Sunday, April 10, 2022

"If Chazal Were Wrong About This..."

The comments section to a recent post was extensively visited by not just one but two special guest stars. One was Rabbi Dovid Kornreich of Toras Moshe, who honored me by writing a rather vicious blog against me for a decade which never missed an opportunity to interpret things I wrote in the worst possible light. The other was Rabbi Simcha Coffer of Toronto, who participated in another anti-Slifkin blog and famously once wrote that attending a scientific conference on evolution is worse than going to a brothel.

What caught the attention of these two legendary zealots? It was my post in which I described how those who refuse to acknowledge that Chazal were sometimes mistaken about the natural world suffer from a mistaken fear that if Chazal were mistaken, it would mean that they were foolish. Rabbis Kornreich and Coffer stressed that this is merely one reason. Another, more important one is the concern that if Chazal were wrong about spontaneous generation, then they could have been wrong about a lot of other things, too. Stating that the Gemara contains scientific errors opens the door for saying that it contains moral and halachic errors, especially regarding the nature and role of women. It could potentially lead to a complete undermining of the mesorah and a reform of Judaism.

(Note, by the way, that there is a fascinating admission here. Essentially they are admitting that their approach to conflicts between Chazal and science is intellectually dishonest, but that it is driven by the larger goals. At one point there is virtually an explicit admission of this, when one of them talks about "moving mountains" to avoid saying that the Gemara is scientifically incorrect.)

As it happens, I think that they are basically right.

Now, I personally do not believe that acknowledging Chazal's science to be obsolete leads to halachic change, since I am a strong adherent of the approach of Rav Herzog and others that canonizes Chazal's rulings. Still, I acknowledge that others may take a different approach. And though I personally am not at all convinced that we are any more morally or socially enlightened than Chazal, there are certainly those who think differently. And so I think it's clearly true that acknowledging Chazal to be mistaken on anything, even the spontaneous generation of salamanders, has the potential to lead to serious undermining of Judaism. Which is why I am certainly sympathetic to those who do not wish to make any such acknowledgment.

And yet they are wrong.

They are wrong for three reasons. 

One is that there is a long tradition of great rabbinic authorities who did not feel that such concerns were sufficient to avoid acknowledging the obvious truth that some of Chazal's statements about the natural world are incorrect. From the Geonim, to Rambam and his son and other Rishonim, to Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch and Rav Herzog, to my own mentor Rav Aryeh Carmell ztz"l and many talmidei chachamim today, there have been countless important Torah scholars who were well aware of potential threats to Judaism and nevertheless felt that one should state the truth about Chazal's statements regarding scientific matters.

The second reason why they are wrong is that insisting that Chazal were never mistaken about science can also lead to serious undermining of Judaism. Because any intellectually honest person can see that it's just not true! When educated and honest people see ridiculous claims about there never having been an age of dinosaurs, or Chazal not having believed in spontaneous generation, or the egg-laying bat of the Gemara being an Australian platypus, they lose respect for contemporary representatives of Judaism. And when, as is all too often, the people issuing these absurdities insist that to believe otherwise is heresy, people simply see themselves as having no place in such an absurd religion.

The third reason why they are wrong is that they also undermine Chazal in other ways. For example, Chazal were absolutely clear that a baby born after seven months can survive (and hence one can break Shabbos to save its life), whereas a baby born after eight months cannot survive (and hence once cannot break Shabbos to save its life), which seems to have been based on various Greek ideas. But every single Orthodox Jew today would act otherwise. Now, they may dress it up with a (completely unconvincing) explanation that "nature has changed," but the bottom line is that saying "nature has changed" also opens the door for undermining Chazal. After all, if the nature of babies' lives can change, so can the nature of the female brain!

And there are even more basic areas where they undermine Chazal. Chazal and the Rishonim were perfectly clear about the value of being self-sufficient, the need for a man to take responsibility for supporting his family, and the importance of raising one's children to be able to support themselves. Nevertheless, charedi society has no problem completely undermining these values and directives. They will invoke such excuses as "Eis la'asos l'Hashem, heferu Torasecha (a time to act for God, overturn the Torah)," or "they could say it, we cannot," or simply not address it. But the bottom line is that they are undermining the classical mesorah and rendering it irrelevant. Mesorah becomes not what was done, but what we do.

Yes, life is complicated. And Torah is complicated. It can be difficult to promote reverence for an ancient tradition in a different world. But every approach has its advantages - and its drawbacks.


(On a completely different note - if you're coming to Israel for Pesach and can bring a suitcase of museum items from Teaneck, please let me know!)

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  1. Yes, life is complicated. And Torah is complicated. It can be difficult to promote reverence for an ancient tradition in a different world. But every approach has its advantages - and its drawbacks.
    And therein lies the rub. On a leadership level one must determine for a community how to weight the advantages and drawbacks knowing full well that even while making decisions for the good of the whole there will be individuals who will be impacted differently by the various possible decisions. It could simply be that you are simply collateral damage in pursuit of a greater good.


    1. It's always the same: Judaism says "we have the truth." The statement is not true, however. So, Judaism twists itself into knots to preserve the idea - thereby invalidating the idea. Some leave, some pretend, some deceive themselves (some have to.) The rest of us just don't know what to do. We await better discourse on the topic.

    2. Tuv what do you mean by the statement "we have the truth" is not true? “everybody knows that Judaism is the one true religion, and the Torah contains absolute truth.

    3. We don't know that it is the one true religion, actually. We say we know that. That's what all mass movements do. That's what all true believers, who are part of mass movements, say.

      The anxiety arises when we find statements in the religion that don't seem correct. That's when the pretzel logic begins. The strained apologetics.

      Every adherent to every religion, or any other mass movement, knows it is factually correct. Every mesorah, of every religion, attests to its truth.

      A Jewish beis din, however, does not permit a second hand account as valid testimony. This form of testimony is called "hearsay." It is inherently unreliable.

      However, the mass movements and religions depend on the "reliable transmission of tradition." They claim this is a fact.

      Why the difference? Because a beis din seeks truth - and therefore is careful about what kind of testimony is acceptable in this search. It has a higher standard.

      Religions have a far lower standard for determining truth - which is what they need to survive.

      The problem is people who are not true believers are aware of this low standard. It is partly why indoctrination is so important - to avoid seriously questioning the low standards ALL religions and mass movements have for claiming truth.

    4. @Shmuel, usually people get nowhere with your question.

      @Tuv, your comment is a combination of assertions and a proof. I'm not responding to your assertions. As to your proof, there are cases where beis din accepts second hand testimony for establishing the truth.

    5. (sorry so long.) @Anonymous, the assertion that all mass movements require believing they have "the truth" is obvious from research. Religions, of course, each believe they have the truth. And, at least the ones I've been exposed to in the US seem to share a predilection for passed down traditions. I know I saw one main line religion here that even used the trope of naming the individual who passed the tradition to the next individual in the next generation. (Maybe copied from Judaism? It’s persuasive sounding.)

      In terms of hearsay, or second hand stories. Yes, there are exigencies where western courts recognize that they will need to rely on a second hand story to resolve a situation. The best one (a classic for courts and beis dins, I guess) is when a husband is missing. Perhaps killed in war, perhaps dies at sea, or perhaps is just gone - the wife will need, for a variety of reasons (including remarriage, and probably other reasons) to have a court declare the husband dead. In that case, a second hand account may figure in to their decision to declare him dead. But let’s keep in mind: sometimes the husband shows up, years later. This is a “second hand account” weakness, well known to the courts.

      The masorah, of course, is a far longer string of telling and retelling - over generations. Obviously, it is not a very high standard for determining the truth of what is thought to have happened eons ago. Jewish and other courts would not permit it as testimony. It's just too low standards for them. It’s too “weak sauce,” or “thin gruel.” Courts are serious places. They aren’t looking to come to some predetermined outcome in order to justify a religious belief system.

      However, religions rely on a “reliably transmitted” tradition. So, what happens (in all religions) is clear: the “thin gruel” (in the beis din) is deemed “thick” (outside of the beis din) - it is deemed reliable - and the stories and narratives built around it serve to support, and not upend, tradition.

      There is a kind of "gentleman's agreement" among leaders to certify the masorah as true, regardless of how many twists and sleights of hand it takes to give that contention teeth.

      Some scratch their heads at the contortions (the pretzel logic) and leave the religion. Some keep their mouths shut. Many are “True Believers.” Well indoctrinated, or perhaps just conformists, generally.

      Also, rabbis and religious teachers are kind of like politicians. Like politicians, their role is to inspire. To carry on the movement. To defeat the forces of the other side.

      The rules are different from a beis din - the standards, far, far lower. Also, they are not under oath, as in a court or a hearing, where lying can lead to severe repercussions.

      We have seen many times politicians make all kinds of pronouncements in the court of public opinion. Say all kinds of things. In a real court or, say, congressional hearing, under oath – they say something very different. They quietly disavow all that they said to the news cameras. Different standards at work, here.

      Please don't think I am picking on Judaism. All religions, all political movements, all movements seeking to (as they see it) "improve" the world, rely heavily on low standards of truth being declared as the truth. They all heavily invest in the rightness and unalterable truth of whatever it is they are fighting for. I've been in those fights. It's great to be a part of something (which is why so many are a part of one mass movement or another, at least when they are young and more credulous, and likely, more idealistic.)

      I would always like to see more truthfulness, more realness, in Judaism. But, I understand, that such an undertaking puts you on a slippery slope.

    6. Tuv - everything you said is spot-on. You wrote: "We await better discourse on the topic". I will raise your gauntlet.
      Let's refine what we mean when we say something is "true". From here on, let's understand that something can be true in a deep, metaphorical manner, even if it is not literally "true". Great fiction is like that. This is why we spend time reading Shakespeare - his stories tell deep truths, even though they are - on the literal historical level - false. If we can agree on this deeper understanding of "truth", then I think we can move forward to a better discourse on the truths embedded in the Jewish tradition. It will free us of the dishonest pretzel contortions you write about, and it will help those who want to through the baby out with the bath water to reconsider their approach to Judaism. This is a beginning of a deeper conversation about these issues. What do you think?

    7. @Curious - The nature of mass movements does not lend itself to the kind of reforms you have in mind.

      Regarding Judaism in particular, essentially, the denominations in Judaism have done the job already.

      But, of course, we see that Conservative Judaism (where the truths of Judaism may be deeper, but are not considered scientifically or historically true) is falling apart.

      The only place these conversations seem to have any energy is on blogs and Facebook. It makes sense: these are liminal areas. They are “betwixt and between.” An orthodox person can come in, meet ex orthodox or secular people, have a debate – and both exit at any time.

      Hopefully, the experience is productive. At least it’s a place where different kinds of people can talk.

    8. @Tuv I agree with what you wrote. Maybe we do not know the true religion but we think we have found it.

    9. "An orthodox person can come in, meet ex orthodox or secular people, have a debate – and both exit at any time."

      How about a secular person coming in, meeting ex secular (BT) or orthodox people, having a debate – and both exiting at any time? Or are the options one-sided?

    10. @Anonymous Both ways. All options on the table. All combinations.

    11. Tuv, it's not only mass movements that believe they have the truth. It's just common sense about any human being.

      The truths for Judaism are of an entirely different quality than those for other mass movements. This is old news. Several titles in the local Judaica shop deal with it. It's not the job of your fellow bloggers to copy and paste from those books.

      Similarly the truths for Judaism are of an entirely different quality than those in court for a specific incident. This again is old news; several titles in the local Judaica shop deal with it; it's not the job of your fellow bloggers to copy and paste from those books. And earlier, Rambam, Ramban & Kuzari addressed this.

      Whenever various ideas compete, all but perhaps one are false. But we don't say that since they're false, the last one is also false. You aren't picking on Judaism cause your critique is true of others. So leave it at the others and don't make guilt out of association.

      Rabbis are like politicians. That's neat. You can say that also about any public person, including atheists who inspire against religion.

      There exists a test to see if a tradition is reliable based on the game “telephone”. In the game someone whispers something into the next person's ear who whispers it into the third's and so on. Finally the last person announces it to everyone, and usually it's a total corruption of the original, much to everyone's amusement.

      Now if the original person whispers it into the ears of ten different people, each of whom is part of a chain of ten—100 in total, and the final ten people write down what they heard on slips of paper, and the ten slips say the same thing, then you know that the “telephone” transmission was reliable. The Jewish people were separated from each other to a great degree via the diaspora, yet the level of unity of transmission among the subscribers to Torah She'Baal Peh is such that it attests to its accuracy.

      Christianity failed this test. There are several thousand textual discrepancies between the various versions of their book, and “only” a few dozen are of major theological significance. Josh McDowel, in his book Evidence That Demands a Verdict (ranked 13th in Christianity Today's list of most influential evangelical books published after World War II—from Wiki), is proud of that “low” number. Please don't lump Judaism together with such idiocy.

      In general, Judaism consists of a core and extrinsics (which are also essential). The core is eminently reasonable, as is how it leads to the extrinsics. The extrinsics on their own are perhaps incomprehensible. The trick is to become familiar with the core and not to subsequently divorce the extrinsics from it.

    12. @Anonymous, I think all mass movements rely on a low standard of truth, in comparison to how courts pursue finding the truth.

      But first, you mention the copying of the Torah – this doesn’t tell us the Torah is from Moses, or divine in origin. It’s a red herring, as an argument, I think.

      Second, a court has at its disposal tools to examine closely a case. Mass movements (and religions) have apologetics.

      Courts use (and religions eschew) the well-honed tools of modern juris prudence for ensuring the most honestly arrived at outcome in a case.

      A few of these tools come to mind (I’m not a lawyer, by the way):

      Lawyers in courts can object when opposing lawyers ask questions that “assume facts not in evidence.”

      Lawyers can ask questions/bring witnesses/bring evidence that challenge (or support) a witness’ credibility, and/or character.

      Related, courts have a “Dead Man’s Statute.” Since dead people cannot be cross examined or interrogated – only under very limited conditions is a dead person’s “testimony” accepted by the court.

      Much of religious apologetics elides all this. They assume facts not in evidence. They rely on stories and writings of people who are not around to cross examine, or have tests put to their credibility or character.

      None of these tests can be put to the Rambam or others of an age long ago.

      They can’t be deposed by attorneys either. They can’t be voir dired.

      So, the truth used by leaders of religions to “prove” their movement true, would never make it to court – because the case would (as they say in court) “lack foundation.”

      (I believe this is exactly the way religious apologetics must work. The whole idea is to build a case that resists interrogation or challenge. One way? Use dead people and old stories – just declare them as “irrefutable fact.”)

      What religious apologetics amounts to? A show trial (where the result is preordained.) And those undertaking this “trial” are engaging in the antics of a kangaroo court (a court that ignores recognized standards of law or justice.)

      By the way, I’m not a lawyer. But, I’ve watched enough and read enough about religions proclaiming they have the truth, to have thought about it a little.

      There is an old saying in law: “Fiat Justitia, Ruat Coelum,” which translates to “let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

      It’s meaning?

      The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences. (from Wikipedia.)

      This standard would never work for those “proving” religions, or indoctrinating students in to those religions.

      They are not searching for the truth. They say they have “the truth.”

      And, if a person has a reason to think it’s not that simple? Or, their arguments are flawed or not rigorous, or overlook basic methods for establishing facts? Probably best to not make a fuss. Mass movements are not interested in such discussions. In the end, the mass movement “wins,” and there is no “right to appeal.” (Which is another feature of a serious, modern, justice system…)


    13. Tuv, "By the way, I’m not a lawyer. But, I’ve watched enough and read enough about religions proclaiming they have the truth, to have thought about it a little."

      Will continue but please first stop lumping Judaism together with all those falsehoods.

    14. "Please don't think I am picking on Judaism."

      I'd rather you would, to keep the focus on it and away from the religions.

    15. @Anonymous, you write: “will continue but please first stop lumping Judaism together with all those falsehoods.”

      You don’t provide a reason.

      This is a case of an informal fallacy, known as “special pleading.”

      From Wikipedia: “Special pleading is an informal fallacy wherein one cites something as an exception to a general or universal principle, without justifying the special exception. It is the application of a double standard.”

    16. You're also performing special pleading on behalf of the mass movement of secularism .

    17. @Anonymous –

      My contention is all religions use low standards for calling themselves true. Judaism, as a religious mass movement, included.

      They all share one feature: they have reached the “verdict” (that they have the truth) before the “trial” even starts. This is one of the reasons they don’t care that they have such low standards for making the case for their “truth.”

      You want to “special plead” Judaism out of this group, but you don’t say why.

      Regarding your idea that I am “…performing special pleading on behalf of the mass movement of secularism.”

      Secularism, according to Google “simply entails a normative commitment to neutrality on the part of the state toward religious affairs, necessitating that the state should neither favor, disfavor, promote, nor discourage any particular religious (or nonreligious) belief and viewpoint over another.”

      There is nothing to “special plead” secularism out of, as far as I can see. There is no “group” there that I object to secularism being “one of.”

      Also, secularism is not a mass movement, as you suggest.

      But, I want to make clear. A secular society has a lot of mass movements within it, ordinarily.

      This is because many people crave community, purpose, belonging, rules, structure, goals, routines and rituals.

      And, this at least partially explains why people who become “true believers” accept a very low standard of evidence for the “truth” of the mass movements they join: the mass movements exist to fulfill their needs. Whether the religion or mass movement’s assertions are well supported may not mean much, if they fulfill some other very human needs.

  2. I think it might help Messers Kornreich and Coffer to read R. Shalom Rosenberg's book 'לא בשמים היא' on chiddush and Masoret. He shows various models of how chiddush works within the system. Korenreich's approach seems to exclude much of the possibility of chiddush from the tradition.


  3. "It could potentially lead to a complete undermining of the mesorah and a reform of Judaism."

    This is especially interesting since we have no mesorah that men sat and learned Torah all day while their wives went out to make a living. In fact most of chazal had some sort of parnasa.

    If anyone is reforming Judaism its charedim by insisting the right derech in life is to sit in kollel and learn while the wife should be out working. This is completely counter to what Judaism has been doing for thousands of years!

    1. I have to admit that I posted my comment before I finished reading the blog post(ie jumped the gun) I see that R. Slifkin wrote precisely the same thing. Lesson learned.

  4. It is generally agreed that the medicines suggested in the gamara don't work, For many of them it is obvious that they never worked, eg eating the liver of a rabid dog, jumping up and down and reciting incantations. Of course in the famous gamara of where the sun goes at night both opinions are wrong

    1. If someone says the Sages were not right on something used in determining Halakhah, is the inference that we need to modernize Halakhah?

  5. Very well said.

    In a world in which only a small percentage of Jews are fully religious and even fewer are charedi, they're fighting a fight that was lost long ago. Far better to formulate a response that will convince people to fully observe actual halakha (and, yes, I firmly include halakha that "everyone" today thinks is outdated) *despite* the fact that Chazal didn't have certain knowledge we have today than to adopt an approach that may well- and in 90% of cases, already has- caused most people to simply throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    (I think this approach would also have been correct in a world in which most people *were* observant, but then the whole calculus changes.)

  6. Briefly as I do not have much time. IMO there is nothing wrong with the idea that sometimes Chazal were mistaken. Indeed such is implied from from thousands of machlokes in Shas. Or might even to suggest it as an answer in certain specific cases, however controversial that is. Here is where you go terribly off the path:

    1. To say that due to their primitive worldview, the Sages had no way to decide the correct halacha. But we follow it anyways for a reason. Rabbi Herzog will not save you there
    2. Even worse, that there is no correct halacha ח"ו, it is completely institutional/cultural. And even worse, when you say that the halacha should change based on whatever worldview people happen to have at the time. זאת התורה לא תהא מוחלפת. Tanur shel Achnai will not save you there, it is an exception, not the rule. As a rule we assume that the Sages were trying and able to determine the correct halacha.
    3. Worst of all, to call the approach of Amoraim, Rishonim, and Acharonim throughout the ages "intellectualy dishonest" or "completely unconvincing". A complete rejection of the entire Mesorah.
    4. By the way, the halacha does say a woman's brain has changed. There is a Rama that since חוצפה has increased in the world, we no longer trust a woman to say in front of her husband that he divorced her. Each case needs to be considered by itself. Nobody supports your wholesale rejection of the Mesorah. Well, except for the Maskilim, Talmud Professors, and Bible Critics. In their world your views are utterly mainstream.

    1. >>Worst of all, to call the approach of Amoraim, Rishonim, and Acharonim throughout the ages "intellectualy dishonest" or "completely unconvincing"

      Huh? When did I say that? I think that you are mixing me up with Rabbi Meiselman.

    2. "Even worse, that there is no correct halacha ח"ו, it is completely institutional/cultural."

      So if halacha comes from an rabbinical institution, it can't be correct? Guess we found the Karaite.

    3. You say that nishtanah hatevah, or any such dochuk approach such as לאו דוקא in order to uphold the words of the Sages is "intellectualy dishonest". All the time. Fact. Despite the fact that this is the approach of the Sages throughout the millenia.

    4. אחר כך מצאתי דברי גידופין אלה. אוי לעין ראתה זאת.

    5. "You say that nishtanah hatevah, or any such dochuk approach such as לאו דוקא in order to uphold the words of the Sages is "intellectualy dishonest". All the time. Fact. Despite the fact that this is the approach of the Sages throughout the millenia."

      Nishtaneh hateva was never invoked by Amoraim. It was first invoked by a Tosafist, in a limited circumstance where it was probably true. And it was used by other Rishonim and Acharonim in ways that were reasonable.

      Rabbi Meiselman, on the other hand, says that every single Rishon and ACharon did not know how to understand the various sugyos about spontaneous generation. Only him!

    6. Who cares whether it was invoked by Amoraim? The fact that Rishonim invoke it (without being biologists and knowing whether it even could be true, I might add) shows it is not "intellectually dishonest". Do you really think that Tosafos would say the Gemara was mistaken about an 8 month old baby? Or would he say nishtaneh hatevah? And by the way, nishtaneh hatevah is only one possible answer in many of these cases. But no, any answer that does not preserve the plain meaning of the text according to you is "intellectualy dishonest"!

      Again, the overwhelming Mesorah when presented with difficult Chazals is to assume they are right, and try to answer for them. This fills every page in Gemara, Rishonim, and Shulchan Aruch. They ASSUMED Chazal had the tools to decide halacha correctly, you ASSUME the opposite, that they didn't. They tried to be מקיים דברי חכמים, you try to be מבטל דברי חכמים. You found a few exceptions, which you have now turned into the rule. You have decided that ח"ו Chazal were in general hampered by their limited worldview. אין לך הריסת מסורה גדולה מזה.

    7. To expand on the above, you typically complain that people who try to be מקיים דברי חכמים are motivated by "religious concerns rather than truth". But this is precisely what concerned the Rishonim! The ASSUMPTION that Chazal had the tools to make correct decisions. The ASSUMPTION that they were correct.

      When the Rishonim said nishtaneh hatevah, they had no scientific evidence, and no way to know if such a thing was even scientifically plausible. How could they? But they were motivated by those "religious concerns", the same thing that motivated them with every other difficulty, rather than simply saying Chazal were mistaken. That you reject as "intellectualy dishonest". A rejection of the Mesorah.

    8. It's just not so. For most of history, science just hadn't advanced enough for anyone to have any problems with anything in the Gemara except for astronomy and medicine. And in both those cases, there were plenty of authorities who simply said that Chazal were wrong. Yes, of course there were also those who tried to avoid saying that, as they believed that the ancients - not only Chazal, but also non-Jews - were much wiser. But that is far from the sole or even main mesorah.

    9. Not true! The Rishonim had THOUSANDS of problems with Chazal. Problems with logic, problems with common sense, problems with contradictions, and yes, sometimes problems with science. And in all of those cases, the overwhelming approach in the case of halacha was to move mountains to explain Chazal. Those Rishonim who argue with Chazal do so in non-halachic matters, and usually not even because of science. And even that is rare. Your conception of "history" is totally distorted. What I described is the overwhelming, true Mesorah.

    10. Chazal were very smart, and if it's not a matter of science, then there is every reason to assume that they had justification for what they said.

    11. Ahhh, we are finally getting somewhere. You will notice that in these thousands of cases, the "justification" given is never that Chazal erred because they listened to someone else who erred. For obvious reasons, this is no justification. Yet this is the only "justification" you ever come up with! Your "justification" for 8 month old baby? They didn't experience such a thing or even investigate. They just listened to the Greeks. Lice? They didn't investigate. Bats? They didn't investigate.

      So this has nothing to do with science per se, much of which they totally could have investigated had they cared to, even with their primitive tools. You just assume, the opposite of the Rishonim, that Chazal didn't investigate anything, and didn't have justification for what they said.

    12. "Not true! The Rishonim had THOUSANDS of problems with Chazal."

      A stira in the sevara or halacha is very different than a stira in objective reality that they weren't expected to know. And most of your "stiras" are not stiras at all, just the Gemara going through the steps of clarifying halachos stated by Chazal by applying them or limiting them to specific cases so that we know what they were talking about. Very different things.

    13. Weaver, the Rishonim expected Chazal to know everything that was necessary to decide the correct halacha. The existence of a braisah or a logical outcome that they didn't know IS a stirah in objective reality. Thus instead of saying "they erred", the Rishonim did everything they could to answer it. That is undeniably the overwhelming Mesorah.

      An approach that assumes Chazal "weren't expected to know" the halacha is a rejection of the whole source of halacha. And thus a rejection of halacha itself. And Rabbi Slifkin basically admits it in this post (just that he claims to prefer to follow halacha, ותבא עליו ברכה)!

    14. Happy what are you implying about Chazal?

    15. " The fact that Rishonim invoke it shows it is not "intellectually dishonest". "

      You should add "per se".
      Any argument can be intellectually dishonest. It depends on context. Example: Just because כבוד הבריאות is occasionally (rarely?) invoked, doesn't mean it can invoked to issue a lenient ruling. Invoking precedent where inappropriate may indeed be intellectually dishonest.

    16. "the overwhelming approach in the case of halacha was to move mountains to explain Chazal."

      What do you mean by "moving mountains"? Something that takes great effort? Or something that's strained and exaggerated? Because the latter carries its own risks.

    17. @happy
      I have to address this comment of yours: "the overwhelming Mesorah when presented with difficult Chazals is to assume they are right, and try to answer for them. This fills every page in Gemara, Rishonim, and Shulchan Aruch. They ASSUMED Chazal had the tools to decide halacha correctly,"

      This is not what fills the pages of the Talmud. What fills the pages are attempts by later generation amoraim (and sevoraim) to determine what specific case a statement made by an earlier Chacham was actually referring to. It's not about whether one chacham was right or wrong it's just a feature of multi-generational oral traditions that sometimes we remember the statement, but not what case the statement addressed.

      The idea that the chachamim of the talmud thought there was a right and a wrong halacha is frankly ludicrous. They were all fully aware of the various differences and that the machlokot between tannaim were not about which interpreation or ruling was true or false. There was a great deal of respect for differing opinions. You can't find many statements in the talmud backing up your (modern) claim that there is an 'assumption of correctness'. Your view is not backed up by the sources. Chazal were well aware that when R. Yehuda selected the views to go in the Mishnah it wasn't that these were the right ones (he even inlcludes dissenting opinion!!)

      I'm saying that your assumption of corretness makes no sense when talking about a corpus that is almost entirely a collection of disagreements between Sages.

      Plus, I came across this, which, whilst I haven't read it thoroughly, certainly seems to contain much food for thought on this topic. (Go on happy, read it and don't judge a book by it's cover...)

    18. "When the Rishonim said nishtaneh hatevah, they had no scientific evidence, and no way to know if such a thing was even scientifically plausible"

      They had no way to know if it was scientifically *implausible*! So it was (maybe) reasonable for them to assume that was the reason for a noted discrepancy. We now have plenty of reason to assume it is implausible and therefore would be a little silly to assume the same.

    19. @Not a fan, sorry, you have no idea what you are talking about. We can't have a discussion like this. Go learn some Gemara b'iyun or some Tur/BY/SA and get back to me.

    20. Yoni2,

      Good point! I must say you are the first person to make a good point in this discussion with me. And I agree. WHEN nishtaneh hateva is an impossible answer, obviously we shouldn't use it. But when we simply have no scientific evidence for it, or it seems unlikely, then we should definitely still keep it in our arsenal of answers.

      Our primary concern should be to preserve the halacha transmitted to us by Chazal. And not say they erred (at least generally), which would be a destruction of the Torah sheBaal Peh. This is exactly what the Amoraim/Rishonim/Acharonim were doing with their many difficulties. Even if it required them to be נכנס בדחוקים.

      With regard to a 7 month old being more viable than an 8 month old, I see no reason why such a thing should be impossible, or even unlikely. Just because we don't observe that now? Huh? Clearly they observed it back then. Nishtaneh Hatevah is the most reasonable explanation here IMO. The fact that I don't have a way to explain it is לא מעלה ולא מוריד. The Rishonim also didn't havea way to explain it when they said nishtaneh hateva. I have no doubt that if our scientists lived back then, and were able to observe people first-hand, they would find a perfectly satisfying explanation.

    21. @not a fan, now I see you linked to the Hartman institute. Nothing more needs to be said! 🤡🤡🤡

    22. @happy = which is why I said dont judge a book by it's cover.
      I did think you would react that way.. sadly. I'm aware of how people view Hartman. Nonetheless, there are some interesting discussions towards the end of the piece that I think you coudld benefit from, Happy. (Probably it was an error linking to this, given your prejudices.)
      You can learn all you want happy, but if you don't think about what you are learning you will never develop.

      Why don't you suggest some sources that back up your claim that gemara is full of people moving mountains to show an earlier opinion was right?

    23. Here is one from Megilla 10b:
      ויהי בימי אחשורוש אמר רבי לוי ואיתימא רבי יונתן דבר זה מסורת בידינו מאנשי כנסת הגדולה כל מקום שנאמר ויהי אינו אלא לשון צער {אסתר א-א} ויהי בימי אחשורוש הוה המן {רות א-א} ויהי בימי שפוט השופטים הוה רעב {בראשית ו-א} ויהי כי החל האדם לרוב וירא ה' כי רבה רעת האדם {בראשית יא-ב} ויהי בנסעם מקדם הבה נבנה לנו עיר {בראשית יד-א} ויהי בימי אמרפל עשו מלחמה {יהושע ה-יג} ויהי בהיות יהושע ביריחו וחרבו שלופה בידו {יהושע ו-כז} ויהי ה' את יהושע וימעלו בני ישראל {שמואל א א-א} ויהי איש אחד מן הרמתים כי את חנה אהב וה' סגר רחמה {שמואל א ח-א} ויהי (כי) זקן שמואל ולא הלכו בניו בדרכיו {שמואל א יח-יד} ויהי דוד לכל דרכיו משכיל [וה' עמו] ויהי שאול עוין את דוד {שמואל ב ז-א} ויהי כי ישב המלך בביתו רק אתה לא תבנה הבית והכתיב {ויקרא ט-א} ויהי ביום השמיני ותניא אותו היום היתה שמחה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא כיום שנבראו בו שמים וארץ כתיב הכא ויהי ביום השמיני וכתיב התם {בראשית א-ה} ויהי (בקר) יום אחד הא שכיב נדב ואביהוא
      והכתיב {מלכים א ו-א} ויהי בשמונים שנה וארבע מאות שנה והכתיב {בראשית כט-י} ויהי כאשר ראה יעקב את רחל והכתיב ויהי ערב ויהי בקר יום אחד והאיכא שני והאיכא שלישי והאיכא טובא
      אמר רב אשי כל ויהי איכא הכי ואיכא הכי ויהי בימי אינו אלא לשון צער חמשה ויהי בימי הוו ויהי בימי אחשורוש ויהי בימי שפוט השופטים ויהי בימי אמרפל {ישעיה ז-א} ויהי בימי אחז {ירמיה א-ג} ויהי בימי יהויקים
      The language of original statement (which is recorded as a mesorah!) is significantly modified by Rav Ashi in order to avoid being disproven by the challenges posed.

      Here is another example from Brachos 58b
      על הזיקין: מאי זיקין אמר שמואל . כוכבא דשביט ואמר שמואל נהירין לי שבילי דשמיא כשבילי דנהרדעא לבר מכוכבא דשביט דלא ידענא מאי ניהו וגמירי דלא עבר כסלא ואי עבר כסלא חרב עלמא והא קא חזינן דעבר זיויה הוא דעבר ומתחזי כדעבר איהו רב הונא ברי' דרב יהושע אמר וילון הוא דמקרע דמגלגל ומחזי נהורא דרקיעא רב אשי אמר כוכבא הוא דעקר מהאי גיסא דכסלא וחזי ליה חבריה מהך גיסא ומיבעית ומחזי כמאן דעבר

      Brachos 59a
      ועל הרוחות: מאי רוחות אמר אביי זעפא ואמר אביי גמירי דזעפא בליליא לא הוי והא קא חזינן דהוי ההוא דאתחולי ביממא ואמר אביי גמירי דזעפא תרתי שעי לא קאי לקיים מה שנאמר {נחום א-ט} לא תקום פעמים צרה והא קא חזינן דקאי דמפסיק ביני ביני:

    24. @not a fan, this is a waste of time. If you refuse to learn, how can I teach you. Nevertheless I will try once with one totally random example. Excuse my yeshivish hebrew/aramaic.

      לכבוד המגיב "לא-מאוורר" 😋 ,נביא כאן דוגמא א' מאלף מעני' דיומא. עי' תוס פסחים ד: ד"ה לאו. הבט וראה כמה הוא נכנס בדחוקים. הוא לכאו' יצר מחדש אוקימתא בברייתא דמיירי בבעה"ב בעיר ואף שזה נגד פשטות דברי הגמ' דליתיה להאי לשיוליה. הוא לכאו' יצר דין חדש שאף שיש חזק' בדוק ואף שבכל מקום צריך לשאול ואין סומכין על החזק' במקום דאפשר לשאל כאן אינו צריך לשאול ויכול לסמוך על החזקה. הוא לכאו' יצר חילוק חדש שלא חלם אדם מעולם שאם יש מכשול גדול אינו צריך לשאול ואם יש מכשול קטן צריך לשאול. וכל זה למה? לקיים ס"ד של ר"נ! שמעת אחי? ס"ד!!! רבש"ע!!! הלא יכול לישב בפשיטות שר' נחמן טעה? פשוט טעה. טעה בהבנה. טעה בשכל. טעה בידיעת הברייתא דטבל. .שכח. סוף דבר, טעה. נו, מה הבעיה? וכי מלאך היה ר"נ שאינו יכול לטעות? הלא אנשים גדולים וחכמים טועים תמיד, ומעשים בכל יום ובכל עת ובכל שעה! כך נוקטים הפרופ' של תלמוד בכל מקום שהאמוראים פשוט טעו. אבל לא ניחא ליה לתוס' למימרא הכי. לא סבירא ליה. כמה עיקולי ופשורי כדי לקיים ס"ד של ר"נ.

    25. @Happy

      Thank you for the effort - especially your last one - very funny! Sorry I've been at work and haven't had time to respond.
      But quickly - I'm really not sure these make the point you want to make. I found especially interesting the way that you 'learn' the section from Megilla.
      You think that in order to 'save' the statement from the Mesorah that Rav Ashi is modifying the statement to ensure it can 'withstand' the errors.

      I would humbly suggest that you are reading the text to fit your own ideology (which, admittedly, we all do) and would like to suggest a different reading that I think is more direct.

      Rav Ashi recognises that the original 'Mesorah' (which is actually not from Sinai, but a creation of the אנשי כנסת הגדולה by the way) is flawed. It doesn't stand up to a critical inspection. It doesn't hold in all cases of ויהי

      And therefore he doesn't 'save' the statement. Rather he offers a new, different statement that contradicts the original statement which says that there is ויהי like this and ויהי like that.

      In effect you brought an example that shows that Rav Ashi didn't move mountains to save an earlier tradition, but rather he recognized that the earlier tradition is just flawed.


    26. I'm not "happy fan". But he is absolutely correct. Nevertheless I wouldn't have used that Gemara in Megillah because of ignoramuses who would read it like you did.

    27. Oh - i see, apologies to Happy Fan.
      But still, I may be an ignoramus, but I'm right.
      Reading it the way that 'Happy Fan' did is totally reading through an ideological lens.

      Hope to get back to you on the one you wrote. I would just say that bringing Tosafot (whose שיטה is to resolve discrepancies between different סוגיות) is a bit obvious. They are religiously committed to the concept of integrity across Shas and to resolving contradictions. So they are a good example for you in that sense.

      But it also highlights the problem - because they have to use such a convoluted stretch. Others would just admit there is a problem. I don't want to say something horribly critical of the approach of the Tosafot (because your head, Happy, might explode), but could we say this:

      Tosafot were disturbed by contradictions between סוגיות which they felt was a religious problem. Therefore they set out programmatically to resovle them and sometimes had to (as you would say) 'move mountains' to achieve their goals.

      Your claim, Happy, is that this is THE Mesorah. I think, though that what this shows is that in one particular period of time, this was a dominant approach and not that it was the overwhelming Mesorah 'from time immemorial'.

      Still, there is some interesting debate on how original the approach of the Tosafot was. See footnote 2 in the article below. The question is: "Did Tosafot 'rediscover' an approach used by the Amoraim, or was it really a new approach that reflected non-Jewish current trends?" I think it's one of those cases where people select the answer that suits them best, but tell me what you think.

    28. @Happy

      Hee- Hee. I just re-read the article from my last quote and found this gem:

      "While earlier schools of talmudic analysis had surely noticed contradictions, their approach was often to discern which passage was the primary talmudic approach and which was to be presumed the non-authoritative passage."
      And see footnote 11 there.

    29. This is not just Tosafos, this is all the Rishonim. Ramban, Rashba, Ran, Rosh, Raavad, Ritva, Tur. And on to the Acharonim the Bais Yosef, Bach, Magen Avraham, Shach, etc. And this is how they all understood the Rif and Rambam as well. This is our halachic Mesorah for close to 2000 years. Until the maskilim and Talmud Professors came along. Besides for that, my example had nothing to do with contradictions between סוגיות.

    30. @not a fan, first good point you made all week. Correct, other authorities such as the Geonim, Rif, Rambam, were much more willing to make a מחלוקת הסוגיות or a מחלוקת סתם rather than reconciling them. They certainly don't have the exact same style as Tosafos. Nor does the Ramban have exactly the same style as Tosafos, or the other Rishonim, for that matter. All the Rishonim have different styles to greater or lesser degrees.

      But guess what? NOBODY's style is to just say, this Gemara is simply a mistake, therefore I will pasken differently! When the Rambam seems to contradict a Gemara, all of his commentators attempt reconcile him, often to the point of saying he had a different version of the Gemara. None of them think that he simply argues on the Gemara. And the Rambam himself says plenty of (seemingly) strange things to reconcile different halachos and sugyos. Both in the Yad itself and in his responsa. Which the commentators notice, and has been the source of endless Torah debate (contrary to the Rambam's own wishes).

    31. @happy

      I really owe you an answer to what you wrote. Sorry it took so long.
      First of all, yes, you brought what on first glance seems like a good example of what you are claiming. Yes, Tosefot goes a very long way towards explaining what Rabbi Nachman says. It's really just hairsplitting to say if they were (a) moving mountains a la Happy or (b) just trying to clarify what exactly he was referring to a la not a fan. So let's leave that aside and give you this one.
      I would say these things:
      I think that if Tosafot has to work so hard to reconcile differences they are demonstrating fairly clearly that there is a real problem there. It weakens the defense. I remember seeing in Eichler's a book called "The Conciliator" (see link below) whose purpose was to show all that there really honestly truly were no contradictions in the Torah. But the book gives it all away. It is basically an admission that the problem exists and can only be resolved by 'moving mountains'. It's not exactly intellectually dishonest, but it is a massive exercise in apologetics and we would be well recommended to admit this.
      Which brings me back to your point. 'Reconciling', no matter how many times or how loudly you claim it is was not the main approach of our Sages throughout history. It was used when these sort of apologetics was considered necessary from a social-religious perspective.

      Additionally, I would suggest distinguishing between what we might call "The Joy of Torah Learning - Lishma" from "The Business of Torah Learning - Le'halacha"." When engaging in the Joy of Learning rabbanim can, for religious comfort or for pleasure, engage in reconcilement. When deciding on halacha, our Sages were clear about who they thought were right and who they thought were wrong.
      I dont think you can claim that either one existed and the other one didn't.
      I don't know how you would deal with the fact that in the Talmud alone there are 801 uses of the word תיובתא - and since the usage is תיובתא דרב' פלוני תיובתא we can agree that there are around 400 cases where Chazal didn't seek to move mountains but clearly disproved one side of the argument.

      I also guess you didn't read footnote 11. It read "This approach of identifying the “sugyah de-shematsa” and disregarding the other was the approach of the Geonim and, to a degree, Maimonides. Israel TaShma, Ha-Sifrut ha-Parshanit la-Talmud, 1:71–75 and for specific examples, Shlomo Toledano, “Darko shel Rambam le-Tapel be-Sugyot Sotrot leUmat Darkam shel Ba‘alei ha-Tosafot.” Mayim mi-Dolyo 17 (2006)"
      (And, this from a Hakirah article, noch.)

      Also, Rav Ovadia Yosef was pretty clear about who was right and who was wrong - the Bet Yosef or the Ben Ish Chai.
      See also the recent biography of Ramban who talks about his early work when he defended the Sephardic traditions, etc

      Examples of Rabbis taking sides are not hard to find
      We don't just seek to say "they were all right"
      because they can't be if they argue or disagree. If there is A and NOT A , then they can't both be right*

      *With apologies to the author of 'Fuzzy Mathematics'

    32. Unhappy Unlucky PersonageApril 19, 2022 at 9:43 AM

      Hello Rabbi Slifkin, briefly in the following very long post, I agree with the whole thrust of what you said, but let me call it a very partial agreement on only a minor point and now proceed to list 4 complete straw men which you never said but with which I will misrepresent your position and state emphatically how wrong and twisted you are!

      1. Negative connotation adjective (primitive) about chazal's worldview that you didn't use shows that you look negatively on chazal. Strike 1.
      2. You're so wrong about changing halacha based on prevalent worldviews of the time even though you never said we should do this and in fact have stated numerous times in other posts that you believe we shouldn't.
      3. Rejecting the whole Mesorah is really terrible. Good thing I cannot point to a place where you did so. But I can at least conflate your calling R. Kornreich and R. Coffer as "intellectually dishonest" with slandering *Rishonim* as such because that makes you look pretty bad. R's Kornreich and Coffer must be given honorary rishonim status first though. Then my argument against you will be very strong.
      4. Let me point out a Talmudic case where I think it means a woman's brain chemistry changed, as this both supports your point but at the same time undermines it because... well let me find something here.... Oh that's it, you "reject the whole mesorah!" so any point of yours is therefore undermined even if I'm supporting it with an example. I can at the same time claim that you reject the mesora so even your correct point is wrong.

      Lastly, I claim that only the most anti-Torah people agree with you, so therefore I once again demonstrate how incorrect you are! #Logic.

    33. @not a fan, you are going back to the same mistake again. If the Rambam or the Rif can decide between two Chazals, then Rabbi Slifkin can argue on all of Chazal. No, no, no. That is not how this works. You seem to be an otherwise intelligent person, why can't you understand this simple distinction? You are similarly confused about תיובתא, thinking that you discovered this great revelation that Amoraim argue with each other. And even then, they often move mountains to avoid doing so.

      This thing that you call "massive apologetics" is actually our entire halachic Mesorah. I don't need to resort to Hakirah articles to see differences between the Geonim and Tosafos, I can see it in my own learning. And yet despite their differences, they are unanimous in one thing. EXPLAINING Chazal and not DISPUTING them. With very limited exceptions in the realm of aggadah. There is simply no precedent in the Geonim for disputing Chazal in halachic matters. See previous paragraph.

      For just one example of the Rambam engaging in what you call "massive apologetics" עי' מאכ"א טו"יב מענינא דיומא. כל רואה ישתומם על המראה. He is clearly trying to make sense of a very difficult halacha, yet if he was "intellectually honest" in the secularist style, he would simply admit that that particular halacha simply doesn't make sense. Chazal simply messed up. They were trying to juggle too many balls and dropped some. That would be the "intellectually honest" thing to say. Instead he makes this convoluted combination between דבר שיש לו מתירין and כל מחמצת לא תאכלו. As can be shown from so many places, this secularist conception of "intellectual honesty" is something very foreign to our entire Mesorah.

    34. Oh, Happy Happy Happy
      From the top:
      a) Chazal didn't have a monopoly on truth, nor even access to objective Truth (capital T). Chazal got to decide what was agreed upon by debate as instituionalized halacha with the sealing of their decisions as recorded in the Talmud. The Talmud was accepted basically as canonical and is so, largely to this day. Chazal, as human interpreters of law were very open to the idea that each other may be wrong. There was never a need to move mountains to show that they were all 'right'.
      b) You have previously argued that the only acceptable mesorah was to buy into the view that all chazal statements were true and that anyone post chazal had to move mountains to show that all chazal were correct. Now you allow that at least Rambam and Rif could decide between Chazals. What happened? Why did you change your mind? Doesn't the whole tradition depend on this? (Worth reading, Rabbi Marc Shapiros book "Studies in Maimonides and his Interpreters" - where you can see dozens of examples of where Rambam disagreed in such a systematic and categorical way with the input of proto-kabbalah into Judaism that he simply expunged Talmudic statements from his Mishneh Torah. No moving mountains there. Just simply he held they were wrong - and probably misguided too. He clearly disputed them in halachic matters. #just_saying)
      c) Regarding the distinction you want me to accept. First let's be clear about what the distinction you are making because it is very unclear and not defined. (Perhaps take some secular degree courses on logic, philosophy and critical thinking. It might help your Torah study no end.) I think you are saying that although Rishonim could argue with Chazal, we today cannot. ( Note how far this is from your earlier claims when you said that no-one ever did this. But let that pass..) I think that is a polemic distinction used by all us to 'defend' or to 'portray' Orthodoxy. We all claim on a declaratory level to accept the Talmud as authoritative - and to a large degree it is. It's a broad, simple way of distinguishing Orthodox Judaism from, say, Reform Judaism. And that's fine. But within the machane, let's please admit to what actually happens. There are many examples when 'contemporary' halachic authorities have found themselves in situations where they disagree with Chazal, usually because the situation they are in demands it or because their modern religious stance dictates it. I'm not even sure where to start bringing examples, but the obvious ones are the role and education of women (See Naomi Seidman's book Sarah Schenirer and the Bais Yaakov Movement: A Revolution in the Name of Tradition), much of what litvaks mock as chassidish halachic innovations, the Chazon Ish's attitude to אוקמי in Shemita - (see Rav Melamed's footnote copied below in full). And so on. Arguing with Chazal does happen, people use all sorts of techniques to demonstrate that they are not 'chalilah!' actually arguing with Chazal when it's clear to all that they indeed are doing so. But whatever. That's how the game is played.
      d) finally, i could hardly believe my eyes when you wrote that 'intellectual honesty' is something foreign to our entire Mesorah. The truth will out, I suppose. It may well be foreign to your Mesorah. But as I noted before, yes, there are plenty of places where people do move mountains as a form of limmud zechut, or apologetics or whatever you want to call it. They did have the intellectual honesty to do so with their eyes open. You seem to take their work in a very simplistic, literal, uncritical way. Which might be why you misunderstand what is really going on here.

      Anyway, I'm done. Going to spend the rest of Chag with my family. Hope you do the same.

      [3]. לחזו”א (טז, ד; כא, יד), והרב טיקוצ’ינסקי (ספר השמיטה ד, ב, 5), גם קיום הפירות נחשב ‘אוקמי’, ועל כן מותר לעשות מלאכות דרבנן כדי לקיים את יבול הפירות בשמיטה. וסמך החזו”א את דבריו על היתר ההשקיה בשביעית לצורך פירות, שאמרו בבריתא (מו”ק ו, ב): “מרביצין שדה לבן בשביעית כדי שיצאו ירקות למוצאי שביעית”. וכן אמרו (משנה שביעית ב, י): “ממרסין באורז בשביעית”, מירוס הוא עירוב המים בעפר שבו האורז גדל. וכן (שם ב, ב): “רבי שמעון אומר אף נוטל הוא את העלה מן האשכול בשביעית”, ודעתם כסוברים שת”ק אינו חולק על ר’ שמעון (גר”א), והרי שמותר לעשות מלאכה דרבנן עבור קיום הפירות. ודייקו כך מעוד מקומות. גם במנחת שלמה ג, קלב; מאמ”ר ג, ח-ט; שביתת השדה ו, ה, 5, הסכימו לדעת חזו”א. ומו”ר הרב ישראלי (חוות בנימין ג, קג), הסכים להתיר מלאכה לקיום הפירות שכבר התחילו לצמוח שיגדלו באופן סביר, כי יש בהם קדושה ואסור לאבדם, אבל לא עבור פירות שעוד לא גדלו. למעשה הנוהגים כחזו”א התירו בשמו כל מלאכה כדי למנוע הפחתה משמעותית בכמות או איכות הפרי, ויש שפירשו שהכוונה למנוע פגיעה בכשישית מכמות היבול או איכותו (עיין משפטי ארץ ג, 5).אולם מרן הרב קוק פסק שהיתר מלאכות דרבנן לאוקמי הוא רק לצורך קיום האילן לשנים הבאות ובשום פנים לא עבור פירות השמיטה, מפני שהם הפקר, ואין לבעל השדה שום זיקה אליהם, ולכן הפסדם אינו צריך לנגוע לו. ומה שהתירו להרביץ שדה לבן ולמרס באורז הוא לצורך מניעת הפסד במוצאי שביעית. וההיתר להסיר את העלה המזיק לאשכול הוא בפרי של שישית שהמשיך לגדול בשביעית או למנוע נזק מהאילן (שבה”א א, ה, טז; א, טו, ד; קונ”א יב, משפט כהן עט). וכ”כ תורת השביעית עמ’ מג; דבר השמיטה עמ’ נח. וכן עולה מדברי פאת השולחן כ, ד.
      ומוכרחים לומר כמרן הרב, שכן מבואר במשניות שביעית פרקים ב-ד, ובברייתא (מו”ק ג, א), שאסור בשביעית לנכש, לעדור, לכסח, לקרסם, לזרד, לפסג, לזבל, לפרק, לאבק, לעשן, ולעשות עוגיות לגפנים. ואם מותר לאוקמי פירא, רבות מהמלאכות הללו נצרכות בשביעית, שאם למשל לא יזבלו או יעדרו, ברור שיבול הפירות יינזק באופן משמעותי, ויהיה רחוק מאוד מהיבול של שאר השנים. ולא זו בלבד, אלא שאסרו חכמים לפנות זבל ולדייר בהמות בשדהו שמא יראה כמי שמזבל שדהו (משנה שביעית ג, א-ד), הרי שהיה ברור שאין היתר לזבל שדות לצורך קיום הפירות, שאם היה היתר, לא היה צריך לגזור באופן מוחלט משום מראית עין, שהרי פעמים רבות הדבר נצרך לאוקמי פירא. וכן מוכח מכך שהראשונים והאחרונים לא הזכירו את המושג ‘אוקמי פירא’, וגם לא דנו בו למעשה, ואיך יתכן שהתעלמו מאחת הסוגיות המעשיות ביותר בשביעית. ואמנם אפשר לטעון שבחקלאות של ימינו העצים מניבים הרבה יותר פרי, וממילא חוסר הטיפול בהם משמעותי כיום יותר. אבל עדיין מוכרחים לומר, שגם בעבר הזיבול והעידור וכיוצא בהם הועילו מאוד ליבול הפירות, והימנעות מהם יצרה הפחתה משמעותית ביבול הפירות, ולא שמענו שהתירו לזבל ולעדור לקיום הפירות. וכן צריך להבין ממצוות התורה עצמה, שאסרה לזרוע שדות, שלא יהיו שום גידולי שדה. וממילא ברור שגם לגבי האילן, הפירות הם אלה שיצמחו מעצמם, ולא שיעשו עבור כך מלאכות.

      ואולי הגיעו להתיר אוקמי פירא מתוך תפישה שמגמת השמיטה לתת פירות לכל בני הארץ. אולם המגמה היא לשבות, כפי שמפורש בתורה, ורק אחרי ששובתים, לגבי פירות העץ שצומחים מאליהם, ישנן אזהרות. ומסתבר שרבים קיבלו היתר דחוק זה, מפני שלא אבו לקבל את ‘היתר המכירה’, שמצד הדין מרווח ממנו בהרבה.

    35. Oh not not not, as I said originally, a waste of time. You have no idea what you are talking about. But because you wrote so many silky things I must respond.

      1. Marc Shapiro can say whatever he wants about the Rambam. But if he thinks that the Rambam simply argued with Chazal in halacha, he is no better that ignoramus Kellner. Every single Rabbinic authority from 1000 years who dealt with the Rambam is against him. And guess what? The only reason we ever followed the Rambam was because we thought he followed the Mesorah. The moment that we think he argued with Chazal in halacha, goodbye Rambam, hello garbage can. ח"ו. Good thing most of the Rishonim didn't agree with Marc Shapiro. And those who did, you know what they did with the Rambam ♨️. And this is the thing people like Kellner and Shapiro don't get. They think if they would succeed in showing the Rambam was a secularist, that would lend authority to the secularist position. In reality, it would only discredit the Rambam. Our Mesorah is way bigger than the Rambam. But as I said, BH it doesn't come to that.

      2. I never said Chazal cannot be mistaken, see my original comment all the way at the top. But we must assume they are not. We must assume they knew how to rule on halacha much better than us. They are the entire source of our halacha. This is our entire halachic Mesorah. I never changed from that.

      3. Uh, how did you totally misunderstand the distinction I made??? It wasn't that "Rishonim can argue with Chazal, we cannot"! It was that neither Rishonim nor us can argue with Chazal in halacha, but both Rishonim and us can decide the halacha between contradictory Chazals. Something even modern day poskim will do occasionally.

      4. None of your examples (Bais Yaakov, shemita) are people arguing with Chazal. As I said, you simply have no idea what you are talking about. Not a clue. You are like a blind man walking alone in an obstacle course.

    36. In summary @not a fan (as I was rather lengthy), the difference between you and I is that you get your Judaism from the Hartman Institute, Marc Shapiro and Menachem Kellner books, various other secularist books, at the very best selected Hakirah articles. Whereas I get it straight from the Mesorah sources. From the Gemara, Rishonim and Acharonim. And let me tell you, these are two different PLANETS. This is what I mean when I say you have no idea what you are talking about. You think that there is some sort of resemblance between the true Mesorah, the Mesorah of Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim, and whatever garbage Marc Shapiro wrote or the Hartman Institute put out. For somebody who has experience learning, there simply isn't. This is why we can't have a discussion.

      Now, if you would like to discuss specific things that you think might be evidence of your opinion, like why the Rambam omitted halachos about fingernails, I am happy to do so. But I refuse to have any further discussions about Marc Shapiro's opinions, which are completely irrelevant.

  7. "And when, as is all too often, the people issuing these absurdities insist that to believe otherwise is heresy, people simply see themselves as having no place in such an absurd religion."

    That is exactly what happened to me. If I had read Rabbi Slifkin's books, my emunah would not be affected one bit. But when the kano'im called them kefirah, I was essentially kicked out of the Chareidi camp. Since I believed that "Chareidism" was the only authentic version of Judasim and that modern-orthodoxy was a cop out, I stopped being frum. Note to "Rabbi" Kornbluth and your ilk, leshitascho, who believe in such things, you will have to give a din vecheshbon for what you did to me and assumedly several others like me.

    1. reuven,

      language does not have the capacity to express the depth of the tragedy of your decision to abandon your birthright, and give up the meaningfulness of a relationship with the source of your existence both in the temporal olam hazeh and the eternal olam haba'ah. but your attempt to cast blame on others for your failings is the worst type of cop out. r' kornbluth et al are not responsible for your shortcomings, and could not be expected to refrain from criticizing harmful mistruths just because you found them reassuring.

      first of all, if in their studied opinion, NS's views are kefira, what would it have benefited you had you been given the option of believing in them? that you could then be a different flavor of kofer than the one you are now? why is that an improvement? even if in your opinion they are mistaken, and NS's views are not kefira, they only have to give a din vecheshbon according to how they honestly understood the halacha.

      second, if you believe them to be true, what is preventing you from adopting NS beliefs now? how is r' kornbluth et al responsible for that?

      third of all, if many of the great jewish thinkers of the past generation felt that they understood the issues under discussion better than NS did, and that he was sorely mistaken, certainly it was appropriate for the likes of r' kornbluth to publicize that and let the chips fall where they may.

      i imagine that r' kornbluth is saddened by the loss of yourself from klal yisroel, but he is not to blame for that tragedy.

    2. It is the obvious manipulative, controlling, guilting messages like these from other mere mortals to explain why so many back away from religion.

    3. Dear IDF Veteran, Firstly, thank you for your service to the Jewish people. Secondly, thank you for your reply. It deserves a proper response, but unfornately I don't have the time now. Please "stay tuned" as this could lead to a helpful discussion.

    4. @Tuv, leave out the word 'obvious' or add 'to me'.

    5. IDF veteran your answer is a bit of a facepalm to me. One of the arguments used against Rabbi Slifkin's books and arguing for why they should be banned was that it would cause people to go OTD. Suddenly that is not something we can blame on the influence of others when it might be attributed to someone you perceive as being in your camp?

      "third of all, if many of the great jewish thinkers of the past generation felt that they understood the issues under discussion better than NS did, and that he was sorely mistaken, certainly it was appropriate for the likes of r' kornbluth to publicize that and let the chips fall where they may."

      If the great Jewish thinkers of the past generations (ie rishonim and acharonim) whom Rabbi Slifkin cited as support to views he was presenting understood the issues better than R Kornreich (certainly they did) and differently than he and his rebbe Rav Meiselman do, certainly it was appropriate for Rabbi Slifkin to publicize those views and let the chips fall where they may.

    6. student v,

      you write "One of the arguments used against Rabbi Slifkin's books and arguing for why they should be banned was that it would cause people to go OTD"
      i'm not sure what you mean. the argument was that by representing false ideas about the nature of god/judaism/torah, as being grounded in authentic jewish sources, there was a danger that people who didn't have a strong grounding in jewish philosophy (which includes the vast majority of jews alive at this time) would be led astray in to kefira (if you have sufficient expertise on the subject, you may feel entitled to believe that the ideas in question are not false, but that is not relevant to those making the argument). if that is what you meant by people being led OTD, then i don't understand the rest of that comment. if you meant something else by OTD then that is not relevant to the controversy at hand.

      you wrote further "If the great Jewish thinkers of the past generations (ie rishonim and acharonim) whom Rabbi Slifkin cited as support to views he was presenting understood the issues better than R Kornreich (certainly they did) and differently than he and his rebbe Rav Meiselman do, certainly it was appropriate for Rabbi Slifkin to publicize those views and let the chips fall where they may." here too, i'm having some difficulty understanding what you mean. i'm not sure whether or not you are familiar with what the argument actually was, but just in case, for the sake of clarity i will spell it out.

      many great jewish thinkers argued that the rishonim in general, and the rambam in particular did not take the positions that NS presented them as taking. NS argued that he understood the rambam better than they did, and that he was presenting rambam's true position. that is the primary issue that was under dispute (although there were secondary issues as well). to argue that NS could base his understanding of the rishonim on the support that his interpretation of them offered , when that is the very issue being disputed, is circular logic.

      if you meant something other than what i understood you to mean, please clarify so that i can give some thought to whatever your real point is.

  8. Rabbi Slikin, You don't need to quote just Rav Herzog.The Ran in Drashos Haran (drasha 7) says explicitly that its doesn't matter if/when chazal got things wrong. What the sages decide based on the halachik system and its rules IS what god commanded.
    שההכרעה נמסרה לחכמי הדורות, ואשר יסכימו הם הוא אשר צוהו ה'
    highly recommended reading.

  9. On the topic of fears...

    here is one that pertains to slifkin. He refers to everyone who is considered a rabbi - even those he hates - as a rabbi.

    When quoting them more than once in an article, he will use pronouns and other tactics to avoid having to repeat "rabbi" multiple times (looks bizarre) but using just the last name of the rabbi is a big no-no for him.

    Why? Secular articles don't do this at all. And he does it even with people he hates. And extra derech ertez isn't his strong suit.

    Answer. Slifkin views himself as a rabbi (and doctor, not sure how. Pediatrician?) and therefore since he wants to be a rabbi, he feels the need to bend over backwards to call others rabbi so that we all know a rabbi is a rabbi is a rabbi no matter what. Fear?

    It's kinda sad. Just go by your name. Get over yourself.

    1. Thank you, Ziggy, for pointing out, so insightfully, the limitations of ad hominem rhetoric and demonstrating so beautifully how one can debate the issues without resorting to hateful, personal attacks.

      You're a wonderful role model!

      Kinda sad that others here don't follow your inspiring example.

      BTW, have you thought about entering the world of kiruv?

      With beautiful thoughts like these, you'd be so effective!!

    2. Dovid responded more cleverly than I could have, but let's add a practical aspect:
      If RNS did NOT use the title "rabbi" when referring to his opponents, he would get blasted for being disrespectful. So now that he uses the term rabbi, you have to dan l'kaf chov to uncover a secret agenda! Shkoyach! K'shem shekibalta s'char al hadrisha, kein tekabel s'char al haprisha.

      I know that in academic articles, the practice is to simply write the last name with no title. But a blog post is not an academic article. I get annoyed and offended when I read blogs and newspaper articles that leave off the "Rabbi" - I always particularly liked to see it here.

    3. @Ziggy, on the topic of vocabulary, anyone who passes their PhD exams in any subject is called a doctor. In older English they wouldn't say sage or scholar but doctor.

    4. Ziggy, how did you come up with this far-fetched fairytale? You should consider being an author of fictional books. You seem to have the imagination for it.

  10. Jeffrey,

    About your question about my source:

    1. About Shabbos, it was explicit in a discussion in the comments, I cannot find right now. Maybe later. However, consider this. The picture emerging from this blog is one of chareidim being worse than secular Jews, who he considers fine, upstanding Jews who could perhaps use some improvement. That alone should tell you all you need to know. He will not nor can he deny this, it is absolutely central to his entire secularist ideology.
    2. Homosexuality
    3. Mezuza
    4. Brain death, many posts, just search in search box. The issue is changing the entire perspective of Chazal of what life and death is, l'halacha.

  11. Actually, the primary issue is that we lack the mechanism to correct and update chazal - the Sanhedrin. Once we restore the Sanhedrin, we can and should update Judaism to modern times.

    1. "Once we restore the Sanhedrin ..."

      A colossal Pandora box. No thank you. Klal Yisrael and its Poskim are managing fine without it.

    2. Do you not recite the "hashiva shofeteinu" beracha in Shemoneh Esrei?
      Of course it is a huge problem that halakha has become fossilized.

    3. Hashem does not agree.

    4. LOL. When you restore YOUR sanhedrin, there will be at least five concurrent sanhedrins to disagree on everything, and all of Klal Yisrael will stand by, wondering wether to laugh or to cry.

    5. The 'Jew' said it 'well' ;) . Just look at the Knesset. 5 Jews 12 opinions.

      Nice fancy word, fossilized. Grin and bear it.

    6. "and all of Klal Yisrael will stand by, wondering wether to laugh or to cry"

      We already are.

    7. This is the biggest indicator that we need a supernatural Mashiach process. Either it will come with "updates" (similar to Yechezkel changing some things about the Bais HaMikdash and halachos of Kohanim, but more so) such as no more animal sacrifices and other modernizations, or it will reinstate such things but everyone will be totally OK with it.* The Sanhedrin may not be completely unified, but there will be a clear leader.

      I state no preference for which direction, as even if it option 2, I will happily be going along with it.

      A more natural kind of Geulah, a la Purim, I feel would have real difficulty reinstating korbanos or even having any kind of Sanhedrin where representatives of different strains of Yahadus can even talk to each other in the same room.

      *Ever read "Murderer in the Mikdash"? This book deals with a post-Messianic society (but one that has people and human nature very much like that of today), and needing to provide lots of animals for korbanos actually turns out to be kinda relevant. The story otherwise actually stays out of the Mikdash...

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. "And so I think it's clearly true that acknowledging Chazal to be mistaken on anything, even the spontaneous generation of salamanders, has the potential to lead to serious undermining of Judaism."

    Baloney. This is only true for two groups.

    1. Those educated that Chazal were scientifically infallible (i.e. most Chareidim). This rocks their boat.

    2. Those already with issues who use this as an excuse.

    Everyone else finds other aspects of Judaism inspiring and either aren't bothered with this aspect in the first place or are bothered and then forget about it and go further anyway.

    1. "2. Those already with issues who use this as an excuse."

      I should add, this means that if this excuse doesn't work they'll come up with something else.

      And if they can't come up with any excuse at all like borey minei zonos people, they'll still do whatever they please.

      So you'd be 'providing' them with an excuse that they don't even need.

  14. Why isn't my comment appearing?

  15. Rabbis prove one another wrong all the time, in the discussions of the Gemara

  16. "Stating that the Gemara contains scientific errors opens the door for saying that it contains moral and halachic errors, especially regarding the nature and role of women. It could potentially lead to a complete undermining of the mesorah and a reform of Judaism."

    Also baloney. Nishtaneh Hateva is also capable of undermining the mesorah and reforming Judaism. But that school somehow knows what its limits are and keeps the door shut. The error school can do the same trick.


    Why do you attribute your approach to Rav Herzog? Much greater authorities said it before him. This is like those who attributed the error approach to R Avraham Ben Harambam. They forgot the greater authorities who said the same thing.

    1. Oops! The post already had my comment about Nishtaneh Hateva.

  17. I can say personally that Simcha Coffer is a gentleman and a good person. When I started questioning things a few years back he sat with me on the phone for long periods of time to discuss the different questions.

    Nonetheless, I think his general approach is meiselman-esque and intellectually dishonest. Which is why I ABSOLUTLEY can attest to problem #2. With the advent of the internet, Charedi apologetics makes the problem way worse by setting up a false dichotomy of rigid fundamentalism and secular naturalism - this is a huge problem.

    1. Not to worry. Professor Slifkin says Rabbi Coffer "famously" compared attending an evolution conference to attending a brothel. These "famous" remarks are linked to a blog somewhere. Our professor has delusions of grandeur that anything to do with himself is "famous". I don't think we or R. Coffer need to take the professor's mischaracterizations too seriously.

    2. The word "famous" is abused alot. Don't take it too seriously.

  18. At the risk of starting an argument I don't have time to continue (and hence the anonymous post), I think the entire idea that "if Chazal didn't know the science, then their halachic rulings based on said science must also be wrong" is a flawed assumption.

    As I've always understood it (and I could be wrong here), The halacha comes from the Oral Torah - which was taught to Moshe on Sinai, and handed down orally through the generations. It is absolutely not based on logic derived from scientific observations. Rather, contemporary scientific knowledge has been used as additional justification in order to make it easier for the population at large to understand halachot that may otherwise be difficult or impossible for some people to understand. That is, it is backup information, not the primary justification.

    When Chazal states an opinion on halacha, it is based on their understanding of the Oral Torah - what was taught to them by their rabbis, and so on, back to Moshe. The reason there is sometimes disagreement is because (due to the Romans and possibly others) the transmission was not perfect - which is why the Mishna was written in the first place.

    So when Chazal mentions scientific observations as a justification for halacha, they are not saying that the halacha is based on the science. They are using their current understanding of the world as a way to provide an after-the-fact explanation for halachot that they received (imperfectly, because of the Romans) via the oral tradition and the Mishna.

    If they had modern scientific knowledge, they would not have changed the halacha, but they would have provided a different explanation for aligning received halacha with this different scientific knowledge.

    1. Anon, this does not seem to be exactly true. "Science" (=physical observations) seems to be a major part of our Sages' decisions in halacha. Maybe they also used it as after-the-fact explanations for their sevara, in the same way many Rishonim and Acharonim explain that they used pesukim. But we would need more investigation into our Mesorah to see if that really holds water.

      Since you are somebody who is mekabel the Torah SheBaal Peh and the Mesorah that goes along with it, let me humor you with an explanation that you may like. Or not. Here it is:

      Really, Chazal did use "science" to decide halacha. As we see throughout Shas and halacha in countless cases. But it was not modern science. Since the Torah was given in antiquity, it could not have possibly relied on the Sages knowing modern science. The Torah itself relied on them knowing only antiquated science. Therefore, for example, if it was reasonable for people in antiquity to say lice are not פרה ורבה (and if it was truly a universal belief back then, that would show that it was definitely reasonable) then it was likewise reasonable for that to be the halacha. And that doesn't change, as long as we are dealing with the same lice or bugs that are similar. In this way we uphold all of halacha the way our Mesorah does, while admitting from a modern scientific perspective that it is wrong.

      What we should strenuously avoid saying is that the the Sages simply erred, or just as bad, that they erred simply because they listened to other people who erred. This is exactly what all of the Rabbis of our Mesorah constantly try to avoid. No, if they said that 8 month old fetuses are not viable, they were reflecting their experience and observations. It was not simply an error. If they said lice don't reproduce, they investigated to the extent they could, and never saw babies. That is not an error, it is true from an ancient science perspective. And thus true l'halacha as well.

      All of this is l'halacha. With regard to aggados, we already have many Rishonim who just don't engage with them and don't feel it necessary to uphold them, at least in a literal manner. This is what they mean by אין משיבים מן האגדות.

    2. Thank you Rav Dessler.

    3. I see a lot of distinction without a difference here. Semantics aside, you're much closer to NS than perhaps you would admit.

    4. I was wondering the same thing as weaver. (If possible answer in short cause your longer comments aren't always so easy to follow.)

    5. Weaver, I had similar thoughts. I see not much daylight between "they thought what everyone else thought" and "they erred because they based their thinking on those who erred." At some point, "what everyone thinks" is gonna based on something that someone said...


    6. Yosef R, I responded to Weaver below. I would have responded at more length but Anon specifically requested to keep it short.

      As for your question, there is a gigantic difference between "they erred because they based their thinking on those who erred" and "they used ancient science". One is an error, one is not. One claims they had no way to decide the correct halacha, or worse, that there is no correct halacha, and is thus denial of the Torah sheBaal Peh, and the other upholds the Torah sheBaal Peh. And if you have any doubt about this, just read the Rabbi's post here (if you can stomach it).

    7. Yosef R, to clarify further. When I say they relied on ancient science, my point was that this ancient science was actually correct for all practical purposes. If you lived back then, there is no way you would be able to find a lice baby in a nit. You might tell people with the knowledge you have now that they exist, but try all you want, you wouldn't be able to demonstrate. They are simply too hard to see. And this is what the Torah relies on.

      Whereas the Rabbi and other secularists say that Chazal stated this halacha without bothering to investigate, and just relied on others who also didn't bother to investigate and just made stuff up. And not just in this case, but in any cases dealing with the מציאות. And not just with science, but with their attitudes and values as well. עפ"ל.

      Is the difference clear now?

    8. @Anonymous April 11, 2022 at 5:59 PM

      Rav Dessler says like you, Michtav M'Eliyahu volume IV page 355.

  19. "If possible answer in short cause your longer comments aren't always so easy to follow."

    I am sorry about that, in general I try to comment as briefly as possible. I will try harder IY"H. Did you find my previous comment hard to follow?

    To answer the question, there really is no need. Just read the post from the Rabbi (if you can stomach it). בוא וראה את התועבות הרעות אשר הם עושים פה. The question answers itself. Do you think for even a second that I ח"ו agree with a word of כל דברי גידופיו נגד כל רבותינו ונגד המסורה???!!!

    My previous comment was just a response to Anon, giving an explanation for what I thought the "science" of our Sages/the Torah was. I don't see how anybody could view that in any way, shape, or form as a capitulation to the secularists ח"ו.

    1. "To answer the question, there really is no need. Just read the post from the Rabbi (if you can stomach it). בוא וראה את התועבות הרעות אשר הם עושים פה. The question answers itself. Do you think for even a second that I ח"ו agree with a word of כל דברי גידופיו נגד כל רבותינו ונגד המסורה???!!!"

      I read this post carefully twice to try to find what you're referring to. Can you be more specific? Thank you.

    2. Everything in the post is טמא טמא יקרא, I can't find even one thing that is not completely against our Mesorah, both in tone and in substance. Quoting the Rambam, R' Herzog etc. doesn't count because of the shocking way he abuses them, it makes it even worse. How about we do this the other way, find me something that you think is kosher? Find me that one little piece of kosher meat hidden in the pork section.

      Regarding the specific question of what is the difference between his view of the Sage's science and mine, look at my second response to Yosef R.

  20. If you say the teva can change, you undermine one of our best indications that God exist. First cause. Nothing physical including energy can create itself. But if you say the teva changed it's not an indication at all! Back then something physical could create itself but now the tevah has changed!

    1. First cause argument applies to all existence, not just the olive!

  21. "Essentially they are admitting that their approach to conflicts between Chazal and science is intellectually dishonest, but that it is driven by the larger goals."

    Maybe not. It could be that they are motivated by an agenda, but that in of itself is not intellectually dishonest. In fact, admitting the agenda would suggest that they're not necessarily being intellectually dishonest, no matter how strained their conclusions. There's a difference between not being coldly unobjective & being intellectually dishonest.

  22. "The second reason why they are wrong is that insisting that Chazal were never mistaken about science can also lead to serious undermining of Judaism...."

    Do you remember the link to Rav Kunstadt who basically says the same thing?

  23. @happygoluckypersonage

    The deciding of halacha is lo bashamayim, and given to our chachamim with the best tools they have. Chazal's grasp of science potentially only affect a few halachos anyway. It doesn't "undermine the entire system" as you say. The Chasam Sofer says straight out that Rashi was wrong because he didn't know the relevant anatomy among countless other examples. It doesn't magically change for the Gemara, although yes, it is not our first choice to say that.

    1. "The deciding of halacha is lo bashamayim, and given to our chachamim with the best tools they have. "

      Wonderful, and I agree. But lo bashamyim doesn't mean there is no correct halacha that the Sages were trying to figure out, ח"ו. Indeed, when you say "with the best tools they have", that means they were using the tools for something! They certainly felt they were using them to determine an objective, correct halacha.

      And same with everybody in our Mesorah who felt the need to resolve seeming errors and contradictions in halacha. They didn't just say, "Oh, it's fine if our halacha is built on mistakes, we keep it anyway". For obvious reasons, as illustrated in the Rabbi's post and his whole blog.

      " Chazal's grasp of science potentially only affect a few halachos anyway."

      This is simply wrong. Probably close to 50% of halachos or more are based on Chazal's understanding of the מציאות. Even something like the Zman Krias Shema shel Shacharis depends on Chazal knowing when kings arise in the morning with sufficient accuracy. Maybe you mean that we only find direct contradictions to a few halachos? That doesn't matter though. Once you say that Chazal had insufficient tools to decide the halacha, or worse, that there is no objective halacha ח"ו, that indeed undermines the whole system, whether you happened to have found a contradiction or not. Despite the secularist's extreme abuse of Tanur shel Achnai, which doesn't even warrant a response.

      And again, I am not making this up. This is the whole point of the Rabbi's post, the whole point of this blog, and the whole point of secularism in general.

  24. אמר זאת איש גאוני
    האמת לא מתאימה
    למסורת המלומדת

  25. If Chazal were wrong about something it would have the same impact as a scientific body being wrong about something, or the federal judiciary being wrong about something. (Nothing, in other words.) Why would it be any different? How does this possibly undermine anything? Does any system in the word break down because somebody makes a mistake???

    This post truly makes no sense whatsoever.

  26. Gershon, you appear to have received a Torah Chinuch. But as someone with interests beyond what they taught in Yeshivah, it is surprising that you don't show more familiarity with Torah perspectives on Chasimas Hashas.

    1. I have indeed received, as you style it, a Torah Chinuch. And yet I still cannot fathom why a mistake of chazal, even multiple errors, should lead to delegitimization of the entire franchise. How does this make any sense at all? No doubt the fault for this inability is my own thick head, and hence I would, very sincerely, appreciate some explanation for what appears - to me, at any rate - complete rubbish.

    2. @Gershon, sorry I misunderstood you. There was a time when this together with other things swayed people. It continues to challenge people on the fence. Why? Not sure, but probably because of different things coming together. But it happened/s.

      Just to check again, are you saying that RMM & RK are taking things too seriously with their concerns that the franchise might collapse if we concede one or multiple mistakes?

    3. Anon - I'm not sure whose concerns they are exactly, but yes, I think it takes things too far to think that the franchise (i.e, orthodox Jewry) would collapse if we conceded mistakes. The past two years have been nothing if not a series of mistakes, one after another, on the part of both democracy and the scientific establishment, and yet the true believers in both are unmoved.

      Consider it: The only mistakes we can be speaking about are those that can be proved empirically. Such statements are relatively few and far between. The bulk of chazal's pronouncements concern the interpretation of pesukim. Such drashos *cannot* be proven wrong, by definition. At most we can say we don't find them compelling. But such is the way of statutory construction. It does not in any way follow to say that it chazal erred (e.g.) in defining the gestation period of a snake, then their rabbinic traditions or interpretations must necessarily also be mistaken.

      Gershon Pickles

  27. I'm puzzled by this discussion. Doesn't the Gemara it self state in the name of Rav Yehuah (Pesachim 94 I think) that "their science is better than ours"? It seems to me that statement is a declaration of humility regarding matters of the natural world, and Chazal themselves would certainly embrace any new knowledge to help them understand it more accurately.


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