Volume 10 Number 6
                       Produced: Wed Nov 17 19:22:51 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Age of the Universe
         [David Ellis]
Age of the Universe, Round Earth
         [Mike Gerver]
More Earth's Position
         [Shaya Karlinsky]
Ramban in Braishis
         [David Clinton]
Yarchei Kallah Prepares for Shmita
         [david gerstman]


From: David Ellis <d_ellis@...>
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 93 09:23:59 -0500
Subject: Re: Age of the Universe

Joe Abeles (<joe_abeles@...>) writes:

> The inconsistency remains: Why would Hashem have told us that the world was 
> created 5000 to 6000 years ago if indeed it would later emerge that we 
> observe the world to be billions of years old?  This is a very key question 
> which has not received any satisfactory response (IMHO) to date.

My response is that people who are intelligent enough to observe that
the world is much more than 6000 years old should also be sophisticated
enough to understand the Torah chronology in more than purely literal

Jewish tradition does hold that the Torah speaks to different people in
different times at multiple levels of understanding simultaneously.
Human society today is much more advanced than it was three thousand
years ago, yet the Torah speaks to us as well as our ancestors.  When we
explain things to small children, we present the facts at a level they
can grasp.  If the Torah is indeed of divine origin, its Author must
similarly address its human audience with human limitations in
relatively simple ways so that we can comprehend it at a level
meaningful to us.

For our ancestors of many generations ago, literal interpretation of the
Torah was appropriate to their level of sophistication.  I would like to
think that we have grown beyond that level.  If we are required to hold
to the literal meaning of Torah text, then we are failing to recognize
just how sublime and transcendent the message of the Torah really is.

David  J  Ellis
Digital Equipment Corporation,          Semiconductor Engineering Group
77 Reed Road, Hudson MA 01749           Mailstop HLO2-3/D11         
Internet: <d_ellis@...>    Phone: (508) 568-4393 


From: <GERVER@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1993 1:38:16 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Age of the Universe, Round Earth

I have been avoiding, for the most part, getting into the current round
of the evolution debate, since I already said everything I have to say
in volume 4. But I am glad that Joe Abeles, in v9n66, made the point
that if we say all of the evidence we observe about events occurring
more than 5754 years ago is to be disregarded as an illusion, then we
must also take seriously the possibility that everything we observe,
including the existence of other people and of the world outside our
heads, is illusion. I would go one step further, repeating a point I
made in v4n25, and point out that if we do that, then we have no reason
to believe in G-d, or matan torah, or in the world being created 5754
years ago. Taking the 5754 year old age of the earth literally, as a
matter of emunah [faith], leads down a path which eventually pulls the
rug out from under that emunah, and for this reason I would not want to
start down that path.

There is one remark made by Joe that I want to take issue with, because
it is a favorite topic of mine, even though it has no bearing on this
whole debate. He says that in the 15th century people thought the world
was flat, and Columbus proved them wrong. In fact, it was Eratosthenes,
1700 years earlier, who proved that the earth was round, with a
circumference of 25,000 miles, and all educated people in the 15th
century were well aware of this. Columbus, however, thought, on the
basis of a mistranslation of an Arabic geography book, that the world
was only 18,000 miles in circumference, which would have allowed him to
reach Asia by sailing west from Europe, without running out of food and
water.  He was recklessly willing to risk his life and the lives of his
crew in order to prove this theory, which was quite rightly rejected by
all serious scholars. Fortunately America existed, and he survived.
According to an article I read somewhere not long ago, the notion that
Columbus proved the world was round originated in a romanticized
biography of Columbus written by Washington Irving. Irving was trying to
contrast the ignorant corrupt European civilization with the enlightened
outlook of Columbus, the founder of American civilization, which was the
very opposite of the Old World. This was a popular theme in the United
States in the early 19th century.

Mike Gerver, <gerver@...>


From: Shaya Karlinsky <HCUWK@...>
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 1993 09:36 IST
Subject: More Earth's Position

     Mechy Frankel's recent reply (MJ 9/84) to my much earlier inquiry
about the "earth's place in the universe" gives me the opportunity to
add a couple of points, as well as to apologize to those who replied
directly to me and didn't get acknowledgment.  I am still an e-mail
novice, and some replies got erased after I read them but before I could
reply to them.  Hope it won't happen again.

     Mechy Frankel wrote about my question (and the replies):
>concerning the Earth's place in the Universe and whether such
>assertions might be "false, true, meaningless, or indeterminate"
>His formulation (as well as some of the respondents) of the issue
>of the earth's physical "centrality" and its dependence on either
>knowing or not knowing where the universe boundary "is" is flawed.
     I didn't quite understand why the formulation of the QUESTION
was flawed.  It seems to me like the question was valid, and his
answer boiled down to the fact that since...
>each point on the surface is equivalent to all others and none is
>more "central" than any others
>depending entirely on personal semantic or philosophical prejudices
>you might defend either "false", "indeterminate", or (my choice)
>"meaningless". It is certainly not uniquely true in any physical
     Clear answer, and what I had suspected based on my (admittedly
limited) understanding of the scientific issues after 3 readings of
"A Brief History of Time."  I understood many of the relevant
answers I received to be following an approach similar to Mechy's
(maybe with less elaboration).
     What is motivating this follow-up posting was the last

>Any statements by UACs (unassailable authorities to the contrary)
>should be taken as metaphorical/allegorical/spiritual assessments.

     As I wrote last time, I think we fall back too quickly on the
(superficial) assumption that if a simple reading of teachings of
Chazal or even Rishonim are contrary to our present understanding of
the scientific reality, the former must be "metaphorical/
allegorical..."  First of all, Mechy himself indicated that even
within the scientific community there are dissenters about the
"scientific reality":
>The current universe is (according to a consensus scientific view -
>THERE ARE DISSENTERS)...[emphasis mine].
     I assume these dissenters are more than eccentric fringe
opinions, if they were significant enough to merit mention.  And
with the large number of unanswered questions and even
incompatibilities among accepted theories, today's dissenter may be
tomorrow's "reality."  Therefore, things that are still unresolved
by the scientific community can sometimes receive important insights
from a deep understanding of Chazal, by (as I wrote last time)
analyzing, exploring, and discovering how the underlying spiritual
reality is being revealed to us by G-d in the physical world He
created.  On the other hand, light can frequently be shed on divrei
Torah from a better understanding of scientific discoveries.
     The specific example I put out in my inquiry is in a section
where the Maharal explains why in the verse (Isaiah 60:21) "And they
shall inherit the land forever," -which on a simple level refers to
the Land of Israel- is used to refer to eternal life in the first
Mishna of Ch. 11 in Sanhedrin (Kol Yisrael yesh lahem chelek... used
to introduce Pirkei Avot ).  Why is "ERETZ" used to represent
eternity?  His explanation has to do with eternity coming from
balance, and from one being in the center, away from extremes. (This
will be the subject of a posting in the not too distant future,
b'ezrat Hashem.) He writes "...because the 'aretz' stands at the
center."  The simple meaning of the word "aretz" would be "land",
and a straightforward explanation would be that land, among the four
"elements" (land, air, fire and water) stands in the middle, with
air and fire being above and water being below.  (See Tehillim Ch.
24 V. 2; contrast the Rambam in Ch. 4 Yesodei HaTorah)  But I was
toying with the idea that the word "aretz" could refer to the earth,
which would then need to be in the middle of something - physically,
IMHO.  Since the "something" should be either our galaxy or the
universe, this got me wondering about what modern cosmology,
physics, quantum mechanics, et al, had to say about the feasibility
of determining the earth's location in a larger system.  Based on
the responses I got, I am forced back to the simple meaning of
"aretz" _exactly_ because of the scientific inconsistency with the
proposed alternative.  Important to note: I see consistently in the
Maharal's writings that he seems to base many explanations on
observations and descriptions of the physical world, and I think
that he is not talking in an allegorical/metaphorical sense at all.
Interestingly, I have found a number of instances where he seems to
anticipate some general ideas relating to the theory of relativity,
and the relationship between matter, space, time and motion.
     So I'll close with another question:  What was known in the
"scientific community" in the 16th century about the relationship
between mass, time, motion and space.

Shaya Karlinsky
Yeshivat Darche Noam / Shapell's
POB 35209 - Jerusalem, ISRAEL


From: <ai917@...> (David Clinton)
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 93 00:28:21 EST
Subject: re: Ramban in Braishis

I must be extremely thick, but I still don't see any hint of Alan
Cooper's original contention that

> The literalists not only need to read Rambam, as Joe suggests they do,
> but also Ramban and Rabbeinu Bahya.  What they will learn from their
> reading is that the purpose of the creation story is, to put it
> simply, to demonstrate that if there were no God, the world would not
> exist; that is, God is necessary to the world.

Even when he wrote in his most recent message that 

> Much more is at stake in this story, according to Ramban, then an
> apology for Israel's dispossession of the Canaanites. Rather, it is
> shoresh ha-emunah ("the root of our faith"), containing profound
> secrets that can only be comprehended by means of the qabbalah.
> Ramban alludes to and skirts around those "secrets" throughout his
> commentary on the verse.

there's nothing - absolutely nothing - that implies "if there were no
God, the world would not exist..."  On the contrary, see the gloss of R'
Chaval (under the title: "L'haschalas Hatorah") for his understanding of
the Ramban's conclusion.
 And I'm afraid that I don't see anything more in his quotation of the
Rabbeinu Bachaya:

> nihilo, a person can attain knowledge of Hashem yitbarakh by meanans
> of His ways and deeds, and this is the most that a person can attain."

Therefore, I still don't see where I've 

> completely misunderstood Ramban to Genesis 1:1.

By the way, "yesh lish'ol bah (this must be questioned)" need NOT mean
that the Ramban will ultimately reject any part of Rashi, but that he is
examining the issue - and will eventually teach us a deeper
understanding of RASHI'S WORDS THEMSELVES!

Hashem ya'ir ainay!


From: dhg@lamp0 (david gerstman)
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 93 08:39:28 -0500
Subject: Yarchei Kallah Prepares for Shmita

Yarchei Kallah Prepares for Shmita

Includes opportunity to learn all of Mishna Shviis over Thanksgiving

Wednesday Nov 24                     Friday, Nov 26
Mishna Shviis, chap 1-2  8PM         Shachris, followed by   6:45 AM
Maariv                   9:30PM      complimentary breakfast
                                     Mishna Shviis 5-6       7:45 AM
Thursday, Nov 25
Shachris, followed by    7:30AM      Motzei Shabbos, Nov 27
complimentary breakfast              Mishna Shviis, chap 7-8 8pm
Mishna Shviis, chap 3-4  9:00AM
Special Audio-visual    10:30AM
presentation courtesy of             Sunday Nov 28
Keren HaShviis                       Daf Yomi                6:30am
* "Halachos of Shviiis" 11:00am      Shacris, followed by    7:30am
by HaRav Avrohom Schlossberg SHLITA  complimetary breakfast
with a special emphasis on what to   Mishna Shviis, chap 9-10   9am
do if you're visiting Israel and on  *"Pruzbul - How does it 10:45am
Israeli products in America          work and what does it do?"
Daf Yomi                12noon       by Rav Yirmiyahu Kaganoff
                                     *"The Thought of Rav    12noon
                                     Kook on Shviis" by HaRav
                                     Tzvi Hersh Weinreb

Congregation Darchei Tzedek
Marnat Road at Seven Mile Lane
Baltimore MD 21208
For further information call 410-358-5351


End of Volume 10 Issue 6