Saturday, January 29, 2005

January 2005

The Nes-Nisayon Theory for life, the universe and everything


If we are to take Breishis literally, and the universe is 6,000 years old, then how does this reconcile with science ? It seems to me that people are no longer claiming that science is total bunk, since the scientific evidence for most things is pretty solid. Nowadays it seems that Jewish fundamentalists are content to go along with the famous Gosse theory. In this post I shall explore this theory.

The Gosse Theory
Phillip Henry Gosse, who was somewhat of a naturalist/scientist, could not ignore the geological evidence for an old universe. However being a born-again fundamentalist Christian, he could not ignore Genesis either. His solution was to accept the evidence, but claim that G-d created the world 'complete', in a fully formed state. Hence all the things you would expect in a fully formed earth, for example old rocks and fossils were all created directly as is. Here is some good information on Gosse and his life. He published his theory in the book Omphalos in 1857. You can buy Gosse’s book here, and here's an interesting article on why Gosse’s theory did not get much support when it came out. In the introduction to Omphalos, Gosse himself said he got the idea from some pamphlet he saw 20 years earlier, but that he was unable to find any trace of this pamphlet at the time of writing.

Lubavitcher Rebbe
The Lubavitcher Rebbe picked this theory up and from there it spread to the frum world. As to where the Rebbe got it, he may have heard it while he was in university, or maybe he figured it out himself. Most likely he heard it from someone else.

Sources In Gemarah
Some claim that this theory has its basis in the Gemarah. Rosh Hashanh 11a and Chullin 60a talk about animals being created fully formed. There is also a Gemarah where it says that Adam was created as a fully formed 20 year old, so you do see the concept that some things were created fully formed.

There are a number of issues with the theory. Objections fall into two general categories:

1. Theological
2. Philosophical

Note that there are no scientific objections to this theory, since the theory accepts all the science as being accurate from our vantage point, but just that G-d created everything this way.

1. Theological Objections
Most theologists (or is it theologians) have an issue with G-d creating a “fake” old earth. This would be misleading in the extreme, and would almost be a form of deceit, or sheker. Plus Judaism has always had the concept of G-d working within Derech Hatevah, and not subverting it.

Spme people seem not to be bothered by this, for the following reasons:

a) Its all a nisayon to test our emunah. It’s okay for G-d to trick us as long as it’s a nisayon.
b) The alternative is to say Bereishis in (literally) untrue, which also seems somewhat deceitful. So faced with a choice of calling the universe deceitful or the Torah deceitful, they will choose the universe.

Others object to this reasoning:

a) There is no tradition in Judaism of G-d creating fake metzius. The Gemarah about Adam is not to be taken literally. Alternatively, even if it is literal, there is a big difference between creating something fully formed, and creating lots of fake evidence, e.g. Fake cave paintings and buildings.

2) Taking the Torah nion-literally has a mesorah, especially the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim.

I haven’t seen this much discussed, but I have the feeling that there are other objections too. When you think about it, it’s not really such a clean theory. Just saying G-d created an ‘old’ world in 6 days, complete with fossils and all, doesn’t really solve the problem. For example, there are continuous records of civilization in certain places. Also, buildings or other remnants in the US, Australia and other remote regions, even after creation, must be fake up to a point (maybe dor haflagah) because man did not live there. So G-d created a 'complete' world, but in addition created lots of fake artifacts which looked younger than they really are, as opposed to older.

Either way, this whole line of reasoning has nothing much to do with science at all, since the scientific evidence is being accepted as real. Everyone agrees that G-d could certainly have created the world fully formed, had He so desired, and also done as many nisim as required. So it ends up being an argument about theology, not science. Would G-d have done this or not ?

2. Philosophical Objections
From a philosophical point of view, this theory presents a problem too. If the world is fake, then maybe it was all faked up last Thursday, and everything before then is a false memory. This has been called “Last Thursdayism”, I think by Bertrand Russell.

Some people are not bothered by this, probably because

a) They haven’t really thought about it
b) Its not a kashye. Sure everything could be fake from 5 minutes ago, but the Torah says the world was created 6000 years ago, so we know the emes.

Does taking Breishis literally mean accepting Gosse as the standard peshat ? Does it matter that this peshat most likely came from a Christian source ?

In addition to the Gosse Theory, you also need a major dose of nes (miracle). For example the Gosse theory does not help out with the fact that a global flood is a scientific impossibility, or that there is plenty of scientific evidence that there was no global flood. To answer these questions, you need the concept of nes. The flood was a nes, and the clean up afterward was too. Likewise the dispersion of dor haflagah, the dispersion of animal species from the Ark, and many other similar events.

Some people object to this liberal dose of Nes, because traditionally Judasim has tried to limit nes. For example the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim.

Similarly, you need nes to answer all the strange science and animal descriptions in the Gemarah, for example spontaneously generated lice. Once lice were seen to be born like other creatures, a new chiddush appeared, called 'nishtaneh hatevah' (nature has changed). Clearly, from a scientific point of view this is impossible too (as are any changes due to a global flood), so you must say this is a nes too. It is unclear when exactly the tevah changed according to this theory, but it must have been some time after the Gemarah, and before the first recorded event of someone looking into a microscope and seeing that lice had babies.

If you read some of the Christian fundamentalist literature, they go to great lengths to show how all of Bereishis could be literally true. For example, how could Adam have named all the animals in one day ? The answer is he ran really fast since he had superhuman powers, being a direct creation of G-d. To their credit (I think ?), the Jewish fundamentalists don’t bother with all this nonsense, they just call it all a nes and be done with it.

The bottom line is that with a combination of the nes and nisayon explanations, all of Bereishis, and in fact all other scientific objections can be explained away quite neatly. Obviously, the Jewish fundamentalists can’t call it the Gosse Theory (or the Menachem Mendel Theory).

I therefore propose that from now on we call this the “The Nes-Nisayon Theory for Life, the Universe and Everything.”

Monday, January 24, 2005

GH Classic: Gedolim vs Ketanim

A lot has been written recently about the Science vs Torah conflict. Suprisingly, very few have written on the Gedolim vs Ketanim conflict. Let me be the first ! Here I faithfully reproduce a debate between two imaginary personalities of mine, I mean to say two good friends of mine.

Representing the gedolim, we have Moshe Shmuel Meshuganeh, of Kollel Ayn Torah in Bnei Beserk. On the other side, representing the ketanim, is Rabbi Leatherkippah, of Congregation Modern Orthoprax of Oyvayizmere.

The Debate

MSM: Judaism has always had a very strong notion of trusting the great gedolim. This idea can be traced way back in our mesorah.

RLK: Yeah, all the way back to the first gedolim who said that we have to trust the gedolim. Isn't that a circular argument ?

MSM: Every movement needs leadership. A movement without leadership will collapse. And who is best suited to lead this movement ? Clearly the people who spend all day studying its laws, its history, its ideology. The greatest sages of the generation.
RLK: Yes, but these are also people who waste no time on other matters, cloistered in their own small world without any real connection to the rest of the world.
MSM: We have to trust the gedolim. That's how orthodox Judaism has always been and will always be. Its a fundamental belief, and you can't change it. If you don't like it, fine, go start a new religion, but it won't be orthodox Judaism.
RLK: But the gedolim are out of touch with a major segment of their own constituency. Many, many formerly quite charedi people have bee turned off by this latest ban. If this is the case, surely something is wrong ?
MSM: The only people who are turned off are those whose yirash shamayim and emunas chachomim is suspect anyway.
RLK: But the slifkin ban has shown them to have a complete lack of knowledge about accepted concepts such as science. Statements such as "science is poetry", "science is not metzius", "science is the roof not the foundation" are commonplace.
MSM: First of all, the gedolim have no need for science. Second of all, through learning Torah, they understand all of science anyway.
RLK: But they ban without due process. The whole way this ban was conducted was unfair. They ruined someone's life without even agreeing to talk to him. How could they be so unfair ?
MSM: They are the gedolim. They know what they are doing. You have to trust them.
RLK: They seem to spend a lot of time disagreeing with each other and other parts of klal yisroel. Why do they spend so much time fighting ?
MSM: You have to fight for what you believe in don't you ? That's a mitzvah.
RLK: Their actions don't seem to be the actions of gedolim. Gedolim are supposed to be super saintly people, we see little evidence of that here.
MSM: What do you expect them to do ? Go run soup kitchens ? They are busy leading klal yisroel. They have no time for petty gemilus chasadim. Any anyway, if you read their biographies you will see they are all very saintly.
RLK: They seem to be more concerned with bugs, wigs and heresy than with the major issues of the day. Shouldn't they be worried about Tsunamis, the Middle East, Atheism or some real issues ?
MSM: What do you mean ! Bugs, wigs and heresy are the major issues of the day ! You are just a kofer. You are banned !
RLK: And you are a narrow minded buffoon. You are banned !
Thus this scholarly debate ends.
However I am still conflicted. RLK seemed to have some good arguments, didn't he ? However we can't ignore MSM, can we ? I came up with a few potential answers:
Its not them, its their shomrim.
The gedolim are in actual fact very good, holy and learned people. However they are totally sheltered by their shomrim, who mislead and deceive them. They are so naive as to not realize the true situation. Hmmm.
I am a katan. I will never understand.
I am a katan. I am biased by treife external influences, lack of yiras shomayim, yetzer horah, and general katnus. I can't trust my instincts, or my thoughts, I have to surrender my ability to think. Hmmm.
These are not the real gedolim
The real gedolim are not the ones who signed the ban. They are the ones who didn't sign the ban. The ones who kept quiet. The ones who are still keeping quiet even in the face of a major injustice. Hmmm.
Its just a power struggle in the chareidi world
The whole thing is just a power struggle between the more fundamentalist EY gedolim and the more liberal US gedolim for dominance over the charedi world. Its not for MO consumption and doesn't apply to the MO community. The gedolim have to engage in these kind of power struggles by nature of their leadership. Hmmm.
There are no true gedolim these days
The era of the true godol has long passed. The current crop of gedolim are really just people who have played the game right and are now heads of various institutions, but are not particularly saintly people. Chazal, the Rishonim and the Acharonim are really the true gedolim. Hmmm.
So what do you think ?

GH Classic: Fetherington Smythe Speaks Out

Another one inspired by hirhurim. I think I have found my new muse.

"What rabbis know is the Jewish religion, what scientists know is science. If the two conflict, you get to pick one or the other. Or start your own new religion. What you don't get to do is decide that the rabbis are mistaken about their own religion" - Fetherington-Smythe

There is so much faulty logic in this one statement its mamash amazing.

a) Its not an either or choice. Conflicts can and have been resolved.
b) What you should do is find a rabbi who knows about science, or a scientist who is well versed in religion, and ask them their opinion. Do such people exist ? Of course they do. And guess what they hold !

Sorry FS, was this taken out of context too ?

[UPDATE: Whatever happened to Fotheringay Phipps?]

GH Classic: Teshuvah Time Again Folks

Well, its not quite echtoh v'oshuv, more like oshuv vechtoh.

Sorry again.

GH Classic: Moral Relativism - Another message from the ACAKW

In our untiring quest for apologetics, we have found a great new approach ! Yes, dear kiruv projects, its our old friend "Moral Relativism". You remember that from your not so frum college days right ? Remember how you used to argue that Israel is no different from South Africa, they are both apartheid states ? Those were the good old days. Everyone and everything was all the same. America was just as bad as Russia. Sleeping around and doing drugs was no different than holding down a good job and building a family.

Well we have good news for you. In your quest for frumkeit, you don't have to abandon this concept at all ! No, in keeping with the jewish tradition of taking from the secular world and making it holy, we can take the concept of Moral Relativity and apply it to charedi apologetics.

Here's how it works. Lets say some books gets banned by the charedi world. Lets say even that the author was given no chance to defend his views. Lets even say that the author has impeccable traditional sources. Well, so what ? Don't we ban holocaust revisionism ? Don't we ban hate-inducing literature ? Don't they claim to have impeccable sources ! Its all the same ! We ban, they ban, its all the same ! So you see dear friends, the charedi world is not that different from the outside world after all.

No, wait a minute, what are we saying ! 'The charedi world is not that different from the outside world' ! Thats not the message we want to convey at all. Of course there is a difference, there has to be ! Yes, the charedi world is very different from the outside world. In the outside world, there is much discussion and debate, possibly even a court hearing before something is banned. However in the charedi world, there is no due process, we just ban ! See, we are different after all ! Boruch Hashem.

GH Classic: Some changes at this blog

Carefully astute readers of this blog may have noticed some slight changes. I have cut out all the letzonus, especially when gedolim are involved. It was funny, but wrong. If you have some of these posts in your possesion, please do not distribute them.

Well, maybe not all letzonus. I still spoof the ACAKW, but thats because :

(a) They are not gedolim (maybe I am wrong)
(b) They seem to enjoy it
(c) They are so spoofalicious I can't help myself.

Note: if the ACAKW would like me to remove those posts too, just let me know.


GH Classic: Wot no lamdonim ?

Do no lamdonim read my blog ? Only atheists and letzim ?

I post a blog on the Vilna Gaon - no comments.
I post an inciteful piece on Azaria Dei Rossi - no comments (well 1 comment but it was peripheral)
I post a beautiful yet provactive moshol comparing orthodox judasim to a ship which has hit an iceberg - no comments (well 1 comment but that was from an Atheist)
However I post letzonus, and everybody says what a talented guy I am. Oy vey.

Don't you know that I am a Gilbert Studious wannabee ? I guess that means I will have to learn a lot more though. As much as my wife hates me wasting time blogging, she doesn't like it too much when I go off and learn every night either. Don't get me wrong, she is a saintly woman, (if you can call someone who is addicted to the OC saintly), but she needs help with the kids. I say, lock em in their room and they will be okay. Wot, they need toys ? They need attention ? Nonsense. When I was a kid they used to stick me in a paper bag in the middle of a swamp for days on end and I turned out okay.

GH Classic: And one more thing

I know you all think my profile is very clever. However there is no place for comments on my profile. So here is your own very special place for those comments. (Yes, I am a middle child, give me some attention !!! Maybe thats what happens when you spend your childhood in a paper bag in the middle of a swamp).

Here is my profile again, just in case you missed it:

prax: haredi/modern
dox: haredi/modern/heretical
sox: blue/gray
box: married/children/suburbia

GH Classic: Godol Hador - Banned !!!

In a surpising turn of events today, the Godol Hador was banned, ironically by Rabbi Slifkin himself !

"While I enjoy a good laugh, this event should not be turned into an opportunity for letzonus" said Rabbi Slifkin. "Youre banned !!!" he exclaimed, before going out for a walk with his pet iguanas round Ramat Chayot.

In fact, I wholeheartedly agree with the good Rabbi, there will be no more letzonus from now on. Slightly humorous quips are still okay. However spoofs are right out.

Although nobody has yet claimed to have been offended in any way, and in fact some of the spoofees have stated publicly that they have enjoyed my posts, I am concerned that there may be people out there who were indeed offended. To those who may have been offended, I sincerely apologize. My intent was just to inject some humor into the situation, as many people (on both sides) including myself were getting rather stressed out about the whole thing. I had tried to make the letzonus so over the top that this would be clear, but maybe it wasn't.

It was never my intent to make any real fun of any choshuv people (chas vesholom). Whilst we may not always agree with the Gedolim, they are still the Gedolim, and I am no Godol by comparison. In fact I am not even a koton by comparison. I am a flea on the koton. Actually, not even that. I am the dust on the shoe of the flea on the koton. Or maybe I am the flea on the dust on the shoe of the flea on the koton.

Thank you and keep smiling.

To all you gullible conspiracy theorists out there. I was not pressured. I was not threatened. Rabbi Slifkin did not really ask me to stop, I am sure he has better things to do than read my blog. The truth is I am not really too keen on letzonus, thats all. What started out as a silly comment on someone elses blog turned into a worldwide phenomenon which must be stopped.

GH Classic: Derech HaBlog

Here are some blogs I read, in no particular order. I would link to these guys ... if I could only figure out how the frikkin *%*&%$#&^$ heck to do it.

A Hasid and a Heretic - Yet another "I'm a Chosid who can't escape" blog. Fascinating, but I guess I just don't get it. Suicide is an option, but moving to Teaneck - thats totally out of the question.

Chakirah - Very funny. TorahMaddaChick is cool too.

Cross Currents - A bit boring actually, but the contributors are very choshuv. I even know some of them (my fellow Gedolim).

Dov Bear - Very creative, enjoyable reading. Don't care for the politics though, not my cup of tea if you know what I mean, nudge nudge, wink wink. Whats that you say - Its in the Tiferes Yisroel ?

Mis-nagid - Passionate believer in the Atheist religion ; ^ ) Rude, crude but a good read nonetheless. Just don't look at those rude words. Keeps you on your toes. And yes, I am trying to get some time to read my critical thinking books.

Yoinoson Schreiber – Who is this guy ? I think I know him or he knows me. Good blog.

Daas Yachid - Not sure why this rabbi hates himself, his blog is good stuff. Do I know you too ? You sound like my rabbi, but he claims to have no blog.

Hirhurim - Very scholarly (and pretentious). Great for when you want to be serious and actually learn a little. I wish he wouldn't delete my comments though.

House of Hock – More great stuff here. Very intelligent.

Daas Hedyot – A good read here. This guy has his head screwed on straight.

Failed Messiah – Good posts, but please change your template. Its awful.

OrthoSceptic – An english guy who is also a skeptic. Who would'av thought it ? Terrible, whats the world coming to. I don't know. As long as youve got yer health.

RenegadeRebbetzin - Very interesting. But too much chick talk. If I wanted to hear chick-talk, I could just start listening when my wife speaks.

* A clever test to see if she reads my blog.

GH Classic: The Encyclopedia Slifkinnica

Published by your friends at the ACAKW

New ! A 60 volume encyclopedia of the Slifkin Ban.

When this “affaire” started, we were conflicted. Boy, were we conflicted ! Slifkin is such a great guy, many of us are his friends. On the other hand, the Gedolim have spoken. The Gedolim ! How can we disagree with the Gedolim ! On the other hand Slifkin, he’s such a good guy ! But what about the Gedolim ! On the other hand, what about Slifkin ! But the Gedolim ! But Slifkin ! Gedolim ! Slifkin ! Slifkin ! Gedolim ! Slifkin ! Gedolim ! Gedolim ! Gedolim ! Slifkin !

This calls for an unprecedented response.

We couldn’t just write a small article on the general thrust of this case. No ! The general thrust is not good enough here. We had to examine every detail, every angle, every nuance. We had to anticipate every kasheh, every shailoh. From the creation of the universe, to last night's blogs, its all in here ! This monumental work will leave no stone unturned, no question unanswered. After reading all 30 volumes, you will finally have the answer you have been waiting for – What do Cross Currents really think about the Slifkin ban ?

Here are some of the incredible topics covered in this work:

Who are the Gedolim ? – 5 volumes on the life and times of Rav Wackedfoibles. What does he really think ? What language does he really read ? What did he really eat for breakfast last Tuesday ?

Who is Slifkin ? – 10 volumes on this lovable rogue of a torah true heretic. Is he really a heretic, or just a kiruv worker trying to make a decent living ? Is it true he shares his house in Ramat Chayot with two Iguanas and a Dinosaur skeleton ? Traces his beginnings as just another zoo rabbi, includes detailed description of all the animals he kept as a child.

What is science ? A 2 page description for haredim. Includes a debunking of all current theories of cosmology, evolution and meterology.

The Media – 3 volumes. Volume 1: "What's the difference between the New York Times and the Yated Neeman". Volume 2 “What's the difference between Bill O Reilly and Rav Elya Weintroub". Volume 3: "What's the difference between ‘Late night with Conan O Brian' and 'Rav Mattisyahu Solomon’s Mussar Shmoozen’.

The Bloggers - 20 Volumes of Slifkin blogs. 15 volumes from Rabbi Gilbert Studious alone ! Hear every blogger weigh in with his opinion.

Order now and you will receive a special additional volume – “The Haskamas”. Available in unique 3 ring binder format. Ideal for retractions.

Order within the next twenty minutesa and you will also receive a 20" by 30" ban poster. Each poster is individually signed by all the Gedolim. Sure to become a treasured heirloom.

GH Classic: Will the real Shabbos please stand up ?

Something that has bothered me since I was younger. Clearly, even according a haredi history, some funny things have happened to our calender over the millenia. This being the case, how do we know Shabbos is really Shabbos ? Maybe its actually Wednesday, as josh narins mentioned in a comment.

Alternatively, if the universe really is 14.5 billion years old (give or take a few billion), when is Shabbos exactly ?

I guess the answer might be that it doesn't matter which day it is, as long as its one out of every seven. Or alternatively, Hashem has always worked behind the scenes to ensure that Shabbos is actually held on Shabbos.

Also, once I realized that the universe is quite old, kiddush friday night started to bother me. But then I realized, our havanah in vayechulu is pretty basic anyway. I mean, what does "Shovas " mean. Hashem is tired after a long week of universe construction ?

GH Classic: Will the real Vilna Gaon please stand up ?

I read two statements about the Gaon recently:

1. "If the Gaon says that he could bring down kol galgal hachamah on this table and show it to Aristo - do we have a safek that what Chazal HaKedoshim said is emes?" Rav Uren Reich Rosh haYeshiva of Yeshiva of Woodlake Village in Lakewood

2. Baruch Schick, who published several works on mathematics and astronomy, wrote in his introduction to his translation of Euclid (Amsterdam, 1780) that he had heard the Gaon state that "in proportion to a man's ignorance of the other sciences, he will be ignorant of one hundred measures of the science of the Torah."

posted by Godol Hador at 8:32 PM 0 comments

GH Classic: Azariah Dei Rossi – Banned !!!

Okay, so I am a bit late with this news, about 500 years too late actually. But the parallels are interesting. Here is what the Encylopedia Judaica has to say:

Probably the most important part of Imrei Binah is that devoted to the study of Jewish chronology. In a very detailed study, Rossi proved that counting the years from the creation and basing a calendar on this count is a relatively recent Jewish usage; none of the ancient sages in the talmudic or geonic period, and certainly not in the Bible, used a calendar reckoned from the creation. Even in the early Middle Ages more ancient calendars were used, especially one based on the conquest of Palestine by Alexander. Thus he exposed the fact that the calendar accepted in his day was not of ancient origin. In addition, he tried to prove that the Bible and the other ancient sources are insufficient for reconstructing the chronology from the creation to the present time. He thereby indicated that the calendar was not only untraditional, but that it also made a false claim.
These findings seemed heretical to his traditional contemporaries, and even his friends among the Italian Renaissance scholars could not accept such a radical point of view. In the same critical manner Rossi dealt with countless other subjects—archaeology, Jewish coins, the development of the Hebrew language and the use of Aramaic by ancient Jews, Hebrew poetics and poetry, etc. Although modern scholarship does not accept many of his conclusions, some are scientifically sound, and, in any case, there is no doubt that Rossi's scholarship was more than 200 years ahead of its time.
The advanced critical spirit and method of Me'or Einayim made the work a subject of controversy for a long time. While it was being printed in Mantua, rabbis who heard about its contents raised objections, some of which Rossi answered in the work itself. When the work was published, the traditional rabbis in Italy were shocked, especially by Rossi's attitude toward talmudic and midrashic legends and his denial of the validity of the chronology claiming to date from the creation. Even his friend and associate, Moses b. Abraham ProvenLal, fiercely criticized Rossi's attitude toward the calendar, as did Isaac Finzi of Pesaro.
In 1574, even before the printing of Me'or Einayim was completed, the rabbis of Venice, headed by Samuel Judah Katzenellenbogen, published a proclamation of herem against possessing, reading, or using the book, unless one received special permission from the rabbis of his city. Rossi was not personally attacked, the impeccable conduct of his private life easily meeting Orthodox standards of behavior. The herem was followed by similar declarations in such cities as Rome, Ferrara, Padua, Verona, and Ancona, in which rabbis warned their congregations against reading the work. The controversy spread to other Jewish communities; in Safed a proclamation of herem was prepared for the signature of Joseph b. Ephraim Caro, the great halakhist, but Caro died before signing it, and the herem was published by the other rabbis of Safed. Judah Loew b. Bezalel of Prague, who defended the absolute truth of the talmudic legends and traditions, dedicated a major part of his work on the oral tradition, Be'er ha-Golah (Prague, 1598), to direct attacks against Rossi and his teachings. Even in Mantua, where the author was well known and where the book was printed, persons under 25 were forbidden to read it.
Before his death, probably in 1578, Rossi wrote a reply to his critics, Mazref la-Kesef (1845; "The Purification of Silver"), which deals especially with the problem of the calendar and chronology. Later, Mazref la-Kesef was printed together with Me'or Einayim. The ban on Me'or Einayim persisted for more than a hundred years, during which time few scholars dared to use or even mention the work. Renewed interest in the book was aroused only with the beginning of the Haskalah period late in the 18th century, when maskilim found in Rossi's work ideas similar to their own. The first modern printing of the work (after the Mantua edition) was published by the maskilim of Berlin in 1794.

GH Classic: Age of the Universe from the ACAKW

Another message from the ACAKW.

Recently some questions have arisen as to the age of the universe. The Torah says its roughly 6000 years, the Scientists (imach shemom vzichrom) say its 15 billion. Of course a torah true jew knows not to listen to the scientists. However for all you Kiruv projects out there, we must present a more acceptable answer. Don't worry, its okay for you to hold of these answers whilst you are not yet fully frum. However upon your conversion to full frumkeit, you must immediately reject these for the torah true position.

Each answer is followed by its author / proponents.

1. The universe only looks old, but thats because Hashem created it that way, either as a nisayon or maybe it was some kind of divine short cut - Even G-d didn't want to wait 15 billion years for Adam to show up. (Philip Henry Gosse - Omphalos 1850, Lubavitcher Rebbe, my charedi sister-in-law)

2. The first 6 days were not human days. As it says in tehilim A thousand Years is like a second in G-ds eyes. Since there were no men before day 6, we must be talking about G-ds time. If you do the math and fiddle with the numbers, 6 days of seconds at a thousand years a second = excatly 15 billion years ! (Popular explanation)

3. The first 3 days before the sun was created were not regular days, because there were no sun. Therefore these were billions of years long. (Another popular explanation).

4. Time is relative, not absolute. Therefore it all depends on whose vantage point you are talking from. From a vantage point outside the universe, 6 days could have passed, whereas inside the universe, it was more like 15 billion. Comparable to 1 or 2 above, but with some decent science behind it. (Gerald Schroeder).

5. They were 6 real days. However time sped up during those 6 days, so that 15 billion years worth of changes happened then, even though it was 6 days. Comparable to 4 above, except with no science behind it. (Semi popular)

6. Nishtane Hatevah (The world has changed). After the flood, all the laws of science mysteriously changed. So carbon dating, galactic red shift and all the other "proofs" from science as to the age of the universe are in fact mistaken. (Popular - Bonus ! Also explains half-mouse-half-earth creatures and tremendous ages of Adam etc).

GH Classic: Le affaire de Slifkin, de la revolution, hors d-oeuvres, la marais, champs elysees la plum de ma tante, sacre blue et al

An important message from the Association of Charedi Apologists and Kiruv Workers (ACAKW)

Members of the ACAKW

Rabbi Felt-hat
Mr Ballaboos *
Rabbi Rosy-glasses
Rabbi Menshlechkite
Rabbi Studious
Mrs Katz **

* Not a rabbi but we let him join to show how open minded we are
** A woman ! Boy, are we open minded or what !

You may ask why this blog ? And whats with the strange title ? The answer my friends is one and the same. We Charedim are not clueless and sheltered. We are out there in the world ! We know how to use a computer ! We can use foreign words too ! This is the message we at ACAKW must send out. Unfortunately, our Kiruv Projects have been asking us some tough questions recently. Whats with this Slifkin ban ? Whats our response ? Why do we remain silent on our blog ?

The answer is simple. A blog is clearly not the place to discuss ones thoughts about current topics.

But let me tell you Rabosay, we wholeheartedly support Slifkin’s book. Well, maybe not the actual content, but we certainly support the general thrust. Well, maybe not all the general thrust, but the fact that he wrote down some words and got himself published. We wholeheartedly support that. Well maybe not in his case , but we do support the general thrust of people writing books. As long as they are Torah true of course.

Now lets look at the ban. Again, the general thrust is very supportable. Well maybe not so much here, but the general thrust of Gedolim writing bans. Well maybe not bans, but the general thrust of Gedolim writing things is a good thing. So you see, if you look at the general thrust of things, Slifkin and the Gedolim are really on the same page. We must ignore all intellectual examination of the details. We must focus on the general thrust !

Let us finish by telling you a true Gedolim story. Once, two Gedolim were about to get into an argument, but they didn’t. They just walked away, without screaming names at each other. Mamesh amazing. So you see clearly from this maaseh shehoyoh, you see that there is really no machlokes at all in the Charedi world. And not only that, but our Kugel and Cholent taste great !

GH Classic: Its a leaky boat - but I'm not jumping ship

"History isn't over. There's still time for Judaism to recover. We can trim the boat." DovBear

"There you go again, confusing Orthodox Judaism for Judaism. Orthodoxy died about 150 years ago, with the first major breakthroughs in true scholarship of the Torah. Orthodoxy descended into fundamentalism, and will most likely die down there. The positions that are Orthodox are no longer believable by anyone with a thorough education." Ms-Nagid

The boat of Orthodoxy does have some problems, its true. The recent troubles are only the tip of the iceberg. Looming up ahead through the mist are the forbidding peaks of Science and Biblical Criticism. So now the boat has holes in its side, somewhere down in the lower class compartments. Some passengers down there are panicking. Quick, we must do something ! We are top heavy with 2000 years accumulated flotsam and jetsam. Trim the boat ! No that won't help, too little too late, we must abandon ship !

However is that really an alternative ? Abandon ship ? Who can survive for long in this cold cruel sea ? Where are the people who jumped ship before ? For a while we heard their plaintive cries: "Come on in, the waters fine" they called out at first. Later we heard "Please, please, please join us". Were these cries for company, or cries for help ? After a while their cries receded into the long night, and they were never to be heard from again.

And look at the ship. What a marvelous ship this is ! The finest to ever sail the seven seas. What a beautiful edifice ! They don’t make ships like this anymore, or ever. It has survived storms, tornadoes, tsunamis. It has survived the steamboat era, the modern luxury liner era, and still it sails on. The first class cabins are the finest in the world. Sure the ship’s captains and officers are responsible for the collision in the first place. But they only had our best interests at heart, trying to steer us through unfriendly waters to reach our destination. Maybe some of them have been too long at the helm. Perhaps a mutiny ? No, they will soon retire, and a new generation will take over, more familiar with modern methods of navigation.

Meanwhile, the upper decks are unaware of the collision. “This ship is the safest in the world” they say. “Watertight compartments, at the first sign of any leak these compartments are sealed shut. A few holes in the side won’t cause any major damage.

So jump ship ? Not this passenger. I wouldn’t trade my luxury cabin for the ice cold waters outside. Mutiny ? No need. Trim the boat ? A good idea, perhaps with a lighter load it will be smoother sailing from now on. But we need to be careful. We don’t want to rock the boat too much, it may capsize.

So come on inside and let the band play on !

GH Classic: The Nes-Nissayon Theory

A while back, I posted this explanation of the alternative "Nes-Nissayon" (a.k.a. Gosse) theory, which seems to be well on its way to becoming normative peshat in the RW UO world, if you insist that the world is 6,000 years old.

Many people mistakenly think that this theory means G-d created the world in 6 days, but created it in a mature state, just like the Gemarah says Adam was created as a fully formed 20 year old, even with a navel. (Though I assume without fake memories of a childhood). After the 6 days of creation ended, things continued as normal (though with some funny stuff around the time of the mabul).

However that doesn't work. There are continuous records of civilization in many parts of the world, going back 10,000 years. The "faking" and "planting" of evidence would have had to have continued, for a very long time after creation, at least until after the mabul, or more likely until have the dispersion of the dor haflagah. Otherwise how can you account for ancient building 5,000 and 6,000 years old in parts of the US or Australia ?

So its not just that you have to believe G-d created a world looking older than it is, but that He continually "fixed" things for many thousand of years after that just to keep it looking authentically old. Alternatively, you could say this was all planted before the 6 days ended, but the carbon atoms were arranged so that they would give off false "young" ages when tested later.

I guess if everything is a ness and a nissayon thats okay, but it all sounds pretty strange to me.

GH Classic: Nes-Nisayon Theory and Biblical Criticism

AddeRabbi brings up a clever point. That Nes-Nisayon Theory (NN Theory) can also be used to answer the question of why the Torah looks like it was written by 4 authors and a redactor. And also I guess why some pieces appear to have been written late, about 500 BCE.

However I think you need to hold of NN-Theory even without the problem of Biblical Criticism. How so ? Let me explain.

If you were to compare my blog with Shakespeare, it should be pretty evident who is the better author (No, not me silly !). So, likewise, shouldn't the book that G-d wrote be the most amazing book you ever read ? However even the chazal / gedolim (there is a great quote from someone about the goyim having better books than the Torah - can't remember where) will admit that on the outside, it reads like a fairly typical work of that era. Obviously it has deep secrets etc. according to chazal, but I am just talking about the external form.

Now, why wouldn't G-d create a work, which was obviously the work of G-d ? The 'decision' to make it appear human made must have been a 'conscious' decision. Even saying that it really is amazing but we are not on the level to comprehend its amazingness doesn't really help, because Hashem could have created a book which we were able to comprehend as being amazing.

So the only answer is that it was written as a human style work as a nissayon. Because if it was obviously the work of G-d, we would lose our bechirah. So, even without the whole business of higher criticism, we still need NN-Theory to explain why the Torah just reads like an ancient babylonian text, and not the word of G-d.

And really, this whole question just reduces to the question of why doesn't G-d appear to us again, why is he hidden. Must be a nisayon. So you need NN-Theory after all. In which case, you might as well go whole hog and accept Gosse after all.

Oh dear. And Good Shabbos.

GH Classic: The Future of Orthodox Judaism

Does Chareidi Judaism have a future ? Is Modern Orthodoxy on the way out ? I have heard a number of different opinions on this matter.

1. The UO viewpoint
The MO's will ultimately die out. The move to the right is inevitable. The whole maykil thing was only a temporary aberration after the war. We are now almost back to how it was before the war. The MO's will eventually all become disillusioned as they move farther and farther left.

2. The MO viewpoint
The UO's will ultimately die out. The move to the left is inevitable. The whole machmir thing was only a temporary aberration after the war. We are now almost back to how it was before the war. The UO's will eventually all become disillusioned as they realize the bunch of lies they have been fed.

3. The centrist viewpoint
The MO's and the UO's will ultimately die out. The move to the center is inevitable. The whole machmir vs maykil thing was only a temporary aberration after the war. We are now almost back to how it was before the war. The RW UO's and LW MO's will eventually all become disillusioned, leaving the RW MO's and the LW UO's to combine to form a stable center.

4. The Atheist Viewpoint
Orthodox Judaism will ultimately die out. The move to atheism is inevitable. The whole religion thing was only a temporary aberration while man could not understand how the world worked. Biblical Criticism and Scientific Progress will eventually render orthodox religion (maybe all religion) extinct.

I don't know the answer. I'm not even sure which one I hope for, I guess 3. However two things I learnt recently, based on a lot of events, some public and some private, give me food for thought.

GH Classic: And now for the chasidim and other oddities

I am no expert on chasidim, so I hesitated to add them to my grand scheme of things, but here goes:

RW Chasidim
Neturei Kartah

Centrist Chasidim


LW Chasidim
Ger (the ones who will do the army in EY)
Lubavitch (if they can be counted as Jewish)

We also need to add some particular groups:

Kiruv Workers
Mostly fall into LW UO and Centrist UO. I have never met an MO or RW UO Kiruv Worker.

Some LW UO's have carlebachian leanings. He is even quite popular amongst Centrist UO Yeshiva Bochurim. However the full blown carlebachians are Centrist and LW MO (Serious) in my experience.

GH Classic: Blogs are for people with way too much time on their hands

The Godol's wife has spoken. The Godol will now be spending more time putting his kids to bed and less time blogging. The Godol Hador is the greatest man in his generation. But that means nothing to his wife.

GH Classic: Are orthodox jews spiritual ?

This is a question that has bothered me for a while, especially since my Rabbi is quite into spirituality. In fact, he thinks MO suffers from a lack of spirituality (he is MO himself).

My problem is as follows:
• What the heck is spirituality ?
• Are chasidim spiritual ?
• Are carlebachians spiritual ?
• Are litvaks / yekkes spiritual ?
• Is the feeling you get on Yom Kippur spiritual ?
• Does UO or MO believe that spirituality is even a desirable goal ?
• What does spirituality feel like ?
On questions of spirituality, I am like the congenitally blind man trying to understand the color red.

GH Classic: The Global Factor

Now here is where it gets interesting. I defined 6 categories of Orthodoxy. However things are different in the US, in Europe and in Israel.

The question is this: Do we say that RW UO in US is equivalent to Centrist UO in EU, or do we redefine the categories in each country / region ? My approach is to not redefine the categories but to keep them consistent. Bearing that in mind here we go.



  • RW UO: A minority. Exists in small pockets. Serious. Maybe 10% (I'm not counting Chasidim in this survey. Thats a whole other can of worms).
  • Centrist UO: A major part of US UO. Split between serious and fakers. 45%
  • LW UO: Another major part of US UO. More serious than fakers. Also 45%

EU/ IL (not much difference EU & IL)

  • RW UO: Major segment. Split between serious and fakers. 45%
  • Centrist UO: Another major segment. Split between serious and fakers.40%
  • LW UO: Minor. 15%. Smaller in the EU than in Israel. Mostly serious.

Key Points

  • EU and IL are virtually identical here, maybe RW UO IL are a little more extreme
  • RW UO is much more significant in EU / IL than in US.
  • LW UO barely exists in EU / IL, but his huge in the US



  • RW MO: A minority. Serious only. Maybe 15%
  • Centrist MO: A major part of US MO. Split between serious and fakers. 45%
  • LW MO: Another major part of US MO. Split between serious and fakers. Also 40%


  • RW MO: EU barely exists. Serious only. Maybe 5%.
  • Centrist MO: Another major segment. 40%. Split between serious and fakers. In UK this is United Synagogue.
  • LW MO: Another major segment, but mostly fakers. Serious LW MO not very big, maybe 15%.


  • RW MO: IL could be significant, if you count Chardalnikim. Mostly serious. Maybe as high as 30%.
  • Centrist MO: Another major segment. 50%. In IL this is Dati Leumi. Some fakers but more serious as fakers gravitate more to LW MO or Chilonism.
  • LW MO: An up and coming segment. Many fakers but also some serious. Probably 20%.

Key Points

  • US, EU and IL all different
  • RW MO in EU is rare.

GH Classic: The Hitch Hikers Guide to Orthodoxy

In my previous post, I divided Orthodoxy into 6 groups. As Hedyot pointed out, and as I realized about 5 mins after posting, there is another huge differential that I didnt point out. I shall call it the Serious / Faker divide. In each group, there is a split between the Serious guys and the Fakers. Here I shall explain:


Serious - very, very frum indeed. The genuine article. Listens to the Gedolim without question. Would never chas vesholom do anythign cneged the gedolim, chas vesholom. Thing genuine kollel guy in bnei brak who really learns.
Faker - Born into it but doesn't really believe. Maybe goes to minyan, but shmoozes at the back of shul. Very unhappy with his lot, but won't generally amit it. Think Hasid and A Heretic.

Centrist UO

Serious - Learns a lot. Very frum. Typical good Lakewood guy.
Faker - Goes with the flow. Spent some years in yeshivah but was a batlan. Goes to minyan mostly but gabbles it off quick. Will hang out in sports bars and do other questionable activities, especially on vacation.

Serious - Frum but wordly. Learnt in a good UO yeshivah eg Ner Israel, even the Mir, but also has a college degree. Is probably a professional. Charedi but normal.
Faker - Goes with the flow. Not too into charedisim, but spouse / parents / children / community means he just tags along. Not much difference between LW UO Faker and Centrist UO Faker.

Serious: Very frum indeed. Learns a lot. Semicha program at YU. As frum as a Serious LW UO. Probably not as frum as a Serious RW UO. Comparisons to a serious Centrist UO are interesting and highly debatable / tedious. Think Top YU guy vs Top Lakewood Guy.
Faker: Doesn't really exist IMHO. If you are not into it, there is very little pressure to be here.

Centrist MO
Serious: Does daf hayomi. Attends shiurim. Learns a lot but is also a professional and worldly. A fan of RYBS.
Faker: Goes with the flow. Possibly Orthoprax though might not realize it. Goes to shul shabbos mornings. Keeps kosher and shabbos. Doesn't learn. Attends an Orthodox Synagogue but not much more.

Serious: Reads Shapiro, Halivni and similar writers. Founded an egalitarian minyan on the UWS of Manhattan. Wants to redefine Orthodoxy.
Faker: Similar to Centrist MO Faker. Is nominally orthodox and wants to stay that way, but couldn't really explain why. Goes to shul occasionally

GH CLassic: Grand Prize Contest !!! - Update

Remember the competition to give the best answer why the Torah said 6 days ? Well, so far no winners.

Ford gave a good explanation of the Torah having many levels of explanation, and he did have a nice moshol to science whereby an earlier simpler meaning (e.g. Newtonian Physics) is replaced by a later more complex peshat (e.g Theory of Relativity) but that does not negate the simple meaning. However he didn't really have much to say on the symbolism of 6 days, execpt that it was to teach shabbos, which was no more than I said in my competition anouncement really.

ADDeRabbi had a well written post, covering the usual basics, torah as a moral message, breishis competing with ancient near east mythologies etc, plus some additional cool stuff, but didn't really address the 6 days either.

Other people quoted Rav Kook and Schroeder, which was hardly original. I don't think either of them are great. Schroeder uses too much science trying to make the text fit perfectly when it doesn't, and Rav Kook's answer is unconvincing. He says ancient man would not have been able to feel significant if he had known that the universe was vast or billions of years old. I don't see why. If man is the purpose of existence, then millions of years in the making, or millions of lifeless planets just add to the awe of his existence, and should make him feel more important, not less.

Maybe I wasn't clear enough in the rules of the competition. I want a convincing explanation of 6 days. If you are just going to answer that its to teach shabbos, then you need to beef that up a bit. Fundamentalist understanding is that shabbos is after 6 days because the universe really was created in 6 days. Since this is now untrue, there needs to be a better reason for why 6 days. Was it really because the Sumerians had Sabattu every 7 days, so the Torah took this pagan ritual and gave it some religious symbolism ? Or does six signify something cosmic or kabalistic ? Six eras ? Why six eras ? And why use the word yom if its not strictly a yom ? And why does the phrase go 'vayehi erev vayehi boker yom echod (sheni, shlishi etc)' ? Shouldn't it say 'vayehi erev vayehi boker vayehi tzohorayim yom echod' ?

GH Classic: The Rabbi on the Airplane Story - The True Version

Back by popular demand ! This time with the hidden meaning revealed (for those people who couldn't catch a hidden meaning if I typed it up in large bold letters at 24 point).

The original post

This is an urban myth, often repeated, with many different rabbis and settings. But after much painstaking research, I have uncovered the original, true version !

HaRav Wacky was sitting on an EL-AL 747 going to Israel. Seated next to him was none other than Charles Darwin ! Mamash amazing.

R Wacky's children were being really obnoxious, loud, rude and causing trouble. Darwin's kids however were sitting quietly, like proper english schoolboys.

Charles turned to Wacky and said "Wow, how come your kids are so obnoxious, yet mine are so polite ?"

"Aha", said Rav Wacky; "You believe in evolution. Each generation is successively better than the previous one. We however believe in Yeridas Hadoros, each generation is going downhill !"

Gevaldik !

The hidden meaning:

The original story may or not be true, maybe it is. However the point is essentially worthless, since it can be spun both ways. Do we really want to teach our kids that they can never be as good as their ancestors ?

GH Classic: Sheloh Asani Charedi Won't Work

The Koton Hador thinks that we should now say a new brochoh combination in shacharis:

“Boruch atah hashem, elokeynu melech haolom, shelo asani charedi”. He claims the charedim won’t be insulted, because they can say “sheasani cirtzono” instead.

Again, the Koton Hador displays his katnus. The world is not black and white. There are many, many gradations of MW (LW, RW, Centrist), UO (LW, RW, Centrist), not to mention the various Chasidic groups, BT’s, Carlebachians, Hasidic Heretics, Frum Atheists and Lubavitchers.

It would clearly be impractical to go and produce a brochoh for everyone. The siddurim would get too big. The Koton’s scheme simply will not work.

I therefore propose a generic brochoh which will work for everybody. Here it is:

Boruch atah Hashem, elokeynu melech haolom,
Sheloh asani yoter lismol sheli, (bishvil shehaym treifeh-shkutzim),
Vgam sheloh asani yoter leyemin sheli, (bishvil shehaym meshugge-frum),
Vshehasani bdiyuk be’emztah, shezeh meah-achuz nachon.
Todah rabbah !

Its also a siman tov to repeat this brochoh many times throughout the day, especially when you meet someone from a different sect of Orthodoxy.

GH Classic: Heretical Histrionics Handicaps Historically Hightened Hermeneutics

Mis-nagid has a great post (Fabricating Fictions Fathers Further Fraud) about where the Torah came from and what went wrong in the process. WARNING: Don't read it if you don't like heresy, this one is the real deal (not like that slifkin guy). You have been warned. However if you are reading it to refute it, then thats ok, as in dah ma lhashiv leapikores.

I don't have a problem with the mis-nagid theory per-se. Its quite logical. Man wrote the Torah, and later generations added the divine myth. However I would make one or two important additions. I would add in a significant element of divine inspiration, and continue to hold of Torah miSinai as in Torah shebaal peh. I know this was not mis-nagids intention and he will no doubt have an absolute fit and tell me that baal peh is even more man made than bictav - my apologies mis-nagid !

This is similar to the Louis Jacobs theory in "We have reason to believe". His approach was that the Torah was man's record of the divine encounter, not G-d's record, but that there was a divine encounter / revelation nonetheless. I am not saying I believe this theory, but it has some logic to it. Though that got him kicked out of the orthodox rabbinate in the UK.

I suggested a similar idea to my rabbi a few months ago, and his reply was "Well there goes half the Talmud then". In other words, most of the talmud revolves around explaining every word in the Torah, so if its not the exact word of G-d, there's not much validity in the Talmuds line of reasoning. Personally I think he is wrong, you would lose about 90% of the Talmud. But seriously, I read some theory that when the Gemara tries to use pesukim, and darshans words and even letters, its all an asmachta, an attempt to recreate the torah baal peh by looking for clues in the bictav. However really baal peh was received through mesorah as is, and does not need baal peh.

I don't see why losing bictav means losing baal peh. Its interesting though that the major heretical movements (e.g. Kairites, Tzedukim etc) always got rid of baal peh and kept bictav. How come there were no heretical movements which kept baal peh but toned down the importance of bictav ? It would keep halachah intact but solve all those pesky Science and Torah and JPED problems. I guess if Bictav was just man made, people would not be able to take the whole baal peh thing too seriously. Plus rabbis wouldn't be able to make so many cool drashas.

Just some thoughts, no need to stone me. I'm not changing my dox, nor my prax, and changing my box is right out. I might change my sox though. I have decided that black is better than blue, because black goes with my black, gray and blue pants, whereas blue doesn't go with black pants really, so they are less flexible. Also a drawer full of black sox would be easier to match, which would make the rebbetzin happy, and thats much more important than my blog, or so she keeps telling me. Another test to see if she reads my blog. So far she doesn't. Why not ????? If my wife was posting stuff on the internet you'ld better believe I would be reading it. Unless it was just a load of chick talk in which case I get way too much of that already. Hee hee.

Anyways, does anyone have any authentic sources which might make this theory somewhat less kefiradik ? Or do you think a snowball would have a better chance in hell than finding any sources for this bunch of heresy, oh and by the way hell is exactly where I'm going for posting this ? Answers on a postcard please, or try the comments. Of course the real reason for this post was just to beat mis-nagid in the best aliteration blog post title competition. I win with 6 words versus 5.

GH Classic: Grand Prize Contest !!!

We all know that the universe is 15 billion years old (Gasp !). Well, a lot more than 6000 years anyway. If you want to debate the science please go talk to the levitating pink elephant in the corner.

So the question is, why does the Torah say 6 days ?

Is it:
• Not literal ?
• Some moshol for shabbos ?
• Ancient jewish mythology which hashem approved to be in the Torah ?
• Some deep mystical meaning beyond our ken ?
• Something else ?
Winning peshat which still conforms to orthodoxy (i.e. "some guy wrote it in 500BCE" is not going to win) will receive a free copy of The Science of Torah *.
* Small print: Winning entry must not be declared kefirah by board of centrist UO rabbis or else prize is forfit.

GH Classic: Heresy Shmeresy

Motley Minority Menagerie, (Modern / Medieval / Maskilim / Mis-nagid Mixture); Malevolently, Maybe Maniacally, Mamish Mistakenly, Maintains Much Maculation Mars Manifestly Moradik Miraculous Monotheistic Mesorah MiSinai !
(Take that Mis-nagid. I win with 23 words and no spelling mistakes)

More heretical ideas about torah shebictav from a selection of thinkers:

1. Ibn Ezra talks about posukim being added to the Torah, famous “secret of the 12 comment” etc. I suspect some of his buddies had evev more radical views which they didn’t make public, or at least have been lost to us. Or maybe I’m just not that educated on medieval heresy.

2. Halivni in Revelation Restored suggests that the Torah was originally perfect from G-d but then got corrupted through the ages, and Ezra’s attempt to resurrect it led to what we have today, a maculate text.

3. Daat Mikreh mentions a peshat, based on the Gemoroh and also a midrash and an Acharon (can’t remember who) that the bnei yisrael already had the bereishis texts when they left mizrayim, and G-d commanded Moshe to include them as part of the Torah.

4. My MO rabbi says he was taught in YU that its okay to believe the Torah had 4 sources and a redactor, as long as the redactor was Moshe Rabeinu, working under the editorship of G-d.

5. My YU semichah buddy says he was taught in YU that the first 11 chapters of Breishis are clearly mythology (I call it moshology) designed to counter the prevailing babylonian mythology. Kind of like Sarna & Cassutto I think, but that G-d still was the author, or at least the redactor. (Was Cassutto frum ?)

6. I heard beshem Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook that until Abvraham its mythology, but after that its fact. Similar (or same) as above. My MO rabbi doesn’t like this however, as why draw the line there ? Also I worry about the sedom story. Does the geology of that area support a recent (5000 years old) upheaval ? Any geologists read my blog ?

7. Zohar says that the torah is just a shell to contain the true inner mystical meaning. Not sure if that means the Zohar took the shell literally in addition to the mystical meaning, or if that means the shell is somewhat irrelevant.

8. Louis Jacobs theory (mentioned below) that the torah is man’s account of G-ds revelation, not G-ds account.

Any others ?
All these explanation help with Biblical criticism and Science vs Torah questions, however they take away a bit from the sense that every word is sacred

GH Classic: My 'Friend' Speaks His Mind

A highly imaginary, err … I meant to say highly intelligent, friend of mine recently sent me the following letter. I have faithfully written it, err … I mean reproduced it, word for word.


Dear Rabbi Leatherkippa,

I wish to be Orthodox, but the two major groupings in Orthodoxy - the Modern Orthodox (MO) and the Ultra Orthodox (UO) both make me nauseous.

Let’s look at the UO first. The UO strike an occasional responsive chord within me.

But there are aspects of UO that give me pause. I find them too casual, and careless, about their ethics. They with their black hats, conspicuously UO, while still often presenting a Chilul Hashem with their behavior. All right, those are externals. But maybe the black hats are a statement: I am UO, the elite of the elite, and I don’t give a damn about the world outside.

More seriously, I find in the UO an emphasis on material trappings- just like in the majority culture. Have you ever been to Boro Park, Monsey, even Lakewood ? The houses, cars and sheitels are spectacular. While I agree that a Jew should have some gashmius, I think the UO tend to blur the narrow line between having some gashmius and yet resisting the vulgar values that permeate that world. Large homes, expensive clothes, vacations, with all their crassness, are all normal aspects of their daily lives.

Their inability to resist superstition and Rebbe worship shows itself, for example, in their flirtation with so-called “Kabalistic Segulas”, blind faith in aging and out of touch leaders, potential Messiah figures and frenetic attempts to imitate fundamentalist Christianity and radical Islam. With one eye cocked on the extremist fundamentalist religion du-jour, UO seems to be today’s precursors of tomorrow’s Taliban movement.

Yes, they are technically observant, but it’s an observance that to me seems superficial, robotic, without passion. In many UO day schools, Torah study is the only subject. Talmud first period, Talmud second period, Talmud third period, etc. This is reflected in some UO lives. Although obeisance is given to Torah as the supreme value, the lack of any training in the spirit of the law, and in ethics and general menshlechkite is evident.

I don’t want to be super-critical, but this obscurantism shows itself in what seems like an unending search for chumros. When was the last time you heard of a UO kulla ? Their only religious passion is directed against those who are less ritually machmir than they are.

I would like to identify with them, but I am uncomfortable with the noxious fumes of non-tolerance that they exude.

Where then is my spiritual home? With the MO world ? Not really.

For starters, there is simply too much freedom of thought there. It is not only that everyone studies a wide variety of topics. (After 120 years, will you be asked if your read Kant or Shakespeare ? Is admission to heaven denied to those who can’t quote Robert Burns ?)

But it is not only their colorful studious habits that get to me, but also their colorful world view. In the UO world, there is black and white - there are the Gedolim and there is everyone else - but for the MO this dichotomy does not exist. I fully realize that many individual MO’s are kind, generous, charitable, but the group as a group comes across as much too tolerant of many viewpoints, even beyond the parameters of Gedolim.

Lately, for example, they have been criticizing certain bans about heretical books. If a Godol hints that all science is bunk, or – basing himself on a narrow range of Jewish sources - that the science of the greatest scientists of the last few centuries, is not congruent with contemporary fundamentalist UO ideology, his ban is criticized across the world. (Which turns humdrum bans into major news stories.)

Such behavior tends to remove some of the beauty and holiness from MO life. MO Jews should be sensitive to others who desire to burn books, whether with real bonfires or symbolic ones.

In general, MO seem to want to close themselves off from the world of superstition, obscurantism, intolerance - and one cannot blame them. After all, it was these cultural undercurrents of the last few centuries which paved the way for the Holocaust and the Islamic jihad.

I fully appreciate the sacrifice that having demanding, full-time careers involves - many luxuries and comforts are surrendered. But within their world, is there also room for genuinely intolerant people who also learn a little ?

Despite all this, the MO have been most successful, and have really defeated the UO on the battlefield of ideas. They have a charismatic leadership, a dynamic ideology, they are intensely Jewish, they sacrifice. There is purpose in their lives, spiritual strength, sanctity, self assurance - and these have attracted many Jews under their umbrella. Unlike the UO, they have little difficulty is retaining their next generation – (UO’s are leaving their restrictive communities in droves – witness all the blogs of ex-yeshivah guys).

I am both attracted and repelled by this MO world - as I am by the UO world.

My friends and I are in despair. Orthodoxy is genuine and authentic, and we belong there. But is this all that Orthodoxy has to offer these days – either intellectual curiosity or big black hats perched on top of your head - plus a disdain for other Orthodox groups? Is this the way of holiness?


My imaginary interlocutor finished his inquisition. For a change, I had no immediate response. Instead, I am turning it over to the blogosphere for reaction. What would you tell him?

GH Classic: The Heresy Index

her•e•sy (plural her•e•sies)

1. religion unorthodox religious opinion: an opinion or belief that contradicts established religious teaching, especially one that is officially condemned by a religious authority

No doubt you have all heard of the FOG Index (a measure of how readable a given piece of text is).

Well now we have the Heresy Index, a measure of how heretical a given book is.

The index scores from 0 to 10

0: The Gedolim will have this on their bookshelf
1: The Gedolim won’t have it, but they would read it if you lent it to them
2: The Gedolim won’t read it, but they won’t object to you reading it
3: The Gedolim will object to you reading it, but they won’t sign a ban
4: The Gedolim will sign a ban, but won’t call it actual kefirah
5: The Gedolim will call it actual kefirah, but the MO’s will say its fine
6: The MO’s will say its not normative Orthodox opinion but its okay to read it
7: The MO’s will say its heresy but the Conservatives will say its fine
8: The Conservatives will say its heresy, but the Reform will say its fine
9: The Reform will say its heresy, but the Atheists will say its fine
10: The Atheists declare it heretical

I am working on a comprehensive formula to automatically calculate the index based on the text itself, but that will take some time.

Of course you also have the divisions amongst LW, RW and Centrist UO, MO and Gedolim, and also differences between US, EU and Israel. So for example, Slifkin's 'The Science of Torah' rates a 4 amongst the EY Gedolim, but only a 3 with the American Gedolim. HaLivni's ‘Revelation Restored’ will rate a 7 amongst RW MO, but probably only a 6 amongst LW MO.

Coming Soon
Heretic Index: Rate your personal level of heresy by calculating the Combined Heresy Index of your entire bookcase !