Final Words from I, Voldemort
I'm very much hoping that this will be the third and final part of my response to Rabbi Yaakov Menken.
Rabbi Menken once again responded to my post (see the update to his original response) and, once again, only attempts to respond to part of it. His response to the Pi topic is to issue a stream of seemingly contradictory statements that have left many people confused. Here is a selection:
"Chazal were ahead of their times because they knew Pi was irrational, plain & simple."
"...[Natan Slifkin] implied that either RMM or I said “their use of pi = 3 PROVES that they knew that pi is irrational,” this is nonsense. No one said that."
"It is the Rambam’s confident assertion that the value of Pi cannot be known that is extraordinary."
"The Rambam’s statement itself is evidence that Chazal possessed knowledge of the physical world beyond what was known to other cultures.”
I think that he's trying to say that Rambam's statement about Pi being an irrational number could only have come from Chazal and therefore proves that Chazal were ahead of their times. However, the claim that Rambam's description of Pi as an irrational number could only have come from Chazal (who said nothing more than that Pi equals three!) is rather staggering and requires proof. Rabbi Meiselman provides nothing other than a weak argument that I refuted in the previous post. Furthermore, as I pointed out in the previous post, the other Rishonim clearly did not understand the Gemara that way. Rabbi Menken does not respond to my pointing out that he and Rabbi Meiselman are (yet again) categorically dismissing Tosafos and all the other Rishonim and Acharonim. And nor, of course, has he responded to anything else in my critique of his review.
But let's return to the psychological/sociological aspects. Yesterday I marveled at how Rabbi Menken describes me in unambiguous detail and yet refuses to mention my name. I mentioned my friend's suggestion that this is an obnoxious and unprofessional way of trying to avoid giving me any dignity. But Rabbi Menken himself claims that he does this for noble reasons:
"...because I did not want to descend to his level, and condemn him while naming names."
Can anyone tell me what on earth this is supposed to mean? What "descent to my level" is there? I might have been overly strident in describing his writings as being ludicrous and dishonest, but he went considerably lower in approvingly citing a description of my writings as "rabid"! Furthermore, Rabbi Menken has had no problem mentioning the names of people at Women Of The Wall or the Reform Movement in his condemnation of them. So how is it "descending" to any level in mentioning names?
Of course, it's all nonsense. The reason why he can mention the names of WoW or Reform is that they are not a serious threat to people in his circle. But I am, and that is why he is afraid to dignify me or give me any credibility by mentioning my name. It's similar to how the characters in Harry Potter are afraid to say Voldemort's name. Likewise, Rabbi Menken won't link to my posts (and gives the silly excuse that the reason is that he hopes that I will change my mind and remove them).
Yet as Dumbledore points out, refusing to say the name of Voldemort actually gives him more power. Likewise, virtually nobody is fooled by Rabbi Menken's excuses for not giving my name, and they are disgusted by both his refusing to mention my name or link to my posts, and his false excuses for it. So, ironically, his technique to try to devalue the opposition ends up having the opposite effect!