Sunday, July 16, 2006

R. Aharon Lichtenstein on Sages and Science

R. Aharon Lichtenstein, Leaves of Faith, vol. 2 pp. 295-296:

Moreover, I freely acknowledge that one's faith in the concept [of Da'as Torah] is periodically put to a severe test. As but one instance, the doyen of current rashei yeshiva, R. Schach, proves the value of Torah as the self-sufficient repository of all knowledge by asking, rhetorically: "Whence did Hazal know that the earth was forty-two times larger than the moon, and that the sun was approximately one-hundred-and-seventy times larger than the earth (as explained in the Rambam, Hilkhot Yesodei Hatorah 3:8), if not from the power of the Torah?"[24] In raising this question, he is wholly oblivious not only of the rudiments of astronomy but also of the fact that the selfsame Rambam explicitly states, with respect to these very issues, that they are beyond the pale of Hazal's authority:
Do not ask of me to show that everything they have said concerning astronomical matters conforms to the way things really are. For at that time mathermatics were imperfect. They did not speak about this as transmitters of dicta of the prophets, but rather because in those times they were men of knowledge in these fields or because they had heard these dicta from the men of knowledge who lived in those times.[25]
To my mind, the strain is palpable.

[24] Rav E.M. Schach, quoted in Toda'ah 48:2 (Nissan 5752).
[25] Guide of the Perplexed, trans. S. Pines, III:14; p. 459. The question raised by the passage is self-evident; but the Rambam's position, in any event, is clear.
(See here for this quote in a larger context)

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