Thursday, March 3, 2022

The ToMo Derech at its Finest

We got a response! It took a few days, but finally Rabbi Dovid Kornreich, protege and expositor of Rabbi Moshe Meiselman of Yeshivas Torah Moshe (popularly known as ToMo), responded to the challenges that I posed to his radio interview. There's a lot to unpack, which I will do over several posts. Let's begin with his response regarding the sun's path at night.

To refresh your memory, Rabbi Meiselman's position is that if Chazal say any statement about the natural world definitively, or if they base it on their understanding of Torah, then it is infallible. One problem with this position is that in Pesachim, the Chachmei Yisrael say that the sun goes behind the sky at night, a view that is subsequently noted by Rebbi to be incorrect.

Rabbi Meiselman's response to this is that the Chachmei Yisrael were perhaps not Talmidei Chachamim, but rather merely Jewish astronomers. I pointed out that the term Chachmei Yisrael appears in other contexts (such as the beracha that is pronounced upon seeing them), where it very clearly refers to Talmidei Chachamim. Rabbi Kornreich responds by referring us to page 144 of Rabbi Meiselman's book, where he writes that "The fact that in halachic contexts the 'wise men of Israel' are members of Chazal does not mean that the same must be true in other contexts." 

I'm sure that readers can recognize the weakness of this response on their own, but I'd like to highlight just how strained it is. Claiming that a phrase with recognized clear meaning in other contexts suddenly has a very different meaning here, just because the implications are problematic from your particular theological worldview?! Even though everyone else in the history of Talmudic scholarship never interpreted it this way?! Does this strike anyone as an intellectually honest approach?

My next challenge was pointing out that the position of the Chachmei Yisrael is elsewhere discussed by Tannaim who base it on their understanding of a passuk. According to Rabbi Meiselman, this should mean that it cannot be wrong. Rabbi Kornreich responded with the following gem, which I am reproducing in full:

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 Rebbi 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.

This is nothing short of incredible. What Rabbi Kornreich/ Meiselman refers to as a "simplistic interpretation" is actually the straightforward explanation of the Gemara given by ALL the Rishonim, and continued by many of the Acharonim. However, beginning in the 16th century (in which non-Jews were making rapid advances in astronomy), some rabbinic scholars admitted to being very uncomfortable with Chazal saying that the sun goes behind the sky at night, and therefore devised novel (and conflicting) non-literal explanations of the Gemara.

But it gets even better/worse. Since it's fatally problematic for Rabbi Kornreich/ Meiselman to have Chazal relating a mistaken scientific belief to their understanding of a passuk, Rabbi Kornreich/ Meiselman claim that this is actually evidence that the Gemara is not to be interpreted according to its straightforward meaning!

Incredible. Any evidence against their position is twisted to ipso facto be cited as evidence that the Gemara is not to be understood according to the straightforward, classical interpretation! (Which also means that all those who maintained that the Gemara is to be interpreted according to its straightforward meaning are heretics according to Rabbi Meiselman.)

Goodbye, intellectual honesty! And all for the sake of upholding a bizarre, novel, exclusionary approach to Chazal which rates virtually everyone in Jewish history as deeply mistaken, and quite a few as heretical.

What a derech.


(I will deal with his responses to the other points in separate posts. If you'd like to subscribe to this blog via email, use the form on the right of the page, or send me an email and I will add you.)

94 comments:

  1. No need to be passive aggressive?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you describing your own comment?
      (By the way, R' Slifkin, if you want to remind people that anonymous posts may be deleted, I'll support that.)

      Delete
    2. Friendly SpelllcheckerMarch 3, 2022 at 8:48 AM

      "Claiming that a phrase with recognized clear meaning on other contexts" -- "in", not "on".

      Delete
  2. It's unfortunate, but much of the yeshiva-world feels the need to keep up this image of Chazal (=ALL Tanaim and Amoraim) being unbelievably superior beings, the likes of which we literally can't comprehend.

    And you can almost understand why this myth is kept alive. Either consciously or sub-consciously, people realize that there is no way you will get people to follow laws and customs set forth by regular human beings between 1500-2000 years ago, when there were different social norms and when scientific knowledge was limited. You need to pretend that those people were a super race, transcending time and science.

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    1. "there is no way you will get people to follow laws and customs set forth by regular human beings between 1500-2000 years ago... You need to pretend that those people were a super race, transcending time and science."

      No you don't. The promise of לא ימושו מפיך ומפי זרעך ומפי זרע זרעך stills hold despite centuries of fallible leadership. The Torah remains perfect. Those who transmit it are not, but it does not take perfection to transmit it from generation to generation.

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    2. Or you can point out to people that modern social norms are not necessarily better than theirs, and attempts to change halakha based on "changed science" are usually not scientific at all, or misconstrue the point of the halakha, or both.

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  3. I appreciate it must be hard for you to hide your glee when uncovering the holes in the arguments of your detractors, but it doesn't make for pleasant reading for the rest of us.

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    1. The truth isn't always pleasant.

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    2. I with Ball Ha Boss. Slifkins attitude comes off petty even though he is making good points. it pushes away future chasidim of his mehalech.

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    3. "The rest of us"
      Speak for yourself(ves). For me (us?) it was a regular spirited Torah discussion. Or the subjective glee was there and he succeeded to hide it.

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  4. When the Facts Change, I Change My Mind. What Do You Do, Sir?
    John Maynard Keynes(?)
    However, even the most objective observer of data will come up with a general theory and then splain the outliers.
    KT

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    1. It's debatable whether Keynes actually said that. However, I find it funny that he is credited with that line. I wish his followers would take that piece of good advice by abandoning his school of economics.

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    2. I am not nearly as erudite as my dear chaver Joel. I know little of Keynesian economics. But I do know, Alice and Humpty Dumpty.

      “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

      ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

      ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

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  5. How can the discussion be nonliteral if various halachot are based on this such as the requirement for matzot watched overnight (מצות שלנן) so that they don't get heated up by the sun that is beneath the earth overnight. It is also fairly obvious that Rabbenu Tam who claims that the rabbis won the argument did not realize the earth was round in his discussion of the definition of night when 72 minutes after sunset is very night in Israel but not in France

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    1. The Gemara does not give that as the reason for Mayim Shelanu. It is suggested by a Rishon. Rabeinu time also does not depend on the sun going above the rakia.

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  6. חַכְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אוֹמְרִים: בַּיּוֹם חַמָּה מְהַלֶּכֶת לְמַטָּה מִן הָרָקִיעַ, וּבַלַּיְלָה לְמַעְלָה מִן הָרָקִיעַ. וְחַכְמֵי אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם אוֹמְרִים: בַּיּוֹם חַמָּה מְהַלֶּכֶת לְמַטָּה מִן הָרָקִיעַ, וּבַלַּיְלָה לְמַטָּה מִן הַקַּרְקַע. אָמַר רַבִּי: וְנִרְאִין דִּבְרֵיהֶן מִדְּבָרֵינוּ, שֶׁבַּיּוֹם מַעֲיָנוֹת צוֹנְנִין, וּבַלַּיְלָה רוֹתְחִין.
    I do not understand how Rebbi's proof is any better suited to the facts. Does the sun heat the springs at night because it is beneath the Earth? Was Rebbi also just a Jewish astronomer?

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    1. It is abundantly clear that no one in that discussion knew the structure of the solar system.

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    2. It is clear in so many agadata sugyos that only intellectually dishonest people hold these outdated views which are clearly unsustainable in modern times.
      I wonder what the line is between intellectual dishonesty and sheker. In the very beginning of the Slifkin Affair, I approached Rav Aharon Feldman after he spoke at an AJOP Conference and claimed that you must believe in a literal reading of the Creation Story in Bereishit. I suggested that the Rambam states clearly that it is an allegory. I don't remember exactly how he responded. All I remember is the impression left with me that he is knowingly lying. There is no other way to describe his position.

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    3. @Yakov, you met Rav Feldman before or after he switched sides? (Just checking to be sure.)

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  7. R' Dovid Kornreich, if you are listening to this, please explain: Why is it necessary for the Rosh Yeshiva to say that members of Chazal were not actually modeh to the chachmei ha'umos? All over Shas we have Chazal arguing with each other, saying the others were wrong, many times admitting they themselves were wrong. On every daf. What is the big problem if they would admit so over here? Even if you want to say that Chazal knew science as well as halacha, surely they didn't know it BETTER than halacha!

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    1. To Happy:
      It isn't necessary at all. Here is just another example of Rabbi Slifkin's shameless dishonesty.
      He portrays Rav Meiselman's position as if it hinges entirely on this suggestion. He is relying on the fact that most of his readers don't have the book to check for themselves.
      Rabbi Slifkin knows full well that at the end of this chapter Rav Meiselman says explicitly that this gemara in Pesachim works fine even if it was Chazal's opinion being rejected by Rebbe. It just works even better if they weren't Chazal.

      The very fact that this position of Chachmei Yisroel was rejected by Rebbe means it was not a definitive statement of Torah Shebaal peh, and it's no big deal if they were wrong about it.

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    2. All shverreh Gemaras aren't definitive. As science progresses we keep finding out which they are.

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    3. I am so glad, and in bliss, that I don't have to do interpretation gymnastics to twist words like a pretzel to save my emunah. It is a relief for me. I don't rely on intellectual dishonesty!

      "When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and G-d does not take care to support, so that its Professors are obliged to call for the help of the Civil Power (or clergy), it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one." — Benjamin Franklin

      If religion cannot defend itself what good is it? Religion should defend you, not you defend religion.

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    4. After seeing how easily Rabbi Slifkin bandies about the uncharitable attribution of “intellectual dishonesty” to myself and Rav Meiselman, I can only help but wonder: Does he also think all the dozens rabbinic authorities throughout history were being “intellectually dishonest” whenever they came up with a novel interpretation in order to avoid concluding that Chazal were mistaken?

      Was the Rambam being “intellectually dishonest” when he radically reinterpreted every mention of demons mentioned by Chazal to refer to mental illness?

      When the Rashba says we might need to reinterpret כל יתר כנטול דמי to avoid a contradiction with the observed reality, does RNS say to the Rashba: “goodbye intellectual honesty!”

      When the Rema and others radically reinterpreted the gemara in Pesachim to avoid concluding that Chazal erred in astronomy, does RNS say to the Rema: “goodbye intellectual honesty!”

      When all the Poskim reinterpreted the statement in Niddah 51b כל שיש לו קשקשת יש לו סנפיר to avoid what they believed was a clear contradiction with the facts by either reinterpreting the straightforward meaning of the statement, or invoking “nishtaneh hatevah”, or radically redefining what is considered a fin or even a fish, does RNS say to all of them: “goodbye intellectual honesty!”

      50 points for anyone who can correctly guess who made this statement:

      אלא כך ראוי למי שהוא מבין ולבו נכון לטול דרך האמת שישים ענין זה המפורש בתורה עיקר ויסוד שלא יהרוס בנין ויתד התקועה אשר לא תמוט וכשימצא פסוק מדברי הנביאים או דבר מדברי רז"ל חולק על עיקר זה וסותר ענין זה ידרוש ויבקש בעין לבו עד שיבין דברי הנביא או החכם אם יצאו דבריהם מכוונים בענין המפורש בתורה הרי מוטב ואם לאו יאמר דברי הנביא הזה או דברי חכם זה איני יודע אותם. ודברים שבגו הם ואינם על פשוטיהם.

      Is this an example of intellectual dishonesty?

      If RNS believes all the chachmei mesorah should be tarred with the label “intellectually dishonest” for upholding Chazal as a reliable source of truth and reinterpreting Chazal to conform to the truth, then I think I can speak for Rav Meiselman when I say we are honored to be in their company.

      It must really be difficult for Rabbis Slifkin to make peace with the fact that his religion (Rabbinic Judaism) is simply riddled with so many intellectually dishonest rabbis throughout the ages.

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    5. When someone interprets a text incorrectly, it's not necessarily due to intellectual dishonesty. It could be that they are entrenched in a worldview which makes it actually impossible for them to conceive of the correct explanation. Or it could be that they are fully aware that this is not the correct explanation of the text, but they are acting strategically in order to get their view across with a minimum of resistance. Or, yes, it could be intellectually dishonest, but perhaps the person subconsciously justifies it due to overriding objectives.

      But I find it odd that someone would be proud to declare themselves intellectually dishonest.

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    6. I find it more odd that you are failing to grasp the obvious point I'm making.
      Rav Meiselman believes he is following in the footsteps of ALL chachmei mesorah who engaged in conflicts between Chazal and science. He demonstrated in his book (at least to his satisfaction and many others) that Chazal AT TIMES had access to the real truth about the world through either direct mesorah from prophetic wisdom or the tools of Torah shebaal peh.
      Rav Meiselman also demonstrated in his book (at least to his satisfaction and many others) that All of the chachmei mesorah throughout the ages upheld the truth of Chazal's statements when they talked in definitive terms. They all felt compelled to reinterpret Chazal and give forced explanations if necessary in order to do so. NONE of them were capable of saying Chazal's definitive statements about the world were mistaken. Many stated that doing so doing so was heretical.

      To me, this leaves Rabbinic Judaism with a basic claim that Chazal's definitive statements are a source of truth.
      If you want to call everyone who defends this commitment to truth "intellectually dishonest", then frankly I find your definition of intellectual dishonestly quite bizarre.
      And yes, I would be honored to join the company of all the chachmei mesorah UNDER YOUR BIZARRE DEFINITION of intellectual dishonesty.

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    7. "Rav Meiselman also demonstrated in his book (at least to his satisfaction and many others) that All of the chachmei mesorah throughout the ages upheld the truth of Chazal's statements when they talked in definitive terms."

      Ay, there's the rub. You see, he only proved it to the satisfaction of those who already believed this. Others saw the Gemara in Pesachim and many other Gemaras as proving that Chazal did not have supernatural knowledge of the natural world and could make mistakes, whether they were "speaking definitively" or not. In fact, one of the many weaknesses in Rabbi Meiselman's approach is that he gives absolutely no reason (let alone a convincing reason) as to why it should make any difference if they "talked in definitive terms."

      But I still find it fascinating that you are proud to give "forced explanations."

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    8. Well, if these "others" saw what they saw just from gemaras where Chazal were NOT in fact speaking definitively (when they made mistakes in science), and they couldn't find a single one where they were talking definitively, then there is a fatal flaw in their proof, no?

      And are you seriously asking why it should make any difference if they talked in definitive terms or not? Is it not obvious that when Chazal talk in definitive terms they are presenting to us the Divine wisdom of Torah shebaal peh?

      In addition, someone in the next post just gave this cogent explanation:
      BZ NiderbergMarch 7, 2022 at 1:00 PM
      "(b) There is certainly rationality to the notion that a multiplicity of channels for a masoret is inherently self-correcting, and therefore that "Chazal" are presumed to be correct in the aggregate even if individual chachamim are fallible. Indeed, this must be the case, since otherwise we could have no confidence in our traditions."

      Something to think about.

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    9. "Is it not obvious that when Chazal talk in definitive terms they are presenting to us the Divine wisdom of Torah shebaal peh?"

      I find this statement absolutely astounding.

      Not only is it not obvious, I can't even begin to imagine how you see it as remotely compelling.

      Just as there is absolutely no reason why Chazal should not mistakenly accept the normative scientific beliefs of their day, there is likewise no reason why they should not present such things as definitive. This is just as today, rabbis will present it as definitively true that the world is round, even though they might not be able to prove it. When you believe something to be true, correctly or mistakenly, there is no reason to present it as tentative.

      Rambam spoke in very definite terms about all his Greco-Muslim science-philosophy. Does that mean that he was presenting the Divine Wisdom of Torah shebaal peh?

      "There is certainly rationality to the notion that a multiplicity of channels for a masoret is inherently self-correcting"
      What on earth is the "multiplicity of channels" for statements about the natural world which would indicate that it is self-correcting?!

      "this must be the case, since otherwise we could have no confidence in our traditions." No, otherwise we could have no confidence in the correctness of statements about the natural world. Which is indeed the case. Also, it's an appeal to consequences, not an evidence-based argument.

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    10. I think we are starting to misunderstand each other here.
      There are two issues we are discussing:
      1) One of Rav Meiselman's central claims is purely a matter of scholarship. What do we find in the classic rabbinic literature? Do we find the chachmei mesorah throughout the generations questioning Chazal's definitive statements about the natural world when they seem incorrect? Or do they defend them by reinterpretation and say to question them is forbidden?

      2) After it becomes exceedingly obvious that it is the latter, the question now becomes why. Rav Meiselman then proposes an understanding of Torah shebaal peh as encompassing all true wisdom about the world which Chazal AT TIMES had access to. It is a clear gemara in Bechoros as well as the Ramban's intro to Chumash. Once this premise is established, there is absolutely no reason why Chazal should present normative scientific beliefs of their day as definitive! They know full well that the science of their day is suspect (as per Rebbi Yehoshua's response to the Roman scientist about his faulty experiment).
      It certainly stands to reason that Chazal would only include in the final version of Torah shebaal peh only the things about the world that were actually true and not mere scientific speculation.
      You are right that Chazal may have accepted any number of things that were accepted by contemporary wisdom-- in their own heads. But to canonize those things into Shas --as definitive Torah wisdom-- as you are assuming, is actually quite ridiculous.
      Rav Meiselman went as far as to call it "makchish maggide'hoh", but I think people like you simply don't realize that Shas wasn't meant to include a collection of Chazal's folk wisdom. Maybe you can understand why such a view of the material carefully selected to be included in Shas is insultingly demeaning to Chazal as the conveyors of the authentic version of Torah Shebaal peh to Klal Yisroel for the rest of history.

      The only exception, as the Rashba pointed out, was contemporary medical knowledge because of its practical value.

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    11. "After it becomes exceedingly obvious that it is the latter." Again, to the rest of us it is exceedingly obvious that there is a distinct school of thought among the Geonim, Rishonim and Acharonim who do NOT feel that Chazal's statements about the natural world are divinely inspired or infallible. And the distinction that Rabbi Meiselman draws between definitive and non-definitive statements of Chazal was never ever voiced by anyone before him.

      "It certainly stands to reason that Chazal would only include in the final version of Torah shebaal peh only the things about the world that were actually true and not mere scientific speculation." No, it doesn't stand to reason at all. It stands to reason that they would include things THAT THEY BELIEVED TO BE TRUE. Whether it be medicine, astronomy, or zoology. They didn't think that it was "mere speculation" - they thought it was actually true. Do rabbis today believe it to be "mere speculation" that the world is round?

      "Shas wasn't meant to include a collection of Chazal's folk wisdom." Now you are making a separate claim - that everything in the Gemara has theological/halachic significance, or practical significance. Well, go ahead and share with us what the theological/halachic significance is of the sugyos about astronomy, or in Bechoros about zoology.

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    12. You didn't understand the importance of reference to Rebbi Yehoshuah's response to the Roman scientist. It shows that Chazal were well aware that any conclusions from experiment and observation could be flawed. They knew it was vastly inferior and less reliable than knowledge derived from Torah Shebaal peh which gets to the fundamental underpinnings of the physical world.
      There is no reason they would record it ON PAR with knowledge about the natural world that was derived from a divine source. It would be utterly misleading and deceptive for them to do so.
      That is why it is makchish maggide'hoh to say they did.

      And I didn't say everything in Shas needs to have theological/halachic or practical significance. It can contain all kinds of true information. But it has to be true! The gemara in Bechoros tells us Chazal knew well that mere folk wisdom just doesn't qualify.
      There is a fascinating gemara in Sanhedrin 7a where the gemara records an eclectic collection of folk wisdom. But after each one, it asks: where is the source for this in the Torah? And it provides a source.
      This tells me that Chazal wouldn't include non-Jewish/secular wisdom that they couldn't verify as being true through the Torah. Even though there are plenty of places in Shas where seemingly random bits of wisdom are recorded without its source explicitly given, these two gemaras show us that it wouldn't be worthy of recording in Shas if it wasn't verified by the Torah to actually be true.

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    13. "It shows that Chazal were well aware that any conclusions from experiment and observation could be flawed." No it doesn't; it shows that R. Yehoshua wanted to get one up on the Roman, and/or that he thought that THIS PARTICULAR experiment was flawed.

      "It would be utterly misleading and deceptive for them to do so." You mean, like referring to a platypus with the word that everyone uses for a bat? That would be misleading and deceptive. This is simply mentioning things that were believed to be true.

      "This tells me that Chazal wouldn't include non-Jewish/secular wisdom that they couldn't verify as being true through the Torah." Sure they did, even according to you. Medicines. The sun's path at night.

      By the way, since today the Daf discusses salamanders, maybe you can share R. Meiselman's view on them?

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    14. I guess the previous discussion has effectively ended.
      You now want to start a new one? Okay.

      I see you have a certain expectation from your opponents that unless they provide a satisfying reconciliation to any given conflict between Chazal and science, their approach to the conflict is seriously deficient.

      This doesn't follow logically at all.

      Neither Rav Meiselman, nor any traditional Torah scholar who believes in the truth of Chazal's statements about nature, is under any obligation to resolve any apparent conflict between Chazal and science.
      Rav Meiselman set out to survey the traditional rabbinic literature about these conflicts and supply the traditional parameters of how to deal with these conflicts--as they emerge from the rabbinic literature.
      The result of this survey and the conclusions that emerged from it is roughly as follows: The way the chachmei mesorah have dealt with these conflicts is to either examine the reality more closely, or when that fails, to examine the statement of Chazal more closely to see if it can be reinterpreted. If not, then we have to wait for some further development. There is no option to say Chazal erred in their definitive statements.

      Rav Meiselman followed this traditional formula with some popular conflicts to show how resolutions could be done within traditional constraints. This was extra credit. He never said everyone has to accept his resolutions or be considered heretics--as you consistently falsely claim in your posts. (Another one of your blatant fabrications about his position which you should have the decency to stop doing.)
      People are completely at liberty to reject his resolutions and wait for better ones to be developed. But those are the two options: Find a resolution within traditional parameters, or remain with a difficulty.
      All he has been saying is that his survey of rabbinic literature points to a clear conclusion: the academic approach that Chazal erred even when speaking definitively because they were simply conveying the flawed wisdom of their time, is halachicly out of bounds.
      It doesn't matter if that approach is personally more satisfying to people or not.

      So to answer your question, I don't know what to say about salamanders and I never asked Rav Meiselman about it. Is that a problem?
      I never understood why you seem to think the lack of satisfying resolutions in one approach makes the other approach more logically or religiously compelling. What really matters is if the approach is legitimate or not.

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  8. "Claiming that a phrase with recognized clear meaning on other contexts suddenly has a very different meaning here, just because the implications are problematic from your particular theological worldview?! Even though everyone else in the history of Talmudic scholarship never interpreted it this way?! Does this strike anyone as an intellectually honest approach?"

    Is that any different than what you do? Claiming that stories like Noach or Gan Eden are a mashal and didn't literally happen even though no one said this in the history of talmudic scholarship.

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    1. No. I don't claim that the words mean something different.

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    2. Nobody in the history of talmudic scholarship ever interpreted it as a "sacred myth". Only you.

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    3. So Rabbi Slifkin you are saying the Torah is telling us that the stories of Noach and Gan Eden for instance are true and that they are not?

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    4. If you say the Torah is talking literally with it's stories and you say the stories are not true then by definition you are saying the Torah contains falsehood. You probably also say the same as far as the Laws of the Torah and that the Oral Torah developed into what became the Talmud. An eye for an eye literally.

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    5. You should read my book The Challenge Of Creation.

      Or maybe not.

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    6. I've borrowed it. That doesn't tell me your present positions.

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  9. It seems to me that R' Kornreich and and R' Meiselman and many others are just doing what the Gemara itself does in many places. thoughout it there are many examples where the gemara just changes the rules of the game, mid-game, on a whim:

    sometimes when a particular braita doesn't seem to agree with a mishna, the gemara will claim "ooops, we mixed up the braita and it should be read the exact opposite." other times, the gemara will say "ooops, there are really words missing from the mishna, and should should be read differently."

    sometimes, the gemara says the the rabbis don't make rulings for rare situations, and other times that's exactly what we see, rulings for extremely rare situations.

    sometimes every word in a mishna is precious, other times, "oh, they just said that in the "siefa" because they also said it in the "reisha" "it's really a meaningless limitation"

    sometimes that's said with regard to torah as well - "every word is important and necessary to teach us lessons," but in other situations the gemara says XYZ is just recorded in the torah, well... just because, not to teach us anything.

    and then of course there are sages in the gemara who intentionally (fraudulently) misattribute teachings to others with greater authority just so that others will take their words more seriously.

    OR sages in the gemara who realize they did something wrong and don't admit to it - or better yet, seek to hide it.

    in truth, R' Kornreich and R' Meiselman are just examples in a long chain of Jews who are intellectually dishonest, nothing new to see here.

    We can view the Gemara as including (among other things) a collection of anecdotes about potentially real people with real human frailties, and if we look closely at the Gemara, we can hopefully learn both positively how to act and conversely, what not to do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One thing that always bothered me is the language the Rabbis of the Talmud use whem speaking to each other. ie "foolish Galilean"

      Delete
    2. Surely RNS must be proud of where this discussion has led to, a זלזול of Torah shebal peh.
      Perhaps this will open his eyes to the tremendous destruction that these discussions lead to, and he will appreciate the foresight and wisdom that the Gedolei Yisroel had when they refused to allow the contents of his book to become a discussion in mainstream Chareidi circles.
      But chances are that he will not see it this way, כל החוטא ומחטיא את הרבים אין מניחים בידו לעשות תשובה

      Delete
    3. Sure JB, עבירה גוררת עבירה. The zealots sinfully indicated that the Rishonim are C"V kofrim and RNS followed with his sins and Jeffrey with his.

      Delete
    4. Huh? Hardly anyone was even reading my books until the "Gedolei Yisroel" banned them. So did the Gedolei Yisroel have the foresight to see where the ban would lead?

      Delete
    5. I'm not religious, but one of the things that really bothered me when I immersed myself in studying Judaism was this idea that, in order for the Jewish people to continue, we had to accept intellectual dishonesty as a prerequisite. We could have "lies" and the continuation of the Jewish People, or the fractured "truth" and the dissolution, over time, of the bonds that would keep the Jews going, in a modern, post shtetl, post Jewish Emancipation, post Enlightenment, world.
      I came to my own notion: once the shtetl wall came down, the thinking on continuity shifted to, essentially, having a wall up in our minds. It hurt a lot. It felt like Judaism was now busy with defending a form of Judaism that wasn't actually the same one that spawned the diverse and interesting Jewish People. But, it was simply necessary, at this point in history. It hurt a lot. I had to back away from the religion, because it was very painful.

      Delete
    6. @JB - I think you may be mistaken, with your implication that my comments stem from the “contents of [RNS’s] book.” I haven’t ever read any of his books.

      I was writing with regard to R’ Meiselman’s statements in his book and how they are not so different from our Sages’ statements in the Gemara (which I did read)

      As I point out below, any zilzul you may perceive is not even close to being on the same madreiga as the zilzul the sages showed to each other.

      Such as in Yevamot where one sage says another is the Bechor (first born) of satan, apparently because he follows Beit Shammai. Or just a little tamer and a few pages earlier and a few pages earlier where R’ Yehuda HaNasi says another sage appears Brainless because he didn’t like his question….

      Our sages set up the system, we just need to show fidelity to it. And recognizing the Sages’ inconsistencies doesn’t change much, if anything. The halakha is the halakha because they (and the poa Kim who followed) instituted it regardless of how they got there.

      Delete
  10. Rabbi Slifkin throws out incredible lies right from the very beginning of the post:

    "To refresh your memory, Rabbi Meiselman's position is that if Chazal say any statement about the natural world definitively, or if they base it on their understanding of Torah, then it is infallible."

    The last part "...or if they base it on their understanding of Torah, then it is infallible" is a self-serving fabrication of incredible proportions on Rabbi Slifkin's part. He will no doubt use this fabrication to give himself license to distort and misrepresent more and more of Rav Meiselman's positions. Disgusting.

    This cannot be Rav Meiselman's position because he constantly uses the famous machlokes about Abaye and Rava about "yiush shelo middas" to make his critical point. Even though Abaye and Rava are arguing about halacha, and each side is clearly giving their understanding of Torah---still, one is deemed correct and one is deemed incorrect.
    It is clear throughout thousands of points of machlokes in Shas that Torah-based opinions per se are decidedly NOT infallible!

    For the record, I did not consult Rav Meiselman before presenting any of my responses. All I did was read the book carefully and think about the arguments--as all readers of this blog should do before accepting anything Rabbi Slifkin writes about Rav Meiselman.

    I now realize I was quite mistaken to respond after seeing how shamelessly Rabbi Slifkin has to fabricate things and distort things beyond recognition in order to score cheap political points.
    What a shame.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "is a self-serving fabrication of incredible proportions"
      No it isn't. Self-serving? Not necessarily. Fabrication? No. Incredible proportions? Do you have a sense a proportion?

      Why not instead, write that RNS is mistaken & soberly explain why?

      " how shamelessly Rabbi Slifkin has to fabricate things and distort things beyond recognition"
      Let's talk about distorting things beyond recognition, shall we? What does עטלף mean? What does נחש mean?

      Delete
    2. You seem to have failed to read Rabbi Meiselman's books properly. On p. 148, he says explicitly that the only reason Chazal could have been wrong here is that they couldn't extract their view from the Torah.

      Delete
    3. To Ephraim:
      "mistaken" leaves room for innocence. There is no innocence here. I explained why, but I'll explain it again.
      Rabbi Slifkin starts his post with a summary "to refresh your memory" about Rav Meiselman's alleged position. He claims Rav Meiselman holds if Chazal base any statement about the natural world on their understanding of Torah, it is infallible.
      Where did he get this from?
      Rabbi Slifkin quotes page 148. It reads as follows:

      "None of the foregoing has any bearing on the authority of Chazal’s definitive statements. In the passage in Bechoros Rebbi Yehoshua did not debate the Greek scientists regarding the gestation period of a nachash; he simply said they were wrong. In that instance he was able to derive a clear answer
      from the Torah.
      This made his knowledge more reliable than anything that
      could be derived through experimentation, then or now.449

      The fact that Chazal were willing to discuss the movements of the celestial bodies means that they had no precise mesorah on this particular topic (assuming the discussions are to be taken at face value), nor were they able to extract the desired information from the Torah. 450
      When Chazal are uncertain, they let us know. When they demonstrate certainty, we can rest assured that they are correct."


      I fail to see how Rabbi Slifkin derives his characterization-- that if it is a Torah-based statement, then by definition it is infallible.
      Rav Meiselman writes that in this case, if Chazal were willing to debate and discuss something about the natural world--rather than simply present their opinion definitively, that itself means they didn't have a mesorah about it and couldn't derive the truth about it from the Torah-- unlike Rebbe Yehoshuah did for the nachash.

      There is no implication here that any Torah based opinion must be infallible. It just isn't there. Rabbi Slifkin just made this up.

      Keep in mind that Rav Meiselman repeatedly and emphatically denies any distinction between Chazal's statements about halacha and Chazal's statements about the natural world. If they spoke definitively, it must be true. If there are outstanding differences of opinion that were not definitively resolved in Shas, it shows uncertainty in the matter and the truth is not known--whether a drasha was employed or not.

      Rabbi Slifkin knows this quite well, yet he intentionally distorts and misleads. This is no "mistake".

      The reason why this distortion is self-serving is because it allows Rabbi Slifkin to artificially raise the stakes of this question way out of proportion. He uses this distortion to claim Rav Meiselman's entire position hinges on not finding a single gemara where a drasha is shown to be mistaken!
      It is a total straw-man.
      RNS writes:
      " Since it's fatally problematic for Rabbi Kornreich/ Meiselman to have Chazal relating a mistaken scientific belief to their understanding of a passuk..."

      TBC

      Delete
    4. Another example of shameful distortions and fabrications:
      RNS wrote:
      "(Which also means that all those who maintained that the Gemara is to be interpreted according to its straightforward meaning are heretics according to Rabbi Meiselman.)"

      But as we see, Rabbi Slifkin has the book in front of him. He surely read page 149 as well.
      It says:

      No claim of omniscience
      The Rambam tells us that in the days of the prophets the scholars of Yissachar possessed astronomical knowledge derived strictly from the Torah.451
      Much of this knowledge was subsequently lost, however, during the long years of exile and turmoil. It is for this reason, he explains, that we are forced to rely upon Greek scholarship in this area.

      There is nothing unique about the Rambam’s position. If the discussion in Pesachim is indeed about the physical heavens, the specific motions mentioned there were evidently part of the lost knowledge that Chazal were forced to rediscover through whatever means possible.452

      Chazal made no claims to omniscience. In the two gemaros mentioned, no definitive statements were made. Wherever definitive statements are made, however, they carry the full authority of Torah shebe’al Peh. Nothing about these two passages indicates that there is any difference between Chazal’s halachic rulings and their statements regarding realia. The wisdom of the Chachamim is a unified body."


      So it is clear that Rav Meiselman is perfectly "comfortable" with the straightforward reading of the gemara--even to say it was members of Chazal who were mistaken about the physical heavens! But since it was not a definitive statement, it could be wrong. At the end of the day, the whole gemara is no big deal--even on its straightforward reading.

      Now Ephraim, after you read that last paragraph, is there any doubt in your mind that RNS is deliberately distorting Rav Meiselman's position--falsely raising the stakes in order to score some cheap points?

      Delete
    5. Okay, so it seems that I was misled by Rabbi Meiselman's statement that "nor were they able to extract the desired information from the Torah," which certainly seems to be in conflict with other Gemaras in which they DO extract this information from the Torah. (Of course, I was not "deliberately distorting" Rabbi Meiselman's position, as Rabbi Kornreich insists, with his ever-so-typical attribution of evil motivations.)
      But even this new understanding is simply another example of perverse logic. We are being told that the fact that the Chachmei Yisrael had a debate with the non-Jewish astronomers is ipso facto evidence that the Chachmei Yisrael were not certain of their position, even though nowhere did these Chachmei Yisrael express uncertainty, and they even based it on pesukim.

      Delete
    6. @ Dovid Kornreich

      It seems to be stretch that in the many disputes Chazal had about science and nature, each side had a mesorah from har sinai about, for example, the cause of thunder.
      You also can't say "haim-veHaim" about physical reality - it's either true or it's not.

      In any event, why is it that statements of Chazal about science and nature either very rarely seem right, are hardly ever enlightening on the subject, or seemingly just wrong?
      Look at it this way - since the Talmud was translated into English, it should be front page news worldwide - "All the Secrets of the Universe Were in the Talmud all Along!!" Why does no outside observer get that impression?

      Delete
    7. "is there any doubt in your mind that RNS is deliberately distorting Rav Meiselman's position"

      RNS can't forget one page in an 800-page book?! It must be "deliberately distorting" RMM's position?? Kornreich, you're just sick.

      Delete
    8. To RNS:
      You are certainly within your rights to raise conflicts with other sources and question the cogency of the reasoning. You are even within your rights to call the offered solutions forced or (your favorite, least charitable) "intellectually dishonest".
      But you have no right to make demonstrably false characterizations about someone's clear positions.

      I'll make you a deal. You amend this post and delete the three false statements I referenced, and I'll retract my attribution of evil motives.

      To Weaver:
      I honestly don't know what you are talking about. No-one is claiming that both sides of a talmudic dispute about the physical world are correct--even if they bring pesukim as backing.
      Contrary to what Rabbi Slifkin has led you to believe (perhaps unwittingly), Rav Meiselman is perfectly comfortable with one side of a talmudic dispute--about halacha (which usually involve drashos) or the physical world-- being completely wrong.

      But you raise a salient point that Chazal's statements about science and nature seem to lack any real depth or penetrating insight (at best). Given the deep wisdom of Chazal demonstrated in halachic contexts, it is utterly mystifying why they seem to be such simpletons about nature. I wonder...
      Perhaps this very keen observation of yours is what led many Rabbinic commentators to conclude that at least most of the time, Chazal are using these statements to conceal deep metaphysical truths that only the initiated can appreciate?

      To Unknown:
      This particular section of TCS is of particular interest to RNS because it addresses the passage in Pesachim, RNS has been shouting for years that this passage in Pesachim is THE MOST important passage in the entire Talmud regarding Torah and Science. RNS has blogged about this section of TCS extensively when it came out. It is not some obscure section of the book in RNS' mind by any means.

      Delete
    9. Irrationalist JudaismMarch 6, 2022 at 12:13 AM

      Rabbi Kornreich -

      It is nto a mistake to respond - it is a good thing to try to clarify. Talmuid alone is a big subject. Then add Science to the mix, it is highly complex.
      Readers have all sorts of views and questions.
      Even writers, may review their books or publicaitons and see there are different ways of presenting an argument or even a change of mind may occur.

      Delete
    10. @Kornreich

      This sentence is, I find, very revealing.
      "At the end of the day, the whole gemara is no big deal"

      If it's no big deal then why twist yourself into a pretzel trying to argue with Rabbi Slifkin? Why do down the whole rabbit-hole of arguing that 'it has to be understood on another level'?

      I think you got your back put to the wall by Rabbi Slifkin and that you are trying to weasel out of it by saying (when you really have no alternative) that it is no big deal.

      If it was no big deal you would have left it alone.

      Delete
  11. Even though in my opinion it's not problematic to think that Chazal believed in ancient astronomical models, as long as that does not lead one to ח"ו think that Chazal came to the wrong conclusions or taught us the wrong lessons (even though theoretically Chazal could have been wrong about anything), nevertheless, לרווחא דמילתא, I will explain how the Rishonim can be using this gemara l'halacha even if it wouldn't be necessarily literal.

    The main thing the Rishonim are taking from the Gemara (as RNS notes in monograph) is the part about the sun boiling the streams at night. The fact that water is hotter at night was an actual observation that Chazal had, as explained in the Gemara, thus proving the position of the chachmei ha'umos. So regardless of whether the sun boiling the water at night was from the actual motion of the sun, or a metaphysical concept, that halacha would still be true and be sourced in that Gemara.

    We find in many cases that we pasken halachos that are said in the context of aggada without necessarily taking the entire aggada literally. For example, the Bais Yosef says ומצאתי כתוב בשם ספר אגודה דהא דאמר ר' אלעזר כל המגרש אשתו ראשונה מזבח מוריד עליו דמעות היינו דוקא כשמגרשה בעל כרחה. Does this mean either the Agudah or Beis Yosef take מזבח מוריד עליו דמעות literally? I don't think so. Or what about the Magen Avraham who says ול"נ דכל עובר לפני התיבה צריך להתעטף כדאמרינן מלמד שנתעטף הקב"ה כש"ץ? Does that mean he literally believes שנתעטף הקב"ה הוא כש"ץ? The Ohr Zarua says בפ' הקומץ רבה אמר רב יהודה אמר רב בשעה שעלה משה למרום מצאו להקב"ה יושב וקושר כתרים לאותיות כו' דהיינו בכתב שלנו. Again, does he think that there were literal physical כתרים on the osyos? Again, I don't think so.

    Now, to reiterate, I have no problem believing both Rishonim and Chazal believed that astronomical model literally (with the caveats I said before). Just that if they didn't, it would still make sense to bring this halacha.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "Claiming that a phrase with recognized clear meaning in other contexts suddenly has a very different meaning here, just because the implications are problematic from your particular theological worldview?!"

    As Jeffrey noted above (with great chutzpah and azus panim towards our Sages z"l, עפרא לפומיה), this is what the Gemara, Rishonim, Poskim do all the time. Anybody who has stepped within 4 amos of a Bais Medrash knows this. Only according to the secular academic perspective is the entire derech halimud for millenia suddenly problematic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "this is what the Gemara, Rishonim, Poskim do all the time."

      1) Please show an example akin to what RMM does with עטלף
      2) Not when everybody understood those words in a different way for centuries
      3) They didn't consider other opinions heresy
      4) If they were really stuck in a corner they would change their "particular theological worldview", or leave the question open with a צריך עיון, or sometimes צע"ג.

      "Anybody who has stepped within 4 amos of a Bais Medrash knows this."
      Depends on the דרך הלימוד. You may not know it if your learning pauses with the late ראשונים and only continues with ר' חיים.

      " Only according to the secular academic perspective is the entire derech halimud for millenia suddenly problematic."

      For millenia? Try no more than 150 years. In any case, RMM takes שני דינים to places his great-grandfather never dreamed of.


      Delete
    2. “ with great chutzpah and azus panim towards our Sages z"l”. Wow! “Great Chutzpah” Go big or go home, right? Except it’s not even close to the chutzpah our sages show to each other.

      My favorite is in Yevamot where one sage says another is the “Bechor (first born) of satan”, apparently because he follows Beit Shammai. Or just a little tamer and a few pages earlier and a few pages earlier where R’ Yehuda HaNasi says another sage appears “Brainless” because he didn’t like his question….

      Seems like my “great chutzpah and azus panim” still have a way to go to even rate, to even reach close to their madreiga. I didn’t even use insults; I just pointed out facts and let others draw their own conclusions… and your conclusion seems to agree with those facts “this is what the Gemara, Rishonim, Poskim do all the time”. As I said above, “nothing new to see here”.

      Delete
    3. Ephraim

      1. You really like walking right into traps, don't you! See Magen Avraham at the very beginning of 426 and the Machtzis Hashekel (about women and kiddush levana). Very relevant to the meta-discussion as well!
      2. See 1.
      3. He doesn't.
      4. Sometimes yes, sometimes this type of dochuk answer

      "For millenia?"

      Uh, yes. Mishnah/Gemara is full of this, not to mention Rishonim. See first Rashi on Mishna Beitza 36b. What does "reshus" mean?

      Delete
    4. Jeffrey,

      This is the funny thing that I find. Whenever people open their mouth to denigrate our Sages z"l, usually the dumbest am ha'aratzus pours out. Rashi: בכור שטן הוא. חריף ועומד על שמועה ועושה מעשה ואינו שב משמועתו לעשות כרבים. Indeed, a real case of אין לו מח בקדקדו.

      Delete
    5. @happy - “the dumbest am ha'aratzus … אין לו מח בקדקדו.” Great work!! You’re just as good with the chutzpah, azus panim, and insults as our Sages. Great accomplishment!!

      Next, you can work on the substantive issues…. They were usually darn good at those also.

      Sure, Rashi can provide helpful insight as to “an” interpretation, but he wasn’t around 500 years earlier when the Gemara was written. Sometimes a cigar is just literally a cigar. Or are you trying to say that really their are no instances of crude an insulting speech between the sages???

      Delete
    6. "See Magen Avraham at the very beginning of 426 and the Machtzis Hashekel"

      I don't understand your point. What word here is given a completely different definition than was understood for centuries?

      4) Are you saying that RMM doesn't consider the idea that Chazal could have erred in science to be heresy?

      Delete
    7. Ephraim,

      The word נשי was understood for centuries to mean "women".

      4) The point is that RMM doesn't consider a different pshat in the sugya that is not heretical to be heresy. His pshat doesn't have to be the only non-heretical one. I'm sure you can come up with a non-heretical one as well.

      Delete
    8. Jeffrey, I'm flattered to be compared to the Sages of blessed memory. I am not saying that there are no instances of insulting language. Simply that your "favorite example" is just an example of your own ignorance.

      If you wish to have a serious discussion about the use of insulting language, or any of the other issues you brought up, we can have one.

      Delete
    9. "The word נשי was understood for centuries to mean "women".

      I still don't understand what you're saying. The מגן אברהם writes very concisely. Are you saying he is replacing the word with "men"? Of course not! This is not a good example.

      Delete
    10. Ephraim,

      As the Machtzis HaShekel explains, the Magen Avraham is saying that נשי is ל"ד and means עמי הארץ. Men.

      Delete
    11. @Happy - "shows my own ignorance" okay wise one, I'm game for a serious discussion; please help me to overcome my "ignorance" - go ahead. why isn't the explicit statement of "first born of satan" an insult? After all, aren't almost all insults hyperbole?

      when one person call another a "Mother F***er" is that supposed to be taken literally as describing a specific act a person does with a specific person? is "S**t head" literally meant to describe the location of fecal matter? is "son of a b***h" literally intended to describe the canine identity of an ancestor? Or aren't all these insults simply hyperbole?

      Couldn't R. Dosa have utilized different language to express the meaning that Rashi explains? why can't Rashi be correct and yet it be a great hyperbolic insult as well? what am I missing?

      Delete
    12. Jeffrey, Rashi makes sense in the context of the Gemara. Look at the continuation. R' Dosa is certainly not saying Yonasan was dumb. Nothing about him being evil either. "Beware of him, lest he overcome you with halachos, because he has 300 arguments about צרת הבת". BEWARE OF HIM, LEST HE OVERCOME YOU. Sounds more like he was... scary (in an intellectual sense). Sounds kind of awesome, actually. Not an insult.

      Delete
    13. See I think Rashi is not saying it is a compliment, rather rashi is saying Yonatan holds his ground obstinately in the face of the majority. But even assuming you’re correct, what’s your theory why R.Dosa would choose such inflammatory sounding language? Surely there are simpler, more straight forward ways to express tremendous torah knowledge? Like saying “he’s brilliant”. Why use extreme seemingly insulting words?

      Delete
    14. "As the Machtzis HaShekel explains, the Magen Avraham is saying that נשי is ל"ד and means עמי הארץ. Men."

      But the word still literally means women, even if it's being understood in an expansive euphemistic way here. Even today the words "ladies" & "sissy" are used to refer to men who are manly enough.
      But a bat is a bat is a bat.

      Delete
    15. Ephraim,

      Ok, since you agree that נשי meant actual women for millennia,
      but you are just allowing a one-time loose euphemism, then RMM can also agree עטלף usually means a bat, but is being used in a euphemistic way to mean any mammal with very unusual characteristics (flying, laying eggs).

      My own preference is that they called a bat מטיל ביצים even though they never saw it do that, since it's in the bird category. So, לאו דווקא מטיל ביצים.

      Delete
    16. Jeffrey,

      He could have said he's "brilliant" but that would be rather understating the case, and especially the application here. Calling him "a wrathful demon" makes the point even better, don't you think?

      Delete
    17. @Happy -
      what I actually think is it is very odd for you to repeatedly call me ignorant simply because you prefer your own understanding of the Rashi and Gemara to mine.

      Mine has the benefit that the seemingly negative words have negative connotation; whereas in yours R. Dosa specifically used a negative sounding word inorder to have a positive connotation. Mine jives with Rashi in that Rashi specifically points out Yonatan maintained his perspective of Beit Shammai despite going up against the majority of Beit Hillel - which in other contexts Chazal would say subjects one to be liable a death warrant (such as, among other places, Berachot 10-11).

      In short while you are free to maintain your perspective, I fail to see how mine shows any ignorance; in fact quite to the contrary, after this discussion I believe that you simply prefer to throw around insults as an initial gut-response rather than begin with an open mind prepared to have a full discussion. Further, I continue to maintain that "Bechor Satan Hu" is my favorite insult in Talmud. Feel free to have your own.

      Delete
    18. Jeffrey,
      חריף is not an insult. It means "very clever". Thinking that it is an insult, or not being aware of that Rashi in the first place, shows ignorance. I wouldn't ordinarily call somebody ignorant for missing/distorting a Rashi. But since you called the Sages of the Gemara "intellectually dishonest" and "fraudulent", you have lost all hope of clemency.

      Delete
    19. @Happy -

      "חריף is not an insult." So according to you it's a good thing to be obstinate even in the face of the majority of Beit Hillel? even where the prophet Haggai ruled against the obstinate one? it's still a good thing? okay.

      and I suppose, Yonatan's characteristic of calling R. Akiva "adayin Lo Higata L'Roei Bakar" is also a something that he should be praised for? your logic is truly impeccable.

      "But since you called the Sages of the Gemara 'intellectually dishonest' and 'fraudulent', you have lost all hope of clemency." good thing I'm not looking for clemency from you.

      Nevertheless, I reread what I wrote, and for the record - I was wrong to refer the sages as "intellectually dishonest" what I meant is that they sometimes act in ways that are intellectually dishonest. That was my error and I own up to it. (I was careful when I used the fraud, saying they fraudulently did something not they were fraudulent as a description of themselves)

      I guess, we differ on (at least) one key issue (likely others): if the sages ARE being intellectually dishonest or fraudulent (for example, Eruvin 11 (R. Sheshet) and 51 (Rabba)), (or unnecessarily and rudely calling R. Akiva lower than Roei Bakar) I think it's okay, even important to realize that and learn a lesson from them - perhaps how not to act or perhaps that there are other overriding objectives which may be paramount to intellectual honesty in a given circumstance that we should be sensitive to and alert for. You may choose to just pretend away or "reinterpret" their actions - I choose to recognize them and learn from them.

      but as I said, nothing new to see here, you certainly come from a long line of Jews who have chosen to do the same thing.

      Delete
    20. Jeffrey,

      In general, we try to be דן לכף זכות when it comes to our Sages. Thus the Rabbeinu Chananel says about R' Sheshes לא תימא להו: כלומר אני אחזור בי מעצמי.

      Yes, sometimes the Gemara tries to teach a lesson about bad behavior, even regarding our Sages. Yevamos 96b כך היה המעשה בבית הכנסת של טבריא בנגר שיש בראשו גלוסטרא טושנחלקו בו רבי אלעזר ורבי יוסי עד שקרעו ספר תורה בחמתן קרעו סלקא דעתך אלא אימא שנקרע ספר תורה בחמתן והיה שם רבי יוסי בן קיסמא אמר תמיה אני אם לא יהיה בית הכנסת זו עבודה זרה וכן הוה. Notice even over here the Gemara changes the story so that they didn't rip the Sefer Torah on purpose.

      In all cases, we approach our Sages with great reverence. This is the main difference between the yeshiva/mesorah approach and the secular approach, that treats them like interesting historical figures.

      "So according to you it's a good thing to be obstinate even in the face of the majority of Beit Hillel?"

      I mean, that's the whole sugya is about. Yes, the followers of Beis Shammai stood their ground. They had good reason to. I'm not sure why you keep on trying to change this into an insult.

      Delete
    21. @Happy -

      "In general, we try to be דן לכף זכות when it comes to our Sages." In general, if we are faithful to the lessons of Yehoshua ben Perachia in Pirkei Avot, we are וֶהֱוֵי דָן אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם לְכַף זְכוּת.

      "In all cases, we approach our Sages with great reverence. This is the main difference between the yeshiva/mesorah approach and the secular approach, that treats them like interesting historical figures."

      Treating our sages with reverence does not mean believing they cannot err. To err is human. believing our sages could do no wrong is A"Z.

      Even worse (??), the mind set that there exist (or have existed) people in this world who can do no wrong, can and does lead to treating rebbeim in Yeshiva Ketana or Rabbanim in shuls in a similar way with sometimes tragic results for young boys and young women. I know you get worked up in a tizzy about this and point out how much worse secular culture is in this regard. But even assuming that's true (I wouldn't even argue with you on that point - I don't claim to know the relative statistics) that that's not the point. Any single case of abuse that results from being דן לכף זכות at the wrong time is completely tragic and needs to be avoided at all costs.

      "I mean, that's the whole sugya is about. Yes, the followers of Beis Shammai stood their ground. They had good reason to. I'm not sure why you keep on trying to change this into an insult." two points:

      1. why do I try to change this into an insult? I don't; I view the language as clear that it was an insult: "Bechor Satan hu".

      2. Yonatan is not what the Sugya is about. there is a clear distinction between him and all the other anecdotes presented. in the other cases, followers of Beit shammai "acted" accordingly. In the case of Yonatan, he "stated" that the halakha is like Beit Shammai. he issued a ruling for others. he didn't just act according to his own tradition like all the others did.

      Delete
    22. Jeffrey, regarding the "insults" see here
      https://www.sefaria.org/Chofetz_Chaim%2C_Responsa_of_the_Chavot_Yair.2?vhe=Chofetz_Chaim&lang=bi

      Also #151-152 on these two pages
      https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=22434&st=&pgnum=32&hilite=
      https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=22434&st=&pgnum=33
      . When I'm irreverent I compare this to Africans happily calling each other Ns. Or sharp things bloggers who are on good terms with each other shoot at each other and follow it with the wink emoticon. [;)]

      These sources apparently took your question seriously.

      Delete
  13. Since we're short on idiocy I'd add that רבי isn't the נשיא. The word רבי just means the leader or head. He was the head of the Jewish astronomers not of the Talmidei Chachamim, so it doesn't matter if he's fallible either. See ב"מ פד. for this meaning of רבי.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lol, good one. I would say that he was the head of the goyishe astronomers, and he was saying the chachmei yisrael were right. א גוטן ראש חדש אדר.

      Delete
    2. @Happy, yours is also a good one. I'll try to fit in the דבריהם מדברינו too. He was addressing the goyishe astronomers. After all, he was their head. Good Chodesh Adar!

      Delete
  14. Rabbi Slifkin
    I haven't seen the following גמרא discussed in the chazal-science context. I'm curious to hear what you make of it (שבת פה.)
    מְנָלַן דְּהָא דְּקִים לְהוּ לְרַבָּנַן דְּחַמְשָׁא בְּשִׁיתָּא מִילְּתָא הִיא? דְּאָמַר רַבִּי חִיָּיא בַּר אַבָּא אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: מַאי דִּכְתִיב: ״לֹא תַסִּיג גְּבוּל רֵעֲךָ [אֲשֶׁר גָּבְלוּ רִאשׁוֹנִים]״ — גְּבוּל שֶׁגָּבְלוּ רִאשׁוֹנִים לֹא תַסִּיג. מַאי ״גָּבְלוּ רִאשׁוֹנִים״? אָמַר רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָנִי אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹנָתָן: מַאי דִּכְתִיב ״אֵלֶּה בְנֵי שֵׂעִיר הַחֹרִי יֹשְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ״, אַטּוּ כּוּלֵּי עָלְמָא יוֹשְׁבֵי רָקִיעַ נִינְהוּ?! אֶלָּא שֶׁהָיוּ בְּקִיאִין בְּיִשּׁוּבָהּ שֶׁל אֶרֶץ, שֶׁהָיוּ אוֹמְרִים: מְלֹא קָנֶה זֶה לְזַיִת, מְלֹא קָנֶה זֶה לִגְפָנִים, מְלֹא קָנֶה זֶה לִתְאֵנִים. וְ״חֹרִי״ — שֶׁמְּרִיחִים אֶת הָאָרֶץ. וְ״חִוִּי״, אָמַר רַב פָּפָּא: שֶׁהָיוּ טוֹעֲמִין אֶת הָאָרֶץ כְּחִוְיָא. רַב אַחָא בַּר יַעֲקֹב אָמַר: ״חֹרִי״ — שֶׁנַּעֲשׂוּ בְּנֵי חוֹרִין מִנִּכְסֵיהֶן
    רש"י שם
    ומנא לן דהא דקים להו לרבנן - בשיעור יניקה מילתא היא למיסמך עלה ולומר בקיאין הן החכמים בעבודת אדמה לידע כמה יונקים שלא תתמה לומר מי הודיע לבריות שיעור יניקה ואיך יוכלו לעמוד על כן:
    (This question is directed at the R' Meiselman camp as well)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. http://torahandscience.blogspot.com/2006/04/chatam-sofer.html
      ובכמה תשובת השייכות להלכות נדה ביארתי לפענ"ד סמכו חז"ל על הרופאים על דרך כלל כגון שאמרו דאיכא במציאות שיהי' לאשה שומא במעיה שממנו מפלת כמין שערות והאמינם על טבע זו כדרך שאמרו חז"ל בשבת פר"ע לענין יניקת כלאי' אל תסיג גבול אשר גבלו הראשונים כי הי' חכמים בטבע עולם ואנו מאמינים להם על הכלל אבל לשפוט על הפרט על הגוף הזה של אשה זו שיש לה שומא לזה אין אנו מאמיני' אולי טועה בדמיונו
      etc.
      This would seem an inquiry for Rabbi S & a challenge for RMM.

      Delete
  15. What is your agenda with this
    Is it to rinse and bash another person there are enough problems in the world right now , what purpose are you trying to achieve if you just trying to bring someone day then shame on you , rather spend your time working on yourself

    ReplyDelete
  16. According to those who believe Chazal were infallible when it comes to science/nature, what Halachic source compels that belief? And how long in history does this supposed infallibility extend? Through the Tannaic era? The Amoraic era?

    ReplyDelete

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