15 December 2006

Fits like a glove



I just don't get it - Third in a series of God knows how many.



Maybe you heard this one before but that's not the point. Read on.



Shloimeh went to Pinchas the tailor to be fitted for a new suit of clothes. After Pinchas altered the suit, he stood in front of the mirror to check the fit. At first glance he noticed that the suit jacket's right arm sleeve was way too short, and too much of his wrist was showing. "Say, R' Pinchas," Shloime said, "this sleeve looks a little short. Would you please lengthen it?". "The sleeve is not too short," replied the tailor. "Your arm is too long... Just pull your arm back a few inches and you will see that the sleeve fits perfectly." Shloimeh withdrew his arm a bit, and the sleeve was matched with his wrist. But this movement rumpled the upper portion of the jacket."Now the nape of the collar is several inches above my neck," he protested. "There's nothing wrong with the collar," Pinchas insisted. "Your neck is too low. Lift the back of your neck and the jacket will fit well." Shloimeh raised his neck a few inches, and sure enough the collar rounded it where it was supposed to. But now there was another problem: the bottom of the jacket rested high above his seat. "Now my whole rear end is sticking out!" Shloimeh complained. "No problem," Pinchas returned. "Just lift up your rear end so it fits under the jacket." Again Shloimeh meekly complied, which left his body in a very contorted posture. But Pinchas had convinced him that the problem was not with the suit, but him. So he paid the tailor for the suit and walked out of the shop in a most awkward position, struggling to keep all parts of the suit in their right places.

On the street he encountered two men walking in the opposite direction. After they passed, one man turned to the other and commented, "That poor man is really crippled!" "He sure is," the other replied. "But that suit looks fabulous on him. He must have a great tailor."




When I was a yunger mahn learning in Yeshiva, I thought wow, how great Torah is. Layer upon layer, built on the Torah created an unbreakable chain. Chumash, Medrash, Mishna, Gemorah, Geonim, Rishonim, etc. I marveled at the long rows of sefarim.

And I felt it was amazing it all fit together so well. All this wonderful wisdom wrapped up, there for the picking. I would never master most of if but it was all there. And the fact that this was built up generation upon generation was a testament to it's being divinely inspired. After all, this ancient wisdom was still relevant and being studied and still growing. But now I find the sad truth to be that much of the complexity truly is man-made because it's not a cohesive system that can stand on it's own. Sure, I still get this great geshmack when I untangle a puzzle, a stirah that just sitting there under 3 layers of Tosfos. But that doesn't make it true. It just means you had the seichel to create another artifical distinction between two facts. A distinction that most likely had nothing to do with the original authors intention.

I can't begin to estimate how many lines of Talmud, Rishonim, Shaalos & Teshuvos, etc and it is all a colossal & magnificent work.

Lately I have begun to compare it to other man made scholarly works.

It is stated that the new version of Windows, VISTA, has 50,000,000 lines of code.

Sure, an Operating System may be loaded with defects, but assuming the OS stayed around for hundreds of years, I'm reasonably certain most of the defects would get fixed. And sometimes, the fix is a poor patch. But it is acknowledged to be a defect. (I know, some vendors will claim it's a feature not a bug). But even in thirty years from now, if a defect is discovered, the original code is not treated as Torah M'sinai. It's analyzed and determined to be in error and an attempt is made to correct it.

Yet in the Yam Shel Talmud, everything from prior generations is considered sacred and untouchable. So complicated threads of logic are woven to explain something that may be a typo or simply a mistake.

Sayings such as Ikkar Chassar Min Hasefer and Eilu V'eilu Divrei Elokim Chaim somehow seem to ring hollow.

So the next time you marvel at the complexity of the Talmud and related literature, ask yourself this:

Which human creation would you prefer to power the engines of your airplane, a thoroughly tested Operating System or Gemara, Rashi & Tosfos?

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    135 Comments:

    At December 19, 2006 1:47 PM, Blogger Moshe Kappoya said...

    The flaw in your comparison is that computer programs are written by humans who can make mistakes. (I know, because I am a programmer and I remember once, a long time ago, I found a bug in my program.)
    L'Havdel alef havdolous, the Torah was written by Hakodosh Borouch Hu, and is perfect, like He is perfect.
    Over the centuries transcription errors crept into some seforim, and it is acceptable to answer a difficult Tosfos by claiming "tuos sofer". But that's the whimp's way out. It is a matter of intellectual pride to try and come up with a cleverer answer.

    Hey, I still use this tailor. He has a nice little shop on the lower east side, and he does excellent work. Like "in der heim". And the limping/hunch back hardly bothers me anymore.

    Happy Chanukah!

     
    At December 19, 2006 1:58 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    MK, please re-read my post. I don't want to get into the divinty of Torah. I kept on referring Gemara, rishonim, etc. Everyone admits it's man-made. Yet, even an Amora can't dis-agree with a Tanna. Bizarre. (I know all the answers, closer to Sinai, etc).



    > He has a nice little shop on the lower east side, and he does excellent work. Like "in der heim". And the limping/hunch back hardly bothers me anymore.


    That was you in the Pizza store? Nice suit! Nice pshat in that R' Akive Eiger. Same difference ;)

     
    At December 19, 2006 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Good post.

    Who was it who was talking about Open Source Judaism?

    Open source is the way of the future, I think.

     
    At December 19, 2006 4:46 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    BJ, I think that was on TFSG. I didn't really follow it at the time.

     
    At December 19, 2006 4:55 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    my father used to say this joke in yiddish.

    i believe that people have figured out that orthodox charedi judiasm is big business (either from govt funds perspective to goods and services)

    therefore gedolim are controlled to ensure that nothing messes with their operations.

    this filters down to people like ed who think that you must follow gedolim right or wrong.

    people must be pre occupied with chumros and bans so they dont think about the problems.

    you cant give people too much time to think or explore or they may stumble upon uncomfortable truths.

     
    At December 19, 2006 4:57 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    i also wanted to add that you also must make sure they can only explore pre approved sources.

    its a closed system.

    bhb
    did you realize it was a closed system, and did that bother you?

     
    At December 19, 2006 4:59 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    to bj point, where i work they are talking about banning open source, too many issues with legal, and security.

    the orthodox have the same issue. they want to work with pre approved vendors.
    this way the message is consistent.

    what bugs me the most is why growing up, everyone felt that in the battle of ideas frumkeit couldnt possibly win.
    they must feel this way, because they ban anything that can remotely threaten judiasm.
    is there another discipline like this?

     
    At December 19, 2006 5:01 PM, Blogger Moshe Kappoya said...

    >That was you in the Pizza store? Nice suit! Nice pshat in that R' Akive Eiger. Same difference ;)

    I gotta stop reading your blog at work, I was laughing so loud my co-workers started shooting paper clips at me!

     
    At December 19, 2006 5:14 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >did you realize it was a closed system, and did that bother you?


    Happy, I did realize it was closed system but it did not bother me, because I knew it was the truth!

    MK, Hmm.. maybe a new career for me?

     
    At December 19, 2006 6:49 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    BHB
    You knew it was the truth.

    What do you say to the people who point to you and say, you see, I told you don't read unapproved books.
    Look how powerful the y"h is.

    In their mind, every skeptic is proof for the truth of the Torah.

    Its amazing how the system is so self healing.
    IBM hasn't figured out to make a system so immune to virus

     
    At December 19, 2006 9:07 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Happy, Thats interesting, I never got the sense that anything was off limits except studying other religions. I don't think anybody actually comes out and says you should not study science. Secular material was basically ok as long as you didn't read on Shabbos.

     
    At December 19, 2006 9:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Moshe Kappoya,

    If we are trying to use the brilliance of Torah to prove its divinity, we can not presuppose it's divinity as proof of it's brilliance.

     
    At December 19, 2006 9:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Open source is the way of the future, I think.

    Defiantly, even oracle and Microsoft have recently jumped on the boat.

     
    At December 19, 2006 9:22 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >If we are trying to use the brilliance of Torah to prove its divinity, we can not presuppose it's divinity as proof of it's brilliance.


    LFoxling, clever.

    As to opensource, does anybody really run their business on an opensource platform?

     
    At December 19, 2006 9:27 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    bhb
    they specifically told us in yeshiva, dont read evolution. you can read rabbi miller though.

    philosophy in college was also assur.

    judiac studies in brooklyn college was frowned upon.

     
    At December 19, 2006 9:30 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    I don't ever remember hearing don't take this couse, etc. As a matter of fact, in my college, the philo and Js classes were full of Yeshiva boys (& girls).

     
    At December 19, 2006 9:31 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    re opensource

    google.

     
    At December 19, 2006 9:32 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    bhb
    they were. we of course ignored the rebbeim.
    anyway, we came in thinking how dumb the philosphers were.
    we also had old papers.

     
    At December 19, 2006 9:47 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

    Happy,

    "what bugs me the most is why growing up, everyone felt that in the battle of ideas frumkeit couldnt possibly win.
    they must feel this way, because they ban anything that can remotely threaten judiasm.
    is there another discipline like this?"

    You mean like every authoritarian system ever? There's a reason why China censors its media.

     
    At December 20, 2006 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    BHB - Another great post! I really enjoy your writing.

    I'll go in the back of the line for an authograph now.

    BTW - how's The Little Apikorus's Rebbetzin doin'?

     
    At December 20, 2006 1:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Baal, depends on where I want to fly to.

     
    At December 20, 2006 6:10 AM, Blogger rebelmo said...

    Understanding a Pnei Yehoshua on Tosfos is now only intellectually satisfying. I remember the good old days when it was geshmakt.

    Ignorance can be bliss and next time choose the blue pill - ( for those matrix virgins(http://www.arrod.co.uk/essays/matrix.php)

     
    At December 20, 2006 6:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    When I talk about open source, I don't just mean computer programs.

    I read an article recently in New Scientist about open source democracy. The article requires subscription to view online, but when I googled it I came up with this:
    http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/3874

    The author, Douglas Rushkoff, is also the founder of open source Judaism.
    http://www.rushkoff.com
    http://www.opensourcejudaism.com/

    Lots of reading for me!

     
    At December 20, 2006 12:36 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Shpitzle, thanks. The BallahBuste is doing just fine. BTW, she loved your anniversary post.

    It's all Good now, HA. You said it. If you want to get to heaven, just have your next flight be powered by Gemaara Rashi Tosfos. You'll get there, faster than you expected ;)

    BillieJean, yes I was aware of that. But truthfully to me, if it ain't real, then what's the point of any of it, conservative, reform, Reconstruct, or opensource? Just to preserve the fun parts of the ritual? Just do it. Have a seder, light candles, but why make up new prayers. I just don't see it.

     
    At December 20, 2006 1:16 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Reblemo, I've finaly gotten used to the red pill, but I think the blue pill woud have suited me just fine.

     
    At December 20, 2006 4:37 PM, Anonymous ? said...

    >I don't ever remember hearing don't take this couse, etc. As a matter of fact, in my college, the philo and Js classes were full of Yeshiva boys (& girls).

    That's what happens when you go to the goyishe colleges.First you get a B.A.& you become half a 'behema',then you get a M.A & you become a complete behema.


    Don't you know that "kol hakorei b'sifrei chitsonim ein lo chelek b'olom habo"?
    See what happened to you for not listening to your rebbeyim,you have become an Apikores!!!..

    Kol Yisroel areivim ze lozeh.Your apikorsus also affects me & I am also punished because of it...
    So in a sense there is here a din rodef.. v'hamevin yovin...
    So please do t'shuvah for the sake of all yidden..

     
    At December 20, 2006 4:54 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    ?

    >That's what happens when you go to the goyishe colleges.

    I guess I can blame my Rosh Yeshiva on that one.
    > First you get a B.A.& you become half a 'behema',then you get a M.A & you become a complete behema

    That's hysterical. Hahaha. Do yourself a favor and stop going to Medical Doctors who must also be Behemas.




    >Don't you know that "kol hakorei b'sifrei chitsonim ein lo chelek b'olom habo"?

    No, I never heard that one. Happy & Orthprax are right. OJ tries to keep the virus'es out. No critical thinking.


    >Your apikorsus also affects me

    I can't imagine that the INTERNET is any better than sifrei chitzonim.


    Do yourself AND EVERYONE ELSE a big favor and STAY OFF THE INTERNET

    & I am also punished because of it...


    >So in a sense there is here a din rodef.. v'hamevin yovin...


    Is that a threat?

     
    At December 20, 2006 5:19 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

    "That's what happens when you go to the goyishe colleges.First you get a B.A.& you become half a 'behema',then you get a M.A & you become a complete behema."

    Thats funny because I'm in grad school and don't have a B.A. or an M.A. I'm glad I ducked that bullet. Phew!

     
    At December 20, 2006 5:21 PM, Anonymous ? said...

    >No, I never heard that one

    I am surprised.As an ex yeshivah bochur I would expect you to know the last perek of Sanhedrin,"chelek",it's there in the mishnah.

    But seriously,where is your sense of humour? I wrote it sacastically,I thought it was quite obvious.
    Loosen up!

     
    At December 20, 2006 5:44 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    OP and I have a BS/MS !!

    ?, you never know. There was no indication of sarcasm.

    Maybe I knew it once upon a time ago. See there's my CRS kickin in. (See a prior post of mine).

     
    At December 20, 2006 6:24 PM, Anonymous ? said...

    >, you never know. There was no indication of sarcasm.

    Didn't you notice all the dots after sentences? that points to sarcasm.Besides,how could you read it otherwise.
    Degrees don't impress me.
    I have a Ph.d.in Mathematics,so what?
    BTW it matters very much where one got his degree... some are worthless...
    I have met too many rabbis who are amei ha'arets & too many Ph.ds who are stupid.(NO reference to you.)

     
    At December 20, 2006 6:55 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

    "Didn't you notice all the dots after sentences? that points to sarcasm."

    Interesting. So when someone says "You better shut up, or else..." then they must be joking, eh?

    "I have a Ph.d.in Mathematics,so what?"

    So let's do the math. Does that make you a full behemah or only half?

    "BTW it matters very much where one got his degree... some are worthless..."

    Please, please tell me you got yours at Touro! ;-)

     
    At December 20, 2006 7:43 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    ?,
    > Didn't you notice all the dots after sentences? that points to sarcasm.

    I would believe that more if you had your Ph.d. in English........................

    >I have met too many rabbis who are amei ha'arets & too many Ph.d who are stupid.(NO reference to you.)


    Couldn't be referring to me, I'm not a rabbi and My Poppa's got no dough.............................

     
    At December 21, 2006 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    since when is shpitzel by invitation only?
    how do i get invited?
    bhb. do you have any protekzia with her?
    great post. funny and sad at the same time.

     
    At December 21, 2006 2:25 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Tayq00. (great handle).

    >since when is shpitzel by invitation only?

    i don't understand.

    > how do i get invited?

    You're invited. I don't know to what, but you're invited.

    >bhb. do you have any protekzia with her?

    I don't understand.

    >great post. funny and sad at the same time.

    This I understand! Thanks & welcome.

     
    At December 21, 2006 3:37 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    bhb
    a little late, but i read & thing as being sarcastic and not attacking you.
    I thought it was clearly mimicing what the yeshiva world would say. he got it right on the nose.
    I was at a chanikah party, and got into a little discussion on the el al ban, and before you knew it I was being called an apikores for not believing that the curse rav kanievsky put on el al was something i should take seriously.

    and this wasnt from a farfrumpt person. they watch tv. but they are so brainwashed its scary.

     
    At December 21, 2006 3:44 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Tayqoo, Oh now, I see about Shiptzle, That must have happened just today.

    Happy, I guess I just missed it! Anyhow, everyone I know has made it their business to stay away from El-Al.


    Rav Kanievsky said so. Ask them what Rav Kanievsky says about going to college or watching TV. Then watch their mouth drop open.

     
    At December 21, 2006 3:47 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Tayqoo, I can't get in either, maybe she was hacked?

     
    At December 21, 2006 4:52 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    bhb
    great test!

     
    At December 22, 2006 2:27 AM, Anonymous ? said...

    >bhb
    a little late, but i read & thing as being sarcastic and not attacking you.
    I thought it was clearly mimicing what the yeshiva world would say. he got it right on the nose


    You are 100% correct!

     
    At December 22, 2006 8:45 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    ?

    OK, My bad.

    > I thought it was clearly mimicing what the yeshiva world would say.

    Exactly! So how would I know the difference? Your Moniker is questionable (ha). And there was no clue.


    ..... are not usually sarcasm.

    Have a merry Chanukah.

    >

     
    At December 22, 2006 2:21 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Baal habos, I enjoy your writing very much, and though I disagree with your views, you stimulate my thinking.

    Take an analogy to science rather than technology. How do we know science is a fruitful pursuit? There are many unsolved problems and apparent contradictions that have yet to be reconciled. Yet, we have faith in the scientific method and press forward, hoping for further breakthroughs. Why is this? Why don't we assume that the effectiveness of scientific reasoning is a figment of our imagination, and that the universe is not really accessible to rational investigation?

    I believe the answer is as follows: If science were to explain one or two phenomena ONLY, then the existence of a multitude of contradictions and problems would call the whole enterprise into question. But the fact is that science has an excellent track record. It's explanatory power is indisputable because it works, again and again. This gives us faith in the scientific method as a viable way to understand the world.

    The same is true with Torah methodology. If the analysis of the Talmud and Rishonim made sense once in a while, that would be insufficient basis for accepting the mesorah. But the reality is that, again and again, the more deeply we analyze the Torah, the clearer and more coherent its ideas become. Just like scientific theories don't "invent" reality, they present its order and elegance to us, so too halachic theories represent an underlying reality, they don't create it.

    This has been my experience in many, many areas of Torah Shebichtav and Torah Shebal Peh, and I think it is especially manifest in the works of people like Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Lichtenstein who, through penetrating to the essence of countless sugyot, demonstrate the unity of halachic thought. However, appreciating the beauty of the Torah requires lots of time and patience, the same that is required for appreciating the beauty of any field of thought.

     
    At December 23, 2006 6:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Rabbi Joshua Maroof,

    I am not very familiar with the methodology of Rabbi Soloveitchik, but am very familiar with that of Rav Lichtenstein and I find it quite ironic that you say that his theories “represent an underlying reality, they don't create it.”

    To me, it always seemed that RA”L was not presenting a theory, but creating one.

    In class, he would present layers upon layers of Brisker analysis, which generally had absolutely no textual support anywhere.

    In fact, there is really no evidence that the Rishonim or the Talmud ever thought in Brisker categories, and to me the complete dearth of any Brisker discussions in them calls into question the whole notion that they thought in these terminology. But, even if we presume that the Rishonim thought in these categories, the specific application of the Brisker methodology on a sugya by sugya basis that RA”L employed, was generally based on the scantiest of evidence. But, what is even more striking, is that RA”L was more interested in stating all the theoretical possibilities of a given sugya and less interested in whether there was any basis for them in the Gemorah or Rishonim. He would often start a sugya and state all of the theoretical possibilities, fully conceding that some had no basis anywhere, or worse, were outright contradicted by other sugyot. He would say p’shat in a Rishon fully aware that the Rishon could never had felt this way on the basis of other writings the same Rishon had written.

    In short, he was constructing a new intellectual perspective, not presenting a pre existent one.

     
    At December 23, 2006 7:09 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >Baal habos, I enjoy your writing very much, and though I disagree with your views, you stimulate my thinking.

    Thank you. Anyone gets into my blog. Flattery helps too.

    > It's explanatory power is indisputable because it works, again and again. This gives us faith in the scientific method as a viable way to understand the world.

    True, and in it's predictive power as well.

    >The same is true with Torah methodology..........However, appreciating the beauty of the Torah requires lots of time and patience, the same that is required for appreciating the beauty of any field of thought.

    Rabbi Marof, true. Torah can be beautiful and I spend many decades learning and I still do; after many years of skepticism. But when I take a step back, I feel like Shloimeh (im my post) fitted by a poor tailor. Anything can be made to fit because it's all bendable, not breakable. You can come up with almost any Svarah and explanation you want, it can contradict other logic, other facts and yet still will stay standing, albeit as a poor fit. the suit has inhere. In short, it's not falsifiable.

    This "tailoring" of torah does not make it true, in the historical sense. It's a beautiful man-made system. But it is rife with many, not just a few, problems and issues, scientifically, morally & historically. People are not skeptics because they couldn't farenfer one Rambam.

     
    At December 23, 2006 7:45 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Thank you. Anyone gets into my blog. Flattery helps too.

    No flattery intended. I just think that you communicate your thoughts and feelings in a clear way that brings your experience to life for readers. You also have a penchant for debating and discussing issues in a very respectful, contemplative manner rather than the aggressive tone I find on many other blogs.

    With regard to your comments: I don't feel that the beauty of Torah is found in the resolution of contradictions. I see it in the elegance of one of the Rav's Shiurim L'zecher Abba Mori, for example, in which countless halachic phenomena are unified by a central theoretical principle. The sheer quantity of details accounted for by these constructs makes it quite difficult to imagine that they were not a part of authorial intent.

    I find the same beauty in the broad-based Shiurim of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, as well as in the "Shavuot Shiurim" of R' Yisroel Chait who is featured on ybt.org.

    You may still claim that this is not evidence of a divine system, and can be the result of human ingenuity. But the sheer depth and profundity of the ideas, the constant revelation of new connections between ideas and concepts, makes the notion that it was fabricated seem very far-fetched.

    The existence of problems does not compromise the overall harmony of any system of thought. There are literal contradictions in scientific data and yet science moves on, hoping one day to reconcile them by discovering a new "layer" of understanding from which vantage point all will make sense.

    In terms of historical, scientific and moral problems with the Torah - each of these is a different kind of problem in its own right - I am not troubled by them at all. The Torah was never understood by Hazal as a literal exposition of science. I am not sure why we follow Christian fundamentalists in assuming that it is, and then being bothered by scientific issues.

    Our knowledge of history is fragmentary and tentative, so it cannot really "contradict" anything definitively. There are many, many cases of events and people in Tanach initially branded as "imaginary" and later discovered to have concrete evidence for their existence. You might be interested in the lengthy comments on a post on my blog at http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=33081113&postID=116162990947989666.

    The moral issues are more complex, but suffice it to say that I don't believe that modern conceptions of moral values are inherently superior to ancient ones, and I think that contemporary ones are almost entirely sentimentally based, nearly devoid of cognitive content altogether. So I am not inclined to view them as a challenge.

    Thank you for taking the time to discuss this with me.

     
    At December 24, 2006 1:04 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    R. Maroof,

    I spent some time going over those comments. I think you yourself said it somewhat succintly. The Kuzari is not proof. It may be the deciding factor if someone is inclined to lean that way. I must dis-agree with you on almost everything else. In my world, the world that brags as being the creme de la creme of Torah scholrship, the Torah does claim to be science, Torah does claim to be the epitome of morality and Torah does claim to be Historical.

    I believe that in the time of the Taanaim, they would bend the understanding of Torah to fit the morality (and the history & science) of the day. Thus we have Ain tachas ain coming to mean money and we also have concepts of ain Mukdom omeoochar Batorah and concepts such as Bsuleha Chozrin.

    And so today, just as we are bound to Halacha of those times, we are bound to that understanding of Torah's history, science and morals just as it was in the days of the Tannaim. I stand by the Chareidi viewpoint. And thus because I am Convinced that the Chareidi representation of Torah is not accurate, in terms of science, history & morality, it all falls apart for me.

     
    At December 24, 2006 6:08 AM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    The difficulty I have with the Charedi viewpoint is that, as you stated, it is clearly not the viewpoint of Chazal or the majority of Rishonim. Rather than seeing what they do as "bending" the Torah, I see it as an expression of their approach to Torah as a system of theological and legal ideas, not a respository of empirical data about the past or present.

    The Charedi world appears to me very, very far from the conception of Torah of the Baalei Hamesorah. And it is the Torah of the Baalei Hamesorah - the people who transmitted the Tanach to us in the first place, along with an approach to understanding it - that I accept as true.

    BTW, just as an aside, in Sarna's book Exploring Exodus, he argues that Ayin Tachat Ayin was a legal phraseology that was clearly never intended to be taken literally, even according to "peshat". Keep in mind that he is definitely not bound by a belief in the divinity of Torah Shebal Peh.

     
    At December 24, 2006 11:00 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Rabbi Maroof,
    At this point I can let Lakewood Yid and/or Ed take over the debate with you.

    But I'll still continue a bit.

    It seems then that there are two Jewish Orthodoxies. So which one is it?

    Is it the one that says Torah can be interpreted like the Meor Enayim? Is it the R' Kanievsky version?

    It seems then that there two different Mesora's. If the Mesora can be interprted wrongly by the Chareidim/Chassidim/Saducees/Hellenists/Korach, etc, etc what does it tell you about the Mesorah itself?

    It tells me that Judasim is amorphous, non-falsifiable and seems to just be another entity that evolves.

    It evolved Into OJ, Karraites, Christianty, Islam, Sephardi judaism, Oriental, Kabbalistic, Chassidic, ashkenazi,Sikkari, etc.

    Some adaptations of Judaism are similiar in practice and some are not.

    It seems clear to me that Mesorah cannot be trusted to show the truth.

     
    At December 24, 2006 1:55 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    I don't like the term "debate" - it sounds combative. How about "discussion" instead? I don't think I have all the answers and I am happy to learn from others rather than spend my time convincing them that I am right.

    It is important to distinguish between movements that are essentially the same, differing only on details or in superficial aspects, and movements that introduce fundamentally alien elements into the mesorah. Kabbalistic and Chassidic Judaism, for example, are not so much different religions as different ways of interpreting the philosophic dimensions of Judaism. Sephardic Judaism differs only in customs and practices, but not in essence, with mainstream Judaism. By contrast, Islam and Christianity are not part of the mesorah at all, and Karaism explicitly rejects it (ironically, since they inherited the Tanach from us).

    Also, you are coming dangerously close to the fallacious reasoning so beloved to GH - the idea that because people have different viewpoints, no one can possibly be correct. This is just not true. The number of wrong opinions about something does not affect the probability that someone possesses the truth. I don't see how anyone can even entertain the opposite position, it is clearly mistaken.

    The Charedi version of Judaism is unacceptable to me for a very simple reason. The very gedolim that they venerate - Rambam, Ramban, etc. - would have rejected their positions on matters of science and history out of hand if they were alive today. Most Charedim would consider much of the content of the Moreh Nevuchim, Hovot Halevavot, Emunot V'Deyot, etc., heretical, while simultaneously viewing themselves as the legitimate successors of their authors.

    The biggest problem I find with skeptics like GH is that they stack the cards against the Torah and then decide that the Torah isn't plausible. They proceed to condemn anyone who answers their questions as either a fundamentalist apologist or a hidden orthoprax. This insulates some skeptics from real discussion of the issues. What do you think?

     
    At December 25, 2006 12:19 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    R' Maroof.

    The issue to me is not that because one faction is wrong they are all wrong and that is *not* even what GH is stating. (I believe GH is stating that because there are so many religions the odds of an individual's beliefs being correct is reduced. Of course, everyone thinks they've got it straight from God.


    To me personally, this issue is rather that each group believes they are the exclusive bearers of the true mesorah (Christians and Muslims believe this to the exclusion of the jews. The chassidic masses believe they have the direct path to the exlusion of others, the Chareidim believe they have the path to the exlusion of others and chassidim as well. You seem to believe the Chareidim have it (Jewish Dogma and philosophy) wrong based on Rambam.


    Notwithstanding the distinctions you make between major and minor differenences, this still demonstrates how fallible Mesorah, Dogma & Belief is. You must admit your bias. I don't know you from Adam, but I suspect that came to your beliefs (especially about Chareidim) because of your background. Had you been born Chareidi or Christian you'd probably be singing a different tune.



    >The Charedi version of Judaism is unacceptable to me for a very simple reason......legitimate successors of their authors.

    Do you not think the Chareidim have an explantion for this? And would you not call that Chareidi response, a form of apologetica?



    As an aside, I reject the notion of bias of scientists and historians AS A GROOUP and the notion that they can't be trusted.

    I don't know what you mean by stacking the deck against the Torah. On the contrary, I think that most individuals who turn skeptical as an adult are much dis-concerted and agonize over their findings. I know I was.

     
    At December 25, 2006 5:59 AM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Notwithstanding the distinctions you make between major and minor differenences, this still demonstrates how fallible Mesorah, Dogma & Belief is.

    How so? The halachic system admits for differences of opinion and minhag - the application of halacha is a function of human understanding attempting to grasp the truths of the "field" of halachic science, and therefore it is subject to different theoretical views like any other area of study. This is not a reflection of the fallibility of the system at all. I see it as a strength in some ways - it encourages the exercise of the mind rather than indoctrinating.

    In terms of "dogma", I am not sure what you mean by this. All strains of Orthodoxy are in agreement on the very basic principles of Yihud Hashem, TMS, etc., even if they may understand them differently.

    You must admit your bias. I don't know you from Adam, but I suspect that came to your beliefs (especially about Chareidim) because of your background. Had you been born Chareidi or Christian you'd probably be singing a different tune.

    I'm sure I have my biases, as we all do. But my upbringing, Jewish education and early and later influences were very, very heterogeneous, ranging from Conservative to MO to Charedi to Lubavitch.

    Do you not think the Chareidim have an explantion for this? And would you not call that Chareidi response, a form of apologetica?

    Of course, I'm sure that they would offer an explanation. I would be interested to hear what it was. Condemning it as apologia a priori is unfair until I've assessed its merits independently. I am just giving my view as to why I don't subscribe to the Charedi view of science and history, etc.

    The whole issue of apologetics is thorny for me. If someone raises a philosophical or even scientific problem with evolutionary theory, do we say that the answer of Dawkins is apologetic? Maybe in some cases. But there can be good questions and equally good answers sometimes. Other times, the answers might not be as satisfying immediately. But the more reason I have to believe in a philosophy, ideology, or paradigm, the less likely a particular kashya or set of kashyas will disturb me meanwhile. Isn't this how science works all the time? They went for centuries believing in theories that were rife with problems and contradictions until Einstein came along. And even he only solved part of the puzzle.

    As an aside, I reject the notion of bias of scientists and historians AS A GROOUP and the notion that they can't be trusted.

    Did I say something to indicate that I thought this? I didn't mean to.

    When it comes to the hard sciences, I agree with you 100%.

    However, in the soft sciences, there is very little stated "As a group" to begin with. Even the most basic premises of different schools of thought are often in dispute.

    The amount of data is minimal relative to the quantity of hypothesis, conjecture and theory. And if you think there are a lot of theories and positions in halacha, and that this undermines the system, try examining some books on Biblical archaeology and criticism. The truth is, to be fair, that the same would apply to any area of history or literary criticism. Even the discipline I studied, psychology, is teeming with competing views. I am always extremely suspicious of the proclaimed results of psychological studies, because the interpretations thereof are almost always tangled up and disputed.

    I don't know what you mean by stacking the deck against the Torah. On the contrary, I think that most individuals who turn skeptical as an adult are much dis-concerted and agonize over their findings. I know I was.

    I didn't mean to imply any bias on your part against Judaism. I understand that the discoveries you made were painful for you.

    It's just that I find that many skeptics are rejecting a form of Judaism that would be foreign to, say, the Rambam or the Ramban. They are rejecting a Judaism that they were taught as children, but this may not be the "real deal".

    And oftentimes, especially in the words of GH, I discover a certain superficiality or oversimplification in dealing with philosophical and theological issues that is sure to lead to skepticism or cynicism.

    I don't mean to impugn anyone or to suggest that many of the skeptics aren't true seekers.

     
    At December 25, 2006 11:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    BHB, Thanks for alerting me via email to this thread.

    This thread is a bit of a challenge. On one hand, to preserve the Charedi way from R Maroof's challenges, and OTOH, not to encourage BHB's skepticism.

    I will need some time to formulate my response.

    In the meantime, I leave you with this:

    How are we to understand the vast amount of Machlokes that exists in Halacha? From mishna to gemara to rishonim straight through today, there's no end to Halachic Machlokes. What gives? What happened to the (near) perfect mesora?

    (this question is obviously not being asked from just a charedi POV).

    lakewood yid.

     
    At December 25, 2006 2:00 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Lakewood Yid, I am not sure if this question is being addressed to anyone in particular...I am assuming that I am welcome to respond.

    I don't think that machloket poses any philosophical problem at all. We see it already occuring between Moshe and Aharon regarding the proper procedure of miluim in light of the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, for example, and it is provided for in Parshat Shoftim "divrei rivot bisharecha".

    Much of the Rambam's halachic work was directed to fix the misunderstanding of Judaism created by the existence of machloket. He returns to this theme again and again, beginning with his intro to the Mishna, and then his insistence upon omitting different opinions from the Mishneh Torah.

    Rambam understood very well that the presence of disagreement causes people to question whether there is any underlying "science" to halacha, or it is just a conglomeration of human opinions. This is why he took great pains to demonstrate that, underneath al the details, there is an elegant unity to the field of Torah Shebal Peh, and that the arguments revolve around specific halachot and not fundamentals.

    If you click on my synagogue's blog, http://magendavidsephardic.blogspot.com and scroll down about 1/3 of the way, you will find some text that I wrote regarding this aspect of the Rambam's work. It is a summary of a shiur I gave on this subject some time ago.

    A mesorah in any field can be perfectly intact but permit machloket. This occurs when specific details can be explained by more than one theoretical construct. For example, let's say two psychoanalytic psychologists are trying to explain the cause of a newly discovered disorder. They may both agree on the fundamentals of their discipline, but have different theories as to where a specific set of observed phenomena "fit in".The same happens in halacha. Two rabbis may have the same data in front of them but may conceptualize it differently and thus reach opposite conclusions with regard to some particulars.

    This is the essence of the halachic process and the meaning of "Lo Bashamayim Hee."

     
    At December 25, 2006 2:41 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    r maroof.
    nice to hear you dont believe the charedi way is our mesorah. however, that may be fine for someone who represents sephardic tradtion to say so.
    but in the yeshiva world if i said the charedi way is not mesorah, i would be deemed an apikores. In fact, rabbi slifkin books were deemed kefirah.

    do you subscribe to the view that adam was a concept and not a real person?

     
    At December 25, 2006 3:08 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    by the way, from what youre saying, its incumbant upon an individual to ignore the mesorah of his upbringing and search for truth, where ever that may lead.
    do your schools practice what you preach?
    i wonder what kind of indocrination your first graders get, that is so remarkably different than the cheder ly went to.

     
    At December 25, 2006 3:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    > The biggest problem I find with skeptics like GH is that they stack the cards against the Torah and then decide that the Torah isn't plausible. They proceed to condemn anyone who answers their questions as either a fundamentalist apologist or a hidden orthoprax. This insulates some skeptics from real discussion of the issues. What do you think?

    I think you are nuts, Stack the cards against the Torah???? Are you delusional? No, youre brainwahed religious fundamentalist. From an objective rational perspective, there is NO good reason to think God wrote the Bible. NONE. NOT ONE. Think about it.

    XGH

     
    At December 25, 2006 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    > And oftentimes, especially in the words of GH, I discover a certain superficiality or oversimplification in dealing with philosophical and theological issues that is sure to lead to skepticism or cynicism.

    This is especially funny coming from you, considering that you left what is probably the dumbest comment ever on my blog last week. So full of blatant fallacies that I made a whole post about it. But then I decided not to post it because it made fun of you. RJM, I appreciate your trying to argue, but really any half decent skeptic could rip you to shreds in a second. You are where I was about 2 years ago, very naive and ignorant.
    XGH.

     
    At December 25, 2006 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >From an objective rational perspective, there is NO good reason to think God wrote the Bible. NONE. NOT ONE. Think about it.
    >XGH

    NO. You have it totaly wrong. From a scientific/bible critic biased perspective, perhaps there's no good reason.

    The RATIONAL Rambam was 100% clear without the slightest iota of doubt that God dictated the bible word for word to Moshe. Not just him, but also every single Tanna, Amora, Geonim, Rishonim, Achronim and everyone in between held so too. From all the above people, many or most had minds and brains that could shred XGH and his fellow skeptics to microscopic particles, all believed that the Torah was the word of God.

    Lets see:

    1) 3,300 years later, the Torah still exists despite the unending horrendous persecution the Jews suffered all the years. Rational thinking and statistics would have predicted our extinction millenia ago, yet, in modern 2006, after 6 million jews were butchered a mere 60 + years ago, Torah and Halacha is growing by the leaps and bounds. Is that rational? NO! Yet, this is fact. FACT. Against all odds, we irrationaly exist and keep the same Torah given 3,300 years ago.

    2) No one dared make a claim of a relevation before 600,000 men. NO ONE.

    3) No one ever wrote a document that had such a vast amount of commentary written on it. Walk into a full sized Jewish library. Every single one of those thousands of thousands of books are all based on those 5 original books. No way that even multiple authors could have put together 3,300 years ago such a complex document.

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 25, 2006 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >You are where I was about 2 years ago, very naive and ignorant.

    Lets hear it, XGH. How many times have you finished Shas B'iyun? Tanach? Shulchan Aruch? Before you call someone ignorant, look in the mirror please. Just because you read some "convincing" skeptical books written by people without the slightest regard for Torah She'baal Peh which was verbaly transmitted from generation to generation doesn't make you any more non-ignorant.

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 25, 2006 4:43 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    >I think you are nuts, Are you delusional? No, youre brainwahed religious fundamentalist.

    as only XGH could say it.

    ly
    how much do i have to study to know that its ridicuous to believe that the maharal could of made a golem, which is what you feel is a ikkar of your mesorah?
    as dawkins said, do i need to be a fairtaleologist to discuss fairy tales?
    you have made it easier to disbelieve charedi yiddishkeit by insisting it include a bunch of vodoo and black magic nonsense.

     
    At December 25, 2006 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >how much do i have to study to know that its ridicuous to believe that the maharal could of made a golem, which is what you feel is a ikkar of your mesorah?

    The discusion at hand is if God dictated the Torah word for word to Moshe. Not if the Maharal made a Golem.

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 25, 2006 5:01 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    ly
    thats what you want to talk about, i would rather work backwards.
    you have said expliclity that the maharal could of made a golem.

    that is absurd. so must charedi judiasm be.

     
    At December 25, 2006 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >that is absurd.

    Strawman. Why is it absurd? For starters, read Talmud Bavli.

    >so must charedi judiasm be.

    Why in the world is Charedi Judaism dependent on the maharals Golem???


    lakewood yid

     
    At December 25, 2006 5:43 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    >Why in the world is Charedi Judaism dependent on the maharals Golem???

    ly
    you tell me. you and the yated made it clear that its not allowed to believe he couldnt.

     
    At December 25, 2006 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Rabbi Maroof,

    Thank you for your explanation on "Machlokes in Halacha".

    Kindly look up the following Talmud Yerushalmi - Sanhedrin Fourth Perek 21:a & b

    דף כא,א פרק ד הלכה ב גמרא א"ר ינאי אילו ניתנה התורה חתוכה לא היתה לרגל עמידה.

    דף כא,ב פרק ד הלכה ב גמרא מה טעם וידבר ה' אל משה אמר לפניו רבונו של עולם הודיעני היאך היא ההלכה אמר לו אחרי רבים להטות רבו המזכין זכו רבו המחייבין חייבו כדי שתהא התורה נדרשת מ"ט פנים טמא ומ"ט פנים טהור מיניין ודגל"ו. וכן הוא אומר אמרות ה' אמרות טהורות כסף צרוף בעליל לארץ מזוקק שבעתים ואומר מישרים אהבוך:

    Basicly, the Yerushalmi says that had God given us a final Halachic ruling, Judaism would collapse. When Moshe asked God "Whats the precise Halacha?" God responded - discuss it, argue it, debate it, and then follow the majority opinion.

    My understanding here is that God in his infinite wisdom understood that one final unified halachic code will not survive. It cannot please every generation in every corner of the world in every given situation. Like you explained, the principles and origins are all the same. 613 commandants. No one really argues on that. But past that, as you said, Lo Bashamayim Hee. It was given to us to diseminate and apply to each circumstance and situation.

    A nickel is a coin, but a coin isn't neccesary a nickel.

    Shiv'im Panim Latorah.

    Eilu V'eilu.

    Charedi Judaism is a way of understanding and implementing Torah. It isn't the ONLY possible way.

    Think of Chassidim/Chassidus. The movement is barely a few hundred years old. Is that the ONLY way to serve God? Surely not. But it is a valid way. As valid as Charedi, Sephardi, Yekkish, Teimani etc...

    The success of the survival of Judaism was by how strongly we adhered to our Mesora/tradition. The continuation of our survival will depend on how strong we will upkeep and maintain our tradition.

    It is irrelavant whether the Rambam would have today practised Charedi Judaism. We are Mekabel our tradition from our Gedolim who were Mekabel from their Gedolim and so on. We aren't Mekabel directly from the Rambam.

    However, the origins of Charedi Judaism (and any other form of Judaism) are based on the same origins as the Rambam. We all share the same foundation. However, our current Modus Operandi is based on our day and age. R' Aron Kotler realized the Torah situation of America, and worked to improve and rectify it. He first needed to argue on the Rambam's halacha in regard to accepting money for learning. True that perhaps today, the system might need some improvements, but no one can deny the huge success his improvisions accomplished.

    Thus we venerate the Rambam etc for they laid out for us the foundation - the principles of Judaism. But when it comes to modern day situations, we consult with our current leaders who have a balanced grasp of Halacha plus today's challenging society.

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 25, 2006 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >you tell me. you and the yated made it clear that its not allowed to believe he couldnt.

    You're being silly. We believe in Emunas Chachomim. We believe that Tzadikim are gifted with Kochos which the ordinary masses aren't capable of. Charedi Judaism isn't dependent on these beliefs. Such beliefs are part of the package, but it isn't the foundation of the package. Rejecting that the maharal could have made a Golem shouldn't lead you to reject it all.

    The focus of Judaism is to serve God according to the guidelines of the Torah.

    There is no Torah requirement to believe that the maharal could have made a golem. It is a belief that we have. If it suits you, fine. If not, also fine.

    Why are you turning this into a Ikar?

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 25, 2006 6:01 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    R. Maroof,
    I've been giving some thought to this. Some of your arguments (discussion) are reasonable. But it has no bearing on the issue.


    Take for example this famous riddle.

    "Three men go to a motel to stay there. the clerk tells the men that the cost will be 30 dollars, so each gives 10 dollars. The bellhop shows them to their room. He gets back and the clerk says he made a mistake, it's only 25 dollars and gives the bellhop 5 singles. The bellhop, not knowing how to break up 5 dollars into three, returns a dollar to each man and pockets two for himself. Se each man paid nine dollars. 9 x 3 is 27 plus two for the bellhop is 29. So what happened to the other dollar?"

    The shikcha that was built into the Mesorah is, to me, simply another "necessary explanation" to try to make everything fit. It's quite unreasonable for some major Halachik disputes in the Gemora. It's certainly unreasonable when applied to Hashkafic issues that are at the core of theological differences between Rambam/Ramban. Between Chareidi and whatever it is that you call yourself.

    I know it can be spun, but I find it unreasonable. And the closer one looks, the more I find like Shloimeh being fitted by a bad tailor.

    I hesitate to bring in arguments that I did not conceive of on my own, which is why I am not good at this debate. I could direct you to a "A letter to my Rabbi" or Daat Emes, but I used those only to confirm my skepticism, not to create it. Therefore, I stay away from it in my arguments.

    So, I repeat, I go for the most part by the Chareidi Hashkafic system as I grew up, After all it's all about Mesorah, right. So I follow that to it's logical conclusion and I find I don't believe it, apparently neither do you. I can't believe the world was created 6,000 years ago, etc, etc, etc. I begin to question everything, YT"M, all miracles, history. Once I'm at that point of dis-belief, I find another model of the the world that makes better sense. Is my model perfect? No, it's a work in progress. But it makes more sense to me than what I hear in shul everyday or even a model based on Slifkin or Kabbalistic type of arguments.

     
    At December 25, 2006 6:02 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    re talmud bavli.
    i choose to start backwards. first show me its not absurd today for someone to claim that the maharal or the gra could make a golem.
    on the basis of what evidence? because someone told a story?

    i know why you cant let it go.
    because if the maharal couldnt, then you have to suspect no one could. you need everyone to be able to, otherwise no one can.

     
    At December 25, 2006 6:06 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    XGH, you disappointed me. All of that fire and brimstone, lots of personal attacks, but no actual content or arguments. Simply reasserting your beliefs again and again has made them into a new dogma on your blog and in your comments. I wouldn't characterize your thoughts as dumb nor do I see you as brainwashed. But since we clearly don't all agree on your views, your repetition of them as facts appears unjustified.

    I am curious what you feel is so incorrect or foolish about my statements, and where you believe I am going wrong. Hurling insults doesn't offer me any clarification at all.

    So what exactly was it that turned you around 2 years ago? And why are you so positive that anyone who is not brainwashed would see things precisely as you do?

     
    At December 25, 2006 6:09 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    LY,

    >You're being silly. We believe in Emunas Chachomim. We believe that Tzadikim are gifted with Kochos which the ordinary masses aren't capable of. Charedi Judaism isn't dependent on these beliefs. Such beliefs are part of the package, but it isn't the foundation of the package.

    Such beliefs weaken the package, IMO. If a belief like that can take hold, it shows how vulernerable we are when we leave behind our critical thinking

    I just saw a posting from someone, who effectively said that the fact the thousands of Lubavitchers have so easily accepted non-credible beliefs into their system , is a rebuttal to the Kuzari. Same with issues such as Rebbeshe Maasos.

     
    At December 25, 2006 6:58 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    I just saw a posting from someone, who effectively said that the fact the thousands of Lubavitchers have so easily accepted non-credible beliefs into their system , is a rebuttal to the Kuzari. Same with issues such as Rebbeshe Maasos.

    With all due respect, and whether you find the Kuzari argument convincing or not, this is a poor analogy.

    The foundation of the Kuzari argument is that an event - or series of events - were witnessed by an entire nation.

    The fact that a group of people, however large, come to believe in certain ideas or stories is not the same as coming to believe that the entire membership of the Lubavitch movement personally witnessed a clear miracle that changed the movement's history forever.

     
    At December 25, 2006 7:09 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    BHB,

    I hear where you are coming from and I appreciate your perspective to some extent.

    I realize that it is because I see the mesorah in a certain light that I am not troubled by the issues that trouble you. I never viewed the Torah as a source of knowledge about the age of the universe or anthropology. To me, it is a philosophical and legal text above all else. This is how Hazal understood it, as evidenced by the Midrashim and continued by the Gedolei Harishonim and Aharonim till today.

    To briefly respond to your objections to the "built-in shich-cha" concept: Disagreement and dispute is a necessary aspect of any field of knowledge, why should Torah knowledge, also a human enterprise, be any different? The Torah itself anticipates this in several places.

    And in terms of major arguments in the Gemara, they are always founded upon some common basis that is shared among all disputants. Rambam expounds upon this at length, and experience proves it true.

    With regard to Hashqafic arguments - the reality is that Rambam and Ramban agree on all essentials. The differences between them concern the proper way to approach the study of "Sod", which is outside of the realm of the basic mesorah and would typically be reserved for the independent study of gedolei hador. The mesora I am speaking about is the yesode hadat and the explanations of the 613 mitsvot.

    The view I take on the mesora is the same reason why reading the material on Daat Emet and other skeptical sites - something I've done for years - hasn't impressed me. It begins with the premise that, in order for the mesorah to be true, the Rabbis must be infallible, or everything must be literal. And anything you try to build on that foundation is sure to be refuted.

    I appreciate the cordial and open-minded spirit in which you conduct exchanges on your blog. Thank you.

     
    At December 25, 2006 7:28 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    rabbi maroof.
    is rav avadia yosef a charedi? he sure sounds like one. if rav ovadia yosef is not your godol, who is? who vouches for your view except you? every charedi and sefardi godol has said the opposite of what you wrote above.
    they have said it is ASSUR to beleive that the world wasnt created 6000 years ago.
    rav ovadia yosef BANNED rabbi slifkins book.

     
    At December 25, 2006 7:31 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    ly
    the very fact that you believe and teach your children to believe that the maharal COULD make a golem makes your whole relgion suspect.

    if you didnt have these supernatural nissim tales, you and all the rest of the indocrinated bunch would jump ship faster than a you know what.
    its the nissim that holds up the whole deck of cards, because without it, why are all these charedim subjecting themselves to utter poverty.
    too bad their leaders desire for them to remain as poor as they can be. doesnt let anytime for anyone to THINK.

     
    At December 25, 2006 7:44 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    by the way, youve said its not maakev to believe in maharal having the ability to make a golem.

    tell me which shul in lakewood, i can say that without making people really very upset. its a core belief. at least admit it.

     
    At December 25, 2006 7:51 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    is rav avadia yosef a charedi? he sure sounds like one. if rav ovadia yosef is not your godol, who is? who vouches for your view except you? every charedi and sefardi godol has said the opposite of what you wrote above.
    they have said it is ASSUR to beleive that the world wasnt created 6000 years ago.
    rav ovadia yosef BANNED rabbi slifkins book.


    Rav Ovadiah is an unbelievable halachist and an excellent and generally very sensitive posek. One must have a competent rav for halachic questions, and I don't think anyone would question the choice of Hacham Ovadiah.

    However, when it comes to issues of Hashqafa, the Rishonim have stated - take for example, R' Shmuel Hanagid in Mavo Hatalmud - that there is no "pesak" beyond the yesode Hadat. In this area, I am not compelled to follow a rav; as long as I operate within the basic framework of the iqqarim, I can consult traditional sources and/or contemporary gedolim of my choice in order to clarify philosophical issues.

    So, to answer your question more succinctly: In the area of Hashqafa, my "Rav" is the Rambam and those who continue in his derech. Obviously, there are many, many rabbanim in the MO world - and even some within charedi ranks - who would "vouch" for my perspective on, say, science and Torah issues.

    BTW, Rav Ovadiah himself has a teshuvah in Yabia Omer - the exact citation escapes me, but I recall it being in one of the most recent volumes - in which he discusses science/torah issues and, specifically, the position of the Rambam and his son. He basically says that, though he disagrees with the approach and believes in principle it should be discouraged, he would not stop people who teach these ideas, especially if they are mekarev rechokim. So he is definitely not a zealot in this area.

     
    At December 25, 2006 8:24 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    rabbi maroof,
    thanks. halavei your brand of judiasm becomes dominant.

    rav ovadia obviously changed his mind on that issue, as he joined all charedi gedolim in banning the book.

    im curious, do you have a kesher with rav abadi? do you have any idea what his views on the matter are?

    have you ever thought of joining forces with rabbi slifkin?

    have you written about the very odd aspects of the torah. check out littlefoxlings website.

    do you think if the rambam was confronted with the textual analysis, archelogical evidence of today, he would change the ikkarim?

    one other point. even Lakewood yid admits, that the torah we have today is not 100% exactly as the gemera had, let alone claimed to be written by moshe.

    so how can there be an ikkar that we MUST believe with PERFECT faith that the torah we have today is the EXACT same torah?

     
    At December 25, 2006 9:20 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    R. Maroof,
    >The fact that a group of people, however large, come to believe in certain ideas or stories is not the same as coming to believe that the entire membership of the Lubavitch movement personally witnessed a clear miracle that changed the movement's history forever.


    I agree 100%. It's a poor critizue of the Kuzari. I even told that individual so before I saw your reply. I was just using that as an example though, of how gullible people can be and thus people's beliefs are not a good barometer of truth.

     
    At December 25, 2006 9:23 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    I don't have a personal kesher with R' Abadi. But, despite his creativity and independence in the realm of halacha, his views on hashqafa are 100% charedi as far as I have seen. No evolution whatsoever, and probably a young earth too.

    I have corresponded with R' Slifkin via email a bit, I admire his work and respect his intellectual honesty. But I'm not sure what I would have to contribute to his cause, besides moral support.

    I have written on some elements of scholarship and Torah on my blog http://vesomsechel.blogspot.com. A search for "10 generations" or "Malkizedeq" will bring up some relevant entries there. I have also explored evolution issues, and Torah authorship questions on http://askrabbimaroof.blogspot.com.

    Honestly, the DH never bothered me much. It is so speculative and conjectural, with so many different contradictory opinions and assertions, that it was never attractive to me. The tacit and explicit assumptions are too numerous and questionable. I don't see how we can pick apart texts millenia after their composition and dissect them out of the context in which they were originally understood. It is like trying to understand someone's personality by looking at test results but without directly interacting with them and observing them in the context of real life.

    So, to answer your questions more specifically: I don't think textual analysis provides "evidence" that needs to be dealt with, although it raises interesting questions and can stimulate us to find new dimensions of meaning in the Tanach.

    Overall, the issues with archaeology have been with absences of evidence rather than the presence of contradiction. Oftentimes, archaeological digs proceed under specific assumptions regarding dating and/or site identifications that are themselves debatable. So I'm not sure what evidence we really have from these sources that is strong enough to call our tradition into question. The jury is still out on this.

    That being said, there is no question in my mind that the Rambam would endorse the "local flood" theory of the mabul (there are hints to this view in Midrashim and in R' Saadiah Gaon already) and that he would accept scientific findings regarding the age of the universe, etc. I think he'd probably explain the Torah along the lines of either R'Slifkin or R' Nadel.

    With regard to the authenticity of our Torah - The Rambam himself was well aware of the fact that our Torah's text was not "perfect". This is explicitly acknowledged numerous times in the Gemara and Masechet Sofrim, and the Rambam himself praises the Sefer Torah of Ben Asher (thought to be the Aleppo Codex) as reliable because it was corrected countless times! Obviously, he recognized that errors and problems crept in over the centuries.

    I don't think the Rambam would change the Iqqarim because I don't think he meant the Iqqarim to be the kinds of philosophical statements we take them to be. The are brief, elementary summaries of the fundamentals of the Torah. But they require elucidation, clarification and analysis to be fully understood. Half of the Moreh Nevuchim deals with a couple of them!

    On my askrabbimaroof blog, for example, I explain that the Rambam's iqqar about every word of the Torah being transmitted from Hashem to Moshe is not meant to exclude the Tannaitic opinion that Yehoshua wrote the last several pesukim, etc.

    Similarly, when the Rambam speaks of our Torah as identical with the Torah of Moshe, he means halachically identical, not literally, letter-for-letter identical. The mesorah has preserved the Torah's text and content in essence, and the textual problems that emerged were resolved through halachic methodology (just like problems in Torah Shebal Peh), thus rendering the textus receptus "Torat Moshe". Even Rambam knew that this was the only possibility.

    Also, I realize I never answered a couple of questions you addressed to me earlier:

    With regard to Adam Harishon - concept or real person? - I can't say that I have a definite answer. Intuitively, I assume he was a real person, though certainly also a prototype of "humanity" in general. The post on my blog about 10 generations provides an approach that could resolve this issue in either direction, I think.

    Sadly, I no longer have a school in which to indoctrinate children...:) I have been a full time pulpit rabbi for a year and a half now. I miss working with children in an educational setting, but I try to make up for it through teaching the children in my synagogue and my own children at home!

    Suffice it to say that my approach is Maimonidean here too. I believe that Midrashim are meant for adults, not children, and that critical thinking skills are essential.

     
    At December 25, 2006 9:26 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >in order for the mesorah to be true, the Rabbis must be infallible, or everything must be literal. And anything you try to build on that foundation is sure to be refuted.


    R. Maroof,
    I'm not looking for infallible Rabbis. I'm looking for infallible Mesora.

     
    At December 25, 2006 9:54 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    The mesorah is transmitted by human beings. Thus, it is constrained to some extent by human limitations. The rabbis of the past didn't know as much about the physical world as we do today, and we do not know as much as the rabbis 100 years from now will know. Because the mesora is entrusted to man, I don't feel that it is realistic to expect it to be infallible. However, precisely because it is a comprehensive system of knowledge and not an arbitrary collection of dogmas, there is no reason to suppose that the essential components of the mesorah have been lost in transmission. We can see that they fit together as an integrated whole.

    This reminds me of what Ibn Tibbon says about the Mishneh Torah. He says that whenever the Jews learn Talmud, the Mishneh Torah is a testimony to "the straightness of its ways and the truth of its words." What he means is that it is easy to lose a sense of the overarching unity of Torah Shebal Peh when we are swimming through the Yam of Talmud. But a glance at the Rambam's work reminds us that underneath it all is a coherent system of thought.

     
    At December 25, 2006 10:34 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    rabbi maroof,
    i glanced your website.
    you mention that "obviously we all have souls". why is it obvious?
    maybe you mean, you believe we all have souls.
    big difference.

    anyway, trying to get a sense on where you stand.

    do you believe that people lived hundreds of years?
    do you believe serach never died?
    do you believe all halacha was given by moshe?
    do you believe eruv tavshilin was practiced by avrohom avinu?
    do you believe avrohom ate matzo on pesach?
    do you beleive 2.5 million people left egypt?
    do you believe kids were popping out of the ground in mitzrayim?
    do yuo believe every jew had 6 children?
    did the sun stop for yehoshua?

    etc.
    now you sugget that the mesorah transmitted all the halacha. but is the halacha proper for our times?

    why should a woman cover her hair, because 2000 years ago they did?
    why did god want the israelites to kill every man woman and child, even captured ones. how can you square that with being different than hitler or neturai karta. a religion that demands murding baby captives seems to be man made.

     
    At December 26, 2006 6:43 AM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Happy, there are a lot of questions here...Let me try to answer as many as I can before Shaharit!!!

    I am not sure where I made the statement about souls. Can you direct me to the spot? I want to make sure I know the context of the statement so I can explain what I meant.

    do you believe that people lived hundreds of years?

    It is possible that certain individuals did. It is also possible that methods of counting years changed. A third possibility is that Beresheet is a polemic against ancient mythology which taught that there were primordial people who lived very, very long and were demigods. It is hard to answer; this is a question of perush hamiqra.

    do you believe serach never died?

    I would not take a statement like this in its literal vein.

    do you believe all halacha was given by moshe?

    Depends what you mean by "all halacha". If you mean the fundamental explanations and structure of the Biblical commandments, then yes. If you mean every detail and hypothetical case in the Talmud - well, while they might have been implicit in the root principles Moshe received, I don't think we need to assume he explicitly transmitted every halachic application and permutation. These were left to later scholars to tease out, using the basic tools he gave them. In fact, the Rambam emphatically states that he did not give over all the specifics. Certainly most of the derabbanans came much later.

    do you believe eruv tavshilin was practiced by avrohom avinu?
    do you believe avrohom ate matzo on pesach?


    Absolutely not. Funny that you ask - I was working on a post on this topic and the meaning of those midrashim, and I stopped short a few weeks ago because my schedule became unwieldy. I should finish it up and post it already.

    do you beleive 2.5 million people left egypt?

    Haven't seen any clear evidence to the contrary, so yes.

    do you believe kids were popping out of the ground in mitzrayim?

    No. That sounds pretty frightening.

    do yuo believe every jew had 6 children?

    I think that the midrashic exaggerations are meant to underscore the miraculous population growth. I don't take the figures literally.

    did the sun stop for yehoshua?

    Something miraculous happened there. But the specifics of the occurrence are not clear; even the pasuk is oddly poetic and obscure. The mefarshim tackle this and the Ralbag has a surprising approach - that it means that the war was conducted with such alacrity and speed, it was as if the sun stood still. Either way, I have no inherent objection to miracles being performed by Hashem, although the logistics of this one I can't easily explain.

    now you sugget that the mesorah transmitted all the halacha. but is the halacha proper for our times? why should a woman cover her hair, because 2000 years ago they did?


    Halachic principles are eternal, but applications may change. The concept of modesty in dress is inherently meaningful. The specific forms it took - such as hair covering for women - may either be formal halachic expressions of modesty, in which case they too are eternal, or simply applications of a general concept of modesty in a particular time and place, in which case it may become obsolete. As I'm sure you know, there are poskim among both Ashkenazim and Sephardim who opt for the latter view. But it is a halachic and philosophic question, not just an assertion that "we moderns can't be bothered with that old fashioned mode of dress." The sensuality of a woman's hair and its use as an instrument of flirtation is just as ubiquitous today as it ever was.

    And the whole concept of tsniut is not to draw attention to ourselves - both men and women should focus on their duty of drawing attention to Hashem's wisdom and greatness, not their own attractiveness. In our culture, someone with any transcendent purpose beyond garnering attention and sexual interest is hard to come by and is ridiculed in movies and TV as a nerd. Even today then hair covering is one way of reminding women of the correct priority. This idea is implicit in the Sota ritual - I hope to post on it in the future.

    why did god want the israelites to kill every man woman and child, even captured ones. how can you square that with being different than hitler or neturai karta. a religion that demands murding baby captives seems to be man made.

    There are only three cases where such extreme measures were taken: Midyan, Amaleq, and the 7 nations living in Canaan. When it comes to Midyan, the story itself belies your inference that human impulse was involved. The soldiers did not want to kill the captives. However, the moral depravity of the Midyanim required that their memory be wiped out - this could only happen through the elimination of males in a patriarchal society. The same is true of Amaleq. In fact, the whole reason why these wars were exceptions to the general commandment not to kill women and children was because they were not political or territory-driven wars; they were intended to eliminate corrupt societies and were therefore more intense.

    The same is true for the 7 nations. There, however, we do find that acceptance of the 7 mitsvot of Bnei Noah would have spared them their fate. We see this from the fact that Yehoshua kept his promise to the Givonim, even though it contradicted the commandment to destroy them. The Torah Shebal Peh elaborates on this point.

    Obviously, there is much more to say here - especially about the last point. I'm sure there will be questions and objections, and I'll need to explain myself further. But I have to run! Hopefully, to be continued.

     
    At December 26, 2006 9:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >tell me which shul in lakewood, i can say that without making people really very upset. its a core belief. at least admit it.

    The typical charedi has Emunas Tzadikim and isn't skeptical. Your point about walking into a shul etc is moot, because the average person here doesn't waste all his time and energy trying to figure out if the Maharal made or could have made a Golem. He rather focuses if he can use his time to learn another blatt, do a chesed, or make another buck.

    Happy, again, its ludicrous to hang Charedi Judaism on to these beliefs. There's so much Torah to learnt, so much chesed to be done, and Charedi Judaism provides a solid platform to accomplish these Ikarim.

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:14 AM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    ly
    if the average person doesnt worry about it, why did the yated feel it neccesary to prove the maharal did not make a golem and then qualify it by saying, of course he could have.

    i think you know why.
    they would of been hung if they didnt at least leave out the hope that a golem is probable.

    this tells me emunas tzaddikim is dependant on black magic and not torah.
    youve turned people into idols.

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:29 AM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    rabbi maroof
    thanks for your detailed reply.

    i agree that the torah needs to be viewed in totally different way than the current yeshiva system teaches.

    but i think given your statement about errors being corrected etc, i think we need differentiate between those passages in the torah that are inspired and inspiring, and those that seem to be throwbacks to cavemen.

    take the story of yehudah and tamar.
    clealry chazal went through unbelievable contortions to make that story fit within rabbinic judiasm.
    its laughable. and it talks to bhb point that we see such effort and in yeshiva we applaud it. wow, what ingenuity, how could you read it any other way. Instead of honestly looking at passages in the torah, chazal forced fed their views into it.
    thats why it feels so made up.

    do you really believe a woman should be stoned or burned to death because she slept with another man while she is married, but her husband can sleep with whom he pleases?
    does that sound moral in any generation, except to taliban?

    whats with all the burning and stoning. why couldnt god say its immoral, and no good will come of it.
    why did he also need to be sated with stoning?
    i know, to lakewood yid, the same god who told you not to murder, told you to kill a nail clipper on shabbos. it may satisfy him. for the life of me, i dont know why.

    we pray everyday that we will have those very same laws come back. maybe you do, but i dont hope for it.

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:55 AM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    I'm not sure what contortions you're talking about. What Yehudah did was not noble. He was ashamed of it after the fact. In the end, something positive came from it.

    In fact, Ibn Ezra says that the purpose of the story is to contrast Yehuda's susceptibility to lust with Yosef's refusal to submit to the seduction of Potifar's wife.

    Obviously, the death penalty was used more liberally in the times of the Avot, before the halachic system was introduced.

    In terms of your general critique of the sexual mores of the Torah - there is a good reason for legislating that a woman can have only one husband, while a man can have many wives. The reason is "be fruitful and multiply." A woman can only be pregnant from one man at a time. Even so, as you know, polygamy was never viewed as an ideal in Judaism.

    (BTW, the case of Tamar was not just "sleeping around" as in the case of Yehudah. Yehudah was a widower, he was single. Tamar was already committed to someone.)

    In terms of your comments about the death penalty in general - I understand the legislation of the death penalty as a statement about what is of fundamental importance in a society. The sanctity of life, of family and of God are the essential elements of Jewish society and thus, trespassing on these values makes one worthy of the death penalty. That doesn't mean I would be happy to see the death penalty actually carried out. This is contrary to the values of Tanach, not just rabbinic values, as we read "ki lo yachpotz b'mot hamet, ki im b'shuvo, etc."

    So the idea that one who desecrates Shabbat is "chayav mita" or that one who murders or commits adultery is "chayav mita" is desirable. It sends a message about the core principles of our community. At the same time, the actual execution of anyone for any crime is regrettable and, in fact, was extremely rare due to the halachic standards for establishing culpability.

    I do hope for a day when mankind places real value on something beyond the physical. At this point, crime is only understood as activity that hurts others emotionally or materially. That's because the things we attach importance to are health, wealth and love. But there is more to human life than the realm of the physical, and this higher dimension is not acknowledged, let alone cultivated, in our culture.

     
    At December 26, 2006 11:44 AM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    rabbi maroof
    yehuda, the great tzaddik, said to BURN her. i think he was a warlord.
    not any jew we would recognize today.

    same with David. he was a warlord. yet chazal turned him into a rabbinic jew. they created whole frameworks to figure out how by killing off batsheva husband, and sleeping with her, he essentially did nothing wrong.

    this is the problem with the fixation on halacha for halacha sake.

    where is morality?
    rabbi riskin tells the story of interviews for rosh yeshiva. they all knew how to learn up a storm, but when asked, if they had ordered something from local goy, and recieved 2, would they return it.
    6 out of 7 said no, they would not based on halacha.
    1 said he would, with a note that he is orthodox, and that his morals tell him that he is not entitled to the extra goods.

    we talk about halacha, but do we talk about morals? we thank god we have halacha, otherwise we would be burning woman left and right.
    how does that make one feel moral?

     
    At December 26, 2006 11:48 AM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    from your post
    http://vesomsechel.blogspot.com/2006/08/challenge-of-creation-new-slifkin-book.html

    "2 - If we accept the notion that man evolved, and that Adam, the first "fully developed" human being, emerged on the scene only 5766 years ago, how do we understand the fact that civilization seems to have existed in some parts of the world for far longer than that? We cannot claim that only descendants of Adam are human, because this would lead to the absurd conclusion that a large percentage of the human race today is not "human" by the Torah's standard. Obviously, we all have souls - so where did they come from?"

     
    At December 26, 2006 12:53 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Yehuda, the great tzaddik, said to BURN her. i think he was a warlord.

    Yehuda was a human being with strengths and weaknesses. He has his failings, but he rises above them in this week's parasha, for example. From his experiences, he learns about true leadership and responsibility.

    A true warlord would not have admitted his own guilt. He would have covered up for his indiscretion, probably accused Tamar of stealing the items she had in her possession, and allowed her to be killed anyway. Yehuda puts aside his ego because of a concern for justice.

    On the other hand, had Tamar been an adulteress, Yehuda would not have been wrong for holding her responsible for her actions according to the law of the time.

    same with David. he was a warlord. yet chazal turned him into a rabbinic jew. they created whole frameworks to figure out how by killing off batsheva husband, and sleeping with her, he essentially did nothing wrong.

    This is factually incorrect in part. The Tanach refers to David as "Ish Haelokim" and "Eved Hashem". It portrays him as a defender of justice and decency in all his dealings, even with his sworn enemies. The Tanach is clear in stating that the sin with Bat Sheva and Uriah was an anomaly in an otherwise righteously lived life. And the stories about David all point in this direction.

    The rabbis may try to minimize the sin of David, explaining how he could have rationalized such a poor exercise of judgment, but he is not cleared of the sin completely. He suffered for it his entire life, even though it was an act that for most monarchs, even today, would be negligible.

    We also must look to David's portrayal in Psalms and elsewhere in Tanach - from here we see the signs of a deeply religious, wise and spiritual man who of course made mistakes but was righteous in essence.

    So I don't believe Hazal created David's positive reputation - they simply accentuated its important features for pedagogical reasons that we could discuss at length another time....

     
    At December 26, 2006 1:14 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    rabbi maroof
    > Yehuda would not have been wrong for holding her responsible for her actions according to the law of the time.

    i guess its my yeshiva upbringing that clouds my view.
    i was taught the avos knew the torah, but didnt have to practice it.
    i didnt realize that they also couldnt figure out how immoral it is to burn a woman because she is a harlot.

    if they couldnt figure out such basics, why should i learn a lesson from them? why are we looking at people who believed in cavemen law, and think them as examples to emulate?

    again, when i see the taliban, and then read the torah, i dont see a difference. the moral view is the same.
    (putting aside all rabbinic efforts to minimize the destructive danger of torah law - the very effort which they continued to do in reaction to countries they lived in. for example the cherem of rabbenu gershom. the pilegesh issue. polygamy. i am positive if we had grown up in afghanistan, we would find the above ridiculous. in fact, there is rabbinic responsa from arab countries stating they thought the way arab woman covered their faces was something to be ADMIRED)

     
    At December 26, 2006 1:27 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    as i wrote the above sets of comments, i was wondering what im looking for.

    Basically, the biggest proof the torah doesnt seem divine, is the torah. you dont need DH to decide that. once you think its possible it wasnt divine, you look at every posuk in a completely different light. all of sudden all the wierd stuff stares out at you.

    once you take off the blinders and read it, you wonder how could you think it was divine!

    so rabbi maroof, how does one get those blinders back?

     
    At December 26, 2006 2:29 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    I think the difficulties you are describing are important ones, and I don't think it's possible to resolve every difficulty in the Tanach in a series of disjointed blog comments.

    I agree that there are aspects of the Torah that are hard to comprehend from a more "modern" moral perspective. Much of this is a function of our own upbringing and may not have the objective basis we assume it does. People are comfortable making broad, absolute moral assertions all the time, but can rarely support them with solid evidence or arguments. They are feelings, "slavery is evil", "abortion is murder", "as long as you're not hurting anyone, you can't be wrong."

    Be that as it may, the vast majority of the Tanach was light years ahead of its time philosophically and morally. One of the reasons the Tanach is so readable today, and that most other ancient literature has faded into oblivion, is that its characters and their challenges resonate with us, and that we can learn from their successes and their failures. The Tanach's stories are timeless in the sense that the relevance of their essential content is not conditioned by time or place.

    I don't think that just because our society would oppose the death penalty for adultery that means that anyone who supports it is a caveman (aside from the fact that cavemen used clubs, not fire, and they lived long, long before the Patriarchal period). The form of execution does sound ominous. But any death penalty is terrible.

    Remember that one of the new ideas the Torah introduced, against the code of Hammurabi for example, was that adultery is a crime against God, not just against a husband or a father. So it is treated very seriously in Judaism. In America, it is not even illegal. A single man can be arrested, and his life ruined, for engaging in consensual intercourse with a prostitute. Yet adultery is not even prosecuted in our country, marriage is losing popularity altogether and promiscuity, unfaithfulness and out-of-wedlock childrearing are practically celebrated in the movies and in tabloids. And this is the moral compass we are using? Does it even make sense?

     
    At December 26, 2006 3:02 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    you say you are surprised that adulterers arent prosecuted, but you yourself just said ONLY women would be punished for adultery.

    do you see why this is crazy?
    can you imagine how a law where men can violate it, but women cant and it should be used to send woman to jail, be moral?

    how do you answer those who would say all you really want is women to know their place, and serve man.

    it looks like your rationality ends when it threatens your hegemony.

     
    At December 26, 2006 3:16 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    but you yourself just said ONLY women would be punished for adultery.

    I never said this. This is untrue. A man is punished for adultery too, with the same degree of severity. In fact, according to the halachic system, the woman would never be punished without the paramour, because the witnesses would have had to see both of them. However, halacha defines adultery as sexual relations with a woman who is married to someone else. This is because polygamy is permitted, at least in theory, because it allows for more children.

    how do you answer those who would say all you really want is women to know their place, and serve man.

    I would say they haven't met my wife :)

    Seriously, I don't feel that Judaism teaches that at all. We have Miriam, second only to Moshe in prophecy. We have Sara - greater than Avraham in prophecy, Devorah, Huldah, Avigail, Esther, etc. Lots of female role models, even religious scholars/judges.

    To be honest with you, people who know me know that I am very open minded and liberal about women's issues in general. You'd probably be surprised. But I'd prefer to leave that for an offline discussion for the time being.

    it looks like your rationality ends when it threatens your hegemony.

    What hegemony is that? In Sephardic culture at least, the women run everything. They're just really good at making us feel important.

     
    At December 26, 2006 3:54 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >However, halacha defines adultery as sexual relations with a woman who is married to someone else. This is because polygamy is permitted, at least in theory, because it allows for more children.


    Or because it's a man's world.

    And likewise, even though a man gets the same punishment for having relations with another married women, it's because he's stepping on the toes of another man.

     
    At December 26, 2006 3:57 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    rabbi maroof
    a married woman who has an affair with a single man is KILLED.
    a Married man who has an affair with a single woman is MARRIED.

    same difference?

     
    At December 26, 2006 4:00 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    this is besides the point that the laws of Sotah dont apply to men.

    and the gemera with all it morality decides wether a woman breasts will be bared based on how big they are.

    and you take that seriously?

     
    At December 26, 2006 4:07 PM, Anonymous tayqoo said...

    Be that as it may, the vast majority of the Tanach WAS light years ahead of its time philosophically and morally.
    ---------------------------
    that's the problem. that was true until relatively recently. now we seem to have our head in the sand. like i've posted elsewhere, there is nothing more that i would want than to believe if for no other reason than to be comfortable with my wife and children but i feel like donald sutherland in "the invasion of the body (mind) snatchers". recently, i've spoken to roshai yeshiva from mo yeshivot about my doubts. one told me that my doubts weren't what was bothering me but other aspects of my life. another suggested that i sorta make believe that it's all true anyway.

     
    At December 26, 2006 4:40 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    > No one ever wrote a document that had such a vast amount of commentary written on it. Walk into a full sized Jewish library. Every single one of those thousands of thousands of books are all based on those 5 original books. No way that even multiple authors could have put together 3,300 years ago such a complex document.


    Hey! That's exactly what my post was all about. That it is amazing! But so is Windows Vista.

     
    At December 26, 2006 4:45 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Tayqoo,
    >that's the problem. that was true until relatively recently. now we seem to have our head in the sand.

    Because we are stuck with a halachik system that is not permitted to overturn it's predecessors. Maybe one day, someone with big Playtsos will say "Eis Laasos Lashem Hefaeiru Sorasecha".


    >one told me that my doubts weren't what was bothering me but other aspects of my life.

    Of course, to admit otherwise would be allowing the floodgates to open.

    > another suggested that i sorta make believe that it's all true anyway.

    It works for me, more or less.

     
    At December 26, 2006 4:57 PM, Anonymous tayqoo said...

    Because we are stuck with a halachik system that is not permitted to overturn it's predecessors. Maybe one day, someone with big Playtsos will say "Eis Laasos Lashem Hefaeiru Sorasecha".
    ---------------------
    that's it, in a nutshell.

    It works for me, more or less.
    ---------------------
    sadly, it doesn't work for me. which is why i'm here in the rova. i can't seem to just go with the flow.

     
    At December 26, 2006 4:59 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Tayqoo,
    What's wrong with being in the Rova?

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:02 PM, Anonymous tayqoo said...

    nothing wrong, but it would be better if my wife were here too. but she makes believe too.

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:05 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Tayqoo, Oh right. She makes believe what?

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:37 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    LY, very nicely said. However.

    > God "Whats the precise Halacha?" God responded - discuss it, argue it, debate it, and then follow the majority opinion.

    With the advent of Daas Torah, is that still the way we do business? I.E. Rav Kanievski paskening seems to overrule everyone.

    > Charedi Judaism is a way of understanding and implementing Torah. It isn't the ONLY possible way.

    I think my Rav would dis-agree with that. He doesn't come out and say so, but he believes everything else is off the mark and doomed to failure.

    > Think of Chassidim/Chassidus. The movement is barely a few hundred years old. Is that the ONLY way to serve God? Surely not.

    LOL, Chassidim believe anyone not like them is almost like a Goy.

    >The success of the survival of Judaism was by how strongly we adhered to our Mesora/tradition. The continuation of our survival will depend on how strong we will upkeep and maintain our tradition.

    That's almost by definition. But remember, History belongs to the winners. Had the Tsedukim survived...

    >It is irrelavant whether the Rambam would have today practiced Charedi Judaism. We are Mekabel our tradition from our Gedolim who were Mekabel from their Gedolim and so on. We aren't Mekabel directly from the Rambam.

    And somewhere in there lies a major difficulty for me. It's not so much about Halacha as is Hashkafa.

    >However, the origins of Charedi Judaism (and any other form of Judaism) are based on the same origins as the Rambam. We all share the same foundation.
    >However, our current Modus Operandi is based on our day and age. R' Aron Kotler realized the Torah situation of America, and worked to improve and rectify it. He first needed to argue on the Rambam's halacha in regard to accepting money for learning. True that perhaps today, the system might need some improvements, but no one can deny the huge success his improvisions accomplished.

    Thus we venerate the Rambam etc for they laid out for us the foundation - the principles of Judaism. But when it comes to modern day situations, we consult with our current leaders who have a balanced grasp of Halacha plus today's challenging society.

    Very nice. I'm impressed with what you said, even though I think there are major problems in todays world. I don't see how the Chareidi world will snap out of it. But it still does nothing for my belief, it is a way of explaining the differences (Post-Facto). It is also not so irrelevant. It shows to me that Judaism can and does change with the times and mores of the surrounding society and depending on it's leaders (Of course that's a good thing). But if it changed so much now, in the past 40 to 50 years, how much moreso could it have changed beteen the Galus Bavel and the times of the Tannaim? Chassidim would like to have their adherents believe that it was always that way. My Rav tries to convince us that Life 2000 years was like Charedi life now. And only those who open their eyes and dig in see that is flat out not the case (and you seem to be admitting it). So I'm back to my major point, the Mesorah is not unchanging. If it's changing in front of our eyes how much more so did it change in the past?

     
    At December 26, 2006 5:39 PM, Anonymous tayqoo said...

    at it's all true.

     
    At December 26, 2006 9:44 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    tayqoo
    whats a rova?
    are you saying you dont believe, and neither does your wife, except she insists on making believe she beleives?

     
    At December 26, 2006 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    >>God "Whats the precise Halacha?" God responded - discuss it, argue it, debate it, and then follow the majority opinion.

    >With the advent of Daas Torah, is that still the way we do business? I.E. Rav Kanievski paskening seems to overrule everyone.

    Please. My point was about the Halachic structure/system of Judaism from the day of Matan Torah through the millenia, not just the way it might be practiced from 1990 - 2007.

    >> Charedi Judaism is a way of understanding and implementing Torah. It isn't the ONLY possible way.

    >I think my Rav would dis-agree with that. He doesn't come out and say so, but he believes everything else is off the mark and doomed to failure.

    Please understand my dear BHB, that it all depends to whom we are addressing. I teach my kids that Charedi Judaism is the best way. Your Rav is doing the same to his followers. If he's selling a BMW, he will talk about why Mercedes and Lexus is garbage. If you were to explain to your Rav your current doubts, would he also insist that you believe in every nity gritty belief? I don't think so.

    >> Think of Chassidim/Chassidus. The movement is barely a few hundred years old. Is that the ONLY way to serve God? Surely not.

    >LOL, Chassidim believe anyone not like them is almost like a Goy.

    EXACTLY my point. WE - you AND me who aren't Chasidim know that we aren't like a goy. So to, if you can't bring yourself to believe in every Rebbishe Maaseh, I fail to see why you have to trash the entire system.

    >>The success of the survival of Judaism was by how strongly we adhered to our Mesora/tradition. The continuation of our survival will depend on how strong we will upkeep and maintain our tradition.

    >That's almost by definition. But remember, History belongs to the winners. Had the Tsedukim survived...

    But they didn't. We survived. Against all odds.

    >>It is irrelavant whether the Rambam would have today practiced Charedi Judaism. We are Mekabel our tradition from our Gedolim who were Mekabel from their Gedolim and so on. We aren't Mekabel directly from the Rambam.

    >And somewhere in there lies a major difficulty for me. It's not so much about Halacha as is Hashkafa.

    Sorry, but I don't understand what your difficulty is. (You didn't explain what it is)

    >Chassidim would like to have their adherents believe that it was always that way. My Rav tries to convince us that Life 2000 years was like Charedi life now. And only those who open their eyes and dig in see that is flat out not the case (and you seem to be admitting it). So I'm back to my major point, the Mesorah is not unchanging. If it's changing in front of our eyes how much more so did it change in the past?

    BHB, there's no doubt that the Mesora needs to adapt to the needs of each generation. Rebbe wrote the Mishna, and the Chofetz Chaim permitted Girls to learn. The problem is that we don't have today a Chofetz Chaim. If the Mesora is entrusted to the masses, surely you'll agree that it will in no time collapse. We need leaders. Strong leaders. Leaders who can respond to the Slifkins, BHB's and XGH's. Alas, we don't have them. I follow the current Gedolim because thats the way I was brought up, and thats what I believe. But Klal Yisroel could use a Chofetz Chaim. But until we have one, it is not in our power to change the Mesora.

    lakewood yid

     
    At December 26, 2006 10:02 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    ly
    "We need leaders. Strong leaders. Leaders who can respond to the Slifkins, BHB's and XGH's. Alas, we don't have them. I follow the current Gedolim because thats the way I was brought up, and thats what I believe. But Klal Yisroel could use a Chofetz Chaim. But until we have one, it is not in our power to change the Mesora."


    wow, there arent any gedolim today who can handle bhb or xgh!

    is that something you would of said 6 months ago?

     
    At December 27, 2006 12:28 AM, Anonymous tayqoo said...

    happywithhislot said...
    tayqoo
    whats a rova?
    are you saying you dont believe, and neither does your wife, except she insists on making believe she beleives?

    December 26, 2006 9:44
    ----------------------------
    i'm sorry for not being clear.
    the rova refers to the jewish quarter in the old city of yerushalayim.
    i choose to believe in "god". i just don't know what to believe beyond that. my wife and family have become charaidi.

     
    At December 27, 2006 10:16 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    LY,
    >>>With the advent of Daas Torah, is that still the way we do business? I.E. Rav Kanievski paskening seems to overrule everyone.

    > Please. My point was about the Halachic structure/system of Judaism from the day of Matan Torah through the millenia, not just the way it might be practiced from 1990 - 2007.

    Ok, I'm doing like you do sometimes, just tossing out darts.


    >>I think my Rav would dis-agree with that. He doesn't come out and say so, but he believes everything else is off the mark and doomed to failure.

    >>> I teach my kids that Charedi Judaism is the best way. Your Rav is doing the same to his followers...


    Of course not, but as a "Derech" he would say that the Chareidi is the only way to go to ensure continuity and as the only way to really be mekaim Ratson hashem and achieve the highest reward in Gan Eden. I'm not sure what you teach your children. But, I know that in general the Chareidi world considers "Baaleh Batim" as second rate.


    >>EXACTLY my point. WE - you AND me who aren't Chasidim know that we aren't like a goy.

    Exactly MY point, can't you see how their beliefs have been manipulated? I *know* that even when I was going to college I was a frum 100% believing yid shomer Torah Umitsvos yid. Yet the Chassidim (and now even Chareidim to a lesser degree) considered me an Oisvarf. So what good are beliefs? Even beliefs that have been transmitted on paper. It's all relative and easily influenced by leaders, events, culture & society.

    >So to, if you can't bring yourself to believe in every Rebbishe Maaseh, I fail to see why you have to trash the entire system.

    The Rebbeshe Maaseh's are just icing on the cake. I stated that in my comments in the Miracle post.


    >


    >Sorry, but I don't understand what your difficulty is. (You didn't explain what it is)

    I mean that halacha is *basically* the same through the ages, but not beliefs.


    > BHB, there's no doubt that the Mesora needs to adapt to the needs of each generation.

    There you go again. Taking a flaw (change in beliefs) and *explaining* it away. Beliefs should not have to change. Actions may need to change to survive. R' Kotler saw a need, Torah is weak in America, so fine. Change the action because there is a a current need. Don't tamper with belief. Yet it happens again & again. Just proving my point.

     
    At December 27, 2006 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    > XGH, you disappointed me. All of that fire and brimstone, lots of personal attacks, but no actual content or arguments. Simply reasserting your beliefs again and again has made them into a new dogma on your blog and in your comments. I wouldn't characterize your thoughts as dumb nor do I see you as brainwashed. But since we clearly don't all agree on your views, your repetition of them as facts appears unjustified.

    > I am curious what you feel is so incorrect or foolish about my statements, and where you believe I am going wrong. Hurling insults doesn't offer me any clarification at all.

    Well, your accusations of dogmatism and simplicty really p**** me off. Nothing could be further from the truth, as anyone who has followed my blog for the last two years can see. You come in at this late stage and honestly have no clue, but make assumptions and profess opinions on things you know nothing about.

     
    At December 27, 2006 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    131 great comments...I cant wait until we get to 613...wouldnt that be wonderous...would it prove anything to anybody? NO someone would insist on adding a 614th comment and would ruin it. But that could be explained away by making some of the comments into half comments and then we could get rid of the comments that are devoid of intellectual content and that would shrink them further still and lo and behold at the end of the day we would end up with 613 comments.

     
    At December 27, 2006 6:11 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    yeah, like the problems with the mitzvah count!
    we have 613 but there isnt a single rishon who has the same 613.
    they merge, eliminate, double like you said.

     
    At December 27, 2006 7:49 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >that could be explained away by making some of the comments into half comments and then we could get rid of the comments that are devoid of intellectual content and that would shrink them further still and lo and behold at the end of the day we would end up with 613 comments.

    Truthfully, I'm not exactly sure what you mean. I do know that if I hit 613 comments in one post *that* would be miracle.

     
    At December 28, 2006 12:29 AM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    a

     
    At December 28, 2006 12:29 AM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    miracle

     
    At December 28, 2006 12:30 AM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    you

     
    At December 28, 2006 12:30 AM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    say

     
    At December 28, 2006 12:30 AM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    ?

     
    At December 28, 2006 5:43 AM, Blogger Frummer????? said...

    BHB:

    Your comparison is not really a good one. Just as you could not use a chess computer to fly a plane, you couldn't use a flight simulator for a game of chess.

    But I heard a nice "gedank" to explain how it can be possible that "Eilu V'eilu Divrei Elokim Chaim". Indeed it does seem a very strange conception.

    If you take a beam of light and shine it through a prism, it will split the beam into it's primary colours, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. But red is not blue nor is yellow green, but they all emanated from the same light source, and and do not contradict each other. Torah is just the same.

     
    At December 28, 2006 8:57 AM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    but make assumptions and profess opinions on things you know nothing about.

    I'm not sure which things you're referring to.

    If the fallacies and foolishness in my arguments are so obvious, it shouldn't be difficult to actually identify them.

     
    At December 28, 2006 10:19 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Spinoza, I feel a miracle coming my way.

    Frummer
    >Your comparison is not really a good one. Just as ...

    Sure it's just an analogy.

    I used to be somewhat afraid of flying, till I did some research ino Air pressure. Bernouli's law is no different than Newton's law of Gravity. Its the same physics. Yet I'd hesitate to be a test pilot to fly something that never flew before.

    Yet we jews are just like that; we're like the Wright Brothers flying on Mitsvos, relying on pure faith. Millions of people take off on this flight of Mitsvos every year, yet we know of no-one who's landed safely. It's blind faith. It's so unreasonable.


    > If you take a beam of light and shine it through a prism...

    I pity those with Kashia's who lived before Newton demonstrated that trick with the Prism. ;)

    But seriously, if these types of explanations satisfy you, then Ashrecha.

     
    At December 28, 2006 10:34 AM, Blogger Frummer????? said...

    "But seriously, if these types of explanations satisfy you, then Ashrecha."

    Interesting you should say that. See my most recent reponse to you on Shtreimels blog.

     
    At December 28, 2006 10:39 AM, Blogger Frummer????? said...

    No, you will never reach 613 anyway! ;-) Not with this subject!

    The most I've ever reached was 685! Yup you guessed it. It was about an eruv. Nothing can ever be as divisive as a nice community eruv!

    Or school politics - we almost reached 350 on that one!

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:05 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Frummer, I'll carry it over here (got to get to that Taryag point somehow).

    (from here

    http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=17406963&postID=116716519701922432

    > Nehama Dechusafa was one of the foundations of the world. Once the world was designed in a certain way, other things had to follow naturally, based on the foundations laid. G-d does not interfere with natural events.

    But, if the omnipotent God's intent was solely to "be Meitiv" God could have chosen a different foundation with which to create us, a different psychology or I don't know what (that's God's job). Then we would have a different set of natural events.

    So your reply is, we can't understand why God greated Nehama Dechsufa as a foundation. So then I say, why come up with Nehama Dechsufa. Admit you just don't know.

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:15 AM, Blogger Frummer????? said...

    Ok, I admit. I am not G-d. ;-)

    If you would have had a different set of natural events, you would have questioned them too. Would you not?

    We can but attempt to understand, in as much as our limited (by G-d's standards) intelligence allows us to.

    I'd assume that one came before the other, and "kave yochol" G-d didn't want to undo that which He had already done. Logical. No?

    BTW, you conveniently missed the other point I made there. the one about science having many unanswerable questions too. When they are put to scientists, they conveniently respond, we got this far, we'll crack that one too one day.

    I wonder how Shtreimel will take to you hijacking his comment thread! Maybe he's the magnanimous type.

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:32 AM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    fummer,
    to compensate, i posted a reply to you there.

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:40 AM, Blogger Frummer????? said...

    And so did I!

    Half here, and half there. G-d this is complicated. :-) My fault for mixing the two!

    Let's keep it in one place.

     
    At December 28, 2006 11:58 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Frummer, no I replied there as well. And I replied there in it's entirety. OK, we'll resume over there. But I got to run now. So later.

     
    At December 28, 2006 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Rabbi Maroof: Where does R Saadia Gaon explain the mabul as local? Do you have a reference.

     
    At December 28, 2006 8:02 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    Anonymous
    I don't know but I do know rav sadia said anyone who believes in gilgul is a idiot.

     
    At December 28, 2006 9:10 PM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

    Honestly, I never saw Rav Saadiah say this "inside". It is cited in the Daat Miqra in the summary at the end of Parshat Noach. What he said, to be exact, was that the Mabul only impacted areas of the earth that were inhabited at the time. As far as R'Saadiah is concerned, that would be the equivalent of saying it was local. From our standpoint, we'd have to further narrow down the category of local to inhabitants of Mesopotamia, i.e., the entire world as far as the people destroyed in the mabul were concerned.

     
    At December 29, 2006 8:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Thank you. I will try to get ahold of RSG al hatorah. I noticed a similar concept in tshuvas hageonim (asaf 1927) He says that when it says in torah "kol" it doesnt mean all, as in "vayamos kol mikneh mitzrayim," means only the livestock in the vicinity of bney yisrael. In fact he says all the makos were only in the vicinity of eretz goshen, not all of mitzrayim.
    The same for "v'hara'av haya al kol pney ha'aretz" and "v'chol ha'aretz ba'u mitzrayma lishbor el yoseph" just means the immediate neighbors not all the world.

     

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