Sunday, May 04, 2008

Other Sources About Chazal's Science

My ambition is one day to compile a source list complementary to "Sources Indicating That Chazal Did Not Possess Perfect Scientific Knowledge," which will present rabbinic sources indicating that Chazal did in fact possess perfect scientific knowledge, or at least that scientific statements that go unchallenged in the Talmud are always correct. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I am much busier these days than I was back when I compiled the bulk of the original list, and I simply do not feel I have the time to produce any sort of decent work of the type I have just described. As an entirely inadequate and hopefully temporary substitute, I present below two small lists of sources (references only; no quotations) on the topic of Chazal's science which are not included in "Sources Indicating That Chazal Did Not Possess Perfect Scientific Knowledge." The first list consists of sources averring that Chazal's scientific statements - or at least those uncontested in the Talmud - were always correct. The second group of sources assert neither that Chazal were always right nor that they were sometimes wrong; these sources may nonetheless be of interest to those researching the topic of Chazal's science. Individuals marked with an asterisk (*) are also listed in "Sources Indicating That Chazal Did Not Possess Perfect Scientific Knowledge."

I apologize that these lists are currently extremely short. It goes without saying that there are far more sources of each type than appear here, many of which I am already aware of. I will try to add more sources to this post as my schedule permits. I am posting it now in this ridiculously abbreviated form so that I can solicit feedback and help in finding more sources. I request that anyone knowing of sources that ought to be cited in any of the three "science of Chazal" lists on this blog suggest them in the comments. Thank you in advance for your help.

Category 1: Chazal Did Not Err

Rema (R. Moshe Isserles; 1520-1572; Poland), Torat Ha’olah 1:2; 3:49.
R. Yehuda Briel (1643-1722; Italy), quoted in Pachad Yitzchak, by R. Yitzchak Lampronti, under the entry “Tzeidah.”
R. Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (1910- ; Israel), as quoted in "The Slifkin Affair – Issues and Perspectives," by R. Aharon Feldman, available at

Category 2: Neutral but Interesting

Rabbeinu Tam (R. Yaakov ben Meir Tam; c. 1100-1171; France), quoted in Tosafot, Shabbat 35a s.v. “Trei tiltei mil;” quoted in Shita Mekubetzet, Ketubot 13b.
Tosafot (12th-14th centuries, France-Germany), Pesachim 94a s.v. “Rabbi Yehuda omer mishekiat hachamah ad tzeit hakochavim arba milin.”
*Ramban (R. Moshe ben Nachman; 1194-1270; Spain-Israel), Bereishit 9:12; Bereishit 35:16; Devarim 18:9; “He’ara Nosefet” immediately following the end of Ramban’s commentary on Devarim (Mossad Harav Kook edition).
Maharal (R. Yehuda Loew; 1525-1609; Bohemia), Be’er Hagolah 6.
Vilna Gaon (Gra; R. Eliyahu of Vilna; 1720-1797; Lithuania), Hagahot Hagra 1 to Eruvin 76b.
R. Akiva Eger (1761-1837; Austria-Hungary), Gilyon Hashas, Pesachim 94b s.v. “Venir’in divreihem.”


Anonymous said...

in hartman's be'er hagolah he quotes a list of rabbanim who signed a cherem against meor eynayim.

they should fit at least in the interesting category (in my opinion)

DES said...

Well... I have to be a bit conservative in what I define as "interesting," otherwise I will end up with so many sources that the list will become unmanageable and not so useful. There are many potential reasons for someone to have put Me'or Einayim in cherem, not all related in any way to Chazal's science. It is unclear what is signified by the fact that someone was a signatory to the cherem. (In this sense, that cherem is comparable to the ban of Rabbi Slifkin's books - not all the signatories banned them for the same reason or set of reasons.)

Most of the sources in the "Interesting" category are sources that are often quoted in discussions of Chazal's science and which themselves actually discuss Chazal's science, but which do not actually express a clear opinion on the matter.

I'll roll this around in my head some more, though. But if I listed the signatories to the cherem, wouldn't it also be appropriate for me to list those who quote Me'or Einayim approvingly, in obvious defiance of the ban? This becomes quite thorny. It's hard to know where to draw the line.