Thursday, April 27, 2006


(Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto; 1707-1747; Italy-Holland-Israel), “Ma’amar al Hahagadot”.

Note that this passage appears as part of Ramchal’s listing of various approaches to understanding difficult aggadot. The two approaches described herebelow appear mutually exclusive: the latter seems to be that Chazal’s statements about the physical world are literally true when one takes into account the spiritual plane; whereas the former seems to say that Chazal may have sometimes incorporated into their metaphors ancient scientific ideas that are simply incorrect – without the idea being correct on a different, spiritual level. (He emphasizes that the correctness of the science is immaterial to the validity of the metaphor.) I assume that Ramchal believed each approach would sometimes lead to a valid explanation of an aggadic passage, to the exclusion of the other approach. Thus the second paragraph is not a modification of the first, but a sometimes valid alternative to it.

Note also that Ramchal does not say that any one of Chazal ever believed a scientific falsehood, only that some of Chazal may have uttered one. Ramchal may believe that all incorrect scientific assertions appearing in the Talmud were known to their authors to be incorrect. (For this reason I have listed Ramchal in III-A-2, but not in III-B-2.) The science, nonetheless, can be wrong.

רמח"ל, מאמר על ההגדות (נמצא בתחילת ספר עין יעקב, ובילקוט ידיעות האמת, כרך ראשון, עמוד רמד (תל אביב?, תשכ"ה?); ז"ל

עוד צריך שתדע, שדברים רבים מעיקרי הסודות ירמזום חז"ל בענינים מן הטבע או התכונות, וישתמשו מן הלמודים שהיו מלמדים בדורות ההם אנשי החכמה הטבעית והתכונה. ואמנם אין העיקר להם הענין ההוא הטבעיי או התכוניי, אלא הסוד שרצו לרמוז בזה, ועל כן לא יוסיף ולא יגרע על אמיתת הענין הנרמז, היות הלבוש המשליי ההוא אשר הלבישוהו אמיתי או לא, כי הכונה היתה להלביש הסוד ההוא במה שהיה מפורסם בדורות ההם בין החכמים; ואותו הענין עצמו היה יכול להתלבש בלבוש אחר כפי המפורסם בדורות אחרים; וכך היה מלביש אותו בעל אותו המאמר עצמו, אלו היה אומר אותו בדורות ההם.

ועל כל אלה צריך שתדע, שחז"ל לשיטתם הולכים, שהדברים הגשמיים מתנהגים ומתפעלים מכחות רוחניים למיניהם, דהיינו המלאכים, השדים והמזיקים, וכל דברי העולם השפל מתנועעים בהשפעת העליונים, וכן דברי הגשמיים עושים רושם ברוחניים ומי שלא יכיר הדרך הזה, אי אפשר לו מעולם לעמוד על דעתם כלל ועיקר. עכ"ל

You should know further that Chazal hinted to many fundamentals of the secrets via [statements about] nature or astronomy, using what was taught by natural and astronomical scientists in those generations. In truth, what is important to them is not the natural or astronomical matter, but the secret that they wished to hint at through it. Thus the truth of the matter hinted at is not compromised regardless of whether the metaphorical outer garb in which they clothed it is true or false – for the intent was to clothe the particular secret in what was known by scholars in those generations; the very same matter could be clothed in different garb according to the knowledge of different generations, and so would the very author of the statement clothe it, were he speaking in those different generations.

Beyond all of this, you need to realise that Chazal follow their own view that physical things are directed and controlled by the various spiritual forces, namely the angels, demons and mazikim; that all matters of the lower world turn on the influence of the higher beings; and that the affairs of physical beings also have an influence upon the spiritual. One who does not recognize this approach cannot possibly understand their thinking at all.

[Translation by DES.]

(Reference from Rabbi Neriya Gotel, Hishtanut Hateva’im Bahalacha, 2nd ed., fn. 463.)

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