Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gra: Scientific reality sometimes is used to decide between halachic views


I previously posted the view of the Klausenberger that we today don't go back to the underlying facts to decide a dispute between Rishonim or to dispute an assertion made by a rishon. In the following quote from the Gra - that is exactly what he is doing. In dealing with the dispute between the Geonim and Tosfos he resolves the issue by saying that Tosfos' position does not fit into observable reality.


Gra (O.C. 261:2): … All of this is according to the view of Tosfos. However it is not so, because that would mean that the time from alos hashachar until netz would be equal to the time from shkiah until tzais hakokovim. In truth it is not  - as we wrote before. Sensory perception rejects this assertion - for all those who see  - because in fact the time from alos hashachar is a much greater time than tzais after shkiah. …

13 comments :

  1. there is a statement attributed to the Gra by some of his students, that however much one lacks scientific knowledge, one lacks Torah knowledge 100 fold!

    This is the complete opposite of the current view of the Lithuanian and Haredi stream.

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  2. Tropper macht choyzekDecember 30, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    Rockland Civil Supreme
    Index Number: 002357/2010
    Case Name: KOL YAAKOV TORAH CENTER,INC. vs. TROPPER, LEIB
    Case Type: Other ("Not One Of The Above")
    Track: Expedited

    Anyone know the reason why the judge dismissed Kol Torah's lawsuit?

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Gra really invokes "what anyone can see", which is a far more limited concept than "science".

    E.g. If the Gra were speaking about science, then the line of reasoning would also advocate declaring those worms found in fish to be treif.

    -micha

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  4. Eddie, why don't you qoute a reliable source?Your mixing up 2 diffrent things.The mo shittah is secular studies is important and useful on it's own merits.The complete oppisite of the gaon's shitah who put torah as the sole objective.And secular knoweledge was just to use it in torah studies.And never ever to use as a way to explain the torah or find new moder understandings in iy.

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  5. C..

    "The Vilna Gaon is quoted by his student Rabbi Baruch of Shklov as having said that “to the degree that a person is lacking in other disciplines, so will he be lacking a hundredfold in his understanding of Torah.” Rabbi Baruch relates that the Vilna Gaon therefore requested that the science texts of the day be translated into Hebrew."

    Baruch's quote is quite widespread and well known.

    MO can claim whatever they like - our discussion is whether we need science knowledge in order to understand Torah and its application properly. Some gedoim, for example, claim Rambam never studied secular subjects, but learned all his "philosophy" from learning Shas. That is despite rambam actually quoting philosophers such as Aristotle - who was not even Jewish.

    You final sentence is very strange: "And never ever to use as a way to explain the torah or find new moder understandings in iy."
    This post has a quote from the GRA doing exactly what you say he would never do.
    It is simply a case of you projecting your own fantasy of what the Gra was , to suit what you think is the ideal way. However, you are mistaken, as it is precisely what he did - he rejected the Tosofos based on his own scientific observations an studies!

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  6. micha said...

    The Gra really invokes "what anyone can see", which is a far more limited concept than "science".
    --------------------
    No Micha, it may be less advanced that quantum physics, but it is science nevertheless. Aristotle was a scientist of his day, as was Galileo, and Newton.
    I am not accusing the Gra of being the greatest scientist , but in principle, he is rejecting the Tosofos based on reproducible observation ( ie science). This is different form rabbeinu Tam's approach, who says on another case, that even tho science has good arguments, the truth lies with Chazal.

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  7. Can you give the dibbar hamaschil of the gra youe qouting?

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  8. I was hoping my example would have clarified my intent.

    I didn't say that "sensory perception rejects this assertion - for all those who see" wasn't science, but that it was far more limited. Science involves many things that can't be commonly seen. Like microscopic bugs, maggot eggs, etc...

    This quote from the Gra doesn't say that halakhah should change any time scientific knowledge accumulates to disprove a ruling. He only refers to a particular subset of science. It is likely the Gaon would limit this kind of argument to cases where something readily observable is sufficient disproof.

    See my theory about halakhah being based on reality-as-experienced rather than what we can know about reality in the abstract.

    -micha

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  9. I'm quoting RDE's translation in the original post. As per that post, it's on OC 261:2.

    -micha

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  10. MIcha:
    "This quote from the Gra doesn't say that halakhah should change any time scientific knowledge accumulates to disprove a ruling. He only refers to a particular subset of science."

    I am not deriving anything from the Gra, other than what he says in this case. The Hatam Sofer also in some limited cases disputes understanding of Chazal.

    It is strange that specific case is quoted by the Gra, which is one piece in the discussion about "metzius" and daas Torah, and by simply looking at this Gra honestly, there are all kinds of suggestions that this leads to MO, to heresy, to denial of the Torah, to homosexuality, international communism, etc etc.

    It also supports my thesis that the Litvisher school is not true to its intellectual roots of the Gra and R' Chaim Vollozhiner, and are today simply mimicking the Hassidic world, and have adopted their blind faith approach to their Rebbes.

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  11. Eddie: I lost you. I wasn't commenting on anything you derived or didn't derive from the Gra. I commented on the gap between the subject line and the quote.

    RDE titled the post "Gra: Scientific reality sometimes is used to decide between halachic views". I objected to this phrasing, since the Gra only talks about one kind of observation, and that kind often differs with "scientific reality". Unless one can show the Gra intended to include a broader range of findings, I think the title is misleading.

    -micha

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  12. Micha,

    respectfully, the title is very precise, ie sometimes but not always.

    In the larger context of these recent posts , ie DT, infallibility, questioning earlier generations, and the role of new scientific data, then this post is very relevant.

    I will quote another Gra, which shows he is far from MO, but certainly denies infallibility of earlier gedolim:

    Biur HaGra, Yoreh Deah 179.13 (as quoted in Lewittes - Principles and Development):
    Biur HaGra, Yoreh Deah 179.13 (as quoted in Lewittes - Principles and Development):

    "All later authorities disagreed, since many incantation are mentioned in the Talmud. He [the Rambam] followed philosophy… But (the accursed) led him astray in most of its teachings to explain the statements in the Talmud as allegory and uproot its simple meaning. G-d forbid I should believe in them (philosophy), rather all (Talmudic ) statements are to be understood literally…. “

    In this remarkable statement, the Gra criticised the Rambam, saying he was led astray by philosophy!

    Such a statement denies any concept of Das Torah or infallibility. He is saying the Rambam did not have DT, or Ruah Kodesh in his Torah studies! He was led astray!

    When Giants say this about each other, it refutes any claims that anyone has Ruah HaKodesh (except those who claim they have it themselves).

    There are many other such examples: R Moshe Hagiz on Ramchal (and Zohar); Rambam himself on certain Chazal statements.

    The claim for Daas Torah does not hold water. If rambam didnt have it, then nobody has it,

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  13. Eddie,

    You are again reading into what I wrote things that I didn't say. I don't care about proving something as anachronistic as whether or not the Gra would have supported MO.

    I was commenting very specifically on the topic raised: You might think the Gra was speaking about science vs Torah. So I pointed out that it's quite probable he wasn't.

    End of statement.

    I wasn't trying to get into any long-standing arguments of the j-blogosphere or anything like that. I wasn't debating; I was talking Torah.

    -micha

    ReplyDelete

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