Volume 16 Number 91
                       Produced: Mon Nov 28 23:29:41 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Faith and Reason
         [Meyer Rafael]
         [Steve Levy]
More On The Flood, Mesorah and Non-literal Interpretations
         [M. Shamah]
         [Lon Eisenberg]


From: Meyer Rafael <mrafael@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Nov 1994 19:11:09 
Subject: Re: Faith and Reason

The seemingly *eternal* :-) debate about the age of the earth (et al)
has touched on many important issues.

I was interested in Moishe Kimmelman's introducing of the difference
between the fool and the the wise man. We all yearn to at least emulate
the wise man; and yet we seem to find it difficult to actually find a
method of analysis that leads to wisdom.

The issue that specifically seems to bother the correspondents to MJ is
that if we acknowledge that HaShem created man with the faculty of
reason what should we do with this attribute?  It seems that many (but
not all) replies have been reluctant to accept the notion that yeridat
hadorot has reached a point where human intelligence is worthless and
thus unthinking acceptance of previously established principles is the
only (reasonable!) course of action.

It also seems to me that the people who propose to miminize the
usefulness of reason seek to counter-balance with a stress of the notion
of emunah. I will simply say "ein haKadosh Baruch-Hu vatran": the
mitzvah of Talmud Torah can only be fulfilled with reason. Is there any
mitvah where the performance is dependent on emunah the way Talmud Torah
depends on reason?

I would like to suggest that question of the age of the universe is not
really an issue of such moment. I can imagine that there are perfectly
good Jews who accept the idea of 24 hour literally and those who accept
that "yom" is indeed a vague measure of cyclic cosmic dimensions.

The issue that irreconcilably divides Jewish thinking from Hellenic (ie
alien) thought: What does the creator of the universe want from his

In this context, it is understandable that Jews can feel threatened by
science; science and rationality appear to have been used to weaken
Jewish consciousness and resolve. Unfortunately this has been the
mission of the Haskalla and Reform: attack Jewishness with caricatures
of reason. I would suggest that danger to Judaism comes not from reason,
rather from pseudo-science plied by people with bad intent.

Reason was provided to Jews in order to understand Torah and thus to
draw ourselves closer to HaShem. I can see the problems faced by a
religious teacher in a Jewish environment where Jewish values have
suffered from internal sabotage from Haskalla and Reform and from
external evils from Nazism, Stalinism and the Western neo-paganism. I
can also see at a practical level that saying we "we cannot understand"
is simply a statement of fact in some cases which were well known to
Chachomim: why tzaddikim suffer and so forth but "non- comprehension" as
a *goal* of or activity sounds like nihilism.

   Meyer Rafael                             VOICE +613-525-9204
   East St Kilda, VIC, Australia            FAX   +613-525-9109


From: <Apikorus@...> (Steve Levy)
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 1994 00:19:06 -0500
Subject: More on DAAS TORAH

Binyomin Segal says:
>...now i wonder what good it is asking for their insight and advice if you
plan not to listen to them...

Marbeh Aitzah Marbeh Tevunah - One who seeks A LOT OF COUNSEL WILL HAVE
MUCH INSIGHT [INTO HIS OWN SITUATION] This statement encourages a person
to seek advice from all of the Gedolim, who often give conflicting
advice. The "Nudniks" have every right and responsibilty to ask for non
halachic advice.  They also have the right to do as they please and to
eat the fruit of their own actions whether they succeed because they did
not listen or if they fail because they did listen.

>recall that republicans are generally against
>abortion & democrats are generally for it. recall that murder is a big one
>(even for non-jews - not to mention that jews get abortions too). it may be
>that daas torah is issuing essentially a halachik psak - saving lives,
>jewish & non-jewish is more important than being a democrat.

Do not forget that certain very respectable Halachic opinions believe
that abortion is OK under many circumstances.

Daniel Levy Est.MLC says:
>The study of Torah is not "go see what you can figure out with this", but
>rather a system of learning transmitted generationally.

If this is so then why do the Sephardim and Temanim have completely
different methods of study from the stifling European type. BTW the
people at Discover\Arachin do just that and "try to see what they can
find" in their codes lectures. Indeed, any book written in a Semetic
tongue (including Koran and the Israel phone book) have fake codes which
can be easily found!

>Rather the answer is education about local authorities...

It would be better advice to become a local authority. Aseh Lecha Rav -
{many translate as} make yourself [into] an authority.

>Don't forget that what you may view as trivial, someone with lesser
>knowledge may view as complex - especially if he does not know how to proceed
>in the situation in which he finds himself. 

Most Am Haaretzim I have met get confused with issues which are
complicated and believe that they are really simple.


From: <MSHAMAH@...> (M. Shamah)
Date: Sun, 27 Nov 1994 23:31:42 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: More On The Flood, Mesorah and Non-literal Interpretations

Yosef Bechhofer opposed citation of the Rambam on eternity, Rav Kook on
evolution and some Rishonim on necromancy as examples of traditional
sources supporting the right to interpret a Torah description of an
event non-literally if so indicated by overwhelming scientific evidence
contrary to the previous tradition.  As he recommends we should read the
Rambam's words (and I thank him for correctly indicating that I should
have written Plato instead of Aristotle in my previous submission.)  The
following is from the Moreh II:25, Pines translation p. 327-9:

     "Know that our shunning affirmation of the eternity of the
     world is not due to a [Torah] text.. for we could interpret
     them as figurative.. Two causes are responsible for our not
     doing this or believing it.  One.. eternity of the world has
     not been demonstrated.  Consequently in this case texts ought
     not to be rejected and figuratively interpreted in order to
     make prevail an opinion whose contrary can be made to prevail
     by means of various sorts of arguments.. second.. eternity the
     way Aristotle sees it.. destroys the law in its principle,
     necessarily gives the lie to every miracle.. If, however, one
     believed in eternity according to.. Plato.. this.. would not
     destroy the foundations of the Law.. It would also be possible
     to interpret figuratively the texts in accordance with this
     opinion.. However, no necessity could impel us to do this
     unless this opinion were demonstrated.  In view of the fact
     that it has not been demonstrated, we shall not favor this
     opinion.. but rather shall take the texts according to their
     external sense and shall say: the Law has given us knowledge
     of a matter the grasp of which in not within our power and the
     miracle attests to the correctness of our claim."

This indicates that the Rambam held that Plato's theory of Eternity -
since it doesn't destroy the foundations of Torah - might theoretically
have been acceptable.  However, as it wasn't demonstrated (and cannot so
be) we reject it based on tradition.  We do not reject on tradition a
proposition that does not go against the foundation of the Torah if it
was demonstrated.  (The Rambam does not fully subscribe to the Ramban's
and Kuzari's understanding of tradition.)  It should be borne in mind
that "demonstration" according to the Rambam was not limited to "hard"
science but included logic, philosophy and metaphysics.  When the
logical evidence was overwhelming it was a demonstration, not a
"theory", and could not easily be dismissed.  Therefore, it appears that
Yosef Bechhofer is misreading this Rambam when he states:

>>What the Rambam says is that were Chazal not to have stated that
>the world is created, he would not have a problem with the eternity
>of matter from a theological standpoint.  He does not say what you
>attribute to him, that were science to "refute" Chazal, he would
>accept science over Chazal.  The Rambam was a smart man, he knew
>that science cannot state with certainty anything about the past... 

>>Could I please have precise chapter and verse citation as to
>where the Rambam says that scientific THEORY requires us to
>reinterpret Torah?

He continues:

>>...You err, however, concerning Rav Kook.  Rav Kook never deals
>with the question of the Six Days - only Evolution, which is quite
>a different issue, as the series of consecutive worlds described by
>the Tiferes Yisroel and others might accommodate the literal Six
>Days and Evolution quite well.  Indeed, Rav Kook's primary concern
>with Evolution was the application of that theory to social and 
>moral development on a metaphysical and metahistorical plane.  He 
>does not, to the best of my knowledge - perhaps you would like to
>bring chapter and verse citations that I am unaware of - engage in 
>Scriptural reinterpretation.<<

The citation of Rav Kook's written recommendation (or urging) to teach
Torah in accordance with evolution did not at all refer to his modifying
the meaning of a day (the history of such modification also perhaps
being an example of adapting interpretation to evidence) but to the fact
that previously there was unanimity in understanding the verses
describing the creations of the Six Days as a series of discrete
creative activities, species created just as they presently are, each
physically independent of the preceding creation.  Accepting a form of
the theory of evolution necessarily requires reinterpretation of
Scriptural passages contrary to previously prevalent interpretation.

Regarding citation of some Rishonim's non-literal interpretation of the
conversation between King Shaul and the "conjured" deceased prophet
Shemuel, Yosef Bechhofer writes:

>>The Rishonim did not believe that SCIENCE repudiated necromancy
>... What Rishonim did say is something to the effect of: "My
>masters have taught me theology and I have learnt more theology
>from the Bible and the Talmud.  Based on my understanding of the
>theology of Judaism, I come to the conclusion that the Biblical
>Passage concerning the Necromancer of Ov refers not to an act of
>witchcraft, which is invariably an illusion, but a prophetic vision
>that King Shaul, a known prophet, experienced.<<

But a number of Rishonim, in adition to interpreting necromancy (as well
as magic) fraudulent, did not believe Shaul had a prophecy at that
moment, the episode being understood as something of a mental
apparition, contrary to both the literal appearance of the text and the
apparent Talmudic understanding of it. It would appear the combination
of science, logic and philosophy provided overwhelming evidence to
prompt their forced interpretation of the text.

He further states regarding the Flood:

>> I am amazed at the blind faith that some have when it comes to 
>"multi-disciplinary unanimity of numerous serious researchers," 
>faith we would not give to our Mesorah.  Scientific theory is 
>constantly in flux! <<  

Those with whom this debate began, who studied the subject extensively
and found an immense amount of scientific evidence in many different
fields indicating there could not have been a Flood as literally
described in Parashat Noah 4000 years ago, and find absolutely no
evidence for such a Flood in any area of scientific endeavor, and find a
prophetic allegorical interpretation of it meaningful, inspiring and in
harmony with Torah and with the literary record of the ancient near
east, should not be thought of as having blind faith in science.

Scientific theory regarding the possibility of the Flood as literally
described in Parashat Noah has not been in any sort of flux; evidence
against it has been incessantly accumulating for generations, rendering
a non-literal interpretation more likely.


From: <eisenbrg@...> (Lon Eisenberg)
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 94 13:04:12 IST
Subject: Opera

I would like to apologize to Steve Albert for the delay in responding to
his post of November 4 (Volume 16 #39), but wish to do so now:

I am also not an expert in opera or qol 'ishah (a woman's voice), but
believe that nobody claims that a regular (speaking) voice of a woman is
any problem; the issue of "qol 'ishah" refers only to a singing voice.
I will also admit that it is less clear to me after reviewing what I
quoted and the section after it in the Mishnah Berurah (which Ya`akov
Menken subsequently posted) that one can blanketly hear a woman sing as
long as it doesn't cause lewd thoughts; however, I still believe that
that is the major issue.

What I said in response to Ya'akov (and I'm not sure whether or not it
is correct) is that since the Mishnah Berurah is discussing a woman's
voice during Shema`, that that is the case to which all the detailed
prohibitions (including single woman and non-Jewish woman) apply.  The
problem is with the word "le`olam", which Ya`akov wants to translate as
"always" [to include times when Shema` is not being said] and I want to
translate as "forever" [but only applying to times Shema` is being
said].  The problem with my translation is that it is a slightly awkward
thing to say; the problem with his translation is that, since the
restriction includes all forbidden women, that would include mothers,
sisters, etc., which seems a bit far fetched (but it would seem
perfectly reasonable to restrict hearing them sing while saying Shema`).

To cloud the issue a little more, I checked the Rambam (Chapter 21:2 of
"'Isurei Bi'ah" ["Forbidden Relations"]), where he states: Even one who
looks at a woman's pinky finger to benefit as if he looked at a
sexually-stimulating place, and even to hear the voice of one with whom
relations are forbidden or to see her hair is forbidden.

As clear as Rambam usually tends to be, here I see some ambiguity.  I
would say that the second part (about voice and hair) would also apply
to benefiting like seeing a sexually-stimulating place, but one could
argue that it is a catch-all prohibition.  The problem I have with that
is similar to the problem I had with Ya`akov's translation of the
Mishnah Berurah: this would mean that one could not hear his mother,
sister, etc. sing or see her hair, which, as far as I know, is not the

Until someone can offer conclusive proof to the contrary, I will
continue to believe that the prohibition of "qol 'ishah" applies always
during Shema` (or during times of prayer) and at other times when the
intention (or result?)  is sexual arousal.  I certainly don't see it
applying to female guests singing along with my family at the Shabbath
table.  I find it hard to believe that it should apply to opera (but
maybe there are those who find opera sexually arousing).

As a P.S., IMHO, the reason for prohibiting qol 'ishah during Shema` and
prayer is because of distraction (much like the prohibition of placing
temporary objects in the way or pictures at eye level in a synagogue, as
was recently discussed in the nicely-formatted "Halakha Yomith" that
Ya`akov Menken distributes), not sexual arousal (so one should not
listen to his mother or sister sing while saying Shema`).



End of Volume 16 Issue 91