Friday, April 28, 2006

Rabbi David Sinzheim

(1745-1812; France; author of Yad David) in Kuntres Sheva Chakirot, final section (Rabbi Sinzheim's second response). Note that although Rabbi Sinzheim says that some of Chazal's scientific statements were incorrect, he does not explicitly state that their knowledge was deficient. Theoretically, they could have made statements that they knew were wrong, but compatible with the science of their era. However, this interpretation is unlikely given Rabbi Sinzheim’s citation of Rabbeinu Avraham ben Harambam’s essay on aggada, which explicitly says that Chazal actually held incorrect scientific beliefs.

ר' יוסף דוד זינצהיים, בחלק האחרון של קונטרס שבע חקירות (המתחיל "חזר הרבני מהור"ר ז"ל להשיב כפי הסדר"), שנמצא בסוף ספרו מנחת עני, חלק ראשון (ירושלים: מכון ירושלים, תשל"ד), דף קט; ז"ל

ועם כי הרשות נתונה להוציא דברי חז"ל בהגדות מפשטן, לא כן בדברים הנוגעים לדינא, ואף גם באגדתא דוקא כשאנו מוכרחים לכך, כמו שפי' ר' אברהם בנו של הרמב"ם במאמרו שחיבר על ענין הגדות, והוא בכ"י, ומכ"ש כשנמצא מחכמי א"ה מסכימים לדבריהם, ואף אם לא יהיה כן הדבר עכ"פ דברו לפי המפורסם בזמנם, כמו שבע"כ צ"ל כן בכמה מאמרים המדברים מענין התכונה אשר הם דברים זרים והם אמרו כפי המפורסם בזמנם, וכמו שאמרו שא"י באמצע העולם וירושלים בטבור הארץ, שכל זה לפי המפורסם בזמנם. עכ"ל

Although it is permissible to interpret aggadic statements of Chazal non-literally, this is not true of statements with halachic ramifications. And even in the realm of aggada, it is permissible only when we are forced to do so, as Rabbi Avraham, the son of the Rambam, explained in his essay on aggada, which exists in manuscript. Certainly, then, [we must interpret their statements literally] when we find that gentile scholars share their view. Even if that view is not correct, [we must nonetheless take the statement literally because Chazal] spoke according to [the beliefs] that were widespread in their era – as we are forced to conclude regarding certain statements [of theirs] about astronomy which express strange ideas, [and which] they said according to the beliefs widespread in their era; and with respect to their statements that Israel is in the centre of the world and that Jerusalem is at the land's highest point – all of which was the widespread belief at the time. [translation by HWMNBN]

(Reference from RBP)


Ploni Almoni said...

Can you pleae cite the source where he makes the comment?

He Who Must Not Be Named said...

I'm working on it. I have it on good authority that he says this, but I don't have ready access to his books, so I don't yet know exactly where. (That's why there are question marks on this source.) Hopefully I'll be able to track down the exact location at some point during the summer. If anybody happens to know it, please cite the exact (or approximate) source in a comment.

He Who Must Not Be Named said...

Found it!