Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Yeshiveshe Orthopraxy and Scientism

Keenly, Reb Micha Berger commented on my last post:

Orthopraxis has always been with us. (Okay, maybe not at maamad har Sinai, so "always" here means since some days after.) Many people simply don't care enough to develop a personal philosophy, and just run on culture.

This is something different. People who have a personal philosophy based on scientism (the belief that all real questions are those science can address), and still just run on culture.

This ongoing residual fallout from the R' Slifkin contretemps is indeed a legitimate issue that must be addressed. Some Orthodox Jews have locked themselves into a corner ascribing to Chazal total knowledge and total infallibility. The ostensibly Orthoprax take advantage of this highly vulnerable position. In turn, when the extreme premise is evidently successfully assailed, one of two outcomes often result:

1. Those who glorify in scoffing are exhilarated.
2. Those who are sincere are confused and disheartened.

In reality, there is no reason - nor authentic source - to say that Chazal knew science at all. The clearly evident proof of this is the Gemara in Avodah Zarah 4, in which we see Adam HaRishon - yetzir kapav kivyachol of HKB"H - utterly ignorant of the basic phenomenon of seasons.

What we can and should expect from Chazal are:

1. Knowledge of history.
2. Astute observation of phenomena that came to their attention.
3. A total commitment to emes.

To be sure, the allure of scientism is strong. It is also utterly shallow, the refuge of a generation (both general and Jewish) that has lost its sense of the poetic, that equates sexuality with love, that animalizes its emotions rather than angelizes them - a generation that mistakes the superficial understanding of "what" and "how" with the transcendence of "why." Or, to cite Dr. Isaac Breuer, a generation that confuses ויהי with יהי!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. "In reality, there is no reason - nor authentic source - to say that Chazal knew science at all."

    Not accurate:

    The Rema in Toras HaOlah (1:2) states clearly that we assume rabbinic science to be infallible, and ancient rabbinic knowledge of astronomy complete.

    Medrash Tehillim (19) quotes Shmuel as saying he is an expert in the streets of Nehardea as much as he is an expert in the 'streets' of the heavens. The Medrash asks how Shmuel knew all of that, and it answers he knew it all through the Torah. It then quotes a R' Hoshea as saying there is "space" between the upper waters and the firmament, and the Medrash asks how R' Hoshea could know this unless he traveled to space. It answers, he knew it from the Torah.

    The Gemora in Bechoros 8a derives from a posuk in Bereishis the fact that gestation period of a snake is longer than the rest of the animal kingdom. This is cited by the Ramban (Toras Hashem Temima p.159 in Chavel edition) as but one example of how Chazal knew facts of science from the pesukim in the Torah that describe Brias HaOlam. He cites more. He says "the sages of Yisroel have knowledge through these pesukim of all of creation."

    Rabbeinu Bachyai writes in the Introduction to Chumash that all wisdom and science in existence is contained in Torah.

    Some scientific facts were known through rabbinic tradition. The Rashba cites a rabbinic tradition from Sinai that a treifah cannot live more than 12 months. (Rav Yonason Eyebushitz (kreisi Upleisi 40) writes that such traditions are not to be disregarded even if found to be against “all the laws of heaven and earth”, since they are part of Torah shebal peh.

    The Maharal, too, states that all science is included in Torah, as Chazal says "hafoch bah hafoch bah d'kulah bah" (Chidushei Agados Menachos 64b). Similarly, he writes(B’er Hagola 6) that when the sages mentioned a scientific fact, they derived it from their knowledge of the Torah and Hashem, Who is the Cause of all science. He says that science is inferior to Torah even where it comes to scientific knowledge, because scientists base their opinions on what they see, which is a finite and imperfect method of investigation, as opposed to knowledge of science through Torah, which is the root and cause for all facts in the world

    The Chosid Yaavatz (Ohr Hachaim) says that Chazal knew science form a Mesroah that goes back all the way to the Neviim, who knew it from Hashem, without any effort at all.

  3. Particularly interesting is a statement on this topic in the Aruch Hashulchan (EH 13). Quote:

    "I will tell you a great principle: Chazal, besides their holiness and wisdom in the Torah, were also greater scholars in the natural sciences those savants ("mischakmim") who would argue against their pure words. And someone who disagrees with them testifies about himself that he does not believe in Torah she bal peh, even though he would be embarrassed to admit it outright."

    Chasam Sofer (Beshalach) writes that this is the meaning of the posuk "Ki hi chachmascha ubinascha l'einei ha'amim" - Chazal were great experts in the secular sciences and disciplines. In fact, you need to know much secular knowledge in many areas in order to properly understand the Torah - and he gives several simple examples. However, since we are supposed to be busy learning Torah - not secular science - all day and night, and Hashem has no "nachas ruach" from us learning secular studies at all, how would Chazal have known all the secular wisdom that they clearly knew, as we see they did from all of Shas?

    Answer: They know it from the Torah, since the entire body of secular wisdom is included in the Torah, for the Torah is the blueprint of the world. And so, when the Goyim see that we do not study the secular science books at all - and we even disagree with them! - yet we derive all the secular knowledge, in the most precisely accurate form - from only the Sefer Torah, they will exclaim, "Am chacham v'navon hagoy hagadol hazeh!" (A similar explanation is given by the Raavad-ibn Daud. He says that the posuk refers to the philosophical truths that it took the nations centuries to develop, we knew all the time via tradition from Har Sinai.)

    Not only do we see that Chazal learned their science from the Torah, but Rav Breil, the Rebbi of the Pachad Yiztchok teaches us that we do not even entertain the possibility of a scientific statement in Chazal not coming from the Torah .This we see from Rav Briel's answer to the Pachad Yiztchok's question regarding the killing of lice on Shabbos. The Gemora permits it, based on a scientific fact. The Pachad Yiztchok asked his Rebbi that due to the possibility that this scientific fact is incorrect, perhaps we should be machmir and not kill lice on Shabbos, just in case.

    His Rebbi answered that there is no "just in case". Stating that Chazal’s knowledge is based on the reality, not mere scientific observation, he assures his Talmid that without a doubt the rabbinic science is more accurate than the science of the scientists, and even if currently it appears one way, the rabbinic view will eventually be proven correct. He mentions that in the disagreement between the sages and the scientists regarding whether the sun revolves around the earth or vice versa, the sages conceded to the scientists, but centuries later, it was proven that the Torah sages were right all along. Thus, he says there is no reason to even suspect that Chazal's statement regarding lice is inaccurate, and there is no reason to even be machmir because there is no chance of chilul shabbos at all.

    Once we establish that the scientific knowledge that is incorporated into Torah Shebal Peh is derived form the Torah, it has the same status as all of Chazal's interpretaitons of the Torah --- they are binding:

  4. I 21:1)

    The Sifri (48) explains the posuk in Devarim 11:22, "And you really follow all this Mitzvah", that "this means to learn Midrash, Halachah, and Agada."

    Rav Yiztchok Izak Chaver in Magen Vtzenah (p,49) - there are people who reject Chazal's statements because the secular scientists disagree (he gives examples, such as the sun rising above the firmament at night etc), and they laugh saying that we know its not true. They are fools. The GRA, who even the scientists admit that he knew science much better than them, accepted all words of Chazal as fact, and that the philosophers and scientists (chachmei hatechunah) are all wrong, and he believed in the truth of the simple straightforward understanding of the words of Chazal. The GRA said that the scientists didnt come to the ankles of our sages in any secular discipline or science.

    Chida (Shem Hagedolim: "Seforim":5:82) - There are a minority of Gedolim among us who disagree with Chazal because of their scientific knowledge, but they do not understand that Chazal had Eliyhau Hanavi informing them, and they had Ruach HaKodesh to inform them.

    Chasam Sofer -- Please see the Chasam Sofer in Beshalach I quoted above. He says the same thing in Drashos Chasam Sofer Vol. 1 p.100b. Our prophets and sages know all the sciences much better than the scientists even though all they learn is Torah. This is because the One Who created nature informs our sages of the correct facts. This is what amazes the Nations, as it says, Am navon v'chacham hagoy hagodol hazeh!

    An identical interpretation to that of the Chasam Sofer's explanation Am navon v'chacham (I quoted one earlier in the name of ibn Daud regarding philosophical knowledge) is found in the Ramak (Sefer HapPardes 13:6) regarding astronomy.

  5. The Gemora in Sanhedrin (100a) tells that R. Yochanan derived from a posuk that when Moshiach comes, the gates of Jerusalem will be made of jewels 30 amos long and 30 amos high. Some student said that such big jewels do not exist - "we do not even find jewels as big as doves eggs," he said. Then, one day the student saw angels (!) cutting such big stones, and he asked them what they are for. The angels answered: "They are for the gates of Jerusalem". When next he saw R. Yochana, he praised his qualifications for expounding the Torah, based on his "scientific observation" that confirmed the Rebbi's interpretation.

    R. Yochanan responded, "Bum! You only believe because of what you see? You dishonor the words of the sages!", and the student died.

    The Ran (Drashos #13) points out that the statemnt of R. Yochana had no halachic relevance at all - it was merely an Agadic interpretation, and the disagreement was regarding a scientific fact, yet the student was punished for not believing in its truth. Therefore, he concludes:

    "Just as we are commanded to follow their opinions regarding laws of the Torah, so too are we commanded to follow all of what they say from tradition in Hashkafa ("Deos"), and medrash on Pesukim. And someone who veers from their words, even in something that has no relevance to any Mitzvah, is an Apikores and has no share in the next world.

    The Radvaz (4:232) writes that "Aggadah is part of the Torah shebal peh and is rooted in what Moshe received on Har Sinai directly from Hashem, just like the rest of Torah shebal peh".

    Similarly from the Alshich: "Nobody has a right in our generation to disagree based on his own opinion, if he did not find such an opinion from his predecessors (Rebbeim). We are commanded "lo sosur", which includes also Agadita." (Shmuel II 21:1)

  6. From the Maharal (Ber Hagolah 6):

    The Maharal is explaining why Chazal sometimes seem to contradict what science says:

    Some people say that Chazal were not experts in the sciences. They say this because they see things stated by Chazal regarding causes of natural phenomenon that seem unlikely to be true. But the truth is not as these people claim, because when Chazal spoke about natural causes they did not mean superficial, physically scientific causes - that is fitting for scientists or doctors, not for our sages. Our sages, on the other hand, when they spoke about the causes of nature, were referring not to causes that are natural but to what causes nature to act the way it does. And anyone who disagrees with this disagrees with our Emunah and our Torah ... the idea is this: When the Torah mentions a natural reason for something, that is the real reason, for every natural phenomenon there is a scientific cause, but for that scientific cause there is a spiritual cause – i.e. that cause of the cause – and that is what Chazal were referring to … when they discussed scientific matters, they did not mean to describe the surface-level cause, but rather the reason of the cause….there are people who misunderstand the words of Chazal who criticize them, saying that they did not know things that the non-Jewish scientists knew, but the truth is the very claim they make against [Chazal] applies to them, for they are far from the true science .. I will tell you a rule about the words of the sages: all their words are logical, and represent the true understanding of nature .. and even though some people will find this idea far-flung or doubtful as an explanation of what Chazal meant, but you should know that there is no doubt at in any manner whatsoever that this is what Chazal mean … for their words are correct and reliable, and only someone who does not understand them will have doubts … I have already explained that Chazal were not discussing the physical aspects of things but rather their essence … the words of Chazal are with wisdom and logic and are not surface-level [physical] descriptions, but rather the words of our sages refer to the essence, and have no relation to the outer, material matter.

  7. The Rama in Toras HaOlah quotes the Rambam who says that in the days of Neviim and Chazal, the science of astronomy was “incomplete”. The Rama strongly argues, stating clearly that we assume rabbinic science to be infallible, and ancient rabbinic knowledge of astronomy complete.

    The Maharal (B’er Hagola 6) writes that when the sages mentioned a scientific fact, they derived it from their knowledge of the Torah and Hashem, Who is the Cause of all science. He says that science is inferior to Torah even where it comes to scientific knowledge, because scientists base their opinions on what they see, which is a finite and imperfect method of investigation, as opposed to knowledge of science through Torah, which is the root and cause for all facts in the world.

    The fact that science in Chazal was gathered from “higher sources” was used by Rav Yehuda Breil ZT'L, Rebbi of the author of encyclopedia Pachad Yitzchok, to refute his student’s suggestion that we reconsider Chazal’s leniency of killing lice on Shabbos because lice are spontaneously generated. The Pachad Yitzchok suggested to his Rebbi that now that science has refuted the possibility of spontaneous generation, we should not be lenient in allowing the killing of lice on Shabbos.

    But Rav Breil did not accept the suggestion. Stating an idea similar to that of the Maharal, that Chazal’s knowledge is based on the reality, not mere scientific observation, it is certain that the rabbinic science is more accurate than the science of the scientists, and even if currently it appears one way, the rabbinic view will eventually be proven correct. He mentions that in the disagreement between the sages and the scientists regarding whether the sun revolves around the earth or vice versa, the sages conceded to the scientists, but centuries later, it was proven that the Torah sages were right all along (note: See Shitah Mekubetzes that the sages never conceded that the gentiles were right; they merely “lost the argument”. They knew from tradition that they were right; they just could not defend the correct position). .

    (The Pachad Yitzchok never actually took that position in actual practice – I think he prefaces his remarks with lulei demistapinah (“if I wouldn’t be scared, this is what I would say”), meaning that he thought it was a good idea, but he was not certain enough about it for him to actually take it on as his position. So he presented it to his Rebbi for feedback. His Rebbi basically told him that he was right for being scared to say it because it is 100% wrong.)

  8. Volume 10 of Yabia Omer was published, which points this out as well. In YD:24 he discusses a certain Rabbi Shamah who was teaching the opinion of Rabbeinu Avrohom in a Sefardic Yeshiva in Brooklyn. Rav Ovadiah writes that it is wrong to do so, because we do not pasken like that Rabeinu Avrohom. He quotes the Ramah, the Shitah Mekubetzes, and Rav Breil that I mentioned (as well as others, kdarko). After he explains how Chazal and are correct in what they say, both in Halachah and Agada, even if the scientists claim differently, and that in those places where science seems to contradict Chazal – he gives 2 examples: spontaneous generation of lice and the earth being the center of the solar system – Chazal are correct, afterwards he writes: “And I am not unaware of what Rabeinu Avrohon ben Harambam wrote, that was printed at the beginning of the Ain Yaakov . . . but nevertheless, we [hold] that we [abide] only by Chazal, as per the Achronim that I have quoted. And indeed we see that the doctors and scientists of today, their mouths are full of laughter as they mock the scientists and doctors of previous generations. And there is no doubt that the scientists of the next generation after us will similarly laugh at the scientists and the doctors of our generation, and refute their opinions, and so why should we rely on their opinions over those of Chazal?”

  9. ר' פוסט יקירי, כמה הולמים לך הדברים האלה:

    ספר בניהו בן יהוידע על ברכות דף סג/א

    אנשים הללו של שוא הן של תוהו. הן נראה לי בס"ד כפל הלשון כנגד ב' עניינים שטהרו מה שטימא והתירו מה שאסר, אי נמי יש מטהר השרץ ומראה לו פנים שאין אתה יכול לדחות דבריו, ויש מטהר השרץ בדברי תוהו שהוא מגבב דברים שהם נדחים בנקל, ולזה אמר של שוא הן שהתירו האסור, ואל תחשבו שהביא ראיות כאותו שהיה מטהר השרץ ומראה פנים אלא של תוהו הן שאין בהם ממש שהאדם תוהה ובוהה בהם.

  10. I predicted to my caller of today that someone like our friend Reb Post would show up and spew references which are actually irrelevant but seem impressive to those who do not realize that they are all שוא ותוהו as pithily explained by the Ben Ish Chai. My caller acknowledged that this would be very likely to happen, but that it was nevertheless worthwhile to state preemptively that the "evidence" is as cobwebs, and I acquiesced. If anyone is really bothered by something that Reb Post has posted, there is an icon to click on the left side of the blog to call me.

  11. Why the necessity for a private phone call to explain away something, rather than explain away whatever can be right over here?

  12. Rabbi Bechhofer, if you publish a post on this topic, it seems only fair for you to refute the sources that are brought by a reader in opposition to what you wrote.

  13. In response to the last two comments, I have no idea what Starcraft is, but I am impressed at the level of contemplation its evidently teenage devotees possess:

  14. A very good website with lots of sources that Chazal did not possess perfect scientific knowledge:

  15. Every valid posting action provokes an equal and opposite commenting reaction. Maybe more!

  16. How about just addressing the Divrei Rishonim- not any individual blogger? Explain how you learn the Rishonim, so that other reader well know how to learn them likewise. It would seem to most readers that "post" quoted strong sources- please explain your approach to those makoros.

  17. The point is completely being overlooked here. The point was that "those who scoff are being exalted, and those who are sincere are being disheartened".

    There are some orthoprax places where I have given Divrei Torah that a mere mention of an Aggadta or Midrash provokes statements, such as "you don't believe that do you?!" The problem of the accusation is that it leaves the speaker (me, in this case) looking like a brainless zealot. Meanwhile, the power of the mussar (or point of the aggadta) is completely dissolved and no one benefits.

    Some orthoprax have become immune to Yiras Hashem and make it their business to inoculate others.

    With all due respect to Reb Post, the "science of Chazal" is definitely worthy of discussion, but completely misplaced here (and polarizing to say the least). Let's get back to the point of orthopraxy and the fall-out due to their misplaced belief or lack thereof.

  18. Which position of which Rishon serves as a foundational tenet of disbelief for an Orthoprax Jew?

  19. Way before scientism, there was Greek philosophy, which caused similar fallout. Our resistance to that threat was stiffened by the contributions of our greatest Torah thinkers who addressed it head-on in their writings. The need is to address such threats though reason, not brute force that only ticks people off.

  20. I'll i'm saying is "post" listed a number of Rishonim and Achronim some who wrote their opnions in Sifrei Halacha. He didn't only cite the name of the sources but even the passage itself. I'm not defending his conclusion, I'll i'm saying is that it would be fair for you to wrote some kind of response dealing with the substance and facts of his arguments (not opinions).

  21. Daas Torah was also colored by scientism. If we understood the difference between the magestria of science and of religion, and didn't artificially place that of science in the center, there would be no "need" to ascribe scientific expertise to Chazal.

    The chareidi is resisting the zeitgeist within its own terms. Rather than playing the old game, they are going with the teams as defined by scientism and then just add "but our side would win".

  22. I find "Post"s position interesting, in an anthropological sense. Chazal disagree about science -- some held the sun goes behind a semi-spherical raqia at night, others, that it went under a flat earth (and heated up the water), and yet others supported the Ptolemaic model where everything revolves around a spherical earth.

    More interesting is that it runs against the composer of the mishnah, who comments in the aforementioned machloqes (Pesachim 94b), "א"ר: ונראין דבריהן מדברינו" (and then continues by placing his bets on the under-the-flat-earth horse). Rebbe had no problem bowing to Greek scientific theory over that of his beis medrash.

    The key to accepting all of Chazal's statements as fact is to realize that even when they were talking science, they weren't really talking about the science itself. See the Ramchal's Maamar Aggados about how chazal didn't discuss the physical objects, but their penimiyus.

    "Post" misinterprets the Gra, who says similarly in his commentary on Seifer haYetzirah. The Gra explains that when Rebbe (quoted above) said "nir'in divreihem", he meant that it looks like they were right and we erred, but that is only because it only looks like we were really talking about science, and not using science as a mashal.

    But as I opened, the most fascinating part is the willingness to believe that Chazal had expertise they themselves deny, even when it would require ignoring one's own senses. (If the world is flat, why can you see boats sink below the horizon?)

  23. Reb Micha, ZZGG!

    ומבנין א' מב' דברים המבין יבין על כולנה

  24. RMB said:

    "The key to accepting all of Chazal's statements as fact...chazal didn't discuss the physical objects, but their penimiyus..."

    Interestingly, "Post" himself brought this down when he quoted the Maharal:

    "I have already explained that Chazal were not discussing the physical aspects of things but rather their essence … the words of Chazal are with wisdom and logic and are not surface-level [physical] descriptions, but rather the words of our sages refer to the essence, and have no relation to the outer, material matter..."

  25. A quick google search reveals that "post's" posts are not his own on the spot chiddushim. They are rather cut and pasted from a certain Frumteens website.

    It is unclear if 'post' actually believes his postings or is concern trolling for the orthoprax. In other words, it isn't clear which of the two groups he belongs to:
    "1. Those who glorify in scoffing are exhilarated.
    2. Those who are sincere are confused and disheartened."

  26. It would be interesting to read a response to "post"'s [cut and pasted?] comments that are sourced in halachic books (The Rema in Toras HaOlah, Aruch Hashulchan (EH), Chida (Shem Hagedolim)).....

  27. I have responded to "Post" elsewhere that if Chazal knew science, why at the time of the churban did they not make a plane or tank and bomb the Romans. Even a single cannonball would have frightened their horses and sent them reeling. If they had the knowledge, they would have been mechuyav because of Lo saamod al dam rayecha. (Bahadi kavshi derachmana lamah lach, mai difkadis ibaey lach lmeevad. Even if it was the RBSH's will to destroy bais hamikdash, that would not patur a person from fighting the Romans with every weapon at his disposal.)

    Second, the Rambam writes that the planets are embedded in hard clear hemispheres one inside the other like bowls. (Apparently bothered why they don't fall down to earth.) Yet, our rockets never crashed into these hard hemispheres, as they don't exist. Not in any way to minimize gadlus of Rambam, as he would have been first to say go with science of your day, not our primitive knowledge. See Hil Kiddush Hachodesh 17, 24 where he writes that any scientifically or mathematically proven fact, even by a non-Jew, has status of divrei neviim.

    Third, if gedolim were able to know science from Torah alone, would any of those alive today be able to pass a graduate exam in physics or chem or engineering, etc.? If they could, would be a nes goluy, and a true kiddush Hashem. Why not show the world what can be achieved from Torah study.

    Fourth, the science mentioned in chazal does not fit well within the framework of how science is studied today. Chazal will often make a pronouncement that substance X is good for condition Y. But they don't explain how. Which molecules of the substance react with which molecules of the sick individual. For example they say an extract of the kidney is good for the ear, but for which condition, and how does it work? While even in modern medicine we have FDA approved remedies whose mechansim is unknown, but are used based on statistical studies showing they work a certain percentage of the time and are not harmful, this is not the ideal, and active research usually is underway in those cases to uncover the molecular mechanism. The scientific statements in chazal are often very terse, unclear, and disjointed. They do not contain enough information to fit in a modern framework. This does not mean they are false, but just not useful.

    As an example, suppose Chazal said if you throw a ball with x speed, at y angle, it will go z feet. Even if the number z were correct, it would not be useful, because we want a theory that explains the trajectory for every possible x and y, as physics has been able to do, not just a single isolated case. We would have no way of knowing the general rule from one example.

    Fifth, I am very curious how Chazal could do algebra without a fraction bar or equals sign.

    Sixth, there are Rashi's in gemara and chumash which go to tremendous arichus to show how to multiply two numbers. While they are generally correct, Rashi never wastes a single word. If multiplication were common knowledge then, would he have to explain each step and subtotal, writing a whole paragraph? Just say x times y is z. No need for the Keitzad....

  28. Barry,

    Your responses are inadequate. They do not address the question, which is, the Rama, Aruch Hashulchan, Chida, and many others state clearly that Chazal did know science. Your response attempts to claim they are all wrong. The question remains: If it is so obvious, for such obvious reasons as Barry explained, so obvious even to a simple layman, that Chazal did not know science, why do all these Torah giants, who knew a lot more than said layman, claim they do?

    On one, single exceptional statement you can say men shtarbt nit fun a kasha. But clearly, it is accepted among a large consensus of Torah authorities along the generational trail, that Chazal knew science very well, and they got it form the Torah.

    Can you explain that,, Barry? RYGB? Anybody?

  29. Mavin,

    What difference does it make if the Rama, AhS and Chida held that way? You don't have to hold that way. The extent of Chazal's knowledge of the sciences is not a core issue in Judaism. It is a peripheral issue that was blown out of proportion because of the R' Slifkin controversy.

    But, for the purpose of דע מה שתשיב, if someone approaches you concerning these three, or other, sources that Reb Post cites, you should caution them as to R' Post's naivete, ignorance - or (although I would hope this is not the case) deliberate guile:

    1. He does not quote a soure in the Toras HaOlah. By computer search I find no such quote.

    2. The AhS is only quoted in part, and therefore misconstrued. He says the primary reason for the halacha in question there is psychology - not biology. And he also does not say Chazal were infallible in matters of science, but that they knew more than their antagonists.

    3. Same with the Chida - partial quote and misconstrued. The Chida does not say that they knew the sciences through Eliyahu HaNavi and Ruach HaKodesh! But rather that they perceived divine truth and based their statements on that divine truth rather than on scientific knowledge.

  30. As I said before to "Post", he didn't actually read the sources he cut-n-pasted (here and elsewhere). See my earlier reply.

    For example, the Rama is Toras haOlah 1:11, not 1:2. And he's not talking about science, he's talking about all the Greek philosophy found in Chazal.

  31. To quote Toras ha'Olah, original (pg 13) and R' Daniel Eidensohn's translation:

    ...כי באמת כל חכמת הפילוסופי' והחוקרים בא להן מישראל. וכל חכמתן כלול בתורה כמו שהאריך הרב המורה להורות שכל החכמות הפילוסופי' נמצא במדשרי חז"ל ואגדותיהן. ודע כי ראיתי בספר אחד ישן מאד והיו מצויירין בו כל הפילוסופי' בצורתן וחכמתן איך המציאן והיה כתוב בו שב' אקרוט שהוא שקראוהו הפילוסופי' סקרא"ט האלהי להיותו שהוא המציא בראשונה בפלוסופיא שיש נמצא נבדל: ואחריו נמשכו הפלוסופי' האחרי' וכתב שם שהוא קבל החכמה מאסף הקרחי ומאחיתופל. ועוד כתב בשבילי אמונה כי כל עיקר חכמת ארסטוטליס גנוב' מחכמת שלמה ע"ה. כי כאשר כבש אלכסנדרוס מוקדן ירושלים השליט לאריסטוטלס רבו על אוצר ספרי שלמה וכל דבר טוב שמצא בהן כתב שמו עליו ועירב בהן מקצת דעות רעות כמו קדמות העולם. וכפיר' השגחת כדי לחפו' עליו שלא ידעו הבריות שבאו אחריו שגנב החכמה מיהודי ואפשר שכל דבר שלא מצא עליו מופת חותך בדברי שלמה לא האמינו. ומכל מקום נתבאר שכל החכמות תלויים בגפן זה ובאמת שכל בר ישראל ראוי להאמין אמונה זו ולא לתת תהלתינו ותפארתינו לזרים חכמי הגוים. והרי הכתוב שבח שלמה ע"ה שדבר על ארז בלבנון ועל האזוב אשר בקיר ואי לא היתה עיקר חכמה זו גנוב מאתו מה היתה מעלתו על אירסטוטלוס והבאים אחריו שחקרו על כל טבע וטבע כמו שנתבאר בדבריהם לכן ראוי להאמין בדברים האלה כמו שכתבנו כן הוא.

    In truth all the wisdom of philosophy and intellectual analysis originated from the Jews. All the secular wisdom is in fact contained within the Torah as the Rambam demonstrates in great detail in the Moreh Nevuchim that all philosophical wisdom is found in the medrash and aggados of our Sages. You should know that I saw a very ancient document that described the development of all philosophy. It stated that Socrates was considered the first philosopher. It also says that he obtained this wisdom from Assaf and from Achitofel. It also says in the Paths of Faith that the philosophy of Aristotle was stolen from the wisdom of Shlomo HaMelech. When Alexander the Great captured Jerusalem, he gave control of Shlomo HaMelech’s library to his teacher Aristotle. Whatever good things he found there he wrote his name on it and then added some of his own incorrect thoughts such as the world had no beginning and the denial of Providence. This was done in order to conceal the fact that his material was in fact stolen from the wisdom of the Jews. Alternatively, it is possible that whatever he found that did not have clear—cut proofs in the works of Shlomo he simply did not believe. We see however that the basis of all wisdom hangs from this vine. In truth, every Jew should believe in this system and not to give a pride and glory to strangers—the wise men of the gentiles. In fact, Shlomo was praised for being able to speak to the cedars of Lebanon and the hyssop growing on the wall. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the basis of this wisdom was stolen from him, there would be nothing praiseworthy in Aristotle and those that came after him…Therefore it is proper to believe in these things. Just as we have written that is the way it is.

  32. I think you people are not being straight. The Rama quotes the Rambam about astronomy and disagrees with him because chazal had to know science. The aruch hashulchan says chazal knew science better than the scientists - do you agree with that RYGB? the aruch hashulchan says if someone diagrees with that he is kofer in torah shebal peh. seems like he says you DO have to hold like that.

    your entire post is way off. and your point is so wrong. the entire slifkin thing just gave people an opportunity to go off - look at XGH - slifkin, NOT his opponents, made him become a heretic. you are typical of those who dont know much about kiruv - your attitude is, "if the frum world would be more like me it would be better off." your arrogance shows in so many posts, but this one takes the cake.

  33. Mavin, I, like you, am bothered by these questions, and by the maamar chazal hafoch bah vahafoch bah dkulah bah. It is possible that all science is present or alluded to in the Torah and kabalah. However, I have not seen any evidence that any human or gadol knows how to access it these days. Although maybe someone like the Vilna Gaon could, he did not share any of it with us. We have no way of knowing what he knew and it is all pure speculation. In the academic world, you publish papers, but he did not, so whatever he may have known is lost.

    In addition, there is a tshuvas hageonim which says chazal did not have any mesorah on science, and it was purely their own observations based on science of their times that they recorded in gemara. This is a tshuvah which does not accord well with current yeshivish/kabbalistic thought.

    At any rate, those who claim their chochma was lost, I am skeptical, because in 100 years, do you think they may lose ability to make a car or radio? Chochma doesn't dispappear, but grows over time.

    I don't have answers, but I wish chareidi world would honestly deal with these questions instead of ignoring them and making proclamations and seemingly ignoring metzius. Science is an ever growing body of knowledge built on the collaboration of entire world. Very hard to digest that one individual thousands of years ago could have known it all. If by a nes, he did, he certainly didn't share his methods, as even our greatest gedolim don't seem to know them.

  34. Frummy.... If you believe we're not being straight, kindly cite the Rama. I believe I found what those other anonymous people were referring to, so if you feel I erred, I would appreciate the text in question.

    In the meantime... Do you believe the sun goes behind a solid sky at night? Did Apollo 11 smash when it hit the shell in which the moon was embedded?

  35. Frummy, not knowing your background, your post is very unclear. Are you saying the chareidi view is right or wrong? Are you supporting or knocking R. Slifkin. Who is XGH? What is your solution to these difficult problems?

  36. One's assumptions often determine what one views as a difficulty. I can't prove that the Torah in parshat Breishit isn't giving us an empirical description of how G-d created the physical universe. But it is clear to me that it isn't NECESSARILY giving such an empirical description. And we'll never know because no one was there. These points are so obvious to me as to not need proof --can anyone assert with confidence that he knows both how G-d created the world AND what this would appear like to humans? So when university professors and researchers make this or that observation formulate theories, it never bothers me if it doesn't match up with what it says in the Torah because I never expected that it should.

    I will add that it is my understanding from the Ramban (intro to the Torah) that in some sense G-d gave Moshe extensive knowledge of what we call science through Nevua. But in any case I thought everyone would agree that this knowledge was lost long long ago, maybe with the death of Moshe Rabeinu.

  37. I'm saying the chareidi view is the torah view. micha - I will look up the rama when i get a chance, but what I believe is not the issue. I believe the torah believes so.

    The question you have to answer is not whether one is obligated to believe that chazal knew science, but how could so many torah authorities be so wrong as to think that chazal did know science. The aruch hashulchan clearly says if you think chazal did not know science better than the scientists you are a kofer in torah shebal peh. You can say he is wrong (of course you're all great poskim) but the problem still remains. If it is so obvious that chazal could not know science how could such people think they did?

    RYGB says "What we can and should expect from Chazal are: 1. Knowledge of history. 2. Astute observation of phenomena that came to their attention. 3. A total commitment to emes."

    But the Aruch Hashulchan says different. RYGB creates a strawman to answer that, saying that the AH did not say Chazla are infallible, only that they know more science than the scientists.

    That's inane. You guys are setting the torah up for a real fall. when someone learsn a little torah they will see that your apologetics, if true, make many torah authorities look quite foolish. if you guys are right, logic says torah is false because what you claim is truth is not what the torah says.

  38. i am wrong about the rama quoting the rambam, but i am right and micha is wrong about what the rama says.

    "כי כל אחד מחכמי האומות או הפלוסופים שהשיגו דבר אחד מאלו החכמות, הן בטבעיות ... או בחכמת התכונה הנתלה בגלגלים ... או בחכמת האלקות ... בא להן מישראל וכל חכמתן כלול בתורה כמו שהאריך הרב המורה להורות שכל החכמות הפילוסופים נמצא במדרשי חז"ל ואגדותיהן

    He is saying not only philosophy but science as well and astronomy. it all came from the torah.

  39. The Torah contains all truth, but, for us as we now are, we may need to resort to observation, science, etc., to discover certain truths about our world. Having done so, we might be able to trace them to the Torah source.

    Even in the times of Chazal, the need for observation was recognized, even though a Navi might not have needed this step.

  40. I quoted this Rama (Toras haOlah 1:11) already. He's saying that Chazal and moreso the rishonim use philosophical concepts we find in the Greeks, such as chomer and tzurah (in Greek: hylomorphism), because Greek philosophy originated in the Torah. Not that they knew all of natural philosophy (the precursor to science), but that the elements of Greek thought that appear to be using are really examples of the Greeks citing our wisdom.

    You are similarly abusing the poor Arukh haShulchan. He says that people who spend their lives criticizing Chazal for their lack of scientific knowledge are testifying about their own general lack of faith. Not that Chazal actually knew all of science, or even more science than the Greeks or even than today's experts. He makes statement about the psychology of those [bloggers] who spend their lives making machloqes over it -- and don't even know as much science as Chazal did!

    Look who the AhS compares Chazal's knowledge to: עוד היו יותר גדולים בחכמות טבעיות ובידיעות העולם יותר מכל המתחכמים להשיב על דבריהם הטהורים

    Nothing about knowing more than the Natural Philosophers of their day. Or even of being right.

    Again, the moon isn't embedded in a solid shell, and the sun doesn't go behind the shell that the stars are embedded in. You avoid the fact that you are requiring we believe such things. Do you believe a religion that was empirically disproven?

  41. Youre mistranslating the Rama, he says clearly that all sciences, not only philosophy, came to chazal form the torah.

    in regards to religion being empirically disproven, no because there are answers, and even if there i dont know answers, just because we have questions doesnt mean it is disproved, you have to balance all the questions for and against to cone to a conclusion. but the main argument is i dont care about the questions. emunah peshutah is what i have.

    your trying to make believe that torah and empirical science (today's) match is a falsehood. and trying to squeeze them in to match is dishonest. they dont match. if to you that means religion is disproven, you have a problem. your approach is akin to denial. again, look at XGH (Slifkin's brother).

  42. Frummy at 12:00 AM:

    My contention is that you can be an Orthodox Jew with no problem even if you reject this AhS. Don't like it, cut it out. This is the simple answer.

    The more sophisticated answer takes into account that the AhS just said before making this statement that the scientific reason is not the real reason. The real reason, he says, is psychological. What the AhS is saying is that in the aggregate, Chazal knew more than their antagonists. I am writing tersely, and this approach requires nuance, but looking at your second paragraph, I don't think you have any real interest in anything I would say anyway...

  43. First, there were no sciences. It was all philosophy.

    Second, he doesn't say "all", he says all the philosophy that Chazal use that you find in the Greeks came from us.

    "My" approach is that of Rebbe, the Rambam, the very Maharal you cite, the Ramchal, the Gra, R' Hirsch, etc.... Your approach mandates belief in things proven false. There are no shells holding up the planets -- we sent things up there. Copernicus was right. Kepler thereby explained the orbits, and once tweaked by Einstein, to an amazing accuracy -- no shells needed. And as far as we've seen so far, requires reliance on second-hand transmissions of sources that are inaccurate. And even arguing with the author of the Mishnah!

    I distinguish my own position from that of the kind of people the Arukh haShulchan condemns. One can believe Chazal got the science wrong without turning it into "answering their words and creating doubt about their ideas -- להשיב על דבריהם הטהורים והמפקפק על דבריהם" by realizing they weren't discussing science, but using the then current theories of natural philosophy to illustrate hashkafic ideas.

    Or is the Ramchal not yeshivish enough for you?

    This debate reminds me of my recent comment on Avodah about tailored histories:

    I can see two etiologies that would get us to this point:

    Option 1: The audience is judged as likely to think less of the gadol if they read such facts about them, rather than being likely to accept it as proof the permissibility of the act or acceptability of that concept.

    Option 2: Editorial melevolence -- they are actively trying to promote one shitah over the other even to the extent of dishonestly.

    The problem in either case is the assuredness implied, an unwarranted confidence that one has the one true way. Whether we ascribe it to a judgment about the typical reader or about the editor's belief that one may skew the data in favor of that one true way.

    I fear a similar greater loyalty to a given position than to intellectual honesty and seeing Torah in all its derakhim.


  44. Frummy, emuna pshuta is a good thing for some.

    Lmayseh, pratically, what can you do with the knowledge of science found in gemara? Not all that much. Can you build a car? A radio? A computer? Cure cancer? Many of our greatest gedolim or their families suffered with diseases that they were unable to cure, RL. Even gemara Yoma says to consult doctors about eating on YK. Weren't they amoraim who should have known this from Torah alone? Rav spent 18 months on a farm to learn difference between mum over and mum kavua. Why not from Torah? They themselves did not see it as a lack of emuna.

    The fact that your GPS works, means you trust science's current knowledge of orbital mechanics, and it is based on the astronomy of today which does not correspond well with that from Chazal's time. Even relativity calculations are needed to get GPS working right, or would be inaccurate.

    Yes, the questions are troubling, but hiding from them does not help people's emuna, or further the cause of kiruv. People want the emes.

    If I might offer a thought, the primary purpose of the Torah is midos tovos. It is not meant to be a history or science book. The details are too scanty to be of much use. But teaching us how to act like mentshen is the reason it was written. The Jewish contribution to society has been a result of honesty both in business and intellectually, which has transformed the world from primitive barbarians to a modern society. The State of Israel succeeds because of the Jewish midos which allowed a first rate economy and scientific powerhouse to be built. The State also takes care of all citizens and Jews anywhere, as in Entebbe, due to Jewish achdus and chesed. This is our primary heritage from Torah.

  45. Slightly tangential, but Barry mentioned GPS (a/k/a SatNav in some countries)...

    Your GPS does relativistic calculations in order to compute the exact distance from the satellite to the car given the time delay it too to receive the signal.

    It does this on semiconductor chips, which are made using calculations based on quantum mechanics. (The amount of non-silicon one "dopes" various areas of the chips with requires QM modeling of electron orbitals.)

    So, your GPS is engineered using both Relativity and QM.

    Which is really weird, because the two theories contradict when it comes to explaining gravity. It just doesn't come up pragmatically, yet, because Relativity only introduces interesting effects when dealing with the very large or heavy (or energetic, but that's the same thing), and QM only with the very small.

    I use this as a good mashal in explaining science vs Torah issues. When two "theories" each work really well in their target domains, we shelve contradictions that come up in the fringes. We assume there is an answer out there, and get on with life. It's healthier than forcing believe in an answer when you don't really have a good one yet.

  46. I would add a comment that perhaps the AhS means that chazal taught the wrld the methods of thinking that are used by scientists. I.e., building a theory from an observation (binyan av), findng weak spots (kashya), kal vachomers, etc, which are useful tools in science. Maybe we take for granted that the world did not always have these tools, without which advancement would not have been possible. Maybe he meant that observation alone isnot sufficient without being able to create general theories, which requires intellectual tools.

    But even if we interpret AhS according to Frummy, it is contradicted by the tshuvas hageonim cited earlier, and the Rambam who says a mathematical proof, even by a non-Jew has status of divrei neviim, because we judge the truth of the issue, and not who said it.

  47. Dear Micha, thanks for amplifying some of my thoughts.


    PS. RYGB are you able to get rid of that blog authenticator step? I have a lot of trouble reading those garbled words.

  48. "...and by the maamar chazal hafoch bah vahafoch bah dkulah bah"

    Look at the Rishonim over there. Careful reading of actual sources in context helps with a lot of these issues.

  49. Since the AhS is clearly contrasting Chazal's knowledge with those who are today scoffing them, it is quite far from asserting they knew "all of science". If you acknowledge that Chazal used the best knowledge of how the world works available, but take the approach that still their words are to be respected, the AhS isn't describing you.

    I should also make explicit something I have only written tersely. There was no such thing as science in Chazal's day. Teva was understood using natural philosophy, not science. There was no clear line between the disciplines of physics and metaphysics, or between the jobs of physicist and physician. And more importantly, they didn't experiment and get more facts about what the universe does before coming up with philosophies. Nothing they did would advance engineering, for example.

    BTW, just to get off our discussion of whether one is obligated to believe the Apollo missions and Mars landers crashed into the shell that the moon is embedded within... When I was in 10th grade, we separated the "element" of water into hydrogen and oxygen. Are you saying that I have to accept Chazal's conception of 4 yesodos as descriptions of nature, and I was hallucinating when we split water (and then lit the hydrogen)?

  50. I remember doing the same chem experiment in 10th grade. However, in more yeshivishe schools, they often do away wth labs, so I don't know if my kids have or will see this.

    Regarding your point of physics and metaphysics being the same back then, I recently made the following observation. The belief in sheidim set back the emergence of physics for a long time. If one believed that when he threw a ball, the ultimate destination depended on the will of whatever sheidim were in control, there was no way someone like Newton could have ever discovered the laws and principles governing it. Only if one accepts that experiments are repeatable, and no sheid variation factor exists, can one go about the task of unraveling what the actual laws are. So the belief in sheidim was not only harmful in terms of the fright it evoked, but was harmful because of the detrimental effect on understanding the natural laws.

    Sorry to get off-topic here, but what bothers me immensely is the fact that the Zohar is riddled with discussion of sheidim, and they appear in shas, as well. I have a hard time accepting the authenticity of Zohar because of this. At least in shas, we can say they are meshalim, and are not actual entities. (Although they made their way even into poskim, such as in Bais Shmuel AH 6, os 17, cited by Slifkin).

    I further wonder if they are autonomous or not. If yes, can they go against the will of RBSH? Sounds like avodah zara. If not, then they are just agents for carrying out RBSH's chain of command. So only way to change gezar din is to daven and do teshuvah. I.e., treat system as a black box, we can't intervene, but can only work with inputs and outputs. Want better outcome, change input.

    But the whole arichus in Zohar seems to indicate that if we study them, we can learn to change their behavior or at least avoid them. Otherwise why study a subject that has no practical benefit. So are we saying they have independent control? Same with amulets to ward off evil spirits. What is the rationale?

  51. Barry... I'm not saying I embrace the notion of deamons. I think it is suspicious that sheidim, maziqim and ruchos ra'os are so prominent in the Bavli but of the 3, ruchos ra'os are only in the mishnah twice (in Bameh Madliqin, Shabbos 2:5; and Eiruvin 4:1) and in the Y-mi in one sugya (Eruvin 4:5). In fact EY tradition also marginalizes them by putting them in far history. Bamidbar Rabba says they were killed out by the building of the mishkan. This is "suspicious" because Roman thought didn't care much about deamons, but they figured largely in Bavel. It's again, each group of chazal following the latest philosophical positions among their peers.

    In which case, they are just giving religious depth to the lastest secular thought for real observations. We are thereby called upon to do the same.

    That said, though, why are sheidim harder to believe in than mal'akhim? I think the problem is more the use of qemei'os and formulae to deal with sheidim than the notion that our sins can put into motion negative spiritual forces. The idea of using spiritual mechanics to get what we want defies our sense of Divine Justice. (And even if we were to get our heads around the idea that it would work, one wonders about "tamim tihyeh im H' E-lkekha". Or is that just my Litvisher heritage speaking?)

  52. Micha, I think we agree, but just to make my question clearer, I'll use a morbid example. Suppose one was convicted of a capital crime. To appeal his sentence, he needs to go to the courts or the governor. It would be rather bizarre to find out who the executioner is and write a letter to him explaining why he is innocent. The executioner has no jurisdiction, just follows orders. And even if you convinced him and he refused to carry it out, the jail would simply find another executioner.

    So I am wondering what is the relevance to us both in shas, and certainly in zohar where they are given names, and mentioned in much detail. I hope they are only a mashal for something, but I don't know what.

    Malachim are similar, but seems everybody agrees they are mere agents of the RBSH. My personal opinion is that they insulate the RBSH from having to get involved with trivial issues. Like is the RBSH actually found at the Super Bowl calling all the plays, and plotting strategy on 4th and 2 with 30 seconds left. I assume he allows the malachim to run his football department, but they are trained to carry out the precise outcome the RBSH wants.

  53. R. Berger and Dr. Jacobson,

    I would like to make two few points:

    Sheidim is brought down as a fact in multiple sources. It is beyond acceptable belief to deny their existence. Secondly, denying the authenticity of the Zohar crosses the line into heresy.

  54. Chaim:

    1. The existence of Shedim is denied by both the Rambam and the Meiri. That automatically makes the denial of their existence an acceptable belief - whether you or I like it or not.

    2. One of the problems that drives the Orthoprax underground is the fear of being charged heretical. To deny the authenticity of the Zohar may be irrational, perhaps even stupid, but it is not heretical.

  55. Reb Chaim, the Rambam himself, and many others denied their existence. See R. Slifkin's monograph, Wrestling with Demons ($5 at his site).

    Regrding Zohar, there was an incident with R. Zev Leff, who also claimed denying was heresy, but was forced to retract when presented with evidence. There is no mesorah on a book which was supposedly was hidden for hundreds of years.

    I am neutral on it, and would like evidence regarding the secret ways of Hashem that one who studies it can influence Him, or at least explain to me puzzling matters in modern science that he learned from there. Otherwise, please tell me what we learn from it that is relevant to us. Yes, there are some beautiful midrashim, but there is much more and some rather puzzling things like reading palms, faces, etc. So I am neutral and wait for someone to demonstrate some concrete benefit that he received from it.

    Note that I am not even obligated to believe a Navi unless he authenticates
    himself by performing multiple miracles. See Rambam in Yad. I would be overjoyed if we really did have some secret deep knowledge about the world and Hashem, and anxiously await some demos.

    Otherwise, I would probably be better off doing chesed with that time, as I know that for sure helps people.

  56. I wouldn't call someone who is skeptical about the Zohar irrational, although there were many big people who held of it. I wouldn't even expect anybody to explain to me the Zohar, (although don't we normally say a chisaron in hasbara is a chisaron in havana?)

    I would just ask somebody to say what it is about, in like two sentences. I.e., Maseches Shabbbos is about the laws of Shabbos. Sefer Breishis is the story of creation and the lives of our forefathers.

    Can somebody kindly tell us the subject matter of the Zohar? What is the goal of studying it, and how effectively do its students achieve that goal? What can one do with this knowledge that he could not do before? I believe these are rational questions.

    Now, I expect one would say among other things, it gives a deeper understanding of the mitzvos. I.e., hypothetically it might say that the hand is Yesod, and the Teffilin is Keser Bina and Malchus, and when we put the tefilin on, we connect all those sefiros. Well, now I have a deeper understanding of tefilin??? What on earth do those terms mean? And how does connecting them benefit me in any way? Will I become healthier because of it or live longer or get richer? Will it explain the suffering of many people?

    A big gadol in Israel recently said the name Shira is not legitimate. (Forget that it happens to be my wife's name.) I assume he had kabalistic reasons. Do people with other names get a better gzar din? Will the RBSH reward one for changing it to Sarah? If yes, what kind of G-d is that? If no, then what difference does it make what the kabalistic implications are? Just an example.

    We say Lshem Yichud and lyached shem Yud Kay bVav Kay? The RBSH's name is split in half, and we must join it. What does this mean?

    Please enlighten.

  57. Chaim writes: Sheidim is brought down as a fact in multiple sources. It is beyond acceptable belief to deny their existence. Secondly, denying the authenticity of the Zohar crosses the line into heresy.
    I'm not going to address his points, beyond noting that I didn't deny or assert their existence -- just voiced my personal difficulties with both rejecting and asserting that sheidim are real. Others already replied to the substance of his post.

    Qabbalah can also be understood as an extended metaphor. The Gra's first kelal is that it describes Hashem-as-perceived not ontological realities that exist in-and-of-themselves. The Ramchal is famous for this approach. Dayan Grunfeld says this is what drives R' Hirsch's shitah -- his complex system of symbols is simply another reframing of the Zohar. (And we have notes on the side of RSRH's Zohar to support that suggestions.)

    As for "lesheim yichud..." the division is between the Ein Sof Uncaused Causer of existence and Shechinteih -- Hashem's "Presence" in this universe. One is declaring the hope that one's actions bring the latter, man's perception of the Divine, closer to the reality of the Ein Sof.

    But to return to Chaim... (I moved this point to the end to lend it emphasis...) I am bothered by his approach. Would we shut off all discussion of halachic lomdus because we hold like one shitah and not the other? Do we write off someone who spends days trying to understand shitas Beis Shammai as a heretic who clearly rejected halachic process?

    Doesn't talmud torah demand critical thought from us? All this leaping to "kefirah, kefirah, kefirah" is like starting a yeshiva where you're told to only learn Chayei Adam and Qitzur SA, Arukh haShulchan and Mishnah Berurah, and stop thinking about all those rejected things in the gemara. Or just stop thinking.

    No one will really believe in anything, including sheidim, if you stifle their attempts to work out the issues for themselves.

    Last, apiqursus, kefiah, and min are halachic categories with halachic definitions. We tend to speak in terms of the 13 Iqarim, written by someone who didn't believe in sheidim or Qabbalah. But in either case, the Zohar isn't on the list. The word "kefirah" has real meaning; it's not simply a club to stifle thought.

  58. I would add to Micha's thoughts that it is quite possible one can hold of the most far out haskafah and still not qualify as an apikorus. The Rambm in Yad seems to clear say that an apikorus denies in order to throw off yoke of mitzvos. If one keeps mitzvos that is a siman muvhak that he is not an apikorus. The possibility of such a view appears in Chazon Ish YD Siman 2, I believe, where he discusses tinok shnishba.

    This is relevant for Orthpraxis as well. The medrash says halevai osi azavu vsorasi shamaru, shehamaor shebah machaziran lmutav. The mitzvos are for our benefit, not the RBSH's ego.

    As far as sheidim, again, I am neutral, and will remain so until someone defines what they are and provides a clear explanation of what they do, why they are needed, if they are metaphorical, etc. Note that Rambam aside from saying they don't exist, is also testifying that he did not detect their presence in his day. Would he have lied if he ever encountered one?

    And with all kabalah, again I am neutral until someone relates it to my world. What value added does one gain. Putting aside the rather esoteric terminology, one needs to start from scratch and develop an intellectual system that includes what science knows about this world, and extend it. Does it have any thoughts on why people suffer, and what can be done about it. Does it really give insight into Hashem's running this world? Telling me it discusses some otherwordly phenomena, means it is irrelevant to me. I would rather learn science now, and try to find a cure for people suffering, than study a field that nobody has yet explained to me what it allows me to do. Again, saying it helps understand G-d doesn't help. A) I doubt we really can understand him, B) provide an example of what your knowledge of G-d has benefitted you, or other humans.

    What I have learned from the academic world is we start from scratch. Define the problem you came to discuss. Explain why that problem is important. Review what previous work has been done in the field. Why has that work been insufficient to address your question. Say what novel approach you have taken, and show data to prove that it better addresses the question at hand. Make a conclusion to review what you have contributed to the field that was missing until now.

    This is probably what most people would consider a rational approach to any field.

    Can this be done with Kabalah? Let's start by stating the question it comes to address.

  59. Barry-

    While much of Hashkafa may perhaps be peripheral, it is precisely the lack of hashkafa - the mistake that Judaism=Halacha - that facilitates and even encourages Orthopraxy.

    There are certain core Hashkofos without which Judaism is not Judaism. They, cited from pesukim, in Makkos 24a.


    בא דוד והעמידן על אחת עשרה דכתיב (תהילים טו) מזמור לדוד [ה'] מי יגור באהלך מי ישכון בהר קדשך הולך תמים ופועל צדק ודובר אמת בלבבו לא רגל על לשונו לא עשה לרעהו רעה וחרפה לא נשא על קרובו נבזה בעיניו נמאס ואת יראי ה' יכבד נשבע להרע ולא ימיר כספו לא נתן בנשך ושוחד על נקי לא לקח עושה אלה לא ימוט לעולם


    בא ישעיהו והעמידן על שש דכתיב (ישעיהו לג) הולך צדקות ודובר מישרים מואס בבצע מעשקות נוער כפיו מתמוך בשוחד אוטם אזנו משמוע דמים ועוצם
    עיניו מראות ברע


    בא מיכה והעמידן על שלש דכתיב (מיכה ו) הגיד לך אדם מה טוב ומה ה' דורש ממך כי אם עשות משפט ואהבת חסד והצנע לכת עם ה' אלהיך עשות משפט זה הדין אהבת חסד זה גמילות חסדים והצנע לכת זה הוצאת המת והכנסת כלה והלא דברים קל וחומר ומה דברים שאין דרכן לעשותן בצנעא אמרה תורה והצנע לכת דברים
    שדרכן לעשותן בצנעא על אחת כמה וכמה חזר ישעיהו והעמידן על שתים שנאמר


    בא חבקוק והעמידן על אחת שנאמר (חבקוק ב) וצדיק באמונתו יחיה

  60. Note that kimat everything you brought down relates to bein adam lachaveiro. This reinforces my long held-thesis that the ikar of yiddishkeit is menschlachkeit. The RBSH really doesn't make the rules for his own sake, but rather to create harmony and happiness on this Earth. That is my hashkafah in a nutshell. When I was younger, I believed otherwise, and was enamored of kabalah. But given my current thinking, I am trying to figure it out.

  61. Barry,

    I'm curious as to specifically what your hashkafa was when you were younger, if you were brought up as a child with that hashkafa, at what age it changed and what triggered the change in beliefs.

  62. "Can this be done with Kabalah? Let's start by stating the question it comes to address?"

    Note to audience: Barry and I are old friends.

    Barry: Let's get together and discuss this offline. It's not for blog comments on the topic of Orthopraxy!

  63. "When I was younger, I believed otherwise, and was enamored of kabalah."

    Barry, when was that? Did I miss that period? Since we're friends since 10th grade it must have been earlier. :-)

  64. RYGB, I have no idea why you would want to take this offline, as it seems to be of interest. May start my own blog, though, and would continue there.

    Tzippi, I was taught the typical yeshivishe hashkafa that learning is the only worthwhile thing, and all is found in Torah, and kabala must have all the world's secret knowledge, although I was not ready to study it yet. But I now believe that learning is only to enable chesed. Those who frown on science and secular knowledge do not grasp how much it helps those afflicted with various conditions, and that if one does believe that all knowledge and science is contained in Torah and kabala, they should kindly share it with us. Specifically, what cocncrete steps should we take to help the suffering and provide relief. I don't know of any more important or fundamental questions in this world. So I seek answers. I am open to all suggestions

  65. Barry, this is a topic for a discussion group, like Avodah, not a blog.

    A blog is an author putting up his own thoughts, and then people comment on those articles. It's not really designed to be conversational. The point of this comment chain is to discuss RYGB's thoughts about Orthopraxy. And I think our burying that topic under other ones, no matter how important in their own right, is frustrating out host.

  66. Barry,

    At what age did you have a change of heart?

  67. Tzippi, probably in late 30's or so. The role of a Jew is to be oheiv es ha briyos, all types, period. The biggest nachas to the RBSH is kindness to others. That is my hashkafah in a nutshell. It follows that quibling over the age of the Earth, or whether sheidim do or do not exist is meaningless to the RBSH. That was not why he gave us the Torah. I mean think about it, G-d is going to be angry at someone because he doesn't want to accept the existence of demons, when he has never seen one, or seen any action which could be attributed to them? What kind of G-d would that be, anyway, who gets angry over that? Isn't that an insult to the RBSH? In addition doesn't the gemara say ein lo ldayan ella mah sh'einav ro'os. A judge is only expected to go by what he sees.

    Micha, while I think stirring up the pot here could only be good for RYGB's business, nevertheless, I will defer. I highly doubt though, that if I desist from further postings it will generate more people's comments on Orthopraxy, but let's give it a try. Thinking of starting my own blog soon.

  68. Hmm, it seemed RYGB felt you've shared your current hashkofos consistently since 10th grade.

  69. Tzippi, he means something else. He always liked to read kabalistic based haskafa sefarim like Reb Tzadok, Maharal, Chassidus, Reb Chaim Volozhin, etc. I did not learn much of those, but my hashkafos vis a vis kabala were standard yeshivish, which is that it is extremely advanced and first one must master shas and poskim, etc. I am sure he remembers back then that I was not exactly a farbrenter zionist in keeping with standard chareidi views. (He was more zionist than I was back then, but if I go in to details, he wil have my head on a platter.)

    But over time I realized that the ikar is chesed, and appreciating the hard work the zionists did in creating the beautiful state is part of that. This is why attacks on Rav Kook bother me so much. It also became apparent that as Rabbi Slifkin has defined, there are two camps, the rationalists and antirationalists. And unfortunately the kabala is a primary reason for this split. And many antrationalists even if they know nothing about kabala, are influenced by it via their educational system. Just as a crazy example, somebody reported an ad in a newspaper that for 150 dollars, a mekubal will transfer your illness onto a goy. I mean, even if you believed it was possible, where are the ethics? You want somebody else to suffer? And the big fiasco a few years ago where they tried to exorcise a dybbuk via Skype. Are these people for real? So while I have not written off kabala, but I search for a rational approach to it.

    Sorry Micha and RYGB, but had to respond to a question.

  70. Barry, so as to facilitate an ongoing conversation, I will I"YH post separately on Kabbalah some time later today.

  71. Barry: I can't imagine any reason RYGB would be embarrassed for you to speak of his Zionistic youth.

  72. Abe, I know of what I speak. The last time I did that was at his vort in front of the Mirrer Yeshiva oilam, and he didn't talk to me for a year. Trust me on this one.

  73. Wow, so you missed his Chasuna because of it!

  74. Abe-

    Don't be silly, Barry says a year but he means a week.


    Although we haven't matured all that much over the years, we're more than half-of-our-lifetimes-to-date past that painful incident. And, besides, my only daughter is safely and happily married. ;-)

    And besides, Reb Shmuel Berenbaum zt"l is not reading this blog. He WAS listening to Barry at the vort.

    Carte blanche, Barry, write as you please!

  75. Okay Barry, you got the okay. I want the goods! What kind of raging Zionist was RYGB, back in the day?

  76. Well put it this way. It is a little known fact that Bnei Akiva is organized into shevatim. But instead of 12, every year they invent a new one. Now, before I met RYGB, I spent two summers in Camp Moshava, being that for Chicagoans, it was the only game in town. They told me I was Shevet Rayut. In 10th grade I met RYGB and he was wearing a nice white kipa seruga, and had been to Bnei Akiva schools (not just camps) in Israel. He knew how to sing Yad Achim very well, but so did I. He also told me that the Israeli falafels are better than the American ones. But my father is a doctor and forbid me from eating the Israeli ones.

    But although he had been in Israel, far away, the Shevet system depended on your age. So he was in Rayut just like me. So naturally, I thought that at his vort, what could be more fitting than to connect Gila Rina Ditza vChedva Ahava vAchva vShalom vRAYUT to the simcha. But RYGB was not at all pleased with Reb Shmuel Berenbaum finding out about his Bnei Akiva past. You can ask Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky if you need more info on this. He reminds me of the whole sordid episode frequently.

    As a punishment, RYGB told me I could not speak at his sheva brachos, only introduce the other speakers as MC. Nevertheless, I still got into major trouble all over again, because one speaker who RYGB adamantly did not want, told me either I introduce him, or he will get up and speak anyway. I introduced him, and ended up in the doghouse once again.

  77. Look, how often do you get a chance to poke fun at your chaver in front of the gadol hador?

  78. Wow, a white kippa sruga, Bnei Akiva... this explains so much of the views today!

    Thank You!

  79. Thanks, Abe.

    Just out of curiosity, I found these 13 Ikarim of Bnei Akiva. They don't seem too bad. What could be wrong?

    1. Is loyal to the Torah of G-D, His people, Land and Language

    2. Sets aside definite periods for the study of Torah

    3. Loves work and hates idleness

    4. Sees the future of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael

    5. Is kind and courteous to all

    6. Acts as a brother/sister to chaverim and is prepared to assist them at all times

    7. Obeys his/her parents, teachers and leaders

    8. Is pure in thought and action

    9. Is truthful

    10. Loves nature

    11. Is always cheerful and pleasant

    12. Is thrifty

    13. Looks after his/her health

  80. Wow Barry, you really are a valued friend. A dedicated post!:

  81. Will have to see how that develops. Appreciate the effort RYGB is putting into it so far.

    Abe, how do you know our host? How does Tzippi?

  82. I know him, exclusively, by his writings.