Response to Daat Emet Issue 3-9
- 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. 3
In general, many articles have been written concerning the knowledge by our sages of the natural sciences, such as:
A. An article by Prof. Yehudah Felix, “Seeding, early connections of Eretz Israel with natural production”, in the book “Laws of Eretz Israel from the Genizah”
B. Prof. Yehudah Levi, “Knowledge of our sages of the Natural Sciences”.
C. Collections of many important articles: 1) “Badad”, a periodical concerning Torah and science, University Bar Ilan. 2) “Torah and Science” by Organization of Religious Scientists . 3) “Tehumin”
The knowledge of our sages was on the level of the Greeks, which is much less than our present knowledge. In some subjects the sages were sometimes more advanced and sometimes less advanced than the Greeks. Nevertheless, there is frequently interesting information that surprises the reader. For example, they have stated that the pregnancy of certain snakes is very long, sometimes several years, where the female preserves the seed of the male in her body for years.
Argument The Chazon Ish and Rabbi Bloch, the head of Telz Yeshiva, attributed to the sages prophetic knowledge.
Answer It is understandable that when words are taken out of the general context that questions can be asked about the wise men of Israel. However, these leaders surely agree with the explicit statement in the Gemara that Chagai, Zecharia and Malachi were the last prophets. See Prefaces A, B and C. It is a fact that orthodox Jewish leaders tend to attribute to the wise men of Israel Heavenly guidance. Nevertheless, it is necessary to examine their words in accordance with the main ideas of their speeches.
Argument The rabbit (arnevet)and the hare (shafan) do not chew their cuds, in contrast to what is stated in Lev. 11 5.
Answer Naturally in any discussion you can ask the question: Is the Torah that was given on Mount Sinai to 600,000 men over 20 years old, not sufficiently reliable in the statements made within? This discussion is only necessary for someone who is not willing in principle to accept the statements of the Torah. The question that arises is which animals does the Torah mean? On the basis of history and zoology the identification of the rabbit (arnevet) is well known, but such is not the case for the hare (shafan). The first animals that we can check if they are the shafan , are the hare, the oryctolagus, and the lepus. The shafan which is identified as the Procovia syriaca, Hyrax and Coney grows wild in Israel. It should be noted that there are different translations for these three animals. In popular usage the names rabbit and hare are interchangeable. Apparently we know the correct identification of the Biblical arnevet. With respect to the shafan, it is possibly the rock shafan (hyrax) that is found commonly in Israel. However, it is possible that the shafan is in reality the arnevan, and possibly a different animal. It is also possible that the shafan has become extinct. This would require further clarification. We do not have evidence for identifying the shafan with the rock shafan. There is possibly evidence that the animal called the rock shafan is not the Biblical shafan. This is because the name shafan appears in the Tanach as the name of certain men (II Kings 22 3). If the shafan is really the shafan (hare) that is known to us nowadays, then it is hard to understand how a Jew would be willing to call his son by the name of an unclean fearful animal. However, we do find in later generations cases where Jewish people are called by names of unclean animals such as Aryeh (lion), Dov (bear), Zeev (wolf). However, all these animals are brave and vigorous. Also these names have a religious and national connotation. (Aryeh: tribe of Judah. Dov: lies in ambush. Zeev: tribe of Benjamin). Moreover, the Biblical persons having the name Shafan were important people, then why select the name of a fearful animal (shafan), Nevertheless, perhaps the Torah implies that the shafan is the arnovon, since the two animals are written together in one sentence (Deut. 17 3) “the arnevet and the shafan”, while the camel, which differs from them is written in a separate sentence. The sentence in Psalms 104 18 “rocks, protection for the shafan”, leads to numerous possibilities since rocks are used as protection by many animals.
The arnavim (rabbits) can be considered as chewing their cuds, but in a different way than the usual animals that chew their cuds. These animals digest their food in two stages, which is called coprophagia.(eating dung). After the first stage of digestion they let out the partly digested food through the anus directly into their mouths, and during the second stage they chew the food and complete the digestion process. If they are prevented from doing this, their health is affected, because an important part of the food which their bodies need will not be produced since each stage of their digestion process is performed differently. Their digestive process is different than that of the pig who eats any dung since he is piggish. As a result the food of the arnevet (rabbit) descends to the digestive system and is raised up again to the throat. The word for raising the cud (geirah) may possibly be derived from the word (garor) meaning to drag, or from the word (garon) meaning throat. This method of digestion involves two stages which pass the food a second time through the throat. In this respect it is similar to the cud chewing animals having split hooves and 4 stomachs. This two stage digestion process occurs also in other animals, such as the rat. Apparently other animals that eat in a similar manner fall into the biblical category of swarming creatures. It should be noted that digestion of the cud by different methods than usual with fewer stomachs, or by raising the cud externally involve by their nature undermining the reliability of the chewing of the cud as a sign of kashruth. This is perhaps the reason that the Torah designates that for unclean animals, their uncleanliness arises from the fact that they do chew the cud but they don’t have split hooves. Therefore it is surprising why the Torah designates the lack of chewing the cud as a reason for uncleanliness. However, the classical cud chewing animals bring up the food into their mouths from one of their stomachs and swallow the food again into the appropriate stomach for continuation of the digestive process. The explanation by Rashi, that the chewing of the cud involves raising of the cud inwardly, refers to the classical cases such as wild deer of all types and domesticated animals such as sheep, goats and cattle which are suitable for eating. Therefore they do not constitute a question on other types of cud chewing animals, which Daat Emet claims. If it was possible to prove that Rashi was not exacting in this point, then we can resort to the answer given in Preface A. With respect to arnevim see the book by Schmidt - Nilson, “Animal Physiology” Cambridge Univ. Press, 1977, p. 149. Also see “The animals and plants of Eretz Israel” by Azariah Alon, part 7, p. 90.
There is at present insufficient information about the rock shafan as to whether it chew its cuds. There exists the simple possibility that he gives the outward appearance of chewing his cuds. There are signs that the Hyrax actually does chew its cuds, since its dung has different characteristics in different seasons. Thus in the book, “Sichat Chulin” by Amitai ben David, p.410, it is stated that its digestive system has certain similarities to that of an animal that chews its cuds. Also see “Animals in the Mishneh”, by Yehudah Felix, p. 160; and the Torah periodical “the Voice of Torah”, Nisan 5756. The reason that Daat Emet ridicules the Torah on the assumption that the rabbit and hare do not chew their cuds, is not that they are searching for truth, but rather plain heresy. With respect to the rabbit, which is identified as the arnevet, he has failed to identify it properly, as is shown by the differences between their approach in different issues of the periodical. It should be pointed out that the Torah picks out the main animals that have the specified characteristics. For example, the camel represents also the llama and the guanaco which chew their cuds but do not have split hooves; and the pig also represents the wild boar which have split hooves and do not chew their cuds.
According to our sages fish that have scales also have fins. In general, no fish is known that has scales and does not have fins. If however such a fish should be found it indicates that the sages considered only the fish known to them in accordance with the science of their time. Also see Preface A.
Another possibility is that the shafan (hare) is considered to eat its cuds because it appears to do so. The Torah counted as cud chewing, animals that are cud chewing and those that only appear to be cud chewing. Thus the camel is cud chewing, but is not a perfect example since it only has 3 stomachs rather than the 4 stomachs of cattle, sheep and goats. The arnevet (rabbit) chews its cud externally, and does not have extra stomachs. The shafan (hare) does not chew it cuds, but appears to do so.
Argument Rabbi Shimshon Rephael erred.
Answer See Prefaces A,B,C.
Argument Ther is a logical error in the Rabbinical respnsa “Seridai Aish” (remnants of the fire).
Answer A. See Prefaces A,B,C. B. Nowadays the responsa “Seridai Aish” is considered highly. If it were possible to create by genetic engineering a modified rabbit with split hooves, then the question would arise as to whether such an animal is kosher.
Argument The duration of pregnancy for many animals, that was specified by our sages, does not correspond to the durations now known for these animals.
Answer A.Changes in environmental conditions that occurred during the years have changed the zoological conditions of life among many animals. For example, the average weight, height, and life expectancy of man are much greater than for the average person 100 years ago. Thus, the average life expectancy for man is about double, his weight is about one third greater, and his height about 15% greater. B. The estimated duration of pregnancy by our sages was not less exact than the zoological estimations that were accepted in the Greek scientific world.
Argument We should examine the existing situations before giving estimates.
Answer A. The author of Daat Emet knows that these are the words of the Rambam (Sanctification of the Month, 17 24; Moreh Nevuchim 2 8; 13 14) and the words of R. Yeshayahu Mitrani ( response 62); and the words of Ramhal, (in the book “Tevunot”). B. In every field of science there are many analyses of data based on the literature and not by examination in the field. The assumption of these analyses is that the works that appear in the writings were examined well, and need no further examination. C. The apparent assumption in the Argument is that science is searching for the truth. However, there are many scientists who were confronted with hostility by the scientific community which did not want to examine the facts if they did not fit the accepted approach. An example is the hostility towards Prof.Emanuel Velikofsky of the Hebrew University who claimed that the Torah description of the Exodus from Egypt corresponds to events that occurred on the globe in various locations. It is worthwhile to mention the scientific research performed by scientists working for the tobacco companies that found incorrectly that there was no real danger to health from smoking. Also relevant is the readiness to accept the research results involving genetic differences between the intelligence level of different races. The scientific community for reasons of humanism, democracy, equality, budgets, and customary social ideas was not willing to approve these data or to discuss these rascist ideas. In summary, science is not a pure field of thought. There are conspiracies, monetary interests, pressure groups, and even philosophical outlooks that have no real connection . The idea that scientists do not make mistakes has been refuted; there are among them that purposely err. D. According to Daat Emet it appears as if the sages of Israel tested and came to the conclusion that there are errors in the calculation of the starting and ending times of Shabbat. It is well known that there are many who are strict in accordance with Rabbenu Tam as to the time of the end of the Sabbath. The approach of being strict presents an idea which takes into account the claims of Daat Emet. This means that there is nothing new in the words of Daat Emet. E. See Prefaces A,B,C,E.
SHEET NO. 4
Argument The Jewish sages had a mistaken knowledge of astronomy.
Answer A. The knowledge of astronomy of the ancient world was what was available to the last courts of Israel. The high validity for the decisions of the Sanhedrin is the reason that changes were not made in the decisions according to the later knowledge of astronomy. There is nothing wrong in this approach by religious Jews since the Torah commands us to listen to the Sanhedrin, and anyone who does so is not liable to punishment. B. The scientific viewpoint is something that may change with time. Even nowadays there are scientific topics that were found to be in error, and there are surely more topics for which the scientific approach will be found to be imperfect. Therefore changing the last decision of the Sanhedrin on this topic needs to be weighed carefully. Such a discussion needs to be made by the new Sanhedrin that will be created soon. C. It is correct that many strict modifications have been made that take into consideration later scientific knowledge, such as the method of Rabbeinu Tam concerning the ending time of the Sabbath. D. Daat Emet itself gives a reference that indicates that there were disagreements between the Jewish leaders as to the validity of the modern science versus the validity of the early authorities.
Argument The sky is not a dome. Such a concept is complete nonsense.
Answer The sky according to modern concepts is the entire universe. We do not have a ckear picture of the structure of the entire universe. Logic tends to say that the configuration is spherical, as are the galaxies and the star clusters. There is therefore a solid basis for assuming that the sky is spherical at every location looked at by man.
Argument The sun does not pass through the sky.
Answer Daat Emet assumes that the sages thought that the sky is not the entire universe. They also assumed that the sages thought that the earth is not part of the universe. There is no evidence for these assumptions. The concept that the sun passes through the sky is not wrong. Since the sun passes through the horizon, therefore the picture of the dome of the sky will also include the globe of the earth, or then the sun is found in the thickness of the sky. Evidence that the sages believed that the sun actually passes under the earth, and therefore the dome of the sky includes the earth globe, is found in the laws of “water that was left overnight”, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 455.
Argument The times of the day and night are established by the rotation of the earth around its axis.
Answer This is the accepted aasumption. This assumption does not contradict the statements of the sages. The sages accepted the assumption that the earth rotates around its axis because they acknowledged this to the wise men of Greece (Pesahim 94:, Moreh Nevuchim part 3, Chap. 14). Daat Emet perhaps intends to claim that it is not the thickness of the sky that interferes with the light of the sun. But then the question can be asked , who said that the sages did not include the globe of the earth in the thickness of the sky when it is away from the horizon? The adherence of Rabbenu Chananel to his explanation of the words of the sages is justified from a Jewish legal viewpoint. Since there is no Sanhedrin, there is no possibility at this stage to change the previous decisions. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that during ordinary conversation people speak according to what they see and not based on known theoretical considerations. There is no defect in saying “the sun did shine”, even though what actually happened according to science is that the earth began to receive sunshine.
Argument The halachic decision by Rabbi Eliyahu made in effect all Jews transgressers of the Sabbath.
Answer Daat Emet did not learn the tractate “Horayot”(Instruction). The situation is discussed whereby all of Israel act incorrectly because of a Halachic decision by the Sanhedrin. When a Sanhedrin will be formed anew, if there should be an error, the procedure for handling the situation will be known. An error can even be with respect to idol-worship At this stage, if there is an error, then all of Israel will be considered as people forced to sin, and will therefore be free from any type of punishment.
Argument The only way to arrive at the true reality is to study, examine, experiment and observe.
Answer The sentence is vague and contradicts itself. It is possible that study will lead to a conclusion that is the opposite to that obtained by observation. Everyone who is involved with science knows that. One of the tasks of man is to build a picture of the world that takes into account the known observations in the present and in the past, such as observations concerning eclipses of the sun during the history of mankind and observations of 600,000 men over 20 years old at the time of receiving of the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai. In this manner can be built a picture of the scientific world.
SHEET NO. 5
Argument The wise men of Israel had imperfect knowledge of basic astronomy.
Answer A. Daat Emet did not at all consider the question, “What were the measurement tools of the Babylonians that enabled them to make great advances in astronomy?” To this day we do not know what these tools were. These means were good even in comparison to modern methods. The problem in establishing the exact length of the month is not limited to dividing the time between solar eclipses, but to the measurement of the time between eclipses. Even the measurement of the time of the eclipse is not a simple task. We can easily discern an eclipse, but it is very hard to be exact in determining a similar condition for different eclipses, so as to afterwards have zero error. Therefore it is very possible that the Babylonians received astronomical data from the wise men of Israel that dealt with the calculation of the months of the year for essential practical purposes way before the fifth cetury BCE. Therefore the conclusion of Daat Emet that astronomical wisdom involving calculation of the movement of the moon was developed by the Babylonians before the Israelites is not tenable. Logic tells us that the opposite is correct. What is written in the Gemarah reflects all the wisdom accumulated by the Israelites before the period of the Gemarah. It is very probable that the great exactness by the wise of Israel was obtained by prophetic means. It is a fact that we do not have a concept how the specified time was measured both by the Israelites and by the Babylonians. There were at that time no known means to make exact evaluations of time. We have found very ancient Jewish sources concerning extensive knowledge in calculating time. In the tosefta of Berochot 81 we found division of the hour into 13824 minutes (24x24x24). This is at the same time that we divide the Babylonian hour into only 1080 parts (60x18). The greater accuracy of the Jewish hour explains the tradition that the knowledge of the calculation of time was passed on from Israel to the other nations, rather than the reverse. Daat Emet itself brings in this connection the words of the Rambam in Kiddush of the Month 17 24. B. Daat Emet criticizes the wise of Israel on a topic that was extensively discussed by the wise. There is nothing new in the statement by Daat Emet . He simply repeats the discussions between the wise of Israel on this subject. C. See the Prefaces. D. Daat Emet ignores the astronomical knowledge of the sages , which seems to have been their specialty rather than the specialty of the non-Jewish astronomers. For example, the Jewish sages knew that the sun is found in a case that prevents its warmth from destroying the world (Ber. Rabbah 80 6). Has Daat Emet found such knowledge among the other nations? Similarly with respect to predictions concerning Haley’s comet (Horayot 10), and concerning dark stars which are now called black holes (Pesahim 2.). Also in the Zohar (Lev. 10) we have found information about the rotation of the earth long before Copernicus and the new period. Also in the Torah we found information that was not known to the other nations, such as the number of stars. During the time of the Babylonians and earlier, without optical measuring equipment, there were seen under good visibility conditions only about 6000 stars. This was at a time when the Torah refers to the number of stars as being enormous (Gen. 15 5; 22 17; 26 4; Ex. 32 13; Deut. 1 10; 10 22; 28 62; Neh. 9 23; I Chr, 27 23; Psalms 147 4). Daat Emet in his effort to find fault with the statements of our sages, detracts from the respect for the Jewish people, and even attempts to join with the enemies of Israel. It is no wonder that among the people from Daat Emet there are those that participate in protests by the Arabs who hate Israel in requests for taking control of our land.
Argument In the Breitah that is mentioned by Ibn Ezra there is a calculation of the month that is different from the calculations by Raban Gamliel. Therefore Raban Gamliel does not present an ancient tradition of the Jewish people.
Answer This Breitah is in accordance with the method of Shmuel. This method was not accepted halachically since it lacks 73/1080 of an hour, or 4.05555 minutes.Examination of the language of the Breitah easily shows that it uses an approximation based on rounding off the number of hours, since the Tana only designated the number of hours for the length of the month. In effect the method of Shmuel is not in error, but is a coarse estimate.
Argument The division of the hour into 1080 parts is different from other systems. This shows that our sages did not know astronomy well, since they adopted this method of calculation from the non-Jews.
Answer A. Adoption of the system used by the non-Jews for the division of the hour , is not an indication of ignorance. Is someone who nowadays gives the non-Jewish date necessarily ignorant of the Jewish date? B. There are ancient Jewish sources that show extensive knowledge in the calculation of times; calculations more exact than those used by the Babylonians. In the Toseftah of Brochot 81 we find the division of the hour into 13824 minutes. Daat Emet mentioned this fact in this pamphlet. For some reason he forgot this fact when he formulated his argument.
Argument The statement by Raban Gamliel.(Rosh Hashanah 25.) that the moon does not renew itself in less than 29.5 days, 40 minutes and 73 parts is faulty.
Answer It is not a new fact that there are errors in the text of the Gemara (See Preface C). It is as if Daat Emet has nowadays rediscovered America. The Gemara there states clearly that sometimes the moon reappears in a longer time and sometimes in a shorter time. The poskim were wary of quoting the words of the Gemara since there is no contradictory source. There is a basic rule that the words of the Gemara should be transmitted as is if there is no reliable variant source, even though the true time was well known. There is no doubt that because of the large fluctuations in the astronomical moon month there must have been testimony in front of Raban Gamliel of months shorter than the time quoted. The decision of the Mishneh Berurah does reflect this fact. Thus the quote must be exact for otherwise nothing will be left of the oral Torah. On the other hand the legal decision refers to the average time. In most cases the length of the month is not greater than 29.5 days and 793 parts.
Argument Our sages did not understand the difference between the average Moled and the true Moled.
Answer Daat Emet seized upon the formal language of the Mishneh Berurah on Shulchan Aruch section 426 in order to derive exaggerated conclusions. In his opinion the author of Mishneh Berurah came to legal decisions without knowing and understanding the passages in the Gemara. However, in the Gemara it is clearly stated that the course of the moon is not stable.
Argument Our sages received their knowledge of astronomy from the Greeks.
Answer A. What is wrong with that? This is in accordance with the principle, “Who is smart, he who learns from everybody”. Religious truth is not detached from the general worldly knowledge. Daat Emet complains that we do not learn from others (see pamphlet no. 6), but when we do learn from others he complains that this shows the inferiority of our sages. It would be proper that he frees hinself from the self hatred that has become part of him. B. See Preface B. C. See the answers to the previous arguments. D. Daat Emet believes that the Greeks acquired their astronomical wisdom from the Babylonians. How does he know that the Babylonians did not acquire their wisdom from the Jews?
SHEET NO. 6
Argument How is it that modern Torah scholars dare to study scientific books?
Answer A. The study of non-Torah wisdom books has always been a problem. From one aspect, the study of these external wisdom books is essential to the understanding of many topics in Jewish learning. On the other hand, the study of these wisdoms involves subconsciously assimilating basic concepts that have problematic outlooks, since the non-Jews who deal with these ideas have many superstitions. Moreover, the extent of these external wisdoms continues to expand and increase. The study of these wisdoms to the extent that the person will reach a high level of expertise, is likely to take up so much time that he will lose a solid connection with our Torah. For further information about this subject see the book of Prof. Lamb “Torah and Science” which presents a collection of diverse opinions on the subject. Daat Emet plays on this conflict of ideas, between those who believe that we should extensively study science and those who believe that the study of the Torah has greater advantages. There is no intention here to decide which of the two approaches is better. Nevertheless, the sages of Israel were always ready to learn other wisdoms when it was necessary to decide a legal problem. Therefore, the question of Daat Emet concerning the study of outside studies either involves false pretentions or involves biased opinions.
Argument The wise men of later generations invented the term “The Rav Ada Cycle”. A simple proof that this term is a later invention is that it is not found in the Gemara.
Answer The intercalation of the year, whereby an extra month is added, indicates to the nations our wisdom and understanding. This approach involves the ancient concept of “the secret of the intercalation”. Since this approach was designed to be secret, there is no wonder that it wasn’t written down in the Gemara. Our wisdom is that we created a successful systematic calendar that combines nicely the various movements of the sun, the moon and the earth, the three heavenly bodies that are basic to the life of man on the earth, and act independently, and we combined them together into a long term mathematical astronomical framework . No other nation was able to do so .
Argument There is great confusion in the words of the sages and the Posekim who came afterwards, with respect to fixing the times according to the halacha.
Answer If the sages were only involved with the investigation and development of astronomical concepts then there would be reason for the above criticism. The problem is that all the astronomical knowledge had to be converted to practical applications, such as the calendar so that the laws would fit into the astronomical framework. However, since we are dealing with two very different disciplines, any solution will be subject to criticism. Daat Emet forgot much of its learning. Very many laws are established not in accordance with the actual situation but rather according to the consciousness of man. Such is the case concerning purity and impurity, and concerning numerous other laws. Exactness applies mainly to the investigation of the fundamental particles of matter. In contrast, the blessing of the sun which has been done during our long and bitter period of exile in accordance with approximate legal criteria, is not a defective blessing. .We may assume that when the time comes this subject will be reevaluated.
Argument We celebrate the Passover holiday not in the correct halachic time.
Answer Rabbi Dr. Yonah Martzbach, who was the head of Yeshiva Kol Torah and a mathematician, dealt in depth with the Hebrew calendar .He proved in a well written article that a deviation of up to 44 days is not a significant deviation from the legal term “the spring month” as mentioned in the Torah. The fact that we are now reaching the twilight zone of the laws concerning sanctification of the month teaches us that the court of Beth Hillel the second, who established the calendar, earned by his actions heavenly inspiration in his forseeing the wide range of the long and bitter period of exile which will be terminated soon.
SHEET NO. 7
Preface: Regarding the menstruating woman (nidah). Impurity is not a topic that falls within the realm of scientific investigation. Impurity is a negative spiritual evaluation. There is no connection between purity or impurity with filth and cleanliness. It is possible to have impurity under clean, pure and sterile conditions, and to have purity under conditions of mud and filth.
Argument The term “menstruation” (nidah) means estrangement and humiliation.
Answer A. It is correct that the term nidah implies estrangement, but it does not indicate humiliation. It expresses the idea accepted nowadays in hospitals towards patients suffering contagious diseases, of placing them in isolation. Just as isolation does not indicate humiliation, so the term nidah does not mean humiliation. B. The word nidah is apparently derived from the word nad (wandering). It implies that the woman wanders from her permanent home that she shares with her husband. It does not imply humiliation. C. In the Torah, which is the primary source for the laws regarding a mestruating woman, the term nidah is not used, but rather the word davah which means a sick woman.,
Argument The separation of a loving couple when the woman is menstruating is a bad edict.
Answer A. The criticism of this edict is based only on the barren thoughts of Daat Emet. Daat Emet believes that a continuous bond between the couple increases their love for each other. No research studies exist to substantiate this argument, which is based only on the intuition of Daat Emet. B. The Torah holds the opposite, namely that periodical separation between the husband and wife improves the relationship between them. The bond between the couple depends very much on the tension that arises between them. This tension involves one of the most basic drives of the human being, the sexual drive. As for every drive, the satisfying of it and its excessive availability removes its good taste. A child who likes to lick ice-cream will despise it if he obtains an unlimited amount. The same applies to the human drives. There are many research results that support this idea. C. An actual case that contradicts the argument of Daat Emet involves the editor of these pamphlets who divorced his wife after all the members of his family became non-religious.
Argument The menstrual blood is regular blood, such as the blood that comes from the nose or stomach.
Answer A. The menstrual blood does come from the general blood circulation system just as any blood that comes from a wound. However, blood that comes from the womb, in particular during the monthly period, is connected with the hormonal discharges that occur in the womb. It is accompanied with the drainage of the remnants of the internal tissues of the womb and the mucus from the glands in the womb. We have a tradition that our sages in their time knew to distinguish between menstrual blood and other blood, even though they came from the same circulatory system. Nowadays our tradition has lost the methods to distinguish between these bloods. B. There are many good reasons to believe that the menstrual blood and the womans impurity during her menstrual period can cause health problems, while observance of the family purity laws is good for health. A comparison of the Jewish women population 80 years ago at a time when they all observed the family purity laws with the women from other nations proves that the Jewish women had significantly less incidence of cancer of the uterus. C. The danger of infection from sexual relations during the menstrual period has been known for a long time. D. The observance of the family purity laws is not done by religious Jews for reasons of psychology, hygiene, and health, but because we were so commanded by the Torah.
Argument Our sages had false beliefs about the damages that arise from menstrual blood.
Answer This belief is not a false belief. It appears in scientific journals. See Prof. David J. Macht, “A Pharmacological Study of Menstrual Toxin”, Journal of Pharmacological and Experimental Therapeutics, Vol. 22, 1924
Argument The claim that “blood has become turbid and has turned into milk” is a false claim.
Answer This claim is not nonsense. The mockery is the nonsense. Apparently there is here an attempt to deceive the readers of the Daat Emet pamphlets. The source of mother’s milk is from the blood circulation system which supplies the nutrients for the production of mother’s milk. It is clear that some of the liquids in the blood become milk. There is no other liquid source that can provide nutrients for this process.
Argument The Rambam did not know the physiology of the menstrual period.
Answer A. See Preface A. The understanding by the Rambam of menstruation does not change the laws that were specified on this topic in the Torah. B. The criticism by Daat Emet is based on the modern names of various concepts versus the names during the times of the Rambam and our sages. See below.
Argument Our sages erred when they stated that if the woman seeds first she gives birth to a boy, and if the man seeds first she gives birth to a girl (Nidah 28.), since it is the chromosomes that determine the sex of the baby.
Answer A. This topic is mentioned in the discussion at the end of the Gemara Nidah. One opinion is that prayer helps. A similar discussion has occurred between scientists that tried to investigate the topic. Some of them claimed that the time of ovulation is the determining factor, and others claimed that it has no effect. B. The statement that only the chromosomes determine the sex of the baby is not correct. It is suspected that the sex is determined by many other important factors such as: 1) The differences in the speed of the sperm cells . 2) The functional influence of the environment in which the sperm cells are found. 3) The stability of the sperm cells in the various environments. 4) The life duration of the sperm cells. 5) The size of the sperm cells. 6) The time of ovulation relative to the time of fertilization. 7) The quantity and condition of the sperm. 8) The fertilization capability of the sperm cells. 9) Other unknown factors. See L.B. Shettles and D.M. Rorvik, “How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby”, 1989, pp. 62-99. C. I remember reading that fighter pilots have more girls than boys. D. There is clear circumstantial evidence that besides the chromosomes there are other factors that influence the sex of the baby. It is known that the sex cells of the male are produced by the division of the cells at the moment before the fertilization. This division is not a regular division, but rather is sexual. Thus, half the sex cells carry the x gene ahich determines that the baby will be female, and half carry the y gene which determines that the baby will be male. Therefore half of these cells will produce males and half will produce females. However, slightly more than half the newborns are male. Some statistics show that there are about 5% more boys born than girls, but the number of aborted fetuses is greater among boys than girls. Without a doubt there are many other factors that influence the sex of the baby in contrast to the artificial confidence by Daat Emet.
Argument There is confusion and misunderstanding by our sages concerning the structure of the womb and the laws of impurity of the menstrurating woman.
Answer A. See Prefaces A,B,C. B. See the articles: 1) Dr. Mordechai Halperin, On the meaning of the womb by our sages, “Asia”, Vols. 61-62, pp 105-109. 2) Prof. Yehudah Levi, Proverbs by our wise leaders about the woman, “Asia”, Vols. 63-64, pp 169-176.
Argument Our sages had superstitions about magi and magicians, and attributed such qualities to menstruating women.
Answer It is true that there were some of the wise men of Israel that did not believe in magic, but most of them believed that there was something real in it. Daat Emet did not investigate if magi and magicians have any influence on the world. The words that they wrote are within the accepted beliefs nowadays among enlightened people. It can be assumed that Daat Emet knew that supernatural powers were not only believed by our sages but also by most of the nations of the world from ancient times until nowadays. Parapsychology is under investigation nowadays at respectable universities because many phenomena in this field were foreseen without the ability to explain them except by a transcendental approach. Parapsychology is a topic that is considered worthy of investigation. Even top scientists deal with this topic, and there is much literature on the subject. If Daat Emet had relied on scientific studies that refute superstition, then we could have taken their criticism seriously. It is known that we do not know all the forces that act in this world.
Argument The Zohar claims (as quoted by Rabbi O. Yosef) that the holiness of God is absent where a Nidah is present. Therefore the holiness of God does not fill the world.
Answer A. Daat Emet did not learn to distinguish between the holiness of God and the place where he resides. The presence of God is on a higher level than the the holiness of God. B. There are those Poskim that do not agree with Rabbi O. Yosef. C. The mockery by Daat Emet arises from lack of belief in the concepts of purity and impurity. D. The source of information is not the Zohar, but rather Deut 23 15, “Let Him not find anything unseemly among you and turn away from you”.
Argument The blood seen by a baby girl makes her impure. Therefore the impurity is not connected to the monthly cycle.
Answer Daat Emet assumes the desired conclusion in order to criticize. The impurity of the menstruating woman is not connected to the monthly cycle but rather to menstruation, even if it does not occur periodically. Thus an elderly woman who menstruates after menopause, or a young girl who menstruates for the first time, is impure. It should be noted that a baby girl that sees blood is an existing pathological hormonal phenomenon.
Argument A woman who aborts a baby that resembles an alligator or some other weird appearance, such as mentioned in the Gemara, is complete nonsense.
Answer Apparently Daat Emet never visited medical schools to see embryos that were aborted (mainly pathological cases), that are preserved in formalin. The images that exist are beyond any imagination. It should be noted that the development process of the human embryo passes through a series of images that resemble animals of different levels of perfection. It is hard to differentiate between a human embryo and the embryo of other mammals, and even reptiles, in their first stages of pregnancy.
Argument Rabbi Vazner does not understand the process of pregnancy.
Answer See Preface A. Even if he apparently does not understand the subject, his lack of understanding does not affect the laws of menstruation. Does anyone know a person who understands all the situations in his environment?
Argument Man has developed the religious laws, and possibly produced distorted laws because of the troubles of the exile.
Answer It is correct that the religious laws have been produced by man. However, the sources that have been quoted by Daat Emet refer to dicussions for establishing the laws where there is disagreement because of the troubles of the exile. He does not give any evidence that the traditional sources have been distorted. These discussions do not refer to clear Biblical laws. The fact that there are distortions in the tradition, and as a result a serious discussion was made to restore the laws, teaches us that we should have confidence in the traditional process since it was done in a responsible manner and under public criticism. A large part of the Gemara deals with the clarification of distorted truths. Even if a distortion has occurred , we will observe the Torah since the Torah was not given to angels but rather to human beings who do their best to be true to the original source. God does not complain about this to His people. In contrast, He gave us the full authority to develop the laws, and what the wise leaders of Israel decide is what we are required to do. See Prefaces A,B.
SHEET NO. 8
Preface: The people of Israel are more important than the Torah and any other item. (Based on many references). The importance of the Torah, its content, its version, and the version of the Talmud is the concern of the people of Israel. They are the absolute possessors of the Torah. God accepts the interpretation of the Torah as explained by the religious Jews as binding. This includes the written Torah and the oral Torah (the Talmud) which express the thoughts of the Jewish nation. The arguments of Daat Emet cannot cancel these basic principles. Their arguments that the Talmud has the authority to decide on the validity of the written Torah, are not legitimate arguments. The written Torah does not have meaning, validity and reliability without the accompanying explanations by the oral Torah (the Talmud). There is no possibility without the oral Torah to know the explanation of many words of the Torah (such as Totafot - phylacteries), to understand which are the four species to be used on Succot, and to know the types of work that are forbidden to be done on the Sabbath.
Argument The oral Torah (the Talmud) has been developed by man.
Answer To a certain extent this statement is correct. However, our nation received at Sinai additional information which was beyond the scientific knowledge prevalent at the time of the giving of the Torah. It is not possible that the words that were written then were given without explanation. They also received additional information from Mount Sinai, such as the laws concerning intervening objects and partitions, laws of Tefillin and the methods to make them.
Argument Our sages of each generation adjusted the truth of the Torah to the science at the time.
Answer This is the characteristic of every scientific approach. When there is a disagreement between various scientific results, science searches for a functional theory that will explain the data.
Argument The laws of Trafote (non-kosher) have not been updated.
Answer This is possible, but it is not terrible. What is important to God is that we follow the decisions of the wise of Israel.
Argument Modern medicine claims that a person will die if his foot is amputated above the knee joint. This indicates that the wise of Israel were mistaken with respect to their decision for an animal.
Answer The drug administration of every advanced country of the world prohibits the marketing of medicines that were found to be beneficial for animals but had not as yet been shown that they were appropriate for human beings. This is because there are differences in nature between humans and animals. Daat Emet is mistaken in that he assumes that the medical characteristics are the same for animals and humans.
Argument Modifications have occurred in the law for a person whose leg was amputated above the knee joint, and modifications in the law have been made with respect to a baby born in the eighth month, that you may carry him on the Sabbath.
Answer The modifications are not in the law but rather in the changed reality. The law has always been decided based on the position of the item in accordance with its status. In the case of a baby born in the eighth month, he used to be cosidered as being dead. However, nowadays he is considered to be alive. The law changed in accordance with the changed situation. The present law would have been followed even by the Talmud if the baby had been in the status of a living being. Daat Emet mocks at the answer on this subject that was before him, and probably did not understand the topic.
Argument Most of the laws that have been decided in the Talmud, were based on the thoughts of the wise men, and are therefore the words of humans.
Answer In principle there is no disadvantage, but rather an advantage, in that the laws were formulated by humans. There are two acceptable approaches to this topic, both of which are based on the written and oral Torah, and both of which supplement each other. The first approach claims that all laws can be learned by our wise leaders according to the principles of interpretation of the written Torah (Baale Tosefot). The second approach claims that all laws are based on a tradition going back to the time of receipt of the Torah in Sinai (Ramban and Rambam). Both approaches in effect attribute the laws to the revelation at Sinai.
Argument The 13 rules for expounding the Torah are oral enactments, namely a human innovation.
Answer The rules for expounding the Torah are a topic that has been discussed by the wise men of Israel. There are those that believed that you need to use only 7 rules. Some of the rules, such as “inference from minor to major” and “analogy” are derived from the Torah itself. The lack of a tradition for the sources from which the wise learned each rule does not prove that the rules were not learned from the Torah by logical analysis. Nevertheless, we have in addition a tradition that they were received orally at Sinai. However, even if our sages established these rules independently based on research and evaluation, they are considered to be sanctified.
Argument There is no logic in the 13 rules for expounding the Torah.
Answer Why do you say that there is no logic in these rules. You do not give any examples. If there was an example, Daat Emet would surely have mentioned it. Logic is an axiomatic concept. The authors of Daat Emet should learn logic, and in particular mathematical logic, so that they will reconsider their thinking.
Argument Rabbi Yose ben Tadai proved by inference from minor to major that there is a contradiction in the Torah.
Answer Such an inference from minor to major is constructed in a defective manner. It is possible to bring many such inferences that will contradict statements of the Torah. The inference from minor to major of Rabbi Yose ben Tadai contradicts a previous law from the Torah for which we know the law. Therefore it is invalid from the start. Derivation by inference has value only if it establishes a new law about something that is not mentioned in the Torah. The inference by Rabbi Yose ben Tadai was refuted by Rabban Gamliel, so that Rabbi Yose would relearn how to interpret the Torah.
Argument The sages often made a futile claim that their words were oral laws received at Sinai.
Answer A. Daat Emet apparently assumes that the Creator of the world could not foresee the future and act accordingly. The Torah gave the wise men of Israel the authority to establish regulations and to interpret the Torah. If Daat Emet did not make such an assumption, then there would be no room for his argument. He simply assumes the result that he is claiming. B. See Preface C.
Argument Our sages established the law based on their own logical arguments and not on Divine inspiration.
Answer A. Logical arguments are better than Divine inspiration since a wise man is superior to a prophet (Baba Bathra 12.). Therefore the objection by Daat Emet is the objection of an ignorant person. This has happened to him from the time he stopped learning Torah from a religious outlook. B. Daat Emet has not proved that the laws were derived by logic rather than from Divine inspiration.
SHEET NO. 9
Argument The Torah was not preserved for us in its original form. The Talmud states (Sanhedrin 21:), “Mr. Zutra said, and some say Mr. Okva, at first the Torah was given in the Hebrew script and in the holy language, and later at the time of Ezra in the Assyrian script and the Aramaic language”. It is not known to us that the Torah was again given in the holy language, and surely Ezra made changes while preparimg the translation.
Answer A. The translation of the Torah into Aramaic and the copying of the Torah using Assyrian script was essential at that generation since Aramaic was the language of the people. Even nowadays all the holy writings including the Talmud have been translated into many languages out of necessity to spread the knowledge of the Torah. Many texts are entirely translated and also written in Latin, Russian letters etc. according to their Hebrew pronunciation. The same happened in the past. Can we understand from here that the authentic sources that we have in our language are lost? Do we therefore need to translate these translations back into the holy language? It is not clear what brings Daat Emet to make such a claim that this happened in the past to the Torah. He simply has in his head the assumption that the Torah was lost during the translations. B. If the translation was distorted it would have been known immediately . Was there a shortage of people who knew both languages at those times?
Argument The script of the Torah was changed, and the sages fabricated from their hearts traditions from the revelation at Sinai, such as the cycle of Rabbi Ada.
Answer A. Whoever does not believe in the possibility that the Torah was received at Sinai reaches these incorrect conclusions. This is unfortunate. B. There is no connection between the changing of the script of the Torah and the fabrication of traditions. C. See the answer to Sheet 6 with respect to the cycle of Rabbi Ada.
Argument The middle of the sentences, words and letters of the Torah are not in accord with what is stated in the book of Leviticus. This indicates that much text of the Torah was lost.
Answer A. In general, the counting of the letters, words and sentences of the Torah is a very hard task. It is quite possible that a mistake was made in the counting. See Preface A. Therefore there is no proof from the ancient counting that there is an error in the text of the Torah. Counts that were made during the different generations arrived at different results. B. Let us consider written articles that attempt to solve the mystery of the counting of letters, words and sentences. (See the periodical Moriah, Elul 5758; and see Shmatin 43, Tamuz 5735). The explanation given is that the counting refers to letters, words and sentences that are unusual, and not to regular text. We did not check out all the details by doing the counting ourselves. We would not be surprised if also in these counts there are mistakes , since there are different traditions concerning the number of large or small letters. It is known that problems occurred in the number of letters in the Torah already at the time of the Tanaim, and they themselves knew that they were not familiar with the exact spelling of many words, whether they were spelled deficiently or with excess letters. The accepted count nowadays is not the only count. For example, the midpoint of the number of sentences in the Torah is given in Tractate Soferim as Lev. 8 15, while other sources give the midpoint as Lev. 8 8. C. It is puzzling why Daat Emet only asks about the numbers for the midpoints of the letters, words and sentences of the Torah. A greater problem exists with the total number of letters in the Torah. We have a well known tradition, whuch is mentioned in many references, that there are 600,000 letters in the Torah. However, the actual count is only about 300,000. This is a much greater deviation, which Daat Emet does not bring to our attention. It is clear that if he would ask about this number, he could not claim that half the text of the Torah disappeared. Instead it would show that the counting of letters of the Torah is not a simple straight forward matter.
It is clear that we do not know nowadays how to correctly count the letters of the Torah. The letter ç for example is written as 2 letters æ attached to each other. Also there are problems with respect to the counting of words. Some words may be considered as 2 words connected together. Similarly, for counting sentences. Nearly every sentence may be considered as a composite of two half sentences.
Prof. Eli Martzbach of Bar Ilan University proposed that the statement that ãøù ãøù (darosh darosh) is the middle of the Torah in words (Lev. 10 16), really means the middle of the number of cases where two identical words are written one after the other. Thus, as another example of double words, Noah Noah is written in Gen. 6 9. There are a total of 89 cases of such double words in the Torah, and the case of darosh darosh is the 45th, which is exactly the middle case.
Similarly the statement that the large letter vav å in the word Gachon âçåï is the middle of the Torah in letters (Lev. 11 42) really means the middle of the number of cases where large or small letters are written. There are 17 such cases of large and small letters, and the vav in Gachon should be the 9th.
In summary, it is more reasonable to accept the evaluation of the wise men of Israel that there are errors in the counting of the number of letters, words and sentences because of the great difficulty in performing an accurate count, than to assume that much of the text of the Torah has been lost. In contrast, it is unreasonable to assume that much of the text of the Torah has been lost, because the text was learned diligently and was read in public, and therefore was constantly being reviewed by the people. In addition, because we believe that the Creator of the world supervises what happens, there is a solid basis for assuming that God would not allow his teachings that he revealed to the Jewish people in Sinai, to become distorted during the many troubled years that have passed.
Another possibility is that the counting of the midpoints was done correctly, but its meaning was not understood properly. The midpoints of the number of letters and words can be explained as referring to special cases and not to the total number of letters and words.
Argument The printings of the Torah by Daniel Bomberg must have had many errors because he converted afterwards to Christianity.
Answer Daniel Bomberg was a Christian from birth, but he did work with the apostate Felix Pratensis, and with the Jew Jacob ben Hayyim who later did convert. A. The works by Daniel Bomberg are not invalidated because one or more of his main wokers later converted, just as the prayers of a Minyan (10 adult male Jews) are not invalidated if one of them later converts. B. We accept the truth from whoever tells it. Daniel with his helpers did very excellent work. C. The printings of the Torah and other Jewish works under the supervision of Daniel Bomberg underwent the discerning eyes of thousands of Jews, and no fundamental flaw was found.
Argument The holiness of the version of the Torah is based on human acceptance.
Answer What is wrong with that? This is the acceptance of the Torah by the holy people of Israel, and therefore the Torah is holy. Does Daat Emet have a serious idea as to how any culture can have meaning without the presence of people who will carry on the culture in their minds and hearts?
Argument The Torah was not preserved by us in its original form, since in II Kings 22 8 is written that a book of the Torah was found and its contents were not previously known.
Answer How is it possible that the traditional culture of the people of Israel which existed until that generation all of a sudden disappeared? It is as if you claim that all the generations until the time of King Josiah lost all their cultural knowledge until the book of the Torah was found which saved the situation. The solution to the problem is simple. The passage in II Kings refers to the finding of the book of the Torah that Moshe himself wrote. Even nowadays if we would find a fundamental manuscript of a well known book that was written by a reliable person, we would be extremely happy if we could compare it to the versions available, to try to obtain a more exact picture of the language of the text. Every vowel and every letter in such a book would be important to us. It would be wonderful if we had an ancient book of the Torah such as the one found at the time of King Josiah according to which we could decide between variations of words in the Torah. In II Chronicles 34 14-15 it is stated clearly that the book was written by Moshe. According to our sages the book was open to the reproof section, which was why the King and the people took the contents of the book seriously.