by Joel Rich
RABBI LOPIANSKY – Special – Part One (First 21 on 42 Shiurim)
I’m currently reading “Taaroch Lfanai Shulchan” based on the writings of R’ Henkin HY”D. Besides helping improve my Hebrew, the insights into R’ Epsteins rabbanut as he wrote the Aruch Hashulchan put a sharp point on the difference between a rabbinic authority for a diverse congregation and one writing in a scholarly milieu. In the former, the necessity of taking into account the impact not only on the committed but also those on the fringes that could go either way is palpable. The communal resistance to change in current practice also is a significant factor. The treatment of cantors is a clear case in point that to anyone who studies the AH”S.
Da Mah Shetashiv
In this groundbreaking 42 part series, R’ Aaron Lopiansky presents a systematic approach to the fundamentals of Judaism. This series covers everything you need to “know what to answer” both to yourself and to others – from the basics of Emunah to the tradition of the Oral Law, and from the challenges of science to Zionism and the modern Jewish community. This series is also available as a podcast.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #1 – Introduction Laying the Foundation
If you are talking about emuna, you first need to establish definitions. Different approaches will resonate with different people and not all questions have immediate responses. Often you need to build basic knowledge before dealing with deeper issues.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #2 – What We (Don’t) Know of Hashem
We can’t really comprehend existence but there must have been a first mover. Even though the human mind can’t understand HKBH’S essence, we can use logic internal to the system he created in order to understand the ratzon hashem.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #3 – Hashem’s Interaction with Us
HKBH is an absolute, incorporeal, infinite oneness which defines morality and interacts with us. The question of bechira (free choice) vs. yedia (pre-knowledge) is beyond our understanding.
When the Tanach uses human terms for HKBH, they are to describe his worldly interactions, not his essence.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #4 – Can We Prove Our Beliefs
HKBH defines chochma as the world having purpose and hashgacha as our personal obligation. Philosophy does not include 100% proofs of God’s existence but is more about a preponderance of evidence. Remember though that non-believers have nothing to base their philosophical approach on.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #5 – Religion and Science
It’s foolish to deny science or to give it complete credibility in areas it, by definition, starts with preset limits (me-competing magisterium). We also need to differentiate between facts and theories based on facts. The theory of evolution assumes no God.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #6 – Evolution I The Theory’s Framework
Evolution is an alternative theory to creation/Torah. Discussion of Darwin’s theory and some scientific objections to it.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #7 – Evolution II A Believer’s Doubts
Science can’t explain how life begins.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #8 – Evolution III Challenges and Answers
The argument for God from entropy (how likely is it that DNA will form by itself?) is not ironclad but shifts the burden of proof to the non-believer.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #9 – Evolution IV The Unity of Life
When you look at the complexity of certain evolutionary results, they also require an element of belief as to how they occurred.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #10 – Evolution V From Animal to Man
There’s a qualitative difference between the human mind and those of animals and computers. Humans engage in abstract, creative, feeling type thinking (Me-see GPT -3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPT-3)
Da Ma Shetashiv – #11 – Evolution VI Man and the Dilemma of the Good
While evolutionary psychology can explain physical evolution and effective morality (e.g. cooperators spread their genes better than non-cooperators), it does not allow for a transcendent definition of good and evil.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #12 – The God of History
Up to now we’ve discussed intellectual approaches to HKBH’s existence, now on to the historical proof. The continued existence of the Jewish people can only be explained through non-natural means.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #13 – Q&A and Emunah
Some Q&A on intellectual approaches to proving that HKBH exists, then on to emuna being grounded in intellect but emotion and experience and (especially) mitzvot reinforce emuna.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #14 – The Ratzon of Hashem
Ratzon (ours) includes knowing what HKBH wants from us (chesed, emet and kavod shamayim)
Da Ma Shetashiv – #15 – Nevuah
Rtzono and chachmato of HKBH are important concepts. The world has a destiny (moshiach et al) and HKBH communicates with us through the Torah as well as to us internally.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #16 – Matan Torah
There’s some debate about exactly what Moshe got at Sinai (written and oral) and when he got it. The key is that he got mitzvot and their peirushim.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #17 – Proofs and Torah Sh’Baal Peh
When discussing whether HKBH could be “proven false”, one can get tripped up in semantics. The role of prophecy is an extension of Torah as are the pronouncements of Sanhedrin.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #18 – Torah sh’Baal Peh and Gemara
Why is the Talmud Bavli binding (sof horaah)? Miikar hadin is it similar to a Sanhedrin determination or kabala by Chazal or recognition of a quantum level of difference?
Emunat chachamim isn’t infallibility but it’s an anchor of as much certainly as humans can have (while Sanhedrin may technically be in an error state, we are never wrong for following them)
Da Ma Shetashiv – #19 – Middos Sh’HaTorah Nidreshes Bahen
What is the nature of the midot that the torah is nidreshet bo? Traditional approaches to this question focus on: Whether when the Talmud uses them, are they always duraita?; Who has the authority to use them?; Are they purely algorithmic?; At the end of the day it’s about mesora (this was highlighted when the maskilim used the midot as a wedge issue).
Da Ma Shetashiv – #20 – Aggadah I The Textures of Aggadah
Agada includes a number of categories: Drashot from Psukim; History (e.g. about avot); Stories about chazal; Hashkafa; and Science. Which are from Sinai? They should be given deference as works of Chazal.
Da Ma Shetashiv – #21 – Aggadah II
Agada should always be approached seriously even when not literally. Even outdated medical advice may contain a deeper message.