Saturday, February 19, 2022

The Turning of the Tide?

Rabbi Dovid Lichtenstein (henceforth RDL) has a popular podcast called Headlines, in which he sometimes asks tough questions of the people that he interviews - a rarity in the charedi world. In his latest episode, on the topic of Chazal's knowledge of science, he interviews five people.

First, he interviews Professor Maoz Kahana, a sort-of-charedi professor of Jewish history from Tel Aviv University. This is itself significant - that a discussion of this topic, interviewing Gedolei Roshei Yeshivah, also asks academics for their view. (Unfortunately, Prof. Kahana's English is not that great, and it is quite difficult to follow.) RDL tries to pin him down on whether statements about all knowledge being in the Torah mean that the Tannaim could extract science from the Torah. Kahana responds by pointing out that it also stated that every Torah insight that anyone will ever expound is already in the Torah. And just as that does not mean that the Tannaim could extract any Torah insight, they likewise could not extract scientific knowledge.

Next, RDL interviews Rav Mendel Shafran from Bnei Brak. Much to my surprise (since Rav Shafran endorsed anti-science quackery), he gives a very reasonable approach. In a very memorable quote, he says, "My wife can make a better kugel than Moshe Rabbeinu, and it's not kefirah to say so!" He explains that it's not a deficiency for Chazal not to know something about science. This is a very important point that many people in the charedi world are unable to grasp, and it's refreshing to hear it being presented.

Then RDL interviews Rav Dovid Cohen, who is extremely disappointing. He invokes "sod Hashem liyreyav" to argue that Chazal had hidden sources of knowledge - but as I point out in my book Rationalism vs. Mysticism, Chazal only invoked that principle as a theoretical possibility in three cases, and clearly did not see it as being generally operative. Rav Cohen naively claims that Chazal knew lots of things before modern science. I've investigated dozens of such claims, and in every case, I found that it was either (a) something that non-Jews in antiquity also knew, (b) something ambiguous that could be interpreted in all kinds of ways, or (c) something that is not actually true. Rav Cohen adds that we can "never" be sure if they are speaking literally or not (which is easy to say about aggadata, but not at all regarding other areas). But then when RDL points out that R. Yehuda HaNasi says regarding dispute regarding the sun's path at night that the non-Jews appear correct, Rav Cohen admits that it could be.

Next, RDL introduces R. Moshe Meiselman. Alas, RDL mistakenly claims that he is "uniquely qualified to speak about this topic" since he is a graduate of MIT. In fact, his degree was in mathematics, which is entirely irrelevant to expertise the natural sciences, and may even be detrimental to it. And as for the college courses on science, Rabbi Meiselman goes against the entire consensus of scientists in the natural sciences, who would consider his approach regarding the world being only a few thousand years old to be ludicrous. Would we speak about the credibility of a self-styled medical expert who did college courses on medicine but is deemed to be a crank by the entire medical establishment?

RDL begins by asking Rabbi Meiselman about Rav Soloveitchik's take on these issues. R. Meiselman responds by saying "Rav Soloveitchick never said Chazal chas v'shalom made a mistake.. no serious talmid chacham ever said that." Of course, the fact is that very many serious talmidei chachamim said exactly that... including pretty much all the distinguished talmidim of Rav Soloveitchik, such as Rav Hershel Schachter! I am more inclined to believe that Rav Soloveitchik's talmidim accurately reflected his approach, rather than that they all turned out to be heretics.

Then, RDL asks about the Gemara in Pesachim regarding the dispute about the sun's path at night, where the chachmei Yisrael took the position that the sun goes behind the sky, and R. Yehuda HaNasi notes that they appear to be mistaken. Rabbi Meiselman claims that these chachmei Yisrael were astronomers rather than Torah sages, and thus it was a dispute regarding astronomy and not Torah, regarding which R. Yehuda HaNasi had no mesorah. Alas, RDL is not familiar enough with the topic to point out to Rabbi Meiselman that the position of the chachmei Yisrael is espoused by Tannaim in Bava Basra and Midrash Bereishis Rabbah, in which they base it on their understanding of pesukim.

Rabbi Meiselman is also hasty to stress that there are many Acharonim who claim that the Gemara means something entirely different anyway. Indeed there were - Rabbi Meiselman is not the first to be uncomfortable with Chazal not knowing where the sun goes at night. Still, surely the approach of all the Rishonim, still continued by many Acharonim, should hold greater weight.

RDL pushes further. If the Sanhedrin can make a mistake about halacha, he asks, why can't Chazal make a mistake about science? Rabbi Meiselman's response is that "the Gemara is definitive." Which hardly seems to answer the question.

Then RDL asks about the Gemara's statements regarding the gestation periods of various animals. Rabbi Meiselman responds that "there are specific snakes that do have a gestation of seven years." Alas, this is not actually true. And unfortunately, RDL does not question him about the Gemara's statements that the gestation of the wolf, lion, bear, leopard, cheetah, elephant, and monkey, is three years. Perhaps someone can ask Rabbi Meiselman about this? Were Chazal also only speaking about particular types of wolf, lion, bear, leopard, cheetah, elephant and monkey that are unknown to modern science?

Finally, when RDL asks about the mouse that is generated from dirt, Rabbi Meiselman states emphatically that "Chazal did not believe that there is a spontaneously generating mouse." Of course, just as in his book, Rabbi Meiselman neglects to address the fact that Chazal had a derashah from the Torah specifically for the mud-mouse.

RDL summarizes the situation as there being three views: that Chazal were fallible, that they spoke in metaphor, and that they were infallible. And he concludes by saying that he doesn't see any reason that Chazal's statements about science should be considered "halacha pesuka."

Frankly, I think that this is amazing. It's only been seventeen years since the charedi Gedolim declared it unthinkable and heretical to say that Chazal could have been mistaken on science. And now a prominent charedi radio host, based on an interview with a prominent charedi Rav, says that such a view is within the spectrum of legitimate views! It seems that the tide may be turning.



103 comments:

  1. Rav Cohen naively claims that Chazal knew lots of things before modern science. I've investigated dozens of such claims, and in every case, I found that it was either (a) something that non-Jews in antiquity also knew, (b) something ambiguous that could be interpreted in all kinds of ways, or (c) something that is not actually true.

    I have not listened to the podcast. I am curious what "naive" means.

    Personally, I know that Chazal knew things before modern science.

    I would like to introduce you to a Gemara on Chagiga 12a (from Sefaria):

    It was taught in the Tosefta: Tohu is a green line that encompasses the entire world, and from which darkness emerges, as it is stated: "He made darkness His hiding place round about Him" (Psalms 18:12), indicating that a line of darkness surrounds the world. Vohu; these are damp stones submerged in the depths, from which water emerges, as it is stated: "And He shall stretch over it the line of tohu and stones of vohu" (Isaiah 34:11), which demonstrates that tohu is a line and that vohu is referring to stones.

    It turns out that tohu and vohu are tangible things, not concepts. It's less poetic but more accurate to say "the earth was watery rocks and all-encompassing darkness" than "formless and void."

    Would you be surprised to learn that vohu, rocks that are mostly made of and exude water, exist, in the depths, exactly where the Talmud says they can be found:

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

    Please explain how this interesting and very science-related Chazal is one of:

    (a) something that non-Jews in antiquity also knew, (b) something ambiguous that could be interpreted in all kinds of ways, or (c) something that is not actually true.

    Or not. You can disqualify my observed connection between the description of vohu, or question it, but you cannot claim it false. It's hard to see how my interpretation of Chazal and modern science being anticipated by them can be reasonably challenged, but you are a contortion artist extraordinaire, so I expect a tour de force. I am indeed curious as to whether the nations too possessed this knowledge. Please let me know what you find out. You've done the research before (for more "naive" claims), so oblige me now.

    In fact, his degree was in mathematics, which is entirely irrelevant to expertise the natural sciences, and may even be detrimental to it.

    According to Wikipedia, "Slifkin has a master's degree in Judaic Studies from the Lander Institute in Jerusalem and a doctorate in Jewish History from Bar-Ilan University, completed in 2016."

    Enough said. Unlike any of you, and I believe I can say this with some confidence, I have actually worked in the space program. The "naive" rabbi is right, and you are wrong. And his degree is more relevant than all of yours combined.

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    1. Shimshon,

      Only a gamma needs to refer to degrees instead of relying on facts.
      Ash

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    2. In case it wasn't clear, and you didn't follow the link, science claimed that Methane Clathrate couldn't possibly exist on earth, and was surprised as anyone when it was discovered in places that makes no sense, and then retconned an explanation for how this could be the case.

      We have a mesorah, thanks to Chazal, that these rocks exist, and explains what they are, which is the protomatter of our world (my words, not theirs), that predates modern science by, well, at minimum, 1500 years. It's a surprising confirmation that the allegedly metaphorical Maaseh Breishis is perhaps more literally accurate than many people would admit to. And a claim that was only able to be confirmed in the last few decades.

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    3. RNS: In fact, his degree was in mathematics, which is entirely irrelevant to expertise the natural sciences, and may even be detrimental to it.

      Shimshon: According to Wikipedia, "Slifkin has a master's degree in Judaic Studies from the Lander Institute in Jerusalem and a doctorate in Jewish History from Bar-Ilan University, completed in 2016."

      It depends on the strength of the evidence. If RNS brings sufficient evidence we can accept despite that he doesn't have the adequate schooling. But to begin an interview claiming that the interviewee is an expert and a unique one to boot thanks to his schooling, before he's even said one word, and among other prominent interviewees who don't receive this compliment, for that you have to have the right kind of schooling.

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    4. Shimshon,
      What are you trying to claim? A clathrate is a molecule "trapped" in another. It has nothing to do with rocks per se. Everyone knows that some rocks contain water. That's why you don't throw rocks into a fire. And most materials become damp if you put them into water. You cite "damp stones". All stones in the sea are damp, whether there's methane clathrate there are not. Furthermore, is methane clathrate damp if the water part is ice? Isn't ice dry until it's melting at which point it becomes damp?

      So what is your point?

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    5. Shimi,

      You're confused - the "naive" rabbi was RDC, who has no degrees. The ostentatiously accredited rabbi is RMM.

      Btw, what is "the space program?"

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    6. Dave,

      Both rabbis are right anyway.

      The Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences at UCSD.

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    7. Ephraim, other rocks may contain moisture. Methane Clathrate fits the definition of a rock "from which water emerges." Other rocks don't.

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    8. RDC is right to say that Chazal knew lots of things before their time because you claim to have found a solitary case of it? That's a strange argument.

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    9. Unknown 6:47 AM

      For those unsure of meaning of “gamma” as applied here.

      Chiefly British.
      a grade showing that an individual student is in the third, or lowest, of three scholastic sections in a class.
      Compare alpha (def. 7), beta (def. 8).

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    10. Dave, why is it strange? Slifkin denies a single case exists. It also touches on both geology and cosmology. It is not the only case I took note of, but it is the only case I will mention, which is all that is necessary.

      If Slifkin can demonstrate that this knowledge existed elsewhere and is not unique to our mesorah, then it would be back to zero. But until he does that, like I said, no other example is needed.

      Uriah's Wife, gamma comes from Vox Day's Male Socio-Sexual Hierarchy. It describes men who are angry, bitter, deluded (which is just a single word description for "constantly lies to oneself"), and thus rarely capable of self-reflection.

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    11. " Methane Clathrate fits the definition of a rock "from which water emerges.""

      No it doesn't. A clathrate is one molecule trapped in another molecule. Here, it's methane trapped in frozen water. It's not a rock. And frozen water isn't damp. So no dampness & no stones. Methane Clathrate is not by any definition "damp stones".

      Delete
    12. I provided only the translation of course. Also, of course, no example would meet whatever arbitrary definition you apply. Only in your deluded world is "frozen water" not a rock. Besides which, it's not frozen water. It was a substance theorized to exist by scientists, but then further claimed by those same scientists to be impossible to occur on earth. Now they're saying it exists but is not so widespread. We'll see how long that lasts. So your trite disqualifiers remain trite.

      Methane Clathrate would be a good candidate for the physical substance of the makkah of hail. Given the connection made between the makkos and reversing Hashem's 10 utterances of Maaseh Breishis, this makes sense. Especially as our mesorah identifies it with the physical substance of vohu, which was basically the primordial state of creation.

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    13. It's elementary, my dear Shimshon, Slifkin being wrong does not translate into both rabbis being right, which was your initial claim. If you'd like to retract that, by all means.

      As I've said before, this site attracts a lot of weird birds. Why would you use a weird niche word made up by "Vox Day" as if it's a widely used, and why would a committed champion of our "mesorah" even read a potty-mouthed blogger (just look at the title of his book - disgusting) who reportedly has an article on "the merits of anti-semitism" in which he states that in light of the current Jewish leaders he can understand how the kings of old convinced the populace to hate Jews (I can't confirm because his blog isn't open-access).

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    14. Shimshon, where is Rabbi S coming from? From investigating many claims and they were all effectively wrong. What should he predict about more claims? Likely that they're the same thing. I think he's open to another claim but after a string of failures one gets pessimistic and tired. So let's all discuss the latest claim, yours, and see what happens.

      If your claim stands, next would be to address Chazal's apparent scientific errors in Halachic and non-Halachic contexts.

      After that, to address why Rishonim state that Chazal aren't scientifically infallible. Your evidence is going against them.

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    15. "Unlike any of you, and I believe I can say this with some confidence, I have actually worked in the space program." My husband worked at Jet Propulsion Lab on the Mars Viking project. A good friend works on the Hubble telescope project. I'm sure there are other frum Jews involved with space projects...

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    16. topshot, your husband is not you. And you have not identified a single person who reads, or more pertinently comments, here as being someone with "space program" experience. My statement remains unchallenged.

      Dave, given that Vox's blog is publicly accessible to all. You just don't know where it is. How intelligent are you if you can't find it (try voxday.net)?

      Anonymous Coward, a single exception would prove the lie that Slifkin has examined all claims, and all claims were found wanting, in one of three ways. If he declines to examine it, or investigate whether it was knowledge available to the goyim, that's on him, not me.

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    17. It's hilarious that you talk about others being bitter and unable to self-reflect when your only response to criticism is to attack others ad hominem. So what does your mesorah have to say about vox day's disgusting nivul peh and anti-semitism?

      Slifkin said he examined all claims - obviously that means all claims he has come across. Obviously, he doesn't mean to say he examined all claims that anyone could possibly dream up!

      Why is anonymous a coward? Have you given your full name?

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    18. Oh yeah, and you haven't explained why Slifkin supposedly being wrong on a single case proves the two rabbis are right. But that's obviously not your real interest. I'll give you time to dig up some made-up vox-day argot insults.

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    19. Shimson, he's presented them in the past and shown how they are wanting. Some of this happened early in his career when he was still Chareidi and he was very upset that they didn't work out. He really wanted them to. At that point he had the attitude you'd like him to have now. So if you prove your case we won't conclude that he was wrong retroactively but rather that all the popular proofs of the past decades (and at least one from a few centuries back) failed but yours succeeded.

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  2. RNS, the path to change is evolution NOT revolution. Your biggest mistake was fighting the ban, had you immediately acquiesced, your approach wouldn't have been set back 17 years.

    Anyway, with the advent of the internet, anyone who has this sort of question regarding science and chazal, has already taken your approach. Many kiddush room convos in black hat shuls have confirmed this.

    Also, you weren't an actual billionaire with charedi street credit.

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  3. Gut Woch, R' Dr. Slifkin !

    I was expecting a far different, and more closed-minded, result from the opening. B"H some in the charedi world are starting to come around to a position which allows them to be machria' their hashkofos with the modern world

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  4. Very interesting. Rabbi Slifkin, can you possibly tell us your reaction to the last part of the show which interviews Dr. Presby? Especially regarding what he was saying about (a) how חז"ל knew the number of stars in the universe and (b) there being no proof of positive DNA mutations as evolution would predict? Thanks!

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    1. "how חז"ל knew the number of stars in the universe"

      They didn't. Look up the Gemara and see if it has any shaychus to modern day measurements of the stars. Even if you do the math, it is off by over 2 orders of magnitude.

      See here: http://frumheretic.blogspot.com/2010/10/chazal-knew-number-of-stars.html

      I don't like this website, but he does do a great job of debunking this ridiculous claim.
      Ash

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    2. It's simple. Do what RMM does and redefine what כוכב means. Try the following: nowhere in Chazal does it state that the sun is a כוכב. Thus it follows that כוכב means something completely different from what scientists call "star". It's an astronomical body of which is "over two orders of magnitude" less common that what modern astronomers broadly consider "stars". Problem solved. And there's still time for מנחה!

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    3. Ephraim LOL! But actually the sun is a כוכב, one of the כוכבי לכת.

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    4. I wrote a critique of this argument. see https://altercockerjewishatheist.blogspot.com/2020/05/proof-of-god-from-number-of-stars-in.html

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  5. I don't think the "tide is turning". These were all reasonable positions 20 years ago also. But there is a difference between saying that Chazal didn't know modern science, and saying that their "science" wasn't good enough and led them to the wrong conclusions, especially with practical halachic matters. So for example, I don't really care if they thought the sun goes under the earth and boils the water, even though our current model rejects that. But I do care when you say that therefore, Chazal had the wrong practical halachic conclusion about water being warmer at night.

    In that case, I would go to the ends of the earth to defend them. And if I can't find a terutz, say צ"ע. NOT because I think they knew modern science, or future science. But rather the Torah, having been given in antiquity, shouldn't require modern science to reach the right conclusion, ancient "science" should be sufficient. And therefore I assume Chazal did their due diligence with the tools they had and should have reached the right conclusion based on that ancient "science". And even though it's still possible they got it wrong (as in all cases, even when no science is involved), it is unlikely, and if there is something that doesn't make sense to us, the problem probably lies with us.

    Here is a fun little exchange I had with great Gaon צוות האתר of רציו. It is about you, I try to take the devil's advocate on your position, and he utterly trounces me. Excuse my poor Hebrew. https://rationalbelief.org.il/contact-us/#comment-11127

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    1. That guy clearly doesn't know what he is talking about.

      The reason we know the רקיע is solid is because we know all the other ancient societies in the time of Torah had the same concept, and all of them viewed the רקיע as solid. It has nothing to do with a few statements in חזל.

      You can try to stretch as much as you want into the pesukim, but after a while one must realize it doesn't fit and the most פשוט פשט is דברו תורה כלשון בני אדם - that the Torah used the commonly thought out understanding of that time.
      Ash

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    2. "But there is a difference between saying that Chazal didn't know modern science, and saying that their "science" wasn't good enough and led them to the wrong conclusions, especially with practical halachic matters."

      IIUYC, within a halachic discussion it isn't demeaning/problematic for chazal to err in science any more than about the position of the sun, only that the use of that error for the practical aspect is demeaning/problematic.

      Am I understanding you correctly? If no, please correct me. And if yes, why is their superlative honor intact if they err about the sun?

      And if yes, why then is their superlative honor detracted if they err about halacha?

      Thank you.

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    3. Unknown, clearly you don't know what you just read. You are mixing up two things. If you want to say that Chazal held the rekiyah was solid, based on no evidence other than what other societies held, be my guest. That wasn't the question and that wasn't RNS's main point either. The question was if they actually had a mesorah that רקיע means something solid. RNS was trying to prove from the Yerushalmi/Medrash that they did. הרה"ג הקי"ד was calling him out on his mistranslation/distortion.

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    4. Anonymous, the ancients had their own "scientific" model of various aspects of the world, much of which our current models would consider incorrect. Like the part about the sun boiling the oceans at night when it goes under the earth. However, their model was based on things that they themselves experienced. So if they said the sun boils the oceans and that is why the water is warmer at night, that means that in their experience, the water was actually warmer at night, and they are trying to explain that. They didn't just make it up.

      The difference between Chazal and non-Jewish sources is that we assume that Chazal took the Torah very seriously and therefore did their due diligence in making sure that their statements were correct, especially as regards halacha. So if they said water is warmer at night and that makes a practical halachic difference, we can be almost sure that they checked and had that experience. Same thing with killing lice on Shabbos. We assume the Rabbis actually checked and could never find lice eggs, rather than asserting they didn't check properly and made a mistake.

      The part which is very demeaning is claiming that Chazal "didn't know about empiricism", and therefore they didn't check things properly and just repeated whatever they heard. And therefore it is demeaning to assume they made a mistake at their own scientific level, such as the lice case where we can see lice eggs with the naked eye. Rather, in such a case we should assume the problem lies with us, and try to understand their words better. This is despite the fact that theoretically they could have made mistakes in any matter, even non-science.

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    5. P.S. everything I said about Chazal using ancient "science" has nothing to do with Ma'aseh Bereishis and the Mabul. Since the Torah is the D'var Hashem to Moshe, it must be true and correct, not ancient science. Whether we understand it correctly, and whether it is couched in ancient scientific language is a different matter, ואכמ"ל. But to say that it is a "sacred myth" and that Adam, Sheis, Enoch, and Noach never existed is simply rejection of the Torah.

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    6. "we can be almost sure that they checked... We assume the Rabbis actually checked and could never find lice eggs"

      And you have just exposed yourself as a heretic as defined by some circles. They reject the idea that Chazal got their scientific knowledge through investigation & experiment.

      And do you actually believe that Chazal checked lice and did't find eggs, when every mother in Israel (hopefully not too) frequently finds lice eggs in her kids hair? Talk about ירידת הדורות!

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    7. "And you have just exposed yourself as a heretic as defined by some circles."

      Are you in kindergarten? Please.

      "And do you actually believe that Chazal checked lice and did't find eggs, when every mother in Israel (hopefully not too) frequently finds lice eggs in her kids hair?"

      This was my point! That is why that Chazal is so difficult! And it's totally unacceptable and an insult to Chazal's and everybody else's intelligence to suggest that they "didn't know about empiricism" and thus didn't even bother checking. That's why we need to come up with another answer and not just "they didn't know science."

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    8. "And you have just exposed yourself as a heretic as defined by some circles."
      "Are you in kindergarten? Please."

      People from those circles, including prominent names, even authorities, do indeed have these what you call "kindergarten"ish ideas. They consistently gloss over statements such as Rav learning Mumin from the field and only work with Mesora, Hophiah Ruach Hakodesh, and Sod Hashem.

      These people are also in the forefront of opposing Rabbi S.

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    9. "to suggest that they "didn't know about empiricism" and thus didn't even bother checking."

      Why would they need to check if they got their flawless scientific knowledge from the Torah?

      And by the way, Aristotle held that lice nits do not produce any living thing. But that just begs the question, doesn't it?

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    10. "People from those circles, including prominent names, even authorities, do indeed have these what you call "kindergarten"ish ideas. They consistently gloss over statements such as Rav learning Mumin from the field and only work with Mesora, Hophiah Ruach Hakodesh, and Sod Hashem.

      These people are also in the forefront of opposing Rabbi S."

      People from your circles deliberately misinterpret or just flat-out lie and make up stuff about people in my circles constantly. When I hear people in your circles talking about "da'as Torah ideology" it's very hard for me to take anything they say seriously. I also oppose Rabbi S, for the reasons I said. Not for the reasons you made up.

      "Why would they need to check if they got their flawless scientific knowledge from the Torah?

      And by the way, Aristotle held that lice nits do not produce any living thing. But that just begs the question, doesn't it?"

      Did you read what I wrote? I said they didn't get flawless scientific knowledge from the Torah. I'm not sure what your point about Aristotle is. Do you think he was an idiot and didn't bother investigating, or that he did investigate and had a good reason for his opinion? If the latter, I would say our Sages also had a good reason, and were correct by the standards of their time, and their halachic conclusions were correct and still are correct, and that's all we care about. And if the former, we should trust our Sages more than Aristotle, and assume they had good reason, or that we are not understanding them correctly. As I said before, since the Torah was given in antiquity, it shouldn't require modern science to reach the right conclusion, ancient "science" should be sufficient. Read this from what is quickly becoming my favorite website:

      https://rationalbelief.org.il/%D7%9B%D7%98-%D7%99%D7%A1%D7%95%D7%93%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%94%D7%94%D7%9C%D7%9B%D7%94-%D7%9E%D7%95%D7%9C-%D7%94%D7%AA%D7%A7%D7%93%D7%9E%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%94%D7%9E%D7%93%D7%A2/

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    11. "People from your circles deliberately misinterpret or just flat-out lie and make up stuff about people in my circles constantly. When I hear people in your circles talking etc. etc.

      Wrong. I'm from your circles. Not only do people oppose inaccuracies from outside their own circles, they also oppose those from within, which embarrass them, lessening their own circles' status in the eyes of those in the know. I find your citation for example of Haaretz'es article on the immorality in the IDF exceedingly relevant, but then on
      the detail we are currently discussing you show ignorance, which in turn effects a lessening of your credibility. I am disturbed, besides for the error itself, specifically because your ignorance here will lessen your impact there. I think you're just shooting yourself in the foot being that your trigger-happiness is indiscriminate.

      What's wrong with conceding to Rabbi S. sometimes? It might be even better, as you show him some balance. I'm not sure if you realize, but he yawns through some of the opposition and doesn't bother answering, having already responded to rerun challenges whiles back.

      If you do the proper research, such as through the archives of this blog, you'll find exact confirmation of what I'm saying here. Only that since I'm trying to strike the proper balance between מחאה and לה"ר against Torah greats (on behalf of Torah greaters), I shan't be more explicit. A few posts back I contended with a leading Chareidi, but only obliquely, for this reason.

      Good luck to you.

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    12. "I said they didn't get flawless scientific knowledge from the Torah."

      RMM: "Hazal’s knowledge of the animal kingdom was not based on mere experience, but on their understanding of the spiritual underpinnings of the world"

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    13. Anon, you are being very cryptic, I'm not sure on what point you are disagreeing with me, or on what point you think I'm showing ignorance. I do sometimes concede to Rabbi S. I already understood that Rabbi S yawns through the opposition, he's still wrong when he's wrong. I don't know why you think the abuse in the IDF is irrelevant, on the other hand I'm not sure what that has to do with the subject in this post. Please be more clear.

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    14. Ephraim, I find that opinion of Rabbi Meiselman difficult. I do agree with him that our Sages had an understanding of the spiritual underpinnings of the world, but I see that as more of the realm of aggada and kabbala. I'm not sure how much that impacts halacha.

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    15. Anon, although you are being exceedingly mysterious, I have ventured a guess about what you are referring to. You are referring to the idea that certain chareidi gedolim have labeled my opinions, and any opinions that deny the omniscience of Chazal, as heretical. Inherent is the assumption that there is some sort of official "chareidi" party line on this matter that everybody must adhere to, because of "da'as Torah" ideology. And here is where my quarrel with you begins.

      You say that you are from my circles. How do you know which circles exactly I am from? You are assuming that all "chareidi" circles are the same, and that they must all share the same ideology. But this is an extremely distorted generalization, which ignores the incredible diversity among the various chareidi communities. Perhaps you are among the talmidim of R' Elya Ber, and think because he felt Chazal were omniscient therefore it is heretical for any chareidi to disagree with this "da'as Torah". Ignoring the fact that most "chareidim" are not his talmidim. You have latched onto the "da'as Torah" conspiracy theory with all your might, and are not letting go.

      This is mostly Rabbi S's game. He puts all chareidim/"chareidim" into one bucket, finds the most extreme opinions or distorts the non-extreme opinions in his own making, finds the criminals and sexual predators, and then attributes all these unpleasant elements to "chareidi" ideology. Based on the vast "da'as Torah" conspiracy that anything that happens in the chareidi community only happens with full approval of the "gedolim". And has a blog that is devoted to smearing chareidim, solely because of his personal vendetta and rage against those people that hurt him. Of course, while totally ignoring the terrible elements of the secular culture that he identifies with.

      Well, I am not playing that stupid game. And you shouldn't either.

      Delete
    16. "This is mostly Rabbi S's game. He puts all chareidim/"chareidim" into one bucket, finds ...."

      This is Whataboutery. I don't dismiss whataboutery out of hand, it has its place, but here it's impeding the focus. (Likewise when you veered into into Maaseh Bereishis and the Mabul.) (Also WADR please don't put me into a group bucket as you decry others for doing that.)

      To return to the subject, I thank you for thinking about what I wrote such that in between your comments from 3:21 and 4:24 you added insight to the discussion. Thank you also for itemizing in 3:21 points for me to clarify. Now let me proceed to some of the points. But first something brief.

      Ephraim, "And you have just exposed yourself as a heretic as defined by some circles."
      Happy, "Are you in kindergarten? Please."

      I can allow meantime that you're right in a general sense, but Ephraim never mentioned Chareidim/"Chareidim" in general. Only some circles. According to what I believe you concede later, not only is Ephraim not in kindergarten, he is correct. (But you might want make a new claim, that this circle isn't mainstream.)


      I still maintain that I am in your circle, even more than in the example I will give now. Here's a Litvak and a Chassid who are Chavrusahs, or neighbors, or Rabbonim of neighboring shuls, or together on the Moetzes. In these cases (I'm talking about where) they share not only a "business" relationship but a spiritual one as well. They tell each other, and are inspired and enjoy stories, morals, vertlach, jokes, from the other one's gedolim. So in a sense they're in different worlds but in another sense they're in the same world. Ditto with men and women. Ditto with Sfardim, Yekkes, etc.

      Do you know cases where there is broad consensus among those misnomered as Chareidim (which of course doesn't include the likes of RJBS or RZYK)? Maybe against internet? Or 50 years ago against TV? Or for some well known Tzedaka? For this it's one circle. If you do your homework you'll find that the various separate circles you have are within a large circle, a Galgal Yomi of sorts, united away from your claim that of course Chazal make scientific mistakes.

      I hope to address some of your other points later.

      Delete
    17. "I already understood that Rabbi S yawns through the opposition, he's still wrong when he's wrong."

      Gr8! Way to go. But be cautious of if and when he's right and you're wrong. If you keep pressing you erode your standing even for when you're right. But since he's yawning and doing nothing, there's nothing informing you of that erosion.


      "I don't know why you think the abuse in the IDF is irrelevant."

      No, I think it is relevant. Who is your comments' audience? Many are antipathetic to most of them, and adding errors in one area works to your disfavor in another. If one half of your act is all cleaned up, the other half will more easily get somewhere. If not, the truth might not yet prevail. Since when does it do so?


      "I do sometimes concede to Rabbi S."

      I know and appreciate that. I can vouch for it. That's why I'm talking to you. Whereas when I put out feelers to What's-his-name I found him so toasted into his zealotry that the whole communication was just a big waste.

      But anyway I'm sorry for not being more clear. I meant you should consider not taking him to task for every last thing that he goofs up in your opinion even when you're able to. Such that if and when you're wrong you won't have a pr demerit.

      Delete
    18. Anon, thank you for your kind and clarifying comments. I wonder if you are the same Anon I had the Chanuka discussion with.

      Regarding what you said about the chareidim/"chareidim" being all one circle, I agree to some extent. Here is how I would define the common denominator among us, that would include some of your examples: Insularity and opposition to secular culture. The idea of ברוך הוא אלוקינו שבראנו לכבודו והבדילנו מן התועים. This is what unites chassidish, American yeshivish, Israeli chareidi, Neturei karta and even Chabad. As opposed to MO and most DL who embrace secular culture and even see that as a mitzva. (Chabad is an interesting case because they are not insular yet oppose secular culture! ואכמ"ל). This is the best binary definition I have for "chareidi". Of course, there is a spectrum.

      Now, regarding the question of Chazal and science, I believe there are two extremes. One is like R' Elya Ber, that our Sages had Ruach Hakodesh, knew everything through the Torah and could even invent a computer, and questioning their knowledge is kefira. This seems very extreme and doesn't have much precedent. The other, like Rabbi S, is that our Sages were mere mortals, and we can easily identify tons of mistakes they made even by the standards of ancient science. This approach is very disrespectful to our Sages and is (mostly) against the entire Mesorah for centuries back to the Rishonim, that we assume Chazal are correct and if it looks like they erred, the problem probably lies with us.

      Now, I think if you would ask most people "in our circles", they would NOT take that most extreme approach of R' Elya Ber, that Chazal knew modern/future science, even if they would claim it's kefira to "identify" mistakes in the Gemara. Perhaps they haven't though about in those terms.

      I have taken a middle approach that I believe would be acceptable to most people in our circles, if you would sit down and explain it to them. And that is, we don't assume Chazal knew modern/future science, so therefore there is no reason to assume that, for example, their astronomical models were consistent with ours. But, they definitely had Ruach Hakodesh. And they definitely were infinitely wiser than us in terms of Torah. And they definitely had deep Torah insight into the nature of the world.

      So therefore, when it comes to halacha, we assume that their conclusions were correct and al pi their great Torah wisdom and Ruach Hakodesh etc., even if they relied on ancient scientific models. And they investigated things to the extent they could with the tools they had, and therefore halachically their perspective was the proper one. And if it looks like they came to a mistaken conclusion, the problem probably lies with our understanding. And when it comes to aggada, even if they were referring to ancient scientific models (which is what they knew), they are still giving deep, true Torah insight into the nature of the world. And when it comes to refuos, again, they were relying on ancient science, but they definitely did observe that their cures worked, at least for them.

      Now, none of this means that Chazal never erred. You can see from the many machlokes on almost every daf of Shas that they did. There is nothing unique about the Chachmei Yisrael in Pesachim 94. The question is not if Chazal were able to err, but if us puny people can "identify" their mistakes.

      I believe what I said is consistent with almost all sources you can find in Rishonim, החל מדברי ר' אברהם בן הרמב"ם וכלה בדברי מורה נבוכים.

      Delete
    19. "Anon, thank you ...."
      You are welcome!

      "I wonder if you are the same Anon ...."
      Lol! Here I thought that my style with my views made me quite transparent and traceable. Now I learned something new.
      BTW, today must be the anniversary of my Bris or something, cause I received a new name, "Anonymous Coward", in the thread above. I even used it myself and am considering using it the future. ;)

      More to the meat of your comment, I feel that it still needs polish, but that entails like I mentioned before, a blend of מחאה and לה"ר (לתועלת) that I won't do in this venue. If you have the time and are game, create a new email account and post it here, and we can continue.

      I want to end with a tale about RSZA ZTZ"L. His sister was once visiting his wife and him, and asked him about a certain Shidduch that was proposed for one of her children. RSZ told her that they are a fine family, nice people etc. Soon after she left and was walking home, when who does she meet in the street but RSZ himself. He had sneaked out of the house and went a roundabout way to meet her. He said, usually people consult me privately and my wife isn't privy to negative things that I must say to people. But you were comfortable enough to ask me something in her presence. There's no reason for her to hear anything negative so I only told you the positive. But now that she's not here, actually the Shidduch is not for you.

      So other readers, I beg you forgiveness, but I have negativity that isn't for you. And Happy, consider acting on my above proposal.

      Kt to all!

      Delete
    20. You can just email happygoluckypersonage@gmail.com. I usually never use it, so not afraid of unwanted mail.

      Delete
  6. I am disappointed you did not mention the last speaker. For my understanding he was the best one. The awsomemess in a cell, in DNA and the universe; these mysterious functionalities, these phenomenon speak to the oneness of Hashem. On the Big Questions, we must assign to Hashem, as he is of the same nature. The Rabbainam can do better with such matters than the specifics of e.g. antibiotics. What were your thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Argument for God's existence via biological complexity are rather weak. Move on to natural theology.

      Delete
    2. Been dealt with, debunked, and tossed on the rubbish pile in the real world - the one outside tendentious religious special pleading - more than a century ago.

      Delete
    3. @Big Mouth and Tellner

      Nope, not at all, actually.
      They best theory evolutionary biologists have to explain evolution is natural selection, which sounds nice in high school, but when comes down to concretely accounting for the step-by-step development of staggeringly complex biological mechanisms, it turns out to actually explain very little. I won't even get into the Cambrian explosion.
      Scientists stick with it because it's the best thing they've got.

      Delete
    4. @weaver your comment is a exhibit A as to why it's a bad argument. The inability of science to explain something is not an invitation to postulate God as the explanation - this is the god of the gaps fallacy, or more formally, an argumentum ad ignorantiam or appeal to ignorance.

      It is precisely these type of arguments that people place their faith in just to fall into doubt as science closes the gaps over time.

      Stick to proper deductive arguments from natural theology with clearly defined premises.

      Delete
    5. It's not a bad argument at all.

      Ultimately, science never fully explains things, it just pushes it back a level. Even if natural mechanisms or processes could eventually be identified, it doesn't answer the larger question, such as where those laws came from. They didn't just pop into existence by themselves. Even Aristotle knew that. That's why nature continues to inspire people religiously, even in the face of mechanistic explanations for natural phenomena.

      Incidentally, I think the argument for evolution and an ancient universe is pretty strong, just that science, as of now, has no rational explanation for it.

      Delete
    6. "Ultimately, science never fully explains things, it just pushes it back a level"

      But see, this is no longer a teleological argument. You've ventured into contingency which is a completely different thing. Study that argument because it's a good one.

      Bottom line is it is a fools errand to make an inductive argument from nature for God's existence.

      Delete
  7. "He explains that it's not a deficiency for Chazal not to know something about science"

    Many mainstream chareidim agree with this. Where they disagree with you, it's because they feel when Chazal derived science form Torah, and explicitly say so, that's where they can't be wrong (facts be damned).
    So they agree that Chazal did not know (all) science, but if Chazal did make a statement based on a pasuk, they think it can't be wrong.
    Ash

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    Replies
    1. "Many mainstream chareidim agree with this...."

      How many is many? It doesn't count RMM who, as posted here, is even discounting astronomy in Bava Basra based on Psukim. It doesn't include a leading Chareidi who tells us הרי ידוע שכל דברי חז"ל ברוח קדשם ובסוד ה' ליראיו. Not only is it so but even behold! it's ידוע. It's not counting their many followers and associates and associates' followers.

      But it must include many who can't open their mouths in public ....

      Delete
  8. Were you asked to be interviewed, maybe reach out to halacha headlines. Seems funny to leave you put.

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  9. "Alas, RDL is not familiar enough with the topic to point out to Rabbi M. ..."

    Just what I was thinking back by your recent "Two Tombstones" post where the interviewer asked RSM "Why don't rabbanim take a firm stand on developments in frum life, such as denouncing perversions..." to which RSM answers, "Charedi rabbanim opposed the views espoused by Rabbi Nosson Slifkin, and rejected him speaking in the name of Orthodoxy."

    The interviewer is caught off guard. He is read up on perversions and when RSM switches to you (RNS) he (the interviewer) has nothing to say. And even had he read up, how knowledgeable would he anyway have been.

    Had I been the interviewer, (and in the unlikely instance that I was able to think quickly enough), I would have asked him, are all the views espoused by Rabbi Nosson Slifkin rejected from Orthodoxy? Does this include his citations of RSRH? Are they also rejected from Orthodoxy? (If yes, thank you for speaking on behalf of only a part of Orthodoxy; if no then what precisely is so much worse with what RNS says?)

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  10. A pity that only RMM was interviewed for the view of RJBS. They should have also asked RHS about it. Oh but I forgot, RMM's math doctorate makes him uniquely qualified to know what RJBS held. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Given the underwhelming public response (in action and words) to some of R' DL's past hard hitting interviews (shidduchim, materialism, abuse....), I would wait a bit on declaring the tide turning.
    kt

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  12. RMM says that a נחש is not necessarily a snake, and gestation is not necessarily gestation. עטלף is not necessarily a bat. And only definitive statements are to construed as definitive. חכמי ישראל are not necessarily חז"ל.

    The problem with this approach, is that:
    (1) it requires disregarding centuries of מסורה of how these terms were understood. The מסורה must make way for modern science.
    (2) It assumes that hitherto well defined terms are in fact vague & practically meaningless. Only, in the light of modern science are those terms properly defined. How can we then be sure of understanding anything in gemara?

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    Replies
    1. @ephraim RMM is not acting in good faith when he gives these solutions, they're designed to obfuscate not clarify.

      Delete
    2. "How can we then be sure of understanding anything in gemara?"

      Haha. An age old question, regardless of whether the Gemara is dealing with science. I trust you have attended yeshivos.

      Delete
    3. It's not an age-old question that the commonly accepted meaning of common words can be cast into doubt whenever we like, throwing everything into question. In his apologetic zeal RMM undermines the Gemara itself, especially since he and not the Rishonim is questioning the meaning of the words.

      Delete
    4. Dave, "How can we then be sure of understanding anything in gemara" is kind of a silly question, right? Even in a halacha sugya, and kal v'chomer ben bno shel kal v'chomer in aggada. And I think in aggada, we are allowed to take more liberties, to say the least, in our interpretation, wouldn't you agree?

      Delete
    5. "How can we then be sure of understanding anything in gemara" is kind of a silly question, right?

      No, it's not. It's a question of methodology. RMM has his. As has been shown here, RMM's methodology is one of redefining any difficult word. So we all know נחש is and nothing in the Rishonim would have use question that definition. Same thing for עטלף or חכמי ישראל. But RMM states that we don't understand these words. This is not about concepts- where you can come up with a more lomdushe understanding of בטל ברוב. I'm talking about understanding words, not concepts.
      Where else do you see such radical differences of understanding?

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    6. "Haha. An age old question, regardless of whether the Gemara is dealing with science. I trust you have attended yeshivos."

      Try to follow my argument, and not seize upon one sentence and ignore the rest of the post. I was not talking about understanding a sugya which is composed of statements, arguments, counter-arguments and many concepts hidden beneath the terse prose, implicit references to seemingly distant concepts way out in the vast sea of Talmud etc. etc. I wrote "understanding anything". And I mean anything. Like a word. For example נחש. Or עטלף. Name one Rishon who had any question what עטלף meant!

      Delete
    7. What Rishonim?? We are talking about aggada, for goodness sakes! There is a reason why Rishonim wrote very little on aggada, comparatively speaking. Do you deny that we cannot take more liberties with aggados than halacha sugyas?

      Also, what is you problem with the word "chachmei yisrael" meaning Jewish astronomers? Isn't that pashut?

      Also, do you really want a list of places where Rishonim/acharonim argue about the meaning of words? I'm sure I could come up with one, but it would be tedious, and I'm only interested if you're serious.

      Delete
    8. Nachash doesn't mean nachash is not pashut, gestation is not gestation is not pashut, atalef is not atalef, etc.

      Btw, why in the world do you assume the lack of Rishonim's writings on aggada has anything to do with this?

      Delete
    9. @happy

      my problem with redifining "chachmei yisroel" is twofold:

      1. That's not how it's taught rebbi to Talmid in yeshiva. go ask.

      2. why would jewish astronomers necessarily come to a different conclusion as the non-jewish of their era?

      Delete
    10. Dave, I am saying that when it comes to aggada, the Rishonim are not as authoritative as when it comes to halacha. It's pretty standard for later Rabbis to explain aggados differently than Rashi/Tosafos. Rabbi Meiselman is trying to defend Chazal by arguing with Rashi on this aggada. You are trying to argue on Chazal by appealing to Rashi on this aggada. I am not saying Rabbi Meiselman is correct, just that there's nothing wrong with his effort.

      Delete
    11. Zaidy G

      1. Rabbi Meiselman can't say a different pshat than how you were taught in yeshiva? I think it's a great pshat, and poshut as well.

      2. Who said they would "necessarily" come to a different conclusion? It happens to be in this case they did.

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    12. "Do you deny that we cannot take more liberties with aggados than halacha sugyas?"

      Not all aggadot are by רבה בר בר חנה. There are libertiesת but there are limitations. When רבב"ח says frog, he means an allegoric frog, he doesn't mean a platypus or some other entity, allegoric or otherwise.

      " argue about the meaning of words"
      Exaggeration. They haven't argued about words that have been understood in a certain clear manner for centuries by all authorities. And they certainly haven't dismissed more traditional definitions of such words as heresy. You see, there is a limit to legitimate debate. ודי לחכימא ברמיזא

      Delete
    13. " Rabbi Meiselman can't say a different pshat than how you were taught in yeshiva? "

      But RMM is NOT saying a different pshat. He's saying THE pshat. There is no "different pshat", there's only heresy.

      "and poshut"
      Saying atalef is not a bat is not poshut.

      Delete
    14. "Also, what is you problem with the word "chachmei yisrael" meaning Jewish astronomers? Isn't that pashut?"

      ברכות: הרואה חכם מחכמי ישראל אומר, "ברוך שחלק מחכמתו ליראיו

      חיי אדם
      הרואה חכם גדול בתורה מישראל מברך בא"י אמ"ה שחלק מחכמתו ליראיו הרואה חכם גדול בחכמת העול' מברך בא"י אמ"ה שנתן מחכמתו לב"ו

      So, according to the חיי אדם, the term חכמי ישראל means a Torah scholar. A Jewish astronomer would receive the other bracha.

      I'm sure you can wiggle a distinction, but at least admit it's not that poshut!

      Delete
    15. "They haven't argued about words that have been understood in a certain clear manner for centuries by all authorities. "

      Again, what is this "all authorities" and "for centuries"?? We are talking about a particular aggada gemara. How many "authorities" have written an opinion about that particular aggada? By "all authorities" and "centuries" you mean, uh, Rashi on the daf? Shkoyach.

      "But RMM is NOT saying a different pshat. He's saying THE pshat. There is no "different pshat", there's only heresy."

      Not at all. He does not exclude another pshat if you can come up with one. This is what I meant above by deliberate misrepresentations/making stuff up.

      "ברכות: הרואה חכם מחכמי ישראל אומר, "ברוך שחלק מחכמתו ליראיו"

      Ok, I admit, a good raya against that pshat. Personally I don't know what Rabbi Slifkin wants from that Gemara at all. Because some of Chazal said that others of Chazal were wrong (like what happens on almost every single daf in Shas), we are also free to say they were wrong whenever we want? What the heck? Read my comments here. http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2021/02/my-greatest-mistake.html

      Delete
  13. It was potato kugel. Yerushalmi kugel wasn't invented yet at Moshe Rabbeinu's time.

    And I'm glad to read that Moshe Rabbeinu pronounced it kugel and not kigel.

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  14. Dear RNS,
    You still miss the point. The same Charedi and ultra-Charedi circles dismiss Haza"l views about the nature when that suits them.

    The recent events brought us yet another good example. How their representatives mourned CW when Haza"l forbade that for those who commit suicide? I asked the question some rabbies and their answer was that Poskim of latest generations learned(!) from experience(!) of those who survived or did not die immediately that their all regret in the last moment. I don't have an idea how it helps, but the issue is different: what Haza"l thought when they said what they said? So you guys think Haza"l were not aware that those committing suicide all regret in the last moment. Amazing, isn't it?

    Now the question is what the same guys mean when they say Haza"l are infallible in their nature and science knowledge: do they believe in that or the confess the opposite? In my opinion, the answer is: neither one nor the other. Their words do not reflect their conclusions, they are not result of some intellectual effort. They are simply accustomed to say so.

    The prominent Daas Torah which is the aim of typical orthodoxic yeshivot is not about knowledge or wisdom, it is about mind patterns and stereotypes.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Don't count your chickens before they hatch, or your tides before they turn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In the next post, his chicken did hatch. Maybe his tide will turn too. ;)

      Delete
  16. I always assumed a bunch of institutions are dependent on him financially and that's why RDL can get away with this stuff. Skeptical that this means much.

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  17. Not that it's important, but I believe that Professor Maoz Kahana is chardal, not haredi. Black yarmulke (sometimes), but colored shirts.

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    Replies
    1. But it is important. Statements of even individuals are never very meaningful (contra the typical breathless title "turning the tide?"), but they are completely irrelevant when coming from irrelevant people. Its an illustration of what I meant below by misrepresentations and distortions. These are false media games.

      Rabbi Slifkin tried to fudge it in this case by calling this Professor a "sort of" Charedi, but give us a break, the man - whose works I've been receiving for years on Academia.com - is not Charedi at all. (And before we hear from the Wikipedia experts and their tired old "no true scotchman!" nonsense, ask yourself if the MIT grad and Solveitchik-nephew Rabbi Meiselman could properly be called "sort of" modern orthodox.)

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  18. Rabbi Slifkin claims that every time he's investigated a claim that the sages had knowledge of something before science, that it was either something gentiles also knew, something ambiguous, or simply wrong.

    Maybe so, but at the same time, every time I've investigated something Rabbi Slifkin summarizes, such as an interview or an event, I've found his portrayal either misrepresents the facts, grossly distorts or takes the words out of context, or else is simply wrong.

    So we're kind of at square one here. Rabbi Slifkin, properly, looks things up before simply accepting them. I'm sure he would tell his readers to apply the same healthy skepticism to himself.

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    Replies
    1. "Maybe so, but at the same time..."
      ..a non sequitor follows.

      Delete
    2. @GP, the way to resolve this is by having Rabbi S and yourself both lay out your reasonings, aka write Tshuvos, and present them to the public. He's largely done so and now you can do the same.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous - I do, in different forums, and you may have even read some of them. ("Gershon Pickles", you will be shocked to know, is not my real name!)

      To be clear, and for the record, Rabbi Slifkin does not misrepresent everything. When he cites Rishonim or early achronim i find he does so accurately enough, although of course there are often other interpretations possible, or other opinions of the writer that must be considered together with the one cited. That's why his books and "monographs" are quite good. However, on this blog, when citing current events or speeches/interviews etc., his agenda and personal vendetta against the community that rejected him clearly interferes with his thinking. He allows himself to see words or things that don't exist, and conversely, ignores those that are when inconvenient. His penchant for exaggeration becomes immediately apparent. Doesn't automatically mean everything is wrong, obviously, nor am i particularly interested in this topic to listen to the recording. Just means his readers should do exactly what he himself would do, and refrain from belief until independently verified as much as possible.

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  19. Rav Slifkin, thanks for another tour of the irrefutable, infallible glatt kosher pretzel factory in Chareidiville, ( insert city, state or country).
    Every tour is a contortionist’s delight. When you can’t explain why the Torah or talmud or rishonim etc. can’t outright delineate where the sun goes after dark, or the truth or falsity of spontaneous generation, just twist, twist your logic to fit your predetermined notion of chazal infallibility. Isn’t it great to be able to proclaim chazal certitude via unfalsifiable pretzel twisting? I bet I could distill the Torah’s prohibition on planting onions after dark. You can find anything and everything in chazal’s Torah if you only looked hard enough and your mind was sturdy enough to withstand all that pretzel twisting.


    The eye-catching authoritative pretzel factory, aka infallible Judaism again twists itself beyond logical comprehension to assert

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  20. Rambam and Kuzari were of the view that science was originally given to the neviim and then stolen by the gentiles.

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  21. 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.

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  22. It's fascinating. As we all know, Rabbi Dovid Kornreich obsessively follows this blog, and regularly chimes in. But here, when you are discussing how his rebbe refuses to confront various sources that utterly undermine his approach, he's gone quiet.

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  23. I get the impression from this and his last post that RNS is completely unaware of the subtleties and nuances of American “chareidism”. He seems to be taking what he knows about Israeli and English chareidim and forcing Americans into his preconceived notions. But as a great biologist who knows about cows, I’m sure this is a perfect Scientific method.

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  24. Just a short note.
    R. Moshe Meiselman is a talmid chochom in his own right, and is entitled to his conclusions.
    But I knew the Rov in Boston for many years and listened to his responses in matters of science, and R. Meiselman's opinions do not reflect his, despite R. Meiselman's statements that he knew the Rov better than anyone.
    In many matters R. Meiselman does not follow the Rov's position. This is not uncommon in Brisk; both R. Moshe and R. Velvel were sons of R. Chayim, yet disagreed on several issues. In Brisk the main thing is learning carefully before reaching a conclusion, and so the Soloveitchik's took it as normal that different people might reach different conclusions, since humans differ. So R. Moshe and R. Velvel and RYBS did not spend time claiming that they knew better that anyone what R. Chayim said; they stated their conclusions in their own name.

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    1. Rav M., the problem here is that the modern conception of "daas torah" kind of precludes claims to independent thought.

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    2. Nachum - I hear the words "daas torah" more from MO folks complaining about it, than I do from people who actually live in the yeshiva world. This isn't the 1980s and the Jewish Observer fulminating. Have you been to Lakewood recently? In real life people don't subcontract their thinking to rabbis like you seem to think. They just choose rabbis whose opinions match their own, so they can claim the mantle of rabbinic sanction. It's a style point more than anything else. Maybe in Bnei Brak its a little different, I dont know, but I doubt it. Leaders follow their people, not the other way around.

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    3. Um, yeah, we all know it's not honest. That doesn't mean that people don't invoke it. They invoke it all the time. They even use it as a noun, e.g., "I consulted my da'as torah." And invoking it is all that this is about.

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    4. Yes, I agree with that, to a degree. It does occasionally get invoked by someone who thinks its an unbeatable trump card, much like "racist" or "misogynist" gets used for the same purposes everywhere else in the world, including by this very blog host. I had a shul rabbi who once tried to invoke "daas torah" on me the same way, as a way to get out of a problem. I wasn't having any of it, though.

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  25. The Rosh Kollel of S. Fallsburg Yeshiva(!) Kollel wrote a kuntras a few years ago, in which he proves that the pshat in the Rambam (shchita 10, 12) is not like the mefarshim that Rabbi Meiselman brings, but rather kipshuto, that we simply don't change from Chazal's psak, regardless of whether they were right. He deduces this from the fact that the Rambam brings the same pasuk which he brings in the beginning of Mamrim for Takanos Chazal.
    The sefer Dor Revii on Chulin goes an a similar mehalech but takes it much further. See the Hakdama to the sefer and the pesicha, ikar 11. (The sefer Dor revii was printed 100 by the rav of Kloizengurg, the oldest great grandson of the Chasm Sofer (hence the name). It has an excellent haskama from Rav Moshe Feinstein (מפורסם בדורות הריצו אליו השאלות הקשות). The sefer is quoted by Rav Shlomo Zalman zts"l and in Chashukei Chemed in the name of Rav Elyashiv zatsal.

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