Saturday, April 25, 2009

קדמות העולם

Well, I've been having somewhat of a discussion recently with a fellow named David (down by my "Bircat Hachama" post) which I feel worthy enough to be posting about (personally, I've never really had a discussion of this nature, so it's a good thing that I'm being "kept on my feet" in regards to my hashkafot once in a while)..

*Sigh*, where to start where to start...

2. "We have NO mesorah that 7 days means 7 billion years."

A 'mesorah' is not needed, it's obvious that G-d has no eyes even if there was no such "mesorah". To be honest though, I don't know that there is such a mesorah considering that the Rambam mentions that some rabbis of his time (who were over-literalistic) had some "corporeal ideas" about G-d.

Either way, the Torah is not a science book; G-d had no interest in telling the Jews who came out of Egypt strange astronomical factoids about the age of the world. The age of the world does not concern the Torah; ethics and mitzvot concern the Torah. It is unquestionably silly to take the opening words of Genesis to be blatantly telling the ancients exactly how old the world is..

2. If the world were..billions of years old, all gittin would be pasul because of an incorrect date."

In regards to Gittin: ? "אנחנו חוקרים עד מקום שידינו מגיעים".

3. "The Rambam's true approach to Torah is not that which he states in Moreh Nevuchim"(Link).

..if anything that footnote is a criticism on the "י"ד", not the "מורה". As far as I can tell it's basically saying that his טעמי המצוות in the י"ד are overly simplistic. Either way, if you are correct I side with the "More Navochim-Rambam"!

It is basically true though that the Rambam tried to write the י"ד in "the language of the Mishna", and not add that much of his own opinions (though his interpretations of Talmudic passages and halakhic decisions are evident throughout the book (but that's only since he felt his explanations to be the most logical approach to things).

But listen, the More' (Navochim) itself comes from a philosophical and theological school of thought that are a bit alien and antiquated to us and, but that doesn't mean that it's not possible to tell from it was the basic opinions of the Rambam were..

4. "..its not gonna take a billion years for Moshiach to come."

Again, uh, I looked up the Ramchal I mentioned, and I saw that he does actually deviate a bit from what it says in the Talmud: Seemingly the only Talmudic source for the 6,000 year idea is an ambiguous statement by one amora (Rav Katina) in Perek Chelek that "the world exists six thousand years and one will be barren", and that statement itself is understood in many ways- see link (a more "modern" understanding, based on the idea that these kinds of numbers (those with sixes and sevens for example) are symbolisms but not actual dates, would suggest that all Rav Katina meant to say was that there will come a time when "G-d will be alone", i.e. people will cease to exist (not to mention the Talmud there suggests that he was making a verse-oriented comparison with shmitta)).

One point worth mentioning about this is how this relates to the famous first chapter of Sefer Haikarim (again, if you haven't read it, you should); the well-known opinion of Rav Hillel is mentioned in the Talmud as saying "there is no mashiach for Israel, etc.". Rav Albo asks that if this opinion was really that inflammatory, why is this Amora called "Rav" Hillel in the Talmud? We therefore see that there are legitimate differing opinions about Massaism in the Talmud, which doesn't delegitimize the authority of those who "don't believe in Mashiach" (umm, just to clarify; it's called "sefer haikarim" because Albo's school of thought was very skeptical about the rambam's "13" principles of faith; he felt that opinion to be unfounded and got the principles of faith down to, like, three in the end).

The reason I mention this is that it's obvious that the majority of Rabbis in the Talmud were of the opinion that there should be a Mashiach, and Rav Hillel was a small minority in this matter. One opinion in Agadta doesn't change Jewish beleif. So similarly this statement of Rav Katina has no more Agadic authority than that of Rav Hillel.

Though to be totally honest, the Rambam has said many times (in opposition to the opinion of Rashi) that the Talmud is not a political manual, nor is it a history book, nor is it a treatise on science or medicine; it is a work regarding religious ethics and religious law. Though the Talmud might have had some very insightful observations and traditions, one cannot judge science based on the Talmud or based on the Gita or based on the H'adith or based on the Epistles; scientific discovery can only be made using raw data and the scientific method. One can judge those discoveries based on religious teachings if they like. This was the opinion of the Rambam.

...the way I understand it there are no arguments in outcomes, only in premises; so the best thing is to pin-point differing premises and see what aspects cannot be reconciled (although the most novel thing to do is refute a premise).

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