Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Goodness and Righteousness

"Woe to the wicked who does evil, for the recompense of his hands shall be done to him." (Yishiyahu 3:11)

The gemara (Kiddushin 40a) notes a redundancy in this verse. "Is there a righteous man who is good and a righteous man who is no good? Rather, one who is good to Heaven and also to his fellow man is a good righteous man. One who is good to Heaven but not to his fellow man is a righteous man who is not good. 'Woe to th evil wicked man' Now, is there an evil wicked man and a wicked man who is not evil? Rather, one who is evil both to Heaven and to his fellow man is an evil wicked man, while one who is evil to Heaven but not to his fellow man is a wicked man who is not evil.
Now, this concept is not exactly a novel one in Jewish thought. We know very clearly that there are two categories of mitzvos, between man and man and between man and God. The verse in Yishiyahu, as understood by Chazal, note that one can apply specific labels to one is observant of both, either or neither of these two categories.
Thus one can be completely ignorant of one's obligations to Heaven or, chas v'shalom, aware of them and simply not interested in performing those duties but as long as this person treats his fellow human being with decency and honesty, he is still "good" even if he lacks what it takes to be called "righteous". Similarly, the guy in the black hat who makes sure he shockles with all the fervor in the world while cheating the local business he works for also has a measure of righteousness for he is careful to relate properly to God even as he neglects his responsibilities to society.
Or is that really so?
Take a look back at the two principle stories in Noach, that of the generation of the Mabul and that of the generation of the Tower of Bavel. The former are never explicitly labelled as idol worshippers in the text, the latter on the other hand try to start a war with God. The former live lives of compelte anarchy in a society rife with theft and murder. The latter live in harmony with one another even in the absence of God's visible presence or a hint of his Torah. And who gets sentences to total destruction? The generation of the Mabul.
Why? Chazal drive this lesson home clearly. God is prepared to tolerate a godless society in which there is rule of law. He cannot tolerate a society that acknowledges him but in which people treat each other improperly.
But if both categories of mitzvos are equally important, and we believe that they are, then why should this be so? The generation of the Tower of Bavel should have been just as likely to be wiped out because of their revolt against God.
From the fact that they weren't even criticized openly by God, we can learn an important lesson. The reason is that in a proper society fear and knowledge of God can eventually arise that is pure and true. In an anarchy, even if people run around claiming obescience to the Ribono shel Olam, there is no chance of this happening because even those who take the time to worship God will ultimately do so with resources they have acquired through sinning against their fellow.
In other words, you cannot truly perform ben adam l'makom until you have mastered ben adam l'chaveiro. The best Jew is exceptional in his performance of both these categories but the latter clearly serves as the foundation for God fearing behaviour. You must be good and from there you can learn to be righteous.

59 comments:

Anonymous said...

Aside from the fact that the Tower of Babel story was plagiarized from the sumerian myth of Enmerker and the Tower of Aratta, I would also you to be painfully aware that aside from this story portraying Yahweh as a psychopath who willingly confuses mankind and scatters them into the many language we have today (God decides to confuse the builders by confounding human language and scattering them [humans] abroad. Is God the author of confusion?), as far as everything we know from linguistic science this story is totally crock

Much of the scientific absurdities in Genesis exist to explain questions on who we are, why we are here, and why we suffer

This is exactly what the whole Eve being punished with childbirth and Adam having to work the land part was about. Ofcourse we also know that the authors of Genesis assumed mankind would always be an agrarian society, and clearly did not predict the modern era where the majority of males do NOT have to work the land

But keeping this theme up with the Tower of Bavel story, we can similarly show that the Tower of Babel is an attempt by ancient mythicists to answer where different languages comes from

And ofcourse modern science has totally disproved this story

Because contrary to the Talmud which states that the original language was hebrew as spoken by Adam and Eve until Babel (Midrash Rabbah Breishis 18:4)which then was split up into the many languages we have today, we know that in fact hebrew like arabic is a child of aramaic.

Not to mention that linguistic science has shown us that languages come from slow evolution of words, and mixing of linguistics. The languages that don't continue to interact with other languages and develop are the ones that die out.

Thus the idea of there being one language which was then split up in the 72 languages of the world as a source of origin of how languages developed is totally baloney. Suffice to say like all of Genesis which is a tribal theory of how mankind got started, we can see that science proves it wrong.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Shalmo, it's not like you to go anonymous!

David said...

Garnel,
From a factual/historical perspective, I'm inclined to agree with Shalmo (or whomever that was). Having said that, I'm also inclined to wish-- fervently-- that more of the Orthodox world would concern itself less with an insistence on the historicity of these texts and more with the very good lesson that you have drawn from them.

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

First, just a note on linguistics. The strange thing about any theory attempting to challenge the Biblical stories based upon scientific analysis is that a Random Factor is inherently dismissed. By this I, of course, mean God. Without the intercession of the Supernatural, the conclusions of science may make total sense. The problem is that the Bible is based upon the acceptance of the Divine -- a Random Factor that can change any normative rule of cause-and-effect. Take for example this idea that all the languages came from Hebrew. Now if you apply normative rules of cause-and-effect, there may be powerful challenges to this theory. But is the Bible truly presenting the idea that all the languages came from Hebrew in a similar manner to how this would have occurred if we applied the normative rules of linguistic cause-and-effect? I think not. The Bible is describing a miraculous event that defies the general rules of nature. Poof! Everyone is speaking a different language. That's natural and a theory that can be analyzed through normal linguistic methodology. You want to believe or not believe in the supernatural -- that's your business. But please don't challenge the supernatural presentation of a Biblical section because it doesn't meet the natural rules of cause-and-effect. We are talking supernatural here.

Now, onto the real reason I wanted to comment -- specifically in regard to Garnel's post. There does seem to be a difference between people who concentrate on bein adam l'Makom and those who concentrate on bein adam l'chaveiro. The question is: why? Why would someone motivated to follow the laws bein adam l'Makom not be similarly motivated to follow equally the laws bein adam l'chaveiro? And vice versa? What I have concluded is that there are two very different motivations behind each of these categories of laws --and it is this reason that also explains why observance of the laws bein adam l'chaveiro can be a better starting point.

The drive behind the observance of the mitzvot bein adam l'Makom is essentially the drive to relate to God or the drive of spirituality. In a certain way, this drive can be like any other ta'avah, desire. A person wants this feeling. The mitzvot bein adam l'chaveiro, though, emerge from a sense of duty. The motivation to help a friend is not tied to that attempt to feel a spiritual pleasure. This makes the one observing the latter different than the one observing the former.

Of course, one may still feel good in helping a friend and one can also feel a sense of duty towards God. But, invariably, religion is often approached as a feel good while ethics usually emerges from duty. The feel good motivation that flows with spirituality does not easily transform into the duty motivation that leads someone to be good to his fellow man. The duty motivation of bein adam l'shaveiro, though, can transform into a greater sense of duty in the performance of the mitzvot bein adam l'Makom.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

E-Man said...

I completely agree with Rabbi Hecht here. Approaching Judaism as just a feel good religion where you are serving G-D is nice, but it could be completely selfish. However, treating other people nicely, now that is a challenge, especially when you don't like them.

However, I think serving G-D can also be very challenging. The main difference is this: when someone worships G-D there are times where that person has privacy and can do whatever he or she wants. Treating other people well, that is a constant.

I have seen so many people that claim to be such strict observers of Torah law and when no one else is looking they completely forget about halacha, it is a facade. Treating other people well never has a break and is either genuine or not.

David said...

I disagree with Hecht's point about the supernatural. Given that linguistics is able to account for the growth and development of different language groups and languages, the "poof" theory advanced by the rabbi doesn't rise beyond the level of silliness. Why use a miracle to explain something that is easily explained without one?

E-Man said...

Because the Torah said that is how it happened. If the Torah did not, then we would assume it happened naturally, but the Torah says straight out that G-D confused their tongues.

Shalmo said...

Garnel my apologies. I forgot to type my name, so sue me

But at least give me credit for not taking on multiple user-names...."chuckleS"

Shalmo said...

Garnel I just finished typing my final argument against TMS in the "Making A Non-Issue into A... Non-Issue" thread.

Do with it what you will.

David said...

E-man:

The Torah also says that hares chew their cud. Guess what? They don't.

Your problem is that you're assuming (and, worse yet, expecting others to assume) that what it says in the Torah is irrefutable by actual evidence. The problem with that (aside from the obvious problem that it's just plain dumb) is that there is no basis for it. Why should I believe a wholly implausible story about a tower of Babel, when I have actual evidence and observation about the formation of languages?

You're boxed in on this-- if you have a rational reason to believe the Torah, then that means that you are willing to subject it to scrutiny in order to determine whether or not it's believable. If, on the other hand, you are simply going to close your eyes to reality and blindly insist that facts don't matter in the face of whatever the Torah says, then, by your own admission, you are not being rational, in which case there could be no point in debating anything with you.

Which is it?

E-Man said...

Before I start discussing anything with you david, can you please tell me where the Torah says that hares chew their cud?

David said...

Leviticus 11:6.

E-Man said...

What say ye about this

SYMBIOSIS WITHIN THE VERTEBRATE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

Bacterial Digestion of Cellulose Within Animals - Vertebrates lack enzymes to digest plant material. Some bacteria can do so and are harbored by animals... Rats and rabbits redigest cellulose another way. [They] eat feces and literally redigest them a second time. Efficiency approaches that of ruminants.

In a more detailed version, Margert "Casey" Kilcullen-Steiner, (M.S., L.A.Tg) writes:
http://microvet.arizona.edu/Courses/MIC443/notes/rabbits.htm

Rabbits are sometimes called "pseudo-ruminants"... The rhythmic cycle of coprophagy of pure cecal contents practiced by all rabbits allows utilization of microbial protein and fermentation products, as well as recycling of certain minerals. Whereas the feces commonly seen excreted by rabbits are fairly large, dry and ovoid, excreted singly, and consist of fibrous plant material, cecotrophs are about half that size, occur in moist bundles stuck together with mucus, and are very fine textured and odiferous. They are seldom seen, as the rabbit plucks them directly from the anus as they are passed and swallows them whole. Normal rabbits do not allow cecotrophs to drop to the floor or ground, and their presence there indicates a mechanical problem or illness in the rabbit.

And Janet Tast, D.V.M. notes:
http://www.ultranet.com/~hrs/artcl03.htm

Cecotrophy by Janet Tast, D.V.M. "Cecotropy is the process by which rabbits will reingest part of their feces directly from the rectum. This should not be confused with the term coprophagy (eating fecal material) since rabbits only ingest the soft "night" feces or cecotrophs."

Caryl Hilscher-Conklin (M.S. in Biology, University of Notre Dame) also makes this claim:
http://www.rmca.org/Articles/coprophagy.htm

"One may not give much thought to the lazy chewing of the cud that we observe cows doing all the time, but this behavior is analogous to coprophagy. The only difference between cud chewing and coprophagy is the point in the digestive tract at which nutrients are expelled and then placed back into the mouth."

Now, we must also remember that artiodactyls were first defined as a separate order in 1847 by Richard Owen and the behavior of cecotropy was first recognized in 1882. Deuteronomy, however, was written approximately 1500 BC in an ancient Hebrew. It would be intellectually dishonest for someone to claim that a 3500 year old writing is contradictory because it doesn't match with a scientific classification invented only about a hundred years ago. Further, if the ancient Hebrews defined 'cud-chewing" as that process where half digested vegetation was re-chewed by an animal for easier re-digestion ( and that is a very specific and scientific definition), I would say the hare fits here fine.

I got this from some site known as reason ministries or something. Whether he is right or wrong about his beliefs does not damage the fact that he brings scientific sources that show, the hare or rabbit is considered to chew its cud in the sense just revealed.

You have to ask yourself, was G-D defining the different types of cud chewers or was he just talking about the different animals that need to re-digest food in general?

E-Man said...

By cud chewers I meant to say was G-D describing things with 4 stomachs or was he just defining animals that need extra time to digest food. I mean, are we really saying that G-D should have separated all the different types of classifications of animals that we put into place no more than 200 years ago?

Shalmo said...

E-Man are you trying to reconcile Torah with science?

If so you have your work cut off for you, not just with the rabbit/cud thing which btw no sensible person will take that copy and paste from that christian website seriously. They have tried in the past to use pseudo-science to explain biblical absurdities. This same sort of pseudo-science is also used by hindus when trying to reconcile the Vedas with science, but I'm guessing you wouldn't believe them when they do it

For example:

The Genesis 1 creation account conflicts with the order of events that are known to science. Genesis 1:1 The earth is created before light and stars, birds and whales before reptiles and insects, and flowering plants before any animals. From science, we know that the true order of events was just the opposite.

“And God said, Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) and “. . .And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1 :5), versus “And God said, ‘Let there be light in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night....’ “And God made two lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also… And the evening and morning were the fourth day” (Genesis 1 :14-19). These violates two major facts. Light cannot exist without a sun, and secondly, how can morning be distinguished from evening unless there is a sun and moon? Jews try to claim that god is the light he is referring to yet, considering the context it is quite obvious that the light god is speaking of is the light emitted by the sun. Just another feeble attempt at trying to rationalize such a MAJOR blunder.

“And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind… ‘And the evening and the morning were the third day” (Genesis 1:11-13), versus “And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life… And God created - great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly… And the evening and the morning were the fifth day” (Genesis 1:20-23). Genesis says that life existed first on the land as plants and later the seas teemed with living creatures. Geological science can prove that the sea teemed with animals and vegetable life long before vegetation and life appeared on land.

God makes the animals (Genesis 2:18) and parades them before Adam to see if any would strike his fancy. But none seem to have what it takes to please him. After making the animals, God has Adam name them all. The naming of several million species must have kept Adam busy for a while, why Adam would still have to be living for we haven’t even discovered nor named all the species. Also consider the idea of every living creature being brought to the Middle East, that would have killed many animals due to climatic changes.

Whether by twos or by sevens, Noah takes male and female representatives from each species of “every thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 7:8). Now this must have taken some time, along with expert knowledge of taxonomy, genetics, biogeography, and anatomy. How did Noah manage to collect the endemic species from the New World, Australia, Polynesia, and other remote regions entirely unknown to him? How, once he found them, did he transport them back to his Near Eastern home? How could he tell the male and female beetles (there are more than 500,000 species) apart? How did he know how to care for these new and unfamiliar animals? How did he find the space on the ark? How did he manage to find and care for the hundreds of thousands of parasitic species or the hundreds of thousands of plant species? (Plants are ignored in the Genesis account, but the animals wouldn’t last long if the plants died in the flood.) No, wait, don’t tell me, a miracle happened, millions of them.

Shalmo said...

All of the animals boarded the ark “in the selfsame day” (Genesis 7:13-14). Since there were several million species involved, they must have boarded at a rate of at least 100 per second. How did poor Noah and his family make sure that the correct number of each species entered through the door and then get them all settled into their proper living quarters so efficiently? I wish the airline companies could do as well!

The flood covered the highest mountain tops (Mount Everest?) with fifteen cubits to spare (Genesis 7:20). Where did all the water come from? Where did it all go? Why is there no evidence of such a massive flood in the geological record?

Noah kills the “clean beasts” and burns their dead bodies for God (Genesis 8:20). According to Genesis 7:8 this would have caused the extinction of all “clean” animals since only two of each were taken onto the ark. So why is it that we still have “clean” animals?

(Genesis 14:14) Abram goes into pursuit looking for his captive relative in the city of Dan. The problem here is that the city of Dan did not exist until over 300 years after Moses died. How is it that Abram could enter the city of Dan, when the city did not even exist?

Jacob displays his (and God’s) knowledge of biology by having goats copulate while looking at streaked rods. The result is streaked baby goats (Genesis 30:37). The author of Genesis (God?) believed that genetic characteristics of the offspring are determined by what the parents see at the moment of conception. This is a laughable belief. Ask any animal husbandrist.

Camels don’t divide the hoof (Leviticus 11:4). This statement is completely moronic for every TEENAGER knows what a “camel toe” and how it used to describe a specific split.

Bats are birds to the biblical God (Leviticus 11:13-19 & Deuteronomy 14:11-18).

Some birds have four feet (Leviticus 11:20-21).

etc etc etc etc etc etc etc

E-Man said...

I didn't realize it was pseudo-science to quote facts about how rabbits digest food. Apparently it is. Does that mean all real science is pseudo science to Shalmo? Perhaps, who knows.

David said...

E-man:

Yes, hares eat their crap. However, a "pseudo-ruminant" is not a ruminant.

You write: "By cud chewers I meant to say was G-D describing things with 4 stomachs or was he just defining animals that need extra time to digest food."


The answer is that, for kashrus purposes, we use the regular definition of ruminant, not some protean definition that means anything that needs a bit of extra time to digest (which could significantly change our view of what is or isn't kosher). You're now trying to wiggle out of a jam; nice effort, but not convincing-- to either of us, I suspect.

E-Man said...

Shalmo, apparently you can't read. This is what you said

"Noah kills the “clean beasts” and burns their dead bodies for God (Genesis 8:20). According to Genesis 7:8 this would have caused the extinction of all “clean” animals since only two of each were taken onto the ark. So why is it that we still have “clean” animals?"

Really, he only took two of every clean animal? What about the verse (Genesis 7:2)that says, "OF EVERY CLEAN ANIMAL TAKE UNTO YOU SEVEN PAIRS, A MALE WITH ITS MATE, AND OF THE ANIMAL THAT IS NOT CLEAN, TWO, A MALE WITH ITS MATE."

So apparently I have caught you in a falsehood. There are answers to everything you ask, but should I really answer them? You are not interested and it would be a waste of my time.

Also, if you want to see the truth about the flood according to modern science there is a great post on it on my website: www.jewishhistorythroughtheages.blogspot.com

the black sea flood. Of course you will disagree with anything I say. Especially since I have revealed that you speard falsehoods abou what the torah says.

E-Man said...

David- I have to admit it is a problem and I will research it. I appreciate the skepticism that you provide. If I find any other answers I will let you know.

E-Man said...

Shalmo said, "Camels don’t divide the hoof (Leviticus 11:4). This statement is completely moronic for every TEENAGER knows what a “camel toe” and how it used to describe a specific split."

Um, CAMEL TOE, not camel hoove. Hooves are different than toes. Look at the feet of a camel and look at the feet of a pig, cow or deer and compare them. They are completely different.

E-Man said...

SHalmo said, "Some birds have four feet (Leviticus 11:20-21)."

Hello this is talking about insects. It never calls them birds. It says any flying creepy crawly creature that walks on four legs. That is a bug. Hence, it is not kosher.

E-Man said...

Shalmo said, "Bats are birds to the biblical God (Leviticus 11:13-19 & Deuteronomy 14:11-18)."

I am assuming you quoted all of these since you were unsure which one was the bat. The truth is it is an arguement between the RAlbag and Rashi if the bt is even in this list. According to Rashi the tinshemes is the bat, but the Ralbag says it is an owl.

Even if we hold like Rashi, so what? The bat is a flying creature. So it is put with the flying creatures. Just like the four legged flying insect is talked about right afterwards.

E-Man said...

David- You might like this article a little better for the Rabbit.
http://www.aishdas.org/toratemet/en_pamphlet2.html

I think this article is very honest and admits the difficulties, but gives reasonable explanations.

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

I have always found the discussion of how to reconcile the Bible with science to be somewhat absurd. Let me redefine this. I have alwasy found the discussion of how to reconcile the realm of the secular a priori with the the realm of the Divine a priori to be somewhat absurd.

This does not mean that I do not have any problems trying to reconcile my understanding of the world as I perceive it through my senses and the world of logic with the presentations I encounter in the Chumash. The only thing is that I recognize that there is an inherent distinction between the two realms. The realm of the Bible is built upon the reality of an active Divinity Who is clearly involed in the world. A realm of this nature may yield what I may understand to be absurdities but I recognize it is operating with different rules and thus not able to be fully comprehended given my a prioris. As such, I almost feel at times when I am reading the Chumash like I am listening againd to the famous Abbott and Costello skit "Who's On First?". Yet, just because I don't understand the discussion does not mean that the discussion is incorrect or false.

On the other hand, in the same vein, I also find attempts to understand the Chumash applying our present rational a prioris -- or the outright rejection of the Chumash based on these a prioris --to be equally foolish. Given rational a prioris, we have one understanding of the development of languages. The Chumash is presenting a different explanaiton for the development of languages, applying the a priori of the intervention of the Divine. Its two different realms which are not necessarily reconcilable.

Which is the truth? Well you might have your reasons for accepting the secular a prioris and I might have my reasons for accepting the a prioris that lead to the acceptance of the Chumash presentation. But you can't just simply argue one over the other. The one who accepts the secular a prioris has his own explanation for what is presented in the Chumash and the one who accepts the Divine a prioris has his own explanations when the text deviates from what is presently seen to exist in the world. I just find it strange and amazing how people try to use different sections of the Biblical text to try and prove their point as if not recognizing that the one in disagreement most likely has a way of reading the text -- pursuant to his a prioris -- that explain the statement in the text pursuant to these a prioris. And remember the two powerful random factors existent independently in both perceptions. If you question the believer: How did so much water exist in the world? The answer is God, the All Powerful Who can do anything -- so what's the problem? And if you question the skeptic with the same question; the answer is that the original author lied. There is always an answer or, if you prefer, a rationalization. The question is how you go about picking the a prioris you wish to apply. Just in dialogue, recognize your assumed a prioris and if you want to have a discussion on that level, recognize the rift that stands between the camps.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

I have always found the discussion of how to reconcile the Bible with science to be somewhat absurd. Let me redefine this. I have alwasy found the discussion of how to reconcile the realm of the secular a priori with the the realm of the Divine a priori to be somewhat absurd.

This does not mean that I do not have any problems trying to reconcile my understanding of the world as I perceive it through my senses and the world of logic with the presentations I encounter in the Chumash. The only thing is that I recognize that there is an inherent distinction between the two realms. The realm of the Bible is built upon the reality of an active Divinity Who is clearly involed in the world. A realm of this nature may yield what I may understand to be absurdities but I recognize it is operating with different rules and thus not able to be fully comprehended given my a prioris. As such, I almost feel at times when I am reading the Chumash like I am listening againd to the famous Abbott and Costello skit "Who's On First?". Yet, just because I don't understand the discussion does not mean that the discussion is incorrect or false.

On the other hand, in the same vein, I also find attempts to understand the Chumash applying our present rational a prioris -- or the outright rejection of the Chumash based on these a prioris --to be equally foolish. Given rational a prioris, we have one understanding of the development of languages. The Chumash is presenting a different explanaiton for the development of languages, applying the a priori of the intervention of the Divine. Its two different realms which are not necessarily reconcilable.

Which is the truth? Well you might have your reasons for accepting the secular a prioris and I might have my reasons for accepting the a prioris that lead to the acceptance of the Chumash presentation. But you can't just simply argue one over the other. The one who accepts the secular a prioris has his own explanation for what is presented in the Chumash and the one who accepts the Divine a prioris has his own explanations when the text deviates from what is presently seen to exist in the world. I just find it strange and amazing how people try to use different sections of the Biblical text to try and prove their point as if not recognizing that the one in disagreement most likely has a way of reading the text -- pursuant to his a prioris -- that explain the statement in the text pursuant to these a prioris. And remember the two powerful random factors existent independently in both perceptions. If you question the believer: How did so much water exist in the world? The answer is God, the All Powerful Who can do anything -- so what's the problem? And if you question the skeptic with the same question; the answer is that the original author lied. There is always an answer or, if you prefer, a rationalization. The question is how you go about picking the a prioris you wish to apply. Just in dialogue, recognize your assumed a prioris and if you want to have a discussion on that level, recognize the rift that stands between the camps.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

E-Man said...

Rabbi, other than the fact that you posted your comment 4 times or so, I agree with you. There is a certain idea that if you believe G-D can do anything than any logical proofs against something occurring unnaturally, is a pointless argument.

However, what would you say to people that follow the Rambam and Ralbag approach, that value reason and interpret the Torah based on what is logical?

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

Wow, that is somewhat weird. I have no idea why that comment posted so many times. It must be something about my computer; I was having computer/internet problems during the process of commenting.

I would consider myself someone within the camp of Rambam and Ralbg, at least to some extent. I greatly value reason and believes that it plays an important and significant role within Torah. What I said, I do not believe, contradicts this perspective. The only point is that I accept as a factor of existence an All Powerful God Who can do anything. (Okay, He can't create a rock He can't destroy.) What I was really focusing on was what we may term (and I do believe R. Sholom Carmy introduced this term in an article of his in the Torah U'Mada Journal) the secular bias. You can't argue that something doesn't make sense because it defies the normative cause-and-effect when you are postulating a theory within different parameters such as the direct intervention of God. For example, you can't say that all the info that led to the Documentary Hypothesis clearly shows that the Bible could not have been written by God as presented within the Orthodox viewpoint since the analysis of the text clearly shows that it was written by many people and not just one author -- because God can do anything even produce a document that looks like it was written by a myriad of different authors over hundreds of years. All the analysis of the text can never prove that God did not dictate/write the Chumash because is able to write it anyway He wishes. However, from that analysis you can ask why God wrote it in that manner. This new information thus still has some significance -- and answering that question still demands thoughtful answers. That's where reason meets the Divine.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Shalmo said...

E-Man:

You are a good example of a blind frummie

Despite not answering even half of the verses on the Torah's pseudo-science such as the contradicting accounts of creation, you still fool yourelf into believing you have achieved anything

I have already red your blog and your apologetics are not convincing at all.

For instance here you said:

"SHalmo said, "Some birds have four feet (Leviticus 11:20-21)."

Hello this is talking about insects. It never calls them birds. It says any flying creep crawly creature that walks on four legs. That is a bug. Hence, it is not kosher."

ROFL!!!!

INSECTS DO NOT HAVE FOUR FEET EITHER!!!

Just like Garnel who tried dancing around the 6000 year old world thing, here you too in your self-refuting apologetics just dug yourself into a deeper hole. Keep trying though!

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Shalmo, I thought you had summer school to go to!

1) All insects have 6 legs. However, many species have two sets, 4 for crawling and 2 for jumping, specifically the grasshopper, locust, etc. When the Torah discusses these insects, which happen to be kosher (if you can identify them) it is not far off by saying that they crawl on four legs.

2) In addition, the Torah could simply be using the expression "on all four" to distinguish from biped motion which distinguishes man from all other animals (except when he's drunk). Instead of saying "on two" and "on four" and "on six" the Torah simply used "on four" for all non-human creatures. As the Torah is not a science textbook, it cannot be expected to classify animals, birds and insects like such a text would do. For the Torah, you're either a biped or you're not. You either fly or you don't. If you fly, you either spend most of your time doing it or you don't. That's why bats gets classified amongst the birds, because they're fly most of the time.

3) I didn't not dance around the 6000 year question. I presented it as a case of different perspectives, God's vs mine.

E-Man said...

Shalmo, why didn't you even address the fact that you clearly misread the bible. By noach it clearly says he took 7 pairs of every clean animal, straight out in the text. However, you said he only took one pair and they would be extinct one he sacrificed them. This is either you not being able to read the text, in hebrew english or any other language it is printed in, or you are blatantly misreading the real verse in order to further your agenda, which one is it?

E-Man said...

Also, shalmo, on that website, I posted a new hypothesis that I found proof for in several scientific journals. It is called the possibility of the black sea flood.

Garnel Ironheart said...

E-man, if you're interested check out Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch's explanation of the word "Mabul". He doesn't even translate it as flood and certainly the text suggests that whatever happened was a miraculous event out of the rules of nature.
Trying to find evidence in the geological strata of the flood is futile because of this. Even if you find something, the skeptics will point out the water didn't cover Ararat, or something like that.

David said...

E-man:

I'm familiar with the Aish view on the hare/ruminant business (I went to a Discovery seminar). To be honest, I find it unpersuasive, and I appreciate and respect your candid acknowledgment that you also find it a bit of a stretch.

RBH--

You are contending that Torah and observable reality function on two different planes, and don't mix. This argument only works if you treat the Torah as entirely metaphorical. The problem is that the Torah states some things as fact (some of which, clearly, are not fact). You finesse this by suggesting that a preference for an a priori acceptance of Torah's truth is analogous to, and no worse than, an a priori acceptance of the truth of what can be established though observation and reason. I have heard this argument from religious types before, and I think it's patently false.

You cannot conflate blind faith in a minority opinion about divinely revealed truths with a rational acceptance of what can be demonstrated with evidence to any impartial observer.

Which is to say that, if the Torah is to be accepted as making factual assertions, then those assertions can be subject to rational scrutiny. The extent to which they withstand such scrutiny will provide a legitimate basis for determining whether or not the historical accounts in the Torah are true.

To the extent that those historical accounts are said to derive from an omnipotent, omniscient being, then, if one is willing to assume that such a being wouldn't make errors, then the existence of errors would be a refutation of divine authorship.

E-Man said...

David, I don't think that this website http://www.aishdas.org/toratemet/en_pamphlet2.html has to do with Aish the kiruv organization. This is an article written by Gil Student where he brings up some intriguing ideas about the whole scientific approach and literary understanding of the text. I mean, to be honest, do we really know that the words mean chew the cud? Isn't it possible that literally it just means causes its food to go down the throat again?

E-Man said...

Thanks Garnel, i will check that out. However, the black sea flood is a very rational solution even if you were to go the way of an actual flood. Skeptics can bash it, but there is real scientific evidence for this theory. There are articles throughout peer review journals that are well respected that show the massive flooding of the black sea and then a wave of immigration to the surrounding land areas. It is quite interesting and makes a strong case for a local flood.

The answer that, I beleive, that can be given I think I put on my website post. Nevertheless, I think that you can explain the mountains of ararat just means the current shores of turkey, since before the flood they were mountains to the people living in the black sea.

E-Man said...

David- one last point about the hare thing. There has been a considerable amount of dispute about the meanings of these words so to just take the english translation of chewing the cud would be a bit narrow. However, if you can tell me an animal that redigests its food without chewing the cud and has split hooves then you would be right because that animal would have to be kosher if we don't specifically say chewing the cud as in four stomachs. However, I don't think I have heard about this animal existing.

E-Man said...

correction- redigests its food through going down the throat once again would be necessary.

Garnel Ironheart said...

What E-man is saying about the hare is similar to my point about four legged insects. We are so used to translating "ma'aleh gera" as "chewing its cud" that we then turn around and say "Aha! The hare doesn't chew it's cud!" But the Torah really never said that. It used a term that we have translated that way. So again there really is no conflict.

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

David:

What I am contending is that, given that an acceptance of the Divine nature of Torah necessarily means an acceptance of an All-Powerful God, the contradictions between the presentation of reality in the Torah and what we perceive in reality today can be explained by this "random factor", ie. the intervention of God. This, of course, raises the issue of whether one wishes to accept a difference in the functioning of reality back in the time of the Bible and as we see it today. On this subject, I direct you to a post I just put up on my blog, nishmablog.blogspot.com which deals with the issue of variant assumptions on this topic. Of course, once one accepts that the Torah is working within a world of different a prioris, one also has to recognize that when talking about this world, one really does not have the basis to fully comprehend it and often to comment on it. That is why when I deal with some issues in Tanach, I basically say that I have no idea of what it really means because the presentation of reality is based upon different assumptions. Why? Because I believe God can intervene in this world and change the rules. Now, of course, if you do not believe this, you will continue to have problems and conclude perhaps with the ridiculousness of the whole thing -- but that's a result of your assumption.

Just another note, I was also going to mention what I now see Garnel already mentioned. The Torah in talking about a "hare" was not talking about some prediction but describing something that already existed. This animal that "chews its cud" is not kosher. But the hare chews its cud. So the text doesn't mean "hare" or "chews its cud". This animal that does this thing is not kosher. We translate it as hare and chew its cud and then the statement makes no sense. Alright. Doesn't that mean our translation has a problem?

Rabbi Ben Hecht

E-Man said...

If someone were to hold that G-D can not intervene in this world that would be like Aristotle's view of the world existing for eternity. There is not a single jewish Rabbi from ever, not the Ralbag or Rambam that hold G-D can not intervene. Ralbag and Rambam say he intervenes as little as possible, but they never say he does not intervene. Just wanted to point that out. To be a religious Jew is to believe that miracles are possible.

David said...

E-Man:

The problem with your point is that there's no way to prove anything about the Torah, because you'll just revise meanings to suit facts. Everyone knew what "chewing the cud" meant, and hares don't do that. If you revise the meaning of the phrase to include what hares actually do, then-- poof!-- the Torah's magically right. Likewise, if there were no Philistines when Abraham lived, and Genesis mentions that he dealt with Philistines, then-- poof!-- we just say that these were different Philistines who lived before the other Philistines. The problem with this is that it's obviously contrived; your method is predicated on an assumption that the Torah must be right. The point we're discussing, however, is whether the Torah is right. Therefore, what you're doing is attempting to incorporate the conclusion of your argument as an a priori assumption. Aside from being a logical fallacy, it's not very persuasive.

David said...

Ben,

I read your post, and disagree very strongly.

You contend that the difference between those who accept the Torah as true and those who don't is merely the adoption of contradictory assumptions, neither of which is, on its face, more reasonable than the other. The Torah person assumes that the Torah is divine, and proceeds from there; the secular person assumes that it's not, and proceeds from there. The two never reach an agreement, as they have no common ground for a serious discussion.

The first part of your thesis is, from what I've seen, correct-- the Torah person begins from the assumption that the Torah is divine, and proceeds from there, twisting phrases, revising interpretations or simply ignoring facts, to harmonize reality with belief. The mistake in your thesis is with the second part. The secular person, if he follows his tradition carefully enough, should be amenable to proof based on what he and any other person can observe-- this is the essence of the scientific method. If you provide observable factual evidence that leads to the conclusion that the Torah is divine, then the secular person, by virtue of his own values, would be bound to accept it. The problem is that, on balance, the purely factual evidence-- not a priori assumptions-- tends to lead people to the opposite conclusion.

Which gives rise to your theory-- rather than accept that your beliefs are predicated on stories that are highly unlikely to be true, you merely shrug and say "you've got your assumptions and I've got mine-- who's to say which ones make more sense?"

The only way this works is if you say that the a priori assumption that "only those facts and conclusions which can be independently observed and tested by different people are reliable" is no more rational than the a priori assumption that "the Torah is God-given and 100% true." And that's just plain silly.

E-Man said...

David-

My argument was that we clearly mis-translate the words. that has nothing to do with a priori assumption. Can you tell me that you know exactly what those words that artscroll translates as chewing the cud are meant to be. Did you know that throughout the generations there has been a lot of disagreement as to what animals those pasukim are referring to and what the act they do is referring to.

The point is is that, although we translate it as chewing the cud it could also just mean redigest food through reswallowing it.

I don't see why this translation is any less tenable.

If this were the proper translation then you could disprove it by finding an animal that redigests its food through the throat and has split hooves, but the torah says is not kosher.

You assume that the chew the cud translation is 100% accurate. I would disagree. Especially since the history of the understanding and translations of these words have been changed and challenged so many times. Did you read the gil student article that I linked to?

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

"I don't see why this translation is any less tenable."

Because it was only developed in response to the argument that the Torah was making an inaccurate factual assertion. Isn't that obvious? And this is the essence of the Torah position; when you find that a Torah position is factually contradicted by the evidence, you simply say "the Torah really meant X, not what it seems to say." And, yes, I saw the article-- it does exactly what I just described; takes an idiom that, as far as anyone knew, had a broadly understood meaning, and then redefines it to make the Torah conform to reality.

David said...

By the way, E-man, pigs have been known to practice coprophagy. You should probably notify gedolei Yisroel of your new translation, because then we could all have ham sandwiches.

E-Man said...

I beg of you to check out the gil student article I linked to. It shows that this translation was around before any scientists found out about the four stomachs. Just read his article.

David said...

E-Man,
It's a contrived article that tries to wiggle around the problem.
First, it suggests that the animals in question are not really the ones we currently call "shafan" and "arnevet," but rather two other mysterious critters that did chew their cud, all traces of which have since disappeared. Please.

Argument #2-- "appearance." The Torah could (especially if it had been written by an omniscient being) have said that the animals "seem" to chew their cud but don't. The problem is that the Torah doesn't say that. It says (incorrectly) that the animals chew their cud.

Argument #3-- the linguistic stuff. This is the worst yet. Leaving aside the quibble about what a swine does or doesn't do, cud-wise, if you want to hang your hat on linguistics, the fact is that the Torah uses the same phrase for the camel as for the shafan and arnevet. Camels chew their cud; hares don't.

Finally, if you want to claim that the phrase means something other than the common understanding of cud-chewing, you need to explain why modern kashrus relies on the common understanding, rather than on your definition.

Sorry, E-man. You're offering apologetics, not serious analysis, and it's getting you nowhere.

E-Man said...

David, I hear your problems. However, I told you already, show me an animal that redigests its food through the throat and has hooves and you have disproved my theory. Otherwise, it is a valid translation. The term in hebrew does not necessarily mean chew the cud literally. A lot of people translate it not like chew the cud. I don;t know why you are hung up on the modern translation that is just there to help people understand the idea of kashrus better. However, to address this point I think the idea is that the Torah does not mean that.

I think we are going to have to agree to disagree David.

David said...

E-man,

You're reading too selectively. As I mentioned before, pigs have been known to practice coprophagy. This means either: a) pigs are kosher, and the Torah is wrong about that; or b) hares don't chew their cud, and the Torah was wrong about that. It has to be one of those two, doesn't it?

E-Man said...

The only thing is the coprophagy practiced by pigs is explicitly described as not an act of redigestion that would make it kosher. Therefore A) in your options would be pigs form of redigestion is not included in the kosher type of digestion and therfore the Torah is wrong about nothing.

E-Man said...

Unless you want to argue and say the type of redigestion that a pig does is identical to a hares digestion, which as we know is false.

David said...

So if you want to hang your hat on the distinction between coprophagy (not included in the Torah's definition of cud-chewing) and caecotrophy (included in your revised definition), then how do you account for the Torah's claim that the hyrax chews its cud? The hyrax, unlike the hare, does not practice caecotrophy and also does not chew its cud.

Of course, the answer is that you'll revise the definition again to include some odd thing that the hyrax does. The problem is that your definitions become extremely complex as they change shape to navigate around the obvious errors and inconsistencies in the Torah. Which is to say, that they prove nothing, except to those whose minds are made up in advance.

E-Man said...

That is not what I am saying David. There have been many people that translated, before the science became clear, that the words used in the torah does not mean chew the cud, but rather redigest through swallowing through the throat. Then the Torah comes and specifically says the pig is not kosher. This teaches us that whatever the pig does must not make it kosher. However, whatever action that is described for the hare is onsidered the action that ould make it kosher if it had hooves. I am not making the distinction between those types of digestion that you mention. Just the Torah clearly says the Pig is not kosher. That means there is a difference between the hare and the pig that make a difference.

E-Man said...

Also, the pigs that practice coprophagy do they redigest their own food or do they just eat poop?

David said...

E-man,

Pigs generally eat feces which contains substantial amounts of semi-digested food, so yes, it's being redigested. This may be contrasted with the caecotrophy of the hare, which poops out a special semi-digested pellet which it then re-ingests. However, the hyrax doesn't do that. So, by your rules, either the pig should be kosher, or the Torah simply misstates facts about cud-chewing.

As I said, there's a plain and obvious meaning to "chewing the cud." There's no indication that this meaning has changed over the ages, or was different at the time the Torah was written from the way it's now used in the kashrut industry.

The only basis for your contention is that (if it worked) it would square the Torah with reality. However, it's merely a post-hoc rationalization, not a serious argument, since the only basis for it is an (unsuccessful) attempt to explain away an apparent error in the Torah.

E-Man said...

David, you are missing the statement that I said before. Rabbis before any scientific method came out about cud chewing translated the words not as chew the cud, but rather as redigest through the throat. That means this translation is not made up for apologetics. It existed before the need for apologetics. Also, the hyrax is a completely different issue. They have a fermentation chamber and therefore have a completely different way of digesting the food than pigs. So what I am saying is that the definition that existed before apologetics were even considered is probably more correct than the chew the cud explanation.

Off the Derech said...

"Recently I've heard another "explanation": hares regularly re-ingest their fecal pellets. In fact, they produce two kinds of pellets: one dry and hard, the other soft and moist. The latter, which appear to contain both vitamins and metabolic products, are eaten, in most cases directly from the anus. Encyclopaedia Britannica (lagomorph, Natural history) writes that "the nutritional effect of this practice [called coprophagy] has been compared to that of rumination among cows," and, perhaps based on what they read in the popular scientific literature, some people consider coprophagy a kind of true rumination. But it is clear that whatever coprophagy is, rumination it is not. If the Torah says that a certain animal ruminates (ma'alat gerah), it most clearly means that the animal brings something up (that something being the cud).

The great Rabbinic commentators on the Scripture -- Rashbam and Ibn Ezra -- explicitly wrote that the Hebrew word gerah is derived from the word garon (throat), and that means that an animal described as ma'alat gerah must bring up something through its throat; that is quite different from an animal excreting feces from its anus. And even if the nutritional effect of coprophagy is similar to that of rumination, it does not mean that coprophagy and rumination are one and the same. It may be said, for example, that the nutritional value of spaghetti is similar to that of rice -- but that does not mean, of course, that rice and spaghetti are one and the same food. And besides, the hyrax does not practice coprophagy in any form. So do the proponents of "coprophagy as bringing up the cud" maintain that hyrax does not bring up its cud, despite what is written in the Torah?

In short, the Torah verses do not seem to accurately describe reality as it is. And there are definitely more than just four animals with only one sign of purity. The Torah's list does not include the warthog, the babirussa, the peccaries, and the llamas. (If one considers coprophagy a kind of bringing up the cud, then some other animals, including lemurs and mountain beavers, should also be considered as having one sign of purity, for they practice coprophagy but do not have split hooves; of course, they are also not mentioned in the Torah.)"

From here (see? when atheists plagiarize, they at least give credit. Unlike some apologists I know.)