Volume 9 Number 75
                       Produced: Sun Oct 31  9:19:08 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Age of the Universe (3)
         [Alan Cooper and Tamar Frank, David Sherman, Benjamin
         [Morris Podolak]
Creation and Age of the Universe
         [Steve Wildstrom]
Torah and Science
         [Pinchas Edelson]


From: Alan Cooper and Tamar Frank <ACOOPER@...>
Date: Sun, 24 Oct 93 10:49:06 -0400
Subject: Re: Age of the Universe

I very much appreciated Joe Abeles' vigorous defense of human
observation as a valid source of knowledge.  With him, I find it
impossible to accept a notion that the world was created with the intent
of confuting human reason.  Such a notion seems to go against the
mainstream of our tradition, which sees contemplation of creation as a
way of apprehending the divine wisdom with which the world is imbued
(e.g., Chovot ha-levavot).  God created the world so that we might
attain knowledge of Him, not as an impediment to our search for truth.

The problem abides in recurrent attempts to take Genesis 1 literally,
and to reconcile its religious teaching with scientific observation.
Yet again, the mainstream of our exegetical tradition has not read that
text as scientific or historical testimony.  In other words, it has not
taken the story to be concerned principally with *how* or *when* the
world was created.  When Rashi begins his commentary on the first two
words of Genesis with the words, ein ha-miqra ha-zeh omer ella dorsheni
[this verse requires expounding], surely he is telling us to be wary of
taking the text literally--a point which he immediately bolsters by
advancing a non-temporal reading of the initial beit of the Torah.

The literalists not only need to read Rambam, as Joe suggests they do,
but also Ramban and Rabbeinu Bahya.  What they will learn from their
reading is that the purpose of the creation story is, to put it simply,
to demonstrate that if there were no God, the world would not exist;
that is, God is necessary to the world.  And thus, as we say every
morning, ha-shamayim mesapperim kevod keil [the heavens attest to God's
glory].  How and when creation happened are fit subjects for scientific
investigation; *that* it happened is what Ramban calls shoresh ha-emunah
[the root of our faith].

Alan Cooper

From: <dave@...> (David Sherman)
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 93 19:42:27 -0400
Subject: Re: Age of the Universe

> From: Pinchas Edelson <Edelson@...>
> 	What was not proper were the conclusions drawn from the
> discussion, namely whether it is necessary to believe literally what the
> Torah says about the creation of the world or simply to take it
> metaphorically or symbolically.

Isidore Epstein, "The Faith of Judaism" (Soncino Press, 1954),
pp. 201-202:
	"... what fundamental antagonism is there between the
	inspirational and the scientific account?  Surely none,
	except that in the Bible the whole process is dramatically
	regarded as if it occurred quickly in six days, whereas
	science insists that it came into existence through millions
	of years of constant travail, struggle and development.
	In both accounts the element of time and the succession of
	events are limited.  Nor need the term 'day' mean a day
	in the literal sense, as little as the recurring words 'G-d
	said' are to be taken literally, for there was no one for G-d
	to speak to.  The words must be understood as they were by
	Saadia, Maimonides and Elijah ben Solomon of Vilna (1720-97),
	among others, in the sense that G-d willed; and we have no
	more reason to insist that the days are literal days than we
	have the right to suppose that G-d literally spoke."

I believe that Rabbi Epstein, who was responsible for a large part of
the Soncino publishing program, was a respected Orthodox scholar.  (He
was the general editor of the Soncino translation of the Gemara.)  If he
is correct in the above quote, I must take issue with Mr.  Edelson's
comments.  If indeed Rambam and the Gaon of Vilna were prepared to
accept parts of Bereishis as being non-literal, then surely others
should be allowed to express such views without them being considered
"not proper".

Are there not legitimate, respected voices within Orthodoxy today who
maintain that parts of Bereishis can be understood metaphorically?
(This is a genuine questions, not a rhetorical question.)

David Sherman

From: Benjamin Svetitsky <bqs@...>
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 93 13:44:07 -0400
Subject: Age of the Universe

I was very impressed with Joe Abeles' posting in m.j. v.9 #66.  It
highlights the position adopted by most non-religious scientists long
ago -- that there is no point in arguing about science with
obscurantists, because the latter will as a matter of principle refuse
to believe what is before their own eyes.  After seeing cosmology and
evolution come up several times on m.j., I'm coming around to this view.
I'm not going to argue about the interpretation of data with people who
don't care what the data say anyway.  The data definitely contradict
what you say.  And if you don't believe it, go out and measure them

So the problem is not one of science -- it is simply one of textual
analysis.  Does the Torah really say that the world was created in six
days of 86,400 seconds, just 5654 years ago?  Our only source of
information on this question is Chazal.  Considering that they
steadfastly refused to offer us such a simple, literal interpretation,
we can hardly allow ourselves to do so.  I will quote again the Ibn
Ezra's dismissal of the Rashbam's literalist commentary "Le-imko shel
P'shat": "Lo nitna Torah le-adam b'li sechel" -- The Torah was not given
to people who have no sense.

OK, let's talk about Torah.  In fairness, I must mention a Gemara I
learned last week (RH 11a plus-or-minus 1): R' Yehoshua ben Levi says
that everything in the Creation was created fully formed.  (Sorry, I'm
paraphrasing; I don't shlep my gemara into the office.) So, as people
said earlier, the trees had tree rings and Adam had a belly-button.  And
the rocks had dinosaur bones in them?

Let's remember something about Aggadata in the Gemara: It is there to
convey some message, usually beneath the surface -- and it is usually
NOT to be taken literally.  The Rambam says so!  I would appreciate it
if somebody could quote R' Y.b.L. more precisely, and I'd like to
discuss the meaning of his statement -- in light of the data, of course.

Ben Svetitsky      <bqs@...>       (temporarily in galut)


From: Morris Podolak <morris@...>
Date: Sun, 24 Oct 93 06:02:32 -0400
Subject: Re: Cosmology

Several postings have referred to Schroder's explanation of the 6 days
vs. roughly 15 billion years.  The point was something like if one stood
at the edge of the universe, and computed the gravitational time
dilation one would find that 15 billion Earth years correspond to 6
days, or something like that.  I confess I don't understand:

What is meant by "edge" here?  Is the observer at the edge but just
inside or at the edge and just outside?  If he is just inside our
universe, then the concept of edge has no meaning.  Within the usual
relativistic cosmologies every part of the universe appears like every
other part.  Nowhere is there an edge.  On the other hand, if the
observer is just outside the universe, then he is outside of our
spacetime, and I don't know how or even if gravitational time dilation
would apply to that "region".  The whole geometric interaction of space
and time and whatever else would be different.  In short, I don't
understand what the physical significance of Schroder's computation is.
Any _real_ experts on GRT out there care to comment.  



From: Steve Wildstrom <wild@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 93 18:57:12 -0400
Subject: Re: Creation and Age of the Universe

In 9/64 Kibi Hofmann raises Occam's Razor in support of a literal
interpretation of creation. Without dealing with the substance of his
argument, I believe he's misusing an important principle of scientific
method. While he's correct that Occam (or Ockham) argues that the
hypothesis requiring the fewest assumptions is the best, he seems to
ignore the assumption's implicit in his own argument: That the Creator
created evidence of vast antiquitity seemingly for no purpose but to
confuse future paleontologists, geologists, etc. If I may quote the
great skeptic Albert Einstein: "Raffiniert is der Herrg-tt, aber
boschaft ist er nicht." ("G-d is subtle, but not malicious.")


From: Pinchas Edelson <Edelson@...>
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 93 04:08:34 -0400
Subject: Torah and Science

	I have something of a disclaimer to make. First, I do not say
that Torah cannot be read in the context of science at all, but not all
of science corresponds to Torah. Furthermore, it is ridiculous to
stretch the two so that they agree. Since when is one who wants the
fudge the lab results for an agenda called scientific?
	Second, I do not maintain that every word of Braishis is learned
in the literal sense. For example the posuk, "Let us make man...". Here
Chazal tell us that this is a lesson in humility (see Rashi). However,
whether a phrase in Braishis is taken literally or not is defined by the
Torah itself. We have the Oral Torah from Moshe to define what is
literal and what is not. In this area science has no say on which of our
traditions are valid. In the case is the six days of creation, it is
taken literally, and on this depends the mitzva of Shabbos. "Because in
six days Hashem made...".
	Furthermore, halacha is often defined by scientific definition.
Take for example the microwave oven, we take the scientific definition
of microwave radiation and try to determine whether it applies to what
the gemara call toldos aish or toldos chama. The result is a mechlokes
in modern poskim. To deny the scientific definition of microwave
radiation in this case would be ridiculous, and we would not be able to
determine certain halachos.
	On the other hand, when science says that life evolved from
simple organisms over billions of years, or that all 'spiritual' visions
of perceptions are nothing but chemicals reacting with the synapses and
there is no such thing as the soul or the spiritual, we are free to
ignore science and halacha has no need for such statements. Therefore, I
state that a Jew does not need blinders on science, just an
understanding of Torah itself and common sense.
	From a scientific point of view it is absurd to ignore some of
our observations. Science is made of theories which are constantly being
questioned. The Torah is not asking us to ignore our senses, Hashem gave
us the ability to speculate about many things. Only that we should not
view our scientific result as final since it is subject to change. All
secular knowledge can be learned from the Torah. However, it is
presently not within the ability of the average Jew to reach such a
goal. This was attained by the Avos, Moshe, Tannaim, Amoraim..., and the
great Tzadikim of later generations. With the coming of Moshiach the
door will be open to the rest of us.
	This is not to say that science is useless, Hashem granted the
world with an explosion of secular knowledge in the last few centuries.
This resulted in advances in medicine, physics ...etc. The result is an
improved life-style over earlier times. We don't know what it was like
to run out of candles in the Bais Medrash.
	Finally, please excuse me for not including my sources.
Regarding the very question of the six days of creation, and how a
number of Rabbis have written about it in a different time scale, there
is a printed letter where someone wrote the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1953.
Also there were others in 1956 and later. In these letters the
Lubavitcher Rebbe answered that the six days is literal because on this
depends the mitzva of Shabbos. He also wrote that with all due respect,
those Rabbis which wrote about the six days of creation in a different
time scale were mistaken. Also he mentioned that fact that we write
shtaros from the year of creation.
	What we could do without is an approach to Torah where one
writes, "I think", or, "I feel". How many of the recent postings on this
subject used these words. We cannot treat the learning of Torah as
science, Torah has its own set of rules with which we learn it. The fact
is, what does the Torah have to say about the matter.

Pinchas Edelson


End of Volume 9 Issue 75