Response to Daat Emet Issue 1-2
- These responsa have not been reviewed by the Sanhedrin and may or may not reflect the official position of the Sanhedrin, they are the work of the esteemed Rabbi Dov Stein, and are included here to indicate the kind of questions being handled by the Sanhedrin - Webmaster.
SHEET No. 1
Argument Moses received on Sinai one less than 50 gates of wisdom (Rosh Hashana 21.). If such is the case, how is it that the wise men of Israel erred in understanding the life process in that they believed in spontaneous generation of life?
Answer A. The wordly view by the sages in this matter truly agrees with the widespread scientific view of their generations. It may be assumed that if a Sanhedrin was in existence today, then the relevant laws would be reevaluated according to what is now known.(see Preface 5, Sanhedrin). B. Nevertheless, many rabbis in recent generations have dealt with this question, e.g. Rabbi Yitzchak Lampronty, who has decided differently than the usuual opinion, to be strict and not permit the killing of lice on the Sabbath. C. Modern knowledge has shown that spontaneous generation of life does not occur. However, it is also accepted as a principle that what is not seen is not proof that it doesn’t exist. There are microbiologists that believe that in the future, life may be produced from inanimate materials. It should be noted that the opinion of Daat Emet against spontaneous generation supports the concept that there is a Creator who guides the creation of life, and is the only one that can create life. D. Those that are faithful to the Jewish religion accept the Gemara (Rosh Hashana) but nevertheless those who do not believe in spontaneous generation are not heretics.
Argument There are only 612 commandments (and not 613) because the commandment concerning insects does not apply (Rambam, negative commandment 179), namely the prohibition of eating insects that are produced from decaying matter.
Answer A. See the previous answer. B. The Rambam in describing insects refers to those that are formed from decaying material, as described in the Gemara. The source is the Sifra. See Prefaces A and C. C. There is a tradition as to the number of commandments in the Torah. However, even if a particular commandment is not to be counted, there are many different opinions as to which are the 613 commandments, There are other lists than that of the Rambam. For example the Rambam does not count the settlement of the land of Israel , but does count belief in God; while the Ramban does the opposite. D. There are many similar puzzling statements in our tradition. For example, the known legend stating that God will in the future prepare a feast for the righteous from the meat of the Liviaton (whale) (Baba Bathra 75.). It is unclear as to what is a Liviaton. E. There are creatures that are actually produced from decaying material. They are produced from small eggs or larva which cannot be seen by the naked eye. Just as it is not prohibited to eat microscopic creatures since they are not considered to be a legal entity, so they are not considered to be creatures that can be seen by the eye of man. From this point of view it is possible to produce life from decaying material.
Argument Our sages erred in that they believed that there is a mouse that is half soil, and therefore reached groundless conclusions.
Answer A. See preface A and B. B. It is a known fact that incorrect legal decisions are often made in every social system based on misinformation. There are legal cases where lawyers of every country believe that the high court has erred. Nevertheless, every lower court must accept the incorrect decision of the high court until the high court itself corrects its decision (even with a different composition). So it is also in the Torah society. Therefore this is the reason that even the “Mishneh Berurah” will base his legal decision on a decision that we nowadays realize is erroneous. From this point of view we are captive within a system that needs to be reexamined by a Sanhedrin that hopefully will be formed in the near future. We can expect that a Sanhedrin will be formed when the Torah observant community will unite. Until then we do not have the right as a responsible organized community to deviate from decisions that were made using proper procedure. C. A common thing for the Gemara discussions is to arrive at a legal decision based on a theoretical discussion which has no practical application during the discussion and not even any relation to reality. This is one of the mental advantages of the Jewish culture. This has been done for such topics as a deviant son or a wayward city. This method of thinking accustoms the learner to abstract thinking. This is not the place to expand the discussion as to the meaning of Jewish intelligence that results from such a style of discussion. Therefore this law is possibly at this stage within the framework of an abstract discussion, but in the course of time with the development of the fields of microbiology, and especially genetic engineering, such a thing will be possible. D. The source from which this topic was taken, and which Daat Emet claims to be in error, is a discussion with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. The example used by our wise men to answer her comes to appease her according to her beliefs. There is therefore no proof from here as to the personal opinion of the sages.
Argument The saying of our sages, “look at the Torah and build the world” is a childish statement. Is it possible that the error of an Amora or a Tana can be considered as part of the Torah upon which the world is built?
Answer A. The world was built with the ability for people to err. See Preface A. Therefore the statements of a Tana or Amora are considered as part of the Torah, upon which the world is built. B. The argument is a contradiction to itself in accordance with the continuation of the saying quoted from the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim, part 3, chapter 14. The wise men of Israel acted with full knowledge and awareness. C. Daat Emet grasped onto the word “Torah” which has many meanings. For example we believe that everything is hinted at and planned in the Torah. If such is the case, then the words of Daat Emet are also Torah, which is completely absurd. These pamphlets are surely not Torah, but its opposite.
Argument Education to encourage seclusion indicates weakness. The weakness arises from the fact that the truth is found only in the hands of the irreligious.
Answer It is true that the Torah observant Jews are at a disadvantage. This does not arise necessarily from the fact that the truth is found only in the hands of the irreligious There are other possible explanations. To clarify this point it is necessary to enter into a painful web of relations between irreligious and religious. It would be possible to not write this if the attitude to the Torah observant Jews was more restrained. However. the official educational line in the educational institutions tries nowadays to form more moderation and mutual respect. Yet. nowadays when the communication tools have greater power in formulating the opinions of the students. it appears that mutual respect has the opposite effect, and almost all data that is presented by the communication media is distorted, scornful and meant to incite. (I say this from personal experience, when 20 years ago an interview recorded by the Voice of Israel with two Torah observant former soldiers, in which they stated that the army has serious religious problems, was not presented to the public. When I asked the interviewers why it was not presented, they said that it was not interesting). However, there is no alternative, because the intelligence of the Torah observant Jews was tainted, and therefore it is necessary to answer these arguments . The weakness that is claimed was during all the years of the exile based on incorrect information. Are the idol worshipping christians or the primitive moslems nore correct than Judaism? Nevertheless the faithful Jews distanced themselves from contact with these cultures because it was done uder unequal conditions and without a reasonable chance of success. Discussions between different cultures always remains under the shadow of the dominant society at the time. The great philosophers (such as Hegel for christianity, and Appleton for idol worship) often expressed themselves in a ridiculus manner for the ruling religion because they lived under its influence. Anyone who would claim that Hegel or Appleton were charlatans would be considered as a fool. Here in Israel the leaders of the communication media - the broadcasters, the commentators, and the known reporters, interview people in a biased manner, and mainly select irreligious and non-Jews to be interviewed. These groups form a majority which receives representation much above their relative numbers in the population. Religious and national speakers are praised mainly when their opinions agree with the irreligious views. The courts behave in a similar manner. While the religious public is about one third of the population, there is only one moderate and restrained religious judge in the high court.
The fear by the secular population of the influence from the devoutly pious on the youth is transparent, and it is expressed by the prohibition on the appearance of lecturers of this type in highschools and universities, and they fight to prevent lecturers and Rabbis of this type to speak freely in auditoriums. The thoughts of religious people are repressed high-handedly and without shame.
Such is also the situation regarding security. It is already 50 years during which there has never been a Torah observant general in a commanding position, such as the command of the navy, airforce, operations, supply, manpower, assistant to the commander in chief of the army, head of the secret police or the Mosad, police officers, etc. We are referring to hundreds of officers, as well as the positions of Chief of the Army, Police Chief. The bias is readily apparent. This partiality occurs even though there are religious youth who volunteer willingly for every position and who are members of the fighting forces to a greater extent than that of the non-religious. The religious youth also fill the lower officer positions far beyond their relative numbers in the population of the soldiers. However, the irreligious leaders of the army who draw their political power to a great extent from the non-Jewish third of the population, prevent by many means the religious to reach the deciding command positions. With respect to this point, their attitude towards the Druzim is better. This country which is ruled by the irreligious also intervenes illegally in the appointment of the Rabbis of the cities and of the army. Therefore there are those who claim that the appointment of Rabbis and the payment of their salaries is from a particular viewpoint a hidden way for payment of hush money. Would a Rabbi who is a chief Rabbi dare to say while he is in office what he would dare to say when not in such a position? The government also interferes in the educational methods for the religious youth. The National Religious education, for example, is to a great extent education for observing the Torah and Commandments according to the concepts of the minister of education, who in general is not an observant Jew. These factors reinforce each other. This is one entity having many aspects. Naturally all this produces conditions for an unbalanced means of communication and interaction, and even alienation to the government and its institutions. For example, there is a serious criticism of devout youth for avoiding army service. As is known, the army benefits from immunity to censorship. The soldier has no right to turn to outside agents with respect to his claims. He can only do so only when the media and the justice system support him. Experience shows that these agents prevent such presentations. Many religious soldiers consider these agencies as agents to prevent any expression of Jewish faith. Has anyone in the govrnment heard of the kashruth problems that occur in most of the army kitchens? Does anyone know the methods used by the army commanders to circumvent their requirements to allow observant soldiers to pray without pressure? Who in practice judges the thousands of officers who make the Sabbath a regular workday, and activate the army systems on the Sabbath unnecessarily by claiming that the particular operation is essential militarily ? What about the daily exposure of the young soldier to obscene language, lewdness and pornography ? Violation of the army religious regulations occurs in all field units. Are the women soldiers protected from sexual exploitation? Does the religious soldier really have someone to turn to with his problems? Does anyone efficiently protect him from religious coercion, whether done purposely or innocently, to desecrate the Sabbath and the Holidays, or to eat non-kosher food? How many officers are punished for such actions? The deteriorating religious situation in the army already raises doubts among those who consider army service as a religious duty. Has anyone done research as to what would happen in the opposite situation, namely, what would be the percent of the irreligious who would avoid army service if the majority of the commanders were religious? How many of the irreligious would then remain in the country? How many would remain zionists? The religious community is also under economic pressure for various reasons, some because of their life style, some because of the social and economic structure, and some because of the employment and tax laws. For example, a married couple with children, and often many children, pay a highly progressive tax for their mutual employment as if their wages are only for one of them. In general an observant couple prefer to work together and not to work at foreign places, becuse of modesty and to coordinate the care of the children. If the mother cannot work together with the father, she will most probably have difficulty working because of the necessity to care for the children. In contrast, an unofficial couple (which is becoming more prevalent among the irreligious) divide their income between the partners, and therefore pay a very low tax rate. A father of 10 children will find that even if he works hard the extra salary will be almost entirely eaten up by the progressive taxation, and the compensation from the National Insurance will be almost zero. Therefore he cannot afford to supply, for example, extra music lessons for his children.
A religious woman who gives birth does not usually receive paid leave for childbirth because before the birth she was busy caring for her previous children. The entire politics and world culture essentially serves the irreligious public. Large numbers of non-Jews are brought into the country using various regulations so as to increase the power of the secularists in their competition with observant Jews, and thus to guarantee their democratic victory. The religious public is at a disadvantage in their disputes with the secularists. The natural increase of the secularist population tends to be negative, but they are supplemented by the imported non-Jews. When the State of Israel was declared the non-Jewish citizens were 11%, but they are now more than 30%. The percent of the non-Jewish settlers is more than 40% (many of whom will become citizens in the future). It is difficult under such conditions to discuss the matter.
Books on psychology describe the tests that show the strong social influence of the environment, even on sensual judgment. Torah observant Jews have well realized the cultural trap from such environmental factors.
All these factors together bring about the wise step of seclusion. The Jewish people have always been a separate people. Seclusion is an excellent defensive tool. When an army (see Preface F) is attacked under difficult conditions, it fortifies itself and isolates itself in order to gain strength. The present situation is very similar. In fact, seclusion does damage to certain capabilities of the group. Nevertheless, during all the generations the members of this group were from a statistical point of view nuch more cultured. They invested more time in learning and were therefore more intelligent. (The students of religious highschools pass the bagrut tests with grades about 5% higher, despite the high load of learning Torah and despite the lower socioeconomic level). They have fewer drunks and fewer people who take drugs. They are much less involved with murder, crime, theft, and car accidents (statistics of the insurance companies). Their families are more stable, they do more charitable acts, and they are satisfied with fewer luxuries. Their children are careful to not forsake their aged parents, and to take care of them when necessary. They do not produce true single parent families, which place a heavy burden on the society since such children carry with them difficult pschological problems which require the expenditure of public funds to help them. They do not produce fictitious families that obtain continual social security funding from taxes while in reality the woman lives within a family framework. Their children are healthier physically and mentally, and fewer die from known causes (Israel J. Med. Sci. 4:177 1968). A study made by the Hebrew University and published in the American Journal of Public Health (Maariv, May 27, 1996) comparing the health of persons in religious kibbutzim versus irreligious kibbutzim, showed much fewer deaths from all types of sicknesses among members of religious kibbutzim. Also, it was announced on Israel Radio, channel B, Monday, 8 Kislev, 2001, that the life expectancy of the devout city Bnei Brak is the highest in Israel. This is in accordance with the passage (Deut. 11 21) “Then you will live long, you and your children”. The Torah observant Jews put less of a burden on the courts, the police, the jails and the health system, etc. The blood bank prefers contributions from observant Jews because their blood is much less liable to carry sicknesses such as AIDS, jaundice B, and other serious diseases. Similar comparisons according to socio-economic backgrounds always gave even more obvious advantages to Torah observant Jews. The conclusion from the above is that it is the irreligious public that has to be wary.
The crisis of the Torah observant Jews who saw how their children became irreligious about 40 to 80 years ago (frequently when the children were kidnapped by physical means or by deceit), when the parents did not yet know how to isolate themselves (sometimes they were prevented from earning a living if they isolated themselves) began to disappear when they secluded themselves and when the children returned to religion. If the secular population was certain of their strength, they would not hesitate to allow the Torah observant Jews to take part in all the positions according to their relative numbers in the population. Apparently the explanation is that the secularists are afraid of the true culture which is the strongest in the history of mankind. Logically it seems that the fears and the resultant hatred by the irreligious have similarities to those during thousands of years. The hatred signs such as “trample the religious” are recognized aspects of the relations between Jews and non-Jews. This type of attitude of the secularists shows that there is justification to restrict the interest in the secularist culture.
SHEET No. 2
Argument The predatory animals do not have poison.
Answer A. This argument is deliberately incorrect. “Poison” means: material that can kill. The argument is based on the assumption that only materials whose chemical composition directly attacks the nervous system or the blood flow or that have similar effects, only these chemicals are called poisons. This is the artificial belief that is held only by Daat Emet. Whoever studied and learned knows differently. The predatory animals are continually occupied by their nature with the preying upon other animals. Therefore there are continually left in their mouths and nails remnants of the blood and meat of their victims. These remnants by their nature decay within a short time. Someone who is near a predatory animal senses the odor of the decaying material. When a predatory animal sticks its nails into its victim there arises danger of poisoning by bacteria or viruses. These bacteria give off poisons that kill the victim. The poisons from the bacteria are not less dangerous than the poisons from snakes. Therefore all the predators are wary from actual fighting among themselves, and try to end disputes between them by demonstrations of strength, because they know that the winner in a fight may also suffer badly. Naturally, this type of poisoning depends on the quantity of poisonous material separated from the claws of the predator. Above a certain amount, the poison becomes deadly. When the detached claws that were stuck into the victim are pulled out they are cleaned off by the pressure of the skin and meat of the victim, and then almost all the decaying material remains in the victim. This contamination is more severe than the contamination that happens when the claw is stuck in and not removed. Moreover, since the removed nails are withdrawn from the victim, then in general they tear the skin and tissues in the region and cause even more severe contamination. Naturally, this contamination is relative. The scratch on a donkey made by a cat does not greatly effect the donkey, who will overcome it by itself by means of its white blood cells and its natural immunity. Such is not the case when a cat attacks a pigeon. This type of difference is specifically expressed in the laws of non-kosher animals (Yoreh Deah), where a distiction is made in the laws of victims of prey depending upon which animals are involved. As is known, predatory animals attack the victim mainly by their mouths and their hands, and not with their feet. Therefore, there is a difference between attacks with the hands and attacks with the feet, since in the case of attacks by the feet the contamination of decaying meat is not severe and there is a much greater chance of natural cleanliness. Therefore the statement by the Rambam (Laws of sleughter, chapter 5, law 3) which Daat Emet is trying to contradict, is actually correct. The contempt by the author of Daat Emet of the words of Rabbi Friedlander in “a Letter from Eliyahu” vol. 4. page 355 is completely irresposible. Moreover, Daat Emet knew that a correct answer to his arguments is found in that reference, and nevertheless he made incorrect critical statements. B. See Prefaces A,B,C,E, which are sufficient by themselves to reject the argument here of Daat Emet.
Argument The Rashba mentions that there are 3 cavities in the heart. The Shulhan Aruch (Yoreh Daah par. 40) also decided similarly, and made other incorrect assertions about the anatomy.
Answer A. See Prefaces A,B,C,E, which are sufficient by themselves to answer the argument here of Daat Emet. B. It seems that the writer himself of Daat Emet saw that the Jewish sages update themselves in the investigation of the latest knowledge and they adjust themselves to the new implications as written for example in “Yad Yehudah” on the laws of Trefote (Kashruth)”. If the writer was an observant Jew he could in a respectful manner write a pamphlet of criticism of the decisions that appear in the Shulchan Aruch. In such a case we can assume that his ideas would obtain serious consideration. In actuality, these criticisms are not new. These ideas can be found in the thoughts of many modern observant Rabbis . For example, an article on renewing the Sanhedrin that was printed in one of the pamphlets “Maayan” by our friend Rabbi Moshe Tzuriel from Bnei Brak (the author of many important books) also criticizes the knowledge of the anatomy of our sages. Daat Emet may be compared to a fool who in our time discovers America, since he didn`t know this before hand, or to a liar if he hid this information. C. With respect to the heart: He could have claimed that at the time when the topic was dicussed and summarized in the Shulhan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, par, 40, the study of anatomy and pathology was not developed sufficiently, and therefore the evaluation was based on the literature and not on examination and research. The explanation that the poskim nevertheless based their conclusions on three chambers in the heart arises apparently from the fact that the left compartment is smaller from the other heart compartments, and therefore was considered as a drainage basin for the veins of the lungs, and not as part of the heart. (It shoud be mentioned that there are only 3 compartments in the hearts of reptiles). Therefore we are dealing with different terminology for the same information. Moreover, the nature of the the partitions between the different compartments is not the same, and therefore the question should be: Is the partition between compartments sufficient to prevent problems with the heart? It should be noted that in the Jewish literature the heart is sometimes divided into only two compartments for similar reasons.
It should be realized that the people who made these legal decisions saw hearts for examination, and it is difficult to say that they did not see all the heart compartments. Nevertheless, even if there is an error in this respect, it is permissible to note the error. From a legal point of view, any hole in one of the compartments of the heart that is shown before a Rabbi, would make the animal not kosher. No Rabbi would claim that the hole is in a cavity that was not mentioned by the Poskim.
Argument How is it that the wise men who receive help from the spirit of God often have errors in their thinking?
Answer In order to be exact, it should be stated that the concept of the “spirit of God” has many meanings. Does it refer to a type of very low level prophecy, or perhaps it means help from God in what one does? Anyway, if Daat Emet thinks that the spirit of God refers to prophecy, then they are mistaken. The belief that the sages were helped to make decisions by the spirit of God is not one of the basic tenets of the faith. In practice, from certain aspects the opposite is correct. The sages did not receive any proof that was received as a result of the intervention of super powers. Below are mentioned a number of sources that verify this.. A. In Baba Metziah59: is told the story: Rabbi Eleazer said. If the law is as I said, then the heavens should prove it. A voice spoke up and said, what do you want with R. Eleazer? The law is always the way he says. Rabbi Yehoshua then stood up and said, It’s not in the Heavens (Deut. 30). What does it mean It’s not in the Heavens ? Rabbi Yirmiyahu then said, Since the Torah was already given after Mount Zion, we do not pay attention to a voice. It has already been said on Mount Sinai (Ex. 23) “the decision goes after the majority”. Rabbi Nathan found Eliyahu and said to him What did the Holy One do at that time? He said that He smiled and said, my children have won, my children have won! B. In Temurah 16. is told: Rabbi Yosef said.I learned about the imperfection of putting the hands on the animal; but Yosef the son of Yoezer disagrees. They then said to the leader Yehoshua to ask God what the law is, but he answered, It is not in the Heavens (Deut 30). Then they said to the prophet Samuel to ask God, but he answered these are the commandments for which the prophet does not have the right to introduce something new. C. In the Jerusalem Talmud, Moed Katan, Chap. 3, page 81, side 4, law A: They cut vertebrae and put sand between the vertebrae . Rabbi Eliezer says it is pure, and the sages say it is impure. A voice came out and said that the law was in accordance with Rabbi Eliezer, then Rabbi Yehoshua said It is not in the Heavens. D. In the Rambam, laws of Yesode HaTorah, chap. 9, law 4: If the prophet should cancel a law that was learned from tradition or said that God commanded him with respect to a law of the Torah that the law is in accordance with a particular opinion, this prophet is a false prophet and should be killed by strangulation, even if he gave a sign that he was right. The reason is because he came to contradict the statement in the Torah “It is not in the Heavens”, but meanwhile we listen to him.
Nevertheless, since there is Divine supervision in the world, we assume that God intervenes in what happens in one way or another. It is reasonable to assume that there is help from God in the decisions of the courts and in the decisions of the sages. On the other hand, if the court erred, this error was caused by God.
Argument Various Rabbis criticized the author of the Daat Emet pamphlets, because he does not have proper respect and he uses distorted quotations; but in reality this is not so.
Answer' A. When the author of Daat Emet wants to slander, his smooth presentation cannot cover up the intention of the pamphlets. Therefore the Rabbis are correct. B. In actuality there are numerous distortions in the pamphlets, and we will point them out in our future answers. The most serious distortion (which we will already mention here) is that he ignores the fact that orthodox Jews pray three times a day, every day, in the Amidah prayer, “Return our judges as in ancient times”. It is well known that this prayer was not said to express the idea that these judges for whom we are awaiting will sit on their seats in the stone chamber and scratch their scalps and will yawn loudly. The reason we state this prayer is that since the time when the Sanhedrin was voided 2000 years ago, cracks and gaps have arisen as a result of the changes in our general knowledge and because of the new political and social conditions, and because of the long period of exile. We need a Sanhedrin to discuss anew the laws of Terefot, establish the moment of death for the purpose of organ transplants, to unite the leaders of the different groups, to eliminate discord, to establish a proper Hebrew pronunciation, to prepare a proper Jewish style of dressing, to select the right time to obtain the boundaries of Israel up to the Euphrates river, to develop methods for influencing the world to observe the 7 commandments for bnei Noach, to establish criteria for non-Jews to live in Israel, to update the calculation of the yearly calendar, and many more difficult questions that need to be answered. These Daat Emet pamphlets from the beginning until the end are only interested in listing these painful weaknesses. At least in this way they lead to a blessing (even though from a desire to prevent improvements) because they emphasize indirectly the urgent need to renew the Sanhedrin.