Volume 16 Number 53
                       Produced: Sun Nov 13 13:45:53 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Age of the Universe, the earth, and refuting science.
         [Constance Stillinger]
Age of the Universe, the Earth, and Refuting Science.
         [David Charlap]
Haredi Society and Selective Quotations
         [Shaul Wallach]
Lightstone's Comments on Age of the Universe
         [Stan Tenen]
Methods used by scientists for age of the universe
         [Yechezkel Schatz]
Rare Shemoneh Esrei
         [Joseph Steinberg]
Slavery, et al.
         [Zvi Weiss]
Swearing in Court
         [David Charlap]


From: Constance Stillinger <cas@...>
Date: Tue, 8 Nov 1994 16:08:36 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Age of the Universe, the earth, and refuting science.

<light@...> (Sam Lightstone) writes:
> There is little question in my mind that our universe is several
> billions of years old, and that our earth is likewise several billions
> of years old.  I am disturbed (philosophically) by the opinions of those
> who suggest that this belief is incorrect by six or seven orders of
> magnitude...

Well, in MY view, EVERYBODY seems to be committing a fallacy here.

Science is *empirical*---ie, concerned with the collection and
assimilation of observable data, but faith is not.  We shouldn't be
trying to force the rules of evidence on our religious beliefs, nor
should we interfere with the rules of science by imposing on them
non-empirical beliefs about evidence.

As a religious Jew I accept the revealed truth of Torah, but as a
scientist I also accept the rules and conclusions of science as the
current best data-based inferences we can make about the observable

It can be sort of interesting to try to make the two areas meet, but
if you can't immediately reconcile them, that's no reason to throw out
either, because they really aren't comparable to begin with.

I think we should all relax and accept that there are some things, eg
the occasional apparent contradiction between the conclusions of
science and those of Torah learning, that may never be explained to
our satisfaction in this world.

Dr. Constance A. (Chana) Stillinger        <cas@...>
Research Coordinator, Education Program for Gifted Youth
Stanford University      http://kanpai.stanford.edu/epgy/pamph/pamph.html

From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Tue, 8 Nov 94 12:40:49 EST
Subject: Age of the Universe, the Earth, and Refuting Science.

<light@...> (Sam Lightstone) writes:
>Personally I prefer one of two possible explanations:
>1) We don't have all of the scientific and theological knowledge
>   we need to resolve this seeming contradiction.

I can accept this answer, since it's a simple "I don't know" response.

>2) The answer lies in the kind of relativistic model proposed by
>   Dr.  Schroeder in his book "Genesis and the Big Bang".  A theory
>   which many people have referred to in this discussion.  The basic
>   idea of this theory being that the story of the fist six days is
>   told from the frame of reference of its implementer (G-d)
>   After the story of creation, the remainder of the Torah is told
>   from the frame of reference of the beings that are involved in the
>   history therein: human beings.

In other words, you choose to interpret the Torah in a way that can't
make sense without relativity and other parts of modern physics.  You
believe that it was impossible to properly understand the Creation
story before this century.

I don't buy that argument.  I can't believe God would give a document
that would be meaningless for the first hundred generations of

What's wrong with the simple theory (proposed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
ztz"l) that a "Day" in the Creation story is really a "phase" and not
a unit of time at all?  That wouldn't contradict your scientific
observations and is easy for anybody in any age to understand.


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 94 15:18:59 IST
Subject: Haredi Society and Selective Quotations

     Sometimes people object to the ideas being presented here by saying
that they are based on "selective" quotations of sources. I would like
to remind people that the Talmud itself, as well as the Midrashim, are
all based on such "selective" quotations of source material, be they
Biblical verses, Mishayot or sayings of Amoraim.  In any Talmudic
discussion, two or more Tannaim or Amoraim will each bring sources to
support his argument, and the students will do their best to reconcile
the conflicting interpretations presented. Sometimes the differences
turn out to be very trivial, while at other times one opinion is totally
rejected because it conflicts with an accepted principle. Sometimes the
difference arises from the fact that an Amora was not aware of all the
sources ("La Shami`a Leih"). Throughout, however, the Talmud displays a
love for the truth without respect for persons, and no opinion is ever
considered too unreasonable to be rejected out of hand without
submitting it to level-headed critical inquiry.

     It is more of this Talmudic spirit that I would like to see here in
Mail-Jewish. If someone presents a source or an opinion that we don't
like, why not present an alternative interpretation backed up by other
source material? Only by judging carefully the various sources can we
ever hope to attain a rational appraisal of the issue at hand.

     It is with this spirit in mind that I wish to comment briefly on my
portrayal of the reformation of Haredi society after the founding of the
State of Israel. What I wrote was based mainly on what I remember from
the book "Ha-Hevra Ha-Haredit" by Prof. Menahem Friedman here at
Bar-Ilan. It could be that my memory was faulty about some of the
details, or that I am lacking other pertinent details, but instead of
just telling me so, I would appreciate very much being corrected by
references to sources of concrete information.

     Thank you very much.


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 1994 11:38:01 -0800
Subject: Re: Lightstone's Comments on Age of the Universe

I am very appreciative of Sam Lightstone's posting, m-j 16, No. 42, on 
the "Age of the universe, .....", with which I agree almost in its 
entirety.  I don't mean to "beat this horse to death", but in the 
interest of understanding, and given that I agree with Sam Lightstone, I 
would like to hear his further comments, and the further comments of 
those who generally agree with him, on why he/they feel(s) that Dr. 
Schroeder's relativistic approach to reconciling B'reshit's 6-"days" 
with the age of the universe as science knows it (more or less) this 
week is meaningful.

I'm not interested in promoting further statements - I and many others 
have already made declarations on this issue.  Rather I am interested in 
the reasoning used by those who believe that this hypothesis is 
plausible and/or worthy of further serious study.  (I am not advocating 
that anyone NOT study anything.  Even frivolous study can often lead to 
important insight - and who knows what is frivolous before they check?)

Personally, as I have posted, I find this view very hard to understand.  
I find it even harder to understand when it appears along with other 
ideas that I do understand, appreciate and agree with.  That is why I am 
particularly interested in the reasoning of Sam and those who generally 
agree with his posting.  Have I missed something here?

My question is, how does the "relativistic" reconciliation differ from 
the idea that Hashem just made everything appear to be billions of years 
old?  Isn't the "relativistic" theory flawed in the same way?  Why does 
couching the "Hashem made it look that way" theory in scientific terms 
change the logic?  

No scientist proposes that the so-called laws of physics - including the 
theory of relativity - were as we know them "at the beginning" and there 
is no presumption that even the term "time" means the same thing at the 
beginning.  Doesn't this mean that the "relativistic" theory is just as 
much based on "Hashem made it look that way" as the same idea expressed 
without relativity?  

Who (except Hashem) is present at creation to be conscious of which 
dimension "time" is?  Who (besides Hashem) is there to say which is 
"time" and which is "space", which dimensions are accessible and which 
enfolded?  These terms only have meaning for humans and none could have 
been present. 

It seems to me that there is only one reason why we believe that "the 
essence of the heavens and the essence of the earth" "were" creatED in 
"6-days."  (Aleph-Tov, ET, is sometimes translated "essence of" in 
discussions in Kabbalistic sources.)  The reason is, that _is_ the Pshat 
translation that has come down to us from our sages.  We are told that 
at the word and story level, when Torah says "yom" in the creation 
story, that means "day" in simple modern language.  

That is a given.  Why should we take it as any more?  There is no need 
to prove a given, PARTICULARLY when it serves as a DEFINITION in a 
particular context.  

We are also taught that Torah is not complete in the Pshat ONLY.  
Judaism differs from its later derivatives by insisting that the WHOLE 
of Torah must include the other 3-levels of meaning.  I think we can all 
agree that the part is not the whole.  My question is, why treat the 
part as if it is the whole?  Does this not go against traditional 

Stan Tenen


From: Yechezkel Schatz <lpschatz@...>
Date: 9 Nov 1994 12:04:50 +0200
Subject: Methods used by scientists for age of the universe

Re Sam Lightstone's posting in  mj,Volume 16 Number 42.
In one of my previous postings I discussed the assumptions underlying any
method for determining the age of the earth based on scientific phenomena. I
mentioned three: 
1) that we know the startpoint, the initial measurement at creation
2) that we know the rate of change and that it is constant
3) the integrity of our samples
After reading Sam's posting I realize I skipped the most basic assumptions: 
that the scientific phenomenon exists, that our interpretation of the
scientific findings is not an imaginary scenario, that it dates back to
Sam writes:
>If the world was created with sea water being pure H2O
*What IF NOT? (yes, I am a doing my masters in biology...!)
>it is no coincidence that when looking on a map you observe that North
America seems as though it fits with Europe like pieces of a puzzle.  This is
the model known as Plate Techtonics.  We know that today the continents are
drifting at a rate of about 1 inch / year.  Using this model, and assuming
the rate of drift is somewhat constant...
*What if this phenomena does not date back to creation? What if its rate is
not constant at all? I find the expressions "about 1 inch" and "assuming ...
somewhat constant" quite troubling.  I prefer the historical account givin in
the bible for the seperation of continents to the guesswork done by
Sam writes:
> so many independent means all agree to an estimated age of the earth of 4.5
billion years, in a universe at least 10 billion years.
*sure, when you know what figures you're aiming at, it's very easy to arrange
the math in such a way so as you reach those results. It's called playing
with numbers.  Using assumptions of "somewhat constant rates" or "rates of
about..." can be a big help in such calculations. Furthermore,
sam writes:
> you'd have to refute most of 19th and 20th century physics and chemistry!
*the holy number of 4.5 billion years is the number currently stated by
scientists. It has changed numerous times since the 19th century.  Moreover,
different methods most certainly do give different results.


From: Joseph Steinberg <steinber@...>
Date: Wed, 9 Nov 1994 13:34:29 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Rare Shemoneh Esrei

This is incorrect. The original poster mentioned a Shemoneh Esrei that is 
far more 'rare'... Purim in Jerusalem is on Shabbat far more often than 
we say:

 1) atah chonantanu, because it is Motzei Shabbat, 2) Ten brachah, because
it is still before Dec. 4, 3) ya'aleh veyavo, because it is Rosh Chodesh,
and 4) al hanissim, because it is Chanukah. 


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Wed, 9 Nov 1994 12:31:23 -0500
Subject: Slavery, et al.

While we no longer practice the Torah-sanctioned forms of slavery, I do
not know of any authority who prohibits this halachically.  In the case
of Eved Ivri (a Jew sold into [limited] slavery), it seems that without
Yovel, the halacha is "inactive" -- i.e., we cannot use this institution
without an "active" Yovel".  As far as Eved K'na'ani (a non-Jew sold
into [semi-permanent] slavery), I have not seen any prohibitions and it
appears to be a pure case of "Dinah D' Malchuta " -- i.e., something
prohibited by the government -- which we must obey....
 Similarly, the rule re "concubines" (actually, this refers to WIVES) is
one that cannot be "activated" because (a) we do not wage war under
Torah Auspices as an "optional war" -- which is the sort that allows
this type of activity.  [In order to have an "optional war" ("Milchemet
R'shut"), it appears that one requires a Sanhedrin and a King ("Melech")
see the Gemara in the beginning of B'rachot which describes how David
would be consulted re going to war and then would convene the Sanhedrin]
(b) going to war on a Mandatory Basis (Milchemet Mitzva) does not appear
to be the sort of battle where the Soldier is permitted "take" a lady in
that manner [A war of self-defence according to most opinions is
considered a "Mandatory" War...], (c) wars that we wage on behalf of the
Non-Jewish world (e.g., soldiers in the US Army) do not appear to fall
under this halacha...
 Thus, these two examples are not really valid in terms of whether the
Torah is permitting something harmful or not....
 In point of fact, one can argue that Eved K'na'ani is NOT intrinsically
harmful as the Eved now observes some level of Mitzvot (although I think
*that* should be explored under a different thread).  On the other hand,
the Gemara and all the commentaries clearly indicate that the Rule of
the Woman in Battle (The rule "Yefat To'ar") is NOT an ideal -- that the
Torah is permitting the "lesser of 2 evils" -- and that -- ideally -- a
soldier should NOT avail themselves of this rule....



From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Wed, 9 Nov 94 12:04:30 EST
Subject: Swearing in Court

Claire Austin <CZCA@...> writes:
>I ask my question again, how does a religious Jew explain BASED ON
>SOURCES why his religion does not allow him to take an oath in court?

I can think of a few ideas.  The full text of the oath (if I remember
correctly) is "I <name> swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth, so help me God."

One problem is that lying in court is already forbidden by halacha, so
it can be considered an oath taken in vain, which is forbidden.

Another problem is that this oath has no time limit on it.  Without
further qualifications (like "while in this court" and "for the
duration of this trial") you would be obligated to tell the truth, the
whole truth and nothing but the truth for the rest of your life!

Furthermore, you'd almost certainly be violating it.  Have you heard
of any court case where a witness tells the whole truth without
attorneys on both sides dragging it out?  If people actually did tell
"the whole truth", there would be no need to cross-examine witnesses!
As a matter of fact, an oath to tell the whole truth wouldn't let you
stop even if nobody wants to hear it.  Could you imagine what would
happen if the attorneys are finished with you and you keep on talking,
refusing to shut up because you swore to tell the _whole_ truth?  In
other words, it's an oath you probably will be unable to keep,
therefore you shouldn't make it in the first place.


End of Volume 16 Issue 53