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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

More about צאת הכוכבים

The Daf Yomi shiur that I go to is given by a big Talmid Chacham who is UO (he has been learning in Kollel for 12+ years). It was interesting to see how he dealt with R' Tam being against reality. Basically he threw up his hands and said the simplest answer is to say נשתנה הטבע. To me this is difficult to accept, there is absolutely zero evidence for that (certainly not since R' Tam's time which is less then 1000 years ago). I would rather say that R' Tam made a mistake in science. The fact is that one of the main acharonim who discusses this topic, the Minchas Cohen, made a clear error in science. He writes that even thought where he lived in Europe reality contradicts R' Tam, but it must be that in Israel R' Tam corresponds to reality. Of course, in fact, twilight is shorter in Israel then Europe and therefore contradicts R' Tam even more. In other words, the Minchas Cohen made a mistake in science. R' Tam lived in France and very possibly made the same error.

What amazes me more is that in America so many people are machmir for 72 minutes. Besides what I pointed out in my previous post (that 72 minutes is probably not shitas R' Tam), R' Tam's shita is against reality, it is pitch black out well before 72 minutes. I understand that this is the shita of many Rishonim and the Shulchan Aruch, but it is not a halacha l'moshe m'sinai, the Gemara gives astronomical signs which we are 100% certain come well before 72 minutes.

Am I being arrogant or anti-Torah in thinking that R' Tam made a mistake? It isn't just me, that Gra made the same point (that R' Tam contradicts reality). I can't help it, I have been brought up to think logically and shitas R' Tam just makes no sense.


At 5:26 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

I think most people know it contradicts reality, but take the legalistic approach that this is how it's paskened, so this is what we do...

At 5:56 PM, Blogger bluke said...

That doesn't make much sense if it is a mistake. It is a good thing that the Gra said it 250 years ago, otherwise we would really be stuck. At least in Israel the minhag is strongly like the gra, almost no one (in the non-Hasidic) community waits 72 minutes.

At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Nobody said...

"Basically he threw up his hands and said the simplest answer is to say נשתנה הטבע."

So then the other Rishonim would be against observation (at that time anyway). No, that answer makes no sense, even on its own grounds.

At 3:35 AM, Anonymous Boruch said...

Contradicts reality and making a mistake are not the same.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger bluke said...


What are you trying to say that R' Tam knew that what he was saying contradicts reality but said it anyway? The Gemara was clearly describing astronomical phenomena and therefore it needs to fit in with reality. For R' Tam to give a pshat which contradicts reality means that he made a mistake in his understanding of the world. As I wrote, the Minchas Cohen wrote explicitly that it must be that R' Tam's zmanim must work out in Israel, R' Tam probably thought the same thing. However, as we know that is mistaken.

At 3:31 AM, Anonymous Nobody said...

I would just like to point out the question in Tosphos תרי תילתי מיל on Shabbos לה. At the end he says:

וע"ק דניחזי אנן באדם בינוני שילך מתחילת שקיעת החמה ד' מילין כדאמר בפסחים.

So that rather changes the observational argument. Either they disagree about how long ד' מילין is, or when שקיעה starts, but you can't say they contradicting their own observation (or that they didn't bother to observe).

I actually once saw an interesting argument supporting Rabbeinu Tam once, that the ד' מילין is actually the amount of time it would take to pick up and walk, come שקיעה rather than the usual, of taking how long a full day journey would be (including stops, resting, etc.) and dividing that time by each מיל. That means that the "mistake" (or rather the foundation of the question) lies in understanding Rabbeinu Tam's mil. The question is based on saying that a mil must be measured the typical full day division way, so ר"ת opinion can't stand. But it would also mean that Rabbeinu Tam's own שקיעה is much earlier than 72 minutes, because he holds that ד' מילין is a shorter time in this context.

This, by the way, also impacts on your problem with how come people wait 72 minutes and not 90. Typically, there would nothing wrong with combining two halachic opinions - how many mil, and how long a mil is, even if the two were not said together. Just like you could wear ר"ת Tefillin without fulfilling all of his opinions in Tefillin. The problem with holding with ר"ת in this, but using the standard mil, is that it contradicts observation (the problem of the גר"א as well as the בעל התניא).

At 9:33 AM, Blogger ben torah said...

It is hard to imagine that their shiur of 4 mil was much different. Mil is a shiur used in many places and therefore would have been wll known.

At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Nobody said...

"Mil is a shiur used in many places and therefore would have been well known"

Just to clarify, what I am suggesting is that they held there were two shiurim in time (not in distance) which can be called a mil (at least according to Rabbeinu Tam). One is how long it takes for an average person to walk a full day, with stops, rest, a sustainable pace, a package for supplies, and whatever else entails a full day walking journey. Measure how many mil such a person can walk in a full day, and divide the time by that. That would be the standard mil, also the mil that we use in halacha.

The second mil would be more literal: How long it takes a person to walk x mil. If x is a small number, then the time per mil is much faster, as there is less need for stops, rest, and the sustainable pace is faster. In this case, they were using the literal mil, but not in all cases.

At 6:13 PM, Anonymous Shmuel said...

Doesn't tzeis hakochavim and bein hashmashot have to do with the Talmud's understanding that the sun sets in the west and then races along the bottom of the earth and reappears? Since the sun doesn't move anywhere, what does your daf yomi teacher say about that? Has nature changed there, too? The sun used to move, but stopped doing so in the past 1500 years? Aren't we all just a wee bit tired of this convenient, contrived, "nishtaneh hatevah" explanation, which purports to explain all intractable difficulties, and which in the end explains nothing? Shall I keep checking my brain at the door when I attend a Talmud class, keep on denying reality I see all around me because fallible men living 1500 years ago made a mistake in their lay scientific observations and often depended on the errors of others? Is it not too late to join the Karaites?


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