Volume 13 Number 14
                       Produced: Thu May 19 23:19:06 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Academic Research (4)
         [Mitchell J. Schoen, Harry Weiss, Ezra Dabbah, Esther R Posen]
Hayim Hendeles/halachic validity of academic research
         [Jerome Parness]
Tradition and Academics
         [Michael Broyde]
Tradition and academics
         [Eli Turkel]


From: Mitchell J. Schoen <72277.715@...>
Date: Fri, 13 May 1994 19:19:55 -0400
Subject: Academic Research

My response to Hayim's question is that even though I accept his
premises, they do not seem to logically guarantee his conclusions.  And
I DO accept the premises--that the academic faces unrelenting pressure
to produce research which generates publications, and that there is a
conservativism on the part of academic journals which requires that in
order to be published, that research NOT be out of the mainstream.

So?  What of it?  Neither of these premises in any way requires that one
produce falsehood or factitious data, merely that everyone be an
"original thinker", even if that original thought is trivial.  And so
much of what is published is garbage not because it is false, but
because it doesn't materially contribute to our understanding of the
ma'aseh b'reishit.

Rather, I think that halachikly there is exactly the opposite
presumption; that a worker is diligent in their work.  For example, a
male gynecologist is "oseik b'amanuta"--presumably involved in his
craft, and NOT presumed to be involved in illegitimate matters involving
his patient.  And this is so in spite of the occasional physician who's
convicted of just such a crime.  The presumption is lekav z'chut.

From: <harry.weiss@...> (Harry Weiss)
Date: Fri, 13 May 94 18:02:05 
Subject: Academic Research

The arguments given by Hayim Hendeles on Academic research is absolutely
ridiculous.  (I hate to refer to anyone's articles by that term, but
that is the mildest description I could come up with.)

I am not an academic or a Rabbi and the various subtle differences
between the academic approach and Rabbinic approach to various subjects
is way over my head.  There is a legitimate reason to discuss the
various approaches and possible difference of hashkafa between academics
and Rabbinics.  The arguments in the posting, however, are out of line.

Many items were appropriately brought up in the moderator's response.
Many academic instructors, (especially at community college level) do
not publish.  However, all researchers do publish, otherwise the results
of their research would not be known.  The same applies to Rabbis and
Roshei Yeshivah.  The Rabonim whose views are quoted are those who are
published.  The importance of publishing among Rabbis is so important
that many great Rabbis of the past are known by their books more than
their name.

For a Rebbe (unless he obtains an inherited position) he frequent must
publish novellae or responsa to rise to the level of Rosh Yeshiva.  I do
not think this has created a problem of reliability among Roshei
Yeshivoth, nor among academic.

Hayim discusses the issues of fraud among academics.  Though there are
far more academics than Rabbis and Roshei Yeshivoth, in recent times
there seem to be more cases of Rabbis and Roshei Yeshivoth being
arrested for fraud than academics.  G-d forbid that we should reject the
work of all Rabbis and Roshei Yeshivoth because a few create a Chilul
Hashem.  Similarly, we can not reject all academics because of a very
few cases of fraud.

The comment by Hayim that I found most unbelievable was "As an aside,
perhaps one might also argue, that academics can only publish works
which agree with the general "accepted" school of thought. Oftentimes,
when original research leads an academic to a conclusion at odds with
the general community, they face ridicule, scorn, loss of grants, and
even possible termination. Thus, an academian may not even be able to
give you an unbiased opinion."

The fear that permeates the Charedi community if someone publishes
something that is not 100% politically correct is far worse than
anything that exists in academia.  (The attacks or Rav Steinsalz and the
forced revision of Shmirat Shabat K'Hilchata are good examples.)

If someone wishes to question the academic approach to a topic, the
subject should be addressed on it merits and not by denigrating an
entire class of people, many of whom, happen to be frum Jews.

Chag Sameach

From: Ezra Dabbah <ny001134@...>
Date: Thu, 19 May 94 22:02:25 -0500
Subject: Academic Research

My understanding of research is that it is always accepted. When I was 3
years old, I had my tonsils taken out (in the 1950's). Today it's
unheard of to take tonsils out unless there are major considerations
involved.  Many life and death situations regarding surgery or new
medicines are made every day that were not acceptable 20 years ago. And
20 years from now these procedures will be outdated as well. Clearly,
when it comes to sakanat nefashot, we will go with what the latest
research bears.  But what does the Gemara say about research? If you
look at Pesahim 94b, the Amoraim have an interesting discussion
regarding planetary movements.  The generally accepted Jewish view is
that the sun rises in the east, sets in the west, goes above the
firmament (rakea) where it can't be seen, goes backwards, breaks through
the firmament and repeats the process. The hachmei umot haolam (wise men
of the world) say the sun rises in the east, sets in the west, goes
below the earth, comes around and does it again.  The Gemara then admits
"divrehem medevarenu" (their's is better than ours).  Rabenu Tam comes
along and says that when it says "divrehem medevarenu" it simply means
that they have a better proof but the fact remains that the sun does
indeed stay behind the firmament at night. He sites the pasook "ubokea
halonei rakea" (He pierces the window of the firmament).  The Rambam (a
doctor) comes along and rejects all previous religious notions and
clearly states that the sun revolves around the earth.  Most everyone
agrees with this *fraudulent* theory.  Generally, people had to conform
to believe the religious view of planetary movement under threat of
excommunication during the middle ages, Jew and non-jew alike. Today, no
one can argue that the sun is not the center of solar system and that
the earth does not revolve around sun. However, 2 years ago there was a
Jewish Expo here in New York at the Jacob Javitz Center and people were
taught to believe otherwise! One of the programs was a discussion on
birkat halebana (the monthly moon prayer). It seems some yeshiva high
school students set up the project and put the earth at the center of
the universe. I would imagine that a teenager would find it hard to
disagree with his rebbe (especially if he's quoting the Rambam) but I
hope one day these kids as well as their rabbi will admit to academic
research just like the Gemara in Pesahim does.

Ezra Dabbah    

From: <eposen@...> (Esther R Posen)
Date: 19 May 94 14:29:11 GMT
Subject: Re: Academic Research

Excuse my ignorance on the subject, but why is academic research any different 
than someone who writes and sells his own seforim?

Esther Posen


From: Jerome Parness <parness@...>
Date: Fri, 13 May 1994 16:20:21 -0500 (EDT)
Subject: Hayim Hendeles/halachic validity of academic research

   I think the topic is interesting, but the intellectual point of take
off is spurious.
   1. Research is not a court of law. The concept of bearing false
witness secondary to a pay off has no valdity with regards to salaries
for any kind of job. The analogy is simply apples and oranges - no
logical validity.
   2. Publishing in the academic community is subject to peer review, an
admittedly imperfect mechanism of righting intellectual wrongs over the
short term, but remarkably resilient over the long term.  I daresay,
that in religious writings, intellectual "wrongs' are immediately
relegated to the wastebasket called heresy, and the range, if not the
profundity, of intellectual inquiry is much more circumscribed.  It is
far more difficult, and of potentially far greater disastrous
consequences for an individual, to publish something "heretical" in
religious communities, than in academic communities.  Losing your
reputation, grants, even job, are nothing compared to loss of life,
limb, family threatened, etc. I don't need to go into detail here, and
this statement is not simply to be perceived as being directed at
religious zealotry in the jewish community alone. Suffice it to say that
in general, religious heresy is far less tolerated by a religious
society, than is academic heresy in the western academic tradition.
   3. It is a bit disingenuous to intimate that halachic decisions that
someone would like to promulgate that goes against the thoughts of
another Gadol B'torah, who might have quite zealous followers, does not
inhibit the promulgation of same.  We have all heard stories, and
stories, from both sides of the coin, and now is not the time to delve
into this matter.  The mishnah in Pirkei Avot that says Hevei az k'namer
(be bold as a leopard) is not said for nothing. It takes a huge amount
of intellectual strength to pasken aginst a tide, if you believe you are
right. Especially today, with instant communication and ability to rally
"forces" on moments notice.
   5.  To relegate the function of Rashei Yeshivah to Teacher status
without any real Posek status, is to my mind, also a bit disingenuous.
All Rashei Yeshivah that I have known, whether they have published or
not, have given private piskei halacha to their constituents (talmidim
and ba'aleibatim).  Judaism is an oral tradition at its basic level,
western academic tradition is a most assuredly written one. One can not
compare the two in that manner.  One can be used to complement the
other, however.
   6. To speculate on the reason that Rav JB Soloveitchik zt"l did not
publish his manuscripts, is not to understand the Brisk way.  To say
that he did not write any manuscripts is ridiculous. It is reported that
he had written over two hundred manuscripts that were not published in
his lifetime, but hopefully will be bimheirah b'yamenu. Moreover, he
considered himself primarily a teacher, and not a Rov - this by his own
admisssion.  And to say that whatever he did publish was not of the
highest lomdische and academic character at one and the same time is to
never have studied his works.
   7. I would like to correct a potentially very damaging statement made
by Hayim, through no fault of his own but rather sensationalized
newspaper reporting, with regards to the recent breast cancer study
brouhaha.  The data was not phony! After speaking with a respected
statistician at the NIH who was not involved in the study, but who
reviewed the data for the recent inquiry... at worst, a huge study
contains data from a small number of patients of the total pool the
effects of whom, on the aggregated statistical determinations were not
significant. Removal of those patients from statistical consideration
did not change the results or their statistical significance.  And, at
best, inclusion of these patients make the results more widely
applicable.  Much of what was done with regards to the French Canadian
researcher was morally correct, much of what is being done in the US
with regards to various people that head the study is very much
politically motivated because of the arrogance of various people in
positions of charge. In Europe, entry criteria for patients into
clinical trials are far less regulated and stringent.  Many
statisticians feel that for that reason, results from these studies are
more widely applicable, many do not.  But that in itself is a topic of
honest and serious debate and reasoned argument by statisticians all
over the world. This would put the Montreal researcher's acts in a less
serious light. In any event, I wouldn't want this list to promulgate
medical hysteria to its female subscribers without this chance to put
them more at ease, and to be more informed on this very sensitive

    Hag Sameach
Jerome Parness MD PhD         Internet: <parness@...>
Depts of Anesthesia & Pharmacology   Voice: (908) 235-4824
UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School  FAX: (908) 235-4073
Piscataway, NJ 08854


From: Michael Broyde <RELMB@...>
Date: Sun, 15 May 1994 09:37:22 -0400
Subject: Re: Tradition and Academics

The question about believablity of academic Jewish scholarship is not,
IMHO, to be answered through a technical read of the laws of edut.  It
is clear from CM 34:11 and the commentaries on it that the form of
payment received by a professor would be permissible to be received as a
witness; Unlike a dayan, the objection to a witness is generally not
thought to be biblical in origin.  Those, we allow many forms of
indirect payment -- what the Taz, nevitot and Aruch Hashulchan call
*sechar holicha*.  An academic -- like a witness at a get -- is not paid
to say a particular thing, but rather is paid generally and and such is
creditable as to what he saw.  In addition, it is important to realize
that most achronim accept that these rules concerning payment to not
even apply to situations of *miltat deavidita legeluai*.  In short, the
rules for edut to not provide a paradim for a discussion of the role of
Jewish academics in torah scholarship.  The topic, is however, worthy of
more discussion, generally

From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Sun, 15 May 94 15:12:18 +0300
Subject: Tradition and academics

     Hayim Hendeles accuses some academics of cheating and concludes
that therefore their works are not to be treated seriously from a
halakhic viewpoint.
       It is no secret that several academics have produced forgeries
and other tainted research. On the other hand similar phenomena has
appeared in the Torah world. As one simple example the sefer "Besamim
Rosh" was attributed to the Rosh and is now generally considered to be
by someone else. Many of the chiddushim of the rishonim, Ramban, Rashba,
Ritva etc. have been mixed up. Some of these were mistakes and some were
intentional frauds. In the article of Prof. Leiman that I mailed to some
people he shows that some of the statements of Rav Yaakov Embden against
Rav Eibshutz stretched the truth.
      The lesson from this is that we should take the written word a
little less seriously. A researchers work is valuable only when it is
verified by other people. Many people in this group has pointed out the
differences between theories and generally accepted truths. This also
applies to the Torah world. The several suggestions of what Techelet was
are all theories and not accepted truths and this has to be taken into
account in the Halakhah.
       One subject that was discussed recently was suggestions that
"shibboleth shual" is not oats. As I far as I am concerned there are two
legitimate ways to argue against this. Either one points out the
falacies in the theory, on scientific grounds, or else one says that
this kind of theory does not affect Halakhah and it is useless to verify
or disprove the theory. What is not legitimate is to claim that maybe
the authors made up the theory just to get some more publications on
their list and get another promotion. In debates that is called "ad
hominem", one attacks the person when one cannot attack the ideas.
      In fact, I am presently in the preliminary stages of an article on
tradition and experimentation. Some of the examples that are used are
Techelet, oats, maror, size of measurements (ke-zait, amah etc.), the
origins of the Ethipoian Jews, the position of the Temple and Altar,
Tefillin. If some people have other suggestions I would appreciate
mailing them to me.
       Also if anyone requested but did not get a copy of Leiman's two
articles please let me know again.



End of Volume 13 Issue 14