.

      For example: if Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yishmael argue over whether the word במושבותיהם applies both in Eretz Yisrael and in Chutz La'Aretz, then NEITHER side is definitely mistaken.
      But if they argue about how the sun and the earth move repsective to one another than at best, one can be right (and most likely both were wrong).
      Science is about models that can be demonstrated to be false or not. Halacha works on how chazal understood דבר השם
      So your point is incorrect.
      We do have license to say they were wrong about a scientific matter. We can't say they were wrong over an understanding of a halacha as it is their deliberations that constitute the contours of halacha. Their deliberations do not constitute the path of the earth around the sun.

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    8. Fozzie what a bizzare thing to say on a rationalist blog. There is no distinction. One could be objectively mistaken about halacha just like about science. If one makes a mistake in reasoning or logic, that is just as much of a mistake as anything else. When I "reason" that a non-Jew could be mevatel r'shus just like a Jew, that is a mistake. When we pasken like one side of a machlokes, we are in fact saying that the other side's reasoning is incorrect in some aspect. When Rabbi Akiva argues with Rabbi Yishmael, he is definitely saying that Rabbi Yishmael is incorrect, wrong, mistaken. When all those Rishonim mentioned by RNS dispute the Maharal's understanding of the sugya in Pesachim, they would say the Maharal is wrong.

      Perhaps you are talking about the mystical idea of "eilu v'eilu". But if you want to talk about mysticism, that could apply to the sun's path as well.

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    9. "When we pasken like one side of a machlokes, we are in fact saying that the other side's reasoning is incorrect in some aspect." In "some aspect" but not absolutely.

      "When Rabbi Akiva argues with Rabbi Yishmael, he is definitely saying that Rabbi Yishmael is incorrect, wrong, mistaken." But not ABSOLUTELY, OBJECTIVELY wrong. Just that his reasoning is less sound.

      "When all those Rishonim mentioned by RNS dispute the Maharal's understanding of the sugya in Pesachim, they would say the Maharal is wrong." Right, because they are disputing him on an objective reality - whether Chazal are talking about astronomy or not.

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    10. Happy
      Eilu v'eilu need not be understood in a mystical sense at all. See, for example, intros to Ketzos and Igros Moshe. Fozzie happens to be right about this.

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    11. RNS, what are you saying. There are countless places where Amoraim argue, for example, about what case a mishnah is talking about. One side is absolutely, objectively wrong. Similar to the machlokes Rishonim vs. Maharal if Chazal were talking about astronomy or metaphysics. And every case where an amora is disproved by a tiyuvta, he is absolutely, objectively wrong. Ta'ah b'dvar mishnah. And you know all this, so why argue?

      And I dispute your whole framework anyways. I think Rabbi Akiva is actually saying that Rabbi Yishmael's way of learning the pasuk is absolutely wrong. There might be "tzad" to say it, just like one can find 70 "tzdadim" to be metaher a sheretz. But it is still wrong.

      Furthermore, if you want to separate between "absolutely wrong" vs. "wrong in aspects", I can also say the earth is flat. Because for most practical purposes, at least until the last century, and excluding seafaring, it acts that way and we can treat it that way. So it's also not absolutely wrong.

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    12. Shlomo, looked in the K'tzos. Sounds pretty mystical to me!

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    13. Happy,
      I guess in your view RaSag, Rambam etc. are mystical. Your definition of mystical is far too broad.

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    14. There is a kat of Rishonim who say that God didn't specifically tell Moshe tamei or tahor, but that was left for the Chachamim in each generation to be machria according to their understanding. You can call that mystical if you want, although I have no idea why, but that clearly indicates there is not an objective truth in halachah.

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    15. I think R Aharon Lichtenstein has a piece on tanur shel achnai in leaves of faith in the same vein.

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    16. Shlomo, even according to that understanding (which I find very difficult and suspect you do as well), there are still clearly countless cases of machlokess about objective truth. Like is the mishnah, braisah, or pasuk talking about case X or case Y. And many machlokes that aren't halachic at all, such as if Yisro came before or after Matan Torah. That is why I say the machlokes Rebbi vs. Chachmei Yisrael is no great chiddush.

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    17. I do not find this pshat in eilu veilu difficult although we can quibble over how to define exactly what God gave to Moshe and what he left for them the Chachamim to determine. In any event, I agree that there are plenty of places in Shas where a Tanna/Amora says things which are objectively right/wrong, and I don't quite get what RNS sees in this Gemara. By the same token, I don't know why Walter is getting so angry at RNS's pshat and neither should you.

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    18. So Chazal could be mistaken about where the sun goes at night, but they can't be mistaken about obscure aspects of zoology? Why not?
      ....

      From my point of view the weak point in your argument is that you identify Chazal with the Gemara and the Mesorah of Torah She'baal Peh .

      I believe the Chazon Ish says the Gemara was written with Nevuah and cannot be mistaken. ( So the second beis hamikdash stood for 420 years. All proofs to the opposite are irrelevant. Let a thousand scientists be uprooted and let not one letter of Gemara fall.)

      The Rishonim do indeed say Chazal mistakenly believed that the sun goes behind the sky at night. They say this based on the words of Rebbe and the conclusion of the Gemara. They did not say Chazal were mistaken based upon their own improved medieval understanding of Science. Chas Le'hazkir.

      As for the mud mouse. The Gemara says it existed so it must have existed. Chazal's mistake on path of Sun is irrelevant here.

      This approach is of course not the approach of ABR or R. Hirsh who share your approach but can you prove it is not the majority Rishonim approach ?

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    19. Btw in Rav Hirsch’s letter that Rabbi Slifkin keeps referring to he writes that he actually believes the things in the story really happened (like the wall moving, bas kol etc) he just says you don’t have to believe it’s a literal account.
      Once we’re on the topic, the 24000 talmidim of Rabbi Akiva as well as the 24 years away from home may also not be literal as well as countless other examples like six days of creation, Mabul/Gilgamesh, the Avos, the Exodus, Sinai etc

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    20. @Happy,

      I don't think there is any irrational about noting that one the one hand: when discussing the natural world one can provide empirical data and therefore be 'wrong' or 'right' about asesessing the validity of a scientific theory; but on the other hand, when it comes to assessing the different ways in which the Tannaim disagreed over halachic concepts there is no 'absolutely correct understanding' that one Tanna held, but the other Tanna was 'wrong' about. I don't think either Rabbi Akiva or Rabbi Yishmael were right or wrong. They just read the Torah differently. I don't think either Shitta "כלל ופרט" or "ריבוי ומיעוט" are right or wrong. They are just different approaches.
      More importantly, halacha isn't an objective, natural phenomena. It is constructed from a combination of 'Mesora from Moshe' and the decisions and constructions of Chazal. So there isn't a 'Truth that is out there'. There is just the decision at the end result of a process.


      It has nothing to do with mysticism. It's just how halacha has always worked since אנשי כנסת הגדולה onwards.

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    21. Dovid,
      Maybe you're referring Kovetz Igros 15, but it is indisputable that plenty of Geonim/Rishonim thought the medical texts in Shas are mistaken. (Btw that would be based on their own understanding of science, not that of another Tanna.) So they certainly wouldn't believe that "the Gemara" was written with nevuah.

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    22. Although I like Rambam's use of metaphors, we have to be careful not to land on a slippery slope. If everything is a metaphor, maybe G-d is a metaphor!

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    23. Exactly the point. Or maybe the Torah was written by different people at different times in history like most rational educated people believe.

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    24. @Fozzie,

      Nope. See my discussion with Sholomo. I agree with him that there are some authorities who hold, from a certain perspective, "there is not an objective truth to halacha". But at the same time, almost every daf of Gemara is filled with disputes over what case the mishnah/braisa/amora was talking about. And tiyuvtas from braisas that the amora in error was unaware of. Absolute, objective right and wrong. Was the tana of the mishna/braisa talking about X or Y? Does there exist a braisa that says X? Not to mention the many disputes about objective realities that aren't halachic at all.

      Furthermore, you may not think either Rabbi Akiva or Rabbi Yishmael were right or wrong. But Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yishmael definitely thought the other party was wrong! They did NOT think it was just different approaches, they actually held the other approach was incorrect!

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    25. Shlomo:

      You say:
      it is indisputable that plenty of Geonim/Rishonim thought the medical texts in Shas are mistaken.
      ............................
      I believe it is a minority opinion. Even Rambam only mentions they were mistaken in astronomy. Does not say they were mistaken in other disciplines. So I only know of Rav Shrirah Gaon and R. Avrohom ben Harambam who say they were generally fallible in science

      I could well be wrong though. Who are your other Geonim/Rishonim ?

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    26. "When Rabbi Akiva argues with Rabbi Yishmael, he is definitely saying that Rabbi Yishmael is incorrect, wrong, mistaken." But not ABSOLUTELY, OBJECTIVELY wrong. Just that his reasoning is less sound.
      ...

      So when Beis Shamai say tzoras habas is permitted. Is he not saying to Beis Hillel, you are objectively wrong from the point of view that God said to Moses on Sinai
      it is permitted?

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    27. A few comments for @Happy

      1- Is the following correct:
      RNS claims that his detractors were ignorant of this Gemara in Pesachim. Had they known it they would have had to concede that Chazal can be wrong.

      Whereas you claim that they were ignorant of any of hundreds of Gemaras.
      Had they known any of them they would have had to concede that Chazal can be wrong.

      2- the intro to Ketzos is an important read for this subject. You can read the mystic parts quickly and study the Nigleh slowly.

      3- Shlomo's Kat of Rishonim is in the Ritvah Eruvin 13b. So happens that the Ritvah is talking about Isur & Heter. Perhaps he's not covering other areas.
      ( HERE https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=37287&st=&pgnum=21 )

      4- You find 'that understanding' (in Shlomo's Kat of Rishonim?) difficult. You don't specify what the difficulty is, nor do you tell whether it's an intellectual difficulty or a religious one. I'll venture a guess, & then offer a response to that guess.

      If HKBH 'abdicated' his authority in Halacha to the Chachomim, and they might be wrong, why should we be bound to their rulings? (As opposed to if He Himself made the decisions well, of course, we submit to His authority.) (This is a religious difficulty.)

      And the response is that He Himself set up the system this way; the buck doesn't stop with them but with HKBH.
      (You might still have a question WHY He set up the system that way, but that's a separate discussion.)

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    28. @Charedi Zionist, being that you've contributed numerous dignified comments it's worth conveying the following, as opposed to other more belligerent commenters, who might as well be left alone with their fantasies.

      It does not seem that you are aware of certain basic details of the rationalist position. Are you aware of a source that specifically the creation account can be understood non literally, but not other things? Have you read the many Mefarshim RNS claims to be following? Do you know which outstanding leaders of Chareidi Judaism, Gedolei Yisroel U'manhigav, concur with central points of RNS's perspective? Are you aware of the hundreds of Chareidim who were stunned by the Cherem when it happened? Have you read, for example, the Letter to Rabbi David Feinstein from Dr. Nachum Klafter? Did you see views identical to RNS's at aish.com? Are you aware that HGRYSE effectively said that RNS has sources for all his views? Why are you mixing in the atheists of the world, together with hundreds or thousands of faithful Jews who apply rationalism to certain areas of their worldview? Finally, how much time have you invested in this subject?

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    29. @Dovid, you too apparently haven't spent enough time on the subject. You think the Chazon Ish, which in your circles is the most popular & considered the most important (or only) opinion, is sort of all that there needs to be known. WADR you must continue studying before claiming knowledgeability of the subject.

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    30. @Dovid

      I'll try to make my point more clearly:

      When Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel disagree, they clearly each think the other side is wrong about what the halacha should be. They don't think the other side is objectively wrong about what "The Objective Absolutely True Halacha According to G-d" is.
      There is no "Objective Absolutely True Halacha According to G-d". Because halacha is 'what is decided by chazal'. They all do their best and pour their wisdom into figuring out what is the best halachic decision and which interpretation best fits available pesukim, mesorah and other tannaitic material, but there is no "One Absolute Truth" about what the halacha could or should be.

      Think carefully about the process of the emergence of halacha - the historical processes and events that lead to the writing of the mishna and the gemara. Halacha is a result of a process. A serious process, undertaken by authorized, intelligent great rabbanim but a process nonetheless.

      cont...

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    31. @ Dovid... continued from previous comment:

      For what it's worth, Rabbi Sacks z"l wrote an article about Tanur shel Achnai where he argues that the lesson to be learnt from the story is one about enshrining the authority of chazal as the decisor of halacha even when weighed against the apparent 'view of G-d'. Rabbi Sacks argues it is a conservative (small c) text that preserves the standard decision making process against individual views no matter who (or Who) backs them up. It's in the book "Rabbinic Authority and Personal Autonomy" by the YU Orthodox Forum, but also there is some sense of what he wrote in his Faith lecture available online - but please bear in mind it is a transcript of a public lecture he gave. Here is the snippet:

      "It is that point, when God has moved back to allow space for man to grow, that the human role in revelation takes on its greatest dignity. And you know how it takes on its greatest dignity? I have to tell you the story even though you all know it by heart, the story of the tanur shel achnai. In Baba metzia, daf nun tes, amud beis it goes as follows.

      In the old days people cooked outside – if you lived in Israel. I don’t advise this in England. They cooked outside. You probably know, because we are getting near Pesach and koshering, that you cannot kosher an earthenware vessel and you cannot purify one either. What do you have to do with it? You have to smash it. Now imagine the following situation. Here you are, living in Israel, you have got a nice cooker outside in the courtyard and if a dead insect falls in it, it is tameh, it is impure so you have got to smash it. Even if somebody is trying to cook a meal, you have to keep smashing the oven and get another oven. I mean, it’s crazy! So somebody invented a labour-saving device called ‘the pre-smashed oven’. Brilliant thing! It came in pieces. You put sand between the pieces. You made it. If it was impure you took it apart again and you put it together again. A pre-smashed oven.

      Rebbe Eleazar said: “Great!” The other sages said: “No! Too easy. Forget it. “- and you know that there was then a major debate. Rebbe Eleazar said, “I’m right! Believe me, Reb Eleazar ben Hircanos. I’m not a shlemiel! I’m right! If I am right, this tree will prove it.” And the tree that was in the courtyard shot into the air, one hundred feet – and some say four hundred feet!

      The sages said to Eleazar ben Hircanos: “We are talking about cookery, impurity. You think you can bring a proof from a tree? What’s a tree got to do with the argument?” So, Eleazar says: “If I am right, this river will prove it.” And immediately the river started flowing uphill. And they said: “You can’t bring a proof from a river.” So he said: “If I am right, the walls of this Beit Midrash will prove it.” And immediately the walls started falling down. Rabbi Akiva got up and said: “Walls, if two rabbis are having an argument, what has it got to do with you?” And so, out of respect for Rabbi Akiva they didn’t fall down. Out of respect for Rabbi Eleazar they didn’t stand up straight, and they remain leaning to this day.

      Finally, Eleazar said, “If I am right, a voice from heaven will prove it.” And down comes a voice from heaven saying, ma lechem … Rebbe Eleazar shelo te’. bekol makom? – What have you got against Rebbe Eleazar? Surely you know that the law is like him in every case? And Rav Yehoshua stands up and looks to heaven and says: “You already gave us the Torah, Rebono shel olam and in Your Torah you wrote Lo beshomayim hi! – The Torah isn’t made in heaven! It’s made down here on earth! You’re outvoted! You and Eleazar against half-a-dozen rabbis: the half-a-dozen rabbis win.

      cont (final in part 3)

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    32. @ Dovid (final part of previous two comments)

      ... And at that moment they outvoted the Almighty. Says the Gemara, one of the rabbis met Elijah. You know that Elijah was the guy who moved from heaven to earth. He said to Elijah: “Tell me, Elijah, what did the Almighty say when He was sitting in the heavenly yeshivah and he heard that he had been outvoted by the rabbis?” And Elijah says: Kochayich ve’omar nischoni bnei. The Almighty sat there like a Jewish father, shlepping naches. Smiling, and says: “My children are cleverer than I am.”

      It is at that moment when Torah shebichtav moves into Torah she ba’al peh – the written Torah moves into the spoken Torah – when revelation moves into interpretation – that human beings reach a height and a dignity that they had never had in any other religion in mankind."

      From here: https://rabbisacks.org/faith-lectures-revelation-torah-heaven/

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    33. @Chaim

      1. I don't think his detractors, some of whom were infinitely greater than him, were unaware of the gemara in pesachim or any gemara. As I said, I don't think that gemara is a great chiddush, and certainly doesn't give US license to say Chazal were wrong any time WE have difficulty with them.


      4. I find it difficult because it doesn't make any sense to me. Not a stitch. Hashem gave the Torah and said "I don't really care if you say assur or muttar, both are equal in My eyes" What is this, high school debate club with Ben Shapiro??? Nonetheless, notice I am not saying the Ritva is wrong. Just I have difficulty.

      Also, notice that even according to this understanding, there are still countless cases of absolute, objective machlokes, on almost every daf. Like whether mishnah/braisah/amora is talking about case X or case Y.

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    34. @chaim

      I do not think that the Chazon Ish, is all that there needs to be known and indeed I know little about the subject.

      But so far no one has responded to the difference between refuted opinions in the Gemara and maskanas Ha' gemara.

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    35. Chaim- thank you for the compliment and being that you likely don’t know who I am I understand your questions. I am quite aware of all of the items and opinions you mentioned and I have several more to add to support such a view (besides for basic common sense).
      My point was as follows. I respect whatever a person believes in but it helps if it’s done with consistent intellectual honesty. I believe most chareidim don’t believe in what RNS says but they all also know that believing the things RNS says doesn’t make you an actual kofer so we’re basically wasting time. Now on the other side of the issue is the fact that someone who is a true rationalist will have many more questions amd issues with torah and Judaism which RNS simply ignores. Are you aware of all the different bloggers (which by now are basically dormant) that poke fun at RNS choosing when to be rational and when not? When he uses Rav Kook etc and when not?? Etc..

      Delete
    36. @Happy

      with regards to your comment:

      "4. I find it difficult because it doesn't make any sense to me. Not a stitch. Hashem gave the Torah and said "I don't really care if you say assur or muttar, both are equal in My eyes" What is this, high school debate club with Ben Shapiro??? Nonetheless, notice I am not saying the Ritva is wrong. Just I have difficulty."


      Hashem is saying "It matters a great deal, but I trust you to decide what the halacha is INSTEAD OF ME." That's the responsibility of the posek.

      At some point, I think you have to consider the idea that halacha isn't about objective reality.

      Delete
    37. Dovid,
      the Rambam indicates they could be wrong generally, see the end of his intro to MN and pay attention to reason number six for contradictions and how he applies it.
      RSZA says:
      הלום ראיתי בס' נשמת אברהם פי"ד ס"ד שמביא דברי רב שרירא גאון ור' אברהם בן הרמב"ם ומנה ענין זה כאחד מן הטעמים שאין להשתמש ברפואות המובאות בתלמוד. והגרש"ז איוערבאך שליט"א העיר ע"ז (בריש הספר) דנכון היה להביא שיטה זו בשם "יש אומרים" והעיקר הוא כשאר הטעמים. ושאלתי להגרש"ז שליט"א מי הוא זה שחולק על דברי רב שרירא גאון ור' אברהם בן הרמב"ם. וכתב לי וז"ל: כעת אינני זוכר אם יש מישהו שממש חולק או אפילו אם יש מישהו שיכול לחלוק עליהם, אך יתכן שכוונתי דהואיל ורבים כתבו הטעם של שינוי הטבע ולא הזכירו כלל מפני שיפור הידע בדרכי הרפואה בזמנינו, לכן העירותי שראוי לכתוב בשם "יש אומרים", ובפרט שבעניני שבת יש שמתירים מלאכת שבת אף שלדעת הרופאים אין שום סכנה, עכ"ל.
      He says it's a minority opinion but seems non too sure about it. If we throw in all the Rishonim who says we aren't bound by Aggada (seemingly implying Chazal could be wrong about that) we have a very long list indeed.

      Delete
    38. Fozzie,

      Are you saying Hashem left the purity status of the tanur shel achnai to the chachamim, just like I let my kids pick which desert they want? As long as they could come up with good arguments for their preference, like in debate club? Or like a college admission essays? Makes zero sense to me, sorry.

      Nonetheless, I won't say it's wrong, since there are great Rabbis who seem to say it. And it makes no difference to the main discussion, since I already proved from countless places that they actually did have many machlokes about absolute, objective facts.

      Delete
    39. @ happy

      as uncomfortable as it may be for you... yes that is what I'm saying . I appreciate your second last sentence!
      Fun talking to you.
      Purim Sameach!

      Delete
    40. What I personally heard from members of the Charedi world is that sources indicating that Chazal could have been mistaken about science are either:

      1. Forgeries.

      or

      2. Obscure minority opinions.

      or

      3. Don't really mean what they appear to be saying.

      or

      4. Were okay for the source to state, but for us it's kefirah. It's been paskened now that it's assur to believe that Chazal were wrong about science.

      Delete
    41. happygoluckypersonage February 23, 2021 at 1:34 PM, "@Chaim 1. I don't think his detractors, some of whom were infinitely greater than him, were unaware of the gemara in pesachim or any gemara. As I said, I don't think that gemara is a great chiddush, and certainly doesn't give US license to say Chazal were wrong any time WE have difficulty with them."

      This is the "they could we can't" position of HGRYSE ZL. Of course he then allows this Gemara to be understood as RNS reads it, only he forbids our saying so.
      Suffice it to say according to popular assumption, the kiruv wing of Chareidi Judaism was considered a legitimate component in good standing of Chareidi Judaism, & that this position of HGRYSE ZL came to them as a great shock.

      I think RNS's detractors, (that is, those of whom who were only Finitely Greater Than Him), were indeed unaware of the gemara in pesachim, or at least that RT's interpretation is a minority opinion, and it never registered with them from other Gemaras that Chazal could be wrong. You can conduct an experiment with people (it occurred right here --and who had thought it through earlier and realized the truth of what your saying till now?) to see if they had noticed Chazal being wrong on every (few) daf(s).

      But anyway, RNS has a hodgepodge of positions disagreeing and condemning him and and one of them, but not the rest, agrees with you.


      "4. I find it difficult because ...."
      "What is this, high school debate club ...."
      "Fozzie, Are you saying Hashem ... just like I let my kids pick which desert they want? As long as they could come up with good arguments for their preference, like in debate club? Or like a college admission essays?"

      I assume that you are a good Ben Torah, who when confronted with such a conflict is hoping to move his opinion towards that of the Rishonim, as opposed to moving their opinion to his. Perhaps the Maharal on כשם שקבלתי שכר על הדרישה can help.
      https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14205&st=&pgnum=199&hilite=
      But briefly, the point is not the Halachic conclusion, rather the sacred process of reaching the conclusion, generally considered the supreme human activity possible--no comparison to the frivolities you mentioned.

      IIRC, there's a Moreh about רב אמר לא נתנו המצות אלא לצרף בהן את הבריות, וכי מה איכפת ליה להקב"ה למי ששוחט מן הצואר, או מי ששוחט מן העורף, הוי לא נתנו המצות אלא לצרף בהם את הבריות that might be helpful.

      Delete
    42. @Happy, I humbly offer the following brief Mar'ei Mekomos:
      מדרש תהילים-שוחר טוב י"ב
      ירושלמי סנהדרין פ"ד ה"ב
      תוספות רבנו פרץ עירובין יג:
      Significantly, the RP deals with ומ"מ קשה ממעשים שכבר היו, כגון ממזבח [עי' זבחים סא ע"ב] דחד מוכח מקרא דהיה ששים וחד מוכח מקרא דהיה עשרים, והתם היכי שייך לומר אלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים, דהא ליכא למימר הלך אחר רוב חכמי הדור, דהא לא היה אלא בחד ענינא וכו
      See also the Meforesh in Yerushalmi that it woud have been problematic to have the decision made by HKBH prior to the Chachomim ruling on it....

      Delete
  8. No, your greatest mistake was switching communities. It is far easier to bring about change in a community when you are inside it, not from the outside.
    When you might have been able to change the Chareidi community, you escaped to the RX commit, where you have no chance of effecting change.
    Not that I blame you of course, I am merely lamenting the loss of my Chareidim's most outspoken proponent for change: next time stay Missing, not Natan.

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    Replies
    1. You might be right. Someone told me that my biggest mistake was getting haskamos/ coming on too strong, creating a backlash, and setting the charedi world back by fifty years on these issues.

      Delete
  9. *Nosson, not Natan. Stupid autocorrect.

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  10. The Talmud is full of "Tyuvta"s - sages being proven incorrect by other sages.

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  11. Exceptions can support the main rule. It is because that case [with the Sun] was such a unique, it was included in Gemorah.

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    Replies
    1. LOL. So when an unequivocal proof that Chazal can be mistaken about science is presented, that proves that every other time they were correct!

      Delete
  12. It's nice to see that everyone is trying to understand each other.

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  13. Of the mainstream Rishonim, could you provide just one name (Rambam Rosh Tos Rid Tosfos Etc) that actually proves that believed the Chazal were mistaken. Since ive been through those source and haven't yet seen in their words what you claim.

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  14. It's funny...in yeshiva, everyone saw the Artscroll note on this gemara quoting RABR that the sages were wrong, illustrating their intellectual honesty (if not Walter's and happygoluckypersonage's). No one really cared and just moved on.

    We also didn't try to elide the issue with cutesy little feel-good phrases like "it's a shverer sugya".

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    Replies
    1. Cutesy little feel-good phrases? LOL. You obviously have never been within 4 amos of a bais medrash. Or if your body was, your mind certainly wasn't.

      Delete
    2. @happy, there is a difference between not knowing a conclusion and avoiding one you don't like. 1 + 1 = 3 isn't a shvera sugya. It's just wrong. You are committing Charedi apologetics.

      Delete
    3. Uh, if Chazal said 1+1=3, yeah, it would be a shver sugya. In fact they regularly say things more shver than that. I would suggest visiting your local bais medrash a bit more and the moshav leitzim a bit less.

      Delete
    4. This simply isn't a shvera sugya unless you assume chazals infallibility from the outset, something that isn't born from within the sugya (it's not minei ubei.) There is no real difficulty here.

      You are imposing an ad hoc principle for cultural and social reasons and claim "shvera sugya" after it's imposed. Simply rediculous.

      Your ad hominems are nebach. I learnt in yeshiva all my life and sat in kollel. "If only you were as shtark as i" is weak nonsense. Face the music.

      Delete
    5. BM, it's hard to believe you were ever in yeshiva, the way you talk. Anybody who sat in a bais medrash knows that we DO assume Chazal's infallibility from the outset, at least with regard to ourselves. And not just Chazal's infallibility, but the Rishonim's as well. We never say Tosfos made a mistake (even though we know he very well could have). If Tosfos says something shver, we say it's shver! And Tosfos himself acted this way with regard to Chazal, even though he had countless difficulties with their words, and left many unanswered. And this is the derech of all the Rishonim and Acharonim. This is the baseline. Perhaps you forgot all your learning?

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    6. Apparently, the Beis HaMidrash that you sat in was not very aware of the approach of the Rishonim and Acharonim.

      "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 Nidah 18a)

      Delete
    7. RNS,

      I have no problem with the Chasam Sofer arguing with Rashi and Tosafos on this or any other matter. Just like I have no problem with the Gr"a arguing with the Rambam (or Rashi and Tosfos for that matter). Sometimes the later generations are great enough to dispute the earlier generations, like we find in the gemara as well.

      You, my friend, are not the Chasam Sofer. Not even close. מכיר את מקומו.

      Delete
    8. @happy, if your motivation for "bleibing shver" is mere humility, I truly envy you.

      If it is to avoid an undesirable outcome that flies in the face of your hashkafa, I think you're making a mistake. Bleibing shver when it's obviously not shver does more damage than good; it leads crucial resources (like rns's challenge that sparked much of the issues) out of the hands of those that benefit immensely from them.

      Delete
    9. BM, I wouldn't necessarily call it humility so much as the way Torah should be learnt. And I wouldn't say it's obviously not shver either, we should admit that we don't understand.

      But as I mention above, there are indeed some authorities who say Chazal weren't scientists. It is fine to rely on them if you feel that resolves the shverkeit. I don't think my rebbeim would find that objectionable.

      Delete
    10. I'll repeat myself: "This simply isn't a shvera sugya unless you assume chazals infallibility from the outset, something that isn't born from within the sugya (it's not minei ubei.) There is no real difficulty here"

      "we should admit that we don't understand." - huh? It's all understood and meyushav. Youre injecting an ad hoc principle that makes shverkite, it's not naturally shver like the sugyas rashi and tosfos bleib shver on. I digress.

      Delete
    11. BM,

      I will also repeat myself, We SHOULD assume Chazal's infallibility from the outset. Perhaps you would agree with regards to halacha, but your objection is only with regards to science? And it is obvious to you, and no proof is needed, that Chazal were fallible with regards to science? And we don't even need RABMBM to tell us they weren't scientists?

      I disagree, I don't think it's at all obvious to say they didn't know science, at least with regards to the truth/falsehood of their statements in the gemara. Especially since there are (many, IMO) Rishonim who disagree with RABMBM. But as I said before, if one wants to rely on the RABMBM, I can't see any objection (as long as he doesn't denigrate other shitos).

      Delete
    12. Ok, so we're getting somewhere. To answer your question, no, I don't see any reason to assume chazals scientific infallibility (even without RMBMS statements.) It seems to be a concept that is culturally assumed/motivated, not born from judaism/jewish theology itself.

      The sugyas of rashi and tosfos can bleib shver because, A, the coherence of Torah shebaal peh is a fundamental of judaism. Saying that TSBP is corrupt is a theological nonstarter. Thus we have to say it's shver and assume we erred somewhere. Moreover, it's not farfetched to say that if learned correctly it would be coherent. Compare that to scientific statements of chazal; they are so obviously false without any conceivable chance at redemption AND there is no theological precedent to assume it's correctness! Your off on two accounts. Hence there is no real difficulty. Again I digress.

      Delete
    13. BM, I agree about the coherence of Torah shebaal peh. I disagree that there is a difference in shverkeit between the halachic, aggadic, and scientific sugyos. That is one of my main points in this comment thread. In yeshiva, I very often encountered halachic sugyos that seemed obviously false without any chance of redemption. And not just me, but my peers and rebbeim as well. And in multiple yeshivos, with different styles of learning. Perhaps you learnt differently and never encountered such shverkeits, I don't know.

      Delete
  15. Rabbi Slifkin,
    Years ago you sought the truth in Torah and you were painfully rejected. Now, you believe your search is over and you have achieved the truth, and you bestow pain to the Torah, Shas, and Hashem. If the Torah is purely the logical exoteric portion, devoid of Divinity, then you are correct, that it is an even playing field for any scholar and a scientist would be even more skilled in finding the truth. Our Traditional belief, is that there are deeper and deeper levels of Pardes in Torah and all were given to Moshe at Sinai, even what a person today expresses as a novel insight. The levels of prophecy and Divinity are not logical and are not capable of being proven through experimentation or mental effort. Most of the Rishonim were experts in astronomy and they made use of Muslim scientific texts as well, which were translated into Hebrew. Because Torah is based on man's perspective on Earth, the Torah was given in a manner of human terminology, which Targum has to go out of its way to clarify Biblical statements about Hashem to not be physical. Chazal continue in this manner in many places in Shas where they express astronomy and science based on an earthly perspective or even common human life, which may not be scientifically correct in our understanding today. The location of the sun has not changed, only the manner of expression. So when the other Nations expressed it in more scientific terms, Rebbi felt they expressed it better for a modern human to hear. He never chastised or attacked the severe errors and backwardness that you attribute to Chazal or many seforim. An accepted Tradition is that there is also a deeper level to the Torah, which was given in a manner of Prophecy and that the Torah itself has infinite levels of understanding. The Maharal began the effort to reveal such deeper understandings due to the attacks of the logical philosophers and scholars against Chazal and many Aggadah, (continued)

    ReplyDelete
  16. continued: The kabbalistic perspective accepts that all parts of Shas are Divinely inspired and all sentences in Shas have a plain meaning and a deeper meaning. The statements that are found to be wrong or even the supposed statements of individuals lying in their court cases, are equally as holy and seemingly true and pure statements, to the degree that even if you picked out sentences in Shas you believe to be false, one who studies them would have to make Bircas Hatorah on them as they are part of Torah. You certainly do not accept the metaphysical and esoteric portions of Torah, but Halacha and Chazal do, even if they keep much of it hidden. All statements found in Shas come from Hashem directly, through the minds of Chazal and even the so called lies and false statements which are later overturned. Hashem and the Torah are One and it is only as it descends to our world through a myriad of veilings does it eventually get expressed and taught in human terms which obscure the higher meaning, but the higher meaning is available to those who search for the Truth. Sefer HaBris, which you quoted was such an individual who was knowledgeable in both the exoteric and esoteric and he made the effort to incorporate as much science as possible as it was revealed in his days. Rabbi Slifkin, you have always had a passion for the Truth and you have suffered attacks in an unacceptable manner. Yet, now you are participating in an attack on the tenets of Judaism, due to your cessation of the search for the truth, as you have stopped in the world of human logic and the exoteric. The esoteric awaits you with its beauty and Truth. It is life and goodness. This is why the exoteric aspect of Talmud Bavli is called darkness and filled with arguments, while Yerushalmi approaches the light, and the esoteric portions of Torah are all light, without any argument. The advances of science are a gift from Hashem to improve our understanding of the world, but are incapable of conflicting with the Truth of Torah. Conflicts only arise if you live purely in the revealed Torah. It is your choice to stay in the conflicted realm of the revealed, but do not attack Chazal or anyone else who studies and lives Torah with its heart and soul of the esoteric, illuminating the revealed. As the Navi says, in the future there will be such a revelation of G-dliness that teachers will not be needed since knowledge will fill the minds of everyone. This is not the limited knowledge of the human mind, whose ceiling you have reached, but an unlimited expansion of the human mind and soul to comprehend previously incomprehensible ideas. Such G-dly knowledge causes peace in the world, between animals and between Nations. You have a rich legacy and Tradition and an inheritance from the Avos to achieve this goal in a manner of respect and peace. I wish you only good and encourage you to continue your efforts in uncovering the Truth.

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    Replies
    1. All you are doing is perfectly expressing the approach of Mahral and others like him. But you are going against the approach of the Rishonim.

      Delete
    2. Could you specify the name of a single MAINSTREAM Rishon that actually says something that proves that he was in disagreement with the Mahral"s understanding of the Gemara, and not just keep on repeating over and over again "oh but everyone agrees with me". For the most part the words of the Rishonim do not necessarily imply what you seem to think that they do, which is why it would help if you would actually point to a single name - someone on the lines of the Rosh Rambam Tos), that you believe definitively proves your case.

      Delete
    3. Have you even read Maharal? He is disagreement with ALL of the Rishonim. Maharal says that Chazal were NOT saying that the sun changes direction at any point or pierces a firmament. Here's the Maharam Alashkar that I pasted above: "Rabbeinu Tam believes that there are two sunsets: the first, when the sun begins to enter the thickness of the firmament and no longer shines on the earth – for according to his view, the sun must travel the entire thickness of the firmament in its path in order to rise above the firmament’s covering. The second sunset is that time at which it finishes rising through the thickness of the firmament but is still at the firmament’s opening, not yet having risen above the covering. … It is known and obvious that this description is true only according to the opinion of the sages of Israel, who believe that the sphere is stationary and the constellations circle it, and the sun travels behind the firmament’s covering at night. But the authors and commentators other [than Rabbeinu Tam], and also the Rambam…, and the Geonim, accept the view of the gentile sages, that the sphere revolves and the constellations are stationary, and that the sun travels below the earth at night, according to which theory it is not necessary for the sun to travel through the thickness of the firmament or opposite the opening in it, for it is the sun that descends below the horizon, there being only one sunset."

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    4. To repeat my q, in your attached article you claim that ALL the rishonim agree with you. could you let us know where either the rosh ram tos or the Ritva learn the Gemara in a way that proves your point correct. I know the Mahram Elshakar, and ive learned the Maharall, i want to know where in any of the names I've mentioned you see they held of what you say. I think in all of those other names you donjt see anything besides for the fact that they dont explicitly argue with you, which makes your claim that the Maharal was a first, misleading, and frankly incorrect.

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    5. Ruvi - regardless of whether Rabbi Slifkin can bring explicit examples of rishonim who explicitly agree with him:
      your premise is incorrect.
      The plain reading of the gemara as pshat stands unless there is a reason to think that someone had an issue with it.
      Not everything has to be explicitly said.
      Think about it, is now everything that hasn't been said explicitly by a rishon but is explicitly said by the gemar now up for debate and potentially wrong?

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    6. @Fozziebear
      So does that mean that even without any Rishonim explaining anything about the Gemara you still feel Slifkins points are well-founded and correct from a Torah perspective.

      The points he makes are of an academic nature and are more often than not heard from people whose preconception is that the Torah (and Torah SeBalPeh) is possessed of no more intrinsic value than any other historical document.
      To be fair I don't believe Slifkin personally is one of those people. Its his arguments that are the problem. The Gemara in its totality is pretty much the entirety of Torah Shebal-Peh, and there are very specific rules and Kellalim about how it is to be analysed and understood. Using the texts as proof for ANYTHING when not from within those parameters as set out by the Torah itself, is by definition engaging in historical analysis of the text - a meaningless endeavour. Slifkins arguments although slickly worded, are not really about a discussion over Peshat in the Gemara itself, rather its about a different matter entirely, and its in response to someone like him that the Maharal wrote what he did. The Rishonim are discussing another matter completely, which when understood correctly is not a contradiction to the words of the Mahral AS IS IMPLICIT FROM THE MAHARALS WORDS THEMSELVES

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    7. I openly admit I am not holding at all in this sugya, but this particular discussions is not sounding great for RNS. RNS is claiming all these rishonim learn one way, but when pressed to quote where they say such a thing, for some reason we're hearing crickets. Maybe because he's busy at the beach trying to get samples for the museum? :-)
      In any event, seems strange that nothing specific from the rishonim has been offered after making such a bold claim that ALL learn this way.

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    8. I have given peshat in the Gemara, which is pashut peshat. I have named numerous authorities who learn this way, and I cited two who describe it in detail. I also quoted Maharal.who goes against this. Meanwhile Ruvie amd Walter have yet to say what they believe to be pshat. Nor are they willing to address the obvious differences between Maharal and Rishonim sich as Maharam Alashkar.

      Delete
    9. RNS, I'm totally with you on this one. I'd personally be very surprised if the Rishonim did not learn the way you are saying. I just think it would give you more credibility if you included a quote from 1 or 2 of these Rishonim that substantiate what you are saying. Instead, it seems like you are just claiming all learn like you, but then not providing anything of substance when requested.

      Delete
    10. @Ruvi Well, yes I do. I was also lucky enough to get a copy of his new book which contains extensive source material. But in general, Rabbi Slifkin's work is well sourced and based on reasonable interpretations of key texts, so I wasn't very worried!

      I think you utterly unfairly misrepresent him when you say his points are from an 'academic perspective' rather than being from a Torah perspective. He certainly treats canonical texts in an appropriate manner from an Orthodox religious perspective.

      I agree there is a difference between you and him as to what it means to treat the texts properly. What you term "The Torah Way" to treat texts is certainly one way within the Mesorah to understand texts, but it really is not the only way. I think a large part of Rabbi Slifkin's mission is to encourage people to think a little more critically about how they relate to the texts and as a result, they may gain better insight as to how Torah was understood by early Chazal (as opposed to how it is interpreted in the late achronim period.)

      I can't speak for him, though. That's just my understanding of him. Speaking for myself, I think you are locked into a certain viewpoint and therefore by definition, those who disagree, such as Rabbi Slifkin, must be incorrect. I truly encourage you to read his latest book with an open a mind as possible- especially as it expands on some of his monographs and then see how you feel about it.

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  17. I recently ordered your new book from the Biblical Museum website. Rabbi Slifkin, can you expand and clarify a little of what was meant here? It's a bit vague.

    "R. David Gans explained that since astronomy had advanced
    considerably, it was uncomfortable to say that Chazal were mistaken on such a matter."

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  18. BTW I've actually made the effort to read through the entire Teshuva of the Mahram Alshakar, and heaven help us if this is the most explicitly written source that you have as backing. Nowhere and I repeat nowhere in his Teshuva does he imply what you claim he does. That is not to say you cannot read into his words what you'd like to, however to present his words as expressing clearly your point of view, especially when to an audience that more likely aren't for the most part trained in the analytical style of learning needed to grasp the subtleties of the words of the Rishonim - let alone in a complicated Sugyo such as this one, is the height of intellectual dishonesty.
    And I repeat my request. Setting aside the Maharam AlShaker could you provide ONE NAME among the mainstream early Rishonim who you believe backs your position. To quote the Mahram AlShaekr who lived pretty much in the same eara as the Mahrall (who was 50 years his junior) and then just throw in as an endnote that everyone else aggress with me is bad reporting. Please tell us where in the the great early Rishonim you see what you claim they say.

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  19. Do us all a favour and don't just move on to the next post before we come to some sort of clarity over this most crucial argument, although you may be tempted to do so.

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    Replies
    1. Do us a favor and pick a single place for our discussion, not all over the comments section.
      I'm not even sure what you're trying to argue, since you haven't once said how you are understanding the Gemara.
      Do you agree that according to Maharal, the Chachmei Yisrael are NOT saying that the sun changes direction at night? Answer that and we can proceed.

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    2. You seem to have missed the entire point the Mahrall was actually trying to make.
      The Maharals concern was to counter a specific argument that was being made, similar to the one you continue to try and make. What he proposes is something entirely unrelated to what the Rishonim were discussing, and his explanations can actually work hand in hand with what they have to say.
      As has already been argued the Marharals opening words are
      והנה אלו בני אדם הם רוצים לחשוב על דברי חכמים, ולא עמדו כלל על דבריהם
      do you seriously consider it acceptable that by that he meant EVERY SINGLE commentator aside for himself!!!!
      For heavens sake let us know which one of the major Rishon backs you clearly. I dont even need an explanation, just give a source.

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    3. Like I said, ALL of them back me. The Maharal proposes a radical explanation according to which Chazal were not even talking about astronomy and were most definitely not saying that the sun changes course and goes behind the sky at night. You are curiously avoiding dealing with what Maharal actually says. Here are some of the words of Maharal: "They understand that the intent of the Sages was to say that the sun passes through the sphere, and that this is what was said by, “at night it travels above the firmament”; and if so, this would mean that the firmament was being temporarily pierced as the sun passes into the sphere. And this is impossible; it is also contradicted by the senses, for the sun only sets from the horizon; it does not set [at that time] for those that have a different horizon. And this cannot be contradicted by any intelligent person."

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    4. Ruvi

      How about the Rosh (amongst many others)?

      See:

      https://www.sefaria.org/Teshuvot_HaRosh.14.2.1?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

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  20. Your framing on this seems entirely unproductive. I am not a Baki on this topic, but I think you might do well to frame this issue better.

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  21. So, what is this really about? Neither of us work in Aeronautics, what does it matter where the sun goes at night? what does it matter if Chareidim who also do not work in Aeronautics, think the sun goes around the earth?

    If you care deeply that everyone knows where the sun goes at night, then great, but I don't understand why you, the ZooRabbi, are also such a zealous "round-earther".

    Ma Nafshach? If you really care that Chareidim know the Copernicus was right on this topic of astronomy, why not join the effort to reframe the words of Chachomim as allegory? You can still teach that the sun goes around the world as long as you frame that gemara as allegory. So why not do so?

    This is why you got banned, Rabbi. This is what a lot of commenters are trying to tell you. The problem is that you are directly attacking the authority of Chachomim. You may think that this attack in their authority is not an actual threat to Judaism because it is not in matters of Halacha, but in matters of science. The issue is that a challenge to the authority of Chachomim in and of itself is an act of rebellion by definition. Framing yourself as being opposed to the authority of Chachomim, especially when such a framing is not necessary in order to spread scientific fact, is no different to attacking their authority in any other matter.

    When you attack the authority of an institution, you are attacking that institution as a whole. This is why people dislike anti-Vaxxers and flat earthers. They are attacking the institutions of science themselves. This is why people dislike 9/11 truthers and conspiracy theorists. They are attacking the U.S. as an institution. This is why the Catholic Church fought heresy, because when they lost, the Church shattered into a million pieces.

    In short, an attack on the authority of an institution is an attack on that institution as a whole. To use the Rishonim as a shelling point in order to mount this attack might seem intellectually accurate, but they did not attack the authority of Chachomim, certainly not in public.

    Even if they made the same arguments you make now, there was no global secularist movement using "Science"TM in order to batter religion. To say, in this climate that the authority of Chachomim ought to be discarded on matters of the natural world, not because they were referring to abstract concepts, but because they were full of it and spouted off on matters that they had no knowledge, is an attack, and the Rishonim ought not be tied in with such attacks, it is improper, to say the least.

    Ah, "but the TRUTH!", you might say. If we are not permitted to believe the Truth, then everything we believe is a lie... or something. Look, I already said that if you want your science, you can keep your science, no-one is coming for your science. What is the problem with re-interpreting the words of Chachomim, and teaching all of the science you like?

    You might say, "the Rishonim do not treat their words as allegory". In that case, why not treat the words of the Rishonim as allegory? again, if what you care about is teaching science, why not just do that? But if you are trying to subvert the authority of Chacomim, and using the Rishonim as a cover, what you are doing makes perfect sense.


    Anyway, I hope you actually let this comment through and confront this.

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    Replies
    1. Interesting comment.

      I think it actually went the other way.

      RNS felt he had something interesting to say, a tradition-based method/direction to yet be scientific, and his entire perspective was attacked a delegitimized. Remember what he keeps saying: he is not trying to convince chareidim to hold like him; he is just trying to get them to acknowledge that his perspective is not kefirah!

      It may be true that "athiests" in the past have used science as a tool against religion (actually, in opposition to what you say about Science-TM), but that is not what is happening here. AT ALL.

      And on the allegory bit: it is not reasonable, when people talk about physical reality, to interpret everything as an allegory. Especially when they go out of their way to be explicit. Tanach, sure, interpret allegorically. Gemara? eh, a little harder, but still possible, particularly in aggadeta. Rishonim? Really? You want to say that statements of "This is how it really goes" really mean "this is how we should think about some unrelated concepts"?

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    2. Science and religion were the same in the past. It is only recently that science and religion went to war.

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    3. Yeah, post Darwin. Prior to that, "Natural Philosophy" was a religious study, indeed.

      Even Galileo's time, I think, didn't have such a fight.

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    4. Yosef, science and religion were at peace until the last century when atheist tried to belittle the Bible. Although I would argue that in real life, both religion and science are compatible.

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  22. The Maharal's entire corpus was written to counter the Rishonim on everything.
    Maharal was unhappy with the way the Rishonim learned the Chumash, with the way they learned the aggada, with the way they learned Avos, with the way the understood the fundamentals of Judaism, and this is the theme that runs throughout all of his writings. It's not for nothing that we talk about the Maharal's revolution in Torah thought.
    This particular case is simply one example of that phenomenon.

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  23. I'm pleased to learn that Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi was willing to point out that Chazal were wrong about the path of the Sun. It’s sad that some people don't want to acknowledge Chazal's error and forgive them for their ignorance of accurate astronomy considering the state of all science in their era.

    Those who are embarrassed by it and scramble to rationalize it should drop that effort as futile and try instead to deal with a deeper, over-riding problem: why isn’t the Torah full of scientific truth? It would have been so easy for God to dictate to Moshe a few crucial facts that would have silenced goyim and other skeptics forever.

    Imagine if instead of the pesukim we're familiar with, we had something like these in Bereshit:

    4: And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness, and blessed the light so that nothing would ever move faster.

    16: And God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; and the stars.
    17: And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth and the seven other worlds.
    18: And God set the earth to revolve around the sun, and placed two worlds to revolve between them, and the other five worlds He placed beyond the earth, and He saw that it was good.
    19: And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

    If the Torah had informative verses like those, we would be living in a better world.

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    1. The same point could be made (with less kefirah :) ) about the Gemara. Even allowing for the pesukim to be as they are, if Chazal really understood science as it is understood today (and how it will be understood tomorrow!!) then some of the things written are kinda sheker...

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    2. Good point and I 100 percent agree with you. On the other hand, we may not need modern science mentioned in the Torah. After all, the Torah never mentions oranges.

      Rambam argues that Genesis 1 is a parable, it's not meant to be taken literally. In addition, we have no idea what the words “light,” “day,” “morning,” and “evening” even mean? Are they metaphors about unidentified creations created during an unspecified length of time that stopped for a new period of time to begin? Could the six-days be understood better as six periods of time? Is the Bible saying creation took place during a long process with different eras? Thus, Judaism can accept evolution and that the world is millions of years old? In any case, Rambam writes that Genesis 1 is teaching us to learn about creation: physics.

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    3. What seven other worlds are you talking about? They have only found life on Earth so far.

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    4. Student v, I'm pretty sure the way I’ve written these imaginary pesukim says or implies nothing about the habitability of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus. With Earth (and alas, without Pluto) that makes eight planets in the Solar System. In ancient times, a reader of this passage could assume the other worlds are just there as ornaments to Hashem's creation. Come to think of it, wouldn’t it have been nice if in addition to revealing the existence of other planets circling the Sun, God had also named them? Then we wouldn’t be stuck with planets named after false pagan deities.

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  24. If you had approached the topic in your book, they way you did here.

    what do you think the reaction would have been. The cognitive dissonance of happygoluckypersonage?

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  25. To Shmiels attempt:
    I once tried it too, but it doesn't work. In Bereshis it says the Sun and Moon were placed "ברקיע השמים" meaning that Space is still part of the Rakia(firmament). If so where are the waters above it? Outside of our observable universe? Does it end in water? Just pointing out it cannot mean the atmosphere.
    -S.K.

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