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From: rhendel@king.mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel) Date: Sun, 21 Jul 1996 18:33:10 -0400 Subject: Science and the Sages---Some Additional Insights I am responding to [Gross Vol 24 #70] who raises the question on how to proceed in a science halachah conflict using three specific examples. While I have a general answer I once heard I also question whether the conflicts he sites in fact exist! I now give details. COMMENT: I once heard from Rabbi Professor Shlomo Sternberg (Prof at Tel Aviv (formerly Harvard) and a Moosmach of Ner Yisrael in Baltimore) that 1) In cases like laws of Terayfah (an animal was properly slaughtered but examination found it had a disease from which it would definitely die (like certain lung punctures)) Chazal *explicitly* layed down that only those cases they listed are Terayfah but no further ones 2) In cases like "danger to life" on Shabbath we rely on *current* scientific opinion. Thus to answer Steve's question, guidelines do exist (I don't know what they would say in the cases he poses). EXPLANATION: (Of three cases cited by Steve Gross) 1) The Rambam does say that the stars are living beings who have consciousness and serve God. However the Rambam also says that the study of "life forms and how they serve God (Maasay Berashith)" is a highly classified esoteric doctrine that is not given to the public. It therefore seems reasonable that the Rambam is speaking in coded symbolic language to "hide" the topic. It also appears reasonable that the Rambam used the science of his day as a *vehicle* for the metaphor. Rabbi Shraga Sherman recently showed me that the translator of the Rambam series for Lubavitch makes identical comments in his introduction to the English edition. 2) SPONTANEOUS GENERATION (of maggots): First consider the well known Biblical metaphors "The sun rose on the earth" the "sun came to the west (to set)" etc. I make 3 points: (a) Clearly it is the earth that revolves around the sun; (b) clearly it "appears" that the sun comes up, revolves, and then comes home and sets, (c) clearly it is permissable for a language to use APPEARANCE to name things even if in REALITY it is different. In a similar vein we refer to death as "his soul left him" when in reality all that may have happened is that his heart (and or brain waves) stopped. Another way to say this is that the purpose of language is to communicate, it uses catchy appearances to do so, and there is no reason to infer any science from language. Returning to spontaneous generation, since these maggots come from microscopic organisms and are not e.g. hatched from eggs it thus apears that they are spontaneously generated. It thus becomes admissable to talk this way even if it is not true. As far as the ruling it may be the case that "microscopic parents" do not have official status (cf the many Midrashim on microscopic creatures in relation to the 3rd plague (Ex 8, 15)). 3) CHEESE AND MEAT: I am unfamiliar with this particular matter but since *changed taste* renders an object Unkosher it would follow that in any situation where meat and cheese came in contact in such a way that the taste is transferred that we have produced something Unkosher. A reference from Steve might however help us resolve this dilemna also. Russell Hendel, Ph.d ASA, rhendel @ mcs . drexel . edu