Sunday, February 27, 2022

Paging Toras Moshe

It's very peculiar. Rabbi Dovid Kornreich of Yeshivas Toras Moshe obsessively ran a blog against me for ten years. He follows this blog carefully, often commenting. And yet he didn't comment at all about a post last week in which I discussed his rebbe, Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, and his favorite topic, Torah and science. 

I'd like to call on Rabbi Kornreich, or anyone else from Toras Moshe, to find out Rabbi Meiselman's answers to the following five difficulties with his interview on R. Dovid Lichtenstein's show. Since Rabbi Meiselman presents himself as a uniquely great expert on the topic of Torah and science, and argues that anyone who takes the rationalist approach of Rabbeinu Avraham and Rav Hirsch is a heretic, surely he owes it to the general public to explain how his position is consistent with all the sources from Chazal that he neglected to cite in his book.:

1. Who are the Chachmei Yisrael?

Rabbi Meiselman argues that the Chachmei Yisrael who asserted that the sun goes behind the sky at night were astronomers rather than Torah scholars. Yet the term Chachmei Yisrael is used by the Gemara to refer to a Torah scholar upon which one recites a blessing: הרואה חכם מחכמי ישראל אומר: “ברוך אתה ה’ אלוהינו מלך העולם שֶחָלַק מחכמתו ליראיו”. 

Furthermore, as we see in Bava Basra, Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer and Midrash Rabbah, this position is attributed to named Tanna'im.

2. The Claim that it wasn't a Torah-Based Belief

Rabbi Meiselman insists that these Chachmei Yisrael were not espousing a Torah-based position. But in other places in the Gemara and Midrash, we see that this position was was based on pesukim:

"It was taught in a Beraita: Rabbi Eliezer says, the world is like an exedra, and the northern side is not enclosed, and when the sun reaches the north-western corner, it bends back and rises above the firmament. And Rabbi Yehoshua says, the world is like a tent, and the northern side is enclosed, and when the sun reaches the north-western corner, it circles around and returns on the other side of the dome, as it says, “traveling to the south, and circling to the north…” (Eccl. 1:6)—traveling to the south by day, and circling (outside of the firmament) to the north by night—“it continually passes around, and the ruach returns again to its circuits” (ibid.)—this refers to the eastern and western sides, which the sun sometimes passes around and sometimes traverses (and thus is always on the horizontal plane). (Bava Basra 25a-b)

Rabbi Eliezer is presenting the view attributed in Pesachim to the Sages of Israel, in which the sun rises up behind the sky at night, while Rabbi Yehoshua is presenting a variant in which at night the sun moves horizontally along the northern edge of the celestial dome. He bases this on a passuk. And so, contrary to Rabbi Meiselman's claim that this position is a non-Torah based position of non-Talmidei chachamim, we see that it is the position of Tannaim and is based on pesukim.

3. Chazal's Belief in Spontaneous Generation

Rabbi Meiselman insists that Chazal never espoused a concrete or Torah-based belief in spontaneous generation. How, then, does he explain the following discussion in Chazal:

"I might think that a swarming creature causes impurity, but a mouse that is half flesh and half earth, which does not reproduce, does not cause impurity. But it is logical: The rat causes impurity and the mouse causes impurity; just as “rat” is as its meaning, so too “mouse” is as its meaning (and thus a mouse that is half flesh and half earth would transmit impurity). Yet alternatively, one could say, just as the rat procreates, so too the mouse referred to is one that procreates, which excludes a mouse that is half flesh and half earth and does not procreate! Therefore it teaches us, “[And this is impure for you] amongst the swarming creatures (basheretz) [which swarms on the land]”—to include the mouse that is half flesh and half earth, that one who touches the flesh becomes impure and if he touches the earth he remains pure." (Midrash Sifra, parashas Shemini 5:6; Talmud, Chullin 127a)

We see here that Chazal were very convinced that a spontaneously-generating mouse existed (as did everyone back then), and moreover interpreted a passuk in the Torah as specifically serving to include it.

4. The Gestation of Animals

Rabbi Meiselman says that Chazal's statement about the Nachash having a gestation of seven years refers to a particular species of snake which does indeed do that. What, then, does he say about the statements on the same page of Gemara about the gestation of the wolf, lion, bear, leopard, cheetah, elephant, and monkey being three years? And even if one were to insist that the term "gestation" actually refers to something else, what on earth could it possibly be? Besides, the same page describes the gestation of the dog and cat as being around fifty days, which is broadly accurate, and which makes claiming that the phrase means something different with regard to wolves etc. unsustainable.

The same page states that "Any species in which the male has external genitalia bears live young; any in which the male has internal genitalia, lays eggs." As a general rule, this is strikingly accurate, and the Gemara's rules are often only meant to be general. However, this section of Gemara is intending to give absolute rules, as evinced by the fact that the Gemara on the previous page names the bat as an exception to its rule that every lactating mammal gives birth to live young (ironically, the bat is actually not an exception to this rule). And as an absolute statement, it is incorrect that any species in which the male has internal genitalia, lays eggs. Whales, dolphins, elephants, giant anteaters, and hyraxes all have internal genitalia (which makes it very difficult for us to identify the sex of the hyraxes that we have at the museum), and none of them lay eggs.

(If you want to avoid this problem by arguing that the Gemara is talking about genitalia that are permanently internal, then you run into a problem with the first part of the Gemara's statement, which would have to correspondingly be referring to species in which the genitalia of males are not permanently internal and are extruded for copulation. But the males of many reptiles, and even some birds, extrude their genitalia, and yet they do not bear live young.)

The Gemara later says that "It was taught that the camel copulates back-to-back." Although a camel's penis normally points backwards, it twists it around to the front during mating, so that they copulate front-to back, unlike as described in the Gemara.

Since Rabbi Meiselman insists that it is heretical to doubt any definitive statement in the Gemara, can he explain how to reconcile these statements with the physical reality?

5. "Serious Talmidei Chachamim"

Rabbi Meiselman claimed that no genuine Torah authority ever said that Chazal could have been mistaken about a scientific matter (in which they spoke definitively): "Rav Soloveitchick never said Chazal chas v'shalom made a mistake.. no serious talmid chacham ever said that." Yet here are a few (of many) citations from people generally considered to be talmidei chachamim who said precisely that:

Rav Hirsch: "If, as we see things today, these instances are considered fiction, can the Sages be blamed for ideas that were accepted by the naturalists of their times?"

Rav Yitzchak Herzog: "The attitude of the orthodox Jew towards the scientific matter embedded in this colossal mass of Jewish religious learning may be best summed up in the words of R. Abraham Maimuni, the great son of the greatest codifier of Jewish law and the foremost Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages. “It does not at all follow,” Abraham Maimuni declares in his classical introduction to the Haggadah, “that because we bow to the authority of the sages of the Talmud in all that appertains to the interpretation of the Torah in its principles and details, we must accept unquestionably all their dicta on scientific matters, such as medicine, physics and astronomy. We ought to be quite prepared to find that some of their statements coming within the purview of science are not borne out by the science of our times...” It is of importance to bear this in mind when we enter upon the study of science in the Talmud."

Rav Hershel Schachter: "[Chazal] clearly also relied on the scientists of their time, as we all do. Sometimes this means that they relied on what was later discovered to be the scientific mistakes of their time."

Does Rabbi Meiselman rate all these people as being "not serious talmidei chachamim", or does he wish to revise his statement?

Again, since Rabbi Meiselman presents himself as a uniquely great expert on the topic of Torah and science, and issues the striking accusation that anyone who takes the rationalist approach is not a serious talmid chachim and is moreover a heretic, surely he owes it to the general public to explain his position in detail. We look forward to hearing his responses.

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  1. I assume you meant for this to read: Rabbi Meiselman insists that these Chachmei Yisrael were [NOT] espousing a Torah-based position

  2. I'm not really invested in Rabbi Meiselman's shitah (if I can figure out what it is) and have no need to defend him, but these are pretty weaksauce questions.
    1. Not a proof, a support at best. יש לחלק.
    2. The Maharsha argues with you and says R' Yehoshua represents the chachmei ha'umos. And he is the one who brings a pasuk in support.
    3. They believed in it and darshened a pasuk to include it, what's the problem? Does Rabbi Meiselman say they can't do that? Maybe it depends on how you understand drashos.
    4. "However, this section of Gemara is intending to give absolute rules, as evinced by the fact that the Gemara on the previous page names the bat as an exception to its rule". No. No proof. אין למידין מן הכללות ואפילו במקום שנאמר בו חוץ
    5. He would probably wish to revise his statement that they didn't say that Chazal were "mistaken" (about any particular thing. But in general terms even RMM agrees Chazal could theoretically be mistaken, even about non-science.)

    1. "2. The Maharsha argues with you and says R' Yehoshua represents the chachmei ha'umos. And he is the one who brings a pasuk in support."

      Yes, meet the post-Copernicus Coverup Club. Membership rates are very reasonable, I believe.

    2. What ignorance. This has nothing to do with Copernicus. And the Maharsha nowhere indicates that he even knew about the Copernican model. See, another example of why we need more kollel.

    3. I can't believe you would accuse the holy Maharsha of knowing about Copernicus, yimach shemo. Obviously the Maharsha is commenting on the text based pshat of the sugyah as he usually does. A simple yeshiva student will tell you that he is clearly representing chachmei haumos.

    4. The first known reference to Copernicus in jewish literature is already by the Maharal in Netivoth 'Olam (Torah 14):
      וכמו שבא אחד שהיה נקרא בעל תכונה חדשה, אשר נתן ציור אחר, וכל אשר הבינו הראשונים אשר לפניהם - ונתנו הראשונים ציור ומהלך לכוכבים ומזלות ולגרמי השמים - סתר את כלם, ונתן ציור חכמה חדשה. רק שהוא עצמו כתב כי עדיין לא יוכל לחשב את הכל.
      He was a contemporary.
      It is indeed strange that the Rama doesn't mention him in Torath HaOlah, but rabbi David Ganz, a student of both who then worked with Brahe and Kepler in Prague, mentions him abondantly. By the time of the Maharsha everyone probably knew about him.
      Copernicus' thesis was accepted relatively smoothly by most jewish scholars, including Yashar miKandia who was a student of Galileo, or R. Yaakov Emden in his siddur. Opponents include R. Yonoson Eibeschüts in Yaaroth Devash, and R. Yaakov Emden! in Lechem Shomayim.
      The final word may be attributed to R. Moshe Steinhardt, son of the Zichron Yosef, who edited in 1765 a german-yiddish translation of Chovoth Halevavoth in which he included a new translation for Shaar Hayichud with an introduction according to Copernicus' system, where he says none can oppose the truth of it. This introduction received glowing haskamos from his illustrious father and other gedolim.

    5. Thank you for that synopsis, Jew Well. I agree that it's very possible that the Maharsha knew about the Copernican model. Just that this sugya has nothing to do with it, as the chachmei ha'umos are definitely not representing the Copernican model. And to the best of my knowledge the Maharsha doesn't mention it anywhere else either.

      Ma'inyan l'inyan, I think most of the opposition to the model was based on the inability of people to relate to some seemingly contradictory ideas. Ideas that by now most of us are already used to, and have little difficulty with.

    6. Maharsha (1555–1631), Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543)
      So, yeah . . .

      Lol, Copernican theory has everything to do with where the sun goes at night! The Maharsha wouldn't mention Copernicus by name, as gedolim rarely do, but it is very possible he was responding to a new model(s) of the solar system by reinterpreting the gemara in a counterintuitive way. Possible enough for me to make a good joke, at least!

      By the way I did learn in kollel, but issues like this are not the focus of kollel learning, as I'm sure you're aware.

      Incidentally, the Maharsha is also known as a literalist in Aggadah, as when he argues with the Rashba (!) about Og and the mountain.

    7. It was a joke? Ok, fine.

      Joking aside, it's a very big stretch to say Maharsha is referring to Copernicus, since he is invoking the chachmei ha'umos of Pesachim 94, who are going with a geocentric model. So, no reason to read historical/scientific drama into it, he's just giving a neat pshat that ties the sugyas together. Don't you agree?

      I'm not sure where you see Maharsha being literalist about Og, he seems to be giving a pshat according to the Sefer Yetzira? And anyways what does that have to do with the sun?

    8. Since you were joking, I also take back the cheap shot I made about kollel. My apologies.

    9. No hard feelings!

  3. "Chachmas Yevanis alone is good and Torah alone is good. But if one tries to mix the two and does not know how to mix them, the product is a terrible hybrid."
    -RYBS, shiur on כי תצא in the 1950s

    1. I like this. It can produce both terribly left or right wing hybrids

    2. Those who produce those "terrible hybrids" may tend to deny that "Chachmas Yevanis.. is good", or "Torah.. is good".

  4. Isn't there a whole blog the that addresses all these questions and more? It's been years, so you probably forgot about it.
    Use the search function. דרשו מעל ספר ה' וקראו אחת מהנה לא נעדרה

    1. Forgot about it? That is the very blog of Rabbi Kornfeld that Rabbi Slifkin referred to. As you can see there, RK stopped writing it more than five years ago, and even when he did he would often go months at a time without writing. This long-defunct hobby, in trying to provoke argument five years after someone has moved on, is what RS falsely describes as a "ten year long obsession". Far from "forgotten about it", RS wishes he was still writing it. He can then play the martyr even more than he does with "they banned my books!" card.

    2. "RK stopped writing it more than five years ago... long-defunct hobby"

      RK has commented here recently, though not frequently. "Long defunct" is an exaggeration. What may have been an obsession has mellowed into an occasional diversion.

  5. אחרי החקירה מפי ספרים וסופרים חכמי וספרי הניתוח א"א לנו להכחיש המציאות שאינו כפרש"י ותוס' וציור מהר"ם לובלין ואין לנו אלא מ"ש הרמב"ם בחיבורו ובפי' המשנה אלא ששם בפי' המשנה יש איזה גמגום בסופו ע"ש ותמצא הציור הנכון בס' מעשי טוביה ובספר שבילי אמונה... ולכן לא הטרחתי כלל בביאור דברי רש"י ותוספות בשמעתין כי א"א להולמן לפי המציאות האמיתי ואתה דע לך (חידושי החתם סופר למסכת נדה דף יח עמ' א).
    תשובה: רבותינו אינם רופאים ואמרו אך ממה שראו מהנסיון בחולים שבזמנם, ובכן אין בזה משום מצוה לשמוע דברי חכמים, שלא אמרו רק משיקול הדעת על יסוד מה שנראה להם בזמנם ... (אוצר הגאונים גיטין – התשובות דף עמ' נ' 152, שעו דף סח עמ' ב` תרגום של תשובת רב שרירא גאון או רב האיי גאון על הרפואות שבתלמוד (מובא בספר מלחמות השם, הוצאת מוסד הרב קוק, ירושלים, ללא שנת הוצאה, עמ' פד הערה 18)).
    ואל תבקשני לתאם כל מה שאמרו [חז"ל] מעניני התכונה עם המצב כפי שהוא, לפי שהמדעים באותו הזמן היו חסרים, ולא דברו [חז"ל] בכך [=באסטרונומיה] משום שיש להם מסורת באותם הדברים מן הנביאים, אלא מצד שהם ידעני [=מדעני] אותם הדורות באותם המקצועות, או שמעום מידעני אותם הדורות. ולא בגלל זה נאמר על דברים שמצאנו להם שהם מתאימים עם האמת שהם בלתי נכונים או שתאמו במקרה, אלא כל מה שאפשר לבאר דברי האדם כדי שיהא תואם את המציאות שהוכחה מציאותה [היום], הוא יותר עדיף ונכון לבעל הטבעים הנעלים ואיש הצדק. (מורה נבוכים להרמב"ם, בתרגום הרב קאפח, ירושלים, תשל"ב, חלק ג' סוף פרק יד, עמ' שד – שה).
    בהתאם לתפיסה זו כותב רמב"ם:
    כל מי שדן בעניינים עיוניים אלה דן בהם על פי מה שהעיון הביא אליו, ולכן מאמין במה שהוכחתו המופתית נכונה (מורה נבוכים, בתרגום שורץ, החלק השני פרק ח, עמ' 284).
    וטעם כל אלו החשבונות, ומפני מה מוסיפים מנין זה ומפני מה גורעין, והיאך נודע כל דבר ודבר מאלו הדברים, והראיה על כל דבר ודבר – היא חכמת התקופות והגימטריות שחברו בה חכמי יון ספרים הרבה והם המצויין עכשיו ביד החכמים. אבל הספרים שחברו חכמי ישראל שהיו בימי הנביאים מבני יששכר לא הגיעו אלינו. ומאחר שכל אלו הדברים בראיות ברורות הן שאין בהן דופי, ואי אפשר לאדם להרהר אחריהם – אין חוששין למחבר, בין שחברו אותם נביאים, בין שחברו אותם גוים. שכל דבר שנתגלה טעמו ונודעה אמתתו בראיות שאין בהן דופי, אין סומכין על זה האיש שאמרו או שלמדו, אלא על הראייה שנתגלתה והטעם שנודע. (רמב"ם הלכות קדוש החדש פרק יז הלכה כד)
    והנה לפי הנראה לי דהדברים (סיבוב הארץ או השמש) לא קבלו חכז"ל מהלממ"ס (=חכמנו זיכרונם לברכה מהלכה למשה מסיני) אלא שאמרו כן לפי סברתן ובדבר שאינו מקובל ואין לו שורש בתורתינו אלא עפ"י החקירה והנסיון קשה להכריע. וכמה פעמים הכריעו חכמים עפ"י השכל שהדבר הוא כך והדור הבאים אחריהם השכילו יותר בדבר זה וחלקו על הדיעה הראשונה וכל דבר שמסכימים עליו עפ"י הנסיון א"א להחליט הדבר אלא עפ"י הרוב וכן הוא בהא דאמר רבי שנראין דברי חכמי אומות העולם אבל לא הכריע בהחלט כי בדבר כזה שמביאין רק ראיות א"א להחליט לגמרי ובאמת בהרמב"ם בספר המורה הגירסא שחכמי ישראל חזרו מדבריהם ועכ"פ לפי הגירסא שלנו לא אמר רבי אלא נראין. ואין זה ענין למ"ש התוס' שם בעירובין דנראין היינו הסכמה דזה שייך רק בדיני התורה שאנו מחוייבין לעשות כפי שנראה ואין לדיין אלא מה שעיניו רואות והקב"ה מסכים על ידו משא"כ בדברים שהם בחקירת הטבע ... ובגוף הדבר כבר הקשה ... בספר הברית מאמר ד' שני המאורות פרק כ' וביאר שדרך המשורר לינקוט מליצה לפי המדומה לבני אדם עיי"ש (ולא לפי האמת המדעית). (שו"ת מהר"ם שיק, אבן העזר, סימן ז)

  6. Investigating these questions because you genuinely want to know will always yield more precise answers than when shutting up a heretic. We know these questions don't really have answers, DK will cough up some as hoc stuff tho...

  7. Does he have an actual species of snake in mind?

    Of course, no snake gestates its young.

    1. I think you should avoid authoritative sentences on subjects you don't know, if you don't want to look like rabbi Meiselman.
      A lot of snakes are ovoviviparous, which mean they give birth to live juveniles whose eggs have hatched in their belly. You can call that gestation.
      It still remains that no known species takes such a long time.

    2. My point is that it's curious that he insists that an atalef can't be a bat because modern science says a bat is not a bird, but he's willing to accept "You can call that gestation" here.

    3. Nachum,
      Listen to the Headlines podcast. RMM says that נחש is not necessarily what we call a snake. What is a נחש in that context? Something that gestates for seven years. An עטלף is not necessarily a bat, it's a creature which nurses & lays eggs. חכמי ישראל are not necessarily Talmudic sages, etc..
      What do you call that "terrible hybrid" of Talmudic lomdus & science? "Chemistry". ודי לחכימא ברמיזא.

  8. When meuselman says no serious Talmud chacham he means that if you do not say what he thinks then by definition you are not a serious Talmud chacham.

  9. I commented this on a previous post - One uncomfortable conclusion from Chazal trying and failing to drive accurate science from the Torah, is the implication that Chazal apparently had a serious misconception about the basic nature of the Torah, namely what is and what is not in it.

    Rabbi Slifkin - do you have a particular approach to this? I think it is at the core of why many aren't comfortable with the idea of Chazal attempting and seemingly being unable to derive science from Torah.

    1. This is an excellent question! Let me piggyback; there is no doctrine of inerrancy when it comes to chazal. How far can chazal's errancy go/manifest before their credibility is in question?

    2. The best I can come up with is that they aren't actual drashos (after all, Amoraim generally don't make drashos), just chazal casually wondering about natural phenomenae and looking for hints in the Torah it.

    3. Another RationalistMarch 1, 2022 at 6:32 PM

      This is correct - there is little evidence to suggest that Chazal's views on science are based on the Torah. Even if there are some examples of explicit drashos against the Torah (can't think of any offhand), it would certainly not indicate a 'serious misconception about the basic nature of the Torah.'

    4. ...but a simple reading of Chazal would indicate that this exegesis is no different than the halachik sort which would make all of the Drashos lav davka.

      My approach is that "torah lo bashamayim hee" - Chazal were granted authority to darshan the torah and the ability to legislate their understanding. Although their understanding isn't empirically valid, it doesn't lessen the religious significance of said drashos.

  10. So . . . I guess you don't?

  11. How do you define external/internal genitalia?
    elephants have external gentialia, wit thexception of their testes which are internal.

  12. Who asserts “torah lo bashamayim hee". Why it’s none other than Chazal who grants itself that unfalsifiable formula. So if you want a Meiselman scheme to reconcile science with Chazal/Torah, It really doesn’t require a great deal of cerebration. Just assert that the sky is whatever color you think Chazal said it should be. After all, how can you dispute what you think Chazal says?

  13. Just to clarify a few things:
    1) My general policy is not to comment here on Torah and Science topics because the topic is complex and nuanced and pretty much everything has already been said.
    Much of Rabbi Slifkin's questions here were already addressed either directly or indirectly in the interview or in the book, as I will reference below.
    2) When I have discussed Torah and Science, I am often misunderstood or intentionally mischaracterized by others here which makes serious debating pointless. Not to mention Rabbi Slifkin often slow-walks publishing my comments to insure they have less of an impact.
    3) I harbor no illusions that I can change people's minds if they are already made up. The most I am gunning for when I post comments is for his readers to realize how shamelessly dishonest and disingenuous Rabbi Slifkin is in most of his criticisms of Rabbi Meiselman and of Chareidim generally.
    I have repeatedly shown him to be a complete fraud and a hypocrite regarding his moral critiques, with a deep pathological hatred toward Rav Meiselman and toward an entire community which has dedicated itself to learning Torah. I find it quite troubling that such a person has such a wide readership.

    Now to respond to the questions posed.
    1) Who are the Chachmei Yisroel?
    Use of the term in different contexts was addressed in "Torah Chazal and Science" (TCS) page 144 ft. 432

    Skipping 2) for the moment.

    3) Did Chazal actually believe in the existence of an SG mud-mouse--and the Mishna in Chullin
    Addressed in the RDl interview at minute 106:55, in TCS Topic II Chapter 23 sec. 3-4 and on my blog here:

    4) Gestation period of other animals given by Chazal:
    Addressed directly in TSC page 6 ft. 11 and indirectly in the fist paragraph on page 358 (found at the end of Topic III-- the entire chapter 27 is very important).

    5) Who is a "serious talmid chochom"?
    Addressed in Topic X chapter 76 sec. 4 "members of the club". (esp. ft. 25)


  14. Question 2) was actually thought provoking for a change. Then I realized that these sources undermine Rabbi Slifkin's position rather than support it.
    Rav Meiselman always insisted (in the interview and in his book) that this gemara in Pesachim has many interpretations. Only on the most simplistic level is 1) the discussion about physical astronomy and 2) the chachmei Yisroel's arguments are rejected by Rebbi.
    It was on this most simplistic level of interpretation where Rav Meiselman suggested it would make sense that these chachmei Yisroel were merely "Jewish wise men" and not members of Chazal.

    Once you change over to interpret that either 1) it wasn't a debate about physical astronomy in the first place, or 2) the rejection by Rebbe was only an apparent rejection but not an actual one, then Chachmei Yisroel won the debate. Then it makes more sense to say they were Chazal, and then it becomes unsurprising that we find other members of Chazal supporting them with drashos from pesukim.

    So the fact that later Sages support the position of Chachmei Yisroel with drashos actually reinforces those interpretations that concluded they didn't lose the debate with the non-Jewish astronomers.

    In conclusion, Rabbi Slifkin likes to hype-up the drama in his posts and pretend all his critiques are simply devastating which no-one can adequately respond. The fact is quite the opposite.
    So if I decline to respond to the next trumped up crisis of faith in the chareidi world-view, I hope you will understand why.

    1. Bravo. Well put.

    2. " Rav Meiselman suggested it would make sense that these chachmei Yisroel were merely "Jewish wise men" and not members of Chazal."

      It doesn't make sense. Because that's not what חכמי ישראל means.
      Plus, what is stopping any contemporary from redefining any term they are uncomfortable with? And I mean redefining a term that has had a certain meaning for centuries.

    3. Dovd Kornreich: So your position would be that the derashos cited by Chazal in support of the opinion of the chachmei Yisrael were being cited in support of whatever metaphysical concept they were alluding to, and not to the plain meaning of what they said? How far do you take that? The sugya there in Bava Basra has a series of discussions concerning the various types of winds, and their different effects on the world in terms of weather. Are those also describing some metaphysical reality?

    4. To Ephraim: Rav Meiselman explained his logic. He said that whenever we find Chazal arguing with non-Jewish wise men, the gemara never places their Torah-based position on equal footing with the non-Jewish position. This could indicate that it isn't really Chazal talking at all.
      Maybe you don't agree with it, but you aren't even addressing it.
      In any event, it's clear from the book that Rav Meiselman's position in no way hinges on this suggestion.

      To Yehoshua: That sugya in Bava Basra is very much interlaced with aggadic themes about the schechinoh's location. The line between aggada and halacha there is quite obscure. Not a big problem to say this citation is referring to metaphysical entities which also have points of direction.

    5. Irrationalist JudaismMarch 6, 2022 at 12:01 AM

      If I may make a few points , as an observer -

      a) I recently saw Sergei Lavrov criticising NATO/the West for painting the dispute (Russia/Ukraine) as 100% good vs 100% bad. The problem in these religious debates is that people tend to fall into the same trap.
      b) According to what you appear to be reporting as Rav Meiselman's position, he does not have a clearcut position, but has the option of many differing positions. It is fine to take such an approach, but then it cannot really be the last word or authorititive.

      c) the Torah and Science author, Judah Landa, makes a very good point - scientifically, the explanations given by both the gentile scholars and the Jewish ones in the Talmud do not scientifically arrive at the reason why hot springs are hot at night.

      d) Rebbe , apparently says that the Gentile explanation is more plausible than the Jewish one - so his methodology goes against the fudnamentalist view.

      e) Even if we accept your world view, and that of TCS, it is also geneivas daas, because you accept things today which go against Chazal, and the Rambam etc. If you , or your colleagues use modern medicine, then you are koifer on the Rambam and the Zohar , who claim that there are only 4 fundamental chemical elements. So I dare you to stop using modern medicine or benefitting from any modern products. If you fly planes, or sit in them, then you are koifer on the Daas of Rambam, who said it is an impossibility for a metal ship to fly.
      If you make international calls, or use the internet, you rely on satellites , which are based on the modern astronomy which you reject.
      So end of the day, the position is not consistent wit day to day practie of most people, unelss you live in a hut, and rely only on herbs for medicine.

  15. Dovid - it was a mistake for you to reply. He has his opinion, you have yours. Neither is changing the other.

    And don't be misled by readers. There are many - like you, like me, like many other commenters, and like most who don't bother to comment - who are quite aware when they are reading nonsense. And those foolish enough to just accept everything they read are hopeless and not worth your time.

    1. Problem is, they aren't just reading nonsense. Its poisonous nonsense which is soul-sucking in the classic maskilic tradition. Hard to just sit back and watch in silence.

    2. "Its poisonous nonsense which is soul-sucking in the classic maskilic tradition."

      That's projecting. I know many people who believe Chazal were fallible but are utterly devout. If you want, I'll also project, that loads and loads of people who I don't know are utterly devout too. Only if you're educated to assume that Chazal being fallible is a horrid scandal do you look at people who think so as soul sucked

  16. You should take your own point on number 5. It wasn't too long ago that you maintained that anyone who disagreed with government agencies on COVID policies and recommendations was, perforce, a "fringe quack" and not a real medical expert. I'd say we've paid an incomparably higher price for the perpetuation of this fallacy, versus Rabbi Meiselman's.


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