Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kaplan Confusion

Here I was trying to learn more about what people argue about when it comes to the age of the universe, and the difference between Science and Torah. So I figured who could be better than Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, right? So I went and bought a book called "Kabballah and the Age of the Universe," figuring it would give me all the answers according to what Torah says. I ordered it on Amazon months ago but never checked it out till last week. When the book came I was a bit disappointed to see that it was all of 30 pages long, but was the least of my problems. It turns out that all the book gives you is a bunch of different opinions and no real, concise, clear-cut answer. It basically allows you to believe whatever you want: 6,000, 42,000 49,000, 14 Billion, 18 Billion, you can believe it all, just take your pick! For every age there is a Shitah that backs it up, whether by using "G-d years" or some other reasoning.

What Gives?

37 comments:

Guravitzer said...

That is the reality - almost of those opinions are possible.

Lutziner? said...

You mean shmitas and previous worlds based on sefer hatemunah, (from memory) while the Alter Rebbe already says we don't hold like that because according to the Arizal, those tomes are only beruchnius? ;-)

bruceleh said...

Welcome to the world of Jewish old earth apologetics! Take you pick!
Though the Lubavitcher Rebbe said six physical days, so you're sort of stuck with that. But the world could have been created to look old. But so authentically old that it seems to have a many billion of years natural history. Chase tail until tired. Sleep. Wake up and chase tail again. Repeat until you give up, go say some tehillim and forget about it.

Kappa Cheena said...

Tzig - What do you mean "what gives?" That's Yidishkeit. Hasn't everyone who reads the comment section of this blog at least figured that out? Try this one on for size: What is your belief on when the Eibishter wants you to daven Mincha? Or this one: What color was Avraham Avinu's skin? R. Kaplan's ultimate position was this: In Yidishkeit, you can believe what you want to believe, but it's not a fill in the blank, it's a multiple choice.

realitycheck said...

Guravitzer said...
That is the reality - almost of those opinions are possible.

Not really, unless you add a lot of pilpul and sophistry. Kaplan's basic mistake (in this and many other things) is that he always prepares a tshulent with ingredients from all kinds of opinions, obscure texts or manuscripts - without really paying attention just how reliable or authoritative they are. Take for example the well-known Tiferes Yisroel with his interpretation of "boneh olomos umachrivon" which flies in the face of all authoritative interpretations, or his alleged base in "Kabalistic works" which NO one knows who or what he is referring to as they simply do not exist to the best of anyone's knowledge. Now the TY was surely a great talmid chochom, but his (as so many other) attempts at apologetics obviously led him astray and his suggestions are meaningless (both from Torah-perspctive as well as from a scientific one), and that is why so many gedolei Yisroel condemned that kuntres (and n some communities they even refused to use his commentary on the Mioshnah because of this). Kaplan, too, wants to have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

What did you want, one page with a number written on it?

The Bray of Fundie said...

Don't let your heart be troubled.
אלו ואלו דברי אלוקים חיים

Hirshel Tzig said...

Don't let your heart be troubled.
אלו ואלו דברי אלוקים חיים


That's where you're wrong, as least as far as public opinion is concerned. We've been told by the Urim veTumim of our generation that anybody who believes that the world is more than 5768 years old is a heretic and cannot serve as a rabbi in an Orthodox congregation!

berl, crown heights said...

"We've been told by the Urim veTumim of our generation that anybody who believes that the world is more than 5768 years old is a heretic and cannot serve as a rabbi in an Orthodox congregation!"

Told by whom?

Hirshel Tzig said...

Rav Elyashiv. He was so dubbed by an English Rabbi.

berl, crown heights said...

I see... Still, what's the problem? Does anyone plan to hire Rabbi Kaplan to "serve as rabbi in any orthodox congregation" any time soon?

Anonymous said...

Why are you bothering your little head with things way above your abilities?
Let's have another post about what kigel this rebbe ate,what this Snag said or didn't etc

mm said...

Rabbi Kaplan was one to bring all opinions down. He alwasy liked to synthaize science and torah when possible. Even though this view of the age of the universe is differs from the Rebbe's - Rabbi Kaplan learnt Chabad Chasidus and learnt the weekly Likutei Sichos

The Bray of Fundie said...

Maybe Rav Elyashiv's objection stemmed from Rabbi Slifkin's refusal to acknowledge:
אלו ואלו דברי אלוקים חיים
i.e. that in some mysterious way the mutually exclusive truths of an old and young world are BOTH true.

Not that science is correct and the Talmud mistaken or vice versa.

sHULY said...

One thing is for sure,according to The Tzig and The Berl CH.If you don't accept R'Yosef Y of Lubavitchs 'versions of history' as emmes lamito you are an apikoires!!!

Guravitzer said...

It's the funny thing about history - it simply happened or didn't happen. It's not like a blatt Gemara that you can fit ten thousand boich sevoros.

Anonymous said...

What about the history that's written in the blatt Gemara?

browser said...

the truth is that absolutely no one knows the age of the universe,
not the scientists, not even einstein not the rabbonim
not even chazal knew it,it is absolutely beyond human comprehension,the message that rabbi kaplan was trying to conveye,
is that no matter what number you come up with,would be no problem vis a vis what the torah says on this subject,because even what the torah says on this matter it is very vague,therefore whatever number you happen to come up with,
it is ok
chaim

Shimon said...

So, Kaplans book can be downloaded for free here

http://www.lulu.com/sumseq

and Rav Elyashivs position on Slifkin is expained here:

http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/ravelyashiv.html

Isaac Balbin said...

Rav Kook said that if you find a contradiction between Science and Torah on Evolution it means you need to learn more Torah, especially the so called deeper sides of Torah --- Toras HaNistor. The views can represent a prism of different meanings diffracted through the light of Torah. That a Major Posek or Admor for that matter subscribes to a particular interpretation is unremarkable, when placed in historical context.

Guravitzer said...

browser chaim, that is not true, as the Rebbe pointed out, that we write in documents that need to be accurate for the purpose of Halachah that this many years have passed since Creation. The Seder Hadoros does give us a specific age. So the truth is that we have an age for the universe, yet it is not kefirah to say that you want to somehow turn those years into 14 billion due to Darwin waking up on a Caribbean island.

Fred said...

http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2006/08/r-aryeh-kaplan-on-age-of-universe_08.html

n said...

try 'geneisis and the big bang' by a physicist, schroeder, ithink

Anonymous said...

What is R'Yosef Y of Lubavitchs 'versions of history

Rebbetzin said...

Read 'Darwin on Trial' by Philip Johnson, founder of the Intelligent Design Movement.

It might give you the courage to trust Torah %100.

Milhouse said...

Hirshel, it's agadeta, so there can be many opinions, and there's no need to settle on just one "halocho lemaaseh". Onu ein lonu elo divrei rabbeinu, but others are entitled to differ, and nobody who chooses one of the well-founded (or even not-so-well-founded) options is an apikores.

Guravitzer, we don't write in shtoros when the world was actually created; we write that the current date is such and such to the count of creation, according to the count which is customary here. There's no guarantee that that count is based on anything. The goyim count to the years of their god, even though they all agree that he wasn't really born in that year, and that there was never really much basis for believing that he was. It doesn't really matter what a calendar uses as a starting epoch, or whether the alleged event actually happened then, so long as we can determine which year the shtar was written in.

Anonymous said...

"Read 'Darwin on Trial' by Philip Johnson, founder of the Intelligent Design Movement."

Better yet, give yourself lobotomy.

The books of Intelligent Design movement have as much science in them as books of Reform Judaism movement have Torah. The sad thing is, unless you really have learned science or, lehavdil, Torah from authentic sources and professional teachers, whose understanding is based on authentic principles, you wouldn't know better -- to a lay person, argument in ID or Reform books sound convincing.

Milhouse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hirshel Tzig said...

sorry, it never arrived.

Guravitzer said...

milhouse, if there is no guarantee, we wouldn't put it in shtoros. We would leave it in medrash.

Milhouse said...

Guravitzer, it's a calendar. We do not write in shtoros when the creation happened — what has that got to do with whether Reuven owes Shimon money? We write that the transaction happened on a certain date in a particular calendar, which it did. Whether the calendar is based on fact or on fiction is completely irrelevant.

The goyisher calendar is based on what they acknowledge to be a wild guess that was almost certainly wrong, and yet they keep on using it because its usefulness doesn't depend in the least on what, if anything, happpened 2008 years ago. For the exact same reason our calendars usefulness does not depend in the least on whether something of significance happened 5768 years ago. All that matters is that when we write a date in that calendar, other people are guaranteed to understand exactly which date we're talking about, and will be able to determine without any doubt whether another event (such as another loan) happened before or after it.

Whoever said...

Nothing in Judaism is random. 5768 is a significant number.

Doesn't Kabbala say that we're on friday afternoon now, because we're after chatzos of the 6th day (in this case, millenium)?

bruceleh said...

Don't go there:
http://talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html

Anonymous said...

"The goyisher calendar is based on what they acknowledge to be a wild guess that was almost certainly wrong, and yet they keep on using it because its usefulness doesn't depend in the least on what, if anything, happpened 2008 years ago."

Nice job comparing a statement of Oral Torah to an idolatrous monk's guesstimating of his idol's birthday.

Besides that, however, in what sense is statement "5768 from the Creation of the World" is a convention? This is either so many years from the creation of the world or not. If not, then the document we wrote on is illegal -- i.e., most gettim, kesubos, everything else whether this goes.

Sure, if everybody gets the number of the years wrong at the same time (and wrong in exactly same way), their calendars are synchronized and they get along, but it still remains an erroneous fact -- which, when it's on a goyishe birth ceritificate, nobody cares, but when it's on a halachic document, it's different. Which was the Rebbe's point -- that this counting is not just arbitrary.

bruceleh said...

Uh-oh:

http://esciencenews.com/articles/2008/06/03/a.survivor.greenland.a.novel.bacterial.species.found.trapped.120000.year.old.ice

Anonymous said...

It is quite clear where these distortions took root...

Ideas of higher SOD are only for those trained extensively in abstract thought by a learned and pure hearted teacher.

The Zohar and Ari Hakdosh are quite unwavering in their insight that in addition to the rest of the Torah, the first 2 chapters of Beraishis are especially overt in portraying spiritual and not limited to physical happenings through biblical archetypes and code.

These insights are hidden in the PaRDiS (Peshat, Remez, Drush & Sod) and covered with the language of Binei Adam (see Maharal on Moshe Rabeinu's K'vad Peh).

On must graduate to understanding the Torah's instruction and narrative in spiritual terms... it is only through this that we will uncover love for others to hasten the redemption and soften its birth-pangs (/blows).

Any individual that is fluent with Sifrei Sod understands clearly that these chapters are describing the spiritual exile of mankind from the Ohr HaGanuz (primordial light), from the world of thought to the world of concrete action (the necessary decent from Keter to Assiyah). The volumes of Agaditah are espescially replete with illustrations of this abstract coding for comprehending spiritual realities like "expansion" and "retraction", "elevation" and "decent", "Ein Sof" and "Nothingness", "exile" and "intimacy" etc. It is apparent that the Anshei Kenset Hagedolah recieved these insights through Toras Moshe and hid them in code, lest they be misunderstood by the ignorant.

Rabbi Kaplan shared an extrapolated ratio of Yovel cycles to explain the kabbalistic position that while we count our years from the period that Adam Kadmon's spiritual consciousness splintered into 600,000 prime souls, the actual age of the physical universe involving a process of "actualization" from "idea" to "action" that took billions of years...

Rabbi Kaplan was a Breslev Chasid and follower of the cryptic teachings/ writings of the Kabbalist, Rabbi Nachman of Breslev.

Certainly, you who have dedicated great amounts of time to studying the Tanya, have discovered that Rabbi Nachman and the Baal HaTanya are both sharing the light of the Bal Shem Tov's Torah through their respective soul lenses /"Aspeklarya". They were both keenly knowlgeable of Rabbi Kaplan's elementary insight... they just hid this knowledge in D'Rush for the appropriate time of redemption.

Anonymous said...

As scientists learn more and more about the universe, their theories and opinions concerning its origins will continue to change (invariably making it older). Consequently, the attempts to justify these theories according to Torah will also continue to change (becoming more and more imaginative).
Since Torah is perfect and does not change, the number 5768 will remain the same, no explanations needed.
At least, until next Rosh Hashana.
My question is:
When a scientist overthrows or disproves a previous theory, is the earlier scientist ridiculed? Is his Nobel Prize taken away?
Has "Creationism" or "Intelligent Design" been incontrovertibly disproved? Or have we simply not discovered physical evidence to support it. I think the latter. Therefore, "science" should just say, "We can not find evidence for it" and nothing else.