Chazal and science

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  • This topic has 25 replies, 14 voices, and was last updated 11 years ago by Sam2.
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  • #605201
    simcha613
    Participant

    I know this topic has been addressed many times but there is one question that bothers me that I haven’t seen an answer to: If you say Chazal did not rely on the scientists of their time, but they possessed this perfect knowledge of science, where did they get their scientific knowledge from? The only answers I have heard to this question is either they had some sort of Mesorah from Har Sinai, or they were able to somehow extract this information from the Torah. If that’s the case, then I have the following question:

    Throughout the Mishnah and Gemara there are many arguments about halachah… about the Torah itself. Most arguments came about because the Mesorah was lost because of different factors (like wars and exile) and there was an argument on what the Mesorah is, or there is a new situation and there is an argument on how to properly extract the information from the Torah and apply it to new situations. What we see from this, is that with regard to Torah topics, either the Mesorah was a bit weak and/or there is a possibility that Chazal can make mistakes when applying the Torah to new situations (which is why they argue about it).

    Why do we assume their knowledge of science is more perfect then their knowledge of Torah? If the Mesorah broke down somewhat in the world of Torah, then maybe the Mesorah broke down in the world of science too? If it’s possible that mistakes can be made in applying Torah knowledge to modern situations, maybe mistakes can be made in applying Torah knowledge to science? If Chazal had a perfect knowledge of science either because they had a Mesorah or because they got it from the Torah, why does it seem that they have more expertise in the world of science than in the world of Torah?

    #923825
    bubka
    Participant

    The Rema in Toras HaOlah (1:2) states clearly that we assume rabbinic science to be infallible, and ancient rabbinic knowledge of astronomy complete.

    Medrash Tehillim (19) quotes Shmuel as saying he is an expert in the streets of Nehardea as much as he is an expert in the ‘streets’ of the heavens. The Medrash asks how Shmuel knew all of that, and it answers he knew it all through the Torah.

    Rabbeinu Bachyai writes in the Introduction to Chumash that all wisdom and science in existence is contained in Torah.

    The Chosid Yaavatz (Ohr Hachaim) says that Chazal knew science form a Mesroah that goes back all the way to the Neviim, who knew it from Hashem, without any effort at all.

    Chasam Sofer (Beshalach) writes that this is the meaning of the posuk “Ki hi chachmascha ubinascha l’einei ha’amim” – Chazal were great experts in the secular sciences and disciplines. In fact, you need to know much secular knowledge in many areas in order to properly understand the Torah – and he gives several simple examples. However, since we are supposed to be busy learning Torah – not secular science – all day and night, and Hashem has no “nachas ruach” from us learning secular studies at all, how would Chazal have known all the secular wisdom that they clearly knew, as we see they did from all of Shas?

    Answer: They know it from the Torah, since the entire body of secular wisdom is included in the Torah, for the Torah is the blueprint of the world. And so, when the Goyim see that we do not study the secular science books at all – and we even disagree with them! – yet we derive all the secular knowledge, in the most precisely accurate form – from only the Sefer Torah, they will exclaim, “Am chacham v’navon hagoy hagadol hazeh!” (A similar explanation is given by the Raavad-ibn Daud. He says that the posuk refers to the philosophical truths that it took the nations centuries to develop, we knew all the time via tradition from Har Sinai.)

    Once we establish that the scientific knowledge that is incorporated into Torah Shebal Peh is derived form the Torah, it has the same status as all of Chazal’s interpretaitons of the Torah — they are binding.

    The Radvaz (4:232) writes that “Aggadah is part of the Torah shebal peh and is rooted in what Moshe received on Har Sinai directly from Hashem, just like the rest of Torah shebal peh”.

    Chasam Sofer — Please see the Chasam Sofer in Beshalach I quoted above. He says the same thing in Drashos Chasam Sofer Vol. 1 p.100b. Our prophets and sages know all the sciences much better than the scientists even though all they learn is Torah. This is because the One Who created nature informs our sages of the correct facts. This is what amazes the Nations, as it says, Am navon v’chacham hagoy hagodol hazeh!

    #923826
    zvei dinim
    Participant

    I don’t think anyone (carrying real weight) says they had a perfect knowledge of science. That would mean there’s nothing you don’t know even the price of tea in China.

    The answer would be that either they didn’t state what they didn’t know in science, even if their knowledge on their great level was in some way limited. Or it’s only what was ruled in ????? ???? that had special Siyata Dishmaya.

    Regardless Reb Shlomo Zalman Aurbach (in ???? ??’ ????? ???? ?????) held the other view is valid.

    #923827
    simcha613
    Participant

    Bubka- you did not answer my question. My question is, how does it make sense that they knew science better than Torah? In the world of Torah there are machloksim for various reasons. But in the world of science, there was no machlokes? They get Halachah from the Torah, and science from the Torah, yet they argue about Halachah and they agree about science? Chazal were better at extracting science from the Torah than Halachah?

    #923828
    bubka
    Participant

    Even when Chazal have a machlokes, they are not arguing about metzius. Each is speaking to a slightly different aspect or angle.

    #923829
    simcha613
    Participant

    Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Somestimes there is a machlokes Amora’im about R’ Gamliel said. R’ Gamliel only said one thing. Sometimes they argue on what did certain keilim in the Beis Hamikdash look like (like what was written on the Tzitz or where the broken luchos were by the Aron Haeidus). While I agree with you that that’s true in many cases, I don’t think it’s all cases.

    #923830
    Sam2
    Participant

    Bubka: We have a tradition that Chazal have no Machloksim about Metzius that they could easily determine by looking at. That doesn’t mean they don’t argue over reality. See the Machlokes in Ta’anis about the water cycle. Or the Machlokes of whether a Treifah can live or have kids. Or many other Machloksim. (And by the way, R’ Moshe said that if the Rashba saw reality and Treifos today he would never have said what he said.)

    #923832
    OneOfMany
    Participant
    #923833
    Sam2
    Participant

    Simcha: By the way, you’re OP takes a Davar Pashut like the Geonim about the Hishtalshelus Hamesorah and not the Rambam.

    #923834
    yitayningwut
    Participant

    OneOfMany – Nice work!

    #923835
    Englishman
    Member

    Bear in mind that scientists keep changing what they decribe as the true and correct science. Today very little of what science held 50 and certainly 100 years ago is still considered correct. And 100 years ago, very little of what science held 200 years ago as true, was still considered true at that time. And in 100 years from now, much of today’s science will be disproved. Just as it has been in the past.

    #923836
    simcha613
    Participant

    Sam- I know what the Rambam said, but I’m sure that there are exceptions even according to his shittah. There’s a machlokes if the words Kodesh Lashem were on one line on the Tzitz or on two lines. There is a machlokes where the broken luchos were in the Aron Haeidus (I think the machlokes is if it was actually inside the Aron next to the non-broken luchos or in a separate compartment on the side). This must be a machlokes due to the breakdown of Mesorah. I can think of no other explanation.

    #923837
    Chacham
    Participant

    Interestingly the rambam does not pasken (lchatchila) like Reb Eliezer who saw the Tzitz in rome. See succah 5a and 9,1 in rambam klei hamikdash.

    #923838
    Hersh
    Participant

    The answer to your question lies in understanding the Rambam’s Hakdama properly. The Rambam doesn’t say that there can be no loss of Mesorah. He says that when there is a machlokes, it cannot be that one side had the right mesorah and the other side heard wrong, because he would not say it as a vadai if he were not 100% certain about it (it would be an insult to Chazal to say that they would do so), and if he were uncertain and his opponent was certain about his mesorah, he would immediately accept his opponent’s mesorah. Rather, a machlokes arises when BOTH sides have lost the mesorah and they each try to recreate it from drashos, or from svara, or from diyukim in what their rebbe said.

    But when a halacha is stated as the unanimous opinion of Chazal, or by one Tanna or Amora without dispute, it is almost always a mesorah.

    For this same reason, when a scientific fact appears in the Gemara without dispute, such as the interval between one molad and the next, or the treifos, it is clearly a mesorah. The Rambam’s same rule applies here: it would be an insult to Chazal to say that they would state something as a fact when they were really uncertain of it, or were actually relying on the scientists of their time.

    But of course there are other matters of science on which Chazal themselves disagree (such as treifah yoledes, or the water cycle), and then we can definitely say that they had no mesorah and they intended their words to be taken as svara only, not absolute fact.

    #923839
    blockhead
    Participant

    @Englishman, did they have computers, modern airplanes, modern medicine, electricity, etc., 200 years ago?

    Yes there are certain things that have been disproved, but clearly science has advanced. Things are disproved because they scientists learn by standing on the shoulders of those before them.

    In addition, certain things are observable phenomena, that can’t be disproved, because they’re a reality. For example gravity. Now a scientist 100 years ago might have explained gravity one way, a scientist today might explain it differently, but it still exists.

    Another example is Natural Selection. 100 years ago, scientist might have explained this using Darwin’s theories, those theories were disproven by Einstein (sort of), and the jury is still out…but the phenomena does exist (at a macro level for sure).

    #923840
    mythoughts
    Participant

    If Chazal knew everything why didn’t they give us the cure to cancer? It would save many people a lot of pain and suffering.

    #923841
    gavra_at_work
    Participant

    A request for this thread: Could Joe please pick one screen name, not the three (or more) that he has used so far?

    Thanks.

    #923842
    zahavasdad
    Participant

    The Ramban held that the Moon was not a physical place and was a spiritual place. Therefore a lunar landing was not possible

    #923843
    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    The Ramban held that the Moon was not a physical place and was a spiritual place. Therefore a lunar landing was not possible

    I think there probably was a moon landing. But there isn’t actually any decent evidence.

    #923844
    zvei dinim
    Participant

    Rema in Toras HaOlah, doesn’t say anything about being infallible, he writes Chazal knew what the Chachmei Haumos knew plus. The same i think for the rest. See ??? ????? ?????? says the Ramban argues with the Rambam re the moon not being physical. Rav Yoshe Ber in Thinking Aloud said there’s no raya from what the Rambam says about stars and moon being a ??? ??? that their not physical, ther’s no scientific reason our physical brains be ???? ???.

    #923845
    Sam2
    Participant

    Hersh: Wrong. The Rambam says that on a Halachah L’moshe Misinai there can’t be a Machlokes. Nothing else is Talui in Mesorah because the Mesorah doesn’t work like that. There is no Mesorah on individual Halachos, according to him. According to the Rambam, the only Mesorah are the Middos Shehatorah Nidreshes Bahen (and the Halachos L’moshe Misinai) and every Beis Din in every Dor has the right to Darshen as they see fit (at the end of the Tannaim they agreed to no longer Darshan that way and to not argue on the previous Doros).

    #923846
    bubka
    Participant

    Just because the moon is a rock doesnt contradict the fact that it is, in some way, sentient. As it so happens, the statement about the moon is a Zohar in a few places. He says thats what it means when it says “Yetzorom Bdaas bebinah uvehaskel” – that Hashem created the luminaries including their wisdom. Rav Chaim Kanievsky also, in Kiryas Melech, goes through the Rambam in Hilchos Deos bringing sources for just about every statement there. Rav Schneur Kotler ZTL said that he remembers that Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk ZTL once said that there are people who hold Rambam was wrong, and they are totally wrong, and he (Rav Meir Simchah) would really write a sefer showing that every word of the Rambams Hilchos Deos is culled from Chazal, but the Malbim already wrote such a Sefer so he doesn’t need to. Rav Schneur continued, that nobody knew what Rav Meir Simcha was referring to by the Sefer of the Malbim until a few years ago (about 35 years ago from today) they reprinted a Sefer from the Malbim showing that the Rambam’s Hilchos Deos was all from Chazal.

    #923847
    Chacham
    Participant

    gaw- I am not Joe if you were talking to me. And i do not think my style is similar.

    My understanding is, that getting the scientific knowledge from torah comes through learning Torah lishma. Their is many different madreigos of Torah Lishma. The Nefesh Hachaim in Shaar daled (should be around perek9) writes how you are ableto reach the level of Istakel boiraysa Ubara alma- In other words the torah serves as a blue print of the world so the metzious will be pashut. Now this is just taloi in Torah lishmah, something in which all the tannoim and ammoraim did and even if you were to say the mesorah of torah was not so strong the understanding of science could still be perfect

    #923848
    zvei dinim
    Participant

    ???? ????? in Hakdama says on something the Gemara Paskens l’halacha

    ??? ????? ?? ?????? ????? ???? ?? ??? ???’ ???? ???? ???? ?????? “??????? ???? ???? ??????? ?? ?????? ???? ??? ?????? ???? ???? ????? ????? ???????”

    So being the Torah is the blue print a ???? ???? of the blueprint implies a ???? ???? of the actual ?????. No one argues on this as it is in the ?”? ?????? in ????”? that ???? is

    ????? ???? ??? ????? ??? ??

    and no one after ??? ????? can grasp it’s entirety.

    #923849
    bubka
    Participant

    In support of my earlier point that in the Gemora Chazal do not argue over metzius:

    Shomer Emunim HaKadmon (Second Introduction, First Principle):

    [and was turned into a heap of bones]

    #923850
    Sam2
    Participant

    This is actually hilarious. I was randomly googling something today and a blog came up. I don’t remember why I checked it out, but I do remember those exact same two paragraphs that Bubka just quoted. It’s a bit creepy too. Maybe credit your sources next time, Joe.

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