Monday, April 24, 2006

Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger

(current; USA), in "Halakhah and Scientific Method" (available at  Excerpt from the Conclusion:

Summarizing the approaches mentioned herein, we can suggest that, for halakhic purposes, one must categorize talmudic information, according to its sources, in the following manner:

(1) Some information is clearly revealed from Sinai and will always be a part of halakhic decision-making irrespective of considerations advanced by modern science.  An example of this category are the laws of trefut.

(2) Some information is seemingly purely hokhmat ha-zeman, apparently gleaned from contemporary sources.  One can trace two schools of thought throughout halakhic literature, differing in the weight they attach to this information.  Understanding the limitations of the methods of contemporary scientific method, one school accepts the weakness and inherent flexibility of this type of information; while another school extends divine concern for, and Hazal's divine assistance in, formulating halakhah to scientific statements which generated halakhah.

(3) The Hatam Sofer suggests a third category of knowledge, i.e., information from observations of natural phenomena which, although limited by the tools of the time, became part of halakhah at Matan Torah in a non-negotiable manner.  The knowledge may not have been revealed by God; but we were directed, early on, to incorporate the science of that time into halakhah, without flexibility.

(Reference from

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