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Sunday, July 31, 2005

R' Zev Leff on moving to Eretz Yisrael

Here are some quotes from an essay of R' Leff (a prominent Charedi Rav) taken from The Mitzvah of Living in Eretz Yisrael - Rabbi Zev Leff

...The Chazon Ish, the Gerrer Rebbe, Avnei Nezer and the Pischei Tshuvah in Shulchan Aruch agree with the Ramban and the Chareidim that there is an obligatory mitzvah from the Torah today. Theirs is the majority view of the latter-day poskim.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ruled that it is a mitzvah today, but only of a voluntary, not obligatory nature. He compared yishuv ha'aretz to tzitzis, which is also a voluntary mitzvah. (One doesn't have to wear a four cornered garment, but if one chooses to, he needs tzitzis.) But how would we look at a person who doesn't wear tzitzis because it's only a voluntary mitzvah? Obviously, such a person is not a yirei shamayim. He's not a person who's looking for opportunities to do mitzvos. The gemora says that in a time of anger one is punished for avoiding a voluntary mitzvah.

But even if there is a doubt about the mitzvah does that mean it should be dismissed? How much money is spent, how much time is spent on acquiring a kosher mezuzah, written with every hiddur, in careful fulfillment of all the shitos? In normal everyday mitzvos, we take care to be mehadrin min hamehadrin, to be yotzei all the shitos, to take all the halachic opinions into consideration. Yet, we don't find the same attitude when it comes to yishuv ha'aretz. There are people who build their sukkos using only wooden pegs, just to fulfill the shita of the Chazon Ish, which nobody else holds like. The same Chazon Ish says it's a mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael.
...
Will you be able to survive in Eretz Yisrael financially? If you can survive without begging, that's called making a parnasah.

What is the standard of living that the Shulchan Aruch has in mind that would exempt a person from a mitzvah in which he is otherwise obligated? Is it a question of owning one car instead of two? Or dwelling in five rooms instead of twenty? Will you be able to afford only one maid instead of two, or maybe no maids at all? A person who is used to a certain standard of living, who would have to sacrifice that standard in order to live in Eretz Yisrael, might indeed be exempt from the mitzvah.

But the question is: How proper is it to maintain a life style that prevents you from keeping mitzvos? Is that the kind of life that HaShem wants of a person? So it depends on how we define making a living. Baruch HaShem, there are people living here who are eating, who are functioning, wearing clothing, and are making ends meet without going around begging. Or if not, at least they're close to making ends meet. And if they're not close, someday it'll get close.

But I'll tell you a secret?there are also people in America who don't make ends meet. It all comes from HaShem.
...
Safety: I find it very amusing. I live on a moshav in what the newspapers call "The West Bank." I don't lock my door at night. True, the moshav is surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and we have guards all the time. But, Baruch HaShem, even after the intifada, the problems have been very minimal. At least I know when I walk out, what my enemy looks like. And I know that the people in the street with the guns are on my side.

But in Boro Park, I'm not sure that the people in the street with the guns are on my side. When I visit the States, a day doesn't go by without somebody being mugged. I find it extremely amusing to hear someone asking me, "Don't you feel unsafe living on the West Bank?"?as they lock the six locks on their door. One has to face the fact that it's not safe in America, either. And in Eretz Yisrael one has a very good protection policy, Hinei, lo yanum v'lo yashen, Shomer Yisrael. HaShem has a special connection with Eretz Yisrael.
...
Will living in Eretz Yisrael enhance my mitzvah observance?
...
The places of Torah in chutz l'aretz are just an extension of the Torah of Eretz Yisrael. They are meant for people who want kedusha, but cannot go to live in Eretz Yisrael. For such people, for all practical purposes they are in Eretz Yisrael. (Whereas someone who has his feet in Eretz Yisrael, but his mind is in chutz l'aretz, is in chutz l'aretz.)

It's said that someone who learns the parshayos of korbanos, it's as if he brought a korban. But that's only for someone who cannot bring a korban, because there is no Beis HaMikdash; someone who can bring a korban in the Beis HaMikdash and learns the parasha instead, isn't fulfilling anything. If you can be here and choose not to, just wanting doesn't help.

Yeshiva Tuition II

Updated


Hirhurim quotes R' Feival Cohen about the tuition crisis as follows

R. Feivel Cohen (author of the Badei Ha-Shulhan) returned from a convention of Agudath Israel of America somewhat upset. It seems that there was a big discussion at the convention about what some were calling a "tuition crisis." R. Cohen pointed out that the Gemara in Beitzah 16a states the following:

All of one's livelihood is determined from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur except for what one spends on Shabbos, on holidays, and one's children's Torah education because [for these three things] if one reduces [the expense] they reduce [one's income] and if one adds [to the expense] they add to one's income.

Clearly, said R. Cohen, there cannot be a tuition crisis. The more you pay for tuition, the more one receives as income to make up for that expense. At least according to the Gemara and "We know what we call people who do not believe what the Gemara says."


I would like to answer his question with another question. How come there are so many Jews in America (having a tuition crisis) don't Chazal tell us in countless places the wonders of Eretz Yisrael and the benefits of living there? Isn't living in Eretz Yisrael a mitzva that is shkula k'neged kol hamitzvos?

Here are some of the many מאמרי חז"ל relating to the subject

תלמוד בבלי מסכת כתובות דף קי עמוד ב .1
לעולם ידור אדם בארץ ישראל, אפילו בעיר שרובה גויים; ואל ידור בחוצה לארץ, ואפילו
בעיר שרובה ישראל: שכל היוצא לחוצה לארץ--כאילו עובד עבודה זרה

A person should leave in Eretz Yisrael even in a city full of non-Jews and not live outside of Eretz Yisrael even in a city that is mostly Jewish because whoever lives outside of Eretz Yisrael is like he is worshipping avoda zara

2. תלמוד בבלי מסכת כתובות דף קיא עמוד א
אמר רבי אלעזר: כל הדר בארץ ישראל שרוי בלא עון

Whoever lives in Erezt Yisrael lives with no sins

3. תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף ה עמוד א
תניא, רבי שמעון בן יוחאי אומר: שלש מתנות טובות נתן הקדוש ברוך הוא לישראל, וכולן לא נתנן אלא על - ידי יסורין. אלו הן: 1. תורה 2. וארץ ישראל 3. והעולם הבא

Hashem gave 3 gifts to the Jewish people that are acquired through difficulties, Torah, Eretz Yisrael, and Olam haba

4.תלמוד בבלי מסכת קידושין דף מט עמוד ב
עשרה קבים חכמה ירדו לעולם, תשעה נטלה ארץ ישראל, ואחד כל העולם כולו

Ten measure of chochma (knowledge) came down to the world, 9 went to Eretz Yisrael and one to the rest of the world

5.ספרי דברים פיסקא פ
וירשתם אותה וישבתם בה ושמרתם לעשות את כל החקים האלה אמרו ישיבת ארץ ישראל שקולה כנגד כל המצות שבתורה.

Living in Eretz Yisrael is equal/comparable to all other mitzvos

6.תלמוד בבלי מסכת פסחים דף קיג עמוד א
אמר רבי יוחנן: שלשה מנוחלי העולם הבא, אלו הן: הדר בארץ ישראל, והמגדל בניו לתלמוד תורה, והמבדיל על היין במוצאי שבתות. מאי היא - דמשייר מקידושא לאבדלתא

R' Yochana said 3 people inherit olam haba: the person who lives in Eretz Yisroel ...

7.תלמוד בבלי מסכת בבא בתרא דף קנח עמוד ב
אמר רבי זירא, שמע מינה: אוירא דארץ ישראל מחכים.

R' Zera said the air of Eretz Yisrael makes a person wiser

8.מסכתות קטנות מסכת אבות דרבי נתן נוסחא א פרק כו
(רבי עקיבא) אלא כך אמר דוד כל המניח ארץ ישראל ויוצא חוץ לארץ מעלה עליו הכתוב כאלו עובד עבודת אלילים

The generation that leaves Eretz Yisroel and goes to chutz laaretz is like they are worshipping avoda zara.
...

Why should people living in America take the statements of Chazal regarding tuition more seriously then the statements regarding living in Eretz Yisrael? After all there are numerous statements about Eretz Yisroel (I quoted 8 which is just the tip of the iceberg) while this statement about tuition appears only once in the Talmud Bavli.

I would suggest that the same Jews living in America who don't seem to believe in the statements of Chazal regarding living in Eretz Yisrael don't believe in the words of Chazal regarding tuition.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Yeshiva Tuition - Updated

The gemara in Beitzah daf 16a states as follows:
כל מזונותיו של אדם קצובים לו מראש השנה עד ראש השנה חוץ מהוצאת שבתות והוצאות י"ט והוצאת בניו לתלמוד תורה
The income of a person is fixed from one Rosh Hashana to the next except for what he spends on shabbos, yom tov, and the Torah education of his sons

From this gemara we see that whatever a person spends to teach his sons torah, Hashem will pay back and is not considered part of his income. In other words, if his income was set at $x and he paid $y for his son's torah education he will still end up with $x dollars, the same would apply if he spent $0 on his son's torah education he would still end up with $x. This would seem to imply that tuition payments for boys do not take away from a person's income. Of course, the Gemara was talking about Torah education and since tuition includes payment for secular studies as well that would not be included. In addition, the Gemara only talks about boys where you have a chiyuv to teach them Torah, however, by girls since there is no chiyuv the money spent would come from your income.

This is just food for thought. This gemara should make everyone think twice about how they view their income and their plans to increase it.

Update


I see that Gil has posted about this topic as well Yeshiva Tuition. He refers to an article by RHS Straightening Out Our Priorities where he also brings down this gemara. The whole article is well worth reading but I will quote RHS conclusion.

On a communal level, we have lost our bearings regarding what is a normal and proper lifestyle, and what is an opulent and improper one[8]. In that context, some Orthodox people spend large sums of money on non-essentials without making yeshiva tuition a top priority, and consequently want to send their children to public school to save money. We, too, need Moshe Rabbeinu’s rebuke! What an unfortunate confusion of priorities! Our children are immeasurably more valuable than our homes and all other material possessions. If we really believed G-d that the Torah is the “kli chemdah” (Avos 3:18), and that observance of the mitzvos is the wish of the Creator of the world, how could we possibly be so lax regarding the Torah education of our children?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Making things a little easier to find

I have started to categorize my posts and put them in the sidebar. There are now the following categories:

Halachic Issues
Hilchos Shabbos
The Slifkin Affair
Science and Torah
Disengagement
Israel and the Palestinians

I still need to add a few more categories and categorize more posts but this is a good start. I hope this makes it easier for people to find things that they are interested in.

Do we need to honor a non-observant Jewish King?

One of the main sources for this question is the first pasuk of last week's haftorah (Parshas Pinchas). After Eliyahu Hanavi's success at Har Hacarmel, he is left alone with the King, Achav. Achav starts riding home all alone and Eliyahu runs in front of Achav's chariot to honor the King.

Here we have a fundamental dispute among the mefarshim down to our times. Why did Eliyahu Hanavi honor Achav by running in front of his chariot, after all Achav was a rasha? One school of thought answers that the Mitzva of giving honor to the King even applies to a rasha. The mitzva is to give honor to the office not the person. The King represents Hashems malchus on earth, whether he is a rasha or not is irrelevant. Others say that Achav did teshuva along with all of Bnei Yisrael and therefore Eliyahu honored him. However, you are not allowed to honor a King who is a rasha.

As expected, the Satmer Rebbe took the second approach while R' Henkin (writing before the State of Israel existed) assumed like the first approach.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Do the Palestinians want to live in peace with us?

I will let their own words speak for themselves.

Special Dispatch Series - No. 236

Faysal Al-Husseini in his Last Interview: The Oslo Accords Were a Trojan Horse; The Strategic Goal is the Liberation of Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea'
...
he Strategic Goal: A State from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea

Q: "What are the borders of the Palestinian state you are referring to, and what kind of 'Jerusalem' would you accept as the capital of your state?" A: "With this question you are dragging me into talking about what we refer to as our "strategic" goals and our "political" goals, or the phased goals. The "strategic" goals are the "higher goals," the "long-term goals," or the "unwavering goals," the goals that are based on solid Pan-Arab historic rights and principles. Whereas the "political" goals are those goals which were set for a temporary timeframe, considering the [constraints of] the existing international system, the balance of power, our own abilities, and other considerations which "vary" from time to time."
...
"We are [acting] exactly like them. In 1947, in accordance with [the UN] Partition Plan, they decided to declare statehood on 55% of the land of Palestine, which they later increased to 78% during the War of 1948, and then again [increased it] to 100% during the War of 1967. Despite all that, they never attempted to make secret of their long-term goal, which is "Greater Israel" from the Nile to the Euphrates. Similarly, if we agree to declare our state over what is now only 22% of Palestine, meaning the West Bank and Gaza – our ultimate goal is [still] the liberation of all historical Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, even if this means that the conflict will last for another thousand years or for many generations."


Faisal Husseini was a so called Palestinian moderate.

Special Dispatch Series - No. 894

Hamas Political Head: Calming Down is Just a Trick Within the Resistance Plan; Hamas Does Not Object to the '67 Borders as an Interim Solution
"... I cannot be satisfied with the 1967 borders alone and see them as a permanent solution... A Palestinian might say: 'Who gave you the right to forego the rights of Palestinians?' So Abu Mazen himself says, in his talks: 'I cannot forego the right of return.' It will be his political suicide, for there are 5-6 million whose problem must be solved. However, Hamas has no objection to accept the 1967 borders as an interim solution.


Yasir Arafat's Timeline of Terror
Oct. 21, 1996: Speaking at a rally near Bethlehem, Arafat said "We know only one word - jihad. jihad, jihad, jihad. Whoever does not like it can drink from the Dead Sea or from the Sea of Gaza." (Yediot Ahronot, October 23, 1996)

In a statement published in the official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, Arafat is quoted: "O my dear ones on the occupied lands, relatives and friends throughout Palestine and the diaspora, my colleagues in struggle and in arms, my colleagues in struggle and in jihad...Intensify the revolution and the blessed intifada...We must burn the ground under the feet of the invaders."


This was of course during late 1990's when the Oslo Peace Accords were still going strong.

Imagine if Israel had executed an innocent Brazilian

Here is a great article about this From London to Jerusalem

...for taking the bare minimum steps necessary to save the lives of its citizens in recent years Israel has been mercilessly berated by virtually the entire world.

Had Israeli police shot dead an innocent foreigner on one of its buses or trains, confirming the kill with a barrage of bullets at close range in a mistaken effort to thwart a bombing, the UN would probably have been sitting in emergency session by late afternoon to unanimously denounce the Jewish state.

By evening, 12 hours had passed since the shooting, but the BBC still hadn't interviewed a grieving family, no one had called for British universities to be boycotted, Chelsea and Arsenal soccer clubs hadn't been ordered to play their matches in Cyprus, and The Guardian hadn't yet called British policy against its Pakistani population "genocide."

As for London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who is in overall control of transport in the city, including the train where the man was shot, and who strongly defended the shoot-to-kill policy as a legitimate way to prevent suicide bombings, he was not yet facing war crimes charges – as Livingstone himself has demanded Israeli political leaders should be.


The hypocrisy of the world is unbelievable, only Israel is not allowed to defend itself. This confirms to me the statement of Chazal halacha esav soneh l'yaakov, there is no other explanation and we need to act accordingly.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The more you learn the more you realize how little you know

As I mentioned a while back I am learning Amud Yomi with tests. We just had a hard test on 1 perek (about 15 blatt), which really required you to know the perek. I reviewed a lot and thankfully did well on the tests and I feel that I really know the perek.

However, before I get a swelled head, I realize that this is a drop in the bucket. Right now I know 1 perek, I really need to know all of Shas at least like this. When I think of my Rebbe, RHS, he can do this on any Maseches in Shas and much more. He can tell you all the shitos of the Rishonim, Acharonim, Rambam, Shulchan Aruch etc. on everything.

After learning 1 perek and trying to keep all the information in my head it is mind boggling to me that someone could have all of Shas, Rishonim, and Acharonim like that. However, that is my goal, when we finish this Masechta we are going to have a test on the whole masechta and I hope that I can do as well on that as I did on the perek test and remember it. After that, we will move on to the next masechta etc. until we finish Shas. This is a very long term plan but doable.

There is a story about the Gra that someone came to him and said that he had just learned a given masechta. the Gra then asked him how many disputes are there in the maseches between Abaye and Rava, the person was dumbfounded and couldn't answer off the top of his head. The Gra then proceeded to list off all the Amoraim and Tannaim mentioned in the mesechta and what they argued about etc. right then and there without having to think for a second. That is bekius.

I really recommend this kind of program for everyone, it forces you to do Chazara and the tests give you a good sense of where you are. It gives every person a realistic opportunity to learn Shas and actually know it.

The Aveilus of the Three Weeks

RYBS has a well known shita about this. RYBS says that every minhag is either based on an existing din or a kiyum of an existing din (just like kol d'tikun rabbanan k'ein d'oraysa tiken). Therefore, he says that the minhag of aveilus that Ashkenazim have from the 17th of Tamuz must be based on an existing din, namely the 12 month Aveilus one has for a parent. Based on this he said that someone who shaved every day would be allowed to shave during the 3 weeks just like he is allowed to shave during the 12 months. However, the 9 days is like the aveilus of sheloshim which has no heter to shave and therefore it would be prohibited to shave during the 9 days even if you shave very day.

I personally do not shave during the 3 weeks for a very simple reason. The minhag in israel in general and specifically where I live is not to to shave and I have no compelling reason to shave, no one cares where I work whether I shave or not. This way I look different during the 3 weeks and it is an expression of the aveilus.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Is Gaza "captured" territory?

Believe it or not a misguided Jewish blogger brought up this old canard when discussing the disengagement. He writes Pointed questions for the orange olam

What does your morality say about the fact that those thriving communities we're about to abandon were built on stolen land with stolen water? When screaming about the raging injustice of the expulsion, do any of you pause to suffer guilt pangs about the origins of the community about to be expelled? Update: Some PC minded thugs, perhaps correctly, have objected to my use of the phrase "stolen land." I apologize, and reiterate that I have no wish to offend. Please suggest a substitute phrase, recalling that the land did not belong to Isarel before 1967, and that it was through the (justified) use of force that it entered Israel's control. "Stolen" is the wrong word, perhaps, but what is the right word?

This is completely and utterly wrong both based on Torah and international law.

In torah we don't have to go further then the first Rashi in Chumash. Also, there is a din of kibush milchama.

In international law it is also not stolen.

The San Remo conference in the early 1920's established the British mandate over Palestine. The British mandate of Palestine included what is now Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza (Note: the West Bank is the Jordanian term for Judea, I am using it because unfortunately that is the commonly used term). It stated the following:

The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.

Nowhere did it distinguish between any part of the mandate meaning that Jews had full right to settle in Gaza and the West Bank as well as the rest of the Palestine mandate.

The San Remo Conference has not been superseded. When in 1946 the United Nations was created in place of the League of Nations, its Charter included Article 80 specifically to allow the continuation of existing Mandates (including the British Mandate). Article 80 stated that nothing ... shall be construed in or of itself to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which Members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.

Then in November 1947 came time for Resolution 181, which recommended the Partition of Palestine. Like all UN Resolutions pertaining to the Jewish-Arab conflict it was not enforceable. It was simply arecommendation, and the Arab countries rejected it. As the Syrian representative in the General Assembly stated:

In the first place the recommendations of the General Assembly are not imperative on those to whom they are addressed. The General Assembly only gives advice and the parties to whom advice is addressed accept it when it is rightful and just and when it does not impair their fundamental rights.

If the resolution had been implemented maybe it would be possible to argue that it replaced the San Remo Conference resolution, which had legitimized the rights of the Jews to settle in any place in Palestine. However, it was not only rejected by the Arabs, but in violation of the UN Charter they launched a military aggression against the newly reborn Jewish state thus invalidating the resolution. By the time of the cease-fire at the end of the War of Independence there was still no other enforceable document pertaining to the rights of the Jews to settle Eretz Yisrael - they remained intact.

See THE MYTH OF "OCCUPIED" TERRITORIES and THE INTERNATIONAL LAW REGARDING THE LAND OF ISRAEL AND JERUSALEM

Of course for someone in the US to talk about captured or occupied territory is quite hypocritical as most of the US is occupied or captured territory. Much of the Southwest was captured from Mexico in 1848 and of course much of the West was "stolen" from the Indians.

In conclusion both in Torah law and International law Jews have full rights to live in Gaza and the West Bank.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Why is what's good for Cyprus not good for Israel?

This is related to events from about a year ago, where the UN tried to broker a deal between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots. This is very relevant to the whole disengagement debate.

The UN and EU decided that there is no right of return for refugees and that the "new situation that has been created" must be considered. Why is what's good for Cyprus not good for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

A little background: Since Cyprus became independent in 1960, there has been tension between the Greek majority (80%) who are Orthodox Christians and the Muslim, Turkish minority that lives in the northern part of the island. In 1974, the Turkish army invaded the island to aid its Turkish "brothers". In 1983, the Turkish-Cypriots declared an independent state in the northern part of the island.

During negotiations for reunification, the Greeks demanded that all of the refugees and their descendents return to the Turkish section. Obviously, the Turks were opposed. When preparing their plan, the United Nations and European Union did not accept the Greeks’ demand to allow the refugees to return!

The second provision related to Turkish “settlers” and “settlements”. After the invasion, the Turks brought farmers from Turkey and settled them in northern Cyprus. They settled there, built settlements, increased the number of Turks on the island and contributed to the agricultural economy of Turkish Cyprus. During the negotiations, the Greeks demanded that the Turkish “settlers” return to Turkey. The Turks were opposed. The United Nations and European Union supported the Turkish position and left the “settlers” and “settlements” in place, despite the Greek demand.

The result is quite embarrassing. As of this week, the Turkish army occupies a significant portion of an EU’s member state’s territory. In recent years, it seems that European leaders cannot sleep well at night because of the "Israeli occupation". Does the "Turkish occupation" of one of their member countries also disturb their slumber?"

Why do so many people support disengagement?

The polls in Israel still show a majority and I am seeing frum Jews in the blogosphere supporting disengagement, for example see the Godol's post Gaza.

I believe the reason is very simple. The right wing has never proposed a realistic alternative. Basically, they want to keep the status quo. As the old saying goes you can't beat something with nothing. Many people have come to the realization that the status quo cannot continue. It is simply untenable for a whole host of reasons. Therefore, people will grasp at any straw that is offered to them. The latest one is disengagement. The average Israeli wants to live his life in peace and not have to worry about suicide bombers etc. The left at least offers such a possibility, the right does not.

I strongly oppose disengagment both on religious grounds (see R' Shachter's article in the RJJ Journal about land for Peace) and political/security grounds. Appeasement never works and disengagement just projects weakness to the Palestinians which they will be quick to exploit. There is no doubt that the majority of Palestinians believe that Tel Aviv is a settlement and that they want to return to Yaffo. Disengagement will fuel the fire of groups like Hamas.

Given all of that, I have to say that the right has not presented a tenable alternative, as I said status quo is untenable.

I believe that transfer is the only real option, however, it is not a realistic one in 2005.

Update



Even the left wing Haaretz commentator, Danny Rubinstein, echoes the security arguments. He writes Second Thoughts

...The argument for second thoughts stems from the events of recent days, which raise fears that a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is causing serious security damage to Israel.

The fact that a majority of the Palestinian public sees Israel's decision to withdraw as a sign of the victory of the intifada has long been known. It is hard to argue with this. Years of a peace process and negotiations between the Palestinians and Israeli governments, including Likud governments, have not led to Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The idea of withdrawal entered the mind of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon only after suicide attacks, Qassam rockets and mortars.

Even if these attacks were not the reason why Sharon came up with the idea of disengagement, the Palestinians are certain that that is the case, and this has reinforced their belief that Israel only understands the language of terror attacks and violence. This belief will now become an absolute certainty - if Israel withdraws unilaterally under fire.

The Disengagement and the Charedim, where are they?

In this past weeks hebrew Mishpacha (a Chareidi weekly), there was an article about this issue. It quoted the Tolna Rebbe saying that he doesn't understand why the Chareidi population isn't doing anything. The chareidi piopulation is ready to protest the possible desecration of old graves in the construction but not the disengagment.

I believe that a large part of the answer is the following. The Chareidi population and leadership in many ways feel vindicated. For 50+ years they have been warning the dati leumi not to participate in society, etc. how the chilonim will never accept them etc. Now their predictions are coming true. The chiloni world has turned on the Dati Leumi in many ways. The army, is now talking of closing down Hesder Yeshivos or at least disbanding their units. Even before that there have been major problems with the role of women in the army. Of course, the disengagement which is affecting mostly Dati Leumi. Therefore, in a way, maybe even unconsciously, the Chareidi world wants the disengagement. They want the Dati leumi to see the light. The Chareidi world believes that the Dati Leumi will now become more Chareidi in light of these events. Because the Chareidi world has never believed in the state giving back land is not a big deal to them.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The amount of knowledge needed to be a Talmid Chacham

Recently I have heard people comparing learning gemara to a Phd program and saying that if people can learn nuclear physics in college and graduate school why not Torah.

IMHO, the answer is that there is much more to learn in Torah then other disciplines. The reason being, that these days there is so much knowledge no one even attempts to learn it all, everyone specializes in their own niche. Nuclear physicists for example, specialize in nuclear physics but know little or nothing about other branches of science. However, in Torah, a person is supposed to know kol hatorah kula. You aren't supposed to specialize, you are supposed to know it all. The gedolim throughout the generations until today have done just that. They know kol hatorah kula. Therefore, the amount of knowledge needed to get even a Phd is a fraction of the knowledge needed to master Shas and Poskim, Chumash, etc. You can ask a Gadol a question anywhere in Torah from Kodshim to taharos, to nezikin to zeraim and he can answer you. That is the equivalent of 1 person being the expert in chemistry, biology, physics, etc. That person doesn't exist in the secular world.

Let's think about a typical day for some who really wants to master Torah. Let's say you have 12 hours a day to learn (which is much more then the average Phd student will put in).

To learn 1 daf well with all the rishonim etc. on average let's say 4 hours.

Chazara on what you learned, at least 2 hours a day.

Mishnayos - 1 hour a day

Chumash, Nach 2 hours a day

Mishna Berura - 1 hour a day

Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah, Choshen Mishpat, etc.) 1 hour a day

Miscellaneous - 1 hour a day

At this pace you will finish Shas in 8-9 years (Daf Yomi is 365 days a year, this schedule is clearly not, shabbos , yom tov, chol hamoed no one is learning 12 hours a day) and maybe remember some of it. In other words after almost 10 years of intense studying you will have finished Shas once and hopefully know Chumash and some halacha.

You will still not have learned any Talmud Yerushalmi, Zohar, every Sidrei Tahara in Hilchos Nidda, read all of R' Akiva Eigers or the Chasam Sofer's teshuvas, know all the Midrashim, etc. In other words, you would still have a long way to go to knowing kol hatorah kula.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

More responses to R' Feldman

R' Slifkin has decided not to get involved at this time regarding R' Feldman's letter. You can see some other responses here.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Did Chazal have scientific facts that no one else had?

R' Feldman brings this claim as one of his proofs that Chazal's science is Torah M'Sinai.

How else could we explain numerous examples where the Sages had scientific information which no scientist of their time had? How were they so precise in their calculations of the New Moon? How did they know that hemophilia is transmitted by the mother’s DNA, a fact discovered relatively recently?1 How did they know that “a drop exudes from the brain and develops into semen” 2 without having known that the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, emits a hormone which controls the production of semen. None of this could have been discovered by experimentation Either they had a tradition directly teaching them these facts, or they knew them by applying principles which were part of the Oral Torah regarding the inner workings of the world. Thus they knew the precise cycle of the moon; they knew that there was a relationship between the coagulation of blood and motherhood; and they knew that there was a relationship between the brain and male reproduction.

Let us examine each one of his proofs and see if they hold water.

1. How were they so precise in their calculations of the New Moon?
Were they really anymore precise then the scientists of their time? I don't think so. Ancient civilizations were able to calculate the movement of the moon quite well. Here is a quote from Wikipedia:
The calendar is based on mean lunar conjunctions called "molads" spaced precisely 29 days, 12 hours, and 793 parts apart. Actual conjunctions vary from the molads by up to 7 hours in each direction due to the nonuniform velocity of the moon. This value for the interval between molads (the mean synodic month) was measured by Babylonians before 300 BCE and was adopted by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus and the Alexandrian astronomer Ptolemy. Its remarkable accuracy was achieved using records of lunar eclipses from the eighth to fifth centuries BCE.

We see clearly that the Babylonian and Greek astronomers (who lived around the same time as Chazal) were able to make the same precise calculations

Chazal (Hillel II) set up the calendar that we use. This calendar is very accurate but not 100% accurate. Again from Wikipedia:

However, the assumption that 19 years exactly equal 235 months is wrong, so the average length of a 19 year cycle is too long (compared with 19 tropical years) by about 0.088 days or just over 2 hours. Thus on average the calendar gets further out of step with the tropical year by roughly one day in 216 years. If the intention of the calendar is that Pesach should fall on the first full moon after the vernal equinox, this is still the case in most years. However, at present three times in 19 years Pesach is a month late (as in 2005). Clearly, this problem will get worse over time

If R' Feldman is right, the calendar should not lose any days after all they got this knowledge Torah M'Sinai.

2. How did they know that hemophilia is transmitted by the mother’s DNA, a fact discovered relatively recently?

The answer to this is very simple. Chazal in Niddah write

איש מזריע בו לובן שממנו גידים ועצמות ... אשא מזרעת אודם שממנו עור בשר ודם
The man provides the white from which the bones and sinews grow ... the women provides the red from which the skin, meat, and blood come

Chazal thought that the blood comes from the women and therefore it made sense that a blood disease would go through the mother. However this has nothing to do with DNA. They believed this due to a mistaken idea that the blood of a person comes from his mother. Coincidentally, this mistake about the blood coming from the mother allowed them to get things right by hemophilia.

3. How did they know that “a drop exudes from the brain and develops into semen” 2 without having known that the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, emits a hormone which controls the production of semen.

Their statement was actually incorrect. Nothing exudes from the brain and develops into semen. The pituitary gland release hormones which stimulate the production of semen, but the hormones from the pituitary gland do not themselves turn into semen.

In short, I believe that I have shown that none of these proofs are proofs whatsoever.

On the other hand there is a whole list of statements Chazal that do contradict science. I will mention just one here and I leave it to the reader to decide what is more compelling.

The gemara in Bava Basra 25b has a dispute between R' Eliezer and R' Yeshoshua about the movement of the sun. The gemara has a similar dispute in Pesachim 94.

R' Eliezer says that the world is like a three-walled building; the north side is not covered; The sun travels along the inside of the building during the day. When the sun reaches the northwest corner, it goes above the building (therefore we can't see it, and goes eastward overnight, and rises in the northeast in the morning).

R. Yehoshua says, the world is like a box, the north side is covered;

1. When the sun reaches the northwest corner, it goes (through a window) in back of the box.
2. "Holech El Darom v'Sovev El Tzafon" - the sun (always) travels along the south by day, and circles around the north side by night.

It is absolutely clear that the above is incorrect. We know that the world is not covered by anything and the sun doesn't go behind it. We know that there is no window that the sun goes out at night. We know that the Earth spins and this is what causes the Sun to rise and set and we know that the Earth revolves around the Sun. These are not theories, they are facts and they are undisputable.

Some will try to answer that the gemara was talking allegorically and wasn't describing reality. That is clearly not true for 2 reasons:
1. The gemara in Pesachim brings a dispute between the Chachamim and the non-Jews about where the sun goes at night. They were clearly arguing with the non-Jews about reality and not about some deep concept in kabbala.
2. The Rishonim when they discuss shitas R' Tam about Tzeis Hakochavim, all bring this gemara down and they all mention the sun going out the window. They clearly held that Chazal were describing reality.

I am still waiting for a pshat in this geamra other then Chazal were mistaken in science. So far, I haven't heard or seen a single pshat that comes close to explaining the sugya.

The above is only a drop in the bucket of the conflicts. I could easily bring at least 10 more, obvious contradictions.

To sum up, I believe that I have refuted all of R' Feldman's proofs, however, I have not yet seen anyone explain how the gemara in Pesachim and Bava Basra does not contradict the scientific facts that we know.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Not eating meat during the 9 days, how should we feel?

I have seen 2 reactions to no meat during the 9 days. One is to whine about how hard it is and the other is to say how easy it is and it is great as someone once said and best of all, there's always ice cream or cheese cake for desert.

Both of these attitudes completely miss the point of not eating meat during the 9 days. The point of not eating meat is for us to feel sad and feel the aveilus for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. To whine about it shows that you missed the point. You should accept it as a hardship and use the hardship to think about why you are doing this.

Those who feel that it is easy and great and they get to eat ice cream all the time, are also missing the whole point. They may be doing the minhag but by Aveilus there is supposed to be a kiyum balev, you are supposed to feel something. These people feel no aveilus because they are not eating meat, in fact they are happy. This is a perversion of the minhag. The minhagim are supposed to help you feel aveilus, if they don't you should do something else that will help you feel the aveilus as well.

I know it is very hard for us, but during the 9 days a person is supposed to feel very sad about the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, that is the main thing, the minhagim are supposed to help us reach that state.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Is there psak in hashkafa?

The Rambam writes in 3 places in the Perush Hamishnayos (Sanhedrin 10,3, Sotah 3,3, Shavuos 4,1) and in the Sefer Hamitzvos lo taaseh 133 that there is no psak on hashkafa which is not relevant to halacha. The last point is a crucial one, namely the Rambam is talking where there is no practical difference in halacha. Here is a quote from one of the Rambam's (Sotah 3,3 the language is almost the same in all of them)

וכבר אמרתי פעמים רבות כשיש מח' בין החכמים בסברת אמונה אין תכליתו מעשה מן המעשים שאין אומרים שם הלכה כפלוני

As I already wrote many times when there is a dispute between the chachamim on a matter of faith that has no relevance to action we don''t say the hakacha is like ploni


Let us now analyze the Slifkin affair in light of the Rambam.

The creation story/age of the world has absolutely no relevance to halacha, there is no difference in halacha whether we say that it was 6 days of 24 hours, 6 long days, or 6 time periods. The dispute is purely in terms of ideas (hashkafa) and therefore as the Rambam says there is no psak on such a dispute. And therefore R' Slifkin as long as he finds some source (which he has, R' Dessler) is fine.

Whether Chazal made mistakes in science would also seem to not affect halacha at all. As R' Dessler and others said, the halacha doesn't change even if the reason given is wrong in science, we assume that the halacha Chazal had a kabbala on and they made a mistake in the reason. Therefore, again the principle of the Rambam should apply, since there is no practical relevance to halacha there is no psak on such a case. Therefore, we cannot say that there is psak against the Rambam as this is not something that we pasken on.

One note, according to this Rambam there could be a psak regarding the ikkarei haemuna as that is relevant to halacha, who is a kofer. However, in any case, this is not relevant to the Slifkin affair because neither the order of the creation story/age of the world nor whether chazal made mistakes in science is one of the ikarrei haemuna and therefore they are not relevant to halacha.

R' Aryeh Kaplan on Science and Torah

R' Aryeh Kaplan has an amazing article on Torah and Science The Age of the Universe - A Torah True Perspective. He slaughters a lot of sacred cows in this article. Obviously the whole thrust of this article disagrees fundamentally with R' Feldman and R' Elyashiv's approach. Given that R' Aryeh Kaplan published and gave lectures in the US in the 1970's and no one objected, it leads one to believe that the gedolim in America at that time (R' Moshe, R' Yaakov, etc.) had no problem with his approach. Since this is being distributed for free I am going to bring some choice quotes from the article. I would truly recommend everyone to read the whole article in full.

I. Psak on Hashkafa


the Rambam says clearly that in questions of hashkafah or history, there is no p’sak. In other words, if an opinion is found in Chazal or in our accepted Torah seforim, one cannot say that we do not posken like that opinion. Thus, the Rambam often takes a daas yachid (the opinion of just one person) and builds an entire hashkafah on it. He may use this opinion because it fits into his system of logic, even though it may be a minority opinion. He can do this, since the entire concept of p’sak only applies to questions of halachah and not to questions of hashkafah.

II. A Geocentric World


If I would poll this audience vary rapidly, how many people here believe in a
geocentric universe. That is, how many frum people here believe that the Earth is the center of the universe? Not too many! But would you believe that as little as 50 years ago, seforim were published that said that the correct Torah view is that the Earth is the center of the universe, and that anyone who said otherwise was going against the Torah?3. [See Maamar Mavo HaShemesh, printed together with the Sefer HaTechunah, by Rabbi Chaim Vital.


III. Space Travel


I remember back in Torah V’Daas many, many years ago, we were discussing sending a rocket to the moon. This was long before Sputnik. And I asked one of the people there (I won’t mention his name), “What do you think about sending a rocket to the moon?” He said that it is impossible al pi Torah. It is impossible to send anything out of the Earth’s atmosphere, because above the atmosphere is the yesod ha-aish (the elemental fire), and anything that goes through that would be burned. They showed me seforim that said that. Obviously, we know that this was not the correct hashkafah. But once you paint yourself into an intellectual corner, it is very hard to get out. As Torah Jews, we cannot afford to paint ourselves into an intellectual corner, from which we will not be able to extricate ourselves.

IV. Approach to Science


Another approach is that which many Chassidim have. They say, “What do scientists know? Do they know what’s happening? Do they know what’s going on? They’re a bunch of phonies, a bunch of bluffers, a bunch of stupidniks! Do they really have a way of finding out the truth? They find a bone and they think it’s from a monkey.” But, I think to somebody who knows what science is, this is a very unsatisfactory approach. We have some idea of what is involved in paleontology. We have some idea what is involved in geology and in radioactive dating. We have some idea of what is involved in astronomy. We can casually speak about a star being a million light years away, and we do not stop to think, “Well, that’s a bit too much!” So I would say that if someone feels that science is ignorant and false, all well and good. Many people refer not to accept science as a worthy challenge. But I think that for many of us here, such an approach would be totally unsatisfying.

V. Creation and the Age of Universe


This is the meat of the essay and is too long to quote in a meaningful way. I am just going to quote what he rejects and the basics of the shita that he accepts.

One, the very simplest, is that 6000 years ago, HaShem created the universe with a history. There is a certain logic to this, and one may even find a hint of it in the Gemara. If HaShem created a tree, did the tree have rings or not? If it had rings, then it had a history.
...
The difficulty is that one could use a similar argument to say that HaShem created the universe five minutes ago. There is no question that an omnipotent G-d certainly could have created us all with our memories, with all the records, and with all our histories. It is very possible to say that the world was created five minuets ago. But this weakens the above argument. If it is possible that HaShem created the world 6000 years ago, then everything is possible.
...
It touches almost on intellectual dishonesty and sophism. It presents us with more problems than it answers. It seems to make all of Judaism depend on a glib argument. But there is an even more serious problem. In no place in Torah literature do we find that HaShem created the universe so that it should appear to be billions of years old. If not for current scientific discoveries, no one would have ever made such a statement based on Torah sources alone. Therefore, this approach is nothing more than
apologetics.
...
There is another approach that I will mention in passing. That is, that each of the “days” of creation was really thousands of years long. This approach is hinted at in Rabbeinu Bechayay, who mentions it only to refute it. He says explicitly that the world was created in six days of twelve hours each, for a total of 72 hours. Moreover, we keep Shabbos because there were six days of creation, where each day was just like one of our days. Moreover, there is no support in classic Torah literature for saying that the days of creation were more than 24 hours long. Besides this, there is the problem that plant life was created before the sun, moon, and stars, and this would not fit into any accepted scientific cosmology.
...
There is a shitah (opinion) known to mekubalim as shittas Sefer HaTemunah – the opinion of Sefer HaTemunah.
...
However, the approach of the Tiferes Yisroel is very interesting. He speaks of the idea that there were universes and people before Adam. Then he says, “See how the teachings of our Torah have been vindicated (I’m paraphrasing): In various places in the world, creatures have been found which no longer exist today. In Baltimore, they found a gigantic creature called a mammoth, which no longer exists today. In other places, they found dinosaurs over 90 feet long, and obviously no such creatures exist in the world anymore. Just look and see the emes of our Torah tradition! Even science shows that there were worlds before ours!” Such a different approach than people like today! Rather than see paleontology and geology as a challenge to Torah, the Tiferes Yisroel sees it as a vindication of an important Torah shitah.

R' Aryeh Kaplan - is there psak on hashkafa?

R' Aryeh Kaplan states clearly and unequivocally that the answer is no.

He discusses this issue in an article The Age of the Universe - A Torah True Perspective and he writes as follows

The second introduction is a principle (klal) that the Rambam makes in his Perush HaMishnayos. When one has a question of historical fact or hashkafah – there is no p’sak.
...
The Rambam makes this point in his Perush HaMishnayos on Shavuos, at the end of Makkos, and in a few other places in Shas.
...
In any case, the Rambam says clearly that in questions of hashkafah or history, there is no p’sak. In other words, if an opinion is found in Chazal or in our
accepted Torah seforim, one cannot say that we do not posken like that opinion. Thus, the Rambam often takes a daas yachid (the opinion of just one person) and builds an
entire hashkafah on it. He may use this opinion because it fits into his system of logic, even though it may be a minority opinion. He can do this, since the entire concept of p’sak only applies to questions of halachah and not to questions of hashkafah.


I am going to try to find these Rambam's in the Peirush Hamishnayos when I get home.

If R' Kaplan is right then it it completely and utterly negates the Slifkin ban.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Sefarim we now need to ban/censor

R. Feldman writes
R. Eliashiv believes that they can be rightfully categorized as heresy (apikorsus) ... I believe this is because they diminish the honor and the acceptability of the words of the Sages, which has the status of apikorsus.
...
Rav Eliashiv added, “Even if he is one of the lamed vov tzadikim, these books may not be taken into a Jewish home.”


In other words, to say that Chazal made a mistake in science is heresy in 2005. If we take this idea to it's logical conclusion, not only can R' Slifkin's books not be taken into a Jewish home, neither can the following sefarim as they also contain the same heretical ideas. We should need to censor these sefarim.

1. Teshuvos HaGeonim 394:
Our sages were not doctors and said what they did based on experience with the diseases of their time. Therefore, there is no commandment to listen to the sages [regarding medical advice] because they only spoke from their opinion based on what they saw in their day.
2. Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim 3:14:
Do not ask of me to reconcile everything that they (Chazal) stated from science with the actual reality, for the science of those days was deficient, and they did not speak out of traditions from the prophets regarding these matters
3. Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh where the Rambam implies clearly in a number of places that Chazal made mistakes in astronomy
4. Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam, Ma'amar al Derashos Chazal:
…The great superiority of the sages of the Talmud, and their expertise in their explanations of the Torah and its details, and the truth of their sayings in the explanation of its general principles and details, nevertheless does not obligate us to defend them and uphold their views in all of their sayings in medicine, and in scientific knowledge
5. Ramban, commentary to Vayikra 12:2
"When a woman gives seed (tazria)" (Leviticus 12:2) …They said with regard to the meaning of this, "If the woman produces seed first then she will give birth to a boy..." (Talmud, Niddah 31a). And their intent was not that the child is formed from the seed of the woman, for a woman, even though she has ovaries like the testicles of a male, these either do not produce any seed, or the seed does not do anything for the fetus; but they said "produces seed" with regard to the blood of the womb that is collected at the conclusion of intercourse in the mother and attaches itself to the seed of the man, for according to their opinion the fetus is formed from the blood of the woman and from the white substance of the man, and these two together are called the "seed"… and the opinion of the doctors regarding formation is likewise. But according to the opinion of the Greek philosophers, the entire body of the fetus is formed from the woman's blood; the man contributes nothing other than the force that is known as hyuli in their language, which gives form to the substance… and if so, the word tazria is like, "[as a garden that] sprouts forth its seedlings" (Yeshayah 61:11)
The Ramban as well in Bereishis 9:12 and Vayikra 18:19.
6. Eyn Yaakov where he quotes the above letter of R' Avraham Ben HaRambam in the introduction
7. R' Hirsch
8. Pachad Yitzchak, entry “Tzeydah.”
9. Michtav M'Eliyahu p. 355 that the Sages never erred in the final halacha, although they may have erred in the reason they gave for it.
...

I am being very serious. Kefira is Kefira and according to what R' Feldman writes all of the above sefarim have kefira in them and therefore how can I keep them in my house? Did they censor these sefarm in in Ner Yisrael?

I am waiting for someone to seriously address this issue.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Is the opinion of the Rambam etc. a minority opinion?

R' Feldman writes

In countless places where the commentaries, whether Rishonim or Acharonim (Early or Later Authorties), are faced with a contradiction between the science of their times and a statement of the Sages, they commonly apply the principle, nishtanu hateva’im (“nature has changed”).1 Had they held R. Avraham’s view, they would have simply explained that the Sages erred in following whatever was the medical or scientific opinion of their times.

The premise of this proof is that saying that Chazal made a mistake in science is a simpler and more compelling answer then nishtanu hateva’im. Otherwise there is no proof, the Rishonim answered nishtanu hateva’im because it was a better answer. Therefore it must be that saying that Chazal made a mistake in science is a simpler and more compelling answer then nishtanu hateva’im.

This gives us an insight into R' Feldman's thinking. Even according to him it is more logical to say that Chazal made a mistake then nishtanu hateva’im.

Now we need to ask is his premise correct? For us living in 2005 it certainly is for the following reason. On one hand, we know that the science of Chazal's time was bogus and completely wrong, on the other hand we know that nishtanu hateva’im is difficult from a scientific perspective. therefore to us it makes much more sense to say chazal made a mistake.

However, if we look at it from the Rishonim's perspective the picture changes completely. I believe that for the Rishonim nishtanu hateva’im was a more compelling answer then saying Chazal made a mistake in science for the following reasons:

1. The science of the Rishonim was the science of Chazal. Science progressed little if at all from 300 to 1300 and in Christian countries may have regressed. Therefore, the Rishonim would have no reason to doubt the science of Chazal, they relied on the same science and they believed it was true.
2. Nishtanu hateva’im made sense from their perspective. The rishonim did not understand the world from a scientific perspective and they did not see the difficulties inherent in saying nishtanu hateva’im, in fact, it probably fit in with their world view.

Given the above, Tosafos Moed Katan 11a when faced with the statement of Chazal that rotting fish is healthy vs. the reality that it is not had 2 possible answers:
1. The science that Chazal used was wrong
2. nishtanu hateva’im

I believe that from Tosafos's perspective the second answer is more compelling. They had no reason to doubt the science of Chazal, it was their science.

R' Feldman writes they would have simply explained that the Sages erred in following whatever was the medical or scientific opinion of their times. Than answer to this is very simple, the scientific opinion of Chazal's time was by and large the same scientific opinion of the Rishonim's time.

R' Feldman projects the attitudes of someone living in 2005 who knows that the science in Chazal's time was wrong, to the Rishonim. However, the Rishonim had a completely different perspective on science. They had no reason to assume that the science that Chazal based themselves on was wrong.

I will take this 1 step further. As I pointed out, to say that Chazal's science is Torah M'Sinai on one hand and nishtanu hateva’im on the other hand is very very difficult (see Is נשתנה הטבע a viable answer for conflicts between Torah and science?). Therefore I would suggest the opposite conclusion then R' Feldman, namely, those Rishonim who hold nishtanu hateva’im hold that Chazal did not get their scientific knowledge M'Sinai and therefore they could say nishtanu hateva’im.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

R' Hirsch on Chazal and Science

This quote from R' Hirsch (taken from R' Slifkin's website) is truly amazing and sums things up very nicely.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Trusting the Torah's Sages, Chapter 4

In my opinion, the first principle that every student of Chazal's statements must keep before his eyes is the following: Chazal were the sages of God's law - the receivers, transmitters and teachers of His toros, His mitzvos, and His interpersonal laws. They did not especially master the natural sciences, geometry, astronomy, or medicine - except insofar as they needed them for knowing, observing and fulfilling the Torah. We do not find that this knowledge was transmitted to them from Sinai. …We find that Chazal themselves considered the wisdom of the gentile scholars equal to their own in the natural sciences. To determine who was right in areas where the gentile sages disagreed with their own knowledge, they did not rely on their tradition but on reason. Moreover they even respected the opinion of the gentile scholars, admitting when the opinion of the latter seemed more correct than their own.
...
Imagine if a scholar such as Humboldt had lived in their times and had traveled to the ends of the world for his biological investigations. If upon his return he would report that in some distant land there is a humanoid creature growing from the ground or that he had found mice that had been generated from the soil and had in fact seen a mouse that was half earth and half flesh and his report was accepted by the world as true, wouldn't we expect Chazal to discuss the Torah aspects that apply to these instances? What laws of defilement and decontamination apply to these creatures? Or would we expect them to go on long journeys to find out whether what the world has accepted is really true? And if, as we see things today, these instances are considered fiction, can Chazal be blamed for ideas that were accepted by the naturalists of their times? And this is what really happened. These statements are to be found in the works of Pliny, who lived in Rome at the time the Second Temple was destroyed, and who collected in his books on nature all that was well known and accepted in his day.


I am absolutely amazed that anyone today, given the advances in science and the tremendous contradictions between science and Chazal, would argue on R' Hirsch's approach.

Summary: Chazal and Mistakes in Science

Updated on 7/7


I.Introduction


There has been a dispute raging about whether Chazal could make mistakes in science or not. This is not a new question, it is a dispute in the Rishonim. What is new is the attempt by some to state that the opinion that Chazal could make mistakes in Torah is rejected and to hold that way today is kefira. R' Feldman champions this position in his letter:

R. Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, a signatory to the ban, was asked: if he considers Slifkin’s approach wrong how could so many earlier authorities have held it? He answered: “They were permitted to hold this opinion; we are not.”1 In other words, they were authorities in their own right qualified to decide matters of Jewish law. We are not permitted to do so.2 We are enjoined to follow the majority opinion and our tradition as to how we are to approach Torah.

Since we are not permitted to follow Slifkin’s views, R. Eliashiv believes that they can be rightfully categorized as heresy (apikorsus) as the ban’s wording had it. I believe this is because they diminish the honor and the acceptability of the words of the Sages, which has the status of apikorsus.


R' Feldman in his letter also tried to bring proofs as to why the opinion that Chazal did not make mistakes in science is correct.

I am not not on R' Feldman's level, but תורה היא וללמוד אני צריך, and therefore I am going to write my opinion. All I ask is that the reader consider both sides of the argument and make a decision on which argument is better. I believe that his proofs and answer are not proofs and in fact raise more questions then they answer.

I have posted detailed rebuttals to all of his proofs
Is נשתנה הטבע a viable answer for conflicts between Torah and science?
Is סוד ה' ליראיו a reason to believe that Chazal didn't err in science?
Is Kabbala proof that Chazal could not make mistakes in science?

In this post I am going to summarize the main arguments so that they are all in one place.

II. The claim: Chazal did not make mistakes in science


R' Feldman writes
Either they had a tradition directly teaching them these facts, or they knew them by applying principles which were part of the Oral Torah regarding the inner workings of the world.

In other words, all of Chazal's science is Torah M'Sinai.

III. The problem with the claim


R' Feldman himself points out the problem with the above claim.

There are many places in the Talmud where statements made by the Sages seem to contradict modern science. The most common are the cures and potions which the Talmud gives for various diseases. Our great halachic authorities have noted the phenomenon that these cures, in the vast majority of cases, do not seem to cure illnesses in our times.

One note, there are many many other issues besides the cures.

IV. The answer


R' Feldman offers the following answer
The most widespread explanation offered for this is nishtanu hatevaim, “nature has changed” - cures that worked in the times of the Talmud are no longer effective.1 There are many examples of illnesses and cures, which because of environmental and nutritional differences and physical changes to the body over the years are no longer effective.

In other words, everything Chazal said was true, but some time afterwords nature changed.

V. The problems with nishtanu hatevaim


In truth, nishtanu hatevaim, raises more questions then it answers. For a more detailed rebuttal see Is נשתנה הטבע a viable answer for conflicts between Torah and science?

Here is a summary of the problems:
1. They hold that all of Chazal's science is part of Torah. This means that when Chazal said that remedy x cures sickness y, that was part of Torah, it was received at Har Sinai. Why doesn't it work today? The world changed. This makes no sense. Torah preceded the world by 2000 years (Gemara Shabbos). Hashem created the world by looking into the Torah. How can you say that things in the Torah are no longer true? For over 4000 years remedy X cured Y, suddenly after the era of Torah Shebaal Peh ended the world changed so this stopped working and the torah became untrue, why would Hashem do such a thing? It makes Torah into a joke. Why would Hashem change the world so that Torah no longer reflects the world if the world was created based on Torah.

Even more then that, this seems to contradict the Rambam's principle of the immutability of Torah. Torah has now changed. It used to be that the Torah provided a rememdy for sickness Y, now it no longer does. It used to be that the Torah explained various natural phenomena, now it doesn't. In other words the Torah changed because it no longer reflects the physical world.

2. If Chazal had a kabbala (tradition) about science you would think that they would have had a kabbala that the world is going to change and that the science would no longer be true. נשתנה הטבע should also be part of Torah. After all, if you are going to claim that all of science is in Torah then this very important fact should be there as well. Yet, Chazal never even hint that the scientific pronouncements that they are making are only temporary. They didn't say that remedy X will only work for a limited time. they made a blanket statement that remedy X cures Y. It is clear that Chazal had no idea that נשתנה הטבע was going to happen, why not? If Torah included science it should have included נשתנה הטבע as well.

3. There is not a shred of evidence that נשתנה הטבע. Remember, the Geonim who lived only a few hundred years after the time of the gemara already stated that the cures of Chazal don't work, that is a very short time. Here are some examples of things where it is quite implausible to say that נשתנה הטבע.
a. The Gemara in Bava Basra (25a) states clearly that Chazal held that the Sun revolves around the Earth and that the Earth is surrounded by a roof that the sun goes out of at night (see Chazal and Mistakes in Science for more about this). It would be preposterous to claim that in the times of Chazal the Sun revolved around the Earth and went out a window but now נשתנה הטבע and the Earth revolves around the sun etc. Everyone can understand that such a change didn't happen.
b. The gemara seems to say that lice are born from spontaneous generation. again it is not plausible to think that in the times of Chazal there was spontaneous generation but in the last 1500 years it stopped
c. The gemara states that the mother contributes the blood to the baby (based on this some poskim didn't want to accept blood tests to establish paternity). It is implausible to think that the whole nature of human development changed after the time of chazal.
...

VI. His Proofs: G-d would not have permitted falsities to have been transmitted as Torah She-be-al-peh


R' Feldman writes

As the Leshem cited above says, if even regarding matters which are not related to halacha, the Sages say, sod Hashem liyerav, “G-d reveals the secrets of nature to those who fear him,” then certainly there must have been siyata dishmaya (Divine assistance) and even ruach hakodesh (a Divine spirit) assisting the Sages in their redaction of the Oral Law. It is therefore inconceivable, to these opinions, that G-d would have permitted falsities to have been transmitted as Torah She-be-al-peh and not have revealed His secrets to those who fear Him.

In other words we have to believe that Chazal got their science from Torah because how could Hashem have hidden these things from them. Hashem would not have allowed them to transmit falsities as Torah.

However this just moves the question to the next stage. No one denies that the remedies found in Chazal don't work today. R' Feldman himself offers the following answer:

The most widespread explanation offered for this is nishtanu hatevaim, “nature has changed” - cures that worked in the times of the Talmud are no longer effective.

If we think about it we can ask exactly the same question that he asked above about nishtanu hatevaim. Is it conceivable that Hashem would reveal scientific facts in Torah and then change nature to invalidate that revealed Torah? Moreover, if he did that, would he do so without telling Chazal (after all Chazal in their scientific pronouncements never even hint that things will change)? Would Hashem put Chazal in a position where they wrote things down in the Gemara (e.g. remedies) as part of Torah Shebaal Peh that are no longer true?

Bottom line, using his logic, how could it be that hashem didn't reveal the secret that nature was going to change? How could he have allowed Chazal to put remedies and other scientific facts in the gemara that were going to change?

VII. His Proofs: Kabballa


R' Feldman writes:

One of the most powerful reasons why R. Avraham’s opinion was rejected by most opinions, is the introduction of the wisdom of Kabbalah of the Ari Zal in the sixteenth century. This cast the Sages in another dimension.

For a more detailed rebuttal see Is Kabbala proof that Chazal could not make mistakes in science?

The Ramban who was one of the greatest Rishonim, was also according to everyone, a great mekubal. And yet, the Ramban, in at least 1 place in his commentary on Chumash (Tazria 12,2) implies quite clearly that Chazal could make mistakes in science. The Ramban clearly and unequivocally records the opinion of the Greek philophers who argue on a scientific fact of Chazal even though the Ramban was one of the greatest mekubalim. We see clearly that kabbala did not teach Chazal science and that the Ramban (who was not from the rationalist/philosphical rishonim) also holds that Chazal could make mistakes in science.

VIII. Is the opinion of the Rambam etc. a minority opinion?


For a more detailed rebuttal see Is the opinion of the Rambam etc. a minority opinion?

R' Feldman writes

In countless places where the commentaries, whether Rishonim or Acharonim (Early or Later Authorties), are faced with a contradiction between the science of their times and a statement of the Sages, they commonly apply the principle, nishtanu hateva’im (“nature has changed”).1 Had they held R. Avraham’s view, they would have simply explained that the Sages erred in following whatever was the medical or scientific opinion of their times.

The premise of this proof is that saying that Chazal made a mistake in science is a simpler and more compelling answer then nishtanu hateva’im. Otherwise there is no proof, the Rishonim answered nishtanu hateva’im because it was a better answer. Therefore it must be that saying that Chazal made a mistake in science is a simpler and more compelling answer then nishtanu hateva’im.

This gives us an insight into R' Feldman's thinking. Even according to him it is more logical to say that Chazal made a mistake then nishtanu hateva’im.

Now we need to ask is his premise correct? For us living in 2005 it certainly is for the following reason. On one hand, we know that the science of Chazal's time was bogus and completely wrong, on the other hand we know that nishtanu hateva’im is difficult from a scientific perspective. therefore to us it makes much more sense to say chazal made a mistake.

However, if we look at it from th Rishonim's perspective the picture changes completely. I believe that for the Rishonim nishtanu hateva’im was a more compelling answer then saying Chazal made a mistake in science for the following reasons:

1. The science of the Rishonim was the science of Chazal. Science progressed little if at all from 300 to 1300 and in Christian countries may have regressed. Therefore, the Rishonim would have no reason to doubt the science of Chazal, they relied on the same science and they believed it was true.
2. Nishtanu hateva’im made sense from their perspective. The rishonim did not understand the world from a scientific perspective and they did not see the difficulties inherent in saying nishtanu hateva’im, in fact, it probably fit in with their world view.

Given the above, Tosafos Moed Katan 11a when faced with the statement of Chazal that rotting fish is healthy vs. the reality that it is not had 2 possible answers:
1. The science that Chazal used was wrong
2. nishtanu hateva’im

I believe that from Tosafos's perspective the second answer is more compelling. They had no reason to doubt the science of Chazal, it was their science.

R' Feldman writes they would have simply explained that the Sages erred in following whatever was the medical or scientific opinion of their times. Than answer to this is very simple, the scientific opinion of Chazal's time was by and large the same scientific opinion of the Rishonim's time.

R' Feldman projects the attitudes of someone living in 2005 who knows that the science in Chazal's time was wrong to the Rishonim. However, the Rishonim had a completley different perspective on science.

IX. Some general questions


1. How come the Science from Sinai exactly matched the Science of Chazal’s day? Isn’t that a bit strange? For example Chazal's description of the Sun revolving around the Earth and going out a window matches almost exactly the Greek view of things.
2.Did Chazal not know that G-d planned to change the Tevah? Or were they just forbidden from revealing it? If they knew, how come they didn’t mention it? If they didn’t know, how come? Didn’t G-d reveal all knowledge to Chazal?
3.If nature changed, how come no one else noticed it? Why is there absolutely no record in the non-Jewish world of any of these changes?
4. R' Feldman quotes RSZA that the shita of R' Avraham Ben Harambam should be quoted as a Yesh Omrim. We see clearly that RSZA allowed the shita to be quoted in a sefer and therefore he clearly held that it was not kefira.
5. If we take R' Feldman's argument to it's logical conclusion we should have to get rid of the Rambam, Ramban al Hatorah, Pachad Yitzchak, R' Hirsch, Michtav M'Eliyahu, etc. After all, these sefarim all have kefira written in them and we are not allowed to have kefira in our houses.

X. Conclusion


I believe that I have shown that R' Feldman's proofs are no proofs and in fact he raises more questions then he answers.

I would suggest the opposite approach to R' Feldman. We know that there is a big dispute when צאת הכוכבים is. The Geonim understood that it is approximately 18 minutes after sunset and R' Tam understood that it is much later at least 72 minutes after sunset. After R' Tam stated his opinion, the majority of Rishonim paskened like R' Tam. The Shulchan Aruch, the Rama and most of the early Acharonim paskened like R' Tam. And yet, alomg came the Gra and said החוש מכחיש, reality contradicts R' Tam and he therefore went back to the pask of the Geonim. In fact, today in Israel the Gra is the accepted opinion בין לקולא בין ךחומרא. Why did the Gra do this? Because החוש מכחיש, reality contradicted R' Tam.

IMHO, החוש מכחיש those opinions who hold that Chazal did not make mistakes in science. Science has progressed tremendously since the times of the Rishonim and the questions that we have today they did not have. Therefore even if the accepted psak was like those Rishonim who held that Chazal did not make mistakes in science (in truth, I am not convinced of that), now we need to pasken like the Rambam et al. who hold that Chazal made mistakes in science because החוש מכחיש that the other Rishonim were wrong and the Rambam et al. are right. I understand that no one today is on the level of the Gra, however, Yiftach B'Doro K'Shmuel B'Doro. This was clearly the approach of R' Hirsch and probably the approachof R' Dessler, if they were allowed to hold that way why can't we?

Is Kabbala proof that Chazal could not make mistakes in science?

IMHO the answer is no.

R' Feldman writes
One of the most powerful reasons why R. Avraham’s opinion was rejected by most opinions, is the introduction of the wisdom of Kabbalah of the Ari Zal in the sixteenth century. This cast the Sages in another dimension.

While this statement is very debatable, I would like to approach this from a different angle.

The Ramban who was one of the greatest Rishonim, was also according to everyone, a great mekubal. And yet, the Ramban, in at least 1 place in his commentary on Chumash implies quite clearly that Chazal could make mistakes in science.

The Ramban at the beginning of Parshas Tazria quotes Chazal as follows
איש מזריע בו לובן שממנו גידים ועצמות ... אשא מזרעת אודם שממנו עור בשר ודם
The man provides the white from which the bones and sinews grow ... the women provides the red from which the skin, meat, and blood come

This is clearly a scientific opinion of Chazal. The Ramban then quotes the Greek philosophers who disagree with Chazal
ועל דעת חכמי הפלוספי היונים כל גוף העובר מדם האשה אין בו לאיש אלא ... שהוא נותן צורה
And the Greek philosphers say that the all of the body of the child comes from the blood of the women the only thing that comes from the man is the tzura (whatever that means)

The Ramban clearly and unequivocally records the opinion of the Greek philosophers who argue on a scientific fact of Chazal even though the Ramban was one of the greatest mekubalim. We see clearly that kabbala did not teach Chazal science and that the Ramban (who was not from the rationalist/philosophical rishonim) also holds that Chazal could make mistakes in science.

Update


Here is another Ramban where he writes explicitly that he accepts the opinions of the Greek scientists and bases pshat in a pasuk on that.

Ramban Bereishis 9:12
"This is the sign of the covenant that I give" - It would seem from this sign that the rainbow which appears in the clouds is not part of the acts of creation, and only now did God create something new, to make a rainbow appear in the sky on a cloudy day… But we are compelled to believe the words of the Greeks, that the rainbow is a result of the sun's rays passing through moist air, for in any container of water that is placed before the sun, there can be seen something that resembles a rainbow. And when we look again at the wording of the verse, we will understand it thus. For it says, "I have set my rainbow in the cloud," and it did not say "I am setting it in the cloud," (in the present tense) as it said, "this is the sign of the covenant that I am giving." And the word "My rainbow" indicates the rainbow previously existed.

The Ramban writes that we are compelled to believe the Greeks that a rainbow is a natural phenomenon that has existed since the beginning of creation even though it contradicts the simple pshat in the pasuk.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Is סוד ה' ליראיו a reason to believe that Chazal didn't err in science?

IMHO the answer is no.

R' Feldman writes

As the Leshem cited above says, if even regarding matters which are not related to halacha, the Sages say, sod Hashem liyerav, “G-d reveals the secrets of nature to those who fear him,” then certainly there must have been siyata dishmaya (Divine assistance) and even ruach hakodesh (a Divine spirit) assisting the Sages in their redaction of the Oral Law. It is therefore inconceivable, to these opinions, that G-d would have permitted falsities to have been transmitted as Torah She-be-al-peh and not have revealed His secrets to those who fear Him.

In other words we have to believe that Chazal got their science from Torah because how could Hashem have hidden these things from them. Hashem would not have allowed them to transmit falsities as Torah.

However this just moves the question to the next stage. No one denies that the remedies found in Chazal don't work today. R' Feldman himself offers the following answer The most widespread explanation offered for this is nishtanu hatevaim, “nature has changed” - cures that worked in the times of the Talmud are no longer effective.

If we think about it we can ask exactly the same question that he asked above about nishtanu hatevaim. Is it conceivable that Hashem would reveal scientific facts in Torah and then change nature to invalidate that revealed Torah? Moreover, if he did that, would he do so without telling Chazal (after all Chazal in their scientific pronouncements never even hint that things will change)? Would Hashem put Chazal in a position where they wrote things down in the Gemara (e.g. remedies) as part of Torah Shebaal Peh that are no longer true?

The questions that I raise are in IMHO at least as inconceivable as the question R' Feldman asked. In both cases falsities end up in the Torah Shebaal Peh (bottom line, the remedies don't work nowadays). This in essence destroys his whole argument. In other words, just like he can't conceive that Hashem would let them err in science I can't conceive that Hashem would give them scientific facts and then change nature to invalidate those torah revealed scientific facts in any case, and especially without even telling Chazal.

You tell me which is more inconceivable.
1.Chazal could make a mistake in science because they relied on the science of their day
2.Hashem would reveal scientific facts (e.g. remedies) as part of Torah Shebaal Peh M'Sinai, and then change nature so that these Torah scientific facts are no longer true, all without any hint that they will change.

I for one believe that 2 is much more inconceivable.

Bottom line, using his logic, how could it be that hashem didn't reveal the secret that nature was going to change? How could he have allowed Chazal to put remedies and other scientific facts in the gemara that were going to change?

Is נשתנה הטבע a viable answer for conflicts between Torah and science?

Many of those who hold that Chazal never made mistakes in science, rather their science is part of Torah shebaal peh and was received at Har Sinai, explain seeming conflicts between torah and science by saying נשתנה הטבע, nature changed. IMHO, this is an untenable position for the following reasons.

1. They hold that all of Chazal's science is part of Torah. This means that when Chazal said that remedy x cures sickness y, that was part of Torah, it was received at Har Sinai. Why doesn't it work today? The world changed. This makes no sense. Torah preceded the world by 2000 years (Gemara Shabbos). Hashem created the world by looking into the Torah. How can you say that things in the Torah are no longer true? For over 4000 years remedy X cured Y, suddenly after the era of Torah Shebaal Peh ended the world changed so this stopped working and the torah became untrue, why would Hashem do such a thing? It makes Torah into a joke. Why would Hashem change the world so that Torah no longer reflects the world if the world was created based on Torah.

Even more then that, this seems to contradict the Rambam's principle of the immutability of Torah. Torah has now changed. It used to be that the Torah provided a rememdy for sickness Y, now it no longer does. It used to be that the Torah explained various natural phenomena, now it doesn't. In other words the Torah changed because it no longer reflects the physical world.

2. If Chazal had a kabbala (tradition) about science you would think that they would have had a kabbala that the world is going to change and that the science would no longer be true. נשתנה הטבע should also be part of Torah. After all, if you are going to claim that all of science is in Torah then this very important fact should be there as well. Yet, Chazal never even hint that the scientific pronouncements that they are making are only temporary. They didn't say that remedy X will only work for a limited time. they made a blanket statement that remedy X cures Y. It is clear that Chazal had no idea that נשתנה הטבע was going to happen, why not? If Torah included science it should have included נשתנה הטבע as well.

3. There is not a shred of evidence that נשתנה הטבע. Remember, the Geonim who lived only a few hundred years after the time of the gemara already stated that the cures of Chazal don't work, that is a very short time. Here are some examples of things where it is quite implausible to say that נשתנה הטבע.
a. The Gemara in Bava Basra (25a) states clearly that Chazal held that the Sun revolves around the Earth and that the Earth is surrounded by a roof that the sun goes out of at night (see Chazal and Mistakes in Science for more about this). It would be preposterous to claim that in the times of Chazal the Sun revolved around the Earth and went out a window but now נשתנה הטבע and the Earth revolves around the sun etc. Everyone can understand that such a change didn't happen.
b. The gemara seems to say that lice are born from spontaneous generation. again it is not plausible to think that in the times of Chazal there was spontaneous generation but in the last 1500 years it stopped
c. The gemara states that the mother contributes the blood to the baby (based on this some poskim didn't want to accept blood tests to establish paternity). It is implausible to think that the whole nature of human development changed after the time of chazal.
...
In fact, I don't see a single torah science conflict where it is plausible to say נשתנה הטבע.

Based on the above, it is clear that נשתנה הטבע does not answer any contradictions, rather it is a copout, meaning that we have no answer. The real answer would seem to be like those Rishonim and Acharonim who hold that Chazal did not have a kabbala on science and therefore could make mistakes in science.

Update
I found a fascinating site השתנות הטבעים which has a long list of things where what Chazal say doesn't fit the scientific facts of today. If you look at the list (which is only partial) you will see that it is quite large. To believe that in all of these things נשתנה הטבע is quite a stretch for anyone. Here are just some of the changes related to the human body. You would have to believe that the human body changed drastically as
a. none of the remedies of chazal work
b. the things that Chazal say are dangerous are not (e.g. eating or cooking fish and meat together), and things tht Chazal say are good for you (rotting fish) are dangerous
c. Genetics changed (it was once a good thing to marry your niece)
d. all things about birth and a baby's development changed (see 7, 8 , or 9 month pregnancies), the position of babies when born, women don't get pregnant from the first sex act, etc.
e. all things related to hilcho nidda changed - until when a woman can give birth (60 if she gets married before 20), when does a women stop menstruating when pregnant, how long does a woman not menstruate after birth, the whole idea of וסתות and הרגשה
f. various halachos related to mila such as washing the baby on the third day, metzitza bpeh (which was considered to be necessary to ensure the safety of the baby).
g. the din of פצוע דכא
h. various foods/actions that are קשה לשכחה
...

To say נשתנה הטבע on one of these maybe, on all of these (and this is just a drop in the bucket) is clearly ridiculous, there is absolutely no evidence that from the time of Chazal until the time of the Geonim/Rishonim, who pointed out many of these, (which is a few hundred years), or even modern times, there were wholescale changes in humanity such that all of these changes could have taken place.

Update 2
R' Feldman writes As the Leshem cited above says, if even regarding matters which are not related to halacha, the Sages say, sod Hashem liyerav, “G-d reveals the secrets of nature to those who fear him,” then certainly there must have been siyata dishmaya (Divine assistance) and even ruach hakodesh (a Divine spirit) assisting the Sages in their redaction of the Oral Law. It is therefore inconceivable, to these opinions, that G-d would have permitted falsities to have been transmitted as Torah She-be-al-peh and not have revealed His secrets to those who fear Him.

My response to this is that according to him it comes out Hashem transmitted information as Torah Shebaal Peh that then became untrue because Hashem changed nature. Is that any more conceivable? Is it any more conceivable that Hashem would reveal scientific facts in Torah and then change nature to invalidate that revealed Torah without telling Chazal (after all Chazal in their scientific pronouncements never even hint that things will change)?

In other words his argument falls apart because even according to him hashem did not reveal everything to chazal because bottom line, we have a gemara full of remedies that don't work. Using his logic, how could it be that hashem didn't reveal the secret that nature was going to change? How could he have allowed Chazal to put remedies and other scientific facts in the gemara that were going to change?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Puting your head in the sand about disengagement

I am very anti-disengagement on both a religious level and a practical (political and security) level. However, I am realistic and understand that the disengagement will most probably happen.

Unfortunately there are a lot of people with their heads in the sand who believe (with no basis in reality) that it won't happen. I was talking to a friend of mine who is Dati Leumi, and he told me that various prominent Rabbis made pronouncements that the disengagement won't take place. I was very disturbed. How can they make such pronouncements? A person has an obligation to be realistic, אין סומכים על הנס. We certainly need to fight and protest the disengagement and daven to hashem to stop it, but we can't rely on a נס to happen that will stop it. We need to be realistic and think about the day after as well. These rabbinic pronouncements will just make things worse if and when disengagement does take place.

Again, I am not telling anyone to stop protesting and fighting, we need to protest and fight. However, we need to be realistic that the odds are stacked against us and that we will probably lose, and we need to plan for the day after as well. To just make pronouncements that the disengagement won't take place doesn't help anyone.

Why is the Dati Leumi population not really fighting the disengagement?

I was listening to my favorite charedi radio station one night on the way home from work, and they were discussing this. The political commentator commented that the government could never do something like this to the Arab or Charedi community, they wouldn't stand for it. The commentator and the host didn't understand why the Dato Leumi population as a whole isn't coming out and protesting.

IMHO, the answer is as follows. The Dati Leumi population is mostly middle class. Middle class people don't make waves or revolutions. Based on this I will explain below the difference between the Charedi population and the Dati Leumi population.

1. The Dati leumi population has been brought up to respect the government, celebrate Yom Haatzmaut, serve in the army, believe in democracy, etc. It is very hard to rebel against all of these things. The Charedi population on the other hand, doesn't really beleive in the government, at best the government is tolerated. The government is looked upon as the enemy who is always trying to take things away. Therefore it is not hard for them to rally against the government.
2. The Dat Leumi population is part of Israeli society. They work in the government, go to public schools, universities, the army, etc. It is hard to rebel aginst a society that you have a large stake in. The Charedi population on the other hand has no stake in society. By choice, they are not part of Israeli society, rather they have their own ghettos.
3. Most people in the Dati Leumi population work and therefore have no time to protest or be arrested. If you have a job which pays your mortgage and supports your family, it is very hard to get arrested and sit in jail and lose your job. How will you feed your family? Pay your mortgage? Middle class people have a lot to lose. The Charedi population on the other hand, has a large group of people sitting and learning in yeshivos and kollelim. If the gedolim say go out and protest, the kollelim and yeshivos close down and people go. If the gedolim said to go get arrested the arrested people would not lose. They would still get their money from their kollel, they would still get their money from the government, the tax breaks etc. Even the working Charedi population is different. Most of those people who work, work in the Charedi community and therefore if they get arrested they wouldn't lose their jobs. They would be supported by a gemachim etc. In short they have much less at stake financially.

To summarize, the middle class does not create revolutions. Revolutions are created by people with a lot of time and little to lose, students and the poor. Students have a lot of time and little to lose, and the poor have a lot of time and are desperate and have little to lose. The middle class has too much to lose. This is the case of the Dati Leumi population in Israel, they have too much to lose and therefore will not really protest and fight against the disengagement.