R Natan Slifkin / The new journal Dialogue includes an article by Rabbi Moshe Meiselman of Yeshivas Toras Moshe, entitled “A Question of Time,” which presents an approach regarding the age of the universe. But Rabbi Meiselman’s article does not just present itself as a suggestion. Rather, he entirely denies the legitimacy – not just the technical correctness – of alternatives.

Blurring Distinctions in Theology, Geology and Paleontology

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Guest post by Rabbi Natan Slifkin

Rabbi Natan Slifkin is the author of several works on the interface between Torah and the natural sciences. He teaches at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah and is pursuing a PhD in Jewish history at Bar-Ilan University

The Innovation of Fundamental Beliefs

The new journal Dialogue includes an article by Rabbi Moshe Meiselman of Yeshivas Toras Moshe, entitled “A Question of Time,” which presents an approach regarding the age of the universe.[1] But Rabbi Meiselman’s article does not just present itself as a suggestion. Rather, he entirely denies the legitimacy – not just the technical correctness – of alternatives.

Rabbi Meiselman begins his discussion with the following claim:

The issue [of the age of the universe] is not a new one. It was first discussed in our sources in medieval times. Ever since Aristotle, science had claimed that the world had no beginning… Neither the philosophic/scientific proofs of Aristotle, however, nor the scientific proofs of Newton and Laplace moved our Mesorah (transmitted tradition). None of the chachmei hamesorah who confronted the issue ever suggested that the received position be re-evaluated. Creation ex nihilo always remained a fundamental belief. The scientific approach was simply rejected, even in the face of so-called proofs.

Rabbi Meiselman claims that the issue is not a new one – thereby blurring the distinction between the question of whether the universe was created, and the question of how old it is. But these are as different as chalk and cheese. The reason why creation ex nihilo was not re-evaluated is precisely because it was a fundamental belief. As Rambam states:

The belief in eternity in the way that Aristotle sees it – that is, the belief according to which the world exists by necessity, that nature does not change at all, and that the ordinary course of events cannot be modified in any aspect – this uproots the Torah from its foundation, and utterly denies all the miracles, and erases all the hopes and threats that the Torah assures. (Guide For The Perplexed 2:25)

But Rambam makes it clear that received traditions which are not fundamental beliefs can be reinterpreted. He proceeds to say that the Platonic (as opposed to Aristotelian) view of the eternity of the universe could be accepted, and the Torah reinterpreted to match it – and that the only reason not to do so is that this theory has not been scientifically substantiated:

If, however, we accepted the Eternity of the Universe in accordance with the second of the theories which we have expounded above, and assumed, with Plato, that the heavens are likewise transient, we should not be in opposition to the fundamental principles of our religion; this theory would not imply the rejection of miracles, but, on the contrary, would admit them as possible. The Scriptural text might have been explained accordingly, and many expressions might have been found in the Bible and in other writings that would confirm and support this theory. But there is no necessity for this expedient, so long as the theory has not been proved. (Guide for the Perplexed ibid.)

Furthermore, there have indeed been cases where traditional interpretations were re-evaluated as a result of scientific proofs. One example of this is the rakia. Received tradition, from Chazal through all the Rishonim, based on pesukim, was that the rakia is a solid covering to the world.[2] But once it was discovered that there is no such solid covering, the concept was reinterpreted.

Thus, when Rabbi Meiselman compares the topic of the age of the universe to its creation, he is ignoring and negating the very distinction that Rambam stressed and which makes all the difference in the world. It is precisely due to this very distinction that there were indeed Torah authorities who diverged from the received tradition with regard to the age of the universe. Rabbi Yisrael Lipschitz, the “Tiferes Yisrael,” argued that there were previous epochs before that described in Bereishis[3]—an approach that was endorsed by Maharsham,[4] as well as by one of the people on the Rabbinic Board of Dialogue, Rabbi Aharon Feldman.[5] Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Hoffman argued that a “day” can mean an “era.”[6] And Rambam himself, as explained by Abarbanel,[7] Shem Tov ben Yosef,[8] and Akeidas Yitzchak,[9] along with Ralbag,[10] believed that the “six days” need not refer to a period of time at all. Rabbi Meiselman does not engage in any “Dialogue” with these views, and does not even make any reference to them. In fact, it seems that he considers them religiously unacceptable. Why?

Let us now begin to address the explanation of Bereishis that Rabbi Meiselman proposes. He argues that science simply cannot measure the duration of creation:

One of the main points of this article will be that all current tools for measuring the passage of time presume stability in the relationships between natural processes, similar to what we observe today. In fact, our entire outlook on time reflects this presumption… The presumption of stability in the oscillations of the cesium atom underlies all notions of time measurement today, as well as their projection into other epochs… The assumptions made by contemporary science in this area were never provable in the first place and they remain matters of conjecture. Our Mesorah has always rejected them and there is no justification for changing that stance now.

I will present three explanations as to why Rabbi Meiselman’s approach fails. In reverse order: The third explanation will show why his approach can be scientifically disproved very simply, and rests upon a fundamentally mistaken premise about the development of science. The second explanation will show why his approach is incoherent when one contemplates how prehistoric life fits in to it. The first explanation will show why his approach has no theological advantage over other approaches, and suffers all their disadvantages.

Before discussing his approach, it is helpful to discuss a similar approach, put forth by Rav Shimon Schwab,[11] which I analyzed in The Challenge Of Creation. He posited that billions of years during the era of creation were equal to six regular days today. His explanation for this is that all the events of those fourteen billion years were sped up such that they took place in only six days. An instant difficulty with this, and its resolution, is discussed by Rabbi Schwab:

…It is obvious that if all motion were uniformly multiplied all radiation, for instance, would become lethal. The accelerated speed would turn every particle into a deadly missile. Also a multiplication of the rapidity of all motion would upset the balance of mechanical forces which function differently at different speeds. Therefore, we should rather think of a uniform nexus of changes in the entire system of the natural order which is observable today, a uniform variation in all functions within the framework of natural law in conformity with the new universal velocity, not upsetting the intricate balance of all physical phenomena and the orderly cooperation of all parts within the whole.

Although this solves the technical difficulties, it now raises another type of difficulty—if the entire system has sped up, in what way is it significant to say that any of it has sped up? Again, Rabbi Schwab raises the question, and proposes an answer:

In fact, without having at least one exception somewhere in the universe, the simultaneous uniform acceleration of all motion is in itself a meaningless concept. The fixed reference point which might give meaning to this whole concept is the Creation Light.

However, the Creation Light, even with Rabbi Schwab’s understanding that it had a physical manifestation, is an insignificant point of reference in comparison to the revolutions of the earth, the movement of the planets and suchlike. If the earth is rotating on its axis billions of times, the sun rising and setting billions of times, and countless millions of generations of animals are living their lives, then how is it meaningful to speak of this taking only six days? Imagine if last week was sped up by God so that it only took five minutes on the Cosmic clock—would this be detectable or even meaningful in any way? If fourteen billion years equal six Creation days, then it is fourteen billion years as we understand it, and the six days are being understood differently from the simple understanding. If virtually everything is being sped up, then effectively nothing is being sped up.

Now, Rabbi Meiselman appears to be at least somewhat aware of this problem. He writes as follows:

When we extrapolate backwards in time we are tacitly assuming that throughout the period of the extrapolation all natural processes maintained the same relationships. If, for example, they were all to speed up by a factor of ten we would have no way of measuring or perhaps even detecting the phenomenon.

In fact, it is not just that we could not measure or detect the phenomenon; it is that there would not be a phenomenon. But let us see his continuation:

On the other hand, if one process remained constant we would then have to decide whether the others sped up or that one slowed down.

That is correct. And it would be a fairly easy judgment to make if only one or two processes were different, and all others remained the same. But Rabbi Meiselman proposes that everything was different during creation – that there was simply no such thing as the laws of nature as we know them:

…During the six days of Creation the world was governed by a system of laws that was totally different from the one operative today… Once one accepts the Torah’s version of history—that during certain epochs current natural law was not operative—there is no contradiction at all between the Torah’s chronology and science… The assumptions made by contemporary science in this area were never provable in the first place and they remain matters of conjecture. Our Mesorah has always rejected them and there is no justification for changing that stance now.

In Rabbi Meiselman’s approach, since the laws of nature were “totally different” during Creation, there is simply no way that science can use its ordinary tools to measure its duration. Yet even if what Rabbi Meiselman writes were to be true – and we will prove that it is not true – all that it would mean is that the age of the universe cannot be precisely measured as being exactly 13.8 billion years, as modern science argues. But what is Rabbi Meiselman proposing in its place? In what sense is it remotely meaningful to describe the formation of the universe as taking six days? If the laws of nature and physical processes were completely different, then in what meaningful sense can one say that it lasted six days? It is no more six days than it is six eras or six levels of a hierarchy.

Now, one might counter that the earth turned on its axis six times (“And there was evening, and there was morning”), by which it can be described as six days. But is that really significant? It is six rotations; not six days in any meaningful sense. Furthermore, if sunrise and sunset is all that matters, then you might as well say that the world is billions of years old, and you can accept everything that modern science has to say, with the exception of saying that the rotation of the earth on its axis was drastically slower for all those billions of years.

The particularly strange thing is that in an earlier part of the article, Rabbi Meiselman appears to recognize that some standard of measurement is required, and argues that it exists, but completely fails to explain what it is:

[There are] two distinct conceptions of time measurement — one paralleling our own for use when current relationships are operative and another completely different conception to be used when they are not — both expressed in the same terms. In order for them to work complementarily, however, the existence of a unifying conception applicable in all epochs must be posited. It is this that serves as the true measure of time. Whenever the world is operating in accordance with ordinary natural law the true measure coincides with human convention, making it possible for us to employ the latter and ignore the former. But during those epochs when natural law is not in effect, the true measure ceases to bear any resemblance to our own and it alone has meaning.

But what is this “unifying conception”? What is this “true measure”?! Rabbi Meiselman does not elaborate. Because there is none! And it cannot be posited that God has some Cosmic clock outside of the universe, for two reasons. First of all, it would still be completely meaningless in our terms. Second, elsewhere in the article, Rabbi Meiselman himself endorses Rambam’s view that the concept of time presupposes motion, which in turn presupposes a physical world. And so Rabbi Meiselman has not only failed to explain how the universe can be proposed to have developed in six days; he has even made it meaningless to speak about such a timespan.

Furthermore, many of the theological objections that have been raised against those who accept the antiquity of the universe would equally apply to Rabbi Meiselman’s approach. In his approach, the flow of time during creation, and also during the deluge (when he claims that the laws of nature were likewise completely different), were completely different from the flow of time at other times. In his words: “…there is an extra-cosmic concept of time which is operative independently of scientific time… this operates at times when scientific time is not applicable.” But it has been objected that this undermines the Jewish calendar, as well as legal documents that are based upon it. And others, such as Rav Schwab and the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, argued that any explanation in which the six days were not six ordinary days as we have them would completely undermine the concept of Shabbos:

…The attempt to “reinterpret” the text of the first section of Bereishis to the effect that it speaks of periods or eons, rather than ordinary days… is not only uncalled for, but it means tampering with the Mitzvah of Shabbos itself, which “balances” all the Torah. For, if one takes the words, “one day” out of their context and plain meaning, one ipso facto abrogates the whole idea of Shabbos as the “Seventh day” stated in the same context. The whole idea of Shabbos observance is based on the clear and unequivocal statement in the Torah: “For in six days God made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and rested”—days, not periods. (Rabbi Menachem Scheerson, Mind Over Matter, p. 110)

Now, I certainly think that such objections can be countered; I did so in my book. But once one is taking such an approach, what has been gained? If you are going to have others condemn your approach as heretical, then you might as well at least be offering a proposal which makes some sort of sense. According to Rabbi Meiselman’s approach – the approach that he deems the sole theologically and scientifically legitimate approach – the creation of the universe did not take six days in any remotely meaningful sense of the term, and the universe was not created 5771 years ago in any remotely meaningful sense of the term.

Denying the Dinosaur Eras

Let us now begin a two-pronged explanation of why Rabbi Meiselman’s theory does not even work from a scientific perspective. Before doing so, however, there is one point that I am forced to address. I have heard a popular and entertaining rabbi claim in a public lecture that I am unqualified to dispute Rabbi Meiselman’s science, since he has a PhD in physics from MIT whereas I lack any formal scientific qualifications beyond high school. And Rabbi Meiselman himself told a mentor of mine that, unlike himself, I lack the scientific competence necessary to discuss these matters.

Now, aside from the fact that scientific theories are evaluated by their content rather than by the qualifications of those presenting them, it is simply not true that Rabbi Meiselman has qualifications in this area. Contrary to that which some claim about him, his doctorate is in mathematics, not physics. Mathematics is not part of the natural sciences. In fact, my father, of blessed memory, who had not only a PhD in physics but also a DSc, and who necessarily mastered mathematics to a very high level, used to tell me that devotion to pure mathematics can actually be a deficiency in a person making a statement about the natural sciences. The reason for this is that mathematics accustoms one to thinking in abstract, imaginary frameworks that are divorced from the real world. As we shall see, Rabbi Meiselman’s theory is very much divorced from reality. And it goes without saying that the global community of scientists—including many Orthodox and even Charedi Jews—would dismiss his approach as sheer nonsense. If a novice in Torah presents a radical suggestion, it would not be taken seriously if it were to be opposed by the entire gamut of accomplished Torah scholars without a single voice in support. By the same token, Rabbi Meiselman’s radical suggestion should not be taken seriously, since it is opposed by the entire gamut of scientists, without a single voice in support.

Of course, I do not have any qualifications in the natural sciences either. But I have studied them in my spare time for many years. More significantly, what I say on this topic is agreed upon by the global community of paleontologists, geologists, physicists, and everyone else in these fields. Furthermore, my arguments can be evaluated on their own merits.

Let us quote Rabbi Meiselman’s theory once more:

One of the main points of this article will be that all current tools for measuring the passage of time presume stability in the relationships between natural processes, similar to what we observe today. In fact, our entire outlook on time reflects this presumption… The presumption of stability in the oscillations of the cesium atom underlies all notions of time measurement today, as well as their projection into other epochs.

This paragraph gives the impression that the scientific assessment of the universe being extremely old is entirely based on the oscillations of the cesium atom. Most people are not very familiar with cesium atoms, which we can’t even see, so it does not sound jarring to suggest that cesium atoms used to act differently.

But what about the dinosaurs? And the therapsids? And the woolly mammoths?

Let us forget about abstract talk about events taking place on a molecular level. Let us instead think about something tangible and familiar, such as animal life. The fossil evidence clearly shows that there were dinosaurs and all kinds of other creatures which lived before people (since no fossils of contemporary creatures are found in the same strata). These animals lived and died and fought and ate and bred – we even find dinosaur nesting sites. Did all that happen in a single day? Did it happen in a universe in which the laws of gravity, the speed of light, and everything else – the very fabric of natural law – was drastically different from what we see today?

Furthermore, it is not as though there was only one period of prehistoric creatures. The fossil record shows beyond doubt that there were numerous distinct periods. The therapsids lived before the dinosaurs; the dinosaurs lived before the mammoths. And even amongst dinosaurs, different layers of rock reveal distinct eras. Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus and Allosaurus are never found in the same layers of rock as Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, and Velociraptor. The conclusion is that each existed in a different period; the former lived in a period which has been termed the Jurassic, while the latter lived in the Cretaceous period. This is not part of some evil conspiracy by scientists, nor the result of mistakes on their part. Any paleontologist could win instant fame by finding a Tyrannosaur Rex fossil in Jurassic rocks – but nobody has ever done so, which shows that T-Rex lived much later, in the Cretaceous.

So there are countless generations of all kinds of animals, living in distinct periods, leading ordinary animal lives. This is clearly a process that takes many thousands, even millions of years. To describe it as all occurring in one day is simply ridiculous, unless one is taking the word “day” to mean something other than “day.”

I was going to be assume that Rabbi Meiselman simply never even gave any thought to any of this; after all, he’s a mathematician, not a scientist. But then I noticed that he does seem to address it. This is in the context of his explaining that aside from it being impossible to use science to date creation, when there were no laws of nature as we know them, the Mabul also prevents any historical analysis from taking place:

…Although it is possible that prior to the Mabul the world was subject to the same system of natural laws as afterwards, the details of the world may have been very different. We view a world reconstructed from chaos. The laws of physics and chemistry may be the same, but features such as weather patterns and the natural characteristics of the flora and fauna may be radically different from what they once were.

In a footnote, Rabbi Meiselman adds the following:

Note also the change in animal behavior indicated by Bereyshis 9:5; cf. the Ramban’s discussion thereon.

Now, Bereishis 9:5, which speaks about God holding animals accountable for killing humans, doesn’t really indicate anything remotely definitive, but Ramban suggests that it might mean that before the Mabul, animals were all herbivores. That might have been a reasonable suggestion in Ramban’s time, but it’s simply laughable to propose it seriously today. Is Rabbi Meiselman claiming that Tyrannosaurus rex, veloceraptor, and saber-toothed cats all ate grass and leaves?! Aside from the fact that their physiology clearly shows that they were carnivores, we actually have fossilized remnants of their stomach contents and excrement, which show that they were carnivores.

Contrary to Rabbi Meiselman’s claim, we know that the natural characteristics of the flora and fauna of prehistory were not radically different from today. We know a tremendous amount about them. We know what they ate and how they reproduced. We even have whole mammoths, frozen in ice, from which DNA has been extracted and sequenced – and it shows (unsurprisingly) that they are not too different from elephants. Their basic bodily processes functioned in the same way as that of modern animals. They lived in a world that was fundamentally the same as ours – not some bizarre scenario in which the very laws of nature were different, and in which complete lifecycles occurred in a nanosecond.

There are no indications that animal and plant life used to be fundamentally different. There is, however, an overwhelming mass of evidence that animal and plant life used to be fundamentally the same. And that there were countless generations of it. To denounce the claim of the world’s antiquity as being mere “conjecture” predicated upon baseless assumptions, is simply revealing of ignorance.

Presumptions or Conclusions?

Let us now give a precise explanation of why Rabbi Meiselman’s theory is utterly wrong from its very conception. To be honest, this whole exercise is bizarre, since his theory was already neatly been refuted in my book The Challenge Of Creation several years ago. Now, Rabbi Meiselman might well disagree with my refutations. But surely he should at least address them—especially in material to be published in a book whose title parodies the title of my own book! Anyway, I will present them here again, at more length. Let us first quote Rabbi Meiselman’s theory:

One of the main points of this article will be that all current tools for measuring the passage of time presume stability in the relationships between natural processes, similar to what we observe today… The assumptions made by contemporary science in this area were never provable in the first place and they remain matters of conjecture.

But Rabbi Meiselman has it exactly backwards! The notion of stability in the relationships between natural processes is not a presumption of modern science by which it deduces the antiquity of the universe. It’s a conclusion.

Prior to the eighteenth century, geology did not exist as a historical science. The world was universally agreed to have been created several thousand earlier by God, using a dramatic process that could not be fathomed by mortal man – just as in Rabbi Meiselman’s theory. Additionally, just as in Rabbi Meiselman’s approach, it was assumed that the Deluge had wreaked havoc upon the world subsequent to creation.

But in 1793, a canal digger by the name of William Smith made a startling discovery. He found that the same strata of rock are always found in the same order of superposition, and they always contain the same fossils. The significance of this cannot be overstated. Certain types of rock contained certain types of fossils that were unique to those beds. The layers of rock always appeared in the same order. This pattern held true everywhere that Smith checked.

And thus the Meiselman theory was abandoned, and the modern science of geology was born. Geology is an extremely useful science; it’s not an ivory-tower philosophy. All kinds of industries and activities, as well as those investigating natural disasters, employ geologists. Because geology works. The patterns that are found in the rocks, the processes that are inferred from them and are still seen happening today, can all be relied upon to be applicable universally – throughout the planet, and throughout history. Of course, there are occasional aberrations, which certain religious people seize upon and claim to disprove the entire enterprise. But such minor <>kashyas are no more significant than the occasional kashya in Judaism. Overall, the neat patterns that William Smith discovered hold true. Billion-dollar industries prove it so! The constancy of nature over long periods was not an assumption – it was a discovery.

The flip side of the coin is also the case: Rabbi Meiselman’s model can be positively disproved. Rabbi Meiselman’s model predicts that the historical sciences will break down beyond 5771 years – in fact, beyond the Mabul, 4000 years ago. He alleges that because the natural order was entirely different before creation, as well as during the catastrophe of the Mabul, it simply isn’t possible to use the tools of science from our own era for those periods, where everything was different.

But it wasn’t different. We see that it wasn’t different. There is no discernible difference, in any of the many fields of science relevant to the age of the earth or universe, between materials less and more than 4000 years ago. The very same ice layers that are laid down each year in Greenland continue uninterrupted for tens of thousands of years into the past. The very same sedimentary layers that are laid down each year in lakes continue uninterrupted for tens of thousands of years into the past. The very same layers of bark that trees grow every year, which can by synchronized between living and dead trees to produce longer chains, continue to produce chains stretching 12,000 years into the past. And all these processes, as well as many more, synchronize with each other. Fossil pollen and volcanic ash gets trapped in ice layers and provides ways of cross-checking with radioactive dating. Ice layers record past climate changes which correlate with discoveries in astronomy. In short, geologists don’t find that the physical history of the world changes dramatically past 4000 years ago – they find precisely the opposite. The same processes that occur in the last 4000 years are seen to continue in the same way as we look further back in history.

In an attempt to lend scientific credibility to his theory, Rabbi Meiselman alleges that there is support for it from great scientists:

The assumption of the constancy of natural processes throughout the ages has been disputed by some of the greatest names in science.

Rabbi Meiselman’s usage here of the terms “natural processes” and “throughout the ages” is extremely misleading. Let us see who he invokes for this claim:

In 1939 the English physicist and Nobel Prize laureate Paul Dirac wrote, “At the beginning of time the laws of Nature were probably very different from what they are now. Thus, we should consider the laws of nature as continually changing within the epoch, instead of holding uniformly throughout space-time.”

That is indeed what Dirac said, and it is something that has had somewhat of a resurrection in recent times. But what does it mean? It does not mean that a few thousand years ago, there was a completely different natural order! Rather, it means that there was an extremely minor change in some extremely subtle aspects of the natural order over an extremely long period (and more of a change during the first moments of the formation of the universe, billions of years ago). The very same methodology and techniques used to show this, also show that there is overwhelming stability for the vast majority of the natural order for most of history!

Dirac made his claim seventy years ago; more recent reports by scientists in the field clarify matters. John Barrow reports that they found an average increase in the fine-structure constant of close to six parts in a million over the period from six to twelve billion years ago (in the last six billion years, there was no significant change). Others found no increase at all. None of this has anything to do with the billions of years on planet earth in which there were countless generations of prehistoric life. As John Webb notes, “the geological results do not conflict with the quasar results or the atomic clock experiments because they probe very different epochs in the history of the universe.” For Rabbi Meiselman to claim great scientists in support of his approach is rather like someone claiming that Redak’s view of kri/ksiv (that they were not both given at Sinai) means that he held that there is no textual integrity to the Torah and provides support for the Documentary Hypothesis.

Revisionism and the Rav

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik was one of the seminal rabbinic figures of the twentieth century. But he also presents a difficulty for many people in the Charedi world, since he espoused many views that were at odds with Charedi norms. Rabbi Meiselman’s response is to claim that the Rav was entirely misunderstood, asserting that he possesses an “insider’s view.” But as Professor Lawrence Kaplan points out, this is a grave distortion:

First, R. Meiselman’s “insider’s view” is, at many points, clearly contradicted by the insider views of other distinguished members of the Rav’s family who were also his close disciples… Second, and even more important, wherever it is possible to check R. Meiselman’s claims against the Rav’s writings, it turns out that those claims are clearly and explicitly contradicted by clear and explicit statements of the Rav.[12]

Professor Kaplan documents R. Meiselman’s revisionism in the context of the Rav’s positions on the value of philosophy, the nature of Daas Torah, universalism, and Zionism. To this list, I would like to add another item, based upon R. Meiselman’s article in Dialogue: the Rav’s position on the age of the universe.

At the conclusion of Rabbi Meiselman’s article, he discusses the view of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan[13] that Rav Yitzchok of Acco, a medieval Kabbalist, wrote that the universe is fifteen billion years old. R. Meiselman argues that Rav Yitzchak of Acco does not actually support this view. In this, he is quite correct. In fact, in The Challenge Of Creation, I gave additional reasons as to why Rav Yitzchak does not support such a view – as well as citing a report that Rabbi Kaplan later acknowledged his error and retracted his claim.

But there are two deeply disturbing problems in Rabbi Meiselman’s presentation. One is that he claims that when Rabbi Kaplan described this approach as being “very different than that of many frum Jews who see Torah and science at loggerheads with each other,” he was “specifically referring” to Rav Soloveitchik and making a “barb” at him. As evidence for this accusation, Rabbi Meiselman notes that Rav Soloveitchik gave a presentation to the rabbinic alumni of Yeshiva University in 1971 in which he spoke about Judaism being “at loggerheads with modern science.”

Now, unless there is something that Rabbi Meiselman is not telling us, this seems like an extraordinarily slim reed on which to pin an accusation that Rabbi Kaplan was making a “barb” at Rav Soloveitchik. Rabbi Kaplan uses this phrase after discussing how R. Yisrael Lifschitz (the Tiferes Yisrael) was thrilled about the discovery of dinosaurs and sees it as vindicating the kabbalistic belief in previous worlds. The full paragraph reads as follows:

This approach is very different than that of many frum Jews who see Torah and science at loggerheads with each other. Many of us feel that whenever science makes any statement with regard to paleontology or geology, we must get our bristles up and fight it. The Tiferes Yisroel, on the other hand, sees it as a vindication of an important Torah shitah.

The phrase “being at loggerheads” is surely not so unusual that one can assert that Rabbi Kaplan must have been referring to Rav Soloveitchik – especially since Rav Soloveitchik’s speech was not published and took place eight years earlier!

Furthermore, there is additional reason to believe that Rabbi Kaplan was not referring to Rav Soloveitchik, which brings us to the second problem with this part of Rabbi Meiselman’s article: Rav Soloveitchik was not saying that the scientific view of the age of the universe is at loggerheads with the Torah view! He was talking about the creation of the universe, not the age of the universe. (As noted in the first part of this critique, Rabbi Meiselman has already blurred the two in order to claim that that latter is a fundamental of faith for which the mesorah may not be reinterpreted.) Let us look at Rav Soloveitchik’s words:

We are still at loggerheads with modern science. There is no way to somehow, to try to eliminate that conflict or to try to reconcile it. There is no reconciliation and I will tell you quite frankly that I’m not worried and not concerned that there is no reconciliation. We were confronted many times with those who try to deny briyah yesh me’ayin… Science has no right to say anything because it is not a scientific problem; it is a metaphysical problem… But again we are still at loggerheads… We have something which the goyishe world has not understood.

The issue here is briyah yesh me’ayin – creation ex nihilo. In fact, it can be argued that modern science does not deny this – most scientists would say that it says nothing about what caused the Big Bang – but there certainly have been those, especially in the past, who denied creation ex nihilo. It is this view which the Rav is placed at loggerheads with Torah, not the idea of the universe being billions of years old! If we look at a more extensive quotation from this lecture by the Rav which I transcribed from an audio recording, as opposed to Rabbi Meiselman’s truncated citation, this becomes even clearer:

The foundation on which our emunah rests is Briyat HaOlam… ex nihilo, yesh me’ayin. You see here we are at loggerheads… from antiquity, with Greek philosophy, Greek science. We are still at loggerheads with modern science. There is no way to somehow, to try to eliminate that conflict, or to try to reconcile it. There is no reconciliation and I will tell you quite frankly that I’m not worried and not concerned that there is no reconciliation. Because, science absolutely has no right to make a certain statement about briyah. We believe in creation ex nihilo, which means that there was nothing before, there was only HaKadosh Baruch Hu… We had a lot of trouble with Greek philosophy… We were confronted many times with those who try to deny briyah yesh me’ayin. We are in the same situation and the same condition nowadays. No matter, whatever, it’s completely irrelevant what theory of evolution science accepts – whether the big bang theory, or the instantaneous birth of the universe, or it is the slow piecemeal emergence of the universe, whether it is the emergent evolution or the instantaneous so-called birth of the universe. But science will always say, as far as matter is concerned, particles were always here. Of course, science has no right to say anything, because it is not a scientific problem. It is a metaphysical problem. And in my opinion, it is just as good as the opinion of Einstein about everything. But again we are still at loggerheads… We still have something which the goyishe world has not understood. Yesh me’ayin! Yesh me’ayin is our Jewish heritage… HaKadosh Baruch Hu created everything from nothing.

The Rav makes it absolutely clear that his objection is to those who deny creation ex nihilo. It is creation ex nihilo which Torah demands – but it is irrelevant how the universe developed after that. In fact, in a series of lectures on Genesis that is currently being edited for publication, the Rav explicitly states that one can interpret the six days as referring to long periods of time, or even as stages or sefiros:

Indeed, one of the most annoying scientific facts which the religious man encounters is the problem of evolution and creation. However, this is not the real problem. What actually is irreconcilable is the concept of man as the bearer of a divine image and the idea of man as an intelligent animal in science. Evolution and creation can be reconciled merely by saying that six days is not absolutely so, but is indefinite and may be longer. Maimonides spoke of Creation in terms of phases and the Kabbalah in terms of sefiros, the time of which may be indefinite. However, our conflict is man as a unique being and man as a friend of the animal.[14]

And the Rav’s subsequent resolution of this conflict with evolution is to explain that man is indeed a part of the animal kingdom, but with the power to ascend beyond it. Man’s unique identity as possessing the “image of God” does not refer to a metaphysical, other-worldly entity housed in his body, but rather to the application of his evolved intelligence. (This is elaborated upon at great length in The Emergence of Ethical Man.) It is true that Rav Soloveitchik did not believe that the development of the universe was entirely naturalistic – he did insist on ten points of creative intervention by God, following the Mishnah in Avos which speaks of ten utterances with which the world was created. Nevertheless, he most certainly did not object to this development taking place over billions of years, and he forcefully argued for the Torah authenticity of the view that man was fundamentally created as part of the animal kingdom. In these areas of modern science – precisely those that Rabbi Meiselman is declaring to be at loggerheads with Torah, and invoking the Rav as support – the Rav did not see science as being at loggerheads with Torah at all.

I will conclude this part with another citation from Professor Kaplan’s article, which is equally applicable to this case:

…The fact that a distinguished rabbinic scholar like R. Meiselman, despite his having been a close disciple of the Rav and despite his having been “privileged to be part of his family and household,” could write such a flawed article, an article that presents such a narrow, distorted, and almost unrecognizable picture of his uncle, only serves to underscore the dangers of the revisionist drive on the part of the “right” and the impossibility of refashioning the Rav to fit a Haredi mold.

Conclusion

Rabbi Meiselman’s article blurs critical distinctions in theology. Furthermore, although he claims his approach to be consistent with true knowledge of the scientific enterprise, every scientist in the relevant fields, including Orthodox Jews, would say that his approach reveals utter ignorance. Finally, Rabbi Meiselman distorts the statements of both scientists and Gedolei Torah in support of his case. If all this were only part of a tentative suggestion regarding the age of the universe, it would not be so bad; but when it is presented as the definitive view, this only compounds the chillul Hashem.


[1] I will acknowledge from the outset that I certainly did not approach this article without bias. Of all the people involved in the notorious campaign against my books, Rabbi Meiselman acted by far the most offensively. He attributed to me positions and statements that were completely fabricated, and engaging in slander about me on a personal level. Recordings of his lectures about me, and a letter that I wrote to him in response, can be found at http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/ravmeiselman.html. Nevertheless, I ask that people evaluate my critique of his article on its own merits.
[2] Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 4:2; Talmud Yerushalmi, Berachos 1:1.
[3] Rabbi Yisrael Lipschitz, Derush Ohr HaChaim, found in Mishnayos Nezikin after Maseches Sanhedrin.
[4] Techeles Mordechai vol. I to Bereishis, section 2.
[5] Rabbi Aharon Feldman, The Eye of the Storm, pp. 149-150.
[6] Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Hoffman, Commentary to Bereishis, p. 48.
[7] Abarbanel, Commentary to Bereishis, p. 10.
[8] Shem Tov to Moreh Nevuchim, 2:30:9.
[9] Akeidas Yitzchak, Bereishis, Shaar 3.
[10] Ralbag, Milchamos HaShem 6:8.
[11] Rabbi Simon Schwab, “How Old Is The Universe?” in Challenge, p. 169.
[12] Lawrence Kaplan, “Revisionism and the Rav: The Struggle for the Soul of Modern Orthodoxy,” Judaism 48 (1999) pp. 290-311.
[13] I found it disturbing that Rabbi Meiselman refers to Rabbi Kaplan as “Kaplan.” I understand that this is the norm in academic journals, but this style was not used anywhere else in Dialogue.
[14] Genesis Notes, Lecture XII.

About Natan Slifkin

177 comments

  1. Excellent essay. A few comments:

    ” It was first discussed in our sources in medieval times.”

    And none of those sources had access to any empirical data that would shed light on the matter.

    “He argues that science simply cannot measure the duration of creation:”

    His argument is simply false, as you show.

    ” The assumptions made by contemporary science in this area were never provable in the first place and they remain matters of conjecture.”

    That is also false. We observe today astronomical phenomena that took place *billions* of years ago, and there is absolutely no evidence that they obey different laws of physics from what is happening today.

    “since he has a PhD in physics from MIT whereas I lack any formal scientific qualifications beyond high school. And Rabbi Meiselman himself told a mentor of mine that, unlike himself, I lack the scientific competence necessary to discuss these matters.”

    Argument from authority isn’t really what matters in science, and Rabbi Dr. Meiselman should know this. The ultimate test is not the consensus of experts but actual empirical data. And as you point out, Mathematics is not part of the natural sciences.

    “In fact, my father, of blessed memory, who had not only a PhD in physics but also a DSc, and who necessarily mastered mathematics to a very high level, used to tell me that devotion to pure mathematics can actually be a deficiency in a person making a statement about the natural sciences.”

    I would agree with your father. We can fall in love with the beauty of our models, even when they don’t fit reality.

    “By the same token, Rabbi Meiselman’s radical suggestion should not be taken seriously, since it is opposed by the entire gamut of scientists, without a single voice in support.”

    But the REAL reason it should not be taken seriously is that it has absolutely no empirical evidence to support it.

    The discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation by Penzias and Wilson in the early 1960s is actually one of the great examples in history of where competing theories offered a way to empirically decide between them: The steady state universe would not have left such radiation. Not only did the discovery decide once and for all that the universe as we know it had a beginning, it even determined pretty well how long ago was that beginning. It is incredibly disingenuous to cite scientific support for the “big bang” as support for creation *ex nihilo* while rejecting the necessary conclusion that is essential for that discovery to BE such support.

    “The notion of stability in the relationships between natural processes is not a presumption of modern science by which it deduces the antiquity of the universe. It’s a conclusion.”

    Well said.

    ” Billion-dollar industries prove it so! ”

    Like the entire fossil fuel industry.

    ” the historical sciences will break down beyond 5771 years – in fact, beyond the Mabul, 4000 years ago”

    We actually have historical records that go back beyond 4000 years ago.

    For the record, I earned a PhD in Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University and have published over 80 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals. A big one is coming out later this week.

  2. “Once one accepts the Torah’s version of history—that during certain epochs current natural law was not operative—there is no contradiction at all between the Torah’s chronology and science… The assumptions made by contemporary science in this area were never provable in the first place and they remain matters of conjecture. Our Mesorah has always rejected them and there is no justification for changing that stance now.”

    What does it mean to say that “there is no contradiction at all between the Torah’s chronology and science” and “our Mesorah has always rejected [the assumptions made by contemporary science in this area] and there is no justification for changing that stance now.”

    Contradiction or no contradiction?

  3. I question the wisdom off allowing this post. The only conclusion people will draw from this post is that Rabbi Meiselman is a fraud. He is writing about things that he has no understanding of. And yet, he is a great Torah scholar, so it is inappropriate to have people showing how he knows nothing about the topics he writes. Yet on the other hand, since he published an article, he like everyone else, must have his work evaluated. He can’t be shielded from criticism because he is a rosh yeshiva. Yet he IS a Rosh Yeshiva, which is why it is still uncomfortable to have people point out how misguided, indeed ignorant, he is about these topics. Therefore, perhaps it would have been best to just ignore his essay.

  4. Is every disagreement a chillul Hashem now? R. Kanefsky apologized for using chillul Hashem inappropriately to describe his disagreement with other prominent rabbis, and now we have R. Slifkin using it?

  5. “I have heard a popular and entertaining rabbi claim in a public lecture that I am unqualified to dispute Rabbi Meiselman’s science, since he has a PhD in physics from MIT whereas I lack any formal scientific qualifications beyond high school.”

    You meant PhD in mathematics.

  6. Jon_Brooklyn:
    Rabbi Slifkin was just pointing out that this rabbi *said* that Rabbi Meiselman has a PhD in physics and that therefore he knows what he’s talking about with science. Look at the next paragraph where Rabbi Slifkin clarifies why this rabbi’s wrong:

    “Now, aside from the fact that scientific theories are evaluated by their content rather than by the qualifications of those presenting them, it is simply not true that Rabbi Meiselman has qualifications in this area. Contrary to that which some claim about him, his doctorate is in mathematics, not physics.”

  7. “that Rav Yitzchok of Acco, a medieval Kabbalist, wrote that the universe is fifteen billion years old. R. Meiselman argues that Rav Yitzchak of Acco does not actually support this view. In this, he is quite correct. In fact, in The Challenge Of Creation, I gave additional reasons as to why Rav Yitzchak does not support such a view – as well as citing a report that Rabbi Kaplan later acknowledged his error and retracted his claim.”

    It should be pointed out, that if one reads Rabbi Yitzhok, he says that we are in the cycle of “din” (he does not give a number, most say this refers to two) and he does do a calculation that the total length of the universe is in the billions of years (how many have past versus how many in the future is dependant on the cycle).

    Therefore, Rabbi Kaplan may have said he was “wrong” about Rabbi Yitzhok (I have never seen this supposed “retraction” in full as to what he actually said specifically) saying the universe is 15 billion years old, but only because of the cycle number, not the main idea. Rabbi Yitzhok’s words are what they are.

    And just because the source (that Rabbi Slifkin cites in Challenge) that says we are in the sixth cycle (the one that makes it 15 billion) does not use the 1000 years per day scale, does not negate the idea at all. Rabbi Yitzhok starts out his commentary saying he is divulging a great secret, and therefore not finding that bit of info in the other sources is not evidence that they did not hold by it, but rather that they coudl keep a secret :).

    Therefore I think it is quite presumptious to claim that one knows what Rabbi Yitzhok held or didn’t hold. Sure, he may not nessesarily have held of “fifteen” billion years, but he certianly held of a universe some number of billions of years old. To say otherwise seems to be intellectually dishonest to his words.

    If one doesn’t like the prior-worlds approach because of its difficulties in fitting into the pesukim, or other reasons, fine. But to brush it off so casually is exactly the kind of non-openess that Rabbi Mieselman is being accused of.

  8. Rabbi Slifkin makes cogent points to show the serious difficulties in Rav Meiselman’s approach,
    However his continued usage of his own personal attacks or using others to personally attack Rav Meiselman takes away again from a supposedly scientific article.
    If one is having a “milchamto shel science” it should remain at that level.
    This is another of the criticisms of Rabbi Slifkin in general of his writings.

  9. In fact, scientists look often and hard for any evidence that properties of matter or laws of physics vary with time; this is important fundamental physics and closely tied to conservation of energy. One can find hundreds of papers in the literature. I wrote one myself once. Rabbi Slifkin mentioned a few examples of this in passing. But while there have been occassional claims that a variation has been detected, none have ben widely accepted; most results along these lines end up with upper bounds only–that is, the data are consistent with no change and impose a limit on how much change, if any, can have occured.

    However, it does seem to me to be a mistake on Rav Slifkin’s part to attempt to understand R. Meiselman’s article entirely in terms of science and theology. The real issue is the understanding of the history of the haskala in Eastern Europe, and how people can accept both the evident practical utility of science and the axiomatic authority of the Torah. Rabbi Slifkin tries to help those who accept science understand how that does not conflict with the authority of Torah. Rabbi Meiselman’s approach stems from the belief that at least the vast majority of people cannot accept both the authority of the Torah and the accuracy of science; he therefore tries to separate the undeniable utility of modern science in terms of medicine and technology from its larger conceptual framework. This is why R. Slifkin’s citations of Rishonim and Acharonim fall on deaf ears; the argument is not really about halacha or theology or the validity of different approaches to understanding Torah–it is about what causes assimilation.

  10. Those who are interested in reading Rav Meiselman’s article in Dialogue in full–without Rabbi Slifkin’s sporadic commentary attempting to “fill in the blanks” in the most crude and unsophisticated way, can read the entire article here:
    http://slifkinchallenge.blogspot.com/2011/05/rav-meiselmans-article-in-dialogue.html
    (Of course, reading the posts on the blog surrounding the above one will also provide the reader with a point-by-point response to this entire rebuttal. Perhaps Reb Gil will be so kind as to allow me to present a modified version of it on Hirhurim just as Rabbi Slifkin has been allowed to reproduce his critique from his popular blog here.)

  11. Dovid: I would allow the original article but not your modified version.

  12. I still don’t understand how Hirhurim has become a forum for accusing a prominent rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of committing a “chillul Hashem”?

  13. Curious on August 29, 2011 at 10:29 am
    I still don’t understand how Hirhurim has become a forum for accusing a prominent rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of committing a “chillul Hashem”?

    See Bereshis 18:25 where Avraham accuses Hashem of a Chillul Hashem. Please let the discussions stand on their own merit and the best argument should prevail, even if is against a prominent Rosh Yeshiva.

  14. “I still don’t understand how Hirhurim has become a forum for accusing a prominent rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of committing a “chillul Hashem”?”

    Certainly if he did or didn’t is somewhat subjective, but if you think he did? Then במקום שיש חילול השם אין חולקין כבוד לרב. Seems like people like Rabbi Meiselman rely on such subjective judgments all the time to blast people and things in ways which otherwise be forbidden unless they happen to be right, which of course they think they are while others disagree.

  15. By the way this is one of the most nauseating things about the way the Torah world runs right now. The most powerful people in our community, the ones with followers, students, who are pillars of the establishment are supposed to treated with less critical scrutiny and more gently even though really they are able to take it. They will still marry off their children and grandchildren. Everyone will still say that Rabbi Meiselman is a rosh yeshiva and a talmid chochom. But the little guys, if they go a little out of line you can just stomp on their throat.

  16. Gil: You held it against R. Kanefsky for using “chillul Hashem” — you commented on it on his original blog post and then you reiterated it in your own post on the topic. I see it as unfortunate that the discussions don’t stand on their own merits and you allow authors to make cheap shots and disparaging remarks. It’s your site so you should require submissions to meet your standards — and since you didn’t seem happy with R. Kanefsky’s inappropriate use of “chillul Hashem” I just assumed you wouldn’t allow that type of attack to take place on your own site.

    I agree with your that arguments should be on the merits — that’s why I hope you will consider editing that offensive line which has nothing to do with the merits.

  17. I did not edit this essay in any way. It, and the two previous responses to Dialogue, were supposed to get published elsewhere. That fell through and I agreed to publish them here.

    That said, I’m OK with beating R. Meiselman up a bit. He deserves it and much more. If he can’t take it, he shouldn’t dish it out. R. Slifkin has earned some leeway on this.

    Just get over it and evaluate the essay on its own merits.

  18. All I can say then is that I am quite disappointed. I don’t see the relevance of whether R. Meiselman “dished it out”. So what? Shouldn’t we hold higher standards? Shouldn’t we try to maintain a civil level of discourse even if the disagreements are vehement? Or is revenge more important? You did an admirable job of maintaining civility in your Kanefsky article, despite the venom of the rest of the blogosphere. I guess I was expecting too much.

  19. “Everyone will still say that Rabbi Meiselman is a rosh yeshiva and a talmid chochom.”

    That is an empirical fact. It is also a fact that Fred Hoyle was one of the world’s most prominent astronomers; that didn’t prevent him from being wrong on the steady state universe. Scientific theories rise and fall on empirical facts, not on the prestige of those who promote them; Rabbi Dr. Meiselman doesn’t have empirical facts to support his theories and ignores the facts that are evidence against them. That isn’t science.

    ” I’m OK with beating R. Meiselman up a bit. He deserves it and much more. If he can’t take it, he shouldn’t dish it out. R. Slifkin has earned some leeway on this.”

    I’ve gotten FAR worse criticisms from reviewers of articles that I submit to scientific journals.

  20. Bedieved, I’ll allow it. I actually mentioned it to a rosh yeshiva before publication and he said that R. Slifkin earned the right to respond in kind.

  21. I did not edit this essay in any way. It, and the two previous responses to Dialogue, were supposed to get published elsewhere. That fell through and I agreed to publish them here.

    It should be said that the quality of these works has been excellent. Quite the coup for your blog.

  22. “…Rav Schwab and the late Lubavitcher Rebbe…”

    Rav Schwab and Lubavitcher Rebbe are equally dead. Perhaps this formulation was intended for the avoidance of any doubt…

  23. Or perhaps because there are a number of Lubavitcher Rebbes, so the point was the to indicate the one who passed away most recently.

  24. I would concur with R Gil that RNS has earned the right to reply to the harsh criticism of R Meiselman and other critics, both online and elsewhere. Yet, given the fact that RNS is now teaching at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah and going for a doctorate at BIU, it is fair to say that presumably because of the reception accorded his works in the Charedi and MO worlds, that RNS can be fairly stated to no longer be part of or even consider himself part of the Charedi world.

  25. So this posting of Rabbi Slifkin’s alleged critique of Rav Meiselman’s article (which did not attack Rabbi Slifkin and primarily stuck to the long-neglected job of presented an alternative approach) is simply to provide yet another venue for Rabbi Slifkin to vent and seek revenge?

    Hardly a post worthy of Hirhurim’s high-brow standards.

  26. There is a way that the world could be created in 6 days or billions of years and both are correct. It would depend on the frame of reference of the entity measuring the time.

    Einsteins General Theory of Relativity has been empirically proven, and it demonstrates that it an object is moving near light speed away from another object, an observer on the fast-moving object would observe time moving very slowly on the other object.

    Could we say that the six days are being measured from a frame of reference that is flying away from the earth at near lightspeed after the Big Bang? ie. billions of years on the Earth equals six days on the fast-moving reference (Hashem’s?). But this doesn’t help explain what the meaning is of Vayehi Erev, Vayehi Boker. Also, Hashem is above space and time, so what would it mean to imply that He is measuring time on an object flying away from the Earth? Of course I have no answer to those. Just somehow the fact that Relativity can reconcile billions of years with days and both are correct seemed like a promising starting point.

  27. That said, I’m OK with beating R. Meiselman up a bit. He deserves it and much more.

    I’m somewhat surprised at you. That is akin to David Dinkins letting the progomites blow off a little steam.

  28. Bewildered:

    This is a ridiculous analogy. How can one compare criticizing a Rosh Yeshiva to sanctioning beating up innocent people?

    The very fact that one would make such an analogy is shocking. Why is criticizing a Rosh Yeshiva pas nisht? When a person calls themselves a Rosh Yeshiva they do not suddenly get transformed into an all knowing all seeing demi-god.

    No human being should be above criticism.

  29. On the “day” that Adam and Chava were created they had the physical appearance, reproductive capabilities, and mental maturity of human adults. If we were able to see them on this sixth “day” of creation we could reasonably estimate their being approximately twenty or twenty-five years old. Perhaps if we were able to dissect one of their blood vessels, we would find evidence of early atherosclerosis or hardening of their arteries.
    Using similar logic, isn’t it possible that the world that was created in six “days” i.e. exact 24-hour periods, could have physical characteristics that were ALREADY billions of years old at the initial moment of their creation?
    Why would HaShem create the world in such an ambiguous way? For the same reason that He created the Navi Sheker…to test our emuna in His Torah and Moshe Rabbeinu.

  30. Dovid: I looked at the link you posted and am wondering what is “modified” about the version you have up there.

    Assuming that that version is accurate, then R. Slifkin’s bafflement at R. Meiselman’s lack of explanation of the “unifying conception of time” becomes more understandable, as in the first footnote to the article R. Meiselman claims that he will explain all this in his forthcoming book. However, the article as it stands remains incomplete (and I myself am quite skeptical of any possibility of explanation of this concept).

  31. “Why would HaShem create the world in such an ambiguous way? For the same reason that He created the Navi Sheker…to test our emuna in His Torah and Moshe Rabbeinu.”

    So we get warned about one, but the real test is the one which gets no warning?

  32. A Little Sanity

    “isn’t it possible that the world that was created in six “days” i.e. exact 24-hour periods, could have physical characteristics that were ALREADY billions of years old at the initial moment of their creation?”

    Yes it’s possible. It’s also equally possible, under the same reasoning, that the world was created 6 seconds ago. And equally unreasonable.

    “Why would HaShem create the world in such an ambiguous way? For the same reason that He created the Navi Sheker…to test our emuna in His Torah and Moshe Rabbeinu.”

    From Rambam, Moreh, III 24:

    “The sole object of all the trials mentioned in Scripture is to teach man what he ought to do or believe; so that the event which forms
    the actual trial is not the end desired: it is but an example for our
    instruction and guidance. Hence the words” to know (la-da’at)
    whether ye love,” etc., do not mean that God desires to know
    whether they loved God; for He already knows it;This is the way how we have to understand the accounts of trials…[W]e must not think that God desires to examine us and to try us in
    order to know what He did not know before. Far is this from Him;
    He is far above that which ignorant and foolish people imagine
    concerning Him…”

  33. “So this posting of Rabbi Slifkin’s alleged critique of Rav Meiselman’s article (which did not attack Rabbi Slifkin and primarily stuck to the long-neglected job of presented an alternative approach) is simply to provide yet another venue for Rabbi Slifkin to vent and seek revenge?”

    Actually, this post primarily stuck to a careful and thorough critique of Rabbi Meiselman’s article. Typical of Kornreich to seek to recast it as “venting” based on a single phrase in a very lengthy article.

  34. The Lubavitcher Rebbe (who, incidentally, never said that people who take a non-literal view of creation are heretics or that a non-literal view of creation is heresy) on the fossil record:

    As for the question, if it be true as above (b), why did G-d have to create fossils in the first place? The answer is simple: We cannot know the reason why G-d chose this manner of creation in preference to another, and whatever theory of creation is accepted the question will always remain unanswered. The question, Why create a fossil? Is no more valid than the question, Why create an atom? Certainly, such a question cannot serve as a sound argument, much less as a logical basis, for the evolutionary theory.
    What scientific basis is there for limiting the creative process to an evolutionary process only, starting with atomic and sub-atomic particles – a theory full of unexplained gaps and complications, and excluding the possibility of creation as given by the Biblical account? For, if the latter possibility be admitted, everything falls neatly into pattern, and all speculation regarding the origin and age of the world becomes unnecessary and irrelevant.

    It is surely no argument to question this possibility by saying, Why should the creator create a finished universe, when it would have been sufficient for Him to create an adequate number of atoms or subatomic particles with the power of colligation and evolution to develop into the present cosmic order? The absurdity of this argument becomes even more obvious when it is the basis of a flimsy theory rather than based on sound and irrefutable arguments overriding all other possibilities.

    Or, in the words of C.S. Lewis (in an introduction to Medieval Literature – this was not written as Christian apologia):

    The business of the natural philosopher is to construct theories which will “save appearances… A scientific theory must “save” or “preserve” the appearance, the phenomena, it deals with, in the sense of getting them all in, doing justice to them. Thus, for example, your phenomena are luminous points in the night sky which exhibit such and such movements in relation to one another and in relation to an observer at a particular point, or at various chosen points, on the surface of the Earth. Your astronomical theory will be a supposal such that, if it were true, the apparent motions from the point or points of observation would be those you have actually observed. The theory will then have “got in” or “saved” the appearances.

    But if we demanded no more than that from a theory, science would be impossible, for a lively inventive faculty could devise a good many different supposals which would equally save the phenomena. We have had therefore had to supplement the canon – first, perhaps, formulated with full clarity by Occam. According to this second canon we must accept (provisionally) not any theory which saves the phenomena but that theory which does so with the fewest possible assumptions. Thus the two theories (a) that the bad bits in Shakespeare were all put in by adapters, and (b) that Shakespeare wrote them when he was not at his best, will equally “save” the appearances. But we already know that there was such a person as Shakespeare and that writers are not always at their best. If scholarship hopes ever to achieve the the steady progress of the sciences, we must therefore (provisionally) accept the second theory. If we can explain the bad bits without the assumption of an adapter, we must.

    In every age it will be apparent to accurate thinkers that scientific theories, being arrived at in the way I have described, are never statements of fact. That stars appear to move in such and such ways, or that substances behaved thus and thus in the laboratory – these are statements of fact. The astronomical or chemical theory can never be more than provisional. It will have to be abandoned if a more ingenious person thinks of a supposal which would “save” the observed phenomena with still fewer with still fewer assumptions, or if we discover new phenomena which it cannot save at all.

    This would, I believe, be recognized by all thoughtful scientists today. It was recognized by Newton if, as I am told, he wrote not “the attraction varied inversely as the square of distance,” but “all happens as if” it is so varied. It was certainly recognized in the Middle Ages. “In astronomy,” says Aquinas, “an account is given of eccentrics and epicycles on the ground that if their assumption is made…the sensible appearances as regards celestial motions can be saved. But this is not a strict proof since for all we know the could also be saved by some different assumption. The real reason why Copernicus raise no ripple and Galileo raised a storm, may well be that whereas the one offered a new supposal about celestial motions. the other insisted on treating this supposal as fact. If so, the real revolution consisted not in a new theory of the heavens but in “a new theory of the nature of theory (A.O. Barfield, Saving the Appearances).”

    So basically it all boils down to this question: do you or do you not consider the literal account of maaseh breishis set forth in the Torah to be an “appearance”? For those who, for some substantial reason (not just, “it is our Mesorah,” since there are many examples of not holding by our Mesorah when it comes to science) consider the literal reading to be an “appearance” the current popular theories about the age of the world and the theory of evolution lose their credibility.

  35. Anonymous at 10:17 pm
    “so we get warned about one, but the real test is the one which gets no warning?”
    Well,yes, but not exactly as you state it.
    We DO get a warning about the real test. The warning we get about the “real test” i.e. “the Creation”, is from Chazal who warn us that there are two Torah matters or areas where ordinary Yidden should not venture to contemplate about because it is too fraught with danger: namely Ma’aseh Bereishis and Ma’aseh Merkavah.
    According to Chazal, the topic of this discussion should not even be discussed by the average “Joe Blow” like you and me.

  36. “According to Chazal, the topic of this discussion should not even be discussed by the average “Joe Blow” like you and me.”

    are they also warning us not to assert that the 6 days are 24 hour days? (doesn’t that follow if we are forbidden to speculate on the matter altogether?)

  37. The Gemara warns us about the dangers of “taking a walk in the PaRDeS.”
    PaRDeS: P’shat, Remes, Drash, and Sod.These four methods of exegesis are fraught with danger for all but the greatest scholars.
    The Gemara tells of four great scholars who entered the pardes: one died, one became a heretic, one went insane, and only the great Rabbi Akiva emerged intact.
    I assume the subject of Creation falls under this warning.

  38. Assuming that that version is accurate, then R. Slifkin’s bafflement at R. Meiselman’s lack of explanation of the “unifying conception of time” becomes more understandable,

    I have no problem with Rabbi Slifkin expressing bafflement. Rav Meiselman’s presentation was very narrowly focused on the time measurment issue and admittedly, very little else was fleshed out. But that doesn’t give Rabbi Slifkin a license to fill in the gaps on his own (with plenty of distortions along the way), proceed to attack those insertions, and declare triumphantly he has refuted anything. He has only refuted the positions that he imported from elsewhere and put in the author’s mouth.

  39. Curious on August 29, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I still don’t understand how Hirhurim has become a forum for accusing a prominent rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of committing a “chillul Hashem”?

    I agree with Curious, I am quite shocked at the deterioration of Hirhurim lately

  40. Rabbi Slifkin wrote:

    Now, Bereishis 9:5, which speaks about God holding animals accountable for killing humans, doesn’t really indicate anything remotely definitive, but Ramban suggests that it might mean that before the Mabul, animals were all herbivores. That might have been a reasonable suggestion in Ramban’s time, but it’s simply laughable to propose it seriously today. Is Rabbi Meiselman claiming that Tyrannosaurus rex, veloceraptor, and saber-toothed cats all ate grass and leaves?! Aside from the fact that their physiology clearly shows that they were carnivores, we actually have fossilized remnants of their stomach contents and excrement, which show that they were carnivores.

    In terms of the question from physiology – what about the Panda bear which is technically a carnivore, but practically (that is 99% of the time) is a herbivore? His bite might not be nearly as ferocious as a saber-tooth tiger or a t-rex, but it certainly looks built for eating meat: http://images.quickblogcast.com/0/0/5/0/2/128970-120500/angry_panda.jpg.

    And yet he basically eats Bamboo all day.

  41. Remember R Slifkin “thanked” R Meiselman in his acknowledgemnts to Camel Hare & Hyrax. This gave many readers the misimpression that R Meiselman basically agreed w R Slifkin’s approach with perhaps some minor disagreements. S R meiselman set out on his mission to distance himself from R Slifkin and his writings.

  42. I haven’t seriously studied the question of dating the age of the universe, the earth or different epochs in the history of the earth. With that said, I have an intuition that some day science will come to radically revise it’s calculations in terms of how old everything is (not necessarily to 5771).

    I have never really worked to intelligently articulate this intuition and will have to wait for another time to do so, but for now I’ll just share some thoughts and observations and leave it for other people to consider them if they wish.

    To start with, I think it’s reasonable to ask what is the record of scientific assumptions. With the discovery of Newton’s laws it was stated (or assumed) by many that the entire universe was basically mechanical. There was no free will, everything was predetermined. And then we discovered the world of quantum physics.

    So with that said – I think it’s crucial to ask what assumptions are being made when it comes to dating. I accept (for now, having not looked into the issue myself) that there are numerous, different and independent methods that lead to similar results. I understand that that one can make a serious statistical argument for the accuracy of the results as such.

    Nonetheless, there are always assumptions being made. What are those assumptions? How reasonable are they? If those assumptions turned out to be false what would be the result? One shouldn’t just look at the arguments which lead one to accept a particular conclusion, one needs to look at the full picture. Perhaps the current dating methods have only captured part of the truth – like Newton’s laws in relation to Einstein theory of relativity.

    Which leads me to my next point. There seem to me today to be realms of reality – let me explain what I mean. Newtonian physics works great in a certain range of reality – but increase the speed or gravity greatly and things break down. That’s where Einstein’s equations come in.

    Relativity, though, breaks down when you get to the world of the quantum [and string theory doesn’t seem to tie things together as well as it might have a short while back: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/life-and-physics/2011/aug/27/1%5D.

    In other words, reality looks, appears and functions radically differently in different scenarios. Are there other elements of nature that have such radical differences? I imagine there are. I feel that discovery often times is learning that what seems reasonable and obvious isn’t actually true.

    The theory of relativity, the world of the quantum, the digial information of DNA and the communication systems of the cell are examples of life being far more interesting than what seems to us as reasonable. Even the Big Bang theory came as a surprise to many scientists (including Einstein who resisted the idea – even though, if memory serves, the theory developed as a result of his equations).

    So today we have many reasonable arguments as to why the earth and the universe are billions of years old. My intuition tells me that some day we will discover something that tells us that reality isn’t quite as regular, quite as static and continuous as seems to us today. Life is stranger than fiction.

    But there is another reason why I think all of this will change some day. I just don’t have tremendous confidence in our ability to look backwards and figure out how it all came to be. I remember Rav Brovender once mentioning a proto-version of a document for which scholars had translations and commentaries on, but not the actual original. So a number of scholars got together and (based on those translations and commentaries) ‘wrote’ the original.

    This worked fine until they actually found the original one day and it bore little resemblance to the proto-version that the scholars had created. I asked him about this again recently and he told me that he thinks he was referring to Nechema Leibowitz’s doctorate thesis.

    The point is that it may not be so easy to figure things out in retrospect. Having mathematical models and clear predictions (like in the Big Bang theory) give a bit more confidence, but one then needs to look at what doesn’t fit into the theory, ask if there are other possible explanations and wonder if what is being proposed isn’t just one possible method of how things came to be, not necessarily the method that actually happened.

    Could we figure out what goes on in the womb from simply understanding the biology of a human being? Can I figure out how my computer came to be or was manufactured from understanding how it works?

    In short, are there aspects of reality which we are closed off from (at least currently) which prevent us from really figuring out what really happened? I think we need to seriously consider that fact.

  43. Does anyone know if Rabbis Slifkin and Meiselman have children of marriageable age? I would like to arrange a shidduch.

  44. Actually, this post primarily stuck to a careful and thorough critique of Rabbi Meiselman’s article. Typical of Kornreich to seek to recast it as “venting” based on a single phrase in a very lengthy article.

    Actually, as I have demonstrated at length on my blog, once you read the original article, you see that this post is riddled with false assumptions of the author’s intent, straw men, and outright distortions of his words and Rav Soloveitchik’s.
    Go back to the post and count how many times Rabbi Slifkin acknowledges that the article is vague and short on details, but then proceeds to fill in the details by himself which then makes it quite easy for him to score points.

    If you’re too lazy to do it yourself, I’ll provide the relevant posts where I do it in great detail.

    I- On the topic of blurring the theological issue and misconstruing the article as presenting a scientific “theory” regarding the Torah’s chronology:

    http://slifkinchallenge.blogspot.com/2011/05/jumbled-garbled-and-convoluted.html

    II- On the topic of ignoring and derailing the subject of the article from scientific time measurement tools to paleontology and geology:

    http://slifkinchallenge.blogspot.com/2011/05/jumbled-garbled-and-convoluted_30.html

    III- On the topic of conflating Rav Meiselman’s mesorah-based approach to pre-historic evidence and fundamentalist Christian approaches:

    http://slifkinchallenge.blogspot.com/2011/06/jumbled-garbled-and-convoluted.html

    IV- On the topic of overstating and overestimating the empirical nature of the geological evidence for the consistent elapsing of time and the logical fallacies committed by Rabbi Slifkin:

    http://slifkinchallenge.blogspot.com/2011/06/jumbled-garbled-and-convoluted_03.html

    V- On the topic of Revisionism and Rav Soloveitchik’s views:
    http://slifkinchallenge.blogspot.com/2011/06/jumbled-garbled-and-convoluted_13.html

    If you only have time for two posts, I recommend the first and the fourth in the series.

    So Greg, I would submit that this is more typical of my style that what you accuse me of.

  45. Thank you Hirhurim, for having the openness to allow me to post my comments and links here in the absence of a guest post.

  46. FYI, as a precaution against spam, any comment with too many links must be manually approves.

  47. “Thank you Hirhurim, for having the openness to allow me to post my comments and links here”

    Do you think that Dialogue would show the same openness?

  48. “Do you think that Dialogue would show the same openness?”

    According to Rabbi Broyde they were willing to print a letter from him, not an essay. Assuming that we’re not talking about an editorially censored or truncated letter, I would say that it is fair to equate accepting a letter from him, in the journal format, to accepting comments and links from FKM, rather than a post, in the blogging format.

  49. On second thought, I question whether they would even publish a letter from Rabbi Slifkin.

  50. Chanokh Berenson

    I think the author of this article was referring to the Rav, as well!

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/147349#.Tl0L_qhZ-So

  51. Chanokh: I know it’s hard to prove negatives but I think everyone here, except for possibly the hard core left wing revisionists, will agree with me that never in the Rav’s life was he a female combat soldier.

  52. “Charlie Hall on August 28, 2011 at 10:04 pm ..The discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation by Penzias and Wilson in the early 1960s is actually one of the great examples in history of where competing theories offered a way to empirically decide between them: The steady state universe would not have left such radiation. Not only did the discovery decide once and for all that the universe as we know it had a beginning, it even determined pretty well how long ago was that beginning…”

    Charlie’s en passant remark above deserves a caveat. It is simply untrue that a so-called steady state model is unable to account for the cosmic microwave background. Thus, although it contributed mightily to swinging the great majority of cosmologists to that opinion, it did not – could not – “decide once and for all” the universe had a beginning. (this would not seem to be the right forum for any more detailed explanation of that remark- if interested in such can email me off line. Also, many cosmologists these days also deny the universe had a beginning – although not from a steady state perspective.). And as a complete non-sequitor I throw in the curious factoid that when we wash for motzih in my kids’ house in NJ, we do so in Penzias’ pesach sink.

    “Anonymous on August 28, 2011 at 10:56 pm I question the wisdom off allowing this post. ..And yet, he is a great Torah scholar, so it is inappropriate to have people showing how he knows nothing about the topics he writes…”

    I leave the subject of R Meiselman’s alleged (haven’t read it myself) publicly flaunted ignorance for others to dissect. It was also alleged here that he “is a great Torah scholar”. I have no opinion about that either and no reason to dispute the claim, and for the very same reason – I’ve neither read nor heard him in full Torah scholarship mode. What I find distasteful is not curable-in-principle ignorance but bad behavior. And surely the Netziv must have been thinking of such as R. M when he discusses, in his haqdomoh to he’emeq dovor, the behavior of talmidei chakhomim and why sefer b’reishis is called sefer hayyoshor

    “Toronto Yid on August 29, 2011 at 7:20 pm …Einsteins General Theory of Relativity has been empirically proven, and it demonstrates that it an object is moving near light speed away from another object, an observer on the fast-moving object would observe time moving very slowly on the other object.”

    You’re confusing the special and general theories.

    “Toronto Yid Could we say that the six days are being measured from a frame of reference that is flying away from the earth at near lightspeed after the Big Bang? ie. billions of years on the Earth equals six days on the fast-moving reference (Hashem’s?)…”

    Oh, please.

    “Dovid Korneich on August 30, 2011 at 6:46 am Assuming that that version is accurate, then R. Slifkin’s bafflement at R. Meiselman’s lack of explanation of the “unifying conception of time” becomes more understandable, I have no problem with Rabbi Slifkin expressing bafflement. Rav Meiselman’s presentation was very narrowly focused on the time measurment issue and admittedly, very little else was fleshed out…”

    Perhaps the intrinsic hilarity of the notion that R. Meiselman and/or Dovid Kornriech might provide an understanding of the “unifying conception of time”, or even time measurement, doesn’t strike anyone but me.

  53. Is it just this comment thread or does he always write comments like a stuffed-shirt know-it-all?
    Sorry, but its late and I don’t have the energy to dish out more subtle condescending insults that match Mechy’s

  54. Nu, come on then Mr. Jekyll/Hide – I hear the editors of Nature are waiting with bated breath to hear your mind blowing insights that will revolutionize the entirety of modern cosmology.

  55. RNS: The reason why creation ex nihilo was not re-evaluated is precisely because it was a fundamental belief. As Rambam states… (Guide For The Perplexed 2:25)

    So creation ex nihilo is a fundamental belief. And indeed, the Rambam in the Moreh Nevuchim emphasizes that it is a fundamental belief repeatedly (although he skirts the issue in the Mishneh Torah—see his own explanation for this in the Moreh 1:71).

    RNS: But Rambam makes it clear that received traditions which are not fundamental beliefs can be reinterpreted. He proceeds to say that the Platonic (as opposed to Aristotelian) view of the eternity of the universe could be accepted, and the Torah reinterpreted to match it….

    So creation ex nihilo is not a fundamental belief?
    Which is it? What is the Rambam really saying?

    RNS: Furthermore, there have indeed been cases where traditional interpretations were re-evaluated as a result of scientific proofs. One example of this is the rakia. Received tradition, from Chazal through all the Rishonim, based on pesukim, was that the rakia is a solid covering to the world.[2] But once it was discovered that there is no such solid covering, the concept was reinterpreted.

    Please see my series on the rakia, beginning with this Preface, http://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.com/2011/06/nature-of-rakia.html, that refutes this argument. And, as well: http://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.com/2011_05_01_archive.html

  56. Dovid Korneich on August 30, 2011 at 4:49 pm
    Is it just this comment thread or does he always write comments like a stuffed-shirt know-it-all? Sorry, but its late and I don’t have the energy to dish out more subtle condescending insults that match Mechy’s

    well, that’s a new one for me at least. i thought i didn’t do subtle and had never been accused of it before. as for insults, i concede the last paragraph might be taken as such but the notion that RM with or without DK’s added exegesis might be up to explaining “time” tickled my professional funny bone. you are right to point that out and i regret giving in to the reflexive impulse. but publicly expounding about matters well beyond one’s professional ken is evidently the substantive complaint underlying unhappiness with RM’s particular offering here. and not just him. i’ve seen similarly regrettable, even embarassing, beyond-their-competence offerings posted on the internet by such torah world luminaries as r. sternbuch and r. miller. it’s a playing out of the fallacy of transferred authority, and only serves to undermine the respect and real credibility they have earned in a more directly torahdik context. of course other unhappiness with RM doesn’t so much swirl about any specific discordant opinions concerning the universe,science, or whatever so much as other issues.

  57. Gil – why not let Dovid Korneich publish a response here on. I read some of the links and thought he made some good points. I’m not sure I understood or agreed with every point, but overall I thought it was a worthwhile reply. I know he published the links in the comments, but not everyone will see those links – it’s not as much of a back-and-forth as a full reply published as a post.

    To Mechy – without agreeing or disagreeing with you, I think it would be better if you pointed out particular points in Rav Meiselman’s article that you disagree with. I haven’t yet read it (although I hope to) – but Dovid published a version of it online here: http://slifkinchallenge.blogspot.com/2011/05/rav-meiselmans-article-in-dialogue.html.

    In particular, what points did he make that you think are embarrassing and why, If you want to quote something in Rabbi Slifkin’s article that is fine, just make sure to note Dovid’s response and explain why you agree with Rabbi Slifkin and not with Rabbi Meiselman or Dovid Korneich’s response.

    That makes your point part of a real conversation with a real back and forth that we can all learn from.

  58. Moshe – You have made the mistake of assuming these people (who hang on to every word that R. Slifkin utters) are interested in conducting an honest debate. They will twist everything he says and are simply interested in reaching their predefined conclusion. They have no meaningful scientific education, yet presume to be able to dismiss entire disciplines with a wave of their pen. They are almost always impossible to pin down on anything. Simply put, it’s not worth wasting time on them.

  59. To J.

    Sorry, but I do not find that an honest assessment of what is happening or a serious attempt to understand what this debate is really about.

    I have no doubt that you can come up with numerous examples of people who are not interested in an honest debate or times that Rabbi Slifkin’s words have been twisted. That, however, is only part of this debate. From what I have read, I have not seen Rabbi Coffer twisting Rabbi Slifkin’s words and I have seen him engage in very honest debate with him.

    There is much more to this debate than predefined conclusions. Among other things, it’s about how to relate to scientific theories about the past as well as the philosophical underpinnings of those theories.

  60. Moshe, full disclosure, I’ve engaged in written debates with creationists and I don’t regret my discussions one jot; I learned a lot about them from those discussions. But I think this is all getting old.

    Rabbi Slifkin *has* engaged in debate with Rabbi Coffer and co., in the comments section of both of their blogs. He’s been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. Now whether Rabbi Slifkin should now be debating people who “twist everything he says and are simply interested in reaching their predefined conclusion” (as J. put it) is a different question, and one I think the answer to is “no.”

    Besides, the “evolution debate” has been held since Darwin. Rabbi Meiselman’s not saying anything truly original and exciting in his article about science. People can read what scientists have to say (I recommend Kenneth Miller, for starters), they can read what the creationists (such as yourself, on your blog) say, and decide for themselves.

  61. “Besides, the ‘evolution debate’ has been held since Darwin.”

    Please ignore that line; it was a weird pen slip. Guess I’m so used to writing against anti-evolutionists, Rabbi Meiselman is one, and I regard his anti-evolution beliefs to be about as plausible as his beliefs regarding the age of the universe…

    (BTW, pre-emptively, I realize by strict definitional terms Ken Miller is a “creationist” too, but I’m using the term in the way it’s often used: to describe people who don’t believe in evolution or aren’t sure about the age of the earth or the universe).

  62. lawrence kaplan

    Dovid Kornreich claims that my critique of R. Meiselman in my article, “Revisionism and the Rav” has been rendered obsolete by David Holzer’s Thinking Aloud. As proof, he refers to the Rav’s impromptu address to his students, found in the book, on reciting Hallel with a berakhah and reciting a haftarah on Yom ha-Atzmaut. Really?

    In my article I showed how R. Meiselman’s claim that for the Rav the State of Israel has only a pragmatic value is contradicted by clear statements of the Rav in essays which he himself prepared for publication ascribing to it intrinsic halakhic value, particularly in his essays “Brit Avot” and “Al Ahavat ha-Torah u-Geulat Nefesh ha-Dor.” I have reread my article and reread the Rav’s impromptu address found in Holzer’s book, and, in my view, nothing in the address contradicts anything I said or renders my critique of R. Meiselman less valid. I urge readers to do the same.

    Dovid Kornreich thus assumes as demonstrated something he has not shown to be the case and in fact is not the case. Why am I not surprised?

    Bt th way. “Frosch” is moy prbley ” Ficino.”

  63. lawrence kaplan

    Sorry, about the last line. It should read: By the way “Frisch” is most probably “Ficino”

  64. Baruch – Moshe is himself an ardent creationist. Check out his blog.

  65. “There is much more to this debate than predefined conclusions. Among other things, it’s about how to relate to scientific theories about the past as well as the philosophical underpinnings of those theories.”

    Yes, and the same has been claimed for the Flat Earth Theory.

  66. Moshe: My position is simply that I’ve been through this multiple times over the past 5+ years and have found specific people to be inappropriate contributors to this blog based on their behavior.

  67. I’m not trying to relate to the entire creationism – evolution – old/young earth debate. I’m stating something much more local – Rabbi Slifkin wrote a post critiquing an article by Rabbi Meiselman. Dovid Korneich wrote a number of articles rebutting the points that Rabbi Slifkin wrote.

    Now, I admit that I have not (yet) read Rabbi Meiselman’s article – but it seems to me that Dovid Korneich raised some good objections to points that Rabbi Slifkin wrote. My point is that I think it would be proper for Gil to give Dovid Korneich an opportunity to present those objections on this blog.

    Now, in terms of my website and what I am trying to do. (since you brought it up). I am not just trying to put forth a point of view. I’m also trying to change the nature of the conversation. Let me explain…

    I feel that the one of the fundamental problems in all of these debates is that all too often the people discussing them do not have a solid understanding of the issues involved (i.e., theological, philosophical, scientific, etc.). As such, I want to help people focus on the real issues by using videos and series of posts to help present the fundamental issues in a way that people can relate to. That way it is possible to to intelligently think about and discuss topics that relate to Torah and Science/Torah and Philosophy, etc.

    That is why I have a whole series on what DNA is and how it works – because I don’t think it is possible to have an intelligent conversation about the origins of life, the neo-Darwinian mechanism for the theory of evolution or the Cambrian Explosion for that matter without have a basic understanding of what DNA is and how it works.

    Now granted, I have a definite starting point of view, although it may not be quite what you think it is. But for that, you’ll just have to wait for the series to come :).

    Be well,

    Moshe

  68. Re Dr. Kaplan:
    While we’re on the subject of Rabbi Meiselman’s view of the Rav (and after all, it was brought up in Rabbi Slifkin’s essay), I thought I’d just make a sidenote on something of interest. In my view, The Rav Thinking Aloud actually provided even more difficulties with Meiselman’s infamous portrayal of the Rav in his 1998 Tradition article. The most interesting, to me, was the difference on Hallel. Rabbi Meiselman wrote his article “not only from the perspective of a close disciple, but also from that of one who was privileged to be part of his family and household, and who was able to know him, speak to him and learn from him as only a family member can.” When Rabbi Yosef Blau wrote in to take issue with some aspects of Meiselman’s portrayal, the latter proclaimed that “someone who approached the Rav from within a certain perspective cannot judge from the Rav’s response what was the Rav’s own perspective and view. Fortunately, I approached the Rav with no private agenda.”

    That’s a lot of claimed authority, and with said authority, Meiselman asserted in his article that if the Rav “was present at a minyan that recited hallel, he simply stood there, silently…until hallel was concluded.” In response to an article by Rabbi Simcha Krauss, Meiselman again proclaimed that “In the Rav’s shul in Boston…he remained silent…when the tsibbur recited Hallel on Yom Ha’atsma’ut.”

    Other people who davenned near the Rav (including a baal habos I spoke with in Monsey) have disagreed with Meiselman’s belief that the Rav didn’t say Hallel over the years, but Meiselman has claimed that he was one of the Rav’s most authentic talmidim who really understood his rebbe. In The Rav Thinking Aloud, however, the Rav says that “…when I davven in a minyan on yom ha’atzmaut, I do say hallel with the kahal. I just ask the shliach tzibur to say the kaddish with tiskabel right after shemoneh esrei, and then say hallel.”

  69. Rabbi Meiselman is welcome to respond on this blog to Rabbi Slifkin.

  70. Baruch: From my investigations it seems the Rav softened to Hallel in his later years.

  71. Baruch: I deleted your comments as you requested but please keep in mind that in the 1978 impromptu speech, the Rav was OK with saying Hallel without a bracha, preferably after Kaddish Tiskabel.

  72. Huxley was known as Darwin’s “bulldog” (and was quite successful at it). Why limit it only to Rabbi Meiselman? Why if someone else has a good rebuttal won’t you air it?

    Please note, I have no connection with either of them – it just seems to me that by limiting the response solely from Rabbi Meiselman you are in essence insuring that there will be no rebuttal presented here.

  73. I am being polite to DK by not answering that question. Please allow me to exercise judgment.

  74. Thank you, R’ Gil. I just wanted that comment deleted because I got a date wrong and realized it 2 minutes later…

    You’re absolutely right that the 1978 impromptu speech claimed by some as a support for Meiselman’s understanding of the Rav makes clear that he did in fact say hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut!

  75. “Please note, I have no connection with either of them”

    As if a head-in-the-sand ideological commitment is not enough of a ‘connection.’

  76. “Please note, I have no connection with either of them – it just seems to me that by limiting the response solely from Rabbi Meiselman you are in essence insuring that there will be no rebuttal presented here.”

    Why is that? Is there some reason why Rabbi Meiselman can’t respond here? Does he only share his thoughts in forums where his views won’t be criticized (like Dialogue)?

  77. “Why if someone else has a good rebuttal won’t you air it? ”

    That’s what the comments section is for. Otherwise people would be demanding that Gil posts an endless series of rebuttals and counter-rebuttals.

  78. lawrence kaplan

    I still would be curious to know how the Rav’s 1978 talk could be read as undermining my critique of R. Meiselman. Note that in my article I did not discuss the recitation of Hallel on yom haaztmaut with a berakhah, which is more of a technical Halakhic question and not related to the Rav’s fundamental hashkafah regarding the State of Israel, as he himself makes clear.

  79. To Josh:

    Please point to where my head-is-in-the sand and where I have an ideological commitment. Please point to where I agree with Rabbi Meiselman or Dovid Korneich and where I disagree with them.

    In short, please show that you have any knowledge or understanding of my ideological, scientific, philosophical or theological point of view and how those points of view emerge from a head-in-the-sand perspective.

    In the meantime, I will point you to the laws of Loshon Horah and request that when discussing these issues you do so in a more appropriate and respectful manner. I, for myself, will attempt to do the same.

    Thanks and be well,

    Moshe

  80. Dr. Kaplan:

    The Rav said hallel without a bracha. For the record, I wasn’t bringing this up in relation to your article, but I thought it fascinating that Rabbi Meiselman, who considers himself to have been one of the closest and most authentic talmidim, was not aware that — as The Rav Thinking Aloud makes clear — the Rav was saying hallel at Maimonides.

  81. lawrence kaplan

    Baruch: I always thought it was pretty clear that the Rav recited Hallel on Yom ha-Atzmaut without a berakhah.

    I still await DK’s explanation how the Rav’s talk undermines my critique.

  82. Note that in my article I did not discuss the recitation of Hallel on yom haaztmaut with a berakhah, which is more of a technical Halakhic question and not related to the Rav’s fundamental hashkafah regarding the State of Israel, as he himself makes clear.

    This has got to be one of the more disingenuous things I read in a long time.

    To assert that saying or not saying Hallel with a bracha on Yom Ha’atzma’ut before kaddish tiskabel was “not related to the Rav’s fundamental hashkafa regarding the State of Israel” is just ludicrous.

    The reason why R’ Holtzer’s book vindicated Rav Meiselman was because in it, the Rav explained in excruciating detail that by his not saying hallel with a bracha before kaddish tiskabel but saying it afterward without a bracha meant –brace yourselves–THAT HE WAS NOT REALLY SAYING HALLEL IN ANY MEANINGFUL SENSE.
    Saying the hallel chapters in such a context rendered those chapters completely meaningless as a form of hallel. He was merely “zugging tehillim”. But he gave the false impression of saying Hallel so as not to distance his genuinely Zionistic constituency. He walked a fine line between personal convictions and public perceptions and policies as Rav Meiselman illustrated masterfully in his essay on the Rav in Tradition 1998.

    This “technical halachic question” as Prof. Kaplan calls it, (for anyone who is slightly familiar with the Rav’s entire religious philosophy) means everything. It is those very “technical halachic questions” upon which the Rav built enormous hashkafic edifices of breathtaking scope.

    So every time Baruch Pelta quotes someone claiming the Rav in fact said Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut he is conveying a false report. THE RAV NEVER SAID HALLEL ON YOM HA”ATZMA”UT.

    I would venture to say that when a minyan the Rav was davening in insisted on inserting those chapters of hallel before kaddish tiskabel, thus rendering it a genuine recitation of Hallel, the Rav would stand silently and not refuse to participate. This would explain Rav Meiselman’s report of the Rav’s behavior and harmonize all the discrepancies in the various reports.

    If you think saying genuine Hallel or not saying genuine Hallel is not a reflection of your fundamental Zionistic views, you are simply out of touch with both The Rav’s hashkafa and Religious Zionism’s.

  83. Correction:
    Obviously should read: “The Rav would stand silently and refuse to participate”

  84. lawrence kaplan

    DK: So explain how the Rav’s reciting Hallel without a berakhah reflects his hashkafah re the State of Israel and how it supports R. Meiselman’s view that for the Rav the State possesses no intrinsic halakhic value, contra his express statements to the contrary and thus undermines my own. Again, I urge all bloggers to read my article, the Rav’s talk, and judge for yourselves.

    Moreover, R. Meiselman explicitly said, black on white, that when Hallel was recited the Rav stood by silently. Now you are saying he would recite the Pirkei Tehillim without a berakhah which is not equivalent to reciting Hallel. Very nice, but that is not what R. Meiselman said. Speaking about being disingenuous.

  85. lawrence kaplan

    Omit my last paragraph. I did not read the relevant paragraph of DK’s response carefully enough. Sorry about that. Not that I find his teirutz convincing.

  86. Dovid Kornhole

    Not only did the Rav not say Hallel on Yom HaAtmaut, but he was a card carrying member of Neturei Karta and would never eat those blue and white cookies!

  87. 1) I think you and Rav Meiselman are using the terms “intrinsic halachic significance” and “pragmatic significance ” in different ways.
    If I recall correctly, in Rav Meiselman’s responses to letters submitted to Tradition about his article, he explains this distinction more precisely. I believed they were published but I will try to summarize it from memory:

    When the State of Israel fosters and enables a more fuller expression of Judaism in the public sphere with more open recognition and accommodation of Jewish law and lifestyle, it is given pragmatic value– even though it is fostering and facilitating religious observance and Torah study.

    Intrinsic halachic significance to the State of Israel would mean something else entirely–that the State’s existence would activate the unique halachos that are reserved for halachicly recognized Jewish Sovereignty over Eretz Yisroel. We would say a bracha over the Prime Minister as one would say over a Jewish King. The IDF would have a Genuine Kohen Meshuach Milchama announcing the verses mandated in the Torah at the appropriate times before battle and issuing the Torah’s exemptions and deferrals. Etc. Etc.
    The State of Israel did not qualify for such halachos in the eyes of the Rav–thus it did not posses intrinsic halachic significance as a Jewish sovereign state.

    2) I think you missed the nuance of my comment.
    Rav Meiselman’s report was entirely accurate–for the times that a particular minyan insisted on reciting the chapters of tehillim BEFORE kaddish tiskabel. Such a recitation would have willy-nilly rendered the tehillim chapters as a genuine recital of Hallel. So AT THOSE TIMES the Rav in fact insisted on affirming his right to remain silent to avoid reciting a genuine Hallel.

  88. Due to introduced confusion, I’m just going to reiterate that Rabbi Meiselman wrote the following: “In the Rav’s shul in Boston…he remained silent…when the tsibbur recited Hallel on Yom Ha’atsma’ut.”

    I think the message delivered is clear.

  89. “The reason why R’ Holtzer’s book vindicated Rav Meiselman was because in it, the Rav explained in excruciating detail that by his not saying hallel with a bracha before kaddish tiskabel but saying it afterward without a bracha meant –brace yourselves–THAT HE WAS NOT REALLY SAYING HALLEL IN ANY MEANINGFUL SENSE.
    Saying the hallel chapters in such a context rendered those chapters completely meaningless as a form of hallel. He was merely “zugging tehillim”. But he gave the false impression of saying Hallel so as not to distance his genuinely Zionistic constituency.”

    This is normal to you?

  90. You know what’s scary? There was a chance – a small one, but still a chance – that I was going to go to ToMo. Someone must have been looking out for me and Boruch Hashem that never happened.

  91. Question for my Internet stalker Baruch Pelta:

    Did you by any chance remove the reference to R’ Holtzer’s “Thinking Aloud” on Rav Y.B. Soloveitchik’s Wikipedia entry?
    Its been changed significantly (for the worse) since I last accessed it in June 2011.

  92. Rabbi Meiselman was being prudent. He knew that it would take 13 years before people realized that the Rav actually said meaningless Tehillim with the congregation on Yom Ha’azm’aut (fooling them too, nonetheless). Since he knew it would take until 2011 before this would become known, he figured he could write that “he remained silent” because for 13 years that would be an authoritative record of what the Rav did. True, it’s not what the Rav did, and is actually a lie, but it was a nice run. 1998 – 2011. As Dovid Kornreich explains, it isn’t even a lie, but is the truth.

  93. What I don’t understand is why are all of these idiotic cowards posting anonymously? On second thought, maybe it the same idiot doing sock puppetry.

  94. Get over the anonymity. It’s the interwebs. You were anonymous too, until you were *outed*.

  95. Larry Kaplan- Putting aside R Meiselman’s comments, how would you reconcile RYBS’s recitation of Hallel with his opposition to the composition of Kinos and the views expressed in R D Holzer’s book based on the shiur given in 1978?

  96. What does one thing have to do with the other? No one composes Hallel, for one thing. It’s the pre-existing text for praising God. Secondly, one gets the impression that the Rav’s reason for opposition to new kinnos is a ruse. He doesn’t like them, so he gives some kind of hoo-hah about how no one is on the “level” to write them. But Hallel? It’s not like the Jews get a state in Eretz Yisrael all the time. Pretty unprecedented.

  97. DK: “THE RAV NEVER SAID HALLEL ON YOM HA”ATZMA”UT.”

    The Rav: “…when I davven in a minyan on yom ha’atzmaut, I do say hallel with the kahal.”

    Or as Groucho said: Who are you going to believe me or your lyin’ eyes.

    I know, he said Hallel but it wasn’t an”genuine” hallel,” it was a “meaningless” hallel. Too bad teh Rav’s English wasn’t sophisticated enough to know the adjectives genuine and meaningless and thus made a seemingly simple statement (“I do say hallel”) that really meant the opposite. Glad that’s been cleared up.

  98. Dovid, I’m not stalking you and I’m not a sock puppeteer. If you have issues you want to work out with me, I don’t think this is the right place…

  99. lawrence kaplan

    DK: Both in Brit Avot and Al Ahavat ha-Torah the Rav clearly states that the Jewish people’s exercising political sovereignty over the land of Israel via the establishment of the State is “the greatest possible fulfillment of the commandment of settling the land of Israel.” Of course he is referring to the Ramban here. Seems pretty halakhically intrinsic to me. In any event, our debate here is independent of the issue of whether his recitation of Hallel without berakhah was “meaningless” or not. Please reread my article. (God, I’m sounding like R. Frimer now!)

  100. A Jewish Observer

    Dovid Korneich:

    Why are you interesting in kashering JB?

  101. A Jewish Observer

    From a search on the web I see that you are a talmid of Rav Meiselman and Rav Meiselman needs to kasher JB because he was his father in law. So no need to answer.

  102. Uncle and rebbe.

  103. A Jewish Observer

    I stand corrected.

  104. It’s kind of sad- I wrote this years ago. His legitimacy derives from his relationship with the Rav, but he is opposed to what the Rav stood for. So he has to kasher the Rav. Unfortunately for him, the only people who care about reading about the Rav are the Modern Orthodox, so he’s “reduced” to writing for them and not his ideological brethren, who have lots of other great-grandchildren of R’ Chaim to choose from, those “untainted” by being from the R’ Moshe side. I’m more sad than anything.

  105. To Dovid Korneich,

    Just a word of advice. I enjoyed and appreciated some of the points you made in the articles that you linked to. I think some of them are valid and should be considered.

    I object, however, to comments like this:

    “What I don’t understand is why are all of these idiotic cowards posting anonymously? On second thought, maybe it the same idiot doing sock puppetry.”

    Keep the conversation above board – everyone will benefit from it. Furthermore, it’s not Kavod HaBrios. Also, it only leads to people NOT taking your other points seriously.

    Be well,

    Moshe

  106. A Jewish Observer

    Dovid Kornreich:

    I feel a little bad for you. I hope you realize that in the yeshive velt any attempt to make JB into a gadol beyisroel is laughed at.

  107. Hello Dovid,

    I don’t know who you feel bad for – if it is for me, I wasn’t discussing Rabbi Soloveitchik or how he is viewed in the Yeshive Velt. That’s not my issue.

    I was, though, talking about how we speak and conduct ourselves. One can seriously, diligently and rigorously defend ones positions or attack another’s positions without resorting to name calling or other forms of disrespectful or undignified speech.

    This, of course, is not directed solely at you (although I singled out one of your comments) – many other comments (and perhaps even sections of Rabbi Slifkin’s article itself – in tone if not in substance) can also be singled out in this regard.

    There are real issues here and they really need to be discussed. Some people are smarter than others, some people are more intellectually honest than others, some people are are more familiar with the facts and/or how to think about an issue – and sometimes there are just honest differences of opinion.

    Not everyone is going to get it – not everyone is going to agree and not everyone is going to be right. We should recognize that from the beginning and conduct the debate accordingly – particularly when someone else says something foolish, arrogant or insulting.

    This debate (I’m talking about Torah and Science here, not about Rabbi Soloveitchik) has sunk to a low level (from all sides). It’s time to collectively work to raise it up to a respectful level which we will then find is also a more intelligent and fruitful (for all sides) level.

    Respectfully,

    Moshe

  108. To Moshe:

    Keep the conversation above board – everyone will benefit from it. Furthermore, it’s not Kavod HaBrios. Also, it only leads to people NOT taking your other points seriously.

    I don’t mean to be petty, but I would like to point out that all my disrespectful comments are only made in response to those who initiate the “downward spiral” by posting egregious and often childish insults at me. I’m a little more experienced in this game and I never see nice guys who say unpopular things on blogs win any points. Their valid points are ignored while they’re just pounded by insults until they are utterly humiliated into silence. I realize all too well that everything I say is unpopular and it brings out the worst in commentors who flame shamelessly (and again, childishly I might add) in order to silence me.
    I don’t believe in engaging in a flame war without a flamethrower.

    I don’t know who you feel bad for – if it is for me, I wasn’t discussing Rabbi Soloveitchik or how he is viewed in the Yeshive Velt. That’s not my issue.

    I think you are confusing me with Jewish Observer who was addressing me by name and unwittingly gave the impression that I was responding to you.

    Moshe

  109. Bemakom she’ein ish hishtadel lihyot ish.

  110. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the great ToMo vs. YU debate about whether R. Soloveitchik’s favourite Red Sox player was Ted Williams or Carl Yastrzemski. (Can you guess who says what?)

  111. To Dovid,

    Sorry for the misunderstanding – I did think that you were referring to me :).

    In terms of responding to the insults – I agree that it is important to point out and respond to people when they are insulting, childish, demeaning, etc. All too often people substitute rhetoric for intellect and it’s necessary to note that. I just think it’s important to do so without being insulting, childish or demeaning in return. One doesn’t have to fight fire with fire, one can also fight it (more effectively) with water.

    Be well,

    Moshe

  112. A Jewish Observer on August 31, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Dovid Korneich:

    Why are you interesting in kashering JB?

    Because maybe the emmes means something to some people and would benefit reading what the Rav was really about and what he really believed?

    It’s about setting the record straight and not letting the legacy of a godol Bi’Yisroel be trivialized and corrupted by those who used him (and continue to use him) to obtain false legitimacy and to further their non-halachic agendas.

    Despite what people keep claiming, it’s not so much to make the Rav kosher for the Yeshivish velt (Judging by his Mechutanim, Rav Meiselman was plenty mainstream before his article in Tradition 1998) but to prevent the Rav from being abused further by the left wing modern velt.

    Of course I don’t expect Nachum or Prof. Kaplan (or halachic feminists who approve of WPG’s in the name of the Rav–which was the primary impetus for Rav Meiselman to pen his landmark article in Tradition) to take my explanation with any seriousness. Their deep dependence on their version of the Rav for legitimacy demands that they not countenance any notion that robs them of that false legitimacy. They MUST assert that it is really Rav Meiselman who is seeking legitimacy.
    So no-one is really going to be convincing anybody here except the people who cannot be accused of having agendas. Its an unfortunate situation.
    (That’s why I believe Reb Gil’s anti-feminist stance is so important.)

  113. Can you just answer straight: why did Rabbi Meiselman say he did not say Hallel when he did? If the answer is that he was unaware that he did at any point in his life or in any place, fine. But if he was aware do you think it’s “emmes” to have written as he did in Tradition?

    As far as the nastiness, while two or one hundred wrongs don’t make a right, most people will not lose sight of the fact that you are one of the nastiest writers in the Jewish blogosphere. Yes, I am fully aware that you don’t perceive yourself this way. Which leads me to the next point: Rabbi Meiselman was mamash nasty to Slifkin. So why should it surprise you that he would be repaid in coin? Of course he didn’t think he was being nasty either. And this is the problem: if we think we are right then we think that being nasty is not nasty.

  114. I think people new to the conversation about Rav Meiselman’s controversial article might want to read it. found:
    http://www.jofa.org/pdf/Batch%201/0015.pdf

    Bringing this thread back to Rabbi Slifkin, I would also like to add that , while I know no-one will believe me, my passion in opposing Rabbi Slifkin’s approaches and scholarship similarly stems from a desire to set the record straight.
    I am simply not able to tolerate the theological abuse that Orthodox academics subject the Rambam to in order to justify their nearly unqualified acceptance of the heretical opinions which dominate academia.

    Note that my sources employed on my blogs in attacking academics in general and Rabbi Slifkin’s views in particular come almost exclusively from the various works of the Rambam. This is deliberate.

  115. Debates about what R. Soloveitchik did or did not say, or did or did not think, doutbless have the potential to be historically fascinating, but the amount of time spent and ink spilled, not to mention feelings bruised and characters assassinated, in the course of this endeavour is really astonishing.

    Do we not have people alive today qualified to draw upon their own vast knowledge of Torah and Jewish tradition as a whole — not just on R. Soloveitchik — and to guide us on that basis? Should our decisions hinge solely or largely on what R. Soloveitchik did or did not believe? If we take a position on a major public policy issue or article of faith, shouldn’t that position have more than just R. Soloveitchik’s say-so to back it up? And if it does, then why should his view become the central focus of debate? Let all the cards be put on each side of the table, and let the merits of the different positions be judged on that basis. It makes no sense to play only the Soloveitchik card if one has others in one’s hand.

  116. Can you just answer straight: why did Rabbi Meiselman say he did not say Hallel when he did?

    Because Rav Meiselman was writing an article which uses terms with extreme halchic precision. If you want to be halachicly precise, it is simply not true that the Rav recited Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut. He either stood silently, or later in life, recited certain chapters of Tehillim on Yom Ha’tzma’ut.

    Look, Rav Meiselman is not to blame if Left Wing Modern Orthodox people neither understand nor appreciate halachic precision. It was the halmark of the Rav (obviously not when speaking informally in casual conversation) and explains why his constituency didn’t really understand his inner life and relate to him well as a person.

  117. So you would agree that he knew that the Rav “later in life, recited certain chapters of Tehillim on Yom Ha’tzma’ut”?

  118. To DES:
    Do we not have people alive today qualified to draw upon their own vast knowledge of Torah and Jewish tradition as a whole — not just on R. Soloveitchik — and to guide us on that basis?

    I thoroughly commend you for trying to veer the conversation to a more positive and productive track.
    But your rhetorical question is overlooking one crucial element in rabbinic guidance: Mesorah.
    You may find many rabbis who are quite knowledgeable of sources and texts, but without being trained by a mentor who has molded you in a methodology of how to evaluate texts and which texts and whose traditions carry more weight than others, you are lacking necessary traditional Jewish leadership qualities.

    So Modern Orthodoxy needs “Rav Soloveitchik’s say-so” in order to stamp one’s position with the authority of mesorah. (If one rejects the notion of mesorah in toto, that’s a different matter altogether. Perhaps this is THE issue which divides the centrist from the left wing.)

  119. So you would agree that he knew that the Rav “later in life, recited certain chapters of Tehillim on Yom Ha’tzma’ut”?

    Not only that, but he told me that the Rav suggested he do it himself while he was setting up shop in L.A. — in order to be more effective in leading the MO community there!

  120. Sorry I messed up with the italics. the first paragraph is a repasting of a comment by someone else, and the subsequent paragraphs are my responses.

  121. Joseph Kaplan

    “Because Rav Meiselman was writing an article which uses terms with extreme halchic precision. If you want to be halachicly precise, it is simply not true that the Rav recited Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut. He either stood silently, or later in life, recited certain chapters of Tehillim on Yom Ha’tzma’ut.”

    If R. Meiselman knew that this was the Rav’s practice and wanted to write emes, shouldn’t he have done exactly what you did?; write that on Yom Ha’atma’ut, if the Rav was davening with a minyan which recited Hallel, the Rav did receite the chapters of Tehillim that comprise Hallel with the congregation but did so not as a genuine Hallel but as a (to use the term you used earlier) meaningless one. But he didnt write that. Don’t you that, at least in retrospect, that was somewhat misleading (albeit perhaps non-intentional) or, at the very least, not the full story?

  122. “Not only that, but he told me that the Rav suggested he do it himself while he was setting up shop in L.A. — in order to be more effective in leading the MO community there!”

    Ah, but he didn’t say that in his article where he was being “precise.” Don’t you think it would have been precise to mention such things? He was writing in Tradition, which is no less a popular medium than the comments in Hirhurim. Furthermore, many people feel that he was dishonest or misinformed. Why could he not have stated all that you state in his name?

    Not a great call on his part if you ask me.

  123. To Anonymous (Baruch Pelta?):
    Most people will not lose sight of the fact that you are one of the nastiest writers in the Jewish blogosphere.

    Who gave you the authority to speak on behalf of “most people”? Most pro-Slifkin supporters perhaps, but “most people”? You mammash can’t see your own biases, can you?

    And can Bruch Pelta either confirm or deny that he removed the reference to R’ Holzer’s book “Thinking Aloud” on Rav Soloveitchik’s Wikipedia entry?

  124. To Joseph Kaplan:

    >>”write that on Yom Ha’atma’ut, if the Rav was davening with a minyan which recited Hallel, the Rav did receite the chapters of Tehillim that comprise Hallel with the congregation but did so not as a genuine Hallel but as a (to use the term you used earlier) meaningless one.”<<

    This is still inaccurate. IF Hallel means Genuine Hallel recited before kaddish tiskabel, THEN whenever the the Rav was davening with a minyan that recited Hallel (meaning before kaddish tiskabel), the Rav stood silently and would not recite those chapters of tehillim.
    He couldn't will those chapters to not be hallel if they were recited before kaddish tiskabel. So he had no choice but to remain silent while a genuine hallel was being recited by the rest of the cong.

    The Rav only recited those chapters of tehillim when davening in a minyan that agreed to recite them after kaddish tiskabel–meaning a minyan that wasn't really reciting hallel. It was a "pseudo-hallel".

    So the statement "Whenever the Rav was davening in a minyan which recited Hallel, [meaning a real hallel before kaddish tiskabel and not a pseudo-hallel] he stood there silently" is 100% accurate. But only if you use the term "Hallel" with halachic precision–which I would think a scholarly article in Tradition tends to do (as opposed to comments on a blog!)
    AFAIK Tradition articles are usually high brow– often employing technical language and terminology whether in Torah or academic contexts.

  125. Dovid Kornreich-at the risk of being chastised for injecting my POV on an existing thread, the issue of the need for MO to adhere to Mesorah and Baalei Mesorah has been discussed here and elsewhere on a wide variety of issues. OTOH, IMO, it is very simplistic to conflate Mesorah into what the Charedi world calls Daas Torah.

  126. FWIW, one of the most obvious cases of attempting to “Kasher RYBS” is the shaar blatt and hakdamah of Hareri Kedem. When I bought my copy, I amended the printed shaar blatt to note RYBS’s affiliation as a RY of RIETS.

  127. Mechy Frankel

    Does anyone besides me find these repeated references to RYBS as “JB” to be offensive, especially since i assume offense was intended.

    As for RM’s version of the Rov’s hallel practice, I have no personal knowledge – while I did learn in his shiur at YU I never davened with him. But, aside from a mild intellectual curiosity I really don’t much care what he did one way or the other. But it is here RM’s past undermines his credibility – nothing to do with jaundiced views of scientists or his benighted (IMO of course) views of science, the configuration of the ortho world, gender, zionist or educational hashqofos or whatever – even the “nastiness” alleged by some previous poster. we’re all entitled to opinions and our own styles. But we’re not entitled to relate false “facts” about others. Since he, knowingly or perhaps otherwise, perpetrated a straightforward sheqer, and – much more important when matters of character and veracity are in play – refused to either publicly recant or apologize even after the falsity was manifest, I tend to immediately dismiss the testimony about any topic emanating from the source, even in situations he might well know what he’s talking about. Which is the real lasting damage incurred by such behavior. And while I haven’t followed his contributions closely I’m under the impression that DK, who would have been personally clueless as to the truth of those slanders, nevertheless leaped to defend them. So similar considerations pertain to emanations from that source as well.

  128. Lawrence Kaplan

    DK: The real issue is not whether I or R. Meisleman are rewriting the Rav to fit out own agendas. (Actually, I, unlike R. Meiselman, have actually criticized the Rav on several issues.) The real issue is whose understanding of the Rav is best borne out by what the Rav said and wrote. On this substantive question, I argued that for the Rav, contra R. Meiselman, the State of israel possesses intrinsic halakhic significance, and discussed this at length in my article and more briefly in my most recent comment. DK did not respond to this comment. Again, read my artice, read R. Meiselman’s original article which I critiqued, and decide for yourself.

  129. Joseph Kaplan

    DK: The problem, AISI, is that you, in your defense of RM, are putting words in the Rav’s mouth. The Rav did not say I would not say a genuine hallel; I was saying only a meaningless or psuedo-hallel. He said, as R. Holzer’s book shows, that “when I daven with a minyan on YH, I say hallel with the kahal.” No meaningless, no pseudo, hallel. Simply Hallel. So, in a precise article, where the author is such a close talmid and relative of the Rav that he knows his actions and understands him so well, wouldn’t a precise statement be: the Rav did not say hallel on YH; although he said the chapters of tehillim with the kahal that comprise hallel, he was not saying a genuine hallel but only zugging tehillim because they were being said after kaddish tiskabel. Precise and accurate; you couldn’t have said it better yourself (because this is, from what I understand, exactly what you are saying). The problem is, RM did *not* say that. With all his knowledge of teh Rav, he couldn’t see and didn’t know that the Rav would refer to his practice as “saying hallel with the kahal.” So my conclusion is that either RM did not know the Rav’s practice, which raises certain issues, or was not being precise and was omitting important information, which raises others. Bottom line: It was the Rav who said “I say hallel with the kahal.” Try as you like, you can’t get away from that — but RM tried to though, through R. Holzer’s book, got caught.

  130. Mechy Frankel

    I’m generally not in favor of censorship, but when an offensive fool like Jewish Observer pops up that preference is sorely strained. By the way – and I’m not sure why I have this impression – but the ignorance purveyed with such an air of naive certainty and chutzpah somehow makes me think its author is very young.

  131. Joseph Kaplan:

    For what it is worth, I think you are mistaken if you consider the statements of both Rabbi Meiselman and the Rav in context (as I explain below).

    In Thinking Out Loud, the transcript on Hallel on YH is around 60 pages. I think this section shows at least the following things about the Rav’s thinking in 1978. First, the Rav did not think the perakim of Hallel should be said at all on YH. When asked what was the proper way to davven on YH, the Rav responded “I’d davven a regular tefilah today” (pg. 212). Second, the Rav felt it was assur to say (and would not say) Hallel “b’toras chiyuv” or even in a manner that “he gives the impression that he says it b’toras tzivui” (pg. 198). Third, the Rav considered saying the perakim of Hallel without a beracha and after kaddish tiskabel as no different than reading tanach. “If I say it [chapters of Hallel] voluntarily, it’s like reading hallel, like someone who recites tehillim the whole day can say the hallel the whole day.” (pg. 198). “The very moment you say tiskabel first, [then] when you begin to say hallel it is hallel of reshus. Reshus is k’koreh b’kesuvim.” (pg. 201). Finally, the Rav himself uses the word hallel (with no qualifier) in two different ways — sometimes meaning hallel with the din of hallel –and sometimes meaning just reciting the perakim of Hallel like reading Tanach. In fact, he uses it in these two ways in the very section from which the quote about saying Hallel was taken (which by the way was providing an explantion as to why the Rav DID NOT say Hallel on that particular YH). The Rav says “And there no takanah today, and if there is no takannah, there is no hallel. That is why I did not say hallel today even though when I daven in a minyan on yom ha’atzmaut I say hallel with the kahal. I just ask the shliach tzibur to say the kaddish with tiskabel right after shemoneh esrei, and then say hallel.” (198-99).

    Rabbi Meiselman in his article was not providing a detailed overview of the Rav’s position on saying Hallel on YH. He used Hallel on YH as an example of a case where he felt the Rav was an “unwilling posek” and “would make his opinion known, but he never insisted that his opinion be followed”. Rabbi Meiselman noted as an example that even though the Rav felt that saying Hallel (halachic hallel) was assur, he would not impose this opinion on others, and would even stand in shul and not say anything rather than trying to impose his opinion. In this context, the fact that bedi’eved if the shul said the perakim of Hallel like they were reading from Tanach (no beracha – after kaddish tiskabel), the Rav (at least by 1978) would join them does not seem particularly relevant. While it seems to me that Rabbi Meiselman could have added the additional detail, it was not necessary to make his point in the article and I do not think his statement in that context was either inaccurate or misleading.

  132. I have nothing to add. People can read RM’s article, my brother’s article, Thinking Aloud, your explanation and the views of other posters here and decide for themselves.

  133. Okay, first off, there’s an allegation Dovid’s bandying about that I may have writing anonymous comments as a ‘sock puppeteer.’ So just off the bat, even though I’ve already written this, that’s not true.

    OK, There seems to have been more heat than light generated in this comment thread while I was out today, so I’ll just try and make my view clear, in case it’s been obfuscated. I’ll quote where I think Meiselman’s clearest and then proceed to summarize what in my view is the difference between me and those who think Meiselman is right. And then, like Mr. Kaplan, I’m done, I don’t think there’s anything else to add.

    The quote is from Meiselman’s response to Rabbi Simcha Krauss:

    “In the Rav’s shul in Boston, he recited the tefilla lishlom hamedina, but he remained silent with his tallit over his head when the tsibbur recited Hallel on Yom Ha’Asma’ut. I record all of the above in my article, and wonder why R. Krauss seems to feel that I am oblivious to many years of my own life experience. What is interesting is that all of this was begun not in 1948, at the establishment of the State, when the
    Rav was still living in Roxbury, but in 1963, when he moved to
    Brookline.”

    Now, when I read that, I think the message conveyed to the reader is clearly that when the Rav’s shul in Boston said hallel – and as we all know, that was done without a bracha, after tiskabel, and therefore isn’t really a full-on hallel — the Rav refused to say it.

    When those who disagree with me see the section I’ve quoted, they think the message conveyed to the reader is clearly that when the Rav’s shul in Boston on some Yom Haatzmaaut refused to abide by his wishes and insisted on saying hallel before tiskabel and with a bracha, the Rav on those occasions would remain silent (I should note that I personally do not know of the Rav’s minyan in Boston ever insisting on saying full hallel as such).

  134. (ps That first “Meiselman” should be “Rabbi Meiselman.”

  135. ” I have an intuition that some day science will come to radically revise it’s calculations in terms of how old everything is”

    Quite unlikely. We observe things that are as old as 13 billion years. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8022917.stm. There are simply too many observations that would have to be completely reinterpreted. (The same is true of evolution; a few years ago I publicly challenged evolution opponents to reinterpret a single article on cat genetics where the authors had put the entirety of their data online. Nobody took me up on the challenge. There are thousands of such observations based on empirical evidence.)

    “In short, are there aspects of reality which we are closed off from (at least currently) which prevent us from really figuring out what really happened? I think we need to seriously consider that fact.”

    No, we don’t need to consider it. I had a high school physics homework in which we were to see how quantum mechanics affected the typical things we see on a day to day basis. A baseball player is having trouble hitting curve balls and upon discovering quantum mechanics concluded that the quantum uncertainty was the reason his bat couldn’t find the curveball. Our assignment was to calculate the approximate quantum uncertainty in the position of the baseball. It turns out to be many orders of magnitude smaller than the diameter of subatomic particles. Curveballs aren’t quantum phenomena, nor are very many things we see directly.

    “That is why I have a whole series on what DNA is and how it works – because I don’t think it is possible to have an intelligent conversation about the origins of life, the neo-Darwinian mechanism for the theory of evolution or the Cambrian Explosion for that matter without have a basic understanding of what DNA is and how it works.”

    You can’t have an intelligent conversation about any scientific topic with people who don’t accept that empirical observation trumps everything, at least as far as science is concerned. (And regarding Judaism, my problem is with people who claim that Judaism requires acceptance of things that have been empirically disproven.)

    “What I don’t understand is why are all of these idiotic cowards posting anonymously?”

    I post under my real name.

  136. [/i]Trying to turn off italics.

  137. OK, didn’t work. As I pointed out on my blog years ago (http://lammpost.blogspot.com/2004/08/this-blog-is-about-rants-right.html), R’ Meiselman just doesn’t get it. As a devotee of the charedi brand of Daat Torah, his idea is that if the Rav said it, all MO should fall into step. So if the Rav didn’t say Hallel, no one should.

    Of course, neither MO nor the Rav believed in Daat Torah. MO doesn’t do lots of things the Rav did, or vice versa. But R’ Meiselman’s view of a “gadol” keeps him from understand that.

    Of course, as it happens, his reading of the Rav is way, way off; like all of modern Daat Torah, he’s ascribing his views to the gadol in question.

  138. To Baruch Pelta:

    >>Now, when I read that, I think the message conveyed to the reader is clearly that when the Rav’s shul in Boston said hallel – and as we all know, that was done without a bracha, after tiskabel, and therefore isn’t really a full-on hallel — the Rav refused to say it.<<

    But as we don't all know, the Rav's shul in Boston underwent a change over the years. Rav Meiselman was recording his experience of the Rav standing silent during Hallel in 1963 when the Rav did not yet have the clout to push the recital to after kaddish tiskabel. During those earlier years, the Rav's shul recited a genuine hallel before kaddish tiskabel. But despite this, the Rav did not insist on having the shul conform to his firm personal objections to saying hallel on Yom Ha'atzmaut.

    As the years went on and the Rav became more influential, he managed to convince his shul to change their practice and avoid reciting a genuine hallel on Yom Ha'atzma'ut by moving it to after kaddish tiskabel. After this concession was made, the Rav felt comfortable joining the tzibbur in the recital of those chapters of Tehillim which have no meaning as Hallel. This is the practice that Rabbi Simcha Krauss reported.

    As Moshol thoroughly explained above at September 1 9:41 PM, Rav Meiselman's portrayal of his experiences with the Rav in 1963 (and leaving out the Rav's later practice which he did not witness but only heard about) is completely appropriate to underscore the message Rav Meiselman was making in his article. And the later practice of the Rav doesn't contradict this message, so Rav Meiselan's lack of comprehensiveness in recording the practice of the Rav throughout the years is in no way misleading.

    I would like to thank Moshol for doing the legwork in citing from "Thinking Aloud" and putting the sound-bite touted by Joseph Kaplan into its appropriate context and effectively ending the discussion.

    I would also like to respectfully request (for the third time) a straight-forward response from Baruch Pelta regarding the removal of the reference to R' Holtzer's "Thinking Aloud" in Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik's Wikipedia entry. Moshol has made it quite evident how vital this book is in understanding the Rav's true feelings and practices regarding Hallel on Yom Ha'atzma'ut–which, despite Prof. Kaplan's claims to the contrary, is unequivocally a signifcant component of one's Zionistic credentials.

    (Being that Baruch Pelta has published on the topic of revisionism and is a strident critic of those who engage in it, I think it is wholly appropriate to know whether or not he has engaged it it himself.)

  139. Hey, did you delete the last comment by Jewish Observer? That comment was priceless! I want a copy of it! Something to the effect of, “Lawrence Kaplan’s version of R. Soloveitchik is more authoritative than R. Meiselman’s, because it corresponds much more closely to everything the [Haredi] Gedolim have said about him.”

  140. Thanks to whoever fixed the italics issue.

    To Prof. Kaplan:
    >>“The real issue is whose understanding of the Rav is best borne out by what the Rav said and wrote. On this substantive question, I argued that for the Rav, contra R. Meiselman, the State of israel possesses intrinsic halakhic significance, and discussed this at length in my article and more briefly in my most recent comment. DK did not respond to this comment.”<<

    I believe I did in fact respond to this comment but you added another element which you feel avoids my response. I feel that my original response covered your additional element.

    Let me repaste my original response and explain why I feel it is still adequate.

    “Dovid Korneich on August 31, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    1) I think you and Rav Meiselman are using the terms “intrinsic halachic significance” and “pragmatic significance ” in different ways.
    If I recall correctly, in Rav Meiselman’s responses to letters submitted to Tradition about his article, he explains this distinction more precisely. I believed they were published but I will try to summarize it from memory:

    When the State of Israel fosters and enables a more fuller expression of Judaism in the public sphere with more open recognition and accommodation of Jewish law and lifestyle, it is given pragmatic value– even though it is fostering and facilitating religious observance and Torah study.

    Intrinsic halachic significance to the State of Israel would mean something else entirely–that the State’s existence would activate the unique halachos that are reserved for halachicly recognized Jewish Sovereignty over Eretz Yisroel. We would say a bracha over the Prime Minister as one would say over a Jewish King. The IDF would have a Genuine Kohen Meshuach Milchama announcing the verses mandated in the Torah at the appropriate times before battle and issuing the Torah’s exemptions and deferrals. Etc. Etc.
    The State of Israel did not qualify for such halachos in the eyes of the Rav–thus it did not posses intrinsic halachic significance as a Jewish sovereign state.”

    Subsequent to this response, Prof. Kaplan asserted:

    “lawrence kaplan on August 31, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    DK: Both in Brit Avot and Al Ahavat ha-Torah the Rav clearly states that the Jewish people’s exercising political sovereignty over the land of Israel via the establishment of the State is “the greatest possible fulfillment of the commandment of settling the land of Israel.” Of course he is referring to the Ramban here. Seems pretty halakhically intrinsic to me.”

    But as I explained in my original response above, the enabling a greater fulfillment of an already applicable commandment by Jews via the Sate of Israel is still ranked as only having pragmatic value. Jews have been fulfilling the comandment to settle the land of Israel on smaller scales from time immemorial. They are only doing it on a much larger (and hopefully more permanent) scale via the agency of the State of Israel. AFAIK the Rav is not saying that a new halachic condition or category has been activated as a result of the State of Israel’s soverignty engendering a bigger yishuv of Eretz Yisrael.

    To underscore this point I should point out that, hypothetically speaking, this very same scale of fulfillment of this mitzvah could have conceivably been fostered by the Turkish or British governments had they been so inclined. (Indeed, many have opined that the core security and long-term stability of the current Yishuv of Eretz Yirael ultimately derives from the economic, military and diplomatic benevolence of United States and its citizens–Israeli sovereignty notwithstanding)
    But I don’t think any non-Jewish government could hypothetically be awarded “intrinsic halachic value” for that capacity, do you?
    If so, logic dictates that neither does the State of Israel.

    Thus your citation

  141. Sorry for leaving out the bottom line:

    Thus your citation from the written works of the Rav do not contradict Rav Meiselman’s portrayal of the Rav’s Zionism as solely pragmatic as Rav Meiselman defined it. I know that reasonable minds can disagree on these categories, but I believe I’ve shown that Rav Meiselman’s views are consistent with the facts cited in this thread and have not been refuted in the least.

  142. “During those earlier years, the Rav’s shul recited a genuine hallel before kaddish tiskabel.”
    Oh, that’s a brand new assertion, so now I have to regretfully make a new post noting that I might have to retract. If you can prove that’s true with a citation from somebody who isn’t haredi (you know, for balance), I’ll immediately recant my assertion that Rabbi Meiselman is engaging in historical revisionism with this hallel. But I don’t think it’s true. I just talked to a rabbi and he told me as early as 1965 he recalls davenning with the Rav and them saying hallel after tiskabel without a bracha. But Rabbi Meiselman asserted, according to you, that true hallel was said for “many years” in the Rav’s shul, starting in 1963.

    (I don’t want to be impolite Dovid, which is why I’ve avoided your weird Wikipedia inquiry, but I don’t answer questions irrelevant to the conversation from you anymore. You call me a stalker and bandy about a libel accusation, but then you expect me to submit myself to your interrogations on the Internet. I go by the maxim, “If you give a mouse a cookie…” I’d rather not answer this Wikipedia editing question, so I’m not forced to answer future questions or be accused of “shtika kihoda’ah. Believe what you will.)

  143. Incidentally, why do you think that starting in 1963 and for many years afterward, the Rav’s shul recited hallel before tiskabel and with a bracha? Did somebody tell you that?

  144. “his idea is that if the Rav said it, all MO should fall into step”

    But my own rav heard things from Rav Soloveitchik that directly contradict what Rav Meiselman relates.

  145. lawrence kaplan

    DK: You assert “AKAIK, the Rav is not saying that a new halakhic category ha been activated as a result of the State of Israel’s sovereignty.” You are simply mistaken. Did you read my article? Better, did you read the Rav’s article, “‘Al Ahavat ha-Torah”? There the Rav, contrary to your assertion, says precisely that a new halakhic category HAS indeed been activated as a result of the State of Israel’s sovereignty. I quote yet once again:

    “The commandment of taking possession and settling the land of Israel expresses itself not just in cultivating and developing the land, but by the Jews taking hold of it and exercising political domination over it. The very fact that the Jewish people rule over the land gives expression to the PRIMARY [my emphasis; L.K.] aspect of taking possession and settling it.”

    All this is is as clear as can be, and the exact opposite of DK’s claim. To elaborate a bit: As the Rav explains, the Ramban in his notes on Sefer ha-Mitzvot speaks about TWO aspects of the mitzvah of yishuv eretz yisrael. 1) Shelo naniah be-yad zulatenu, that we should not leave it in the hands of others, and 2)o le-shamamah, or to waste. The first aspect, according to the Rav refers to political sovereignty; the second aspect to the physical cultivation of the land. Thus even had the British allowed full aliyah and economic development only the second aspect would have been fulfilled not the first. The Rav makes all this very clear.

    I trust that confronted with these clear statements of the Rav, you will have the intellectual integrity to acknowledge your error.

  146. lawrence kaplan

    Charlie Hall: With all respect, what your Rav heard from the Rav is irrelevant. The issue is the views the Rav expressed in his writings and public addresses. Only if a consensus of the Rav’s major disciples or confidantes state that the Rav consistently over the course of time expressed a certain view, can we rely on it. See, for example, R. Frimer’s article on WTG. I discuss all this in my article.

  147. Rabbi Dr. Kaplan:

    How do you reconcile your position with the following statement from Thinking Aloud ?

    “If Eretz Yisrael will promote yahadus and help yahadus to survive, then Eretz Yisrael will be achieving its goal. If, on the contrary, it undermines our loyalty and faithfulness to yahadus, then I would have no use for Eretz Yisrael. Fortunately, Eretz Yisrael helps. It could have helped a lot more, but it helps”.(244).

    This statement of the Rav sounds fairly similar to the following statement of Rabbi Meiselman in his article where Rabbi Meiselman stated that the Rav “merely records the positive aspects of the State and chooses to view the value of the State of Israel in purely pragmatic religious terms. The bottom line is whether or not it is good for the Jews, i.e. the proper practice of the Jewish religion. In all of his essay on Zionism this theme is constant.” (fn. 10).

  148. lawrence kaplan

    Moshol: What do you mean reconcile MY position? Did you read my post? Did you read my article? Did you read Al Ahavaht ha-Torah? IT’S THE RAV’S POSITION! If you have kashe, it’s on the Rav.

    I never denied that, as I stated explicitly in my article, the Rav often emphasized the pragmatic value of the State. My point was, and it remains uncontradicted by anything that you or DK have said, that he explicitly stated that it also has intrinsic value. Moreover, one has to ultimately give more weight to Al Ahavat ha-Torah which is a very carefully written article that the Rav himself prepared for publication, an article to which R. Lichtenstein– I dare say as much an “insider” as R. Meiselman– has attributed special importance, over a very interesting, but, when all is said and done, impromptu address from which precision cannot be demanded.

  149. “But Rabbi Meiselman asserted, according to you, that true hallel was said for “many years” in the Rav’s shul, starting in 1963.”

    I don’t see where I made this assertion anywhere on this thread.

    (I don’t want to be impolite Dovid, which is why I’ve avoided your weird Wikipedia inquiry, but I don’t answer questions irrelevant to the conversation from you anymore.

    Calling my question about removing a reference to “Thinking Aloud” from the Rav’s Wikipedia entry as an attempt at revisionism “irrelevant to the conversation” is pretty desperate. But I guess I would do the same thing to avoid answering directly if I where in your shoes…

    You call me a stalker and bandy about a libel accusation,but then you expect me to submit myself to your interrogations on the Internet.

    The internet stalker bit was tongue in cheek because I was parroting a ridiculous charge you laid against me awhile back in a similar situation.

    And if by “libel accusation” you are referring to an allegation of being a sock puppeteer, I challenge you to find a single comment of mine which accused you of it. But I will wonder out loud whether you had anything to do with any comments posted anonymously on this thread (existing or deleted) in addition to posting in your own name. If you in fact did not, I’m willing to apologize for suspecting you falsely.

  150. To Prof. Kaplan:

    After re-reading your article I find no “new halachic category” attributed to the existence of the secular State of Israel by virtue of its sovereignty over the Land of Israel. It surely has great halachic significance by facilitating a more permanent and secure fulfillment of the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael–but this still does not bestow inherent halachic significance. The fact that the State is controlled by Jews as opposed to non-Jews is halachicly significant only because Jewish control is assumed to lend more permanence and stability to Jewish settlement (History is unfortunately showing us that this assumption may not be so reliable!). Asserting as you do that a deeper and more thorough form of fulfillment of the same general mitzvah bestows intrinsic halachic significance is to my mind, a very weak point.
    In general, I see that in your article you are constantly confusing religious significance with intrinsic halachic significance. The classic examples of the latter (which “hard-core” Religious Zionists are very outspoken in affirming regarding the State of Israel) were mentioned by me previously, and you have not provided any examples in the Rav’s writings that remotely resemble them.

  151. I’ll try to be clearer for you, Dovid: I had nothing to do with any comments posted anonymously (or for that matter, pseudonymously) on this thread, existing or deleted. I don’t know who posted them, I haven’t linked to this blog post anywhere, etc.

    The “many years” thing was a fluke on my part. My bad. I’ll give a big apology if you can tell me how we know that in “earlier years,” including 1963 apparently, “the Rav’s shul” said hallel with a bracha and before tiskabel.

    Otherwise, I think it would behoove you to put an apology from you to me here and on your blog for without basis asserting something which, if true, would’ve rendered me guilty of inaccurately accusing somebody of historical revisionism.

  152. *”‘the Rav’s shul'” should be “‘the Rav’s shul in Boston.'”

  153. *”asserting something” should be “asserting something as fact”

  154. lawrence kaplan

    DK: To repeat: The Rav, basing himself on the Ramban, specifically states that there are two aspects of yishuv eretz yisrael: 1) physical settling and economic development; and 2) political sovereignty. Your claim that the second is only a means towards the first goes against what the Rav clearly says. My article is available on-line. I will let readers decide for themselves. In any event, nothing in the Rav’s 1978 address makes my analysis obsolete.

  155. To Charlie Hall,

    I wrote:
    ”I have an intuition that some day science will come to radically revise it’s calculations in terms of how old everything is”

    You Responded:
    Quite unlikely. We observe things that are as old as 13 billion years. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8022917.stm. There are simply too many observations that would have to be completely reinterpreted. (The same is true of evolution; a few years ago I publicly challenged evolution opponents to reinterpret a single article on cat genetics where the authors had put the entirety of their data online. Nobody took me up on the challenge. There are thousands of such observations based on empirical evidence.)

    My response to your response:
    In terms of the age in the universe – let’s come back in 500 years and we’ll see :).

    In full seriousness (the above comment was half-serious), ‘too mahny observations that would have to be completely reinterpreted’ doesn’t get to the heart of how we have determined how we date things in the first place and the assumptions that those methods are based on. Science is full of examples wherein today’s assumptions were tomorrows follies. Reinterpreting observations is not a problem if new evidence indicates that they need to be reintreted.

    My basic point is that I think that history is full of examples where science and philosophers assumed a static reality that later on turned to be much more dynamic and sophisticated than was at first conceived. My sense is that that may be happening here too – but as of now I really can’t say more than that until I more seriously study the whole thing.

    I will add that the arguments I have heard in favor of an old universe sound like legitimate arguments – i.e., the way that they have been presented to me they make logical and observational sense [although, again, I haven’t learned the sugya inside]. They sound like rational interpretations of existing scientific theories and observations [particularly the claim that there are multiple, independent methods of dating that independently arrive at similar conclusions].

    But they also sound like they are built on an assumption that what is true today was always true – a certain staticness to reality throughout time – that is where I imagine that some day things may get a bit tricky since I think that we find time and time again that life and reality are much more dynamic and sophisticated than we assume or can imagine.

    If you reread my initial comment, one of my main points is that it’s important to understand the assumptions upon which an idea or theory is based and think about the potential consequences for one’s ideas if those assumptions turn out to be false or or at least not as universally true as first imagined. I believe that Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolution relates to this point (although I have not read that book yet – it’s on my short list – but I did see a short summary of his thesis). In short, I think it’s important to understand the role that assumptions play in scientific theories and ideas and how those assumptions leave room for different understandings of reality. If you think otherwise, please articulate why you disagree.

    In terms of observing objects that are 13 billion years old — the article notes that the object is 13 billion light years away (based on on Einstein’s assumption/conclusion that nothing can move faster than the speed of light). We then infer that the object is 13 billion years old (again, based on Einstein’s assumption). In other words, there is an observation and then an interretation of that observation based off of our current understanding of reality.

    Now, I have no reason to doubt the observation, Einstein’s theory or the interpretation. But, at the same time I can ask a simple question – to what extent can we apply Einstein’s assumption about the speed of light (i.e., that nothing can go faster than the speed of light)? It is true in the universe that we observe today – was it true as the universe was being created? Is it true in all aspects and conditions of reality? Are there aspects or conditions of reality where that assumption breaks down?

    NOw, I have no mathematical or observational reason for concluding otherwise – I know of no reason not to apply his assumption to our observations of stars and/or our theories about the development of the universe. But I recognize that it’s an application – and that like other ideas we may find that it’s truth is not nearly as universal as we currently think.

    In terms of evolution – please explain what you are referring to in terms of cat genetics? Also, which aspect of evolution are you referring to – that some sort of evolutionary process happened, the neo-Darwinian mechanism of evolution (i.e,. random variations plus natural selection), both, something else? What exactly do you think these ‘thousands of such obsverations based on empiracal evidence’ prove? In other words, what exactly do you think the evidence sited proves?

    Along those lines, please feel free to take a look at some of my articles on evolution on my website and respond to the ideas and thoughts put forth there: http://morethinking.com. I have just started the series so there is much more to come (I hope), but I have to start somewhere :).

    I wrote:
    “In short, are there aspects of reality which we are closed off from (at least currently) which prevent us from really figuring out what really happened? I think we need to seriously consider that fact.”

    You responded:
    No, we don’t need to consider it. I had a high school physics homework in which we were to see how quantum mechanics affected the typical things we see on a day to day basis. A baseball player is having trouble hitting curve balls and upon discovering quantum mechanics concluded that the quantum uncertainty was the reason his bat couldn’t find the curveball. Our assignment was to calculate the approximate quantum uncertainty in the position of the baseball. It turns out to be many orders of magnitude smaller than the diameter of subatomic particles. Curveballs aren’t quantum phenomena, nor are very many things we see directly.

    My response to your response:
    That is interesting, but doesn’t relate to the point that I made. I asked whether or not we could figure out how a computer works from seeing how it operates or what goes on in the womb from simply observing the biology of a human being. My question is whether or not processes that occured in the distant past may be closed off to us because of our inability to directly observe them (and I don’t think that seeing distant objects at the edge of the universe is a direct observation of the, let’s say, first three minutes of the Big Bang).

    This isn’t just a question that you can brush-aside with a simple line or two – it’s a methodological question which has to be demonstrated or at least argued for. There are, of course arguments for it, but arguments for a position do not tell the whole story if one doesn’t take the time to consider or understand the arguments against it. Why is it self-evident that we can figure out how the unvirse came into being because we observe the laws by which it presently operates? Please address that question.

    I wrote:
    “That is why I have a whole series on what DNA is and how it works – because I don’t think it is possible to have an intelligent conversation about the origins of life, the neo-Darwinian mechanism for the theory of evolution or the Cambrian Explosion for that matter without have a basic understanding of what DNA is and how it works.”

    You responded:
    You can’t have an intelligent conversation about any scientific topic with people who don’t accept that empirical observation trumps everything, at least as far as science is concerned. (And regarding Judaism, my problem is with people who claim that Judaism requires acceptance of things that have been empirically disproven.)

    My response to your response:
    I don’t agree with you that empirical observation trumpts everything. Empirical observations provide data they don’t explain the data. Empirical data needs to be understood and interpreted and those interpretations then put to the test (via experiments, other empirical observations, etc.).

    Some ideas and theories in science have been very well observed and proven. When a scientists creates glow-in-the-dark spots on the wings of a fruit-fly because of manipulations of DNA I say that they are on to something. They have clearly obtained a certain (impressive) knowledge of DNA (not to mention that they ‘discovered’ it in the first place). When we discover new planets based on Newtonian Physics I again say that we are on to something. We can, obviously, provide many more examples.

    However, there are other areas where scientific theory relies much more on interpretation of the facts and where the predictive power or the means of controlling nature is not nearly as evident. Theories about the past are, in my opinion, more prone to fall into this category. I think that the theory of evolution falls into this category. I think that the neo-Darwinian mechanism has not been proven vis-a-vis macro-evolution nor has all the evidence discovered fit neatly with the expectations and predictions of the theory. Furthermore, when it comes to the ‘overwhelming amount of evidence’ that evolution happened I think a more fundamental question needs to be asked – namely, what is the quality of that evidence and how far and wide we can extrapolate from that evidence. And how does one integrate that evidence into the the Cambrian Explosion – “Evolutions Big Bang” – which seems to indicate that life suddenly went from single-cell organisms to sophisticated creatures with eyes, brains, skeletons and nervous systems? How does the overwhelming amount of evidence bridge that gap?

    Finally, in terms of people who reject certain scientific ideas based on their understanding of the Torah – given that there is a philosophical underpinning to the interpretation of scientific evidence, one can legitamately be suspect of a given theory based on their understanding of the Torah. Of course, this is dangerous ground and can easily lead to foolish statements (certainly on a technical level), but that doesn’t mean that fundamentally the scientific theory will always be right. It’s important to understand the human, philosophical side of science and its influence on the theories of any given period. Not every scientific theory is as well as established as the next – some ideas come and go, others have more staying power.

    I did NOT write:
    “What I don’t understand is why are all of these idiotic cowards posting anonymously?”

    You responded:
    I post under my real name.

    My response to your response:
    I hope you know that I did NOT write that comment about people posting anonymously.

  156. “Science is full of examples wherein today’s assumptions were tomorrows follies. ”

    True, but if you look at the specific instances in which what used to be taught in textbooks had to be completely changed, the actual evidence on which those conclusions were based, were really rather flimsy in the first place. I have personally taught this kind of stuff to medical students.

    ” It is true in the universe that we observe today – was it true as the universe was being created? ”

    There is no evidence that it ever was not true, nor that the speed of light was ever anything other than it is now. Believe me, every physicist would love to prove the opposite; it would guarantee an immediate Nobel Prize.

    “macro-evolution”

    There is really no difference between “micro-evolution” and “macro-evolution”. The mechanisms AFAWK are identical.

    “Not every scientific theory is as well as established as the next – some ideas come and go, others have more staying power.”

    As I have said repeatedly, it isn’t about ideas, it is about empirical observations. Regarding evolution and the age of the universe, there are too many empirical observations today to dismiss. Simply saying “this is improbable” is not a scientific statement; what matters is how probable the observed data are under a specific scientific hypothesis compared to other scientific hypotheses. Nobody has been willing to re-interpret the cat genetics paper, nor anything else for that matter AFAIK. The anti-evolution folks are just as nihilistic as the post-modernists; they can’t predict anything and don’t try.

    “I again say that we are on to something. ”

    Precisely my point. And the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation was one of the great triumphs of a theory making a prediction that was borne out by observation.

    “I did NOT write:”

    I know that you did not; I responded to several people in a single comment.

  157. “Science is full of examples wherein today’s assumptions were tomorrows follies. ”

    True, but if you look at the specific instances in which what used to be taught in textbooks had to be completely changed, the actual evidence on which those conclusions were based, were really rather flimsy in the first place. I have personally taught this kind of stuff to medical students.

    I imagine that is true often times, but from what I understand, it’s also new observations and information that oftentimes forces us to challenge past theories and ideas. In other words, it’s not just flimsy evidence, but radically new evidence that also forces science to change it’s ideas. With that said, the real way to answer this question is to do a through study of the development of new scientific ideas and theories. I believe that is what Kuhn’s book is about. There are other works in that field also. I can’t say more about it until I read those works.

    ” It is true in the universe that we observe today – was it true as the universe was being created? ”

    There is no evidence that it ever was not true, nor that the speed of light was ever anything other than it is now. Believe me, every physicist would love to prove the opposite; it would guarantee an immediate Nobel Prize.

    I am not claiming that there is any evidence nor any reason to change current theories. I am merely stating that there are assumptions that we make in science, particularly about theories about the past. Those assumptions need to be recognized – something that is true about the present isn’t necessarily true about the past. It could be, it may be more reasonable to assume that it is – but it’s not a foregone conclusion. It needs to be argued for. Stating that we have no evidence that it is not true is an argument, but I think a weak one. It’s a sort of negative argument – I have no evidence to the contrary. It counts, it’s a point, but it’s not the same as positive evidence that it is true. For instance, the ability to actually observe the first moments after the Big Bang and conduct experiments and make observations. Of course, this seems to be a physical impossibility, but that is why I think these kinds of theories are on a weaker intellectual ground [again, there may be ways around that – such as predictions and explanations of current observations, but the inherent weakness has to be acknowledged and addressed IMHO].

    “macro-evolution”

    There is really no difference between “micro-evolution” and “macro-evolution”. The mechanisms AFAWK are identical.

    I don’t agree. Micro-evolution is about reworking existing biological entities, macro-evolution is about creating them in the first place. Extrapolating from micro-evolution to macro-evolution is, in my opinion, a massive intellectual jump and one that needs solid reasons for making. I’m willing, of course, to hear why you would think otherwise – but on face value I see significant differences.

    Same goes for the mechanism – it needs to be demonstrated that the mechanism is the same (or that there are significant reasons to extrapolate from one to the other). I would also add that even for macro-evolution there are some surprising developments in terms of the mechanism – see my post on anti-biotic resistance on my site for instance: http://morethinking.com/2011/antibiotic-resistance-and-evolution-understanding-what-really-happens/

    “Not every scientific theory is as well as established as the next – some ideas come and go, others have more staying power.”

    As I have said repeatedly, it isn’t about ideas, it is about empirical observations.

    It’s also about interpreting those observations and developing them into workable theories. It’s the interpretations and theories that change (as well, at times, as the observations – such as work done on the cell in the last half a century which has provided a much more detailed understanding of the cell).

    Regarding evolution and the age of the universe, there are too many empirical observations today to dismiss.

    I think evolution is different than the age of the universe – I think there are many observations which raise as many questions and challenges as they do support the theory. Note the statement in this video about jumps in evolution: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q71DWYJD-dI. Jumps in evolution is NOT what was predicted and it poses serious questions for the mechanism. The origin of life, the Cambrian Explosion, and gaps in the fossil record are also part of the empirical observations. But evolution is a big topic, bigger than the comments section. That’s why I’m doing the series.

    Furthermore – in terms of the age of the universe. I’m not dismissing the observations – I’m point out that we need not take current understandings of those observations as the final truth in the progress of science since they are based on assumptions and theories which will most likely themselves change in the course of time.

    Simply saying “this is improbable” is not a scientific statement;

    I don’t think I said this. I’m not sure what you are referring to here.

    what matters is how probable the observed data are under a specific scientific hypothesis compared to other scientific hypotheses. Nobody has been willing to re-interpret the cat genetics paper, nor anything else for that matter AFAIK.

    Please refer me to the paper in question so I can take a look at it.

    The anti-evolution folks are just as nihilistic as the post-modernists; they can’t predict anything and don’t try.

    One does not need to predict anythintg to argue that a particular theory is not adequate to explain the data at hand.

    “I again say that we are on to something. ”

    Precisely my point. And the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation was one of the great triumphs of a theory making a prediction that was borne out by observation.

  158. “I again say that we are on to something. ”

    Precisely my point. And the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation was one of the great triumphs of a theory making a prediction that was borne out by observation.

    This is definitely something that the Big Bang theory has going for it. From what I understand, the cosmic microwave background radiation was a prediction of the theory basic on mathematical equations that also predicted the actual temperature of the background radiation. Impressive.

    However, I also understand that there are aspects of reality that are giving the theory a hard time – like the fact that the rate of expansion of the universe is accelerating.

    Also, the background radiation is just one aspect of the theory – theories are not just true/false propositions. I saw a video recently where a professor stated that there are physics who are suggesting that Einstein’s equations need to be updated. I saw another one from a scientific journalist who stated that he feels the Big Bang theory is becoming like Ptolemy’s astronomy – where more and more ‘explanations’ are being invoked to explain new observations which we didn’t expect. He imagined that we may need a new theory as a result.

    Now, I’m not saying that Einstein’s theories are going to be updated or that we are going to replace the Big Bang theory – just that one prediction is only part of a picture – there is still the rest of the picture to take into consideration – and that picture may be more dynamic or on less solid ground then we believe or are led to believe.

  159. Barely a few months ago a paper was put out stating that evolution was 15b years only if the temperature was constant.
    A difference of 200 degrees(presumably f)would have sped up the process 10,000,000x .

    (Not one mention of it.Remarkable.)

  160. I’ll try to be clearer for you, Dovid: I had nothing to do with any comments posted anonymously (or for that matter, pseudonymously) on this thread, existing or deleted. I don’t know who posted them, I haven’t linked to this blog post anywhere, etc.

    I’m glad you answered this question directly, and I apologize for falsely suspecting you of posting non-sequitirs anonymously.

  161. I’m glad you answered this question directly
    You’re welcome.

    You did make a rather astonishing assertion, Dovid, and I’m just wondering how you know it to be true. Maybe you didn’t see it, so as a convenience for you and readers here, I’ll repeat my inquiry:

    You’ve asserted as a fact that in “earlier years,” including 1963 apparently, “the Rav’s shul in Boston” said hallel with a bracha and before tiskabel. If you tell me how we know that, I’ll gladly apologize for my accusation of Rabbi Meiselman for historical revisionism. Otherwise, I think it would behoove you to put an apology from you to me here and on your blog for without basis asserting something as fact which, if true, would’ve rendered me guilty of inaccurately accusing somebody of historical revisionism.

  162. Baruch, you have a funny way of changing your angle through the course of a comment thread.
    Not only have you flatly refused to give a straight answer to my relevant question about who edited out the Rav’s wiki entry, you yourself declined to provide your source in Boston about the practice of the Rav’s shul. And you seem pretty confident that you know who my source is when you posted this:

    If you can prove that’s true with a citation from somebody who isn’t haredi (you know, for balance), I’ll immediately recant my assertion that Rabbi Meiselman is engaging in historical revisionism with this hallel. But I don’t think it’s true. I just talked to a rabbi and he told me as early as 1965 he recalls davenning with the Rav and them saying hallel after tiskabel without a bracha.

    It’s coming down to your source in Boston versus mine. Why should one accept the other one’s source over our own?

    And you have the chutzpah to demand something from me as if I’m somehow keeping it from you! Please try to be consistent and openly come forward with the information you’re still withholding. I have no problem doing the same if I know it will be reciprocated.

  163. OK, so you’re saying you have *one* source for your assertion. But you asserted it as a fact earlier. So really, you don’t know if the Rav said hallel with a bracha before tiskabel starting in 1963 or not. I said I didn’t *think* it was true (not that I *knew* it wasn’t, as you earlier asserted you knew it was). From the beginning, I was suspicious, because it’s a startling assertion that the Rav’s shul in Boston said hallel before tiskabel with a bracha as late as the 60s and despite my research on the Rav, I’ve never heard it before. Then, I talked to a respected source who was there in 1965 and he told me he couldn’t imagine in 1963 they were doing things differently. I think you should issue an apology to me on your blog for asserting to the readers that you knew something as a fact when really, you just have a (so far unnamed) source for it.

    So I think we’re reading Rabbi Meiselman’s essay very differently. I read him as asserting that when hallel was said as it was at Maimonides — without a bracha and after tiskabel — the Rav was silent. You’re apparently telling me that he was informing us of an alleged fact that the Maimonides minyan used to say full hallel (even thought it doesn’t anymore) and when it did, the Rav was silent. I find this to be an implausible read.

    (Just because you “wonder aloud” doesn’t mean I have to refute every hypothetical breach of integrity I supposedly might have committed. You accused me of doing something on this thread, so that was pertinent. You accused me of deleting some Wikipedia line as part of a revisionist agenda, and that’s not relevant to the question of whether Meiselman’s a revisionist. But I’ll be happy to trade you my source for what was happening at the Rav’s shul in Boston for yours, as that is part of the conversation. If you’ll take that offer, please tell me where you got your information that in 1963 the Rav said hallel before tiskabel and with a bracha. A text, a conversation?)

  164. *When I wrote “you accused me,” that should be substituted with “you bandied about an accusation toward me.”

    I thought about this a bit last night. I’ve actually been meaning to go over to Maimonides School. When I’m over there, I could just find out what folks over there who davenned by the Rav’s shul in 1963, 1964, 1965, say. I could then put a comment here with names and if it turns out Dovid’s source is correct, I’d apologize (on his blog, if he’d like) for accusing Rabbi Meiselman of historical revisionism when his statement about hallel was just misleading to those who knew the minyan recited and still recites hallel (without a bracha), and not technically untrue; otherwise, Dovid could apologize on his blog to me for defending historical revisionism with an untrue statement.

    1 individual who isn’t a friend of Dovid’s or Rabbi Meiselman would at least convince me I wrote too soon regarding Rabbi Meiselman’s essay, and that I shouldn’t have written what I did without knowing there are folks who maintain that the Rav’s shul said hallel in 1963 and year(s?) following. What about Rebbetzin Twersky? What if I had the good fortune of getting to talk with the Rav’s daughter and she told me that the Rav’s shul didn’t say full hallel? I don’t know for certain if Dovid’s source is an individual he feels he has to be mevatel daas to on this issue.

  165. ps I wouldn’t want them to be a friend of Dovid’s or Rabbi Meiselman’s just because post-facto, they might be biased to engage in accidental distortion of their own memories to defend their friends. But if what Dovid’s saying is true, there should be various individuals — some who were children in 63 and some who were melamdim — who recall this sea change in the practice of the Rav’s shul (which oddly enough doesn’t seem to be recorded in any of the literature I’ve seen on the Rav).

  166. Please ignore the last two comments at 6:20 and 6:25, because I accidentally deleted a line and now the whole gamut doesn’t make sense. I apologize for the confusion…This is what I meant to write:

    *When I wrote “you accused me,” that should be substituted with “you bandied about an accusation toward me.”

    I thought about this a bit last night. I’ve actually been meaning to go over to Maimonides School. When I’m over there, I could just find out what folks over there who davenned by the Rav’s shul in 1963, 1964, 1965, say. I could then put a comment here with names and if it turns out Dovid’s source is correct, I’d apologize (on his blog, if he’d like) for accusing Rabbi Meiselman of historical revisionism when his statement about hallel was just misleading to those who knew the minyan recited and still recites hallel (without a bracha), and not technically untrue; otherwise, Dovid could apologize on his blog to me for defending historical revisionism with an untrue statement.

    1 individual who isn’t a friend of Dovid’s or Rabbi Meiselman (just because post-facto, they might be biased to engage in accidental distortion of their own memories to defend their friends) would at least convince me I wrote too soon regarding Rabbi Meiselman’s essay, and that I shouldn’t have written what I did without knowing there are folks who maintain that the Rav’s shul said hallel in 1963 and year(s?) following. How many individuals would I need to convince Dovid? What about Rebbetzin Twersky? What if I had the good fortune of getting to talk with the Rav’s daughter and she told me that the Rav’s shul didn’t say full hallel? I don’t know for certain if Dovid’s source is an individual he feels he has to be mevatel daas to on this issue.

  167. FWIW, if one goes through the Noroas HaRav volumes on RH, one will see many comments by RYBS to the effect that the composition of Tefilos certainly was al Pi Ruach HaKodesh via Anshe Kneses HaGedolah, a comment quite similar to RYBS’s POV re composing new Kinos.

  168. Rabbi Dr. Kaplan:

    I apologize if my question was unclear. My question, however, is appropriately directed to you because it is your understanding of the Rav that I believe is challenged by the statements in Thinking Aloud. Specifically, in your article, you claimed that Rabbi Meiselman was wrong about the Rav’s position on Zionism. You appeared to primarily focus on Rabbi Meiselman’s statement that the Rav:

    “merely records the positive aspects of the State and chooses to view the value of the State of Israel in purely pragmatic religious terms. The bottom line is whether or not it is good for the Jews, i.e. the proper practice of the Jewish religion. In all of his essays on Zionism this theme is constant. The Ray’s difference of opinion with other Torah giants was the degree of accommodation with the government of Israel. It existed on a pragmatic level only.” (n. 10).

    In attempting to prove your point, you argued in your article (and have continued to argue) that the Rav in one of his addresses to Mizrachi titled “Bris Avos” (found here in what I believe is the Yiddish original http://www.hebrewbooks.org/3161) stated that according to the Ramban, political sovereignty is a kiyyum of the mitzvah of yishuv ha-aretz and you argued that this concept and the language the Rav used there and in al ahavas hatorah indicated that Rabbi Meiselman is not just wrong, but that he misunderstood and/or distorted the Rav’s position.

    In my opinion, the content of Thinking Aloud shows that the Rav in fact used language about importance of Medinas Yisrael (not the government but the state itself) which certainly seems to indicate that he viewed its primary importance as being instrumental (i.e. helps yahadus, stopped shmad, maintained identity, etc.). This language is used throughout the recordings in Thinking Aloud. This seems to me to be very consistent with Rabbi Meiselman’s understanding that the Rav viewed the State of Israel pragmatically based upon “whether or not it is good for the Jews, i.e. the proper practice of the Jewish religion.”.

    The clearest articulation by the Rav of the primary if not comprehensive instrumental value of the medina is the following statement:

    “If Eretz Yisrael will promote yahadus and help yahadus to survive, then Eretz Yisrael will be achieving its goal. If, on the contrary, it undermines our loyalty and faithfulness to yahadus, then I would have no use for Eretz Yisrael. Fortunately, Eretz Yisrael helps. It could have helped a lot more, but it helps”.(244).

    Note that the Rav makes this apparently unqualified statement, despite stating earlier in the same recording that there is a kiyyum of yishuv ha’aretz according to the ramban in jewish sovereignty. Earlier in that section, the Rav is quoted as saying that “of course”, Jewish sovereignty is ‘important. . . . according to the Ramban, it’s a part of yirshu ha’aretz, yerishto v’yashavta bo. So, it is important. I would like to see a Jewish governor in Yerushalayim [more] than an Arab or a Christian governor. The mere fact that it’s the first time in history that the Jews control makom ha’mikdash has significance to that. But again, this is not yahadus in toto.” (217-218).

    Nor does it make sense to say that the articulation on pg. 244 of the instrumental value of medinas Yisrael (the state, not the government) is simply a slip of the tongue, an overgeneralization or an “off the cuff” imprecision, because the Rav is also recorded as having made the following statements:

    • “A state is a relative good, by far not an absolute one” (178)
    • There was a “great yeshua . . . And if not for Medinas Yisrael – or imagine now, rachmanah litzlan, God forbid, Medinas Yisrael is annihilated, is destroyed. The tidal wave of assimilation would inundate the whole Diaspora.” (212).
    • Eretz Yisrael “stopped the tidal wave of shmad” (212)
    • “I want to tell you- this is my personal opinion – there is not doubt that Medinas Yisrael is important now. It was important when it was established, it is important now too as a prevention, a protection, a shield against shmad and general assimilationism, whether secular or Christian.” (215)
    • “It is very important. I emphasize that it is not the highest good we have in our hierarchy of values. Axiologically, it is not the highest good. The highest good in our hierarchy of values is one: Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and our special relationship we have to Him, which expresses itself in observance, a unique morality, and a unique and singular way of life. This is the highest value, not the state. It has never been. The highest value is the Torah, and our specific relationship to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, which the Torah then requires of us. There is no doubt about it. Yahadus does not revolve about the state, it revolves about HaKadosh Baruch Hu.”
    • “We hope yahadus will survive anywhere, ki li kol ha’aretz. This is on the one hand. On the other hand, one should not underestimate the importance and significance of the State of Israel, at present as far as the survival of netzach Yisrael is concerned.” (216)
    • “Since it contributed greatly to the survival of our people, it is very important”(216)
    • “If you work with the idea that no Eretz Yisrael means no brisas Yisrael, then you are returning to the covenant of Avraham Avinu, which has already been replaced by ki li kol haaretz”. (221)
    • When asked if the bris with Avraham Avinu has any significance today, the Rav answered “Sinai replaced it. Ki li kol haaretz.” (232)
    • The promise to the Avos matters so that “Eretz Yisrael belongs to us , a dinay mammonus. . . This is the havtacha; that Eretz Yisrael belongs to us, and that Eretz Yisrael will be the center of gilui shechinah at the time when HaKadosh Baruch Hu will redeem knesses Yisrael.” (233-34)
    • “the rise of medinas Eretz Yisrael is a very, very important event in our history. However, it does not mean that one should use phrases which are irresponsible, [for instance] to say it is like krias yam suf. Whoever said it is a big tipaish. It is an important event, particularly as far as the survival of the Jewish people is concerned. It helps a great deal, because otherwise there would have been a stream of assimilationism, which would have inundated the Diaspora Jews.” (240)
    • “Eretz Yisrael is an important gain, something very significant, which will help us simplify our tasks” (243)
    • “Eretz Yisrael plays an important role, I would say in defending and retaining the integrity and identity of the knesses Yisrael.” (250)

    I think all these statements (and others like them) are consistent with Rabbi Meiselman’s understanding that the Rav viewed the State of Israel pragmatically based upon “what is good for the Jews”. The Rav does not seem to find this instrumental view to be inconsistent with his understanding of the Ramban (which he also articulated during this recording). In my opinion, this is because the fact that there is a kiyyum of yishuv ha’aretz according to the Ramban is simply one additional detail to add to the calculus in determining the pragmatic value of medinas Yisrael.

    Finally, I note that I would not discount anything either Rav Lichtenstein or Rav Meiselman said about anything, and certainly not about the Rav. They are both sophisticated talmidei chachamim and were both close with the Rav personally, and as talmidim. As such, they provide valuable insight into understanding one of the gedolim of the past generation. While I have not heard Rav Lichtenstein directly address the issue of the Rav’s position on Zionism, I note that in the summary of a shiur by Rav Lichtenstein found on the Gush Etzion website (http://www.vbm-torah.org/alei/14-02ral-zionism.htm#_ftn6 ), Rav Lichtenstein discusses his understanding of the Rav’s position on Zionism. Rav Lichtenstein there does not mention this Ramban. In fact, Rav Lichtenstein described the Rav’s position in terms that (at least to me) seem to be somewhat consistent with Rav Meiselman’s position. Rav Lichtenstein states:

    “As opposed to Rav Velvel’s ‘anti-Zionism,’ the Rav believes not merely in a different political position; rather, he presents a doctrine necessitating the total storming of existence, putting the stamp of Halakha upon the entire world, upon all the complexities of life and all realms of society. The Halakha has something to say, and a rule to be obeyed, in every area of life, from the bedroom to the political forum. This broad spiritual perception lies a great distance from the glorification of the State and sovereignty that appears in the writings of those philosophers who regarded themselves as Zionists.”

  169. Oy vez mir, something came up, so I’m afraid I won’t be continuing my involvement in this thread.

    I feel like I may not have elucidated on my opinion in a way the folks who read this thread can understand and for that, I apologize. If anybody is interested in further elucidation, my email is [email protected] and I can get back to you when I have a chance.

    It’s an extraordinary claim that the Rav’s minyan was saying hallel with a bracha in Yom Haatzmaut in 1963. I had an extensive interest in the Rav’s surroundings, but I had never heard that the minyan was saying full hallel in 1963! I bet 1000 Peltabucks and an embarrassing apology from me that nobody can prove it’s true.

    (As for this other argument going on, it seemed to me — lchora at least — that the Rav contradicted himself in a few places on the point of whether or not Israel was to be viewed with ideological significance or not, but I don’t have The Rav Thinking Aloud on me, so I don’t want to comment without context.)

    Ok, so for real, I’m out.

  170. *”the Rav’s minyan” should be “the Rav’s minyan in Boston.”

  171. Lawrence Kaplan

    Moshol: Thank you for your thoughtful and thorough reply. I did not say your question was not appropriately directed to me. I took issue with the substance of your question, namely, how could I reconcile MY position with that of the Rav as expressed in his 1978 address. As I indicated, the question, if there is one, is how does one reconcile THE RAV’S position as expressed in Al Ahavat ha-Torah, Brit Avot, and Kol Dodi Dofek with the 1978 address. Again, I never denied that there is a pragamtic element to Rav’s view re the value of the State of Israel. I took issue with R. Meiselman’s contention that in “all his essays” the Rav evaluated the State (R. Meiselman refers to the government in place of the State, an error the Rav warns against) from only a pragmatic standpoint. I believe I showed in my essay that the evidence from these three essays clearly contradicts R. Meiselman’s assertion.

    Re the 1978 address: Again, I believe that one has to give more weight to the three essays I disucssed, all of which the Rav either prepared or reviewed for publication, than the impromptu address. I, indeed, agree with you that in the address there is more emphais on the pragmatic side than one would have expected having read the three essays I discussed. Pehaps the Rav changed his mind. My sense, however, is that this is an impromptu address, and that the Rav here, being “ticked off” by the recitation of a “haftarah,” somewhat one-sidedly chose to emphasize the more pragmatic side than he would have done in a more formal address. In any event, R. Meiselman’s broadly drawn and unnuanced position cannot be sustained.

  172. Larry Kaplan-I think that the key is that RYBS clearly stated in a wide variety of contexts ( shiurim on Yamim Noraim, Kinos and the 1978 shiur in Thinking Aloud) that he was quite opposed to changes in Nusach HaTefilah simply because noone who was proposing the same was anywhere near the extraordinarily lofty spiritual ( i.e. Ruach HaKodesh) levels of either the Neviim, the Anshei Kneses Gdolah or the Payetanim who wrote Kinos, Slichos, etc. That being said, it is eminently easy to separate RYBS’s views on Medinas Yisrael as expressed in Kol Dodi Dofek, Chamesh Drashos, etc from his opposition to ill founded changes in Nusach HaTefila.

  173. lawrence kaplan

    Steve: This is one of the few times I agree with you. I hope there will be more. That said, moshol, unlike DK, argued not on the basis of the Rav’s opposition to liturgical changes, but on the basis of various statements in the Rav’s 1978 address emphasizing a more pragmatic approach to the State. I take that argument seriously, and dealt with it in my previous post.

  174. “Again, I believe that one has to give more weight to the three essays I disucssed, all of which the Rav either prepared or reviewed for publication, than the impromptu address.”

    Agreed-and I believe that anything the Rav prepared and reviewed for publication should be given greater weight than words from public speeches, manuscripts from the genizah and certainly statements supposedly said to talmid X or talmid Y.

  175. I still think there is more to be gleaned about the Rav’s PERSONALITY from his impromptu (and emotionally charged) addresses –when he is speaking candidly from the heart– than from carefully prepared speeches and essays.
    One is naturally more cautious and circumspect in presentation when formally speaking or writing for an open audience than when one informally addresses an “inner circle”.
    I think its obvious that you’ll discover more about the person himself from the latter, and more about his “official positions” for public consumption from the former.

    (And let’s not forget that the Rav was in fact notorious for giving different answers to the same question depending upon the individual asking and his specific situation. It makes sense that his closest talmidim and relatives were the ones who heard is genuine feelings on any particular issue of the day.)

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