Monday, February 8, 2010

R' Dovid Bar-Chaim: Rabbinic Paralysis


During a student's first years in yeshiva he learns to think creatively and ask probing questions. However, when he embarks on his rabbinical studies, the rules change. Suddenly all that is a thing of the past. Now he is taught not to think, for his opinion is not important; he is now taught that he must simply accept. This approach, a far cry from the methodology of the Talmud, produces "rabbis" incapable of analyzing primary sources and reaching an independent conclusion. One tragic example is child abuse within the observant community.

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99 comments :

  1. I have received a number of complaints regarding posting a lecture by R' Bar-Chaim. I am well aware of his controversial status - but I am not aware of anything that would make it prohibited to hear what he says on this topic.

    If anyone has a specific charge that he has crossed red lines that would prohibit hearing his views - please contact me directly at yadmoshe@yahoo.com

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  2. http://www.vosizneias.com/31591/2009/05/12/jerusalem-the-israeli-controversial-gaon-that-is-raising-eyebrows-in-the-torah-world-exclusive-2-hour-interview-with-vin-news/

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  3. מצאתי גם לנכון להדפיסם מאחר שאיני בזה אלא כמברר ההלכה שכל תלמיד חכם ומורה הוראה יעיין בהדברים ויבחון בעצמו אם להורות כן וכאשר יראה שאני לא סמכתי כסומא בארובה אף על חבורי רבותינו אלא בדקתי בכל כחי להבין שהם נכונים כאשר צוה רבי עקיבה איגר שם וכן אני מבקש לכל מעיין בספרי שיבדוק אחרי דברי

    Moshe Feinstein
    (Hakdamah Igrot Moshe)

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  4. What he says is very true, and works on several levels.
    For example, a Yeshiva i went to were promtoing themselves as being intellectual, where you are encouraged to ask questions, and that they use a scientific approach etc. One you are int he Yeshiva, they simply shout at you if you ask questions, and if you refute a rabbi's assertions, they claim you are wrong - simply becasue he is the rabbi.

    There is a Ruach Hachayim where R' Haim Volozhiner quotes the Gaon that sometimes the student is right and the Rabbi is wrong.

    parallel is in Horayot of course - where sacrifices are prescribed for an erring Sanhedrin!

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  5. His problem is that he is paradigmatically wrong. He thinks it's the poseiq's job to find the truth, and therefore he values independent exploration of primary sources.

    However, halakhah is not about finding truth, it's about defining law. The fact that the observant subset of the Jewish People accept the Shulchan Arukh, Rama, and others on the "standard page" as law makes it law. And breaking away from that can be done, but requires justification.

    Halakhah is not about clean slate exploration.

    He calls this, which basically boils down to the split between rishonim and acharonim, an innovation. However, when the Jewish people similarly accepted the mishnah and the bavli, the exact same chrystallization of halakhah occured! Amoraim didn't look at the pesuqim and derashos with a clean slate, but rather relied on tannaim. Geonim and rishonim looked to the amoraim. And now acharonim have to deal with chrystalized precedent.

    Rather than it stunting thought, it gives us more data points that we have to consider. Even as the list of remaining open questions covers ever-smaller issues.

    I never met a yeshiva that meets Eddie's description. Yes, the rosh yeshiva's position is more binding -- but again, that has to do with authority (based on number of students), not correctness. But a beis medrash that doesn't encourage discourse? I haven't had the misfortune to encounter one.

    -micha

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  6. A Haredi BT Yeshiva - a big one...

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  7. Micha
    "However, halakhah is not about finding truth, it's about defining law"
    ------------------------------

    The new halacha maybe. Yitro advised Moses to find a beth Din of Anshei Emet and sonnei batza.
    Contrast this to say, tropper , quite the reverse - Ish Batza, + sonneh emet.

    Micha, you underestimate Torah, and the Torat Emet.

    When you make the Bracha for the Torah - do you say "asher natan lanu Torat hagdarat Halacha, or Torat Emet"?

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  8. in the full interview by R' Yair Hoffman, he challenges R' Bar Hayyim on Torah min haShomoyim.
    Bar-Hayyim says a proof of the Torah is "VeAhavta et reecha Kmocha". Hoffman counters that other cultures had this before the Torah, including Confucianism. However, Hoffman makes an error, which is in fact heretical. Confucius lived 551 BCE – 479 BCE). To say this pre-dates the Torah, is exactly what the apikorsim and Bible critics say - something that Hoffman is trying to entrap Bar Hayyim with!

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  9. Eddie, do you say "vechayei olam nata besocheinu" or "nasan"?

    Do you not have "eitz chayim hi" in your Tanakh?

    Torah is a growing living process. Hashem gave us a means for producing law. Because halakhah is law, not truth, the whole approach of treating pesaq as discovery is mistaken. The Torah is something we tend and grow, not a diamond dug out of the ground.

    Yes, you need to find anshei emes, because "emes mei'eretz tatzmiach" -- the Torah has an emes-tropism (paralleling a real tree's phototropism), but it's a process for getting US to truth. The halakhah isn't actually itself the Emes.

    See the introduction to the Qetzos. (Or at least this blog entry.)

    -micha

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  10. Micha-
    "The halakhah isn't actually itself the Emes."
    -------------------------------

    This is an absurd statement, or a link in a chain of absurd statements.

    If it isn't emet, than it can only be one of 2 things: sheqer, or safek.

    Jeremiah Chapter 5 יִרְמְיָהוּ
    א שׁוֹטְטוּ בְּחוּצוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַם, וּרְאוּ-נָא וּדְעוּ וּבַקְשׁוּ בִרְחוֹבוֹתֶיהָ, אִם-תִּמְצְאוּ אִישׁ, אִם-יֵשׁ עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּט מְבַקֵּשׁ אֱמוּנָה--וְאֶסְלַח, לָהּ. 1 Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that doeth justly, that seeketh truth; and I will pardon her.


    Here, Emunah is equated with Truth and contrasted with falsehood in the next verse.

    It is the duty of a Judge to find the truth of a mater, That is precisely the point Bar Hayyim is trying to get at.


    I appreciate you many articles on your blog. The story about the 2nd set of Luchot is also absurd. It says that the first set was the entire Torah, including every possible halacha. At this stage Moses was a Sadducee /Karaite - he didn't have an oral Law. He changed his position, however, wwith the second set of Luchot, and became a Pharisee!

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  11. Posted by Shqueez,

    Regarding if Halacha is truth:

    I heard from someone in tropper's yeshiva that toras emes means that we are not capable of understanding true emes, that our minds are not capable of discerning it. That the Torah is true emes and the only way we can attain it is by following halacha, even if it contradicts our logic.

    It sounds plausible, but it also sets talmidim up to disregard their own common sense. I learned that if your (own) learning goes against common sense, then you should investigate how you are learning.

    It's a grey area to me. If you hear something from a gadol that goes against your common sense, you need to follow it. If you hear it from a menuval, then you should assume it's a power play. But then you need to listen to your own common sense regarding who is a gadol and who is a menuval.

    The crazy part is that your common sense is based on your years of learning, so it goes in a circle.

    Bottom line, you need to either do things the way you were raised or find yourself a rav who you not only listen to, but are able to discuss things with so that you understand them.

    It would be easiest if we could just get rid of the phonies so that they wouldn't be a bor b'rshus harabim.

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  12. Talmid of Rabbi T.February 9, 2010 at 1:31 AM

    I find Micha's objection interesting considering the fact that the chasimas hashas has a unique status different from all subsequent sources, and furthermore, given the fact that Rambam readily argued on gaonim, as did other rishonim, micha's pretenses of "crystallization" in halacha is perplexing indeed.

    An actual canonization is not the same thing as a general consensus or practical agreement on a given issue or set of issues due to historical circumstances (and especially when it is not universal).

    In any event, I'd like to see what people's objections are to this rabbi. I enjoyed the Rabbi Hoffman interview and you can see there that this rabbi does not agree with all of Ha Livni's views (nor does he apparently know them all).

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  13. Shqueez,

    interesting point about tropper, although it is hardly unique to tropeprland. Perhaps he picked up this nonsense at Or sameach - whoops, i named the yeshiva that I referred to earlier.
    A few years back, I did a bit of research on brainwashing, both in cults and in other areas, eg hostages, POWS etc.

    The academic research of cults leads to certain psychological conditions where the brainwashing is most effective. that is isolation from the outside world; cutting off of ties from friends and family; use of reward and punishment systems; breaking your self esteem; breaking your use of logic and common sense.

    All these factors apply in BT yeshivas, like troppers, Or sameach etc.
    Apart from cutting off from your family, they also match the point that R' Bar Hayyim is making. A strict environment where questioning or intellectual thought is not permitted. Say a wrong word and you are fired.
    He is also very astute about the decline of Mercaz haRav.
    About 10 years ago, there was a scandal with one of the rabbis there, who had abusiv homosexual relations with students in the yeshiva, and sexual assualt. The rosh yeshiva blocked any investigation by the police. Furthermore, any students who would complain or assist the police, were threatened they would get no work, and no shidduchim. Now I see what Micha means when he says Halacha is not the Truth.

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  14. Does Rav Shternbuch say that it is okay to have R' David Bar Chaim as one's Rav HaMuvhak?

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  15. A gifted student of clothing can get a good idea about the body, but he will not reach the level of a physician. Torah is about Truth. Halacha is only its cloth. Bar Chaim seems to identify Torah and Halacha, and Micha has a point. Nevertheless, it is good to listen to what Bar Chaim says. He is a very gifted student.

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  16. Eddie you don't know what our talking about in aish hatorah you can ask anything as well as kiruv seminars.

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  17. c - I havent been to Aish, but the fewe discussions I had with their Rabbis were mroe open and less htreatenign than those I had elsewhere.

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  18. Eddie,

    You entirely missed the point. As I wrote, "halakhah is not about finding truth, it's about defining law."

    To which you reply, "If it isn't emet, than it can only be one of 2 things: sheqer, or safek." A false trichotomy. Your certainty, despite the fact that you are implying that you know what halakhah is between than the Qetzos or R' Chaim Brisker is astounding. It reminds me of the seven year old who learned how to play tee-ball criticizing Mark McGuire's swinging style because he doesn't aim for the top of the tee.

    I'm not saying that rabbanim are infallible, but do you really think they would make an "absurd statement"? Is it not FAR more likely you didn't understand it?

    So, let me go back to what I said about finding truth vs finding law...

    In the US, the speed limit on most highways is 65 MPH. Was that a determination of truth? Had they chosen 70 MPH instead, would that have been false?

    Halakhah is a process for reconciling humanity with the truth. But it's a process, not a set of facts. A law could be incorrectly decided, but it can't be "false". Similarly, someone could implement a valid interpretation of the law, but it doesn't make the ruling any more "true". Passing law isn't a true-or-false question.

    Rather, halakhah brings humanity to the truth, or as the medrash puts it, causes truth to sprout in our world. As per what I commented here earlier, "[I]t's a process for getting US to truth. The halakhah isn't actually itself the Emes.". It's not the truth itself.

    Second, I'm sorry you had a bad experience at Ohr Samayach, but it's very atypical of that institution.



    I am not following "Talmid of Rabbi T"'s point. "[G]iven the fact that Rambam readily argued on gaonim, as did other rishonim..."

    The Rambam writes that the reason why the shas has authority is because the Jewish People as a whole accepted it. R' JB Soloveitchik notes that the same is true of the Shulchan Arukh + Rama. Like the shas, there are times we rule differently, but both texts are the baseline from which we assess our positions. The fact that semichah curricula revolve around Mesechtes Chullin and Shulchan Arukh Yoreh Dei'ah proves the level of acceptance of the Shulchan Arukh.

    Your example, between geonim and rishonim, has no such parallel. I actually said so explicitly, "Amoraim didn't look at the pesuqim and derashos with a clean slate, but rather relied on tannaim. Geonim and rishonim looked to the amoraim. And now acharonim have to deal with chrystalized precedent." Do you see me distinguish between geonim and rishonim in that? There was no book that was nispashet bekhol Yisrael as summarizing the conclusions of the geonim.


    Last, Tropper's ideas are unrelated to any of the above. Saying that halakhah is not a matter of finding truth, but of following the process Hashem gave us does NOT mean shutting off one's brain and deferring to authority. Despite what I took Eddie to task for above -- there is a huge space between dismissing the authority before you even understand why he couldn't be saying something absurd, and not thinking the issue out for yourself.

    Halakhah is about finding law, and the breadth of acceptance of a decision does give it authority. But that doesn't mean I just unthinkingly submit either. Again, I need to know why so many people who understand the topic no less -- and often far better -- than I found this ruling more correct than the one I would have gone with. And at the end, it could well be that your alternative has not been ruled out of the realm of valid practice. But it is possible it did.

    Working a process actually has MORE opportunity for creativity than finding an objective truth. Not less.

    -micha

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  19. PS: An example... If R' Chaim Brisker's theories were an attempt to get into the head of the Rambam and explain what the Rambam was thinking, he failed. We have letters from the Rambam, and the Rambam's own explanation of what to look for when he seems to contradict chazal looks nothing like Brisker Derekh.

    However, if R' Chaim's purpose is to find the meaning inherent in the Rambam, not the original truth but the implications we can draw to go beyond the Rambam's intent, his chaqiros can be very useful.

    See this blog entry on classical academia (searching for what the author meant), post-modern academia (searching for what the author says to me), and mesorah as a third alternative.

    -micha

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  20. Wonderful lecture. I wouldn't examine it with a microscope. We all know the problem today. Much of the Orthodox world has become very closed minded, often cult-like. I find it ironic that this lecture would be posted on a blog called Daat Torah, a term often used as a weapon to rob people of their own minds. I'm not saying that this blog owner uses it that way. But many people do.

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  21. Talmid of Rabbi T.February 9, 2010 at 2:52 PM

    "Halakhah is about finding law, and the breadth of acceptance of a decision does give it authority. But that doesn't mean I just unthinkingly submit either. Again, I need to know why so many people who understand the topic no less -- and often far better -- than I found this ruling more correct than the one I would have gone with. And at the end, it could well be that your alternative has not been ruled out of the realm of valid practice. But it is possible it did."

    What makes you think Rabbi Bar Hayim isn't doing that? Perhaps you made an incorrect assumption.

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  22. R' Bar-Chaim says he is looking for truth numerous times, and says that our fealty to acharonim and later development of the ideas is getting in the way of that search.

    We're talking about someone who feels that the current return to Israel means that he can undo much of the last two millennia of halachic process as being "Torat Bavel", not "Torat Eretz Yisrael". (The controversial status our host mentions in the first comment in this chain is all about that.) You can't wind back the clock if you actually view halakhah as a legal process.

    Check out the Machon Shilo web site. From the "about" page:

    The central idea behind Machon Shilo is that while the Jewish People have physically returned to Eretz Yisrael, they have not yet returned to the Torah of Erets Yisrael, only to the learning of Torah in Erets Yisrael.

    Today, many--if not most--practices are not precisely performed as described in the Torah or Mishna, and certainly not as they were performed by our forefathers in Erets Yisrael. The lulav is not taken by most Jews in Erets Yisrael when the first day of Sukkoth is on the Shabbath, the style of praying is based on the customs of Bavel (Babylon), the Talmudh Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) is the major tool of Jewish learning, etc. And the list goes on.

    But for generations, this was not the case. There was a unique Torah of Erets Yisrael whose scholarship surpassed that of Bavel --even after the Second Temple was destroyed. This living Torah, the product of the Torah scholars of the Mishna and Talmudh Yerushalmi, was all but stamped out by the Romans, Byzantines and Arabs. And when the community in Erets Yisrael was at its weakest, leadership of worldwide Jewry passed to the scholars of Babylon; their outlook and practices became authoritative for worldwide Jewry.

    Changes were made that reflected new surroundings, different circumstances and even different Halachic interpretations.

    Circumstances have changed again. We're not in Babylon anymore. After 2000 years, Am Yisrael, the Jewish People, have returned home and the time has come to revivify Jewish practice -- as it was practiced in Erets Yisrael....
    .

    Where in there is the concept that halakhah develops over time, not just the intersection of truth as applied to a circumstance?

    But in any case, the recording itself says that our fealty to acharonim is getting in the way of finding truth.

    I have no problem criticizing a tendency to accept authority to the exclusion of thinking things out for yourself. But when all is said and done, halakhah is evolves along with our history, what people lemaaseh are doing and who they tend to follow is a major factor. Because it's not a quest for truth, where it's possible that the consensus is wrong. It's a following a discipline that will bring us to Truth, a discipline that includes -- but isn't limited to (lakol zeman va'eis) -- submitting to consensus.

    -micha

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  23. Micha,
    I'm not saying that rabbanim are infallible, but do you really think they would make an "absurd statement"? Is it not FAR more likely you didn't understand it?
    -----------------------------

    There is simply a difference of reasoning between your way of thinking and Bar Hayyim's way of thinking.
    Since you do not accept logic as a means at arriving at truth, then there is no point in attempting to enter into a discussion.
    Ironically, you use exactly the same form of attack as described by Bar Hayyim.

    One does not need to be an Einstein to deduce the difference between a Sadducee (or his philosophy) and a Pharisee (and his).
    Hence the claim that orignally there was only a Written law, until the Tablets were broken and the letters ascended to heaven is a proto-sadducee position. Anyone who makses this claim would have ot agree that written Law was all there was, until it got bifurcated into a Written and Oral.

    It is perhaps that you are resisting the implications of this argument, that you are spun into such fury.

    Next, the idea of consensus is no one that matches the Torah's own definion of Truth or Halakha. Hence, a prophet is tested by his ability to predict a future event, failure of which falsifies his claim to be a true prophet. It is not about consensus, and neither is it about persistence. A school of false prophets can operate for many generations, but that doesn't make their statements any truer becasue of it.

    We can see caricatures in history, and in current events which precisely touch these issues.
    The caricature which follows your line of argument - halacha as consensus and setting the Law is the Tropper affair. It has all the ingredients of a "haredi" approach to halachah, and is the farce which makes Puim look like a sober affair. With all the haskomos of the gedolei hador; with the mission of protecting tahars Yisrael; with the marketing and PR which was even slicker than Shneerson's messianic bid. a total brainwashing of the majority of haredi rabbis and the false promise of keeping the oil of Israel pure. I hardly need to reiterate what all this charade was about. But here is the difference between consensus and truth. Consensus is about cowardice and self-interest and guaranteeing yourself a place in your perceived Olam haba. It is also aabout the halachic game that rabbis play, and that is all about recognition amongst their peers rather than any real interest in the Torah or Am Yisrael.
    There is another issue which R Bar Hayyim raises, and this is a question and not a statement.
    If, as he claims, the Yerushalmi was the decisions of the Sanhedrin and the rabbis who had Semichah [someoen please verify if this is true] - then how does any Bet din, whcih is not a Sanhedrin, have authority to go against the Yerushalmi - and would this make them zaken mamres?

    OK, godo thing you don't have my address, or I might get shot!

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  24. Eddie,

    Among my students is a lesbian "rabbi". I doubt anything you write could still shock me, never mind motivate me to pick up a weapon.

    You write: "Since you do not accept logic as a means at arriving at truth..."

    There is no "arrive at truth" in this discussion. It's "arrive at law". You're not reading my comments.

    Logic is only one part of defining law. Logic and determination of realia alone are insufficient -- as I pointed out with respect to the speed limit. Law can change over time. Legal process can admit many equally right answers and need a means of reaching a single legislation -- eilu va'eilu divrei E-lokim Chaim, vehalakhah kebeis Hillel, etc...

    Halakhah is a process. It has laws for making laws. It's not the discovery of the One True Din, not even of the One True understanding of Beis Hillel, R' Yehudah haNasi, R' Ashi veRavina, etc...

    This is why "lo baShamayim hi" -- we follow the process. Many ways of determining truth, such as nevu'ah, miracles, etc... are irrelevent. Why would that be if pesaq were about seeking truth?

    What you "hear" in my tenor is that you write things that clearly run contrary to points I'm making repeatedly, and yet still respond to what you think I'm saying rather than ask me to close the gaps on things I didn't explain well enough.

    And you're still dismissing the Qetzos and R' Chaim with impunity, like you know what halakhah is better than some of those who actually crafted it.

    -micha

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  25. Tropper and the lack of response to him has nothing to do with halakhah. Rather, it comes from turning to people who proved their ability to pasqen and to teach, and asking them to run a society. Who ever said they necessarily have the skills?

    -micha

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  26. another rationalist

    http://www.mesora.org/conversations.htm

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  27. It reminds me of the seven year old who learned how to play tee-ball criticizing Mark McGuire's swinging style because he doesn't aim for the top of the tee.

    Maybe, But for sure the kid can criticize McGwire for his use of steroids. The same way you cannot cririze "gadol"’s lamdanut but you can criticize "gadol" unethical and cowardly behavior regarding Tropper.


    Tropper and the lack of response to him has nothing to do with halakhah

    Of course it does! Tropper collected rabbis' support because he wanted them to create halachatic cover for his frumkeit, They are quiet because they do not want to admit that their halachatic process in supporting Tropper was wrong.

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  28. Except it's not about rationalism vs mysticism. There is nothing mystical about viewing the halachic process as a process, a stream of lawmaking.

    Nor is the "Kuzari Proof" more rational than any of the Rambam's proofs in the Moreh, nor more than the argument actually in the Kuzari.

    At that URL, R' Moshe Ben-Chaim took on the Kuzari, as presented in my blog. The person he is quoting as "Writer" is me. (I agree with writer 1's comments about proof, but not his assumption that the so-called Kuzari Proof" is actually what the Kuzari says.

    The Kuzari himself says that proofs are for those sad cultures that lack the mesorah, I have no idea why I should feel on the defensive for agreeing -- that proof as understood in the classical era doesn't apply.

    Now, if he wants to attack my own transcendental (Kant-style) basis for belief, that would have been a different story. There I could entertain the possibility that I erred.

    (BTW, note we're discussing Moshe Ben-Chaim of Mesorah.org and Moshe Bar Chaim of Machon Shilo.)

    -micha

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  29. I will try to post something that won't be censored:

    a) Rav Davidh Bar-Hayim is not the same as Moshe Ben Chaim of the uSA.

    b)Micha in his blog brings an halchic example where "truth" has no relevance - to me it is shocking, and absurd.

    http://www.aishdas.org/asp/2006/10/the-unobservable-the-unobserved-and-the-observed.shtml

    Maggots are "kosher" - despite the fact that the Torah forbid all swarming things.

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  30. Well, that is the halakhah. However, I RESTORE its connection to truth. The problem is whether you care about what's theoretically out there, or what we can perceive. Microscopic mites living in your water are kosher, even though the same species, another breed, that is big enough to be visible is not. Why?

    The notion is that it's not about objectivity, but about how reality impacts our experience. Once you get what it is we're discussing, the microscopic fact becomes irrelevant. However, the pesaq is about something true -- the maggot is only of visible size due to only one visible cause, kosher meat.

    Halakhah applies to experience, not objective reality.

    But this is tangential. Because you just shifted from a discussion of whether halakhah itself is a search for the true pesaq from sinai or a process for creating law to how one determines what it is halakhah applies to.

    (And yes, my parenthetic remark was to make sure other readers kept the two R's Moshe distinct. Ben = mesora.org, a student of R' Chait; Bar = Machon Shilo and reverting Israel's pesaq to the Talmud Y-mi and related mesorah.)

    -micha

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  31. Getting back to the blog entry itself, I am wondering why RDE believes that studying how acharonim understand the rishonim rather than the rishonim themselves actually fits the description of "'rabbis' incapable of analyzing primary sources and reaching an independent conclusion. One tragic example is child abuse within the observant community."

    It's a shift of primary source to another -- and in fact more voluminous -- set of texts. It's not a reduction in analysis.

    Second, how else is halakhah to be done? Should a Local Orthodox Rabbi rule without regard to what R' Moshe Feinstein, Rav Ovadiah or R' SZ Aurbach said on the subject?

    Third, why the jump from halakhah to handling a societal issue? Are you sure that being unable to handle communal problems have anything to do with an inability in what they actually learned for semichah -- how to pasqen? R' Moshe Bar Chayim is tying an unrelated problem to his pet campaign.

    What I think the problem is is simply that YU is the only yeshiva I know of (but I would guess YCT as well) that requires "supplementary rabbinics" courses. And so the YU musmach knows something about pedagogy, psychology, fundraising, social work, etc... Few other musmachim do. And even of YU's products... how many go into the rabbinate because of skills in leadership rather than because of skills in learning? So yes, we produce people who don't know how to step up when the going gets tough.

    -micha

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  32. They are not two Moshe's, there is a Moshe in USA, and a David in ISrael!

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  33. The issue on maggots has a number of implications. A) the "modernist" is not always looking for "kulas" but rather for what the Torah says, Truth, if it is tough or easy.
    b)The question again arises of whether Chazal could have erred, or even if their scientific ideas have now been disproven (and spontaneous generation was held widely by the general non jewish scientific community).
    Altho I haven't seen Bar-hayyim's views on maggots, my analysis of hsi method is that he would say that todays knowledge surpasses that of Chazal in scientific matters, and we should not follow this view - but I am not putting words in his mouth, chas v'shalom.
    I am reminded of the Lubavitcher rebbe's argument (whcih was publicised by Brannover) that we cannot disprove that some species of maggots or lice do come from spontaneous generation. But Micha isn't resorting to such sophistry.
    "Halakhah applies to experience, not objective reality."
    Well, I am sure he knows more about subjective/objective dichotomy than I do, but no science is final, and at any point it is the best we can do. In chazal's time it was the best knowledge available. today it isn't.
    The question is, was the halachah about maggots inmeat being permitted, what was told to Moshe, or was that a case that Chazal applied their efforts to, and has been now disproven?
    Miscroscopic organisms might not be kosher, but just below the visual and/or halachic threshold. If you made a paste of concentrated micro-mites, I would refuse to eat it - it would be a detestable thing.

    "However, the pesaq is about something true -- the maggot is only of visible size due to only one visible cause, kosher meat."

    This I don't follow. If a maggot is in your lettuce, is it kosher? it will grow into a fly or moth. It probably contains good protein too. Just becasue the Rabbis of 1400 years ago didnt know the origin of these maggots, that doesnt mean the Torah permits maggots - although you would argue the opposite - precisely because the Rabbis of 1400 years ago made a halacah, then it is what was told on Sinai, whether I like their science or not!

    So let me ask you another question - whence the concept of Horayot/ shoggegot? Is this something the Torah writes about in the abstract or is it real halacha?
    I understand that R'Shternbuch calls those who suggest Hazal could err, Apikorsim. But the Torah says they can err, and we have established that nobody is infallible, or were Hazal infallible? Is there an ikkar that Chazal were infallible? Rambam's letter on Astrology says otherwise.

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  34. Micha, you may have misunderstood me. When you said:

    "Halakhah is about finding law, and the breadth of acceptance of a decision does give it authority. But that doesn't mean I just unthinkingly submit either. Again, I need to know why so many people who understand the topic no less -- and often far better -- than I found this ruling more correct than the one I would have gone with. And at the end, it could well be that your alternative has not been ruled out of the realm of valid practice. But it is possible it did."

    And then I said, how do you know Rabbi Bar-Hayim is not doing that. Perhaps you made a wrong assumption. What I mean to say is that perhaps he feels that not only has his view not been ruled out of the realm of valid practice on whatever issue, but ALSO that it is the truest understanding in the different shitas of the authorities that differed on it after he considered them all with their due weight. That is what any posek does.

    As to the Talmud Bavli vs. Talmud Yerushalmi issue, Rav Kook ZT"L wrote about this concept that the Jewish people should shift the focus of their Torah study back to the Talmud Yerushalmi since we returned to Eretz Yisrael and Rabbi Bar Hayim is agreeing with and following that view. Maybe you disagree, but I can't see what's so "wrong" with it. You seem to rail against this as if it is assur. Peculiar indeed.

    It also says nothing about Rabbi Bar Hayim's views on this particular issue which is recorded in the shiur that DaatTorah posted.

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  35. "Halakhah is a process. It has laws for making laws. It's not the discovery of the One True Din, not even of the One True understanding of Beis Hillel, R' Yehudah haNasi, R' Ashi veRavina, etc..."

    But in the end, the posek must actually pasken the halacha, and he goes according to what he surmises is the best understanding of Beit Hillel, Ravina, etc etc... You seem to pretend that poskim do not make decisions. They do. And the best ones in our history made the most courageous decisions.

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  36. I know R' Bar Chaim's position from his web site. And from the fact that his recording repeatedly talks about finding the truth, and how it's impossible if we tie our understanding to those of later sources. I didn't say anything that wasn't in the first MP3. No assumptions.

    As for the Yershualmi, I learn Yerushalmi yomi. (Today is Berakhos 28, BTW.) So, if I had made aliyah, I guess R' Kook would have been happy with me; and perhaps his neshamah would find my reasons for staying in chu"l appropriate.

    However, having a new perspective in how to relate to the halakhah is not the same as reverting all the halakhah since created based on the Bavli upon which Israeli sources had been choleqim. There is nothing in the Y-mi about ignoring precedent, even when set outside the Sanhedrin. In fact, quite the reverse; the Y-mi relies FAR FAR more heavily on quotes from earlier generations and retelling of maasei rav than the Bavli. Torat EY is arguably MORE about precedent than Torat Bavel is.

    As for why I'm railing... Torah is an eitz chayim, a chain connecting the generations of Benei Yisrael. Someone who disconnects from that even in an attempt to reconstruct halakhah from some early state is simply not following Beris Sinai. We might as well be arguing the merits of Conservative legal process rather than halakhah.

    -micha

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  37. "But in the end, the posek must actually pasken the halacha, and he goes
    according to what he surmises is the best understanding of Beit Hillel,
    Ravina, etc etc... You seem to pretend that poskim do not make decisions. They do. And the best ones in our history made the most courageous decisions."

    What are you talking about? Where do I send something remotely like "poskim do not make decisions".

    What I said was something more like (quoting myself yet again):

    [W]hile the classical academic tried to find the original intent of the text, the postmodern found this impossible and therefore doesn’t try. Instead, he looks to see what social constructs the text implies for the primary purpose of questioning it.

    One can see a central theme of Judaism, or almost any religion, is to make a point of imparting a metanarrative. Questioning the metanarrative means never really encountering a religious narrative. You can’t sit on the outside peering in and truly experience a religion. Without “טַֽעֲמ֣וּ — taste”, one will never get to “וּ֭רְאוּ כִּי־ט֣וֹב ה֑ — see that G-d is good!” (Tehillim 34:9)
    ...
    Mesorah is a living tradition of a development of ideas. The Oral Torah is oral, a dialog across the generations. If we see a quote in the gemara from Rav Yochanan, we might be curious about the historical intent of Rav Yochanan. But in terms of Torah, important to us than what R’ Yochanan’s original intent is what R’ Ashi thought that intent was, which in turn can only be understood through the eyes of what the Rosh and the Rambam understood R’ Ashi’s meaning to be, which in turn can only be understood through the eyes of the Shaagas Aryeh and R’ Chaim Brisker. That is the true meaning, in terms of Torah, of Rav Yoachanan’s statement.

    Definitionally, talmud Torah is entering the stream. Not seeing a statement as a point to isolate in time and space, but as a being within current that runs through history from creation to redemption....
    "

    It's a far more fluid thing than if meaning were static and limited to what we could know of the author's original intent. Not less fluid.

    And yet not the chaos of deconstructionism. (That way lies Conservative Judaism.)

    -micha

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  38. I know R' Bar Chaim's position from his web site. And from the fact that his recording repeatedly talks about finding the truth, and how it's impossible if we tie our understanding to those of later sources. I didn't say anything that wasn't in the first MP3. No assumptions.

    As for the Yershualmi, I learn Yerushalmi yomi. (Today is Berakhos 28, BTW.) So, if I had made aliyah, I guess R' Kook would have been happy with me; and perhaps his neshamah would find my reasons for staying in chu"l appropriate.

    However, having a new perspective in how to relate to the halakhah is not the same as reverting all the halakhah since created based on the Bavli upon which Israeli sources had been choleqim. There is nothing in the Y-mi about ignoring precedent, even when set outside the Sanhedrin. In fact, quite the reverse; the Y-mi relies FAR FAR more heavily on quotes from earlier generations and retelling of maasei rav than the Bavli. Torat EY is arguably MORE about precedent than Torat Bavel is.

    As for why I'm railing... Torah is an eitz chayim, a chain connecting the generations of Benei Yisrael. Someone who disconnects from that even in an attempt to reconstruct halakhah from some early state is simply not following Beris Sinai. We might as well be arguing the merits of Conservative legal process rather than halakhah.

    -micha

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  39. Talmid of Rabbi T, I suggest you read the blog entry of mine I pointed to earlier. It's not that poseqim don't make decisions. In fact, I wrote the reverse here repeatedly. The question is upon what they base those decisions.

    To quote that blog entry:
    "[W]hile the classical academic tried to find the original intent of the text, the postmodern found this impossible and therefore doesn’t try. Instead, he looks to see what social constructs the text implies for the primary purpose of questioning it.

    One can see a central theme of Judaism, or almost any religion, is to make a point of imparting a metanarrative. Questioning the metanarrative means never really encountering a religious narrative. You can’t sit on the outside peering in and truly experience a religion. Without “טַֽעֲמ֣וּ — taste”, one will never get to “וּ֭רְאוּ כִּי־ט֣וֹב ה֑ — see that G-d is good!” (Tehillim 34:9)
    ...
    Mesorah is a living tradition of a development of ideas. The Oral Torah is oral, a dialog across the generations. If we see a quote in the gemara from Rav Yochanan, we might be curious about the historical intent of Rav Yochanan. But in terms of Torah, important to us than what R’ Yochanan’s original intent is what R’ Ashi thought that intent was, which in turn can only be understood through the eyes of what the Rosh and the Rambam understood R’ Ashi’s meaning to be, which in turn can only be understood through the eyes of the Shaagas Aryeh and R’ Chaim Brisker. That is the true meaning, in terms of Torah, of Rav Yoachanan’s statement.

    Definitionally, talmud Torah is entering the stream. Not seeing a statement as a point to isolate in time and space, but as a being within current that runs through history from creation to redemption.


    R' Bar-Chaim describes halakhah as discovering that point in time and space. Which is why he can talk about later developments being overly restrictive, wrong, or as he more often does -- inappropriate for life after the current resettlement of Israel.

    -micha

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  40. Someone who disconnects from that even in an attempt to reconstruct halakhah from some early state is simply not following Beris Sinai. We might as well be arguing the merits of Conservative legal process rather than halakhah.

    -micha
    ----------------------

    Have you heard of two important gentlemen named Hizkiyahu and Yoshiyahu?
    Indeed, even Ezra HaSofer did not have the same concept of Arba Minim as you do, does that mean Ezra was Consrvative?

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  41. Eddie, to address your list:

    a- I never claimed that Bar Chaim is hunting for qulos. Non sequitur.

    b- You confuse Chazal erring in the metzi'us with their statements being binding as law. We were talking about whether all pesaq since the standardization of the SA page should be based on the contents of that page. My answer is "yes, since that's what hundreds of years of Jewish community accepted as the authoritative means of interpretation." There is nothing about metzi'us in what I wrote -- only legal process.

    One could say that the halakhah chazal gave is binding, but applies to a situation that the real world doesn't provide. But if you ever had an abiogenetically born bug in your meat, it would be kosher. I would agree that this proabably R' Bar Chaim's approach. But he would be alone in it. And acharei rabim lehatos, particularly after centuries of others doing so.

    One could choose to hold that the halakhah is binding despite the science, at least lechumerah. Because for every published reason for a halakhah, there could numerous other reasons of which we may be unaware. This is the position of the Vilna Gaon and more recently Rav Kook.

    I think my rebbe, Rav Dovid Lifshitz zt"l would agree with this principle in theory. However, he would first try to show how the halakhah doesn't actually depend on the science. As in the case of the maggot eggs being as ignorable as paramecea, and thus changing the domain from zoology to perception. I expanded this idea after rebbe's petirah, so I have no idea if he woudl agree or not, to suggest that halakhah is AlWAYS about the reality-as-perceived. Thus making the applicability of the Gra's "science only changes the halakhah lechumerah" principle smaller.

    You ask: "This I don't follow. If a maggot is in your lettuce, is it kosher?"

    If you can't see it, yes. Because halachically there is no maggot.

    If you can see it, but the only way it could have grown to visible size was off the food you found it in (not true for a head of lettuce, which has openings between leaves), then my rebbe would still say "yes", because the only cause that halakhah cares about is the one you can see. And so, the maggot egg doesn't count, like a parameceum, and the meat the maggot ate determines the state of the maggot. It's the sole cause that reaches human perception.

    And Rav Kook would assur, because while the other reasons to be meiqil that we don't know about still hold, one reason to be stringent is enough to forbid.

    Last, you ask about horayos... Yes, a beis din can err. Not only in describing the world as perceived, but in getting the process wrong.

    You are still clouding the first issue, even after bringing in several new topics (such as my opinion on halakhah and science). Halakhah is a legal process, not a science. What does that have to do with the possibility of error?

    -micha

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  42. Eddie: Have you heard of two important gentlemen named Hizkiyahu and Yoshiyahu?
    Indeed, even Ezra HaSofer did not have the same concept of Arba Minim
    as you do, does that mean Ezra was Consrvative?


    I don't know to what you infer. However, assuming Ezra did have a different concept of 4 minim than I...

    It could be Conservative to think that matters to how a 21st cent Jew should take 4 minim. That's leaving the flow of mesorah and playing scientist with the law.

    R Bar Chaim's notion of halakhah would allow for such a rewinding of the clock.

    -micha

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  43. Micha - I will deal only with 4 minim for now, as the hour is late.

    I don't think r Bar hayim woudl change arba minim - since there is no Talmudic tradition (as far as i am aware) identifying etz pri hadar as Olive like Ezra/ Nehemiah did.

    Bar Hayyim does not even permit chicken with milk, evn though it is a) rabbinical b) illogical (chickens don't produce milk for their chicks) c) was pareve according to some opinions, eg Yossi Hagalili (from memory).
    But this is the logical extreme , or at least bringing it as an argument of equal or greater weighting than the Talmudic opinions on etz pri hadar.

    I have another qn - something I do not understand: You wrote (and R'Eidenson also quoted Rambam on this)
    "The Rambam writes that the reason why the shas has authority is because the Jewish People as a whole accepted it. R' JB Soloveitchik notes that the same is true of the Shulchan Arukh + Rama."

    Does this make it voluntary to accept the Shas = Oral law? I am not attacking you or the Rambam on this one - i simply dont see how it makes sense.
    Torah has authority on us regardless of whether we accepted it or not , me , you , our grandfathers etc.
    If Shas contians the Torah She B'al Peh, how can it merely be a voluntary act? Was it not given at Sinai? Or is there a distinction between ShaS and she b'al Peh of Sinai that I have not comprehended?

    kol tuv.

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  44. You are still clouding the first issue, even after bringing in several new topics (such as my opinion on halakhah and science). Halakhah is a legal process, not a science. What does that have to do with the possibility of error?
    ----------------------

    I am not trying to cloud the issue but to focus it. The question was whether we are i pursuit of Truth liek Machon Shilo, or continuing mesora like the rest of the world.
    Science is one example of seeking truth, eg the maggots or Bar Hayyim's understanding of Shibbolet Shual, at variance from the shulchan aruch or Rambam.

    It doesnt have to be in science per se, but i know more about science than law, so thats why i bring these examples. In the case of identifying a species mentioned in halacha, the distinciton between the two approaches is very clear - you rely on chain of tradition, but Bar Hayyim recognises that things can be misunderstood over the course of time. A modern example is R' Elyashiv's psak on Har haBayit, he says over time we have lost the exact map of where is permitted, so we cannot go up at all. R' Goren , or R Rabinovitch say no, Rambam prayed there, so why can't we. It's the same dichotomy - except r Elyashiv in this case admits that mesora has come to an end in this specific area - Goren and Rabinovitch, like Hizkiyahu and Josiah, say no, the shwo must go on, and we do as is written, even though the tradition is broken.

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  45. R'Bar Chayim upsets the status quo.

    Before debating the merits of his arguments it has to be made clear on what upsetting the status quo means and how the yochid feels about that.

    There is much left unsaid here.

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  46. Micha, sometimes a Psak can be true, or false. When it directly leads to disaster, it is false. Pesika takes into account truths of Metziut, human nature. Sometimes a Psak reflects this directly, and it can be said to be true, or false. Most Psakim are law as you say, as in human law, not natural law, and neither true or false.

    However, do not say that Torah is not about truth. This is what bothers Eddie.

    You are correct that Halacha is not directy about truth. It touches truth, considers truth, but it is not about truth. It is about law for Yisrael.

    But Halacha is only a facet of Torah, which is all about truth, or "law" as in natural law. It is a very Chitzoni facet. When it says MiTzion Tetzei Torah, that refers to Truth. Moshe Emet V'Torato Emet. When the knowledge of HaShem will cover the Earth, that is not Halacha. That is Torah. Truth.

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  47. "However, having a new perspective in how to relate to the halakhah is not the same as reverting all the halakhah since created based on the Bavli upon which Israeli sources had been choleqim. "

    But that is not Rabbi Bar Hayim's position. You are misreading it. He IS speaking about a new perspective in relating to the halacha. He is not doing a blanket reverting or indiscriminate alignment with a given source. He is not discarding the bavli and a thousand years of Jewish history. That type of blanket allegiance seems to be what he argues against. That is the approach of those who want to ignore the Yerushalmi or ignore certain sources in rishonim that they wish 'paskened away.' Each approach lacks daat. It seems Rabbi Bar Hayim advocates the usage of daat - indeed, with a shift in the balance so that Yerushalmi should be less ignored and be more in the forefront of the discussion than it has been for many years, and to apply daat fully in examination of all the sources, not just a few at the expense of others because a given halachic sefer has become the new pentateuch in the eyes of some people. (Of course it is different sefarim for different people and thus it appears we have multiple new pentateuchs chas veshalom).

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  48. Micha, you wrote:

    "Mesorah is a living tradition of a development of ideas. The Oral Torah is oral, a dialog across the generations. If we see a quote in the gemara from Rav Yochanan, we might be curious about the historical intent of Rav Yochanan. But in terms of Torah, important to us than what R’ Yochanan’s original intent is what R’ Ashi thought that intent was, which in turn can only be understood through the eyes of what the Rosh and the Rambam understood R’ Ashi’s meaning to be, which in turn can only be understood through the eyes of the Shaagas Aryeh and R’ Chaim Brisker. That is the true meaning, in terms of Torah, of Rav Yoachanan’s statement."

    You seem to conflate every subsequent source and halachic text with a new Talmud. It's not true. There is one Talmud, there was one chasimas hashas, it (not limited to just "it" strictly, or just the two Talmudim, but referring generally to all authoritative sources listed by Rambam and others from which we derive halacha - both talmudim, sifre sifra etc) is authoritative over all subsequent sources in oral law, and the arguments are over how to understand these foundational texts. Why can an acharon, some current Torah scholar, not argue on another acharon?

    For instance, a hypothetical example, why can't a current chacham argue on an acharon who devised something in Rambam on some issue that however interesting is not apparently what Rambam meant based on proof x, y, z that current chacham understands? Why can't current chacham present proofs x, y, and z (whatever they may be) and take up the position against that acharon? You seem to be set against this based on the things you are saying. To oppose this on "religious" grounds is unreasonable.

    We might as well start building posek robots and program them to spit out what is "incumbent" upon them from earlier sources. Then again, who will do the programming? Not everyone agrees with Micha or any old Shlomo about what halachic sefer takes precendence over all others.

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  49. Eddie,

    If I had to guess, RDB would not revert 4 minim to some pesaq from back in the days of Anshei Keneses haGedolah. Not because he feels it's wrong methodologically, but it doesn't fit his goal. The midrashei halakhah, mishnah, beraisa, tosefta and Yerushalmi all expound "Torat Eretz Yisrael" as it existed downstream from Ezra. His desire to return to that Torah wouldn't motivate repealing any of that.

    Student V:

    "But that is not Rabbi Bar Hayim's position. You are misreading it. He
    IS speaking about a new perspective in relating to the halacha. He is
    not doing a blanket reverting or indiscriminate alignment with a given
    source. He is not discarding the bavli and a thousand years of Jewish
    history. That type of blanket allegiance seems to be what he argues
    against.
    "

    The problem isn't that he is reverting halakhah to a since-rejected peshat in total. It's that he believes you can, and at times does. His turning to a recreation of Nusach Eretz Yisrael based on portions found in the Cairo Genizah and comparison/contrast to the siddurim of R' Amram and R' Saadia Gaon. The fact that no one, from Ashkenaz to Sepharad to Italki to Edot haMizrach to Teiman still use these turns of phrase or a siddur that short doesn't make that text contra-halachic?

    That kind of "blanket allegiance" to the consensus of the generations before us is a major facet of halakhah, and to my mind the very definition of mesorah.


    Moshe Rephael:

    I still see it impossible for a halakhah to be false to true because it is law, not fact. Yes, it could be based on bad assumptions, but I discussed three approaches to that already. We could say the halakhah is binding to a case that can't arise. Or that there is more to the halakhah than what we thought was the metzi'us (such as the example I gave).

    R' Ben Chaim takes the third approach, of repealing the law. I don't see that as nearly as problematic as his rolling back the interpretations and minhagim developed during the golah. That's why I considered Eddie's dragging this topic in a clouding of the issues.

    Saying someone who is a Torah great erred in science and then generations followed him is very different than saying that of two equally valid developments of the law, the rejected one is more valid because it was produced in Israel and he's returned to Israel now.

    BTW, about the relationship of metzi'us to science... Notice the word "metzi'us" (that which can be found) and "mamashus" (tangibility) both assume a perceivable reality, not things that might exist but can't be experienced.

    -micha

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  50. As for halachic process... An acharon can argue on an acharon. But a "peer reviewed" pesaq that others found fitting to follow is both less likely to be faulty or inferior reasoning and increasingly legally binding because it's precedent. There is also acharei rabim lehatos and the legal problems of bucking majority.

    -micha

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  51. Also, ther eis a distinction between my opinion, and that of R' bar Hayyim - who knows 100000x as much as I do.

    But I also think Micha is misreading bar-Hayyim.

    In BarHayyim's 2 hourd video with R Hoffman, he says he is searching for truth, but he gives concrete examples like Shibbolet shual and Tchelet.
    He also qualifies his use of Yerushalmi. He accepts all sources, but he argues that in deriving halacha , eg techelet, it is about striving for truth. SO with techelet, he argues that in Haredi and Mercaz worlds, they simply are fossilized with galuth mentality, and cannot accept techelet. Those who do wear techelet, base it on the closest that we can come to truth -- in this case, the closest or highest likelihood that we have the techelet the Torah commands.
    Now perhaps the old Rizhiner techelet was not accurate, and the Efrat techelet is more accurate. The beautiful thing about techelet is that the chemical spectroscopy of the dye has a wavelength of 613nm (nanometers).!

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  52. You are still clouding the first issue, even after bringing in several new topics (such as my opinion on halakhah and science). Halakhah is a legal process, not a science. What does that have to do with the possibility of error?

    -micha
    ----------------------------------

    These are all inextricably linked together. You are basically saying that Halakha Law permits eating maggots in some situations - nothing to do with pikuah nefesh, but they are kosher l'chatchila.
    This is because of your "conceptzia" of halacha as a binding traditional mesora. So truth, science, or Torah are irrelevant, as is what Moshe actually wrote in the Torah (under Divine dictation of course!).

    So whereas the Torah forbids all shekotzim and crawling things, including maggots, you are saying they are glatt kosher l'mehadrin.
    I will respectfully accuse you, or your postion, of being duplicitous when it comes to Horayot or infallability. All the rabbis pay lip service to this concept, but when it comes to the crunch, they adopt a position that Chazal are infallible and all their decisions are correct -whether halachically or othewise.
    In the Torah system, when a matter is concealed, and the Judges err, it has to be restituted by sacrifices. Your position is saying that truth or falsehood dont matter, the law is just a "meme" and we follow it, whether science agrees or not - hence your position on maggots.
    According to your position, you wll not make any changes, as long as your rebbe doesnt.
    I don't know what the general position is today re: maggots, and if your position is widely held or not. But it has everything to do with truth. It doesn't really matter if a majority hold liek you or not. The same way that the certificate of 100 rabbis made neither Shab Zvi , nor Lubavitcher rebbe the moshiach. It doesnt matter how Shneerson, Shteinzalts, Rav Ashkenazi, etc learned the Rambam on Hilchot melachim. Each of these rabbis was/ is a gaon, and knows Shas backwards. Moshiach may be a theological question, but it is also a Halachic one. And rambam actually makes some empirical statemnts in his Halacha , re conditions which King has to fulfill.
    So the argument of "greateness" is a fallacy , as is the arguemnt by numbers. A proof of this is Yirmiyahu and his attack on Hananiah = false prophet.
    Torah is Emet, and halacha that diverges from Emet, is not Torah.

    "But a "peer reviewed" pesaq that others found fitting to follow is both less likely to be faulty or inferior reasoning and increasingly legally binding because it's precedent."

    This is not what the Torah says. It says if a matter is hidden - there is no statute of limitations on this, it may be hidden for 1 day or 2000 years. The courage and honesty (Anshei emet, sonnei batza) is in accepting that the matter was hidden, and losing out in your safety and absolute authority as a result of this.
    That doesnt mean halacha is a spectator sport.
    the source of maggots/ lice was hidden from the Sages of the Talmud. Haredim are simply unable to accept this, because it threatens their staus quo. This is evidence that they are not anshe emet, as require to be part of the Sanhedrin.

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  53. Eddie do you say a bracha when you get an aliya - even though you know that according to objective truth the Torah is posul?

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  54. Eddie do you say a bracha when you get an aliya - even though you know that according to objective truth the Torah is posul?

    ------------

    In what sense is the Torah posul?
    Do you mean the scroll on the Bima is posul?

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  55. My feeling about halakhah only dealing with observables has NOTHING to do with what I said about the nature of mesorah as opposed to science.

    Well, maybe it does in one way -- it's how I understood my rebbe's point, when he generalized from microscopic insects to explain why we don't consider maggot eggs even now that we know they exist.

    I'm talking about halakhah being a legal system, which means that I might consider some pesaq to be both suboptimal (but validly made within the system) and yet also more binding than the alternative pesaq.

    Eddie, your understanding makes "lo bashamayim hi" a true enigma. If G-d Himself tells you the truth, why are you doing something different?

    Answer: Halakhah isn't about truth, it's a discipline for redemption.

    -micha

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  56. In what sense is the Torah posul?
    Do you mean the scroll on the Bima is posul?
    ===========

    Yes - according to objective truth the Torah on the bima is posul - even though according to halacha it is kosher

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  57. I still don't quite follow your example. Are you saying that all Torah scrolls are Pasul, or just the one in this case? If it is pasul, then do i know it is pasul, ie have I seen the error?

    This has only happened once where we noticed an error, and could no longer read from it.

    My counter question - if you were to eat maggots, do you think you would be Tahor to enter the Bet Hamikdash, if those maggots are kosher according to your rav?

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  58. שו"ת גינת ורדים חלק א"ח כלל ב סימן ו

    שאלה ילמדנו רבינו מ"ש הרמב"ם רפ"ה מה' ס"ת שעשרים דברים בס"ת אם אירע בו א' מהם שאין בו קדושת ס"ת ואין קורים בו ברבים ומכלל העשרים דברים שמנה הוא אם חסר אפילו אות אחת או שייתר אפי' אות א' וקשה שהרי בזמן הזה אין לנו ס"ת כשר כהלכתו וכנתינתו מסיני ואפי' בזמן חכמי התלמוד לא היה להם ס"ת כשר כלל כדאיתא פ"ק דקדושין דף ל' ע"א וי"ו /ו'/ דגחון חציין של אותיות של ס"ת בעי רב יוסף מהאי גיסא או מהאי גיסא ואקשו עלה מה זו שאלה דניתי ספ' תורה ואימנינהו ומשני ליה דלא בקיאינן בחסרות ויתרות והשתא אם חכמי התלמוד שקודם לנו שעדין היתה לחלוחית הראשונים קיימת לא הוו בקיאי בחסרות ויתרות מה נעני אנן בתרייהו שנטלטלנו טלטלה אחר טלטלה ונתמעטו הלבבות וא"כ לכל הפחות הי"ל להרמב"ם לומר דזהו ד"ת אבל בזמן הזה אין לנו ס"ת כהלכתו מדוייק בחסר ויתר שיש להכשירו כיון דלא אפשר כלל.

    תשובה אמרינן במסכת סופרים שלשה ספרים מצא בעזרה בשנים כתוב מעונה ובאחד כתוב מעון וקיימו את השנים וביטלו את האחד וכן בזעטוטי ואצילי וכדין עשו שביטלו את האחד מפני הב' דמדאורייתא אית לן למיזל בתר רובא בכל מילי ואע"ג דאפשר ושכיח דלאו קושטא עבדינן ואפי' בערוה החמורה שגורם ממזרות ביש' דייני' הכי לפי שעה כהא דקי"ל שהנטבע במשאל"ס =במים שאין להם סוף= אשתו מותרת מן התורה לפי שרוב הנטבעים למיתה ולא משגחינן במיעוטא דשכיח שפורשין לחיים כי הנהו עובדי דסוף יבמות שנזדמן לו דף אחד וההיא דגל דחפו לחברו וחברו לחברו מ"מ כל עוד שלא יתברר הדבר שהוא חי נשאת לכתחלה מן התורה וכן בענין הקרבנו' דלא חיישי' בהו לטריפה וסירכא ומקילינן בהו ועבדינן עובדא עד שיבקע הנוד ודכותה עבוד אנשי העזרה שכשמצאו מחלוקת בספרים הלכו אחר הרוב והשתא אי עבדי הכי ספרי קמאי ששיערו ובחנו ודקדקו וטרחו הרבה ומנו אותיותיה של תורה ודקדקו בחסרות ויתירות והלכו בספיקן אחר הרוב פשיטא מלתא טובא דשפיר עבוד כדין וכהלכה גם צריך תנאי בזה דהולכין אחר הרוב שלא יהיו שנים סומכין דעתן זה על זה כדאשכחן לקצת פוסקים דסברי שהרב בעל הטורים והרא"ש אביו לא יחשבום לשנים לפסוק הלכה כמותם נגד היחיד שיחלוק עליהם רק עשאוה כמחלוקת שקולה וטעמם שהטור סומך על דעת אביו הרא"ש וכן י"ל בהנהו ג' ספרים שנמצאו בעזרה דהוו בקיאי בהו שלא נעתקו זה מזה שהיו משונין בכתיבתן ובציונן ובשאר מילי באופן שנתברר להם ששני ספרים מהם לא סמכו על דעת אחת אבל בגונא אחריתי לא מיקרי רובא.
    ונמצא בזה שדברי הרמב"ם ז"ל באו על נכון שכיון שיש מציאות לברר ולידע מוצא כל ספר וספר מתחלתו כיצד היתה יש לנו לחלק במחלוקת שנמצאת ביניהם אחר הרוב והספר שידוקדק על אופן זה חשיב לן כנתינתו מסיני וכל חסר ויתר שנמצא הפך ממנו הוי פסול מן התור' לגמרי ואין בו קדושת ס"ת כלל. ואמנם ההיא דפ"ק דקדושין ה"פ שהיה רוצה רב יוסף לידע אם יש איזה מסורת קדומה בידינו על וא"ו /ו'/ דגחון אם היא מהאי גיסא או מהאי גיסא וכונתו בשאלה זו היתה שאם ימצא עתה ס"ת שחולקין על מסורת זו שיש לפוסלן ואע"ג דעד השתא היו כשרין מן התורה שנעשו על פי הרוב מ"מ כיון דהשתא מיהא איתברר לן שאין רוב זה אמת תו לא משגחינן ביה והשומע לא הבין כונתו וסבור הוא שלידע בלבד אי מהך גיסא או מהך גיסא שאל רב יוסף לכן הקשה לו שיביא ס"ת וימנה אותיותיו ומה לו לשאול במידי שהוא עצמו יבחין ויברר את שאלתו והשיב לו רב יוסף דאינהו הוו בקיאי בחסרות ויתירות ואנן לא בקיאינן וספרים שבידינו מדוייקים על פי הרוב ואינם כנתינתם מסיני ולכך היה רוצה לידע אם יש להם מסורת על זה כדי שלא לסמוך על הספרים דידן שהוגהו על פי הרוב ונחזור להסכימן בזה עם המסורת הזאת.

    .

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  59. כלל העולה דמסתמא הסופרים שלפנינו שטרחו הרבה במסרות ודקדקו בענין החס' והיתרו' ומחלוקות שבספרים כשהסכימו על ענין אחד לא הסכימו אלא מפני שהלכו אחר רוב ספרים שראוים לילך בהם אחר הרוב על פי התנאים שכתבו ולכן תיקון ספרים שבידינו שתיקנו לנו הראשונים עליו אין להוסיף וממנו אין לגרוע דיינינן ליה כאלו הוא מקובל בידינו מסיני וכל שינוי שנמצא עתה ממה שכבר נהגנו על פי סופרים הראשונים אפי' בחסר ויתר דאות קטנה אין קורין בו לכתחלה בצבור ודיינינן ליה כחומשין בעלמא כמ"ש הרמב"ם בחבורו אמנם במה שכבר קרא בדיעב' סמכי' על המקילין בשב וא"ת שלא יצטרך לחזור לראש הסדר ומהטעם שזכרנו והנלע"ד כתבתי וקרוב לדברי מצאתי בדברי הרשב"א עיין בי"ד ס"ס הע"ר ובתשו' הרדב"ז המודפסות סי' קא.
    גור אריה (במדבר ז:א) ד''ה ככלה הנכנסת לחופה. לפי שהמשכן הוא החופה, שהיה נקרא "אהל מועד" להתוועד עם ישראל ולהתחבר עמהם. ואף על גב שבכל הספרים נכתב "כלות" בוי"ו, הכי פירושו, מדכתיב "כלות", ולא כתיב 'ביום כילה להקים המשכן', אלא לדרוש לשון כלה. והא דקאמר 'כלת כתיב', רצה לומר שלא כתיב "כילה", שאז לא נוכל לדרוש לשון כלה, שהרי יש יו"ד בין הכ"ף ובין הלמ"ד. אף על גב שאין היו"ד כתובה, כיון שהחירק הוא במקום היו"ד, כאילו היו"ד כתובה. אבל עכשיו שכתב "כלות", נוכל לדרוש לשון כלה:
    הליכות עולם (שער שני סי' לו) דרך הגמרא לקצר המקראות ואינו מביאן כהויתן, כמו דאמר רחמנא ונתן הכסף וקם לו (ברכות מז:) ואין הפסוק אלא ויסף חמישית כסף ערכך עליו וקם לו (ויקרא כז יט) וכן ברכות (נה:) לקיים מה שנאמר כל החלומות הולכים אחר הפה, והיינו קרא ויהי כאשר פתח לנו כן היה (בראשית מא יג). ובעירובין (סה.) כל שין דעתו מיושבת עליו אל יורה שנאמר בצר אל יורה, ואין זה מקרא בכל התורה אבל קרא דעניה ושכורה ולא מיין (ישעיהו נא כא) קא דריש דמדמי צרה לשכרות ובשכרות כתיב להבדיל ולהורות כדרשינן בכירתות (יג:) אי נמי מהאי קרא קא דריש היערוך שועך לא בצר (איוב לו יט) כלומר שעעת צרה אל תערוך תפלתך, וכן בכרבה מקומות מביא הגמרא פסוקים בקצרה, כך ראיתי בתוספות דעירובין (סה.).

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  60. Ktzos (Introduction): The Torah was not given to angels but rather to human beings who have limited intelligence. G﷓d gave us the Torah because of his great mercy and kindness. He wanted it to be observed according to the understanding of human intelligence—even if this interpretation is not true in the absolute sense. The Ran (Drashos HaRan #7) has discussed this in detail based upon the Bava Metzia (86a) which describes a dispute in the Heavenly Academy. The dispute between G﷓d and the departed souls of the Heavenly Academy concerned the laws of leprosy. It was decided that the view of Rabbah b. Nahmani should settle the dispute. The Ran questions how the Heavenly yeshiva could disagree with G﷓d and thus require Rabbah to resolve the dispute? The Ran answers: “That the Heavenly Academy had to follow their human understanding—even though this was the opposite of the truth. In fact, it is prohibited according to the Torah to make rulings differently from that which human intelligence dictates. The case of Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol is similar. Even though a voice came from Heaven to announce that the Halacha is always in accordance to his view and no one doubted that the voice was actually from G﷓d—nevertheless the halachic authority is not in Heaven. Therefore, Rabbah was needed to resolve the dispute between G﷓d and the Heavenly yeshiva. It was obviously not needed to ask him in order to ascertain the absolute truth, since G﷓d’s view was already known. The reason that they had disagreed with G﷓d was either because they were relying on human understanding or because they had not been diligent enough in their studies during their life times.” Whoever sees this is shocked and his heart trembles. Elite people such as these who have merited to be members of the Heavenly yeshiva failed to perfect their human intellect or weren’t diligent enough in their Torah studies during their lifetimes—even though these early generations were like angels. We with our weak minds who are overwhelmed with the stress of existence and are blanketed with the cloud of laziness and we have only weak grasp of our Torah—woe is to us from the embarrassment of Torah. In addition, in the Derashos HaRan (#11) notes that if the sages believed something the opposite of the truth and even if a Heavenly voice or prophet informs them of this—the agreement of the sages should not be abandoned. This was exactly the case of R’ Eliezer HaGadol where he gave miraculous signs and wonders that verified his view and a Heavenly voice announced that the halacha always followed R’ Eliezer. Nevertheless, the Sanhedrin did not agree with him and even excommunicated him for his refusal to accept their view. All this is because G﷓d did not give the power to resolve doubts in the hands of prophets or Heavenly voices—it resides entirely with the sages of that generation… Bereishis Rabbah: At the time that G﷓d wanted to create man there was a dispute amongst the angels as to whether man should be created. The angel of truth said that he should not be created since he was full of lies… G﷓d threw Truth to the ground… The angels said that G﷓d was debasing His jewel—the Torah. G﷓d replied that He wanted Truth to arise from the ground. In other words, it was obvious that human intellect would have difficulty ascertaining the truth and thus truth was in the lowly man. Thus the claimed that Torah was being debased being confined to man’s limited intellect rather than what was true. G﷓d replied that He in fact wanted truth to be according to what the sages agreed with their human intellect and in this manner, He would cause His glory to dwell in the world….

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  61. בעי רב יוסף וי"ו דגחון מהאי גיסא או מהאי גיסא, א"ל אביי וניתי ספר תורה ונימנינהו מי לא אמר רבה בר בר חנה א"ר יוחנן לא זזו משם עד שהביאו ספר תורה ומנאום, א"ל אינהו בקיאי בחסרות ויתרות אנן לא בקיאינן

    Our sifrei Torah include at least 1700 years of spelling guesses. Not so mention spelling that was standardized by majority vote before then. Ezra took the majority of three sifrei Torah. You might be a mystic, and believe that each time Hashem guided us back to the text He gave us in the desert. But chazal and the rishonim certainly didn't think so.

    -micha

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  62. This is very interesting, but it is not analagous to our case.

    If Rambam had access to the original Sefer Torah, or if Ezra did, they would accept it. Would Rambam reejct the original Sefer Torah or accurate copy of it, because he would be breaking tradition of 2300 years? We knwo he chose the Ben Asher Masoretic text, as he decided it was the most accurate, or closest to the Truth!
    The question of making a Brocha - I would need to ask, perhaps ask R Bar hayyim.
    In any case, even if I am unable to go to Shul, i still make a Brocha, to study from a printed Torah - but this is the halacha.

    The false analogy is that with maggots, we know they are forbidden, and we have an alternative. In the Torah scroll, we have no alternative.

    What brocho would you make on maggots, and are they pareve?
    It is a nasty question, but are they haadoma if they are in lettuce, and shehakol in meat?

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  63. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe O.H. 1 Introduction): It is correct and obligatory for the sages of the latter generations to decide halacha—even if they are not qualified according to the standards of the sages of the gemora. Therefore there is definitely a concern that their halachic determinations are not in accord with the view of Heaven. However in truth we are guided by the principle that Torah is not in Heaven. Rather it is determined according to what appears correct to the rabbi after proper study of the issue to clarify the halacha according to the Talmud, and the writings of poskim. He is to use his full abilities to seriously deliberate with fear of Heaven—in order to determine what appears to be the correct halacha. Such a psak is viewed as true and he is obligated to issue his conclusion. This obligation exists even if in fact his ruling is contrary to the halacha in Heaven. His ruling is also considered the “word of the living G﷓d as long as he is convinced he is correct and it is internally consistent. He will receive reward for his rulings even if the truth is not in accord with his position. Proof for this is found in Shabbos (130a): A certain city in Israel that followed the halacha according to R’ Eliezer—even though this was not the accepted halacha—got great reward in terms of long life… Thus ruling which a rabbi is obligated to teach and receive reward for is that which he decides after studying the issue with his full ability. This obligation and receiving of reward exists even if the ruling is not in accord with the truth. This is the nature of all disputes of the rishonim and achronim concerning what is permitted and what if prohibited. As long as a universal ruling has not been determined—each rabbi can make decisions for his followers according to that which he thinks is correct—even though the objective halacha is only in accord with one of them. Both will also receive reward for their rulings. Because of this we find much dispute also in the most severe prohibitions—with variations between places that rule like the Rambam and Beis Yosef and those that rule like Tosfos and the Rema. Both of the opposing views are “the words of the living G﷓d even though the actual truth as understood by Heaven is only like one of them.

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  64. Klaussenberger Rebbe (Shefa Chaim 6:456): Concerning the assertion of chemists, it is clear that they have absolutely no relevance in matters which are part of our tradition from our sages. The many halachos which don’t have a clear rational basis are not left to the decisions of the scientists. For example, whether a piece of meat which was salted before washing whether it helps to wash it and resalt it? Similarly whether salting requires waiting the amount of time of traveling a mil… Whatever we do concerning these halachos of kashrus are determined solely by the traditions, we have received from our Sages—and not according to the understanding of the scientists…. Even though the Aruch HaShulchan (Yoreh Deah 92:11) expresses surprise that the Halacha seems not in accord to physical reality, all the rest of the poskim view that only the Torah view determines Halacha for us. This is true even when our understanding of nature contradicts the tradition. Therefore whenever the scientists establish something which contradicts our tradition, their views are totally irrelevant against what the view of the sages of our holy true Torah have said… Think careful about this because there are many halachos that our Sages established based on their understanding of nature such as the laws of nidah. If one constantly evaluates these halachos on the basis of the views of the scientists—the Torah would be nullified… Due to our many sins this is the degeneration of our times that the views of the scientists are viewed as more correct then the views of our holy Torah and they desert the springs of living water for dry wells. It is as clear as the sun that the scientists have no part or relevance determining the nature of G﷓d’s Torah and they are not to be relied upon concerning matters of Halacha and kashrus. Their investigations do not lead to discovering the truth of Torah and that which they imagine should not determined what we do. It is enough if we rely on them in medical matters which the poskim approve.

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  65. A good example with R' Feinstein is his heter for cigarette smoking. This was about 55 years ago - (when even some scientists knew it was life threatening).
    Are there any rabbis who permit smoking today?
    The argument that you cannot smoke where u will harm others is self defeating - since it accepts that smoke contains pathogens - and hence you are harming yourself.

    R' Waldenberg was one of the first poskim to forbid smoking outright. It wasnt because he was "reform" , he had better knowledge of the facts.

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  66. “Letter to the Community of Marseille” (“Letter on Astrology”)


    Maimonides

    http://www.mesora.org/LettertoMarseille.htm


    "The summary of the matter is that our mind cannot grasp how the decrees of the Holy One, blessed be He, work upon human beings in this world and in the world to come. What we have said about this from the beginning is that the entire position of the stargazers is regarded as a falsehood by all men of science. I know that you may search and find sayings of some individual sages in the Talmud and Midrashim whose words appear to maintain that at the moment of a man’s birth, the stars will cause such and such to happen to him. Do not regard this as a difficulty, for it is not fitting for a man to abandon the prevailing law and raise once again the counterarguments and replies (that preceded its enactment). Similarly it is not proper to abandon matters of reason that have already been verified by proofs, shake loose of them, and depend on the words of a single one of the sages from whom possibly the matter was hidden. Or there may be an allusion in those words; or they may have been said with a view to the times and the business before him. (You surely know how many of the verses of the holy Law are not to be taken literally. Since it is known through proofs of reason that it is impossible for the thing to be literally so, the translator [of the Aramaic Targum] rendered it in a form that reason will abide. ) A man should never cast his reason behind him, for the eyes are set in front, not in back. "

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  67. http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2009/01/three-oaths-prevent-settlement-of.html

    R. Meir Simchah of Dvinsk, author of the Or Sameach, accepts the premise that these oaths do apply in a literal sense. However, he expresses the opinion that following the promulgation of the Balfour Declaration, establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine no longer constitutes a violation of the oatb concerning rebeIIion against the nations of the world. The text of Or Sameach's statement on this important issue is reprinted by Z. A. Rabiner, Toledot R. Meir Sameach (Tel.Aviv, 5727), p. 164. Rabbi Zevin adds that this argument assumes even greater cogency subsequent to the United Nations resolution sanctoning the establishment of a Jewish state.


    How can halachah be changed by what the nations of the world say? if a secular Jew cannot change it, why can an English lord effect a change?

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  68. How can halachah be changed by what the nations of the world say? if a secular Jew cannot change it, why can an English lord effect a change?
    ============
    Halacha is not being changed! I really think you need to be more precise and focused.

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  69. Metzius changes, whether it is secular/ factual knownedge; scientific knowledge; political /historical circumstances.

    The Ohr Samaech is an example of historical political changes - assuming the 3 oaths were binding unti then. So are you aying that the halachic status of the 3 oaths did not change, according to R M Simcha of Dvinsk?

    Scientific knowledge - we have discussed many points, eg smoking. Iasked if there are any poskim today who permit smoking on grounds of health?
    If they are a minority , then halacha has changed, since R Moshe's psak, or do you still hold it to be permitted?

    Metzius or facts; Most of your blog is devoted to change of halacha regarding Leib Tropper. Prior to knowledge coming out of his acts, nobody was calling him a menuval inpublic. Hew as still a rav, and had Kavod due to that. Since the metzius has changed (objective) , he - very sadly, we should not celebrate his downfall - has lsot his priveleges. Are you saying that the halacha has not changed regardig him, due a to a change of metzius / knowledge?

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  70. Micha said: "His turning to a recreation of Nusach Eretz Yisrael based on portions found in the Cairo Genizah and comparison/contrast to the siddurim of R' Amram and R' Saadia Gaon. The fact that no one, from Ashkenaz to Sepharad to Italki to Edot haMizrach to Teiman still use these turns of phrase or a siddur that short doesn't make that text contra-halachic?"

    In what way? Was it "contra-halachic" to create nusach sefard?

    "That kind of "blanket allegiance" to the consensus of the generations before us is a major facet of halakhah, and to my mind the very definition of mesorah."

    Obviously he disagrees with you on what was "consensus" and he does not believe Muhammad or xtian crusaders and historical persecutions determine the psak halacha for klal Yisrael. It's ok to disagree. He feels he is implementing one of the visionary ideas of Rav Kook. It's ok for you to disagree. I can't see the comparison with conservative or reform here that you seem to allude to.

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  71. "As for halachic process... An acharon can argue on an acharon. But a "peer reviewed" pesaq that others found fitting to follow is both less likely to be faulty or inferior reasoning"

    However likely or unlikely it is, the posek/chacham determines in his own mind based on the sources whether it is fitting or not. He doesn't do a survey asking how many people find it suitable.

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  72. Student V never opened Yabia Omer. Different poseqim rely on survey more or less, but Rav Ovadia is WAY on the "MORE" side. A Litvak might only look at the major rishonim.

    But still, how the halakhah-deciding community see an issue must color the poseiq's perception of the issue. According to any poseiq.

    -micha

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  73. "He wanted it to be observed according to the understanding of human intelligence—even if this interpretation is not true in the absolute sense. "

    So why discard or ignore my human intelligence when I think I have arrived at the most logical or truest understanding based on the evidence and sources available? Why should a posek be forced to side with someone ELSE'S human intelligence rather than his own? Is that what God wanted? Is that what the Ramban did? The Baalei Tosafot? Rashi? Rav Feinstein? etc etc? Or did they go according to the way their own human intelligence understood the matter as the best pshat?

    No one is arguing that we can know "absolute objective truth." That's a straw-man. But we do know with great certainty particular matters of science, for instance that the earth is not flat. Should I align my intelligence with the Lubavitchers that claim it is flat even though I am convinced with my human intelligence that they are wrong? Or am I meant to go with my own human intelligence and not sacrifice it to someone else's?

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  74. What are you trying to say, Micha? That the litvak approach is not valid? It seems you have a problem with Judaism not being monolithic. I would suggest getting used to that. Look around you. Are they really all doing the same thing?

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  75. entirely a modern O attack on smoking -
    but even r' J. D Bleich now forbids it (he previously followed R' Moshe Feinstein's psak)

    http://www.rabbis.org/pdfs/Prohibition_Smoking.pdf

    http://koltorah.org/ravj/15-13_The_Prohibition_to_Smoke_1.htm

    http://www.vosizneias.com/47811/2010/01/25/efrat-israel-rabbis-want-to-enforce-smoking-free-city-based-on-halachic-prohibitions

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  76. Student V:

    I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm an ADVOCATE of the Litvisher approach to pesaq.

    I have no problem with Judaism not being monolithic, and would be scared of one that is. Different people NEED different approaches.

    My problem is with people who don't obey the flow of the mesorah. You can innovate, but you have to be tied to the dialog down the generations.

    The halachic process allows for evolution, but not revolution.

    Eddie: R' Tendler says that after learning of the cause of R' Nissan Alpert zt"l's death, Rav Moshe realized how bad smoking was and assured it. But by that time, there were no new teshuvos being written. You have to trust the oral source, or not.

    I was in R' Alpert's shiur before I was in R' Dovid's. (A little over a year of Israel in between.) I recall coming back to the room after lunch, and RNA would be sitting at the window, smoking his stogy, with a pile of sefarim and his notebook of chiddushim... R' Alpert would sit by the window so that he could puff the smoke out of the room and minimize the smell for the rest of us. Even in the winter, with a chill wind coming in.

    -micha

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  77. R' Tendler says that after learning of the cause of R' Nissan Alpert zt"l's death, Rav Moshe realized how bad smoking was and assured it.
    -----------------------

    I have no reason to doubt what R Tendler reports.

    If this story is true - and I don't know why it wasnt written as a teshuva (old age?)
    it is a good example of empiricism /science/ metzius changing halachic psak.
    Perhaps the word "change" is not warmly received next to the word "halacha". But the original halachic ruling is no longer valid.

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  78. But the original halachic ruling is no longer valid.
    =============
    There is no one who says if we learn that something previous believed to be safe but is now known to be dangerous can't be prohibited. There can be a debate as to whether it is truly dangerous but once it is accepted as dangerous then it is prohibited.

    The reverse situation is the problem. Can bris mila be done on yellow babies that the doctors say there is no danger.

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  79. There is no one who says if we learn that something previous believed to be safe but is now known to be dangerous can't be prohibited.
    -------------------------------

    Fine - and what if the measure is not "safety" but another factor? The structure of this statement is exactly the same as science advising you of something else, eg maggots.

    Yellow baby - this is for medical and halachic expert. here there is safek sakanah to life, even if the doctors say it is reasonably safe.

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  80. Eddie,

    You're creating the impression that you're too determined to argue to think through what I said before replying.

    It's a change in OBSERVABLE reality that lead to R' Moshe's change in attitude toward smoking. Not science, naive experience. Did I say anything that would rule out that kind of change? And if I did, why would I have cited R' Moshe's pesaq as though it buttressed my point?

    -micha

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  81. Micha,

    There is nothing wrong with bringing anecdotes, evidence, or oral traditions, on a particular subject, and in an open intellectual discourse it may even oppose one's own original thesis.
    There are often stories of a personal experience which changes somebody's outlook. Another example is r' Ahron Kotler. Before the war, he was opposed to aliyah, or even leaving Europe. Once he saw first hand what was going on, and he escaped to the USA, he became the most vociferous leader in America in Vaad Hatzalah - even breaking Shabbes to save lives (and absorbing criticism from some pious fools) for doing this.

    I think your view of reality is somewhat diferent form mine. "a change in OBSERVABLE reality" - what exactly do you think scientific experiment is about? TYhe non-observable things? What do you think clinical trials establish, if not observable evidence based reality.

    It could be that this incident was the tipping point for R' Feinstein. In any case, his psak on this matter was partly due to the large number of rabbis who were smokers at that time, hence it would be a dilemma to make them all sinners.
    It's interesting, but respectfully, both yourself and R Eidensohn first bring impressive arguments against science being a deciding factor, and when I gave the recent decisions on smoking suddenly it is quite normal for halacha to change in light of new (scientific) evidence.

    One point you neglect in the story related by R' Tendler - is the deduction that R'Alpert's illness was due to cigarette smoking. Had there not been a valid scientific claima report by the surgeon general, ongoing evidence and government warnings, a son in law who is a Doctor, then it is quite possible that the link would no be made.

    If , for example, cellular phones give brain cancer, but it takes 20 - 30 years to develop - the link will take time to establish, and there will need to be quite a few victims before we can be sure, and suggest that they should b banned. (the issue about the content on services is another point - this simply refers to the microwaves zapping your brain each time your put the machine on your ear).

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  82. this is more on our discussion, by Bar Hayyim:

    http://machonshilo.org/en/eng/list-audio-shiurim/41-audiohalakha/233-must-halachic-reality-hew-to-the-truth-part-one

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  83. Eddie,

    You are reinforcing the impression that you're just looking for things to dispute rather than trying to comprehend both sides of the discussion.

    In this case, you ought to know what I'm talking about when I wrote "a change in OBSERVABLE reality". I don't mean observation in the scientific sense of the term and that should be self evident

    SINCE WE MENTIONED HOW MANY TIMES NOW THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE REASON WHY MICROSCOPIC MITES, PARAMECIA ET AL ARE NOT A KASHRUS PROBLEM.

    So, tell me you don't ever drink or eat, since no food is sterile of all microbes, or simply stop wasting my time with claims that you think halakhah applies to everything science can detect about reality.

    -micha

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  84. Oh, and I said what R' Alpert died of -- *cigar* smoking.

    -micha

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  85. Actually Micha,

    I understand your side of the discussion, mostly.

    There is a differnce between microscopic organisms, and those that are viewable. The point is that when a visible maggot appears out of "nowhere", that you have the choice now whether to eat it or not.

    This has been a very hot discussion, withmore talkbacks than anything on conversion or the EJF.

    But I think we have argued it pretty much as far as we can.

    I fully appreciate that there is a mesora, and that poskim work back through the tradition of sages. Bar Hayyim is not so radical as to break that, but his decision making process is less ideological, ie going with psak of rav A for x type halcah and rav B for Y type. Instead he goes with what is most reasonable to him, what hsi eyes can see, if he has sufficient halachic support. I don't think thatmakes him revolutionary, and this is recognized in that he has not been called a heretic or reformist by anybody of substance.

    kol tuv

    eddie

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  86. Eddie wrote: I fully appreciate that there is a mesora, and that poskim work back through the tradition of sages.
    ===========
    I think the issue ultimately is whether the new psak is viewed as a evolution of the stream of mesora or whether it is viewed as rejecting it. These are obviously subjective issues but they are real.

    Included in this perception is who is issuing the psak. Rav Moshe or the Chazon Ish could and did say more radical things and still be included in the mesora than your average rabbi. Rabbi Bar Chaim is not viewed as someone who has the broad shoulders to be able to say these things.

    So besides the issue of perception is whether in fact the views will be accepted.

    Even the Gra's views were not accepted by Vilna - including suching things as Birchas Cohanim every day.

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  87. I would make the observation that when somebody has the agenda of changing too much and too quickly, they are looked at with suspicion - even if their motives are kodesh and their integrity is also great.
    R' Bar Hayyim is entirely radical or revolutionary, but also entirely within the Torah framework - ie he is not comparable to say Conservative judiciaries. He doesnt make up halacha but bases his decisions on ancient sources. And yes, his views will not be accepted by the community at large - that is clear. BUt in the long term, there will be some impact - that is just my guess.

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  88. Eddie,

    Since it seems you still think that has something to do with the general issue of going to chazal directly vs respecting the flow of mesorah since (when speaking of questions of law, not the scientific assumptions behind it), I'm not sure you really do understand me.

    BTW, R' Dovid's answer is that no "visible maggot appears out of 'nowhere'", and therefore if the egg doesn't exist, the maggot's only cause is the meat it ate since hatching that let it grow to visible size.

    But even my taking his generalization very broadly, and saying that halakhah only deals with first-hand unmediated experience doesn't touch other statements of chazal.

    R Bar Chaim is saying that he cared what R' Meir said, not how the Taz understood the Rosh's explanation of the gemara's explanation of R' Meir's opinion. That's his seeing what makes sense to him. And it's not how halakhah works. Particularly not once a few generations of Jews set a norm according to the Taz.

    And it's based upon an idea that he repeatedly invokes in the first MP3 linked to in the post and in answers on Machon Shilo's blog, that he is trying to find the truth for himself, rather than trying to continue the development of halakhah down the centuries. Add to that his belief that the truth changed with the return to Israel, and you have a position that I can not consider halakhah.

    -micha

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  89. DT:

    I would say that a big difference isn't just that we don't see R' Bar Chaim as having broad enough shoulders.

    It's that the Chazon Ish and R Moshe saw their job as "an evolution of the stream of mesora" whereas R' Bar Chaim is looking for which elements are valid to reject.

    The assessment may at times be subjective, but the person's own self-perception will drive that they are actually doing.

    -micha

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  90. MIcha - indeed

    SOme of R' bar Hayyim's halachot are not to do with scientific knowledge, but rationality , hence he suggests that shaking arba minim on 1st day of Sukkot when it falls on shabbat may be permissible, since there are mishnayot supporting that idea! And he cuts out the thousand years or so of poskim who don't follow this ruling.

    Since I am not, and do not claim to be a Posek of halacha, I cannot comment on the validity of his claims.

    I am suggesting that even if he is rejected out of hand today (and that hasn't been too vocal), the ideas he is expressing are logical, and derived from the Torah. Depending on how one describes the halachic process, and that is of course open to discussion, his ideas are now out of the bottle and in the collective consciousness.
    120 years ago, no serious Haredi rabbi thougth that his great grandchildren may be MKs in a Knesset in Jerusalem. they may have prayed for Moshiach, but the concept was too radical then to be believed.

    I think it is also important to listen to what his argumenrs are rather than take an ideological postion. For example, people asked him how he can reject the Rambam - but he says he is not rejecting Rambam, he is trying to learn Torah the same way as rambam guides him to. And the same question can also be asked, how can the Bavli "reject" a mishna? Or how can a later authority "reject" a Mishnah? Was the mishnah "wrong" in those instances?

    but yes, I agree with you that his process is not the traditonal mesora that recent Poskim have followed.

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  91. "It's a change in OBSERVABLE reality that lead to R' Moshe's change in attitude toward smoking. Not science, naive experience. "

    Science IS observable reality. That is exactly what science describes, observable reality. The entire scientific method hinges on that. If it is not observable, it is by definition not scientific.

    Where were you going with that?

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  92. Maggots are observable with the naked eye. If you ever look at roadkill you will see maggots crawling on it; you don't need a microscope. There is no comparison with microbes or other microscopic entities. Stop conflating the two things.

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  93. "Included in this perception is who is issuing the psak. Rav Moshe or the Chazon Ish could and did say more radical things and still be included in the mesora than your average rabbi. Rabbi Bar Chaim is not viewed as someone who has the broad shoulders to be able to say these things."

    Obviously it will depend who you ask. But that does not mean that it is assur for someone to have a different perception and to accept his view. Or for a person not to hold the same standard as everyone else as to who can say what and who cannot. Similarly with regards to the Vilna Gaon, you mention how all of Vilna did not accept all of his views. But some did. In either case his approach was not "assur." He is not required to do a survey to ask how people view him, if they think he is a "gadol" and then formulate his position based on how much people will accept him or not. He is required to use his human intelligence to arrive at the best understanding, just as you said above, Rabbi. If some people accept his view, fine, and if not, not. What am I missing here?

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  94. "R Bar Chaim is saying that he cared what R' Meir said, not how the Taz understood the Rosh's explanation of the gemara's explanation of R' Meir's opinion. That's his seeing what makes sense to him. And it's not how halakhah works. Particularly not once a few generations of Jews set a norm according to the Taz."

    These type of statements are silly and inaccurate cariacatures. Rav Bar Hayim is of course learning the Taz. He is also learning how other great poskim understood the gemara's explanation of Rabbi Meir. He uses human intelligence to arrive at the best explanation of what the gemara is explaining Rabbi Meir is saying by looking at all the gaonim, rishonim with their respective proofs to their positions and the acharonim who also explain them (or at times explain the gemara itself like rishonim do). The opinions do not all agree with the Taz (on this hypothetical example). Who says a posek has to side with the Taz?

    Some aharonim felt they are not in a place to argue with rishonim. Some did not feel that way. Not all current poskim feel they are inept at using their own intelligence to side with a different rishon. That does not make them "non halachic" etc

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  95. I think that it's procedurally wrong to move too quickly. IOW, you can be both holding an "agenda of changing too much and too quickly" and also "entirely within the Torah framework".

    In that sense, it's the same camp as C. Not as bad as the C of today, but C too started with changes that fit the rules although not the feel of how halakhah works.

    It's for that reason that I worry about where R' Avi Weiss and Open O are going. Being willing to go from nothing to ordaining women in the 9 years since the first yo'etzet, regardless of social impact, regardless that the precedent of yo'etzet was established in intentional distinction to rabbah, shows a similar notion of cramming desired change into the rules that C did before they started playing with the rules too.

    I hope they learn from C's mistakes.

    R' Ban Chaim isn't looking to find heterim -- even is there are qulos all over his web site and his Nusach EY is half the size of Ashk or Sepharad. He is looking to restore glory days. Still, the common theme of missing the whole feel of how halakhah is supposed to work makes his process inauthentic, not just different in an eilu va'eilu way.

    -micha

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  96. Student V: You're losing track of the conversation.

    The idea R' Dovid taught in shiur was that maggots that are visible but come from eggs that are not ought to be treated the same as if they really did come from the meat. Chazal's assumption that the eggs didn't exist is valid even though they were technically wrong because microscopic eggs don't count.

    -micha

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  97. In that sense, it's the same camp as C. Not as bad as the C of today, but C too started with changes that fit the rules although not the feel of how halakhah works.
    --------------------------

    On the contrary - Bar Hayim is working on Authentic ancient Orthodoxy, not modern, post modern or conservative.

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  98. Umm... and what do you think Conservative set out to do when they diverge from O halachic process? To restore the fluidity to halakhah that the codes (Rif, Rambam, Tur, SA) "artificially" -- in their opinion -- removed from the system. Also claiming to restore.

    For that matter, Reform at one point in its history looked to "restore" their depiction of "Prophetic Judaism", undo all that alleged calcification of religion caused by the Pharasees and Rabbinates.

    The difference between R' Bar Chaim and C's original aims is one of degree, not kind.

    -micha

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  99. It depends which phase of Reform and conservative you refer to.

    reform - they may at some point have rejected the Oral Law, but they were never karaites, since they rejected the MIkre - from day 1. Scholem found that many of the early reformists were offsrping and hidden sabbateans.

    So who were conservative?
    "Positive-Historical Judaism, the intellectual forerunner to Conservative Judaism, was developed as a school of thought in the 1840s and 1850s in Germany. Its principal founder was Rabbi Zecharias Frankel, who had broken with the German Reform Judaism in 1845 over its rejection of the primacy of the Hebrew language in Jewish prayer and the rejection of the laws of kashrut. In 1854, Frankel became the head of the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau, Germany."
    From the beginning, Conservative was a mamzer, a mixed child of reform, and "traditional" Judaism. They can be more frum-style, or less, they can accept the Torah, or play word games on what they mean by "Divine inspiration", but they are essentially apikorsim.

    This cannot be said about R Bar Hayyim.

    "The difference between R' Bar Chaim and C's original aims is one of degree, not kind."

    Micha, I am sorry but your are way off on this. Conservative's aims was to give reform a "hechsher" by imitating Orthodoxy, but not accepting the authority of the Torah, in its full sense. Perhaps the right wing of C , or some Rabbis who lectured at JTS were frum, but the ideology was not correct.

    What is a more truthful or accurate statement is "The difference between R' Bar Chaim and Rambam's original aims is one of degree, not kind."

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