Thoughts on Judaism

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mi Amar

Another blogger is on the loose, your typical J-Blogger, who believes in fallible Rabanim and nodding to modernity if modern science conflicts with sagely wisdom. Here is a short excerpt:

We find in the Jerusalem Talmud that one Tana brashly tells Rabbi Akiba, who was the greatest of the Tanaim, that he was mistaken. Thus in Taanit chapter 4, is stated, “Rabbi Akiba, when he saw Bar Cochba would say that he was the Messiah; Rabbi Yochanan ben Turtah responded, Akiba, even when grass will grow from your cheeks the Messiah will not have arrived”. Even the Sanhedrin can err. The first two chapters of Tractate Horayot deal with this topic. It has been stated concerning the Rambam, “From Moses until Moses no one as great as Moses has arisen”. Nevertheless, many wise sages have stated that the Rambam erred. Moreover, Rabbenu Saadiah Gaon states that we do not have to accept the opinion of our sages concerning nature and medicine if it does not agree with our present knowledge. We find a similar statement by Rabbi Avraham the son of the Rambam

Apparently the “error” is the great advantage of creation. There is here a paradox: It is forbidden for you to err, but the ability to err is what gives a value to your deeds and your opinions. Many of the medicines and discoveries have come about from errors. A similar statement can be made with respect to errors of the sages. These errors are essential for the development of a successful Jewish viewpoint that can adapt to the varied cultural realities, so as to absorb, digest and convert them to a Godly idea. An opinion of a Tana or Amora can possibly be entirely invalid at a particular place and time, and yet be completely valid at a different place and time. The Ramhal states in “Mesillat Yeshorim” chapter 20, that the law is forever in accord with Beth Hillel. However, we have a tradition that the law is at present according to Beth Hillel, but in the distant future the law will be in accord with Beth Shamai, which seems nowadays to be impossible, just as is a statement that a mouse is half soil. Possibly in another 50 years it will be possible, or it will then become clear that what was said will become relevant and in place. It seems that that is the explanation of the saying of the sages (Berochot 34:) “Rabbi Abahu said: the position of repentants is more worthy that of the completely righteous”. This means that an error corrected by a repentant makes him better than one who has never sinned. In some respects this is similar to the idea that certain particles in the universe behave at the same time as solid materials and as waves. A perfect item does not belong in the living world. We have not as yet sufficient information and understanding of the world and of the Creator to unerstand such paradoxes.

Sounds kind of like ... well ... me. But it is not. So what is the justification of basing halacha on what is ... in many cases ... error?

There is no sympathy in any culture for the idea that it is possible to claim that the spiritual leaders have erred. Such an attitude lowers the respect for the statements of the leaders. Has anyone ever heard that any country broadcast the statement that their High Court has erred? Moreover, the creative and mental expertise of our sages was in the fields of justice, thought and faith. In general the sages developed their expertise in science as a result of legal problems that were brought before them in the fields of agriculture, zoology, physics etc. Nevertheless, you will find in our culture, a culture of truth without any partiality, that we learn from the Torah that errors are attributed even to our sage Moses. Rashi states concerning three passages (Lev. 10 16; Num 20 10-11; Num. 31 21), that Moses because of anger made an error.

OK, not great, but not the silly, bombastic, condescending apologetics that we are used to. But can this guy's kids get into a yeshiva today? Will his daughter ever get married? Is he some modernishe like Hersh or Carmel Chas v'shalom? He is clearly saying that the Torah sh'beal peh erred in places on science, and that the only reason we follow it today is because we do it out of respect for the system, and in confidence that the system will eventually fix itself. Read his website. Yes, this guy is a throwback and a radical. He even proposes that he would form a group today to examine and correct the words of our holy, saintly, omniscient, ... er ... infallible ... Of those who follow the mystical approach of daas Torah and halacha psak making a new physical reality, he will have none of it. Who is he?

Or, who are they?


  • You know, I'm probably gonna have to disagree with you on the silly bombastic apologetics. Didja read the whole thing ?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:16 PM  

  • Yes, I did read it. They use the Hirsch, Dessler type approach in much of it. But, granted, I was speaking comparatively only. You can see some of my refutations of the Daat Emet material would also confound their apologetics.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 9:28 PM  

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