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From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@saber.towson.edu> Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2000 18:06:41 -0500 (EST) Subject: Do new talmudic interpretations allow reassesment of Responsum A while ago a new responsum on birth control was discovered from one of the early authorities(Rishonim). The question was asked "In light of this discovery can we reassess responsum of later authorities on the grounds that 'had they known about this earlier responsum' they wouldn't have said what they did?" I would like to posit a similar question in the letter-perfect vs word-perfect transmission debate on the Torah. Should a new interpretation of a talmudic aggadic passage that was hitherto unknown change our assessments of psaks based on alternative interpretations. Let us examine. In discussing whether the transmission of the Torah is letter-perfect or word-perfect I suggested that the Talmudic argument that "the Hebrew pair DAROSH DARASH is the middle of the Torah in words" really means that"DAROSH DARASH is the middle of all consecutive double word pairs". Similarly the Torah forum article I referred to last time suggests that the Talmudic statement that "The VAV of the Hebrew word GACHON is the middle of the Torah in letters" means "The VAV of GACHON is the middle of the JUMBO letters in the Torah (Certain letters in Torah scrolls are written in Jumbo font and VAV-GACHON is the middle Jumbo letter) These explanations come from a Russian emigree and were quoted in Torah forum. I further suggested that the issues here were factual (are these the middle or not) not issues of authority. Avi Feldblum and Gilad Gevaryahu both responded. Avi suggested that even if my assertions are factually correct nevertheless the real issue is the legal obligations defined upon us by the chain of authorities. True..but in light of the fact that we now understand a Talmudic statement that we formerly didn't shouldn't we reassess which of those authorities should be given priority. Gilad cited (a) some other gmarrahs on "middles" (one of which I explained above), (b the assertion that "Hendel's explanation could not be correct because none of the commentaries state it"(But can't someone today explain something that former authorities could not), (c) the claim that my explaining one gmarrah does not suffice, rather I have to explain all of them (but in any argument we weight both sides..I am simply showing new arguments). Gilad then calls my arguments *pilpul*. Certainly Gilad agrees that many agadahs are explained by use ellipsis--all I did was say that MIDDLE LETTER= MIDDLE OF BIG LETTERS, MIDDLE WORD=MIDDLE OF DOUBLE WORDS. I therefore reopen the question but phrased in the manner that Avi formulated it: Should a new explanation of an agaddic passage allow us to reassess legal positions based on former alternative positions? Russell Hendel; Moderator Rashi Is SImple; Math; Towson http://www.shamash.org/rashi/