Tuesday, July 30, 2013

615 - The Eruv, a Jewish Quantum State

615 - The Eruv, a Jewish Quantum State

Interesting Essay!

615 - The Eruv, a Jewish Quantum State

JULY 21, 2013, 8:29 PM
Home isn’t where your heart is, where you make your bed or even where you lay your hat. It is where you draw the line that separates what’s yours from what’s not. This line surrounds your inner sanctum and - if it’s reinforced by a fence - keeps out the big bad wolf, who stalks the great outdoors.
To appreciate the primal nature of humanity’s fence-building instinct, consider this trio of cognate [1] words: a Zaun is a German fence, a tuin is a Dutch garden, and a town is an English settlement of a certain size [2]. The German word, which describes the enclosing entity itself, has remained closest to the original meaning. Dutch and English both focus on the enclosed area, yet each on an area of different nature and magnitude [3].
As with many other human instincts [4], drawing lines and building fences as a means of distinguishing between us and them has been consecrated in religion. Over the past decade or so of intense Islam-scrutiny, much has been made of the division of the world in Dar-ul-Islam (the House of Submission) and Dar-ul-Harb (the House of Strife) [5]. However, Christianity too had the habit of distinguishing between Christendom and everywhere else; at some point, Europe became the favoured synonym, and its fluctuating borders concurred with the outer limits of the Grand Turk’s domains - from the gates of Vienna to the gates of Constantinople, as history’s tide would have it.
But the human desire to fence in home and fence out everything else is sacralised nowhere as formidably precise as in Judaism.

The location of the Elstree and Borehamwood eruv, established in 2010, within Greater London. 

Observant Jews are obliged to follow the 613 commandments [6] of theHalakha. For Orthodox Jews, this includes minute adherence to the strictures of the Sabbath [7], which entail 39 activities forbidden on that day, among them: cooking, weaving, slaughtering, writing, lighting a fire, and transferring objects.
This last stricture is ruled by the Laws of Transference. Deriving from a couple of Bible verses [8], this prohibition has grown into a bewilderingly complex set of rules by millennia of interpretation and elaboration. A quick taster:
  • • Transferring objects on the Sabbath is strictly regulated between different types of domains, of which there are four: private, public, mixed and exempt.
  • • Transferring an object from a private to a public domain is forbidden by the Torah; also from a mixed to either a private or a public domain by Rabbinical authority; and permitted from an exempt domain to any other.
  • • Transference is often referred to as ‘carrying’, which is misleading, as one could carry an object out of one domain and back in again without setting it down.
  • • What is ‘public’ and ‘private’ is subject to complex definitions that do not necessarily conform with legal ownership.

A close-up of the Elstree and Borehamwood eruv. Notice the non-eruv pene-enclave in the south-west: the borders run along the train tracks northwards until they are connected by Allam Road bridge, just north of the station (images:eboreruv.org). 

On the sabbath, it is thus not permitted to carry one’s keys, food, medication, or even one's children (or push wheelchairs and strollers), to and from the home. In case you’re wondering whether Orthodox Jews have to disrobe to go outside on the sabbath: wearing clothes is permissible, as they are considered ‘part of the person’ (and as long as they’re not showy). But extra clothing, such as a precautionary raincoat, or even a prayer shawl, is not permitted.
An eruv is a legalistic solution to this problem: by establishing a symbolic enclosure in a certain area, observant Jews effectively extend their ‘home’ to the outer limits of that enclosure. On the sabbath, they can now ‘carry’ objects within the entire eruv [9].
An eruv can coincide with existing city walls, but in modern times is usually established by connecting rope and/or string to walls, railway lines and other pre-existing structures. Utility poles are often used to construct a symbolic passageway in and out of the eruv: the poles on either side of a road function as the doorposts, a wire connecting the top of the poles is the lintel. The enclosure should have a minimum height of 10 tefachim [10], and should not include public thoroughfares or areas too far outside city boundaries.
Eruv Outremont
The Outremont eruv, one of five eruvs in the Greater Montreal area (image:eruvmontreal.org)

Needless to say, there is plenty of lively debate about the exact definition of an eruv, and consequently about the validity of certain eruvs. The scope of these shabbos [11] strings is limited in any case by a very practical consideration: each week, the entire length of the wire and other elements that constitute the eruv’s boundary needs to be rechecked, repaired in case of a breach, and reapproved in time for the start of the sabbath on Friday evening.
As crucial as the establishment of an eruv is for the observant Jewish community, for the outside world it is of no practical consequence - all but invisible and completely irrelevant, except for such times when utility and public works that may interfere with the eruv’s integrity. Ideally such issues can be resolved as an element of public works management. Or, as related by this cabalistic legend, by the intervention of a universally respected sage:
When Mordecai Benet was Chief Rabbi of Moravia (1789-1829), the Jews of Nikolsburg (now Mikulow, Czech Republic) wanted to establish an eruv chain. The only missing link in the chain was a house on the Quergasse, on the edge of the Jewish part of town. It was owned by Topolanski the Butcher, who refused permission. Not that he minded himself, but he was concerned his neighbours (i.e. customers) would object to the presence of a non-Christian symbol running along the top of his house. When asked to mediate, Rabbi Benet, promised to bless the Butcher's house as a protection against fire. The Butcher consented, and (as the legend goes), the house was spared in the many fires that swept through the town in the following decades, and it survived into the first half of the 20th century.
However, in spite of their merely symbolic, ritualistic significance, the proposed establishment of eruvin has occasionally led to objections and protests: by non-Jews, on the grounds that they constituted some sort of territorial claim to the enclosed area; but also by other Jews, who might consider the conditions for establishing a particular eruv as insufficiently fulfilled. Or who might question the whole idea of eruvin itself: How does finding a loophole in the letter of the Law not constitute a breach of its spirit?
Be that as it may, there are at present about 200 eruvin outside Israel (and many more in the Jewish state itself), each the result of careful exegesis[12] and dialogue with local governments, and each possessing a fascinating cartographic persona. With their clear, linear demarcations, they are reminiscent of electoral districts - except that within these borders congregate not the constituents of a Congresswoman or Member of Parliament, but the faithful flock of the Supremely Unelected One.

glenbrook eruv
The Glenwood eruv in Northwood, northern Chicagoland, has a decidedly classical profile (image: glenbrookcommunityeruv.org). 

Both rooted in the desire to conform to God’s law and subject to nuts-and-bolts inspection and maintenance like any other public utility, eruvin are a curious hybrid of the divine and the mundane. To believers, they are of paramount ritual importance; to non-believers, it’s almost as if they weren’t there. This simultaneous existence and non-existence of eruvin is reminiscent of the quantum state of Schrödinger’s cat, both alive and dead in that box.
That quantum state might be the eruv’s most important achievement: the fence that separates us from them is redefined as purely abstract and symbolic, relevant only to those who choose to acknowledge it. An interesting alternative to the territorial exclusivity claimed by many of the world’s religions - and indeed nation states.
[1] Cognates are words within the same language (or across different ones) that share some resemblance and the same etymology, but don’t necessarily mean the same thing. The common root for the three words mentioned here is the Proto-Germanic word tūną, which means ‘enclosure’. 
[2] A rule of thumb from the olden days: if it’s too small to have a church, it’s a hamlet; if it has a church but lacks a market, it’s a village; if it’s a village large enough to have a market, it’s is a town; add a cathedral to the town, and you have a city. 
[3] For a similar discrepancy, see the cognates yard (in English) and the Russian suffix -grad (for ‘city’). 
[4] Compare the traditional male custom to carry a weapon: largely disappeared in the developed world (except, arguably, in the US); ubiquitous but ceremonial in Yemen, where every adult male carries a jambiya; and a religious requirement for male Sikhs, who after baptism must carry a kirpan at all times. 
[5] The distinction is more legalistic (hence more complicated) than the black-and-white dichotomy oft repeated in the public debate.  
[6] Listed in the Torah, these mitzvot (singular: mitzvah, ‘law’) are referred to as the Mosaic Law, or simply the Law. They include (ranking provided by Maimonides) the following commandments: to know there is a God (#1), to not even think there are other gods (#2), [for men] not to shave off the hair from the sides of their head (#68), to bless the Almighty after a meal (#85), not to have sexual relations with your father’s brother’s wife (#151), not to cook meat and milk together (#196), to leave a corner of the field uncut for the poor (#239), not to burn honey or yeast at the altar (#347), not to move a boundary marker to steal someone’s property (#472), to break the neck of a calf by the river valley following an unsolved murder (#491), to make a guard rail around flat roofs (#494), to remember what Amalek did to the Jewish people (#599), and not to panic and retreat during battle (#610). 
[7] God rested on the seventh day of Creation, hence the commandment to rest on that day of the week, which for Jews starts at sundown on Friday, and ends when three stars are visible in the Saturday night sky. 
[8] Exodus (16:29): ‘See that the LORD hath given you the sabbath; therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day’; and Jeremiah (17:21): ‘[T]hus saith the LORD: Take heed for the sake of your souls, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem[.]’ 
[9] Some things remain forbidden even within an eruv, such as carrying a mobile phone or a wallet, going shopping or playing football, and opening an umbrella (too much like erecting a tent, hence a ‘building’ activity). 
[10] One tefach is a handbreadth, between 8 and 9.5 cm (3.15 and 3.75 in).
[11] The Yiddish-language derivation of sabbath (which is a Hebrew word). A Jewish person who is committed to observing the sabbath is said to beShomer Shabbos.  
[12] See this Jerusalem Post article for a small sample of the questions in play.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

The New Round in the Torah Min Ha'Shamayim Controversy

In an essay at http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2013/07/18/from-openness-to-heresy/Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer critiques an essay by Rabbi Zev Farber which crosses the line of Orthodox belief. Rabbi Farber evidently revised his essay, at http://thetorah.com/devarim-recounting-different/ to defuse some of the more explosive positions he had taken. Evidently in defense of Rabbi Farber, Rabbi Nati Helfgott published an essay at http://morethodoxy.org/2013/07/21/torah-min-hashamayim-some-brief-reflections-on-classical-and-contemporary-models-guest-post-rabbi-nati-helfgot/. This essay was subsequently taken to task - along with critiques of additional highly disturbing passages penned by Rabbi Farber - by Rabbi Gordimer at http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2013/07/21/torah-min-hashamayim-a-reply-to-rabbi-nati-helfgot/.

I would like to re-post here the conversations that I have online on these issues, beginning way back in '94, on Mail-Jewish, recapitulated in the review below, which appeared as a comment at http://rygb.blogspot.com/2005/12/post-from-my-friend-reb-aaron-berger.html.

We discussed this issue years ago, both in MJ and on Avodah, long before the current contretemps, and again in '04 on Avodah.

Here's the beginning of the '99 Avodah discussion:

Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1999 08:59:18 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" 

Subject: Flood - Introduction
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer


In the current issue of "Tradition" - that contains several 
submissions by distinguished chaverim of Avodah/Aishdas, there is 
a troubling essay about Gan Eden and the Mabul. The essay, 
written by R' Shubert Spero, argues the case that these passages 
are allegorical in nature. There was a significant correspondence 
on the matter back in late 1994 (time flies when you are having 
fun!) on Mail-Jewish. For the benefit of those who are unaware of 
that correspondence, I am here posting some of the major posts. 
For the benefit of those who are aware of that correspondence, I 
have attempted to be brief and exclude as much of the 
correspondence as possible. The selection, however, still had to
be divided over several posts. The balance is in the MJ archives: 

"Dirshu me'al sefer Hashem v'kir'u." 

I am not sure whether to write a Letter to the Editor of 
Tradition or not. I would normally do so, but way back, I 
believe, in 1991, I wrote a Letter to the Editor of "Jewish 
Action" concerning R' Spero's review essay on R' Norman Lamm's 
"Torah U'Madda", and I am loathe to attack him again, even in the 
service of a cause that I feel integral and central to Yahadus. 
As the Editor and Consulting Editor of Tradition are members of 
our little society, I bring this to their respective attentions: 
Perhaps the conversation that will ensue here (doubtless!) on 
this point will be fodder for a reaappraisal in a subsequent 
issue of Tradition. 

While the names of the participants are explicit in the MJ 
archives, I have nonetheless chosen to change those other than my 
own to those of the Shevatim, for the benefit of those who will 
consider the position opposed to my own as dubious to say the 
least, and, if they choose then not to look up the MJ archives, 
will be spared the knowledge of who said what when. 

Although many points discussed then should probably be modified 
for the purposes of discussing R' Spero's essay, I leave that for 
a later date. 

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

(Reuven Shimon) 

In response to a couple of private letters, I would like to 
clarify a few things I wrote in my posting re. the flood, and I 
hope this will obviate the need to deal with this further, unless 
there is a significant need. 

First, I do not deny that God could, if he wanted, have created 
the world 5755 years ago, created the fossils, signs of 
civilization etc. For that matter, he could have created the 
world 30 years ago and put memories into our minds and created 
earlier books, buildings etc. However, the best of our religious 
thinkers have taught us that we need not think in this fashion. 
We need not adopt Tertullian's credo quia impossible -- I believe 
because it is impossible. (Actually Tertullian really said certum 
est quia impossible est -- It is certain becaaue it is 

It is preceisely because of this that great sages interpreted the 
Garden of Eden story allegorically and refused to take literally 
aggadot. Judaism doesn't require us to leave our intellects at 
the door. E. g. Obviously it is possible for God to lift Mount 
Sinai over the head of the Israelites, but must we believe this 
literally. The whole endeavor to allegorize aggadot is based on 
the fact that God (and the world) do not behave in a completely 
outrageous fashion. We don't understand God, but we have an idea 
about how he interacts in this world, at least that's was 
Maimonides and his followers thought. Why else reject e. g. 
demons, astrology and other superstitions. Couldn't God have made 
the world this way? Obviously yes, but the real question is, is 
it likely that he did so and must we believe this. Maimonides 
answers no and I think modern Orthodox Jews agree, although 
Haredim probably do not. 

In my original posting I stated that believing in the truth of 
the flood (and a 5000 year old world) is more extreme than 
denying the existence of George Washington. Someone asked me if 
it isn't the case that we have more evidence for George 
Washington than for denying the flood. The answer is obviously 
no. We know about Washington because of one type of evidence, 
historical, and we have agreat deal of this. However, the entire 
received body of knowledge in just about every field of human 
study is dependant on the fact that the world is not 5000 years 
old and that there was not a flood. These facts are the 
fundamentals of biology, physics, astronomy, history, 
anthropology, geology, palentology, zoology, linguistics etc. 
etc. etc. Belief in a 5000 year old world and a flood which 
destroyed the world 4000 years ago is a denial of all human 
knowledge as we know it. It is a retreat into a world of belief, 
rather than one based on any sort of fact, and one who believes 
can believe anything he want to. The fundamentalist is not able 
to prove that Washington lived, only to say that he believes that 
Washington lives. It is because Modern Orthodox do not wish to 
live in a world in which the entire accumulated knowledge of all 
civilization is to be thrown out the window that they cannot take 
this literally. Pay attention to what I am saying, it is 
impossible to make sense of anything in this world, in any field 
of science and many of the social sciences by adopting 
funadmentalist position. If people wish to live this sort of 
existence, fine, but one can't pretend that there is any sort of 
compelling reason for anyone else to. They certainly shouldn't 
try to put forth all sorts of pseudo-science to convince people 
of the correctness of their view. I think that when it comes to 
science, history etc. people would prefer the stated views of the 
great scholars (and the not so great scholars) at every 
university in the world. Since none of these people are 
fundamentalists, doesn't it make sense for the fundamentalists 
not even to try and touch these areas. 

It is worth noting, I think, that although fundamentalism in this 
country has always been accompanied by anti-intellectualism, this 
has not been the case in the Jewish world. In fact, with the 
exception of some hasidic trends, anti-intellectualism has no 
roots in recent Jewish history. The people advocating 
fundamentialist positions are the most intellectual we have. 
People often say that they can hold the positions they do because 
they are ignorant of science and history. This is incorrect. It 
is not that they are ignorant of all these fields, it is rather 
that they reject them. There is a difference. The proper word to 
describe this is obscurantism. And I for one don't think it will 
last forever. One can only go against the obvious facts of our 
day for so long. Rabbis could declare that Copernicus's views 
were heretical for only so long before the weight of evidence ran 
over them. That will happen with fundamentalism, because if they 
dodn't change, no one with any education will still be listening 
to them. 

One final point which is also relevant, since every thing I have 
been saying touches on how one is to study the Torah. It appears 
to me that the traditional approach of Bible study is in many 
respects immature, at least in our day. What was adequate 50 
years ago is now no longer so. I remember from my high school 
days that to study a text in more depth meant to read more 
commentators. That is, one increased the information intake, but 
the method of analysis and the forms of questions asked didn't 
change. When I got to college and studied the same sources again, 
I was amazed at how the text could come alive, and questions and 
issues were dealt with that never even entered my mind in high 
school. I remember speaking to a number of yeshiva students and 
they were so excited since in yeshivah Bible was taught in such 
an immature, sometimes juvenile, fashion whereas Dostoevsky et al 
were critically analyzed by the new approaches in literature. It 
was only when they reached college and happened to take the 
course we did (offered by Zevulun Yissaschar) that they saw the 
depth and beauty of the Biblical stories. I realize that it is 
probably impossible to implement these approaches in high school 
but woudn't it be great if we could apply the same rigor to the 
Torah (I am referring to the narratives) that we do to western 
literature. We need not be stuck holding onto only medieval forms 
of exegesis. The world of exegesis hasn't stood still, and the 
same insights which modern theories of literature and modern ways 
of reading text offer us about the great works, will assist us in 
understanding the Torah.I think in many respects this was 
Hirsch's message, that Torah, and everything about it, need not 
be considered shallow when compared to secular studies. This was 
also R. Hayyim's reason (or one of them) for his analytic method, 
to show that Talmud study is just as rigorous as secular study. 
Unfortunately, we need a new Hirsch and a new R. Hayyim since 
traditional Bible study in our day does not have the rigor of 
academic disciplines and we will not be able to atract the best 
minds if we do not do something about it. Either they will prefer 
Talmud study, which remains rigorous , or they will choose to 
study Western literature (or other fields), and Bible study will 
be left for the less skilled, who are only able to tell you about 
one more commentary and one more peshat, those who cannot see the 
forest because of the trees, that is, those who miss the big 
picture of the Torah. 

Reuven Shimon 
Mesorah (Historical Tradition) and the Flood 
(Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer) 

In his recent posting on the "Flood" of Noach, my friend Reuven 
Shimon sounds almost heroic in denying the historical veracity of 
our Holy Torah. He claims that this approach has sources in 
"Modern Orthodoxy." This alone is perhaps the most cogent 
argument that the "Right" could muster to brand the Modern 
Orthodox heretical :-). But I am sure that most Modern Orthodox 
would not cross the line Reuven has unfortunately crossed. 
Our sources do not sustain the allegorical interpretation of the 
recorded facts of Parashas Noach. To state that God, Chazal and 
the Rishonim were "pulling the wool over our eyes" with this 
blatant - according to Reuven - falsification, is to accuse God 
as much of caprice as to accuse Him of such were He, as Reuven 
described and correctly rejects, to have created the world thirty 
years ago with our intact memories. 

I know that Reuven will counter that I may not like his approach, 
but so long as he does accept that this "Allegory" was given by 
God at Sinai he is within the traditional and normative realm of 
Emunah - our core belief system. Unfortunately, this is not so. 
Reuven undermines the very core of our belief system - Mesorah - 
with his approach. Our entire religion is based on the Tradition 
- and the accuracy that our Fathers and Mothers have vouchsafed 
for it - in an unbroken chain back to Sinai. There can be much 
new and original exegesis of Tanach (you are all invited to my 
Wednesday Night Nach shiur, in which I think I engage in some), 
but not exegesis of the sort Reuven engages in - factual 
reinterpretation of Tanach that is not based on that Mesorah. 
Reuven errs gravely in attributing such exegesis to RSR Hirsch. 
RSRH's exegesis perhaps breaks new ground in Homiletics and 
Philology, but he would never have broken with Chazal and the 
Rishonim on facts. Indeed, by definition, as Torah-true, he could 
not! I believe RSRH would have been horrified by the very idea 
that he shed a "Secular" light on our Scriptures, as Reuven 

I question if any of the luminaries that Reuven's brand of 
"Modern Orthodoxy" regards in high esteem (who are they? - with 
all due respect to Prof. Yissaschar, quoted by Reuven, he 
certainly could not be classified as a leader of Modern 
Orthodoxy) would have countenanced such breaches in the "Chomas 
HaDas", the great fortification of our religion, the accuracy of 
our uninterrupted historical record back to Sinai (so brilliantly 
described and analyzed by the Kuzari and others), which, among 
all the other great Truths it has imparted to us also imparts the 
historical record of the Flood as literal and factual. 
We - whom Reuven perhaps would disparagingly dismiss as 
"Fundamentalists" - see no reason to raise difficulties with our 
accurate (and sacred) Mesorah on the basis on the latest 
scientific notion. Those of us who are somewhat beyond High 
School Textbook Science know the flux and infirmity of scientific 
"facts." Today it is thus, tomorrow it shall be otherwise. 
It is only "Netzach Yisroel lo yishaker" - the eternal truths of 
the exalted Chosen People, imparted to us by Moshe Rabbeinu, 
Chazal and the Great Rishonim that have withstood the tests of 
time with the resilience of the Divine. 

We have been influenced by the aggresive assertiveness of the 
secular world. In the service of Man's efforts to shake off the 
shackles of Religious Restriction, the secular world has mounted 
an unceasing attack on our Timeless Truths and Toras Emes. Let us 
all take the time to contemplate the majesty of our Great Leaders 
and Thinkers, and the majestic Mesorah, and the accompanying 
sanctity, that they have passed down to us, and grasp, assert and 
proudly proclaim and teach authentic Torah Judaism. 
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1999 09:01:35 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" 

Subject: Flood part 2

Subject: Reuven Shimon and the flood 
(Gad Asher) 

I feel surprised to come to the defense of Reuven Shimon. None 
the less, it is not clear to me that his position in the matter 
of the allegorization of the flood is so clearly beyond the pale. 
Surely you agree that the first perek of Breishis is not to be 
taken literally. Once we accept that, it becomes harder to draw 
the line at the non-literal interpretation of any non-Halachic 
portions of the Torah. What do you think Chazal meant, for 
example, in the equation of the nachash and the yetzer hora? ,Did 
the author of that maimra mean to preserve both the pshat and the 
drash or to assert that the drash in this case is the pshat? I 
would assert that one finds both positions among the rishonim; 
this is especially the case among such Sepharadim as the Akedas 

Similarly the Rambam's assertion that the 3 angels came only in a 
vision, despite the simple meaning of the psukim, would be 
consistent with the position that Reuven is taking. In sum, it 
seems to me that there is enough evidence to let Reuven maintain 
that his view is consistent with that of respectable predecessors 
albeit a minority. 

Personally I prefer to take the position that the Torah is 
clearly not a source of scientific knowledge but of moral 
instruction. I am prepared to take everyt hing literally unless 
compelled to do otherwise (as is clearly the case in the first 
perek) but if so compelled I would have no difficulty as long as 
Halachic interpretation was unaffected. After all, Hashem could 
have created us through evolution if he so chose and I have no 
idea of what process he actually used. 

I think evolutionary theory as I understand it is full of holes 
but I could accept it if there were no alternative. 
Reuven's references to the non-literal interpretation of aggados 
are of course irrelevant since those discussions do not deal with 
Torah Shebiksav but his case can still be made. 

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. I'm writing to you 
privately because I don't want to appear to be lending support to 
the borderline kfira that often is posted on the list. I have a 
problem with your suggestion that the Rishonim can tell us what 
can be seen as allegory; why not say that they had no right to go 
beyond Chazal? It would seem that you would have to say (as you 
do)that the allegorization of a pasuk is not strictly prohibited 
(presumably if it is not Halachic - otherwise gilui panim baTorah 
shelo kaHalacha). If not prohibited, why not Acharonim - couldn't 
the Gra, the Ari or the Rama suggest allegorization? How about R' 
Chaim Ozer? I prefer to maintain (and I think it's implied in 
your use of the slippery slope reference) that the further an 
idea deviates from the mekubal the more essential it is that the 
wisdom of gedolei Torah be applied to the question of 
entertaining it. 

I remain troubled by the idea, however, that there is no 
prohibition against the allegorization of Torah. It is clear to 
me (I think) that any suggestion of non-literality from Lech 
Lecha on (that is, from the beginning of the explicit sacred 
history of klal Yisroel) is asur. 

Were Reuven to suggest that Avraham Avinu never existed it seems 
to me that he he would be a kofer, at least in the category of 
"makchish magideha". Were he to suggest that Maaseh Breishis is 
non-literal he would be following in the steps of Chazal (a la 
your position, though I would deny that right to the Rishonim). I 
am unsure about the intervening prokim. Chazal clearly had some 
members who saw the story of the nachash non-literally but the 
mabul is more of a puzzle. 

I suppose that we basically agree except for my inclination to 
draw the line at Chazal rather than the Rishonim. The problem 
with the Rambam is not in the question of how malachim are seen 
but how you reconcile the concreteness of the psukim with his 
position. The Ramban, after all, doesn't question the possibility 
of the Rambam's case but its truth based on the text. 

Gad Asher 

My Responses to Gad Asher 
(Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer) 


I have a problem with your suggestion that the Rishonim can tell 
us what can be seen as allegory; why not say that they had no 
right to go beyond Chazal? It would seem that you, would have to 
say (as you do)that the allegorization of a pasuk is not strictly 
prohibited (presumably if it is not Halachic - otherwise gilui 
panim baTorah shelo kaHalacha). 

I only include the Rishonim because we know that certain Rishonim 
- especially Rabbeinu Chananel and his Beis Medrash - are known 
to have their own Kabbalos which are not necessarily recorded in 
Chazal. Even Rashi will occasionally cite a Medrash that we do 
not possess, which may qualify as well. Other than those who can 
thus claim that they possessed a Mesorah, I too reject any 
Chiddush in "Allegory" beyond Chazal regardless of the stature of 
the individual in question. 

Gad Asher: 

I prefer to maintain (and I think it's implied in your use of the 
slippery slope reference) that the further an idea deviates from 
the mekubal the more essential it is that the wisdom of gedolei 
Torah be applied to the question of entertaining it. 


Ah, but whom do you mean by Gedolei Torah? Shades of the old "Who 
is a Gadol question" - who is qualified to provide this kind of 

Gad Asher: 

Were Reuven to suggest that Avraham Avinu never existed it ,seems 
to me that he he would be a kofer, at least in the ,category of 
"makchish magideha". Were he to suggest that, Maaseh Breishis is 
non-literal he would be following in the steps of Chazal (a la 
your position, though I would deny that right to the Rishonim). I 
am unsure about the, intervening prokim. 

Chazal clearly had some members who saw ,the story of the nachash 
non-literally but the mabul is more of a puzzle. 


What sources in Chazal make you unsure about the Mabul? I don't 
know of any. 

I suppose that we basically agree except for my inclination to 
draw the line at Chazal rather than the Rishonim. The problem 
with the Rambam is not in the question of how malachim are seen 
but how you reconcile the concreteness of the psukim with his 
position. The Ramban, after all, doesn't question the possibility 
of the Rambam's case but its truth based on the text. 

The Rambam is not alone. The Ralbag, and occasionally the Radak 
on Nach make the argument of visions consistently when confronted 
with Angelic encounters, etc. - even if the Pasuk seems quite 

Clearly they hold tha visions are concrete things too - after 
all, Nevuah is one of the Ikkarim. 

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer 

Criticism of Reuven Shimon's submission on the Flood 
(Levi Yehuda) 

Whether one agrees with Reuven Shimon's non-literal 
interpretation of the Flood or not, anyone familiar with the 
broad outlines of traditional Jewish exegesis and thought must 
admit that the right to such an interpretation is absolutely 
within the parameters of our tradition. There have been numerous 
interpretations expounded by Talmudic and Midrashic sages and our 
great commentators that ran counter to what at least 
superficially appears to have been the previously widely-accepted 

Reuven's example of another case of Rishonim allegorizing was the 
Garden of Eden. Several additional examples will be helpful. The 
Rambam, primarily because of his interpretation of prophecy as 
occurring in a vision, allegorizes each of the following: G-d 
taking Abraham outside and showing him the stars; the whole 
passage of Abraham's three visitors; Jacob's wrestling with the 
angel; the whole episode of Balaam's talking ass; Hosea's taking 
a harlot wife; Ezekiel's resurrection of the dead (a Talmudic 
controversy); Gideon's fleece of wool; and many other Scriptural 
events (Guide 2: 42, 47). R. Yosef Ibn Caspi and others allow 
allegorization of the great fish swallowing Yonah. Many Rishonim 
felt science indicated that necromancy doesn't exist and rejected 
a literal interpretation of the necromancer's conjuring up of the 
deceased prophet Samuel and his ensuing conversation with King 

If there would have been a compelling scientific or philosophic 
reason to support the Eternity of the Universe view, the Rambam 
states he would have interpreted Genesis 1 in accordance with it, 
but he believes Aristotle didn't truly make his point, so Mesorah 
came into play. In our century R. Kook considered the doctrine of 
evolution - modified to include the Creator's role - so 
compelling and uplifting that he urged Torah only be taught that 

The "Mesorah", which some have thrown against Reuven, important 
as it is, should not be glamorized into something it isn't. The 
Talmudic sages and the Rishonim recognized that there are many, 
many matters in Scripture that "Mesorah" even in their days did 
not clarify and everybody had to do their best with whatever they 
could garner from tradition, logic and available evidence. The 
sages and commentaries are constantly arguing with each other 
about how to understand thousands of matters of realia, events 
and meaning of words, often having diametrically opposed views, 
trying to reach truth. We should continue the process and use the 
great tools of science, archaeology, philology, history, etc. 
that are at our disposal today. 

Let us not get bogged down with a misinterpretation of "Elu VeElu 
- these and these are the words of the living G-d", and feel 
untraditional every time we come up with an interpretation 
contrary to the view of a Talmudic sage or a Rishon. Great as the 
sages were, they were fallible and welcomed every opportunity to 
clarify a matter. The misinterpretation of "Elu Veelu" and the 
recently-developed concept of "Daas Torah" are stifling 
legitimate Torah research and moving Orthodox Judaism into an 
unenlightened age contrary to our glorious heritage. 
Yosef Bechhofer commits a personal injustice to Reuven by 
accusing him of stating that "G-d, Chazal and the Rishonim were 
"pulling the wool over our eyes" with this blatant falsification" 
[of an allegorical flood account], something Reuven never even 
implied. Some readers may have received the impression from 
Yosef's use of quotation marks around "pulling the wool over our 
eyes" that those were Reuven's words. Although the marks indicate 
a colloquial phrase, the sentence demonstrates that Yosef 
completely misunderstands Reuven. Reuven, as great luminaries of 
our tradition through the centuries, doesn't think of an allegory 
as deceptive. We may say that on the contrary, Reuven is 
combatting the view of those who posit literalness in the face of 
overwhelming evidence, who sometimes are led to say the evidence 
was put there by the Creator to fool us. 

In conclusion we should recognize that a prophetic allegory is as 
true and inspiring as any "actual" history. 

Levi Yehuda 

My Responses 
(Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer) 

From Levi Yehuda: 

There have been numerous interpretations expounded by Talmudic 
and Midrashic sages and our great commentators that ran counter 
to what at least superficially appears to have been the 
previously widely-accepted opinion. 


That is of course true, but they are "Talmudic and Midrashic 
sages and our great commentators," an dwe are not. Yes, we are 
smaller less knowledgable and privy to less Ruach HaKodesh than 
Chazal and the Great Rishonim, such as Rabbeinu Chananel, whom 
other Rishonim testify had direct access to the Mesorah "shekol 
devarav divrei kabbala" - "that all of his words were from the 
Tradition." That doesn't mean we can't be creative - we just must 
know our limitations. 

Several additional examples will be helpful. The Rambam, 
primarily because of his interpretation of prophecy as occurring 
in a vision, allegorizes each of the following: G-d taking 
Abraham outside and showing him the stars; the whole passage of 
Abraham's three visitors; Jacob's wrestling with the angel; the 
whole episode of Balaam's talking ass; Hosea's taking a harlot 
wife; Ezekiel's resurrection of the dead (a Talmudic 
controversy); Gideon's fleece of wool; and many other Scriptural 
events (Guide 2: 42, 47). 

I just taught Gideon's fleece of wool in my Nach class. With all 
due respect to you and others who commented to me privately about 
the Rambam, Ralbag and others' approach towards such events that 
they say were visions or conveyed by prophets - THAT IS NOT THE 
SAME AS ALLEGORY. The Rambam, who codified the reality of 
prophecy as one of the 13 Principles believes that this is the 
way angels appear and signs occur - in visions. The Tanach 
accurately describes real events that actually transpired - in 
the realm of prophecy. What I understood Reuven to have said is 
that the Flood account is an allegory - i.e., it didn't take 
place in the realm of vision either - it is, according to Reuven, 
a symbolic story, much like a parable. Perhaps your closing 
statement: "In conclusion we should recognize that a prophetic 
allegory is as true and inspiring as any "actual" history" agrees 
with me? (BTW, I would find the interpretation of the Flood as a 
vision inacceptable. Miracles do occur - no one says, or can say, 
that the Splitting of the Sea or the Giving of the Torah was a 
vision, and the Flood I place in the same category. But that is a 
separate issue.) 

Levi Yehuda: 

R. Yosef Ibn Caspi and others allow allegorization of the great 
fish swallowing Yonah. 


Rabbi Ibn Caspi was a controversial source. I reserve the right 
to reject his interpretation as beyond the mainstream. 

Levi Yehuda: 

Many Rishonim felt science indicated that necromancy doesn't 
exist and rejected a literal interpretation of the necromancer's 
conjuring up of the deceased prophet Samuel and his ensuing 
conversation with King Saul. 


Again, not as allegory but as visions. 

Levi Yehuda: 

If there would have been a compelling scientific or philosophic 
reason to support the Eternity of the Universe view, the Rambam 
states he would have interpreted Genesis 1 in accordance with it, 
but he believes Aristotle didn't truly make his point, so Mesorah 
came into play. In our century R. Kook considered the doctrine of 
evolution - modified to include the Creator's role - so 
compelling and uplifting that he urged Torah only be taught that 


I fail to see why these points are relevant. Of course we can 
accept science where it does not contradict Torah. it is where 
there is a REAL clash that our debate begins. 

Levi Yehuda: 

The "Mesorah", which some have thrown against Reuven, important 
as it is, should not be glamorized into something it isn't. The 
Talmudic sages and the Rishonim recognized that there are many, 
many matters in Scripture that "Mesorah" even in their days did 
not clarify and everybody had to do their best with whatever they 
could garner from tradition, logic and available evidence. 


This is true, but it does not justify your next statement, in 
which you leap to equate us with our "tools" with Chazal. 

Levi Yehuda: 

The misinterpretation of "Elu Veelu" and the recently-developed 
concept of "Daas Torah" are stifling legitimate Torah research 
and moving Orthodox Judaism into an unenlightened age contrary to 
our glorious heritage. 


You realize that I didn't quote either of these concepts in my 
posting. I don't think they have anything to do with this 
discussion, and I fear you bring them in to "pigeonhole" me as a 
rabid right winger who can be dismissed out of hand. We can do 
great research, and I hope that I do, and use all the tools at 
our disposal. We are not discussing dispute with our 
contemporaries, however, which would bring"Elu Veelu" and "the 
recently-developed concept" of "Daas Torah" (as an aside, see 
Rabbi Wein's article in the November "Jewish Observer" - "Da'as 
Torah" is an new phrase, but not a new concept) - but our 
attitude towards Mesorah and Chazal. I resubmit, one cannot 
reinterpret as allegory that which Chazal - via the Mesorah - 
accepted as fact. 

Indeed, once you question the Mabul as fact, pray tell, what 
leads you to believe that Mattan Torah and Yetzias Mitzrayim are 

Levi Yehuda: 

Yosef Bechhofer commits a personal injustice to Reuven by 
accusing him of stating that "G-d, Chazal and the Rishonim were 
"pulling the wool over our eyes" with this blatant falsification" 
[of an allegorical flood account], something Reuven never even 


I certainly didn't mean to insult Reuven. I generally agree with 
much of what Reuven has to say and respect his scholarship. I 
hope we can continue to discuss these matters unemotionally and 
in a friendly fashion! 

Levi Yehuda: 

We may say that on the contrary, Reuven is combatting the view of 
those who posit literalness in the face of overwhelming evidence, 
who sometimes are led to say the evidence was put there by the 
Creator to fool us. 


I am not a member of the "planted evidence" shool of thought. I, 
however, fail to understand the negativism against literalism 
where our Mesorah dictates it, in Torah she'bi'Ksav. I do not 
place science on a pedestal - it is certainly as fallible, IMHO, 
much more, than the traditions of our Jewish Heritage and 

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer 

Subject: Flood part 4 (concluded)

Reuven Shimon and the flood 
(Gad Asher) 

Offhand the only source I can recall as suggesting a 
less-than-fully- literal approach to the story of the mabul is 
the Gemara in Z'vachim 113 where there is a machlokes as to 
whether the mabul was universal (as would appear from the psukim) 
or partial (not affecting Eretz Yisrael). I have wondered about 
this for years - once we allow that the mabul was not universal 
many problems follow. What was actually excluded? Why would such 
an extraordinary miracle (the world is swamped with megatons of 
water and they stop at the borders of EY) not be mentioned? What 
happened to the flora and fauna of EY? etc. 

Your comment about "which g'dolim" is of course correct but my 
answer would be "whomever you consider a gadol to whom you would 
address questions concerning kares, misa, etc." I only meant to 
say that even though I come from a Bais Medrash that emphasized 
individual thought and the right to think for oneself common 
sense dictates that even if one does not violate a Halachic 
proscription proscription one can not cavalierly deviate from 
that which has been held dear and true by generations of shomrei 
Torah umitzvos. In cases where one feels compelled to sanction 
such deviation one should at least ascertain that substantial 
torah scholars raise no serious objections. Chidush is not asur 
in machshava but neither does anything go. 

Gad Asher 

The Flood and Mesorah 
(Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer) 

Levi Yehuda raised the issue of the Rambam's view of Aristotle's 
theory that the matter of this world always existed. He states, 
according to Rabbi Yehuda, that: 

If there would have been a compelling scientific or philosophic 
reason to support the Eternity of the Universe view, the Rambam 
states he would have interpreted Genesis 1 in accordance with it, 
but he believes Aristotle didn't truly make his point, so Mesorah 
came into play. 

In a later posting, he expanded on this point further. 

Let us examine the actual Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim II:25 (p. 328 in 
the Pines edition, which I quote): 

"If, however, one believed in eternity... - which is the opinion 
of Plato - ...this opinion would not destroy the foundations of 
the Law... . It would also be possible to interpret figuratively 
the texts in accordance with this opinion. And many obscure 
passages could be found in the texts of the Torah and others with 
which this opinion could be connected... . However, no necessity 
could impel us to do this unless this opinion were 

In fact, this section - paraphrased by Rabbi Yehuda - is in 
regard to PLATO's opinion. In regard to Aristotle's opinion, the 
Rambam writes in the previous section: 

"...The belief in eternity the way Aristotle sees it - that is, 
the belief according to which the world exists in virtue of 
necessity,... and that the customary course of events cannot be 
modified with regard to anything - destroys the Law in its 
reduces to inanity all the hopes and threats that the Law has 
held out, unless - BY G-D! - ONE INTERPRETS THE MIRACLES 
FIGURATIVELY ALSO, as was done by the Islamic internalists; this, 
however would result in some sort of crazy imaginings." 
(The emphasis is, of course, mine.) The text, I believe, speaks 
for itself. I only note that this idea is briefly and clearly 
discussed by Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg in "Fundamentals and Faith" 
pp. 50-52. 

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer 

The Flood, Mesorah..., and now, Gan Eden 
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer 

Until now, Levi Yehuda corrctly noted, I have dealt only with the 
Flood, and not with Gan Eden. I wanted to look that up a little 
before commenting. I did. 

I certainly do not claim to have done exhaustive research, but I 
have done what I believe to be enough to state that viewing the 
Gan Eden account as allegory is not in line with the dominant 
mainstream view of Chazal and the Rishonim. The one opinion I 
found that holds expressly that the story with the serpent is an 
allegory is the Sfornu on the episode with the serpent and the 
"Efodi" Commentary on the Moreh Nevuchim (Ibn Tibbon edition, 
II:30, pp. 51-52). 

In my opinion, this is clearly not the Rambam himself's position, 
and I invite readers to peruse the Moreh themselves, p. 356 in 
the Pines English translation). 

I grant that the Abarbanel mentions that the Rambam himself holds 
the episode allegorical, but he clearly was influenced by the 
Rambam's commentators, whom he calls the Rambam's "friends." 
The Abarbanel himself, however, is critical of the Rambam 
(according to his understanding of him). The Abarbanel, in fact, 
uses reasoning that should be familiar to readers of my previous 
postings: It is incorrect to take texts that the Torah conveys as 
actual factual description and interpret them allegorically! He 
does give some novel interpretations of the events in Gan Eden, 
but all true to a factual perspective. 

I also perused all the Chazals brought by Rabbi Kasher in the 
Torah Sheleima (readers not familiar with that work should 
understand that it is an exhaustive, comprehensive and 
encyclopediac compilation of all Chazals and most Rishonim and 
many Acharonim on Torah she'bi'ktav). I could not find any Chazal 
that takes the account of Gan Eden as allegorical. 

Those that equate the serpent with the evil inclination need not 
dismiss its actual existence, but rather see it as "evil 
incarnate" (see the Nefesh HaChaim 1:6 in the note there). 
Indeed, the Ramban in his commentary 3:22 and in the "Toras 
HaAdam" (Kisvei Ramban vol. 2 p. 295 in the Mossad HaRav Kook 
edition) takes great pains to stress that Gan Eden and all the 
events that occured therein actually existed in this world, and 
that references to a spiritual Gan Eden in Chazal, refer to a 
parallel spiritual realm that also really exists, and that the 
events that transpired in Gan Eden below also transpired in that 
Gan Eden on high. 

Again, I only checked Rishonim at my ready disposal, but these 
seem pretty clear. Rabbinu Bechayei takes the view of the Ramban, 
of course. 

The Ibn Ezra as well is adamantly opposed to allegorical 
interpretation (See Nechama Leibowitz's "Iyunim" p. 14 as well). 
So is R. Sa'adia Gaon. 

I admit that I did not see Reuven Shimon's original posting on 
Gan Eden, but so far the Sfornu is all I found. Bear in mind: a) 
that he too takes the rest of the Gan Eden account as literal; b) 
that he was not adverse to the surreal (see his link of "Tumah" 
and demons in his "Kavanos HaTorah"; c) the Sfornu himself weaves 
in and out of the allegory in 3:14. 

Nevertheless, the Sfornu exists. However, in light of Chazal and 
the other Rishonim, his interpretation here must be rejected. 
Yet, be that as it may, the Sfornu only makes this jump here 
where he can cite verses from Nach (and Chazal) in which the tern 
"Nachash" is used as an express allegory for the Evil Inclination 
and the Power of Fantasy. The Sfornu certainly did not take the 
Flood as allegorical - there is no basis for that, even according 
to the Sfornu's non-mainstream approach here. 

(Dan Naftali) 

While I find the openess of the forum, and the intellectual acuity
of many of its participants exhilarating, sometimes the diversity
of opinion gets oppressive. 

I wonder how people who, after all, share a profound committment 
to halacha and the thirteen principles of the Rambam, can still 
disagree so passionately on basic issues. 

These last few weeks on mail-jewish make a traditionalist feel as 
comfortable as Benjamin Hooks at a Klan reunion. We've seen the 
Mabul [Flood] dry up, midrash reduced to fairy tales, Esav and 
Yaakov reverse roles, and Daas Torah uncovered as the invention 
of 19th century spin-doctors. I'd bet that I am not the only one 
who feels frustrated for not having time to respond to all these 
important points. More important, though, than the consternation 
of those of us with unshakeable belief, must be the confusion of 
those who did not have the zechus [merit] to spend years in a 
bais medrash to be able to firmly formulate their beliefs. They 
don't know whom to believe, and in some cases that there is even 
another viewpoint that should be considered. 

In this vein I offer the perceptions of one unabashed 
traditionalist concerning the Aggada, at least in outline form. I 
believe that I present nothing new, but that they are all based 
on the major thrust of our literature and our mesorah of previous 
centuries. I do not offer them as a doctrinal statement, but as 
one traditional view, for those who wish to learn about such 
views, that I received from my rabbeim, and continue to teach my 

1) All of Torah was authored by Hashem, including the narrative 

2) Hashem had a purpose in writing every letter of the Torah. 

3) Not all interpetations of Torah are created equal. One who 
argues that the "pri etz hadar" we are to take on the first of 
Sukkos is a papaya, is mistaken, even if most Hawaiins will agree 
that its a nicer fruit than an esrog. One who maintains that the 
three evocations of a Divine Name in the first line of the Shma 
allude (chas v'shalom) to the Trinity has no place in Jewish 

4) To find the true intentions of the Author in what might 
otherwise be an infinite number of good, bad, and ugly ways of 
interpreting the text, we turn to the Oral Torah. This is what He 
instructed us. This reliance on traditional interpretation is a 
more important way that we differ with Protestantism than in the 
nature of Jesus. 

5) Torah She-b'al Peh [the Oral Law] did not skip the narrative 
portions of Chumash. While we do not always come to binding 
conclusions about Aggadic material (as we do in halacha), we 
really attempt to discover within Aggada what we do in Halacha. 
We try to discover what lessons Hashem wishes us to learn. He 
wrote the Torah in a way that multiple truths may be wringed out 
of a given text. But not all that may be squeezed out of a text 
is Truth. 

6) Midrashim are the earliest, and therefore most authoritative 
way of discovering the approach Chazal took to a topic in 

7) Midrashim can be more profound than halachic portions of the 
Talmud. For this reason, they were not committed to writing 
(Gemara Gittin) when much of the rest of the Oral Torah was. 
There was greater reluctance here that the true meaning would be 
lost or perverted (MaHaRaTZ Chayes). Sometimes, Chazal 
deliberately couched their profundity in obscure or even bizarre 
language, so that those without the proper readiness and 
orientation would cast it aside, and not gain access to its 
secrets (Ramchal). Those who understand the genius of the Sages 
of the Talmud will understand that those same contributors are 
incapable of spewing nonsense, and thus will try harder to 
uncover their real intention (Rambam). 

8) Not all midrashim come from the same source. Some are entirely 
traditional. They contain information whose source was direct 
revelation at Sinai. This is particularly likely in the case of 
statements that reflect basic principles of faith (Maharatz 
Chayes). Other midrashim are not traditional in this sense. They 
express the opinion of the individual author. (Avraham ben 
HaRambam). Even here, though, these opinions are not shots in the 
dark. They incorporate a) elements of general approach that are 
entirely traditional (e.g. Just how "good" were the Avos? How 
trustworthy is prophecy? Were the heroes of Nach bloodthirsty 
warriors, or G-d fearing, intense souls?). They also include b) 
the honing of mental skills by years of incomprehensible depth of 
Torah understanding. 

9) Not all midrashim were meant to be taken literally. But they 
are always correct. (Maharal of Prague, one of our greatest 
"bulldogs" for the sactity of every letter of Chazal, is 
nonetheless notoriously non-literal in his approach to countless 
passages.) We often do not know which should, and which should 
not. We should apply the same tools to them as we do in studying 
the halachic parts of the gemara. None of us within Orthodoxy 
would think seriously of opening a Shas and deliberately ignoring 
Rashi in favor of our own understanding. We should treat the 
Aggada the same way. We should allow greater minds than ours to 
guide us to our conclusions. If we can't find that guidance, then 
at least we should understand that any difficulty lies with our 
comprehension, not with the product they served up. 

10) Because the "real" intent of the author of a passage in the 
Aggada is often ellusive, we cannot as often fix a legally 
binding meaning to many passages. In particular, if a passage 
seems to convey something to us that completely violates our 
sensibilities, it is likely that we have missed its real thrust, 
and therefore do not learn from it. This is the meaning of "Eyn 
lemaydin min ha- aggados" [We do not learn from Aggados] (Michtav 
Me-eliyahu). Nonetheless, there are many, many examples of 
practical laws that have been codified, whose only source is the 
Aggada. This is particularly likely when the source is an aggada 
that was incorporated by the editors of the Gemara. (Maharatz 

11) Chazal often used the scientific knowledge common in their 
times as vehicles for expressing their wisdom. Science may 
change. The task of Chazal was to know and disseminate the 
timeless Torah that was revealed at Sinai, not the science that 
is revealed with the passage of time. The task of the student is 
to get beyond the scientific assumptions, and to the core of the 
teaching they wish to convey. These teachings transcend time and 
any particular cultural form of expression. (Maharal, many 
places; Michtav Me- Eliyahu vol. 4) 

12) Can we sometimes arrive at truths about the Torah without 
their guidance? Sure. Patients can self-prescribe too, and 
sometimes live to talk about it. Good medicine it isn't. 
There. I feel better just writing all of this! 

Dan Naftali