Volume 63 Number 95 
      Produced: Sun, 19 Aug 18 15:36:04 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A problem with Rabbeinu Tam's bein hashemashot 
    [Dr. William Gewirtz]
An Epistemological Fallacy (2)
    [Martin Stern  Orrin Tilevitz]
Another kedusha desidra problem 
    [Martin Stern]
    [Joel Rich]
Early synagogues 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Kohanim / Aliyah 
    [Stuart Pilichowski]


From: Dr. William Gewirtz <wgewirtz@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 16,2018 at 12:01 PM
Subject: A problem with Rabbeinu Tam's bein hashemashot

I have a question. The opinion of Rabbeinu Tam with respect to the transition
between days of the week has been relentlessly attacked. Two 20th century
attempts to rehabilitate / defend the approach of Rabbeinu Tam by Rav Dovid
Shapiro ztl (and many others who have produced similar arguments) as well as
that by the Rav ztl have strong deficiencies in my opinion.

Beyond the blistering attacks of the Gaon of Vilna and the very different attack
by Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi, it appears to me that one section of the sugya on
Shabbat 34b, also cannot be reconciled with Rabbeinu Tam's opinion.

That the knowledge of astronomy as was known to Shemuel and Rambam and others
can provide unique insight into the sugya is not surprising. That depression
angles can provide precision and accuracy is also not surprising. What is
surprising is that a derivation from simple observation does not appear to have
been carefully addressed.

Towards the end of the sugya on bein hashemashot on erev shabbat, there is a
conversation between Rava and Abaye who are observing the sky concentrating on
the eastern and western horizon. Granted, many parameters of the sugya are arguable:

1. Who is looking in what direction? 

2. When does the event take place "at the beginning, middle or end of bein

Nonetheless, according to the geonim, regardless when the event occurs and the
direction one might be looking, change can be observed throughout the entire
period of bein hashemashot and even for some minutes after it ends. Anyone who
has watched both horizons in Israel from sunset until almost 45 minutes after
sunset can attest to the changing conditions. While in northern France both
horizons are still changing almost one hour after sunset during some seasons of
the year, in Israel anyone looking towards the eastern half of the sky around
one hour after sunset will see NO DISCERNABLE CHANGE. Only the western horizon
is still darkening; everything else has become dark and unchanging to the human
eye many minutes earlier. If Rabbeinu Tam was addressing the Middle East, what
possible debate between Rava and Abaye can be occurring at his delayed point of
when bein hashemashot begins?

Can anyone reconcile Rabbeinu Tam with this section of the sugya?? I would
appreciate any insights.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 14,2018 at 07:01 AM
Subject: An Epistemological Fallacy

Immanuel Burton wrote (MJ 63#94):

> 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?

Why should this be construed as a lie? I would have preferred to describe it
as an act of Divine self-concealment, without which we would be so
overwhelmed by His presence that we would be unable to exercise free will.

He also wrote:

> 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?

I agree that any antagonism results from a misunderstanding of the nature of
science and religion - which is shared by polemicists on both sides. However
I think that the fundamental difference is that science is involved with
determining the HOW the universe operates whereas religion explains WHY it
does operate that way - mechanics as opposed to purpose.

Martin Stern

From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 15,2018 at 06:01 PM
Subject: An Epistemological Fallacy

Martin Stern writes, in reference to the teaching of evolution (MJ 63#94):

> Orrin Tilevitz wrote (MJ 63#93)::

>> ... 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.
> ...
> The real objection to evolutionary biology is precisely the ... refusal to
> countenance any alternativee xplanation, in particular that the current
> universe might have come into being through some supernatural "first cause".

Actually, I consider religious doctrine to be no source of knowledge at all as
to HOW things happen. To paraphrase R. Adin Steinsaltz, religion tries to answer
the question why, not how. I am not sure the latter is even a scientifically
meaningful question. For example, science can say that man is the result of
random mutations (or, rather, mutations that appear to be random) and selection
over a billion years or so but cannot answer why - for what purpose - man is
here now, any more than science can say why a particular, evil rich man won a
scrupulously fair and random lottery. Religion can provide an answer, if
unsatisfactory, to these questions.

One does not believe in evolution as one does in religion. If one has an
infection, seeing a medical doctor is fundamentally different from seeing, say,
a rabbi, a chiropractor or a reflexologist. The former is a decision based on
science. The latter is based solely on faith. Prayer is an adjunct, not an
alternative. Evolution is science. Martin's alternative explanation is faith.
There is another difference. Professor Doering, OBM, who taught us organic
chemistry, once said in class that if the experiment does not bear out the
hypothesis, there must be something wrong with the experiment. He was joking. In
hard science, if the data contradict the hypothesis, you look for another
hypothesis, even if sometimes it takes time for this to happen. In religion, if
the data contradict the doctrine, you explain away the data or suppress them,
e.g. no dinosaurs at home or in schools.

> 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 ...

Surprisingly, Martin challenges not evolution's purported randomness, which
atheists cite to champion the notion that it excludes any role for a deity, but
instead the implicit assumption that rules governing physical processes are
unchanged. Now, the (assumed) constant speed of light underpins how the distance
to faraway bodies such as black holes, and therefore the age of the universe, is
computed. If the speed of light were once much greater than it is now, then the
universe is much younger than computed by scientists, perhaps exactly 5779 years
old this coming September. Is Martin's challenge of evolution a stalking horse
for a challenge of modern cosmology and cosmogony as well, and shorthand for
saying that the creation story must be read literally?

BTW, I have read that scientists have begun to question whether certain physical
constants were different in the past, but the difference here, a factor of some
2 million, seems a bit much, to this layman anyhow.

> 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.

Ah, but their challenge is intended to show the primacy of religion, not to
safeguard the integrity of science, so they have a conflict of interest; and
their lack of expertise at least raises the issue of their credibility. So they
begin with two strikes, which may not matter to Martin and his cricket-playing
countrymen but does matter in the States.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 14,2018 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Another kedusha desidra problem

Haim Shalom Snyder wrote (MJ 63#94):

> In response to Martin Stern (MJ 63#93):
> ...
> 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 kedusha. Why the third verse is
> changed here from what we say in the actual kedushah is another story.

Haim makes the point that these are complete verses. Since we have the rule
that we may not split verses, surely it is incorrect for the tzibbur to
pause after saying "Vekara zeh el zeh ve'amar", as if it were part of the
verse "Ve'atah kadosh ..." (implying that it is the Benei Yisrael who are
calling each other and not the angels), and wait for the shatz to say it.
Would it not be preferable to pause before it and either say it together
with the shatz, or not say it at all and rely on shomei'a ke'oneh?

Martin Stern


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 17,2018 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Choices?

The Rambam [codified in S"A E"H 22:7] states that, if a man's business is such
that he can't avoid even "only" rabbinic yichud issues, he should yifneh
l'mlacha acheret (find another line of work). We also know that many times
rabbinic rules are set aside in the case of great loss [but see Pitchei Tshuva
Y"D 157:4] 

In either event, do MJ members think we're talking about cases where the
individual originally thought these problems could be avoided or did they go
into the business with full knowledge of these issues? 

Does it include cases where there are technical workarounds available which seem
after the fact?

Does HKB"H view it as equivalent to any other choice one could've made or is one
dinged for the original choice when it was made? 

Is moving into an apartment building knowing one will need to use a manned
elevator on Shabbat another example? How about certain medical specialties?

Joel Rich


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 14,2018 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Early synagogues

Years ago we had some discussion about early synagogues including seating
arrangements, design, etc.

I now found this:

Lidia Matassa's book, " Invention of the First-Century Synagogue", has now been
published posthumously

This work critically re-evaluates the scholarship surrounding the identification
of first-century synagogues at five key sites: Delos, Jericho, Herodium, Masada,
and Gamla. She reviews the scholarly discourse concerning each site and uncovers
misunderstandings of the site remains by previous scholars.

The book is available for free download, or in hard- or paperback or as a Pdf: 

Yisrael Medad


From: Stuart Pilichowski <stupillow@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 14,2018 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Kohanim / Aliyah

The only ones entitled to get an aliyah on a fast day, specifically Tisha B'Av -
are those fasting.

In a small minyan of, say, 12-15 people with only one Kohen - who's in his 80's
in poor health - still healthy enough to duchen everyday, but can't be fasting -
should he be declined the aliyah? Isn't it so very embarrassing and in poor
taste not to get the aliyah? Doesn't this override the strict, literal halachah?
Doesn't the poor Kohen's self-esteem and dignity matter at all?

Stuart Pilichowski

Mevaseret Zion, Israel


End of Volume 63 Issue 95