September 23, 2011 4:50 pm at 4:50 pm #599587
There’s a gemara in peasachim 94b that chazal say that the sun travels under the earth at night (which is why we can’t see the sun). But i thought the earth travels around the sun? What should I think about the gemara and chazal?September 23, 2011 5:02 pm at 5:02 pm #812417
Do you even know what the rakia is?September 23, 2011 5:06 pm at 5:06 pm #812418
The Midrash says Avraham Avinu viewing the stars from the back of the rakia.
Chazal, and certainly the rishonim, recognize that the sun lights the moon.September 23, 2011 5:07 pm at 5:07 pm #812419yungerman1Participant
The sun does move as well, just not the same way the earth does.September 23, 2011 5:18 pm at 5:18 pm #812420popa_bar_abbaParticipant
What are you concerned about? That the scientists say the sun goes around the earth?
The entire foundation of modern physics was disproved yesterday. The scientists know even less than the doctors.September 23, 2011 5:24 pm at 5:24 pm #812421
That part of the Gemara never bothered me. Chazal were just trying to explain why underground water sources get warmer overnight. So either the explanation why is an allegory or we’re misundetsranding what the Rakia is.
On a fun note, my Chavrusa and I did some cool calculations about getting the previous (following?) Gemara about the size of the sky to work.September 23, 2011 5:26 pm at 5:26 pm #812422
But i thought the earth travels around the sun?
There are multiple ways to approach. I’ll list two:
1: Metaphysical (what peacemaker is saying) that it doesn’t really means sky, etc. Admittedly, why Chazal would agree to Science on a spiritual question is beyond me.
2: Observer status: Chazal were discribing what happened as they saw it. As is viewed from someone on the earth, the sun goes around and under the earth. That has nothing to do with what happens in the greater Universe (in which the sun circles the Galacitc core, etc.). This makes sense as a viewpoint once you realize that all movement is relative anyway.September 23, 2011 5:26 pm at 5:26 pm #812423
PBA: Good PBA answer!September 23, 2011 5:58 pm at 5:58 pm #812424Raphael KaufmanMember
PBA, check the thread, “roll over Einstein”. Nobody disproved nothin’September 23, 2011 6:13 pm at 6:13 pm #812425
RK: Yet PBA’s underlying point remains. Scientific “facts” keep changing. Yesterday’s science it today’s junk science. Today’s science is tomorrow’s junk science. Why would you believe today’s science — which will be disproven in the next 100 years, just as 100 years ago science is disproven today — over the Torah’s science as relayed to us by Chazal? I wouldn’t.September 23, 2011 6:16 pm at 6:16 pm #812426
Is Chazal always relaying the Torah’s science? This Gemara clearly proves that, at least on some level, they held of the scientists of their time.September 23, 2011 6:19 pm at 6:19 pm #812427
Peacemaker: Is it possible you misunderstood the gemara? The Havah Aminah of chazal was that the sun goes behind the rakiyah, however limaskanah they agreed with the chachmei olam, that the sun does, indeed, go underneath the earth.
GAW: I was looking for an answer for this in other places besides the CR (gasp!), and your first approach is what the Maharal says. This sounds like a great answer, but the problem is the Maharal was an achron, and all but two (Rebennui Tam and the Ramban) said that Chazal were indeed wrong in their hava aminah (that’s the part that I want to figure out). The Rabbeinu Avraham ben haRambam says this shows the intellectual honesty of chazal, that they were able to admit they were wrong (i found this really good mussar, because I find this hard to do myself!).September 23, 2011 6:23 pm at 6:23 pm #812428bp27Participant
I heard a shiur from Rav Belsky on this gemara.
His pshat was that the machlokes was if the sun goes around the earth (Chachmei Umos HaOlam) or if the earth rotates daily (Chachmei Yisroel). Of course, we now know that the Chachmei Yisroel are indeed correct.
What the gemara means that the sun goes above the Rakiah according to the Chachmei Yisroel, is that if the earth is rotating, nightime occurs when the earth rotates away from the sun. So the sun is “on top” of the sky, because we are below.September 23, 2011 6:28 pm at 6:28 pm #812429
Peacemaker: It’s interesting you say that we should rely on the science of chazal, rather than on that of scientists, because this very gemara in pesachim discusses chazal adopting a scientific view from the scientists!
My question is more of understanding chazal’s statements. Can they be wrong when they said something scientific? We know the sun really doesn’t go beneath the earth, so how do we (if we even do) reconcile science of today with the gemara?September 23, 2011 6:37 pm at 6:37 pm #812431
The Rabbeinu Avraham ben haRambam says this shows the intellectual honesty of chazal, that they were able to admit they were wrong (i found this really good mussar, because I find this hard to do myself!).
Great! So what do you need us for? I thought your question was how does any of this apply once the earth goes around the sun.September 23, 2011 6:38 pm at 6:38 pm #812432
Can they be wrong when they said something scientific?
Yes! Chazal is not Hashem, and they can be wrong. (You Kofer!)September 23, 2011 6:46 pm at 6:46 pm #812433
gavra: Using that argument, you can argue they could be wrong about Torah too C”V.September 23, 2011 6:53 pm at 6:53 pm #812434
Peacemaker: My Rebbe pointed this out. He said, “If one were to say that chazal is scientifically fallible, who’s to say they were not equally fallible regarding our religious dogma?” But this doesn’t really bother me so much for two reasons:
1) You can say whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. I can say (though, of course I wouldn’t) that Chazal were wrong about Torah, just like they were wrong about science.
2) Just because they were wrong about science, doesn’t mean that we respect them any less. We respect them because of their Torah knowledge, not their scientific knowledge. Our kavod to them is not dependent on them being right in every scenario. If they were wrong, who cares? I know more biology than Rav Elyashiv, but that has no bearing on how much I respect him.
My issue is that many people believe Chazal can’t be wrong in regards to anything. I’m wondering why someone would say this.September 23, 2011 6:55 pm at 6:55 pm #812435
gavra: Using that argument, you can argue they could be wrong about Torah too C”V.
That is where Eilu V’Eilu kicks in, which is a Torah concept only.September 23, 2011 7:55 pm at 7:55 pm #812436
So it would then make sense, from all angles of the matter, to say that Chazal can be wrong in science?September 23, 2011 8:16 pm at 8:16 pm #812437
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.
Particularly interesting is a statement on this topic in the Aruch Hashulchan (EH 13). Quote: “I will tell you a great principle: Chazal, besides their holiness and wisdom in the Torah, were also greater scholars in the natural sciences those savants (“mischakmim”) who would argue against their pure words. And someone who disagrees with them testifies about himself that he does not believe in Torah she bal peh, even though he would be embarrassed to admit it outright.” Drashos Chasam Sofer Vol. 1 p.100b says 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! An identical interpretation to that of the Chasam Sofer’s explanation Am navon v’chacham is found in the Ramak (Sefer HapPardes 13:6) regarding astronomy.September 23, 2011 8:39 pm at 8:39 pm #812438
Peacemaker: All of that is interesting, but I think you’ll find most Rishonim say otherwise. In fact, you’ll find Gemara’s that say otherwise. The Gemara in Niddah (22) tells of chazal asking a doctor a question when they lacked sufficient knowledge. This implies two things:
(1) They trusted the doctor enough to rely on him for a shaila pertaining to Niddah (this is a little shocking)
(2) They didn’t know the scientific fact themselves, nor could they have derived it from the Torah, or they would have.
And by, “hafoch buh vihafoch buh ki kulah buh” the sforno points out that this doesn’t include science (he was a doctor, and went to medical school, or whatever medieval equivalent existed)September 23, 2011 9:25 pm at 9:25 pm #812439soliekMember
im not seeing a problem saying that chazal were wrong. and no it casts no aspersions on their knowledge of torah much in the same way i would think no less of a physician who got something wrong in the area of botany. i would still trust that doctor with my life much in the same way i still trust chazal on all the torah they taught and learned even though i believe that they were flat out wrong about certain scientific observations.September 23, 2011 9:50 pm at 9:50 pm #812440
The majority of Achronim state that Chazal did not go by the scientific knowledge of their time.
The Rama in Toras HaOlah (1:2) states clearly that we assume rabbinic science to be infallible, and ancient rabbinic knowledge of astronomy complete. The Ramah has stated that we do not pasken like the Rambam here. As do the Maharal and the majority of our Torah authorities throughout the ages, as mentioned above.
Chida (Shem Hagedolim: “Seforim”:5:82) – There are a minority of Gedolim among us who disagree with Chazal because of their scientific knowledge, but they do not understand that Chazal had Eliyhau Hanavi informing them, and they had Ruach HaKodesh to inform them.
Maharal (Ber Hagolah 6) explaining why Chazal sometimes seem to contradict what science says:
[Chazal] [physical] descriptions, but rather the words of our sages refer to the essence, and have no relation to the outer, material matter.September 25, 2011 12:38 am at 12:38 am #812441
When you said “And anyone who disagrees with this disagrees with our Emunah and our Torah,” you are actually including almost every single Rishon in this category! All Rishonim (except Rabbenui Tam and Ramban) do believe that Chazal were talking about scientific phenomena (in the Gemaras quoted above, specifically Pesachim 94a) and were scientifically inaccurate. It was only hundreds of years after the Rishonim-period that the Maharal commented on this Gemara was talking about metaphysical phenomena. I would like to think that you don’t think that the giant pillars of our Torah “disagree with our Emunah and our Torah”September 25, 2011 1:43 am at 1:43 am #812442shmoelMember
Abelleh: The words that you quote and are complaining about are the words of the Maharal, not of a poster here. And you are also incorrect about the majority of Rishonim.September 25, 2011 2:49 am at 2:49 am #812443
Shmoel: Abelleh is absolutely correct that the majority of Rishonim assume that Chazal relied on the science of their times. And true, he is asking a very legitimate question on the Maharal.September 25, 2011 2:56 am at 2:56 am #812444shmoelMember
You counted every single Rishon’s view?
Even if you did, many Rishonim’s writings were lost long ago.September 25, 2011 4:57 am at 4:57 am #812445
Who is this majority and how many of the ones that we usually Pasken from?
The Gemara in Pesachim is obviously cryptic, since anyone looking up in the sky will see the sun going down, not up. Perhaps the question was how to look at it: is the sun going away from us — above, beyond our reach — or is it merely going down, as the physical fact is.
Chazal did not know everything. Some Tanoim were able to derive scientific facts from Pesukim, as was the case with Reb Yehoshua ben Chananya and the Greek philosopher, and the sending of broken musical instruments to Egypt, and the consulting a doctor or sitting out on a farm for a year. However, all over Shas you can find Braysos about scientific facts. You’ll notice that the only science accepted by Chazal are Mesoras and Braysos. Rav Popa is often Medayek science from Mishnos. Chazal make it clear when their information is from the outside. Bottom line is, we accept their words unquestingly just like they accepted the words of the Tanaaim unquestingly.September 25, 2011 5:11 am at 5:11 am #812446
Medrash Tehillim 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. It then quotes a R’ Hoshea as saying there is “space” between the upper waters and the firmament, and the Medrash asks how R’ Hoshea could know this unless he traveled to space. It answers, he knew it from the Torah.
Regarding Ptolmey himself, the Abarbanel (Shmos 12) quotes Ptolmey as being so impressed with the Jews’ astronomical calculations, that he said it proves the Jews had prophecy. In the Sefer Eretz Zvi (by Rav Aryeh Zvi Fromer ZTL, Rosh Yeshiva in Chachmei Lublin), quotes more such sources about Ptolmey.September 25, 2011 5:59 am at 5:59 am #812447
Chazal did not know everything. Some Tanoim were able to derive scientific facts from Pesukim, as was the case with Reb Yehoshua ben Chananya and the Greek philosopher, and…
What I wrote lacks in coherence. It should have said, Chazal did not know everything. Some Tanoim were able to derive scientific facts from Pesukim, as was the case with Reb Yehoshua ben Chananya and the Greek philosopher. However it is evident that they did not know everything from…September 25, 2011 6:36 am at 6:36 am #812448
Maharal, Ramchal, Sefer HaBris and a few other Acharonim say that Chazal in Pesachim were not speaking about material phenomena, but instead about mystical phenomena. Chazal were therefore not incorrect.
However, Rav Sherira Gaon, Rav Hai Gaon, Rambam, Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam, Tosafos Rid, Rav Eliezer of Metz, Rosh, Ritva, Rabbeinu Bachya, Rabbeinu Manoach, Rabbeinu Yerucham, Akeidas Yitzchok, Maharam Alashkar, Radbaz, as well as Rabbeinu Tam, Ramban and Ran, all say that Chazal were speaking about the physical sun changing direction and going behind the sky at night. There is NO Rishon who says otherwise. With the exception of the last three, all the Geonim and Rishonim followed the plain pshat of the Gemara, that R. Yehudah HaNasi conceded that Chazal’s view was incorrect (the last three hold that Chazal were correct and that the sun really does change direction and go behind the sky at night. But I don’t think that anyone today would agree with that).
Amongst the Acharonim, the poshut peshat of the Gemora was also followed by Ramak, Maharsha, Pri Chadash, Pachad Yitzchok, Maharam Shick, Rav Hirsch, and others. So this is clearly a legitimate, even mainstream, view in the mesorah.September 25, 2011 9:21 am at 9:21 am #812449coltuvMember
As I was taught, the Torah speaks to man in the idiom he best understands. We are unaware of the motion of the globe as it spins on its axis, even though it is moving at a tremendous speed, and taking us with it.
Consequently, when we see the sun disappearing in the west, we don’t think of ourselves as turning away from the sun; rather, we interpret what we see to mean that the sun is moving away from us, and “sinking below the horizon.”
Similarly, we call sunset “shekiyah” — sinking — even though the sun is by no means sinking into anywhere. It stays right where is, and WE gradually rotate away from it.
Nonetheless, we use the term shekiyah, which means, from the word “to sink.” This doesn’t imply that everyone who uses the term “shekiyah” is claiming that the sun rotates around the earth, and therefore sinks below the horizon each day; it simply means that this is how we, with our limited five senses, interpret what we see each day.
Chazal have their “information” straight from the Manufacturer, Who certainly knows His product inside out, not from their five senses.
Hashem knows our limitations, and speaks to us, through the Torah, in terms which everyone can grasp easily.
There are endless examples of such; I’m sure other readers can add to the list, but right now, what comes to mind are the expressions “Hashamayim mesaprim ke’vod Keil.”
No one thinks that the shamayim are actually “speaking.”
Another instance: when we read the possuk in Shemos 19:4 about how Hashem transported Am Yisroel “al kanfei neshorim” — does anyone take this literally, to mean there were wings with feathers, etc?
Of course not; it is just a way of bringing it down to a level that we can understand within the limitations of being flesh and blood.
There are probably better examples, but I’m not so good at pessukim. Maybe some of you can add better ones.September 25, 2011 2:24 pm at 2:24 pm #812450
I once heard in the name of Rav Belski Shlita, on this topic, that when you look in the New York Times you see ‘sundown’, ‘sunrise’. Actually, if you look at any astrolgy text you’ll see that, too. The fact is you cannot calculate a zenith by your head point driving past the entity.
By the way, all those Gaonim/ Rishonim you mention are actually talking about this Gemara specifically, or Meklala Itmar?September 25, 2011 2:38 pm at 2:38 pm #812451
Coltuv – Shekiah/ sunset is irrelevant to this. The Gemara is talking about the sun changing direction AFTER sunset and traveling behind the sky instead of on the opposite side of the world.
HaLeivi – These Geonim/Rishonim are all talking about this Gemora specifically.September 25, 2011 2:58 pm at 2:58 pm #812452Derech HaMelechMember
This is the answer to your questionSeptember 25, 2011 4:15 pm at 4:15 pm #812453
Even if we say this is all an allegory/mystical/metaphysical interpretation, the fact remains that far too many people read Gemaros like this literally. Either it’s literal and Chazal relied on the science of their times and therefore are inaccurate/need to be reinterpreted, or it’s metaphysical and not relevant to anything physical. It cannot be both metaphysical and still accurately portray reality as it is read.September 25, 2011 4:24 pm at 4:24 pm #812454September 25, 2011 5:14 pm at 5:14 pm #812455
HaLeiVi: Is it possible you misread the gemara? Chazal’s explanation of the suns movement does indeed go both up and down. How? If you imagine a dome and a sun traveling around it, it will need to go down to the first “set” point on the dome, underneath the width of the dome and back around (this is how Rabbenu Tam comes at his 72-minute shitah: there are two sun set-like actions the sun takes in its path).
Peacemaker: With all due respect, I think you may be fudging some scientific history. Science doesn’t get “reinterpreted”; rather theories get proven or disproven. For example, Copernicus’s heliocentric theory came about by his disproving the geocentric theory. Without the geocentric theory, there was a need to explain orbit, thus the heliocentric theory. Later, Tycho Brahe proved this theory, showing it to be fact. The theory chazal had conflicts with scientific fact, not scientific theory. No one will ever come along and say, “Aha! Chazal were actually right! The sun really does go around a firmament!”September 25, 2011 5:20 pm at 5:20 pm #812456
Scientific “facts” keep changing. Many “scientific facts” of 150 years ago are no longer so.September 25, 2011 5:27 pm at 5:27 pm #812457
Peacemaker: That’s my point. I think you might be misunderstanding scientific history. Scientific facts don’t change, but scientific theories do. Which ever “scientific facts of 150 years ago” were not actually facts if they changed; they were theories. For example, Bohr’s model of the atom (not exactly 150 years ago, but close enough) is now rejected. It wasn’t, isn’t, and never will be a fact. If you asked Bohr himself, he would not claim it to be fact. That would be ridiculous. So yes, scientific theories change all the time. That’s how science progresses.September 25, 2011 5:45 pm at 5:45 pm #812458
IOW, you are saying there is no such thing as a “scientific fact”. And that anything is subject to be revised or changed.
Well, that is precisely what I have been saying all along.
Here are some things that were once “scientific facts” that even scientists currently admit are no longer considered so:September 25, 2011 5:46 pm at 5:46 pm #812459
This sugya has nothing to do with whether the sun orbits the earth or the earth orbits the sun. It’s about whether the sun at night is over Australia, or whether it doubles-back behind a “firmament” above our heads, hidden from view. This is not a matter of scientific theories. It is an established fact that the sun is over Australia when it is night in Eretz Yisroel. We don’t need to reinterpret Chazal – as Rav Yehudah HaNasi conceded, Chazal were mistaken about where the sun goes at night. Peacemaker, do you really think that scientists are one day going to discover that the sun really does go behind the sky at night and not over Australia?
Besides, virtually all the Rishonim confirmed Rav Yehudah HaNasi’s statement that the Chachmei Yisrael were wrong about this (and they did not believe that it is to be interpreted mystically/ metaphorically). Are you really saying that Rav Yehudah HaNasi and all the Rishonim were wrong?September 25, 2011 5:47 pm at 5:47 pm #812460
Yissacher – You are mistaken. Your questions have already been addressed above in previous comments.September 25, 2011 6:04 pm at 6:04 pm #812461
No, I’m not mistaken. And my questions were not addressed; in fact, I did not ask any questions.
Have you actually looked at all at the Gemara, and at the Rishonim and Acharonim? The Chachmei Yisrael held that the sun goes above the rakia at night (in Bava Basra there is a machlokes as to whether the sun turns to the side and travels along the northern border of the world, or whether it turns upwards and passes over our heads). The Chachmei HaUmos, on the other hand, said that the sun goes beneath the earth at night (which, as we know today, is correct). Rav Yehudah HaNasi says that the Chachmei HaUmos seem to be correct, because (in his view) rivers steam at night because they are heated by the sun from below.September 25, 2011 6:12 pm at 6:12 pm #812462
Here, for example, is what Maharam Alashkar has to say:
[than Rabbeinu Tam] , for they both believe that the firmament is like an arched room, and the sphere is stationary and the constellations revolve, and the sun itself travels below the [cover of the] [western] [upper] [eastern] end, at which point dawn occurs; and sunrise happens when it reaches the [lower] [Yehudah Hanasi] [of the gentile sages] [i.e., that the sphere, not the constellations, rotate: the view of the gentile sages] .September 25, 2011 6:29 pm at 6:29 pm #812463
Yissacher: What is the rakia? (Please define it in detail.)
Regarding the idea that the scientists in the Gemorah were correct, see the Shitah Mekubetzes I referenced above.September 25, 2011 7:11 pm at 7:11 pm #812464
The details of the rakia (as understood by Chazal) are discussed earlier in Pesachim and in the Yerushalmi, in terms of its substance and thickness, and are not particularly relevant here. The point is that, according to the Chachmei Yisrael, the sun travels through holes in the rakia at shekiah and passes behind the rakia at night and thereby cannot be seen.
The Shitah Mekubetzes that you referenced is quoting Rabbeinu Tam. And this is exactly what Maharam Alashkar is addressing. Sure, Rabbeinu Tam was of the view that the Chachmei Yisrael were actually correct, and that the sun really does pass behind the sky at night. However, as Maharam Alashkar points out, the Geonim and all the other Rishonim accept that the Chachmei Yisrael were wrong. The sun does not go behind the sky at night; it continues its motion on the other side of the world. And we today know that with certainty.September 25, 2011 7:13 pm at 7:13 pm #812465
Peacemaker: Sorry, but I don’t agree. I am not saying that there is no such thing as a scientific fact; I am merely differentiating between fact and theory. Theories can be proven wrong, facts cannot.
Let’s differentiate between facts and theories and look at your list. 3,4, and 6 were just theories, so they can be disproved. 1 and 2 are not facts; they are just systems of classification. I can make my own system of classification (obviously, no one would accept it) and consider every rock a planet or every mouse an insect. I would then realize that my system was flawed and alter it. I wouldn’t be changing any facts, I would just be reorganizing the way I classify things. Regarding 5, no scientist (or no good scientist, anyway) would claim that we know all the elements. In fact, if you look at a standard periodic table, it would say somewhere, “All Known Elements”. No good scientist ever claimed that new elements would never be discovered.September 25, 2011 7:34 pm at 7:34 pm #812466WolfishMusingsParticipant
This entire thread is very illustrative of the fact that no one here knows what a “theory” means in scientific parlance.
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