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2016-05-26T00:00:00.000Z

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Wrong Moshe Meiselman?

Moshe Meiselman

Rabbi

Gedolim

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Gedolim

Background Information

Employment History

Yeshiva Rabbi

The Rosh Group Inc

Director of Academic Programs

Yeshiva University , Los Angeles

Web References (81 Total References)


Rationalist Judaism

www.rationalistjudaism.com [cached]

The other interesting thing is when someone asked Rabbi Menken about Rabbi Meiselman completely misrepresenting Rav Soloveitchik's statements in The Emergence of Ethical Man, which I showed to be completely clear in black and white.

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Rabbi Menken first responds with an uncivil insult that I am "not a rational actor" and thus not to be trusted (despite the fact that the distortion is completely visible for everyone to see), and then says that it is easy to contact Rabbi Meiselman to find out the explanation.
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This is hardly a satisfactory response from someone who has praised Rabbi Meiselman's book to the heavens, claiming that Rabbi Meiselman accurately presents the view of Rav Soloveitchik!
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Rabbi Meiselman provides nothing other than a weak argument that I refuted in the previous post. Furthermore, as I pointed out in the previous post, the other Rishonim clearly did not understand the Gemara that way. Rabbi Menken does not respond to my pointing out that he and Rabbi Meiselman are (yet again) categorically dismissing Tosafos and all the other Rishonim and Acharonim. And nor, of course, has he responded to anything else in my critique of his review.
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Yesterday's post about Rabbi Yaakov Menken's adulation of Rabbi Moshe Meiselman's appallingly dishonest Torah, Chazal and Science, despite being written in a hurry while waiting in Johannesburg Airport, was astonishingly popular, having already been read over five thousand times in the last 24 hours!
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He is shifting responsibility away from himself and Rabbi Meiselman and instead onto Rambam.
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Rabbi Meiselman presents a highly speculative argument to this end: "This seems to imply that if Pi were rational there would be no justification for instituting a legal approximation rather than the appropriate fraction.
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In this forum, I've been steadily working through the web of obfuscations, convoluted arguments, inexcusable omissions, and downright distortions that is Rabbi Moshe Meiselman's Torah, Chazal and Science.
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(which coincidentally has Rabbi Meiselman on the editorial board)
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Besides, you don't even need to be a talmid of Rav Soloveitchik to know that Rabbi Meiselman grossly distorts his teachings - you just need to be able to read. The most egregious example of Rabbi Meiselman distorting Rav Soloveitchik's teachings in this area is when he quotes the Rav as saying that evolution and the Bible have long been recognized as being at odds - without revealing that one paragraph later, the Rav explains that this is a thoroughly mistaken approach! Such brazen dishonesty is, unfortunately, rampant throughout Rabbi Meiselman's book.
Chazal and Science
Rabbi Menken describes Rabbi Meiselman as showing that the only sources indicating the fallibility of Chazal are Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam, and those who lived after the scientific revolution and were unsettled by it.
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Rabbi Meiselman has an extremely muddled discussion of this topic, in which he eventually is forced to concede that most Rishonim do understand this Gemara to mean that the Sages of Israel were wrong, but he claims that these sages did not derive this position from the Torah. Yet the same view is presented by Chazal in Bava Basra and Bereishis Rabbah where it is connected to pesukim! Elsewhere, Rabbi Meiselman claims that these sages of Israel were not Torah scholars, which is likewise refuted by the Gemara in Bava Basra and Bereishis Rabbah. Furthermore, if Chazal could mistakenly believe that the sun goes behind the sky at night, why could they not also mistakenly believe things that were universal belief for much longer, such as spontaneous generation?! Rabbi Menken claims that Rabbi Meiselman is following the consensus of Rishonim with his work, but in fact he is going directly against the consensus of Rishonim.
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Rabbi Meiselman makes reference to several scholars of Maimonidean manuscripts that he consulted with regarding aspects of this discussion, and when I contacted them, none of them knew anything about his argument, and it seems that he was not interested in asking their opinion.
The "Unsophisticated" Rav Hirsch
Rabbi Meiselman dismisses the views of more recent rabbinic scholars who noted that Chazal were fallible in scientific matters. He claims that they "were generally not trained in science" and therefore said Chazal were wrong, and "had the scholars been more sophisticated in scientific matters they might have felt less intimidated. But what on earth does training in science have to do with anything?! When scholars such as Rav Hirsch, Rav Glasner and Rav Herzog observed that Chazal mistakenly believed in spontaneous generation, they just honestly accepted that Chazal's words meant what all the Rishonim and Acharonim and common sense says that they mean, without contriving a forced reinterpretation of Chazal's words that goes against all sense and tradition. It is simply a red herring to say that "had the scholars been more sophisticated in scientific matters" they would have said otherwise. (On the other hand, it is entirely accurate to say that had the Gedolim and Rabbi Meiselman been more sophisticated in scientific matters, they would not have rejected the evidence for the antiquity of the universe!)
Rabbi Menken also helpfully drew my attention to another distortion that Rabbi Meiselman commits.
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But you wouldn't know from Rabbi Meiselman's book that Rav Hirsch says this, because Rabbi Meiselman never once quotes Rav Hirsch's writings on these topics, even though they are the most thorough pre-20th century treatment of these topics.
Rabbi Meiselman is perfectly entitled to adopt the view that Chazal were infallible in their definitive statements about the natural world.
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Rabbi Meiselman has no problem dismissing hundreds of scientific statements made by the Rishonim and Acharonim; he does not see it as impugning their integrity. There is no reason why Chazal should be any different.
The Age of the Universe
Rabbi Menken claims that Rabbi Meiselman is a Rosh Yeshiva with a "clear understanding of modern science. I'm not sure on what basis Rabbi Menken, a computer scientist, is able to endorse Rabbi Meiselman in this way. Rabbi Menken makes an astonishing claim regarding Rabbi Meiselman's approach to Creation and the Flood: "In each case, he shows how the Biblical passage may be understood while neither discarding its plain meaning nor rejecting facts known to scientists. Likewise, Rabbi Menken later writes that Rabbi Meiselman succeeds in explaining Genesis "without compromising science. Well, just about every scientist in the world (of those in the relevant fields, and lacking a religious agenda) would find that laughable.
Rabbi Meiselman claims that every single field of science dealing with matters pre-dating the Deluge is fundamentally invalid. He claims that they are all based on an incorrect assumption that the laws of nature have never been different. In fact, Rabbi Meiselman is ignorant of the very basis of the fields of science which deal with that period. The constancy of nature was not an assumption for them - it was a conclusion, first drawn by William Smith, who observed that the geological layers show an orderly, uniform pattern, not the chaotic mess that the religious Christians of the time expected, as the result of their belief (along with Rabbi Meiselman) in the miraculous and non-naturalistic creation of the world.
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Geology works, precisely because the world did develop according to an orderly, naturalistic process, and not the supernatural, entirely different process from today that Rabbi Meiselman insists upon.
And let us not forget that it is not only with regarding to creation and the flood that Rabbi Meiselman discards science. There are many statements in the Gemara that are at odds with modern science, which Rabbi Meiselman simply ignores, probably because he has no way of satisfactorily dealing with them.
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Later, Rabbi Menken states that Rabbi Meiselman "...has defended the honor... of our Chachomim, shlita, in our times."
Now, this blew me away. After all, Rabbi Meiselman presents positions and statements that the vast majority of the Gedolim would find to be every bit as heretical as my own. For example, there are numerous passages in the Gemara and Midrash which discuss various cases of spontaneous generation, according to the unequivocal consensus of all the Rishonim and Acharonim. Yet Rabbi Meiselman comes along and insists that all these Rishonim and Acharonim did not know how to learn these passages, and innovates a new explanation of them.
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Rabbi Meiselman is certainly not explaining the view of the Gedolim who banned my books; he is simply taking a different anti-rationalist view that these Gedolim would likewise deem heretical. Why, then, does Rabbi Menken see them a


TJF The Search for Truth - Scholar Biographies

www.thejewishforum.org [cached]

Rabbi Aharon Feldman and Rabbi Shlomo Miller wrote articles in defense of the ban, and Rabbi Moshe Meiselman gave three lectures on this topic at Toras Moshe.

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Rabbi Meiselman requested that Rabbi Slifkin remove the lectures from his website, a request to which Slifkin did not acquiesce.


Yesodei HaTorah

www.yesodei.org [cached]

A graduate of the University of Chicago, Rabbi Simkovich received his semicha under the direction of Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, and also studied under Rabbi Yisrael Gustman zt"l, Rabbi Dr. Yizchak Twesky zt"l, and Rabbi Chaim Zimerman zt"l.


Stern Hebrew High School, Philadelphia, PA

www.sternhhs.org [cached]

In the United States, Rabbi Simkovich was a member of the Kollel at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles, and under the direction of the Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Moshe Meiselman received his Smicha in 1982.


Yesterday's post about Rabbi Yaakov ...

www.rationalistjudaism.com [cached]

Yesterday's post about Rabbi Yaakov Menken's adulation of Rabbi Moshe Meiselman's appallingly dishonest Torah, Chazal and Science, despite being written in a hurry while waiting in Johannesburg Airport, was astonishingly popular, having already been read over five thousand times in the last 24 hours!

...
He is shifting responsibility away from himself and Rabbi Meiselman and instead onto Rambam.
...
Rabbi Meiselman presents a highly speculative argument to this end: "This seems to imply that if Pi were rational there would be no justification for instituting a legal approximation rather than the appropriate fraction.

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