Volume 17 Number 3
                       Produced: Thu Dec  1 22:22:51 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Age of the Universe
         [Mike Gerver]
Israel vs. Jacob
         [Zvi Weiss]
Note on Hanukah D'var Torah
         [Danny Skaist]
R. Ami Olami HI"D
         [Yuval Roichman]
Transmission of the tradition
         [Meylekh Viswanath ]


From: <GERVER@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 1994 2:33:09 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Age of the Universe

Mordechai Torczyner in v16n69, and Joshua Burton in v16n70, remark on
the recent Hubble Space Telescope results, which seem to show an age of
the universe of 8 billion years, vs. an apparent age of the oldest stars
of about 16 billion years old.

It seems to me that these results actually support the point of view
advanced by R. Aryeh Kaplan zt"l, and described by R. Yitzchok
Adlerstein in an article in the Fall 1991 issue of Jewish Action (the
O.U. magazine).  Rabbi Adlerstein summarized this point of view in a
posting in the last month or two (I don't have the exact issue handy),
and I summarized it in a posting a couple of years ago (in v4n58), so I
won't go into too much detail here. Briefly, it is based on a manuscript
"Otzar HaChaim" by Rabbi Yitzchok of Acco, born 700 years ago, which
interprets an earlier kabbalistic work "Sefer HaT'munah". He concludes
that the universe is 15.3 billion years. A similar idea, which I
mentioned in v4n25, gives an age of 14.2 billion years.

The astrophysicists I know take two approaches to reconciling the new
Hubble results with the previous estimates of the age of the oldest star
clusters. One approach, favored among those who put greater store in
observations than in theory, is to give up on the "inflationary
cosmology" which says that the density of matter in the universe should
be just enough to make space flat. If the density is several times lower
than this, then the Hubble data would imply an age of the universe of 12
billion years, or possibly as much as 14 billion years. This might just
be consistent with the lower limit of the estimates of the age of the
oldest stars. Another approach, favored by theorists, is to say that
inflationary cosmology is fine, but that the recent Hubble Telescope
results do not measure Hubble's constant as accurately as claimed,
because they ignore the possibility that galaxies are moving at a large
velocity relative to the average velocity of the galaxies around
them. The recent data were only for one galaxy, M100, and it may have an
anomolously high velocity. To have confidence in the results, it is
necessary to make measurements of redshifts and distances of a large
number of galaxies.  People taking this point of view would also be
happiest with an age of 14 or 15 billion years, since that minimizes the
anomalous velocity that M100 would have to have, while still staying
consistent with the range of error of the estimated age of the oldest

I don't know anyone who argues that the estimates of ages of the oldest
stars could be off by so much that the universe could be as little as 8
billion years. On the other hand, the recent Hubble results are most
easily understood if we adopt a low estimate of the ages of the oldest
stars, 14 or 15 billion years, rather than a high estimate of 17 or 18
billion old.

By the way, when I first read the article in Jewish Action, I had never
heard of Rabbi Adlerstein, since at that time he was not posting in
mail-jewish. When he did start posting, I enjoyed reading what he wrote,
but did not make the connection to the author of the Jewish Action
article, and I still did not make the connection last summer when I met
him in Los Angeles. So I did not tell him then how much I enjoyed the
article, but merely introduced myself as a fellow poster to
mail-jewish. His reaction, which I heartily agreed with, was "Oh, that--
I'm trying not to spend so much time on it!" It was only when he
mentioned the article in his posting here this fall, that I realized he
was the author. So I would like to thank him now for writing it, and to
tell him how much I enjoyed it.

Mike Gerver, <gerver@...>


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 1994 09:41:28 -0500
Subject: Israel vs. Jacob

Shaul Wallach has once again attempted to "prove" that the marriage of
Yitzhak and Rivka "is worthy of being chosen as an ideal Torah model of 
marriage".  In order to do this, he has ignored any commentaries that do not
support his thesis.
The Netziv -- at the endo of Chayei Sara -- when he discusses the meeting of
Yitzchak and Rivka points out that due to the circumstances of their meeting,
Rivka was NEVER able to have the same sort of relationship with HER husband 
that all of the other matriarchs had with their spouses.  The Netziv says
that Rivka was so overawed by her husband that she could never talk to him
-- which is why we find that Yitzchak does not even ask Rivka's permission
before he tells Avimelech that she is his sister.  Does this sound like an
"ideal" marriage?
RASHI -- on the verse "Ki Shnayim Yalda Li Ishti" appears to make it clear
that Ya'akov *ALWAYS* loved Rachel -- and that his love did not vanish after
7 years when she confronted him over her not having children.  Instead of
casting aspersions on the Avot, Shaul should check out the commentaries as to
WHY (as improper as it was) Ya'akov got angry.  Among the ocmmentaries that I
have seen: Because Rachel "cursed" herself by saying that w/out children she
would die.... and because she acted as if Ya'akov was responsible (even though
Ya'akov HAD been able to successfully father children)... There are other 
reasons advanced in the commentaries, as well... I do not beleive that ANY of 
them imply that Ya'akov "lost" his love.
Further, note the RASHI when Ya'akov first meets and kisses Rachel -- and cries
-- because he forsaw that she would not be buried with him....  *This* is
evidence solely of "physical" attraction???  
Keep in mind that when Rivka was childless -- so was Yitzchak... BOTH were 
equally "involved" in the problem... I do not see how that can be compared
so glibly to the matter here...
Finally, I would also suggest that Shaul consult R. Shimshon R. Hirsch on how
HE interprets that matter of the B'rachot ... and why Rivka helped in this
"deception" (BTW, a deception that -- according to the Netziv's interpretation
-- was only necessary because she could not openly confront Yitzchak about
Again, I feel the point has to be stressed.  It is most questionable to assert
that there is *the* Torah model of a marriage.  One can find varying
PROPER viewpoints of interpretations... This is to be expected .. The Torah has
"70 faces".  Ratehr than insist upon an "ideal" -- which may never have
existed, it is much more worthwhile to search in the Torah for what it can
teach us -- in our current situations.



From: DANNY%<ILNCRD@...> (Danny Skaist)
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 94 15:16 IST
Subject: Note on Hanukah D'var Torah

>Shaul Wallach
>    The answer, he said, has to do with the events the two occasions
>commemorate. Hanuka does not commemorate the military victory of the
>Hasmoneans over the Greeks, but rather the miracle of the olive oil

Hanukah, according to "Al Hanissim", was celebrated because of the
military victory.  No mention was made of the miracle of the oil, and it
was probably considered a very minor miracle compared to the victory.
The Gemorra in shabbat should rightly be learned.. "What is hanukah
(that is different from all the other holidays that celebrated military
victories. All of which were abandoned after the destruction of the
temple) ? The jar of oil etc."

The miracle of the oil is incidental to the real miracle of hanukah and
was just to indicate to us that this military victory should be
celebrated even after destruction of the temple and of the Jewish state.

>Purim, on the other hand, commemorates the actual military victory over
>Haman, who wanted to destroy the body, not the soul of the Jewish
>people, so its celebration is accordingly more material than spiritual.

Purim on the other hand commemorates the king changing his mind. I don't
see any real military victory when "no man stood before them" (Esther
9:2) and the Jews acted with the assistance of all the government
officials (see Esther 9:3) out of fear of Mordechai. [Haman had been
dead for 11 months when the battle took place]

>    The answer, he said, has to do with the events the two occasions

Better to say that it has to do with the THREAT to the Jewish people
from which we were saved. On Hanukah the danger was spiritual on purim
the danger was physical.

On the other hand, one major aspect of Purim was the unity of klall
Yisroel.  They ALL acted together.  Hanukah left the nation still
divided.  The war was actually a civil war. (T'mayim b'yad t'horim
[impure into the hands of the pure] must refer to Jews since non-Jews
cannot be either Tahor or Tamey)

Hanukah is celebrated "alone" every Jew in his house lighting his
menora.  (So who is in the street to whom we can publicize the miracle
if everybody is home lighting ??)

Purim, with the megilla, is at least as spiritual as Hanukah, but Purim
cannot be celebrated alone.



From: Yuval Roichman <yuval@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 1994 01:59:28 -0500 (EST)
Subject: R. Ami Olami HI"D

I would like to write some words on the memory of Rabbi Ami Olami, an
outstanding Talmid Chacham and a good friend, which was murdered by Arab
terrorists last Sunday.

R Ami was the great lover of Tora.  He was a fantastic musician, and had
a deep understanding in modern physics, philosophy and literature. But
his love to Tora pushed all these "hobbies" outside.

R Ami was born in Moshav Shavei Tzion and grew up with the best "yekish"
education. With this tolerant and high qualified education he arrived to
Yeshivat Hakotel, and was conquerred by the richness and deepness of the
Tora. He knew how to find this richness and how to show it to others.

He became the ILUI of Yeshivat Hakotel and a favorist partner for
learning to all the Rashei Yeshiva; The Talmid Muv'hak of Rabbi Shim'on
Shagar IBL"A.  He was very modest and a good friend. He didn't look for
any position, "Rabi Hanina Bni Dai Lo Bekav Charuvin".

He was a "Tzadik of Ithapcha" and not of "Itkafia" (in the Chasidic
sense); Namely, a natural Tzadik, Tzadik with no Yetzer Hara.

Friends forced him to be a Rosh Kolel of Otni'el. He gave a daily Shiur
in Yerushalmy, and told me how he enjoys the Yerushalmy "a new world !".

His wife Tirtza TBDL"A is also a real Tzadeket. For us, they were a
symbol of "a pure idealism of Tora".

R Ami's life were Kidush Hashem and not only his death.

I feel that R Ami tragedic death is a crisis in our world. The KB"H
tells us something but I don't understand what.



From: Meylekh Viswanath  <PVISWANA@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 1994 12:44:59 EST5EDT
Subject: Re: Transmission of the tradition

David Charlap suggests that the Oral Torah was transmitted in a fashion
comparable to the game of 'telephone,' where there is necessarily some
distortion after several transmissions.

Hayim Hendeles quotes the Rambam in his Intro. to the Mishna:

> anyone saying such a thing is guilty of ridiculing the Sages of Israel,
> and will ultimately have to give an accounting before G-d for making
> such a statement.

I'm not surprised that there would be such a statement by a rishon.  
What struck me upon first reading David's post, was that if his argument 
is allowed, we cannot rely on Yosef Bechhofer's point that we believe in 
the Torah as being God given, because that event was witnessed by 
600,000 people and transmitted to us in an unbroken chain.  We wouldn't 
be able to use science, logic etc; to reconstruct that, as we might be 
able, perhaps, to reconstruct some halokhes, because that event was a 
miracle (out of the realm of science).

At the same time, I have a problem with Yosef Bechhofer's statement 
regarding the giving of the Torah.  He says, in response to an earlier post 
by R. Shama:

> 5. Rabbi Shama never answered why he accepts, if he does, the Exodus and
> Lawgiving as literal.  Indeed, one MJ correspondent (<Apikorus@...>!)
> tells us they were not necessarily historical events! Well that is
> beyond Orthodoxy, and, quite frankly untenable, despite that
> individual's comparison to Christian tradition.  Billions of Christians
> admit to a faith religion based on personal revelation. We reject such
> faith out of hand.

I personally think there is no alternative within Orthodoxy to accepting 
the giving of the Torah as a historical event.  From there, I am led by 
Yosef Bechhofer's logic to accept other miraculous events (i.e. events 
that if interpreted literally would go counter to the accepted belief in 
science).  Hence, I have a conflict between the scientific theor(ies) of 
creation and the theory of evolution, on the one hand, and the description 
in the Torah, on the other.  (I believe that science cannot _prove_ 
anything, as I have argued before; hence there is no logical reason for a 
conflict.  Nevertheless, I find it difficult emotionally to reject the 
empirical 'proofs' for the scientific view of the creation of the world and 

However, just as I don't see how science can _prove_ anything, I don't
see how I can believe as a 'fact' that is necessarily true on
logical/rational grounds alone, that God gave us the Torah on Mt. Sinai.
I feel compelled to treat is as a matter of faith, which is what it is,
for me.

Is this point of view really rejected out of hand in Orthodoxy?  Or am I 
misunderstanding Yosef Bechhofer?  

Meylekh Viswanath


End of Volume 17 Issue 3