Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rabbi Meiselman's Torah, Chazal & Science - Chazal are infallible even regarding Science

Jewish Press   There is one area of agreement, though, between sophisticated scientists and Torah scholars: attempts to make “peace” between the two sides. As methodologies of both science and halacha demand precision in the formulation and application of their respective principles, Rabbi Meiselman writes that “Consequently, both scientists and Torah scholars bristle when amateurs make assertions about their areas of expertise based on superficial contact with the sources.” It is for this reason that Rabbi Meiselman, rosh yeshiva of the Yeshivas Toras Moshe in Jerusalem, has authored the book, Torah, Chazal & Science

 Rabbi Meiselman is uniquely qualified to address the delicate topic of Torah and science. He was trained by outstanding academicians in a variety of disciplines – mathematics, philosophy and several of the natural sciences. Most importantly, however, he had unlimited access to his uncle and rebbe, Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, zt”l, who guided him in attaining a profound, thorough and Torah-true perspective on this topic. When reading this book, one will immediately notice the unique combination of vast Torah knowledge and extensive understanding of science from a sophisticated point of view. Those elements are brought to bear in this book.  

 One of the crucial aspects of the Jewish people’s belief, Rabbi Meiselman contends, is that the Torah was given by Hashem on Har Sinai and does not contain mistakes. The Torah is not a “primitive document,” and everything the Torah describes is absolutely truthful. Additionally, in this view, our mesorah of Torah She’be’al Peh is completely accurate. Therefore, to suggest that Chazal are full of mistakes has the potential to undermine our mesorah’s authenticity. 

 This new literature has disturbed many, who see it as radical. Conversely, many others oblivious to its danger warmly embraced its new ideas. Those concerned that this new thinking is dangerous have voiced their worries, while numerous others seem content with its unique approach. Torah, Chazal & Science was written for the benefit of both camps. Rabbi Meiselman satisfies both those who have been eagerly awaiting a proper response to the non-traditionalists as well as those unaware of the need for a response. Both can be satisfied with the sophisticated level of scientific expertise, coupled with a proficiency in Torah, which is apparent in this work. Thus, this book has the potential to unite Klal Yisrael pertaining to these issues.  

 Rabbi Meiselman begins Torah, Chazal & Science by explaining why it is that Chazal’s knowledge is superior to that of scientists – past, present and future. This is so because Chazal’s knowledge comes from the Torah. As Rabbi Meiselman writes: “The physical world is a manifestation of a completely separate underlying spiritual-metaphysical reality.” Everything occurring in our world, Rabbi Meiselman notes, is a reflection of realities and relationships existing there.This reality is not subject to change; accordingly all insights and conclusions derived from it are likewise immutable. Consequently, one who understands the spiritual world will also understand the resultant material world. [...]

Among the book’s goals is to demonstrate that there is no support in the classic sources for the approach that has recently surfaced, and to explain how it represents a deviation from the perspective that has been passed down throughout the centuries. In the book, Rabbi Meiselman examines many examples of how the chachmei hamesorah dealt with conflicts between Chazal and certain observable facts. His conclusion: Neither the integrity of the mesorah nor Chazal’s reliability was ever in question. One will come to the realization that Chazal’s mesorah and their definitive teachings represent absolute truth – even with respect to science.[...]

72 comments :

  1. Chazal's infallibility in scientific matters was known long before Rabbi Meiselman said so. It is mentioned throughout the Seforim HaKedoshim.

    The Rema in Toras HaOlah (1:2) states clearly that we assume rabbinic science to be infallible, and ancient rabbinic knowledge of astronomy complete. The Rama in Toras HaOlah quotes the Rambam who says that in the days of Neviim and Chazal, the science of astronomy was “incomplete”. The Rama strongly argues, stating clearly that we assume rabbinic science to be infallible, and ancient rabbinic knowledge of astronomy complete.

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

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

    In Moreh Nevuchim (3:14) the Ranbam writes: "Do not ask me to reconcile everything that they (i.e. Chazal) mentioned regarding astronomy with what is reality, for the sciences in those days were lacking, and they did not speak about them through traditions from the prophets, but rather on their own independent knowledge or what was obtained from contemporary scientists."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    1. actually, chatam sofer says chazal made many errors in science. see the last tshuva in yoreh deah.

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    2. Maare Makom?

      Chasam Sofer (Beshalach) writes:

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

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

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    3. They know it from the Torah, since the entire body of secular wisdom is included in the Torah, for the Torah is the blueprint of the world. And so, when the Goyim see that we do not study the secular science books at all - and we even disagree with them! - yet we derive all the secular knowledge, in the most precisely accurate form - from only the Sefer Torah, they will exclaim, "Am chacham v'navon hagoy hagadol hazeh!"

      has this happened even once?

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    4. "Maare Makom?"

      He wrote "see the last tshuva in yoreh deah". What's the matter?

      And then you cite the Moreh:
      "Do not ask me to reconcile everything that they (i.e. Chazal) mentioned regarding astronomy with what is reality, for the sciences in those days were lacking, and they did not speak about them through traditions from the prophets, but rather on their own independent knowledge or what was obtained from contemporary scientists."

      And this you cite as a prooftext that Chazal were infallible in matters of science? The Rambam is saying the opposite! In any case, it's quite impossible to infer from this statement that Chazal derived (all) their scientific knowledge from Ruach HaKodesh. Not only that, he writes elsewhere in the Guide (explaining the Mishnah on Shabbat 67):

      "It is not inconsistent that a nail of the gallows and the tooth of a fox have been permitted to be used as cures: for these things have been considered in those days as facts established by experiment. They served as cures, in the same manner as the hanging of the peony over a person subject to epileptic fits, or the application of a dog's refuse to the swellings of the throat, and of the vapours of vinegar and marcasite to the swelling of hard tumours. For the Law permits as medicine everything that has been verified by experiment, although it cannot be explained by analogy."

      He's saying that Chazal paskened that these 'remedies' were permitted (and not דרכי האמורי) because they were verified effective by experiment. He does not write that they knew it from Ruach HaKodesh. See the Rashbah 413, and Petach HaDvir OC:301 who both understand the Mishnah based on the explanation of the Rambam's Guide.

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    5. In his day, "experiment" mainly meant accumulated but not systematic observation. How to do that properly was poorly understood. The state of knowledge in the field has evolved so that "experiment" takes place in the context a peer reviewed literature with statistical methodology.

      Or perhaps Ben Torah is classifying "experiment" as "דרכי האמורי" ?

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  3. Sigh, this old argument again.
    Chazal knew everything. They knew more about science than modern scientists. Why, they even had the cure for cancer but didn't tell anyone because the world wasn't on the right level to know about it.
    Please.
    If Chazal were to come back to life today and discover that the world is a sphere, that it revolves around the sun, about bacteria and viruses and modern medicine they'd learn all about modern science so they could better use it to understand Torah. They were giants of intelligence and holiness and more importantly, of intellectual honesty. I strongly doubt they'd look at vaccines and say "Feh, all you need to cure diphtheria is whatever we recommended 1500 years ago." Chazal would probably be far more open to science and scientists than their so-called defenders.

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    1. The gemora in Shabbos 85a says that the rabbis learned about agriculture and the laws of the Torah pertaining to agriculture such as KLAYIM from the pagans who lived in Israel who were expert farmers. The gemora asks how we can rely on rabbis for such knowledge and replies that we rely on the gentile farmers, not the rabbis per se, and brings a posuk. Now, if the rabbis in the time of the ancient pagans were prophets and holy people why did they not just conjure up the science? Obviously, they did not and could not. We find, however, that Moshe knew science as it applied to the Torah from Ruach HaKodesh. See Chulin 60b that asks, how could Moshe talk about animals in the laws of kashruth when he had nothing to do with animals. This is proof that the Torah is from heaven because Moshe could not have figured it out on his own. Rabbeinu Gershon says that Moshe learned the laws of animals from Ruach HaKodesh. Now, we see that the prophets and rabbis in the time of the conquest of Israel under Joshua learned from pagan farmers and could not infer the facts of agriculture on their own. So how could rabbis who lived after the age of prophecy ended in the Second Temple figure out science without Ruach HaKodesh? Obviously, the rabbis learned from the gentiles, just as the gemora says regarding the laws of Klayiim and agriculture. The problem is when we learn from the gentiles about science that impacts upon halacha. But there says Rabbeinu Chananel once we find in the Talmud an accepted scientific fact, even if today science changed, we do not change. This is a big problem today in medical and kashruth issues. What do we do when the Shulchan Aruch says one thing maybe based on the Talmud, that such and such is kosher, such as the worms in fish, and some great rabbis based upon the findings of present science, are nervous about eating such fish, or what do we do about medical questions when the Talmud disagrees with doctors. That is another issue that may never get settled before Moshiach comes. One posek told me to be machmir but Reb Moshe held that we stick completely with the past poskim in Shulchan Aruch and Talmud.

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    2. chazal speak about bacteria. and of course chazal knew that the world is a sphere or else all of Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh would make no sense. (Another source is the famous Tosfois in Avodah Zara that quotes a Medrash about Alexander the Great that says clearly that the world is round).
      I guess guys like you are what the writer of this column meant by "Torah scholars bristle when amateurs make assertions about their areas of expertise based on superficial contact with the sources."

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    3. Feh, all you need to cure diphtheria is whatever we recommended 1500 years ago."

      i have no doubt that when rav meiselman is ill, he goes to a doctor, so i am not sure what his point is.

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    4. Most importantly, however, he had unlimited access to his uncle and rebbe, Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, zt”l, who guided him in attaining a profound, thorough and Torah-true perspective on this topic.

      can anyone point to ANYTHING in RYBS's works that even hints he agrees with rav neiselman's approach?

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    5. Reb Dovy, do you have a source for your bacteria assertion?
      As for the shape of the world, it's definitely a machlokes. There were definitely many amongst Chazal who felt the world was a giant disk.

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    6. "One posek told me to be machmir but Reb Moshe held that we stick completely with the past poskim in Shulchan Aruch and Talmud."
      RDE, Are you saying that Rav Moshe would not be mechalel shabbos for a woman in her 8th month of pregnancy? I dont think that is correct.

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    7. reb mighty,
      chazal say it is dangerous to drink lukewarm, room temperature (uncooked) water (i think it's called mayim poshrim). in those times, no one else knew water had to be boiled to get rid of germs.
      Chazal say that someone who visits a sick man gets part of the sickness.

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    8. James,
      The poskim rely on the idea that "nature has changed," and sometimes they disregard a teaching based upon this. We see that eight month babies live, so nobody today would accept different. The famous story with Reb Moshe is certain kinds of worms that can be eaten according to the gemora but not according to modern science. Here Reb Moshe was lenient based upon the gemora, but not everybody is so sure as Reb Moshe was. I heard that a major posek was asked to decide and he begged off due to very advanced age and weakness. But it is a halacha issue. Moshiach will resolve it.

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    9. why does the bug question (for example in wild salmon) need resolving? some (including rav vaye and the OU) mattir eating salmon, some don't. מה יש?

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    10. Reb Dovy, cold standing water would be just as dangerous if it was bacteria they were concerned about. Just try drinking cold tap water in Mexico if you don't believe me. And the statement about illness applied to all illness, a fractured leg as much as a pneumonia.

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    11. Ben,
      I alluded to this in my remarks that Moshiach will resolve this halacha problem, and until then, different opinions exist.

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    12. I've heard acupuncturists advise against drinking cold water or eating raw veggies since the qualities of "cold" and "damp" risk diarrhea, and if you want to drink room temperature water, it should be boiled first to temper the cold quality.

      They've been using "night soil" for fertilizer in China since forever. Probably a valid connection to make from observation, but the explanation, on the other hand....

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    13. i have a feeling that the moshiach will do no such thing. he'll come and say "people you think that i am going to make your lives easy and tell you what to do? uh, uh. didn't you people listen to the words of "revolution"? i am will say one thing and i will say this once: everyone go out and do his own minhag, follow your poseik, just remember to respect the other guy's minhag, the other guy's psak."

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  4. Chochma Bagoyim Taamen.

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    1. Chaim,
      It is obvious from the gemora that I quoted in Shabbos that the earliest rabbis who were prophets and scholars learned important laws from the pagans of the time because they were experts in certain fields of agriculture.

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  5. to people like "Ben Torah".

    it makes me very sad that my fellow yidden, who have much intelligence and have learned much Torah should believe in such nonsense and quoting the opinions of past greats is no consolation.

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    1. how ironic you didnt read the book...the greatest book on the subject that exists, the most comprehensive

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    2. The "most comprehensive"?! He leaves out some of the most fundamentally important sources on the topic, because they contradict his thesis!

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  6. I am puzzled. If Chazal knew all the sciences, why didn't they build B-52 bombers during the siege of Yerushalayim and knock the stuffing out the Romans?

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    1. why b-52s? too much work. a set of phaser rifles would have taken care of the legions nicely.

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    2. Avraham 1, you make a very good point.

      Ben expands on this.

      Here is my take on it - and I know a lot about science and technology.

      a) Do the Hareidim consider the Rabbis, from Chazal onwards, to be greater than the Neviim, eg from Moses to Malachi?

      b) Did Chazal reverse history, ie from Moses to Chazal was Hitgadlut of generations, and after Chazal, was hitkatnut or yeridat hador?

      c) When Joshua brough us into Israel, (or in Shoftim) it says that the Pilishtim had iron chariots. This was the technological/military advantage, that the Neviim and Shoftim faced. If Neviim could create Merkava Tanks, and armor piercing missiles,`, this would have been a laughable advantage of the Philishtim. If not, it means Neviim could not do science and technology as good as the chiloni army scientists, or even the Dati Leumi ones, who build iron dome, etc.

      If Neviim could not do science, then where did Chazal get their knowledge from?

      If anyone is suggesting i am attacking Hazal, that would imply I am attacking Neviim as well. No, I am just interested in the truth of the matter, as has bene recorded in the neviim. Miracles occured, but these are special powers given from Hashem on special occasions. Neviim were not like superman, who can fight any enemy. Some neviim were sadly murdered by Reshoim.

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    3. The reply I've heard is that Chazal had unlimited knowledge but also a strong sense of responsibility. They knew what to reveal to their generations and what to keep concealed. But yeah, a few photon torpedoes might have been helpful.

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    4. Not taking sides in the actual debate but you guys who are should at least know what the opposing view is.Nobody is saying that chazal knew all future scientific discoveries only that regarding certain scientific matters that chazal discussed they were privy to devine knowledge.Hence the questions about why they didn't cure this or invent that are straw man arguments and irrelevant.Why certain matters were potentialy revealed to them and others not no one knows.

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    5. The problem with that answer is that the supporters of Chazal's omniscience insist that modern scientific knowledge was known to Chazal. For example, and please forgive me RDE, shlit"a, if this creates another firestorm, but there's metzitzah b'peh. By insisting that it's harmless because Chazal said so ignores all the modern medical evidence that says otherwise. The "omniscience" side must then contend that Chazal knew about viruses, especially the herpes simplex virus, knew about how they were transmitted and still weren't concerned!

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    6. Mighty,
      I didn't want to get involved with a new issue, but I realized as soon as I saw the posting that it would create a storm and so I showed open gemoras that chazal did not learn science from Torah but from the gentiles and only Moshe Rabbeinu was gifted with divine assistance to write the Torah and know all scientific facts that had to be written in the Torah. There is a question of Moshe knew the entire Torah, and he probably did not, because if he did, does that mean he doesn't learn anything anymore? The Torah is from HaShem and has no limit so the souls will learn Torah from HaShem forever and it will never reach an end. Chazal learn this from "and it was when Moshe finished" the Torah uses the word KLAL which we infer to mean that Moshe was given general headings of topics but did not know all of the Torah contained in these topics. And if Moshe did not know the whole Torah, he did not know all of science, and nobody after Moshe knew the whole Torah and did not know the entire science. There are open gemoras that discuss medical issues and they learn from all kinds of people including male, female and gentiles, but nobody said they got holy inspirations to know science and medicine as far as I recall.

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  7. This book trashes the Rishonim and many acharonim saying in some cases that they had no idea what chazal were talking about (for example in the case of spontaneous generation). And then it takes certain statements of chazal and since R Meiselman determined them to be incongruent with his "observations" of the natural world, reclassifies these statements of chazal as "tentative" instead of authoritative like all their other statements. And then he has the gall to claim (in other sectiions, throughout his book, and in all his attacks on R Slifkin) that he is upholding the infallibility of chazal and all the "amateur' (read, non-Meiselman) approaches are an attack on chazal. The book is a fake. What rabbi Meiselman is attempting to do is call the sages and rabbis wrong but only on the scientific subjects he personally deems acceptable points of view, while anyone saying so in other obvious cases which he is not comfortable with for whatever reasons, is kefira, and at the same time that he rejects the sages and commentaries on certain subjects, he proclaims himself as upholding their "infallibility". Do these media outlets read the book before writing nonsensical reviews on it?

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    1. you nailed the book perfectly!

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    2. can you please quote sources for the Rishonm who say they have no clue what Chazal are talking about? I've never seen anything like that.

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    3. No, Dovy. It is not rishonim who say "I have no idea what chazal were talking about," which I am referring to. Much worse. What I am referring to is that in multiple cases where rishonim gave commentaries on chazal's statements, Rabbi Meiselman decides that these rishonim had no idea what chazal were saying, but the great Rabbi Meiselman is here to save us hundreds of years later because only he knows what chazal truly meant. (And of course don't forget the best part: if you say otherwise about what chazal meant - ie other than the explanation R meiselman gave - even if you say what a rishon or multiple commentariessaid, it is kefira in light of Meiselman's hiddush. Unreal.

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    4. I was scientific Jew btw.

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    5. yes there are at least a half dozen explicit examples that are correctly delineated where the achronim say the rishonim didnt explain it right for reasons that make sense but YOU HAVE TO READ THE BOOK instead of engaging in a fantasy that Rav Meiselman didnt get the material correct that he wrote in his book- his positions are basically irrefutable

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    6. Fascinating. So according to Rabbi Meiselman, the Rishonim and Achronim did not understand Chazal. He also knows when Chazal are speaking tentatively or not. So why should Rav Meiselman follow normative halacha? I mean, we do not poskin normative from the gemora but rather through how it is interpreted through the geonim, rishonim and achronim. Wow! Talk about fighting kefira with kefira!

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  8. rav eidensohn

    a small professional tip: when you link an article like the jewish press article, link it so that it opens in a new window or new tap. that way your page stays in the browser.

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    1. don't know how to do that. Why not just right click the link and open in a new tab?

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    2. also an option. just offering a way to make things easier for the user. no worries.

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    3. add target="_blank" into the link code. for example see: http://www.w3schools.com/html/tryit.asp?filename=tryhtml_link_target

      But you're right, most people do know how to right click.

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  9. sounds like gibberish to me.

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  10. R' Slifkin's blog posts are responding in detail to R' Meiselman's arguments. Anyone interested in the truth (as opposed to just hearing one side of the story) should check them out. Interestingly, the latest post shows that R' Meiselman's own Rebbe had a view much closer to R' Slifkin's than R' Meiselman's.

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  11. I think if one were to travel back in time and confront Chazal with scientific facts that we have today, they would ask how do we know it? Then we would respond that we did experiments to test it out. Then they would respond that experiments are no good, since they rely on our senses and our senses are not credible. They would say that their scientific knowledge is superior because it relies on Torah, since everything is in the Torah.

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    1. Chazal did not get most of their scientific knowledge from the Torah, they got it from the goyim they lived with. If one were to travel back in time and confront Chazal with scientific facts that we have today, they would ask how do we know it? Then we would respond that we did experiments to test it out. Then they would respond that experiments are a very good way to find the truth and they would laugh at the rubbish they learned from the goyim around them and accept the superior scientific knowledge we have today.

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  12. In his Shmona Prakim, Rambam claims that it is impossible for an iron ship to fly in the air like a bird. OK, today airliners are made of aluminium or composite materials.
    And why didn't R' Akiva wear a teflon vest, or better, his students use stealth bombers to kill of his roman rodefim? If they had better science than the USAF, they were halachically obliged to save their rebbe. So this causes a problem for Meiselman. His ludicrous claim in the end implies that Chazal were not following halacha.

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    1. "And why didn't R' Akiva wear a teflon vest, or better, his students use stealth bombers to kill of his roman rodefim? "

      Ah, but Ramchal says that R' Akiva willingly went to his death in order to spare Klal Yisrael from massacres. So no problem for Meiselman.

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    2. That statement doesnt help Meiselman's predicament at all. Meiselman is claiming Chazal knew more science that we do today. If that claim has any truth, then Akiva would not need to fight alongside barkuzova with swords, and losing 24000 of his talmidim on the process. He would just drop a few fuel-air bombs on the roman garrisons and turn them to vapor.
      This is actually apikorsus - since you are implying Chazal had the technology to save Israel, and in fact save the beis hamikdash, but they refused to use it. SO you are accusing hazal of the isn of standing idly by the blood of israel.
      If Akiva had the technology to kill the romans, eg nuclear bombs, tanks, lasers, missiles, machine guns, then he would not be allowed to sacrifice his life. He would have pressed a few buttons, and finished of all of Rome.

      You and Meiselman are getting into Scientology territory. You are making absurd claims, which are totally irrational, and false, and creating a new religion. Perhaps call it the Yeshiva of Scientology.

      R' Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev is reputed to have said to the ALter Rebbe, that he should not be afraid of St Petersburg - he - the rEBBE- COULD WIPE HIS FOREHEAD, AND eradicate all of Petersburg. This is also Scientology. Had the rebbes such powers, there woudl have been no pogroms, no holocaust. The Lubavitcher rebbe's dad, R Schneerson sr. would not have perished in the shoah, neither would R' Elchanan.
      Drop your scientology Mr Meiselman.

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  13. its funny...none of you have read the book...how can you make these quote mining comments without reading the book? the author has built the most comprehensive examination and elucidation that has been written on the subject that i know of...certainly thats the case for an audience of todays frum Yidden almost none of whom have been through shas not to mention almost none of whom have possibly formed a structure of all these issues as this incredible book has done...but you really need to know how to [1] read english [2] and understand material that is very enormous

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    1. I was reviewing the comments and I was just going to say that! There are arguments that one can make against Rabbi Meiselman, but they require actually reading the book!

      Here's my review, _after_ reading the entire book: http://patentlyjewish.com/meiselman-torah-science-chazal-book-review/

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  14. Dovid Eidensohns comment about Shobbes 85A is ridiculous. if he read the book of Rabbi Meiselman he would have been too embarrassed to try to pass off that parphrasing of shobes 85A in order to conclude as he did "and [ chazal] could not infer the facts of agriculture on their own. So how could rabbis who lived after the age of prophecy ended in the Second Temple figure out science without Ruach HaKodesh? Obviously, the rabbis learned from the gentiles, just as the gemora says regarding the laws of Klayiim and agriculture. The problem is when we learn from the gentiles about science that impacts upon halacha.

    This is ridiculous and you should be ashamed at your quote mining instead of knowing what that gemara means in context with itself ( which you dont) not ot mention how it fits with all other gemaras that assert knowledge from sources outside of the Chazals received wisdom from the neviim.
    Shame shame shame

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    1. No, there is ample evidence. R' Yehuda hANasi, one of the greatest of the Tannaim, said that the gentiles were correct, and the Jewish scientists were wrong., in the case of the sun's path.
      Rambam writes that we accept the truth from wherever it comes, and he says we rely on non jewish science.

      But the Neviim in their time were not totally knowledgable of science.Eliyahu was chased down by Izevel, and was scared for his life. Achav/ Izevel murdered hundreds of neviim. Why didnt the neviim use their phaser weapons, that they got from star trek? They could even have melted the king's swords with their phasers.

      Give up the fake religion, and come back to Torah.

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    2. Trent,
      I quote a gemora Shabbos 85 that asks how chazal could know about how plants and agriculture works, and the gemora answers that they did not know it on their own but learned it from the pagan nations who were experienced farmers. Now, Trent replied that this is a"ridiculous" and that I should be ashamed for quoting the gemora which I don't understand. Then Trend concludes "Shame shame shame." Okay, you know how to spell "ridiculous" and "shame" but what do you know about this gemora that shows that I should be ashamed for being ridiculous? Should I be ashamed for asking such a ridiculous question?

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    3. Here is a history of Pi
      http://www.geom.uiuc.edu/~huberty/math5337/groupe/overview.html

      Chazal thought that Pi = 3. This is what is written in the Talmud.

      The Babylonians had a more accurate calculation of Pi 2500 years before chazal. The Greeks also, around 1000-800 years befor Chazal.

      So what is a Meiselman with a PhD in Mathematics saying? That the properties of the circle changed? Was it a magic circle that during chazal's time (and location) had a relationship of diameter: circumference of 3?

      This is absurd. Meisleman knows that this is impossible. He is therefore being dishonest. He is guilty of genievas daat.

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    4. Eddie, you are being motzi shem ra and mbaze talmidei chachamim about a book you didn't read and a topic you are unqualified to speak about. R Meiselman has a whole section explaining pi going through the sources. He explains it beautifully. He knows Torah and Math. You don't.

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    5. Eddie your claim that Chazal believed pi was three is not true. There is much discussion regarding the meaning of the gemora but it is not reasonable to summarize it by saying that they held it to be three. You don't have to have ruach hakodesh and expensive lab equipment to demonstrate that it is not 3

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    6. http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/03/happy-pi-day.html

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    7. The link you provide supports my assertion:

      " The Gemara gives the value of Pi as being 3 (Eruvin 14a), and Tosafos points out that, based on the context, the Gemara does not seem to be giving an approximation."

      It is a rule of thumb, but it is not accurate. The question is what Chazal held it to be, not what the Gra did 1200 years later. If there is a statement of Chazal which proves that they knew it better that is calculated today, please let us know.

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    8. Eddie again we are not talking about atomic physics or DNA or any other hidden phenomena that takes advanced equipment to discover.. Take a 1 foot rod. Take a rope and make a cirle with the rod as the diameter. Any 8 year old will discover that the length of the rope is not 3.

      Given the obvious and readily observed fact - the question is what is the meaning of the gemora? You can't say that the gemora is saying Chazal viewed pi as 3. You can't even say that was the view of R Yochanon.

      That is the starting point of the discussion - not your claim that Chazal thought pi was 3.

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    9. I am sorry DT - your argument seems to me to be very poorly made, and I don't quite follow what you are suggesting.

      Pi is essentially a mathematical ratio - which has nothing to do with halacha. So there is no commentary required on this statement. Rashi /tosafos et al cannot make any comments on this since it is not a Torah matter. If they do, it is superfluous.

      "You can't say that the gemora is saying Chazal viewed pi as 3. You can't even say that was the view of R Yochanon."

      That is what the Gemara is saying. Perhaps I can't say that the url of this blog is http://daattorah.blogspot.co.uk/

      Or that the administrator is R' Daniel Eidensohn. Or that today (day of posting this) s Tuesday.

      Perhaps in fact, you do not exist, and this blog was just created as a ruse to confuse people.

      You are in denial.
      That is what the gemara says. since it is an obvious inaccuracy, at least for today's standards, you are seeking some hidden meaning or discussion. In other words, you are simply in denial.

      I will repeat again what the link you provided says:

      " The Gemara gives the value of Pi as being 3 (Eruvin 14a), and Tosafos points out that, based on the context, the Gemara does not seem to be giving an approximation."

      I do not have to say that the gemara says this. it said it before I was born.



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    10. Eddie what I am saying is obvious - except to those who don't want to hear. I gather that everything written in the Torah and Talmud you take at face vaule?! When something is so obviously incorrect and yet so easily determined - the normal response is to look for an alternative understanding that makes sense. If your mission is to show that Chazal not only did not have superior knowledge but in fact had inferior knowledge then it makes sense that you would be overjoyed at using this as confirmation. If you weren't so motivated - then you obviously would look for another explanation.

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    11. Well it is not "obviously" incorrect. it is correct and accurate, to the nearest integer. If I tell you the way to Emek Refaim is 3Km, when in fact it is 3.1415 Km, it is a reasonable estimate.
      It is an approximation, but there are better approximations. My view is that Chazal were not in the Yeshiva University of their day, and didn't divide their time between Talmudic studies and geometry classes.
      So it is not so much a question of it being absolutely true, but how accurate it was, and for that time, was it the best calculation that would have been available?
      The ration of 3 is also used in the NaKh, ie Kings and Chronicles. This isn't necessarily the calculation that was given to King David , which he handed down to Solomon. It is the King's chronicler who wrote down the description of what took place in the Temple.

      It is ironic, that certain "missions" are attributed to me, when you basically say that the calculation is so easy a child could do it, and hence we cannot believe the figure given by Chazal.

      And now this raises a question.

      Chazal refers to all Chachamim of the Mishnaic and Tannaitic eras. Many opinions given in the total body of Chazalic literature are not considered to be authoritative. Famous example being that Ein Moshiach L'Yisrael.
      Questioning the accuracy of a non-halachic, secular calculation entertained by some Rabbis of the Talmud is not in and of itself a rejection of the Torah and Talmud (although some hold that it is).
      In fact, Rambam often does this, and says we don't follow everything the sages said , eg astronomy, astrology etc.

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  15. While Rabbi Mesielman is a very smart man and highly trained in pure mathematics, he has no graduate training in science, biology etc whatsoever and hence his book is one written purely by a layman with absolutely no more proven scientific knowledge than R Slifkin. To claim otherwise would be a total lie.

    I have no idea whatsoever why he is so obsessed with Slifkin.While I am not particularly interested in this subject and can beleive that if hashem wanted to change the teva and anything is possible by the Borei Oylom, since there are opinions that agree with Slifkin's approach, it is very hard to understand why these books were banned from BTs etc. I can see why the chareidim don't want them taught in mainstream yeshivahs but why there was such an outcry no one fully understands, not even rabbi feldman who changed approaches mid stream.

    I can understand why Slifkin is bitter but he fails to see the MO world for what it is: ultimately those who conveniently eliminate parts of the Torah they find problematic such as issur arko'oys, a get needed to be given voluntarily etc.

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    1. The anti-Slifkin campaign was spearheaded by Tropper. Then R' Elyashiv stepped in, presumably based on what his askanim, and what Tropper told him.
      The anti-science movemnt began with this incident. There may be some room for being a fundamentalist on issues such as evolution, and age of the earth.
      But there is no ikkar emunah that Chazal were experts in science. This is a new invention - and a false one. Rambam had already rejected such a false notion.

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  16. From here: http://slifkinchallenge.blogspot.com/2013/11/when-is-critique-not-critique.html

    "trentDecember 1, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    this is trtending as a teyufta to Rav Meiselman
    Dovid EidensohnNovember 28, 2013 at 5:23 AM
    The gemora in Shabbos 85a says that the rabbis learned about agriculture and the laws of the Torah pertaining to agriculture such as KLAYIM from the pagans who lived in Israel who were expert farmers. The gemora asks how we can rely on rabbis for such knowledge and replies that we rely on the gentile farmers, not the rabbis per se, and brings a posuk. Now, if the rabbis in the time of the ancient pagans were prophets and holy people why did they not just conjure up the science? Obviously, they did not and could not. We find, however, that Moshe knew science as it applied to the Torah from Ruach HaKodesh. See Chulin 60b that asks, how could Moshe talk about animals in the laws of kashruth when he had nothing to do with animals. This is proof that the Torah is from heaven because Moshe could not have figured it out on his own. Rabbeinu Gershon says that Moshe learned the laws of animals from Ruach HaKodesh. Now, we see that the prophets and rabbis in the time of the conquest of Israel under Joshua learned from pagan farmers and could not infer the facts of agriculture on their own. So how could rabbis who lived after the age of prophecy ended in the Second Temple figure out science without Ruach HaKodesh? Obviously, the rabbis learned from the gentiles, just as the gemora says regarding the laws of Klayiim and agriculture. The problem is when we learn from the gentiles about science that impacts upon halacha. But there says Rabbeinu Chananel once we find in the Talmud an accepted scientific fact, even if today science changed, we do not change. This is a big problem today in medical and kashruth issues. What do we do when the Shulchan Aruch says one thing maybe based on the Talmud, that such and such is kosher, such as the worms in fish, and some great rabbis based upon the findings of present science, are nervous about eating such fish, or what do we do about medical questions when the Talmud disagrees with doctors. That is another issue that may never get settled before Moshiach comes. One posek told me to be machmir but Reb Moshe held that we stick completely with the past poskim in Shulchan Aruch and Talmud.
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    Freelance Kiruv Maniac (Mr. Hyde)December 2, 2013 at 7:33 PM

    Sorry to sound redundant, but please tell R. Dovid Eidensohn to read the book.
    Rav Meiselman constantly emphasizes that Chazal were not infallable and that they did not always have access to the true knowledge of nature through the Torah on demand."

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  17. I don't know who I am supposed to address this to probably the Kirub Maniac, but "please tell RDE to read the book." That did it. I come on this blog and enjoy the well organized remarks, but then we have people who think a blog is a book. Now I am told on a blog not only to write a book, but to read one! Well, that is outrageous! We readers and comment people have rights! If I read books, could I spout all of this nonsense? Where is your sensitivity?

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  18. R' Harry's view:

    http://haemtza.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/rabbi-meiselman-science-torah-and-chazal.html

    obviously I am closer to RHM's hashkafa.

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  19. Some comments have been made about R Meiselman's views on R' Soloveitchik, and revisionism, i.e. claiming the Rav was not Zionists or Modern.

    This is an article by R' Rakeffet, which gives a detailed biography of the Rav, and his changing views on Zionism.

    http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/the-religious-zionism-of-rav-soloveitchik/2013/05/01/0/

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  20. Hello Sir,
    I wish to solicit your formal permission to feature the image of Rabbi Meiselman in my upcoming Christian Book. I would be glad to read soon from you on this request. Cheers........................! LL.LH

    __//
    LONLON Tekpa
    tekpa@live.com

    ReplyDelete

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