Volume 63 Number 94 
      Produced: Tue, 14 Aug 18 06:05:39 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

    [Moderating team]
Advanced Talmud Study for Women 
    [Joel Rich]
An Epistemological Fallacy (2)
    [Martin Stern  Immanuel Burton]
Another kedusha desidra problem (3)
    [Len Moskowitz  Haim Snyder  Roger Kingsley]
Berakhah hasemukhah lechavertah (2)
    [Martin Stern  Orrin Tilevitz]
Burqa & Brawer 
    [Susan Buxfield]


From: Moderating team
Date: Sun, Aug 12,2018 at 02:01 PM
Subject:  Apology

Unfortunately there was a technical problem with the mail-jewish Vol.63 #93
Digest which was sent twice, one of which had no content.

We apologise for the mistake


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 12,2018 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Advanced Talmud Study for Women

Stuart Pilichowski wrote (MJ 63#93):

> Joel Rich wrote (MJ 63#92):
>> Should advanced Talmud studies for women be a high priority goal for Modern
>> Orthodox communities or an option? (i.e. do we push for it for all but those 
>> who resist or have it as an option for the motivated?) Why? What about for
>> men? What is the state of play today?
> If we already have advanced studies for women in every field under the sun -
> from the arts and humanities to the sciences and hi-tech - what possible 
> reason would one have for blocking women, no matter how few, who want to pursue 
> Torah studies on an advanced level?

That's an answer to a different question. I didn't ask about blocking but rather
about encouraging for the masses (i.e. do we push for it for all but those who
resist or have it as an option for those who are motivated?)

Joel Rich


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 12,2018 at 02:01 PM
Subject: An Epistemological Fallacy

Orrin Tilevitz wrote (MJ 63#93):

> Ari Trachtenberg wrote (MJ 63#92):

>> Orrin Tilevitz wrote (MJ 63#91):
>> Evolution is an established fact.

>> With all due respect to Orrin, I do not think that even one word in the
>> opening sentence is well-defined:
>> "evolution" - from what point? in what manner? ...
>> There are a number of evolutionary anomalies that are still open
> I'm not going to get drawn into a discussion of the nuances of evolution
> (although I should point out that one of the articles Ari cites is not by a
> scientist with credentials in the field and has in turn been cited, primarily
> if not exclusively, by non-scientist intelligent design advocates) because I
> am not a scientist and also because it doesn't matter. Science is messy, and
> sometimes the science text books need to be revised, but that's not a reason
> not to teach scientists' best current understanding of how the world works,

If it is made clear that what is being taught is "scientists' best current
understanding of how the world works", one can have no objection provided
that its underlying weaknesses are also presented - in particular the
inherent danger of relying on extrapolation of current observations over
long time spans. However, such topics as evolution are generally taught as
if they are completely verified descriptions of how things happened in the
distant past.

> or to teach religious doctrine in the guise of science.

This statement seems to imply that Orrin considers religious doctrine as
being an inferior source of knowledge which has to be disguised as science
to gain acceptance. Evolution is taught as "gospel truth", an
unchallengeable description of reality, and so IMHO is itself more in the
nature of a religious doctrine than true science.

>> "established" - science does not function based on an establishment or a
>> preponderance of the experts (in contradistinction to halacha), in part
>> because there are no annointed experts (recall Feynman's famous quote that
>> science is the belief in the ignorance of experts). One of the underlying
>> premises of science is that anyone can successfully promote an intelligent
>> position that is supported by the known evidence.
> Actually, science functions based on a consensus of scientists credentialed to
> determine such things, which coalesces, if at all, as evidence for one theory
> or another accumulates. In the case of evolution, there's been a consensus
> that it is correct for some 150 years, even if the precise contours of the
> theory have changed. Lay people, and scientists who are not credentialed (the
> typical science professional who advocates intelligent design or creation
> science isn't a geneticist or evolutionary biologist) don't count. And while
> anyone can promote an intelligent scientific position that supports the known
> evidence, whether it's intelligent and supports the known evidence is
> ultimately to be decided by credentialed scientists ...

This appeal to authority is the very antithesis of the scientific approach.
While the experts' opinion obviously carries greater weight that that of
others, it does not guarantee its absolute truth. Those who challenge the
evolutionary system, do so on the basis of its underlying assumptions rather
than its structure per se. For this one does not have to be an expert in
biology, all that is needed is merely the ability to apply logical analysis
to demonstrate its weaknesses.

At one time the accepted explanation among chemists of combustion was that
it involved the release of phlogiston and it was only Priestly's experiments
that showed that what was really happening was the reverse - the absorption
of oxygen. Similarly light was presumed by physicists to be some sort of
electromagnetic waves transmitted through a medium they called the aether
until the Michaelson-Morley experiment showed that no such medium existed.

At the turn of the twentieth century, scientists thought that they had the
final explanation of physical reality in terms of Newtonian mechanics and
Maxwellian electromagnetism, and were confident that the few remaining
problems such as black body radiation would soon be solved.

Yet it was these problems that led to a complete shift in scientific
paradigms with the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. These two
work very well in their own domains of astrophysics and subatomic phenomena
respectively but are not mutually compatible so we might expect a completely
different approach will be constructed that can get round this problem.

It behoves scientists to show a degree of humility and recognise that all
their theories are just that - provisional - and subject to revision or even
complete overthrow. The real objection to evolutionary biology is precisely
the failure to recognise of this and the consequent refusal to countenance
any alternative explanation, in particular that the current universe might
have come into being through some supernatural "first cause".

> And yes, uniformity of underlying laws is an unprovable assumption. Omphalos,
> by Philip Henry Gosse, argues (to paraphrase an article in Wikipedia) that for
> the world to be "functional", God must have created the Earth with mountains
> and canyons, trees with growth rings, Adam and Eve with hair, fingernails, and
> navels, and that therefore no empirical evidence about the age of the Earth or
> universe can be taken as reliable.

What Gosse is saying is that it is conceivable to explain how a scientific
description of reality might be based on an unwarranted extrapolation from
what we observe today which could conceivably be entirely wrong and so we
cannot have any empirical evidence about the age of the Earth.

> The problem is, by this logic, that the world existed yesterday, or a second
> ago, is an equally unprovable assumption.

Orrin is really repeating what Bishop Berkeley said

"The question between the materialists and me is not, whether things have a
real existence out of the mind of this or that person, but whether they have
an absolute existence, distinct from being perceived by God, and exterior to
all minds."

This is an unresolvable dilemma in philosophy and one can only make one's
own subjective choice as to which position to accept - effectively an act of
faith whichever one chooses.

Martin Stern

From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 12,2018 at 11:01 PM
Subject: An Epistemological Fallacy

Ari Trachtenberg wrote (MJ 63#92):

> "fact" - there are no facts in science - only evidence based on the 
> unprovable axioms of science (reproducibility, uniformity of underlying laws,
> etc.)

The definitions of "fact" and "theory" are down to semantics and how they are
used in a colloquial sense and in a technical sense.  For further reading, I
would suggest this article by Richard Dawkins:


Whether you agree with the conclusions of the article or not, it does make a
very good case in explaining what constitutes facts and theories in the
technical sense.

I'm not entirely sure why there has to be an antagonism between science and
religion in the first place.  Surely science is involved with determining the
mechanics of how the universe operates, and religion is involved with how to
live one's life?

Rav Kook writes in Orot Hakodesh that evolution fits with the Kabbalistic
understanding of the world.  Rabbi Ari Ze'ev Schwartz writes in his collection
of translations of some of Rav Kooks's works "The Spiritual Revolution of Rav
Kook" (Gefen Publishing House, Jerusalem, 2018):  

"The theory of evolution, which believes in a pathway of constant development,
creates an essentially optimistic understanding of the world ... All of
existence is evolving and ascending ... Eventually it will evolve toward the
greatest good, where no detail will be left out, and no spark will be lost.

Orrin Tilevitz wrote (MJ 63#93):

> And yes, uniformity of underlying laws is an unprovable assumption. Omphalos, 
> by Philip Henry Gosse, argues (to paraphrase an article in Wikipedia) that 
> for the world to be "functional", God must have created the Earth with 
> mountains and canyons, trees with growth rings, Adam and Eve with hair, 
> fingernails, and navels, and that therefore no empirical evidence about the 
> age of the Earth or universe can be taken as reliable. The problem is, by 
> this logic, that the world existed yesterday, or a second ago, is an equally
> unprovable assumption.

Doesn't the idea of God creating a pre-aged Earth present a theological problem?
If the seal of God is Truth, wouldn't creating a universe with significant
evidence that it is many times more than 6000 years old constitute a lie?

In the account of Creation at the beginning of the Torah, the word "barah" is
used to indicate creation from nothing.  The word used to describe the formation
of the animals on the sixth day is "vaya'as", which is the formation of
something from already-existing material.
Doesn't the use of this word leave room for animals to have been brought into
being by being evolved from simpler life?

Immanuel Burton.


From: Len Moskowitz <lenmoskowitz@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 12,2018 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Another kedusha desidra problem

Martin Stern wrote:

> In the kedusha desidra we find (Ps. 22:4) "Ve'atah kadosh yoshev tehillot
> Yisrael [And You are holy enthroned by the praises of Israel]" followed by
> (Is. 6:3) "Vekara zeh el zeh ve'amar 'kadosh, kadosh, kadosh ...' [And they
> call one to another holy, holy, holy ...]". I find it difficult to see 
> the connection between them since the latter refers to the angelic hosts 
> and not the Jewish people.
> Can anyone explain this strange juxtaposition?

The Ariza"l explains that when Am Yisrael says kedushah, it is what enables the
supernal hosts to say their kedhushah. Without us doing our part, they can't do

As I understand it, each of the three kedushot in Shacharit enables a specific
angelic world. Kedusha desidra enables the final horadat heshefa [pouring down
of the Divine influence] after the Amidah.

Len Moskowitz

From: Haim Snyder <haimsny@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 13,2018 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Another kedusha desidra problem

In response to Martin Stern (MJ 63#93):

Obviously, Martin questions the first verse. I have two answers: 
1) Both of these verses refer to praise being given to Hashem, one by the Jewish
people and one by the angels, therefore their juxtaposition is reasonable.
2) The prayer is called kedusha desidra. The verse "Vekara zeh el zeh ve'amar
'kadosh, kadosh, kadosh ..." is the first response in the kedushah. Later we also
find the verse "Vatisa'eini ruah va'eshma aharai ra'ash gadol 'baruch kevod Hashem
mimekomo'" which is the second (Note that both of these are complete verses which
enables a person praying without a minyan to say this prayer, since kedushah can
only be said with a minyan, preferably with the trop). These are the two main
responses to kedushah. Why the third verse is changed here from what we say in
the actual kedushah is another story.

Haim Shalom Snyder
Petah Tikva, Israel

From: Roger Kingsley <rogerk@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 13,2018 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Another kedusha desidra problem

In response to Martin Stern (MJ 63#93)

Actually, I don't really see the problem.  In saying Ve'atah kadosh we are sort
of giving as introduction our reason / permission for praising Hashem in the
first place - which without a source would be a bit of a cheek.

The actual praise is a single unity which consists of three pesukim, of which
the third belongs to man and has in it kabalat ol malchut shamayim [accepting
the yoke of the kingdom of heaven] which is the true expression of "yoshev
tehillot Yisrael".  Before that we use two pesukim taken from the angels - who
are to some extent doing the same thing.  But these express the "Ve'atah kadosh"
side - since the angels are purely holy.

I think the whole thing hangs together.  Without the pesukim from the angels, it
wouldn't be a kedushah.  Without the third pasuk, it wouldn't express "yoshev
tehillot Yisrael" and man would be failing to find his rightful place in the
act of kedushah.

Roger Kingsley


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 12,2018 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Berakhah hasemukhah lechavertah

Ralph Zwier wrote (MJ 63#93):

> Martin Stern wrote (MJ 63#92):
>> Generally where a set of berakhot arukhot (ones that have a final phrase
>> beginning "Barukh") are connected, for example the shemoneh esrei or birchat
>> hamazon, only the first begins with the word "Barukh" and the remainder
>> 'depend' on the "Barukh" at the end of the preceding one - a rule known as
>> berakhah hasemukhah lechavertah.
>> There are several situations where this rule is also applied even when there
>> is an intervening passage e.g. barukh she'amar / yishtabach before and after
>> pesukei dezimra, birkhot keriat shema and those before and after hallel. The
>> usual explanation is that these sets of berakhot are not disconnected by the
>> intervening passage(s) to which they apply...
> He did not raise the issue of why are the berachot on the Megilla not modelled
> after the berachah on Hallel. ie we say a full Baruch .... on completion of
> the megillah. I don't know the answer.

One difference between this case and the others might be that that this
concluding berakhah is not always said, so it is considered to be 'free
standing' and therefore not connected to the ones before the megillah. Perhaps a
better comparison would be to making a berakhah before and after eating an item
where the latter is only said if a minimal amount has been consumed. Also,
possibly, saying 'shechecheyanu' might be considered an interruption between them.

Martin Stern

From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 12,2018 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Berakhah hasemukhah lechavertah

Martin Stern asks (MJ 63#92) why the berachot after the haftarah begin with
"baruch" in view of the general principle that a berakhah hasemukhah lechavertah
does not, his assumption being that the haftarah is merely a planned
interruption, like the text of pesukei dezimra. He answers that maybe it's
because the text of the haftarah differs from week to week, but he's not happy
with that answer. Ralph Zwier (MJ 63#93) brings in Megillat Esther, and has no
answer why the following beracha also begins with "baruch".

IMHO the question is faulty. Baruch she'amar and yishtabach are berachot of
praise, so the verses of praise in the middle are really part of the berachot.
The berachot preceding and following the haftara are about the process of nevua
but they are not of the same subject matter -- they can't be for the reason
Martin gave. Similarly, the berachot preceeding the reading are birkot hamitzvah
(what barukh she'amar is not -- it doesn't say "asher kidishanu bemitzvotav
vetzivanu lehodot lashem:) and the beracha following it is a birkat hodaa,
thanking Hashem for saving us in the time of Esther and other times. One might
just as well ask why birkat hamazon begins with baruch.


From: Susan Buxfield <susan.buxfeld@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 14,2018 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Burqa & Brawer

The leftist and liberalist uproar over Boris Johnson's burqa letter box
reference is indicative of a view that sees absolute freedom of speech and
absolute freedom of action as a sine qua non as long as that freedom is not
directed against their own agenda.

That the spouting of unproven epithets such as racist, misogynistic,
Islamophobic without fear of a libel backlash is a sad comment on the ethical
decline of our non-religious brethren.

How much more so when vocal rabbis such as David Mason and Moshe Freedman from
the UK's United Synagogue have suggested in a recent Jewish Chronicle comment on
Johnson's burqa issue that "too many Jewish people are sympathetic to those on
the more extreme right".

7 years ago, we had (perhaps still have) a small group of Lev Tahor Jewish
Taliban Ladies dressing in burqas. Did those same Rabbis also support their rights?

And now we have Rabbi Brawer in the JC's latest "Rabbi, I have a problem"
declaiming the Charedi objection to acknowledge, in any form whatsoever, LGBT
legitimacy and thus he appears to also give endorsement to the column's question
that "Charedi schools that refuse to teach LGBT issues be closed".



End of Volume 63 Issue 94