Volume 20 Number 14
                       Produced: Tue Jun 20  8:10:59 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Moshiach and death of Jews
         [Jonathan Katz]
         [Ralph Zwier]
         [Aleeza Esther Berger]
There is no second day
         [Norman Y. Singer]
Torah vs. Science
         [Hayim Hendeles]
Two days of Yuntif
         [Jan David Meisler]


From: <jkatz@...> (Jonathan Katz)
Date: Sun, 18 Jun 95 12:53:58 +0300
Subject: Moshiach and death of Jews 

A recent post by Harry Weiss caused me to remember a discussion I was
having this past weekend. Maybe some of you can help clarify the seeming
contradiction herein.

The 3 sources are as follows:

1) To paraphrase Harry Weiss, 4/5 of the Jews in Egypt dies during the
plague of darkness. In Sanhedrin 111a, there is an opinion that only
2/600,000 did _not_ die during the plague of darkness. "Incidentally,
the gemarra goes on to say the same proportion will apply to the coming
of Moshiach."

2) In Zechariah (I believe chapter 12, but I am not sure) there is a
prophecy which states that at the time of moshiach 1/3 of all the Jews
will be killed.  (it might be 2/3; sorry I don't have a tanach with
me. The main point, though, is not obscured).

3) Both of the above seem to contradict the well-known (perhaps
chassidic, although I was under the impression that it was "mainstream"
as well) dictum that one of the miracles of the time of moshiach will be
that _all_ Jews will be saved; i.e., even the wicked Jews alive at that
time will be redeemed (I believe this is cited extensively in the

Is this a contradiction? Am I interpreting one of these statements
incorrectly?  Any insight woul dbe appreciated.  

Jonathan Katz


From: Ralph Zwier <zwierr@...>
Date: Tue, 20 Jun 1995 19:42:49 
Subject: Science

Re: 20 #6, and 20 #11: I take issue with Yossei and Eli's reponse to 
Yossei. I see the debate as being similar to the famous question: "Have 
you stopped beating your wife yet?". It's a loaded question as I will 
show using the value of PI as the example:

Consider the following five statements:

(a) Pi is 3
(b) Pi is 3.1
(c) Pi is 3.14
(d) Pi is 3.142
(e) Pi is 3.1416

Each of these statements is TRUE! in the sense that to the stated number
of decimal places each is the closest numeric representation of Pi!

On the other hand each of these statements is FALSE in the sense that 
the true ratio of the diameter to circumference of a circle is not 
representable in our number system.

Therefore Chazal "can't win" in their evaluation of Pi. Even if they 
stated Pi to 200 decimal places Eli could [theoretically] say: we see 
that they only knew an approximation of pi. The rhetorical question to 
put to Eli is: To how many places do YOU think Chazal should have stated
Pi in order to satisfy the world that they really knew? 3, 4, 5 ..??

The answer is that it really doesn't matter, so long as they did not say 
3.0 which is clearly not the best representation of Pi to one decimal 

The five statements above are all in conflict with each other, yet I 
have said they are all TRUE. How can this be? This comes about because 
we have to define what we mean by True. All scientific truths have one 
characteristic which differentiates them from real Truth. Real Truth is 
unchanging, whereas scientific truth is only true until it becomes 
superseded by a new scientific truth.

For this reason any statement of the kind that "Chazal were wrong 
about.." are simply comparing scientific truth [Read: changing truth] 
with Truth. Even if you take a statement in Shas which is purporting to 
state a scientific truth of the day, in the overall scheme of things it 
is no more True or less True than today's scientific truth on the same 
subject. It's just that in today's era we accept today's scientific 
truth. Tomorrow it will be overturned. This is the nature of science.

Ralph S Zwier
Double Z Computer, Prahran, VIC Australia       Voice +61-3-521-2188
<zwierr@...>                        Fax   +61-3-521-3945


From: Aleeza Esther Berger <aeb21@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Jun 1995 19:45:42 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Shok

> >From: Melech Press <PRESS%<SNYBKSAC.BITNET@...> I
> noted that this was incorrect and that the vast majority of texts and
> commentators interpret "shok" as the lower bone, i.e. that between
> knee and ankle, and that women who cover their lower legs are
> following the majority view of the halakhah, not community custom.

> Mishna Oholos 1/8 - in counting human bones lists "shok" as between
> ankle and knee - similarly in commentators on Mishna, including Gra

and etc. with other early sources referring e.g. to halitza.

> As I have noted before it is a profound responsiblity to discuss Halakhic
> matters with great care and precision, especially when one is dealing with
> Torah prohibitions.

Exactly.  That is why it is necessary to look at sources that deal with
the subject under discussion: women's clothes. Not counting bones or
halitza. The *relevant* literature interprets "shok" as between thigh
and knee (see, e.g. Pri Megadim to Orach Chaim 75, Hazon Ish to Orach
Chaim 16, #8). Hazon Ish, based on the idea that barefoot is obviously
ok, infers that shok cannot possibly mean from the knee down. I.e. [my
words now] if shok meant from the knee down, women would have to cover
down to the toes, and socks would not be sufficient cover for the legs.
(As I mentioned in my previous post, he does suggest that it could
possibly also mean from the knee down, and doesn't come to a final

R. Ellinson, in the book "Hatsnea Lechet", summarizes that most
contemporary rabbis rely on Pri Megadim and Mishna Berurah and do not
require women to cover legs below knees and arms below elbows.

Dr. Press is correct in the contexts that he mentions that shok was
interpreted as from the knee down.  This leaves the interesting question
of why for women's dress it is (most often) defined as from the knee up.
The inference I draw from the Hazon Ish's reasoning is that the
definition for women's dress is based on common experience of what women
were actually wearing. To generalize, halakhic definitions are not made
in a vacuum.

I also suggest that using strong language such as "major error" to
describe someone's post is ill-advised. It usually turns out that there
is right on both sides, as happened in this case.

Aliza Berger


From: Norman Y. Singer <nsinger@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Jun 1995 21:27:11 -0400
Subject: There is no second day

What I feel that Zvi Weiss (MJ vol 20, no 11) is basically saying is
that look, regardless of why we started observing the second day, it
caught on and therefore we should continue. (He then provides references
for keeping customs but misses the point entirely on this issue.)  I
take the position that there was a very specific reason why the second
day is observed and that reason is no longer valid and will never again
be valid (at least in most parts of the world).  More so, continuing
with the tradition runs counter to the reason for which it was initiated
(this reason can be found in the Mishnah with the discussion for
continuing the tradition.)  I find it ironic that even though people
know the reason why the second day is observed and why it is wrong to
continue, people continue to anyway.  Also, given that the reason for
the second day is no longer valid, a very real argument could be made
about the sin of adding commandments, because of the change of the
structure of the holiday.

[Note:  This argument obviously is not valid with regard to mitzvahs  
and I am not trying to apply it elsewhere.]

        My points are as follows: 

              - The second day was intiated because of an uncertainty
                with regard to when the Sanhedrin declared the first of
                the month.
              - The second day was perpetuated after the establishment
                of the calendar in anticipation of the rebuilding of the
                Bet Hamikdash.
              - When the Bet Hamikdash is rebuilt, the second day will
		not be observed because with modern communications
		everyone interested will know when the holidays fall.
	      - While it was necessary to observe two days in the past
		and therefore proper to continue the custom in
		anticipation of the rebuilding of the temple, it is no
		longer necerssary.  This now constitutes a change in the
		nature of many holidays.
	      - Changing the nature of a holiday (adding days) is adding
		a mitzvah and is a sin.


From: <hayim@...> (Hayim Hendeles)
Date: Mon, 19 Jun 1995 13:15:32 -0700
Subject: Re: Torah vs. Science

There have been numerous postings over the past several weeks regarding
the scientific knowledge possessed by our Sages (Chazal). They knew,
the didn't know, they were right, they were wrong - this is the gist of the
ongoing debate.

IMHO this entire topic is not a significant issue. For Rabbi Moshe Chaim
Luzzato (in his Yalkut Yedius Haemes) discusses the whole topic in great
detail (300 years ago) and - in a nutshell - says that the truth behind
the so-called scientific fact mentioned by our Sages is irrelevant to
the message they were trying to say. To explain:

Just as the Torah was being forgotten and had to be written down,
so did the Toras hanistar (Hidden Torah) which was also being forgotten
also have to be written down. But as it could not be written explicitly,
all of it was written allegorically in the form of "agadata". In
order to express a point, Chazal borrowed from the scientific fact
of their day, because it served as a suitable example for the message.
Whether the science was true or not was irrelevant - because the message
they were trying to convey with it was true. 

If you allow me to go a step further, when I was learning Hilchos
Kiddush Hachodesh in Maimonodies, which revolves around complex
computations computing the position of the sun and the moon - which seem
to be based on the assumption that the Sun circles the Earth - it took
my study partner (yasher kochacha to Dr. Jeff Ungar) a long time to
impress upon me the understanding that the factual basis behind these
assumptions are totally irrelevant. The point behind this assumption was
to provide a mathematical model which can be used to determine the
positions of these celestial bodies - which this model does.

Sure Copernicus introduced a new model based on the assumption the Earth
revolves around the Sun, and the calculations based on these new
assumptions may be different, but they will produce the same answers.
(At least to the level of accuracy required by halacha.)

Thus, the factual basis behind the model used by Maimonides is irrelevant.
As long as his model can be used for its intended purpose, the reality
of the situation is irrelevant.

This, I believe answers many of the difficult Talmudic passages cited by
earlier postings which seem to imply the earth is flat, or square, or
polkadotted, or what-have-you. The reality of the situation may be of no
concern. Rather, Chazal are introducing a model which describes the
observed phenomenon, on which halacha may depend. The model may be
ficticious, as are all legal fictions which are well understood in both
the Torah and (l'havdil) the secular world.

One final point that deserves some thought. Others have cited the well
known passage in the Talmud (Tractate Pesachim) which seems to imply a
dispute between the Rabbis and the non-Jewish world whether the Earth
goes around the sun or vice-versa.

(Some have even attempted to prove from the Talmudic conclusion that the
Sages admitted the non-Jewish world were "wiser" than they. This, BTW,
although it may seem to be the obvious conclusion, is a total
misrepresentation of what the Talmud actually says.  Refer to the Gilyon
Hashas for more information on this.)

If this entire passage is to be taken at face value, then what is doing
here? The purpose of the Talmud is to teach us Torah - this entire
passage seems to be anything but that. This entire paragraph might fit
in well in the Encyclopedia Britannica edition for the year 200 (when
this passage was authored) but seems totally inapropros for Tractate

Thus, I claim, if anything this entire passage is a proof to the concept
pointed out earlier that the authors of the Talmud must have had a
totally different intent behind this seemingly innocuous paragraph.

Obviously, there is more that needs to be said. But at the least I hope
I have provided a framework for a totally different perspective on the
entire topic.

Hayim Hendeles


From: Jan David Meisler <jm8o+@andrew.cmu.edu>
Date: Mon, 19 Jun 1995 14:33:20 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Two days of Yuntif

Zvi Weiss mentioned a gemara in Beitzah regarding keeping two days of
Yuntif outside of Israel.  He indicated that the gemara said that we
need to keep 2 days (even though we know how to calculate the new moon)
because the situation might deteriorate in the future.  
I am not sure if he was thinking about the gemara on Beitzah 4b.  Over
there it says -- "Shalchu meetam, hezaharu b'minhag avoteichem
b'yadechem, zimnin d'gazru malchut g'zeirah v'atee l'kilkuley".  "They
sent from there (from Israel to Bavel), be careful with the customs of
your fathers, there will be times when the king will pass a decree, and
it will come to be 'damaged'".  
I am not sure if my translation of "l'kilkuley" as "damaged" is a good
translation.  The point however is that we should continue to keep two
days because there might come a time when we will not remember how to
determine what day yuntif should fall.
How can that be?  We have phones and faxes.  Messages are transmitted
instantaneously.  Nonetheless, it can happen.  When this issue was
discussed in a gemara shir I attend the answer was that it happened
about 50 years ago.  During the Holocaust people forgot how to determine
the proper day for yuntif and therefore they needed to keep two days.  
This answer doesn't seem to be connected to believing in the rebuilding
of the Temple in Jerusalem as the original poster on this topic



End of Volume 20 Issue 14