Friday, December 24, 2010

Poskim today can not claim that earlier sources didn't know the metziius (reality)

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Klausenberger Rebbe (Divrei Yatziv O.C. 113): Concerning the view of Rabbeinu Tam and reality. Our holy faith is that Yiftach in his generation is like Shmuel in his (Rosh HaShanna 25b) and   that rule applies to all generations. Look at the Divrei Chai (Y.D. #105) in his discussion of the status of the Ohr HaChaim as well as the Beis Shlomo (O.C. 2:112). See also the language of one of the great contemporary gedolim in the Letters of the Chazon Ish (32), “What difference does it make if the angel Gavriel or Michoel tells me – in fact weren’t all the Rishonim fiery angels?… and it was through the holy spirit which appeared in them that they knew how to decide issues – whether to push aside a gemora and establish the tradition of the Geonim or whether to push aside the tradition of the Geonim because of the decision of the gemora… We relate to the Gra in the line of Moshe Rabbeinu, Ezra, Rabbinu Hakadosh, Rav Ashi, the Gra…” Consequently it is known that all poskim whose words are accepted which were given to Moshe on Sinai as the Talmud. Therefore if someone, G﷓d forbid, should express himself against one of the poskim it is that he is criticizing a Tanna or denying the Torah of Moshe – G﷓d forbid! This is the root of heresy. Just as we saw the Karaites who believed only in the Written Torah so there are heretic that believe in the Talmud but G﷓d forbid – not in the poskim. But we view a continuous line from Ravina and Rav Ashi to the Chasam Sofer and the Divrei Chaim and other major poskim. One who is dismissive of a posek is included in what was written by the Divrei Chaim (2:33). Therefore when the poskim themselves disagree – we with dim eyes and for whom bribery and lust blind the eyes even of the wise – we simply can not see the underlying reality of the debate that enables us to decide the issue ourselves. For example, we can not decide on elementary kashrus issues such as “tato gavar” based on the scientific understanding of chemists…  even though we can attempt to analyse their holy words from sources in the gemora. At best one who has great ability is able with his greatness in Torah to bring proofs from our Sages and to ascertain what the majority of poskim rule in this particular halacha. Look at the Divrei Chaim (Y.D. 2:45) where he is very upset about the disrespect against the prince of Torah – Rashi. He says, “Even though his words are occasionally difficult for us to understand with our dense brains, nevertheless that which is distant from you is that way only because of our limited intellect. But the main point is, Who in our generation would we say are able to make halachic decisions against the great Rishonim such as these. We have only the ability to accept their words with love and to follow after the majority view – as was done by the Shulchan Aruch itself. Therefore we can not deviate from the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch just because we have some question since we are well aware of of how lowly we are in recent generations..”  And since the words of the Rabbeinu Tam and the Geonim are the words of the Living G﷓d – they are able to disagree with each other regarding the appearance of which stars defines the beginning of night and what is the definition of night. Therefore if someone in our day comes says that one of the poskim erred in the definition of night – he is considered a heretic who has attacked the holiness of the poskim who have said otherwise. We are allowed, however, to say that the customs of which places follows which posekim. For example Shabbos (130a) states that in the place of R’ Eliezer they would cut wood to make charcoal.. However, G﷓d forbid to say that the custom in one place was different in this place from the other poskim because the reality that we see with our bleary eyes is different i.e., that the poskim erred in understanding the underlying facts. That is because obviously the Beis Yosef, the Pri Chodesh… saw the reality of the stars in Yerushalyim, Tzfas, and Tevirya and they ruled what they ruled…


  1. Am I wrong, or does the Kloizenburger Rebbe actualy say something far more limited -- that one may not say a pesaq is wrong due to an error in metzi'us.

    After all, he is using the Chazon Ish as a reference, and the CI says that it's the authority of the poseiq that defines the law regardless of metzi'us.

    This smaller claim would imply that Hashem guides the poseiq to the correct answer, even if the poseiq basis his reasoning on a faulty assumption. Not that his assumptions are always correct.


  2. The writer is actually in some trouble himself, for he refers to the Hatam Sofer who he claims to be part of this tradition - when the Hatam Sofer himself relied on modern scientific discoveries , and explicitly stated that Chazal were not aware of reality, in reproductive biology!

  3. The Chasam Sofer talks about Rishonim, not Chazal IIRC.

    Also, did the Klausenberger Rebbe believe that there is a dome in the sky? Is that the R' Tam he is referring to? This is very difficult.

  4. The citing of the CS is a non-issue if (as I said yesterday) the point of the teshuvah is that the halachic conclusion is authoritative, not necessarily that the science is accurate.

    While it's true that we know more science than Rashi, the Divrei Chaim is correct that we cannot understand the full import of his pesaqim and thus we cannot pasqen against the rishonim. This line of reasoning is consistent with the DC's words, and does not imply infallible knowledge by chazal or rishonim.


  5. Again, if the Kloizenburger rebbe is referring to the CI's position, then he is saying that even when chazal or rishonim (and perhaps even a well accepted acharon) pasqens using reasoning that appears based on bad science, it is inappropriate for us to question the pesaq itself.

    To use the example of the dome of the sky and Rabbeinu Tam... Thanks to refraction, the sun really does appear to barely move up or down at the beginning and end of the day. During the period, the sun is actually below the horizon -- refraction bends its light to reach us. So, even during the equinox, the day is slightly longer than at night, with the added time being one in which the sun appears to flatten more than rise or set. IOW, even though Persian astronomy and the dome of the sky is entirely wrong, the visual phenomena it was created to explain are real.

    Even if the issue was ignored in Ptolemeic astronomy, causes math anomalies in Rambam's Hil' Qiddush haChodesh, and isn't taught today in elementary or HS.

    The halachic concepts of alos, sheqi'ah and tzeis depend on how the sky looks, not the explanation as to why.

    So it's possible to suggest that the bad science has nothing to do with Rabbeinu Tam's pesaq. But whether that's correct or not, it is still clear there is more going on about the relationship of realia and pesaq than we are able to second-guess.



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