Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Science & Torah: Debate between Rabbi Meiselman & Rabbi Slifkin

Five Towns Jewish Times  This is a followup to Rabbi Meiselman's article in the 5 Towns Jewish Times posted here Daas Torah Blog. Further discussion is found on  Rabbi Slikfin's Blog and rebuttal by  Rabbi Dovid Kornreich's Blog Additional material is found in the recent cover article on Rabbi Meiselman in the English Mishpacha and rebutal on  Rabbi Slifkin's Blog


  1. Why are you linking to Kornreich?

    Nothing wrong with arguing with Slifkin, but the nastiness and mean-spirited nature of that blog makes it unworthy of being read by a normal Yid.

  2. Rav Kornreich shlita makes strong arguments.

  3. I think both parties are way too emotionally invested to get a level-headed discussion.

    RNS has too basic problems not faced by the opposition:

    1- In order to prove that the mesorah allows rationalism to his extent, RNS has to make an appeal to authority. He needs to show that baalei mesorah took this approach.

    2- He both maintains a pluralistic, eilu va'eilu approach, in saying that he can appeal to positions that didn't carry the day. And yet he also maintains that his position is "more correct", that R' Meiselman's position is wrong -- even though he too has sources and support, and thus fits within the eilu va'eilu RNS invokes in the outset.


    1- I think that the notion that Chazal just worked within the science they had was actually historically the dominant position; beyond majority, it actually was the default for most of Jewish history. The maximalist stance gained ground during a counter-reformation period, and now we have people on the defensive for believing what the rishonim and early acharonim did.

    (Questioning hashgachah peratis WRT non-humans or even whether it applies to all humans is another example of where the maximalists have buried what was historically the normative stance. Or how it's now avante garde to say, as the mishnah in Avos does, that a boy should have years of background in Nakh and mishnah before ever opening a gemara.)

    2- R' Meiselman is equally guilty of burying the eilu va'eilu aspect of this. It's one thing to argue your position; it's another to pretend the other shitah never existed -- especially when it's supportable from the vast majority of rishonim.

    3- I think the question of whether the 6 days of maaseh bereishis were figurative or whether they are literal but that time doesn't mean time as we experience it now to be mostly about words over substance. In any case, it's not 6 days as we think of the word days.

  4. micha: It IS 6 days as we know days.

  5. AZ,

    1- Name a single rishon who says it's 6 days as we understand days. The Rambam? 6 causal steps. Rashi? The 6 yamim is also the single yom in which Hashem created both shamayim va'aretz and man (see 1:1 and 2:4). Ramban? R' Dessler says the Ramban holds that the 6 days are also the next 6 millennia.

    The Maharal is also explicit, BTW.

    I believe this is a big difference between discussion of creation and the flood. The core issue isn't literal vs idiom vs allegory, but mesorah vs change. WRT creation, saying the universe is physically 13.7bn yrs old is consistent with the Oral Torah. Saying the flood was local or allegorical is only motivated by having more confidence in empirical findings than mesoretic claims.

    2- I didn't say that bit about it not being time as we know it because that's what I believe or what the majority of rishonim say, but because I was representing R' Meiselman's position (article here:

    "However, no changes can be made to the clear pesukim of the Torah. There may be many ways to understand the six days of Creation. The concept of time during this period may have been different than our concept of time. Our way of measuring time began with the Shabbos on the seventh day. However, this in no way changes the literal reading of the Torah that the Creation lasted six days."

    I don't see this "literal but not as we measure time" as all that different in substance than the "allegory" approach.

  6. AZ:
    I was not addressing whether or not Korneich's arguments are strong.

    What I did address was that his arguments are malicious and nasty -- and therefore unbecoming a normal Yid.


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