Volume 10 Number 24
                       Produced: Wed Nov 24 23:24:52 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Age of the Universe, Round Earth
         [Yechezkal-Shimon Gutfreund]
No distinction bet. halachic & non-halachic answers
         [Joe Abeles]
Rabbinic Authority
         [Hayim Hendeles]


From: sg04%<kesser@...> (Yechezkal-Shimon Gutfreund)
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 93 14:00:27 -0500
Subject: Age of the Universe, Round Earth

] Mike Gerver (<GERVER@...>) writes:
] 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...

I think you are taking to many extrapolatory steps. And only by taking
so many extrapolations do you come to such wild conclusions.

The scientific method is based on inductive reasoning, coupled with
independent verification of results. That is, I conduct an experiment,
carefully note down the conditions (e.g. environment, temp., pressure)
under which it was run then repeat the tests with alterered conditions
to remove extranous causes. Other independent investigators can repeat
these experiments and get the same results because I have documented the
complete set of conditions and materials used.

This is not the case with speculative "science" which attempts to posit
theories about about events that occured long ago, before there were
even any observers on the scene to document the conditions under which
the events occured. These speculative sciences are always take as basic
axioms the position that chemical, radiological, and ageing processes
as the are CURRENTLY, were exactly the same in previous times.

However, no one can really know what the environmental, chemical, and
ageing processes were in the deep past. Thus there can be no
independent reproduction of results by independent scientis/observers.
We cannot know what the environmental conditions were then - and thus
have no way of carrying out experiments can truely provide independent
verification. Even the assumption that radioactive decay rates
have even remained the same - is just that - an assumption. It might
be true or it might not. True, if this changed many of the fundamental
constants in Physics might also change (or then again maybe they
didn't - one can speculate and create "meta"-Physics worlds where
only decay rates changes). I really don't care whether one wants
to keep the decay rates constant or not - all I want to point out
is that it is speculation to try and infer what the environmental
conditions were in the deep past before there were observers.

This is NOT the case with current science. Here we can have independent
observers carrying out independent experiments and all reporting the
same results. They can reproduce the conditions of each others experiments.
We do not deny the validity of our observations. Indeed they are
basic to the many fundamental parts of the halachic process. But this
only applies to current reproducable and observable events - not
speculation about un-observed physical processes that occured long

I think it is a canard, and a major offense to everyone involved
to try and paint the discussion as being about whether one
rejects reality and lives in illusion:

	"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 don't take this seriously and I doubt anyone does. It is wild
extrapolation. There are two completely different issues we are talking
about. One speculative "science" about unknowable and irreproducable
events from the past - and the other verifiable and reproducable
present observations. You are taking a position about things in one
domain, applying to another, to make people look ridiculous.

As for Matan Torah - there were 600,000+ independent observers who
can testify to what occured there. Seems to me to be pretty good

Yechezkal-Shimon Gutfreund		 	   <sgutfreund@...> [MIME]
GTE Laboratories, Waltham MA        http://www.gte.com/circus/home/home.html


From: Joe Abeles <joe_abeles@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 93 17:24:04 -0500
Subject: No distinction bet. halachic & non-halachic answers

Eitan Fiorino has added to the analysis: Rabbis are not always answering
questions of halacha; sometimes they are, and sometimes they are not.
If this is so, one would think there would be a responsibility, a
halachic responsibility, for any person such as a rabbi who could be
construed to be a posek to identify in his answer to any question
whether the answer is one of halacha or one of opinion.  As far as I am
aware, there is no such responsibility recognized in practice.  (One
could construe such a responsibility from the requirement not to add to
Torah, but it is not strongly interpreted in practice).  On this mailing
list there might be some participants who are rabbis and qualified to
answer questions of halacha.  If this should be so, it would then become
incumbent upon such a person to indicate in postings on each and every
subject whether it is his non-halachic opinion or halachic answer.

Unfortunately, I suspect that if one pursues this situation further, the
logic will lead us to a possibility of disregard for halachic authority.
That is because many halachic decisions are based on a necessarily
somewhat subjective assessment of circumstances.  True, halacha itself
is "clean" of fuzzy areas; for every question there is an answer, albeit
ofttimes complex.  But the application of halacha to real life involves
some fuzziness.

If so, then rabbis must be relied upon not only to decide based on
minimalistic halacha, but also to assess subjectively the circumstances.
Another demonstration of this are the "fences" around the Torah.  These
fences are in place not because crossing the fence would strictly
violate halacha but because it is difficult for the average person to
avoid halacha once they have crossed the fence.  There is subjectivity

I suspect that there is no way to avoid the acceptance of total
leadership of a rabbi in all aspects of life (in the absence of a
Jewishly-approved government), not simply those aspects which are
specifically marked "halacha."  Judaism is not a part-time avocation or
a hobby, it is (as we have all been taught) a way of life.

Again, unfortunately, there is a shared desire to ascribe lack of error
(and general altruism) to the rabbinical leaders of the WW II
generation, but just as there is a desire to ascribe a beneficent
purpose to Hashem during the WW II era, there continues to be no
widely-acceptable reconciliation between our beliefs and the reality of
those times.

Since in recent history there has been no authority other than
rabbinical authority, the obvious question is could there be (without a
prophet or messiah to the alter the current balance)?

A related point is: What would be necessary to establish a Jewish
government?  Such an institution would be non-rabbinic, but it would
have legitimate power in the Jewish framework (halachically) just like
Jewish kings did in the past.  They were not halachic authorities, but
they were rulers.  Has the establishment of Pharisitic Judaism (under
which we now live) absolutely prevented the re-establishment of Jewish
civil authority?  This would be different than simply having a shomer
shabbos government (or would it?).


From: Hayim Hendeles <hayim@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 93 13:19:47 -0800
Subject: Re: Rabbinic Authority

	>From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>

	On the other hand, a more extreme approach to rabbinic
	authority, which has been labelled "daas Torah," has more
	trouble in this situation.  A daas Torah view sees the views of
	the rabbinic elite as binding even in extra-halachic matters --
	Since daas Torah views statements made regarding
	extra-halachic matters as having the character of psak, not of
	opinion, to evaluate such statements after the fact and to
	conclude that a particular statement was wrong undermines the
	whole daas Torah system.  ...
	If the advice is to stay in
	pre-WWII Europe, then it is less easy to explain away, and
	trying to understand how such advice was given is very
	problematic from the perspective of daas Torah.

There is a strong undercurrent in this article, as in others, implying
that those Rabbis who advised to remain in pre-WW2 Europe, were in fact
wrong. I strongly disagree with this notion.

Right or wrong is not defined by who survived and who didn't survive.
That is G-d's decision. Right or wrong is defined as what the Torah
says, which is our responsibility to follow. Thus, if a Rabbi said
"stay", and the person remained behind to be killed by the Nazis, this
person has done exactly what G-d told him to do (in a figurative sense,
Lo sasur m'asher yagidu lecha).  I refuse to believe that after he went
upstairs to his Final Reckoning, that G-d had any complaints for his
remaining behind.

So the individual was not WRONG. What about the Rabbi - was he wrong?

I refuse to believe that either. Rabbi's are not angels, nor are they
prophets. They are merely a repository for Daas Torah. If based on the
meager, even possibly incorrect information available to the Rabbi, his
opinion of Daas Torah was that an individual should stay behind, then
this Rabbi has done exactly what G-d asked him to do (decide to the best
of his ability), and therefore his decision was the RIGHT one. The fact
that the person ultimately perished in the Holocaust was G-d's decision.

In a related vein, it is worth repeating the following incident. About 100+
some years ago, the Russian authorities were attempting to force the
famous Yeshiva of Volozhin to make some unacceptable changes to the
curriculum. The general feeling at the time was that it would be better
to make these changes, but still have a Yeshiva, then to have to close
the Yeshiva altogether, and be left with nothing.

However, Reb Yoshe Ber zt"l ruled otherwise. His opinion, which was the
accepted one, was that G-d gave us a job to do (teaching Torah). As long
as we can do it the way G-d asked us to, fine. But the moment we can no
longer do it the way he asked us to, then we have to resign. This is
G-d's Torah, not ours. If we can't do it the way He asked us to, then
it is no longer our responsibility. 

Once again, the fact the Yeshiva was ultimately shutdown is no indication
that it was the wrong decision. It was the RIGHT decision. Unfortunately,
sometimes the right decision carries a heavy price tag.

And so it was for those Jews who remained behind based on a Psak Halacha.
Their decision was the RIGHT decision, although it cost the ultimate price.
Undoubtedly, they will achieve great rewards in the Next World for their
having made the RIGHT decision.

Hayim Hendeles


End of Volume 10 Issue 24