Friday, April 03, 2009

Should Modern Orthodox Jews say Birchat HaChammah? Or is it a bracha levatalah?

While almost everyone is excited about the once-in-28-years opportunity to make a bracha, I wonder whether we should even be saying it; and whether to say it is a bracha levatala.

Let me lead off by noting this is not intended halacha lemaaseh, and that I have not looked sufficiently into the halachic sources involved for this post to be any more than an exploration. So, not halacha lemaaseh.

Part of the basis of saying Birchat HaChammah on erev Pesach this year is that it will be in the same position as it was at maaseh bereishit. Thus, the gemara just states:
Our Rabbis taught:2 He who sees the sun at its turning point,3 the moon in its power,4 the planets in their orbits,5 and the signs of the zodiac in their orderly progress,6 should say: Blessed be He who has wrought the work of creation. And when [does this happen]?7 — Abaye said: Every twenty-eight years when the cycle8 begins again and the Nisan [Spring] equinox falls in Saturn on the evening of Tuesday,9 going into Wednesday.
but Rashi explains Abaye {citing from a footnote in Soncino}:
As the sun and moon were created on the 4th day, the beginning of the 28 years cycle is always on a Wednesday which begins at the vernal equinox at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. This, according to computation coincides with the rise of Saturn, v. Rashi.
In needs to be in precisely that position -- after chatzos, e.g., it is already a question whether one may say it even bedieved.

This is a problem for Modern Orthodox people for three reasons:
  1. Do we believe in a Young Earth or an Old Earth? This is all predicated on it being the time the earth was created, thus on it being a Tuesday going into Wednesday, as Rashi explains Abaye's statement. But what if we do not understand Bereishit to be literal in this manner? This is what someone asked Wolfish Musings. And the question may indeed be a good one, and we should say אין הכי נמי.

  2. Continuing along the lines of the 28 year cycle, even if we assume a Young Earth, are we certain of the current year. Historians claim that there are some 165 years missing, a figure which does not divide evenly into 28.

  3. And even if we have an accurate date based on seder Olam Rabba, what we have is an approximation. And that approximation is slightly inaccurate, and over the millennia the date has slipped. Indeed, it presumably slipped from the time of Maaseh Bereishit, but nowadays, the vernal equinox occurs in March, not in April.

    Now, we might say that Chazal have the ability to declare the times of the moadim, but here, the brayta explicitly refers to the astronomical phenomenon, and Abaye is just helping us out by giving an accurate enough (for his time, and a long time afterwards) description of that time. This is not like deciding when Pesach is, which we may define. Rather, the bracha only kicks in when we actually see the sun when it is in the beginning of its tekufah, and this is a physical phenomenon, not a halachic one.
To cite an article in the Jewish Week, by Howard Smith, an astrophysicist:
The problem is that the year is not 365.25 days long. It is less than that — 365.24219 days (as was indeed known to the rabbis, although not to this accuracy). The difference might not seem like much, but over the course of 2,000 years the discrepancy in dating is over two weeks. This is the reason that the event has slipped from the spring equinox, which the Talmud alludes to — normally March 20 — to the current date of April 8. And the celebration date will continue to drift toward the summer — surely a crisis for an event that we celebrate specifically because it is supposed to mark the original spring equinox.

Of course the paradox of blessing the sun runs much deeper. The sun was not created on March 20, either. Nor, for that matter, was it created on a Wednesday, nor 5769 years ago. It was created about 4.6 billion years ago, when the universe was about 9.1 billion years old. Just as we humans are born and mature over a period of years, so too the sun was born from an embryonic cloud of interstellar gas and dust, and gradually reached a level of maturity after hundreds of thousand of years of development. Its nuclear reactions developed not only on one special Wednesday, but over lots of them. It is irrational, is it not, to celebrate a cosmic event that did not take place?
He feels that there is a rejoinder, and indeed there may be one. But perhaps we should not be looking for a rejoinder. Why be defensive? Instead, perhaps we should have been more proactive, taken control of the situation, and made a birkat hachama on about March 20th, the actual date of the spring equinox! (Or perhaps in whichever year March 20th comes out on a Wednesday? This year it is a Friday...) This would not be a deviation from rabbinic tradition, but rather understanding the fundamentals of the halacha and boldly applying halachic principles to state what the true halacha should be. There have been parallels of this in recent times. E.g. reevaluating gemaras to double the shiurim; declaring murex trunculus to be techeiles.

Again, this is not a problem for those who are not Modern Orthodox, for there are no missing years; and there is no old earth; and we don't pay heed to maddah.

Now, there might be a few responses we can offer, to defend the position. I don't know that it is optimal to defend it, but we can try, anyway.

The first is to say that Chazal instituted the blessing, and we follow the established pattern of Chazal. Vesalacha la-avoneinu, ki rav hu -- it is the fault of the rabbis. Or rather, this is how the blessing, and its time, has been instituted, and we cannot go wrong by following that pattern.

I would respond that they did not establish this pattern, but the brayta just spoke of one who saw the sun in its tekufah. Abaye was helpful in identifying that time for those in his generation, but he was not contemplating its use almost 2000 years later, with the resulting shift!

And as above, declarations of zemanim work for moadim, but not for physical astronomical phenonomena.

Furthermore, as we see from various halachic sources, including Aruch HaShulchan, seif 5,[ah.bmp]

despite the fact that the brayta says to bless the same bracha on the levana and the various kochavim, we do not do it nowadays because we are not bekiin. That is, despite the fact that, as far as I can tell, calculating the tekufot of the zodiac signs is given as well in Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, since we do not think we will be getting the accurate times, we do not say the beracha. If we think similarly, then perhaps the frum thing to do is to respectfully declare that we are not bekiin (even if this is a polite way of saying that they were not bekiin, to the level of predicting the date so many centuries later). As such, our treatment of the other items in the brayta sets the correct precedent.

My brother-in-law pointed out another answer which he saw in Artscroll's Birchas HaChamma book. Apparently (I didn't see it inside), Pachad Yitzchak asks this question, and says that there is no inyan of beracha levatala for ברכת השבח. I don't know enough about the topic to say if this is so, or not. But practically, after chatzos, they say not to say the beracha. And there are situations they tell you not to say it with shem and malchus.

Perhaps all us Modern Orthodox Jews should travel to the Grand Canyon for erev Pesach, so that we have two causes for oseh maaseh bereishis, so that we can avoid the safek. Or perhaps we should say it without shem and malchus. Or perhaps we should avoid it entirely.

Yeranen Yaakov is monitoring the weather, hoping that a cloudy or rainy day will not obscure the sun, eliminating the mitzvah. But perhaps we should be hoping for the opposite, that Hashem will save us from a massive beracha levatalah performed berov am by pouring a kiton shel mayim in our faces. Or perhaps better, we will have a far-off storm such that we see both the sun as well as thunder and lightning, so that we will have no safek bracha in play.

I would have liked to have heard some modern rabbonim (from various sectors) address this issue head-on, before the event.

Update: As Aton points out in the comment section, Rabbi Bleich addresses a similar point in his shiur on Birchat HaChamma, from the Yom Iyun that YU had on it. Go here, and listen at about the 53 minute mark.

His point, as far as I can understand it, is why don't we use the more accurate calculation of Rav Adda. And the answer was that then it would only occur once every few thousand years, and so they were metaken it in such a way as to give Jews the opportunity to bless it.

I am not sure it addresses the question posed above, and even if it does, I am not sure I buy the answer.

Firstly, if it is a matter of the missing 165 years, this was not something Chazal realized. They thought that even if it was an approximation, it was an approximation in which there was a cycle of 28 years since creation. Similarly, if we don't think that there is a young earth, but rather an old earth, once again, it is not some multiple of 28 years since some initial position.

Where his answer does address the lack of precision (which s point three above), I'm not sure I buy it. The fact is that there is some degree of precision involved. That is, it was what people in those days called the vernal equinox. Forget Abaye for a moment. The brayta said that the time is when it is in its tekufah, and it is in its tekufah, in lashon benei adam, during the vernal equinox. We also have this extra limitation of the 28 year cycle. That is, there is a tekufah every year, but the particular tekufah we pay attention to, as per Abaye, and as per Shmuel's calendar, is once every 28 years.

So with Shmuel's approximation, it was good enough, and close enough, to claim that this was in the same position. (How precise do we need it exactly?) And it was a tekufah. The problem given by the astrophysicist above, as I understand it, is that nowadays, it is no longer a tekufah. During the days of Abaye and Shmuel, the rough approximation was good enough that it fell out on a tekufah. But after the passage of almost 2000 years, it is no longer a tekufah, but it is rather off from the vernal equinox by a few weeks! We are no longer fulfilling the brayta! And don't tell me that Abaye was metaken it this way. He was metaken it this way for his century or so, when it indeed fell out during the date of the vernal equinox; and he was helping with the metzius.

52 comments:

Ezzie said...

Very good, interesting post.

Aton said...

Rabbi Bleich deals with the issue at the end of his YUTorah presentation. IIRC he essentially concludes that it is maintained because with the true calculation, the actual appearance of the sun at the start of the equinox on Tuesday night would occur only once every several thousand years, and we need a more frequent excuse to give Shevach over the sun.

joshwaxman said...

thanks. i'll try to check it out. I'm not sure I buy that...

kt,
josh

joshwaxman said...

see my update to the main post and let me know what you think...

kt,
josh

Anonymous said...

Great Post!

Simcha

yaak said...

The Shaarei Teshuva quotes the Shiyurei Kenesset Hagedola, who says that in ארצות ישמעאל לא נהגו לברך

The Me'am Lo'ez (perhaps based on a yerushalmi??? [I forgot exactly]) says that some people would only make the Beracha after 3 cloudy days.

However, the world nowadays is Noheig to say it every 28 years.

The MO Jews should not be making Agudot Agudot (pun intended).

joshwaxman said...

good points. if we can justify it on other grounds as non-bracha levatalah, then we are standing on firmer ground.

in terms of agudot agudot, that is a point. we can then contrast one halachic consideration with another. off the cuff, my reaction to this is that if one does a shev-ve`al-taaseh, betzinah, then perhaps it is not such a bad establishment of agudot agudot. Who is going to know if I don't show up to one of these massive rally birchas hachamas?

Meanwhile, is this really a consideration nowadays. This is the reality on the ground, that each group has made its own psakim and chumros on the basis of its leaders, and on the basis of its values. Doesn't Lubavitch have its own rules in place - disallowing children having "non-kosher" stuffed animals? Isn't wearing techeiles when the rest of the world "incorrectly" does not establish agudos agudos? This applies to Radziner chassidim as well as to modern murex trunculus folk.

Modern Orthodox, as I see it, and hope for it to be, is not just "not so frum, not such maaminim." Rather, it is a positive set of values of Judaism, in which we value science and integrate it into our religion; and claim that this is as it should be, optimally. Why should this be any different from any other psak? When Rav Ovadiah Yosef called on his followers not to run away to Uman, despite the fact that everyone else was doing it? When YU rabbis propound using a rabbinic prenup, despite no one else in the world using it? When Ramban tried to end shlugging kapparot, despite the fact that everyone was doing it?

The world may be noheg, but if they are noheg incorrectly, because it is *not* a tekufah, then the fact that they will violate halacha need not compel those who know better to violate halacha along with them...

But it is a point worthy of consideration.

kt,
josh

Anonymous said...

Now that you have confused everyone, are you happy?

Michael said...

I don't understand. If the basis of birkat hahama is to bless Hashem in praise of creating the sun, then why get worked up about the accuracy of the vernal equinox. It's not like we are pagans or something.
Chazal used the 28 year periodity because it symbolized harmony in creation. i.e a harmony between the not so accurate solar calendar and the 7 day week.

joshwaxman said...

Anonymous:
"Now that you have confused everyone, are you happy?"
Only slightly so. Of course, everyone should consult their local Orthodox rabbi, who has nothing better to do this time of year. ;)

Michael:
"I don't understand. If the basis of birkat hahama is to bless Hashem..."
don't confuse the basis with the trigger. if chazal institued 4 cups of wine for the seder to show cherus, then we cannot use some invalid substitute to show cherus, even if there is some inherent cherus in that other liquid. if they instituted the blessing on lightning, it is just as much a bracha levatala to make it instead on streetlanmps.

"then why get worked up about the accuracy of the vernal equinox"
because the bracha was instituted on a specific sight, namely the Sun in a particular position, and where the "when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the Sun being vertically above a point on the Equator" and where the days are approximately the same length as the nights.

They instituted it during the Tekufah. The 28 year cycle was useful for calculating it. Whether they knew it was accurate or did not know, this is what they used to determine *which* equinox.

"Chazal used the 28 year periodity because it symbolized harmony in creation. i.e a harmony between the not so accurate solar calendar and the 7 day week."
How do you know that this is Chazal's reason?? Are you a mind reader? It is a nice theory, but it remains just a theory. And there are all sorts of reasons they might have used it -- convenience, belief it was accurate, it having been established already by Shmuel, etc.

This is one of the reasons we are not darshinan taamah dikra -- that the presumed reasons we attribute to the Biblical text should not then supersede the actual commandment.

Yeranen Yaakov:
An additional thought: while I addressed Modern Orthodox Jews, as DovBear noted in a comment on his recent post, it really applies to all Jews, including right wing Jews. I only addressed MO Jews here because they are the ones most likely to take this sort of consideration seriously. But because of the last point, you as well might be violating making a bracha levatala. If so, if pockets of different groups pay heed to this halachic concern and avoid the safek, because safek brachos lehakel, then is it really an issue of making agudos?

kt,
josh

Anonymous said...

"The sun was not created on March 20, either. Nor, for that matter, was it created on a Wednesday, nor 5769 years ago. It was created about 4.6 billion years ago, when the universe was about 9.1 billion years old. Just as we humans are born and mature over a period of years, so too the sun was born from an embryonic cloud of interstellar gas and dust, and gradually reached a level of maturity after hundreds of thousand of years of development. Its nuclear reactions developed not only on one special Wednesday, but over lots of them. It is irrational, is it not, to celebrate a cosmic event that did not take place?"

This objection can be answered by saying that although the actual creation of the sun took a long time, we make a Brachah for the day that the creation of the Sun was completed.

Simcha

Joe in Australia said...

I think this objection is a bit precious. The point is to have an occasion for shevach. Why would one moment be more appropriate for this than another? Isn't G-d "mechadesh bechol yom tamid maaseh bereshit"? On the other hand, we can't be saying this bracha constantly. By tying it to a particular tekufah we're ascribing significance to the moment, but in fact the bracha could intrinsically be said any time.

Dave ( Balashon) said...

What about just not paying Rashi as much attention, as suggests Ben Chorin?

http://benchorin.blogspot.com/2009/03/shoot-me-for-saying-this-but-whole.html

Then you don't have to worry about the 165 years and the age of the earth.

The date of the equinox is still an issue, but I think much more of a problem for חודש האביב than it is for Birkat HaChama.

yaak said...

Perhaps, you can say "אל תקראו אותם אלא אתם" can apply to the solar year as well. We know it already does since Hachamim were Me'abeir the year when necessary if Nissan was getting too cold (I realize that that's from a separate פסוק of שמור את חדש האביב, but in effect, Hachamim were given the power to push off an Issur Karet of Hametz). So, we don't care if 165 years are missing or if we're 19 days late - we follow our Hachamim's psak din. Yes, even Hachamim that came after Hatimat Hashas. Yiftah Bedoro Kishmu'el Bedoro.

A second point - A minhag that is Noheig in all of Kelal Yisrael is too hard to break. We don't say סב"ל when there's a מנהג קדום. Almost the entire world says a beracha להדליק נר של יום הכפורים even though it's only a minhag and some great rabbis argue on it. By ברכת החמה, no modern-day genuine halachic authority argues on it or on its timing. So, yes, Agudot Agudot would apply. Its basis in halacha is too firm for it to be broken based on such arguments.

Rafi G. said...

I'm lost with all the math and science and debate of counting the correct calculations, but I have a comment on your question.
Does MO have a specific unified belief on the issue of creation that you can ask "Should Modern Orthodox Jews say Birchat HaChammah? Or is it a bracha levatalah??

Maybe you should phrase it something like "Should those of us who believe x, y and z about creation say Birkat Hachama?"
I never knew MO had a definite position on it, let alone one that was accepted by all MO. Rather, they offered the option that we could understand the world to be billions of years old, etc. I was not aware of a defintive position.

am i wrong?

joshwaxman said...

Joe in Australia:
"The point is to have an occasion for shevach."
I'm not sure that is the point. But if so, then indeed, it is a valid point. And maybe then the answer attributed to Pachad Yitzchak above would work. But as the flip side, one can argue (though there is certainly room for debate) for those who hold it is a bracha levata, why should it ever be so? One can indeed argue that it because this was how it was established -- to look at the sun at day X; but I am not convinced that that was really the case: the brayta is not saying that, and one can readily read Abaye as helping highlight a particular *tekufa*, rather than establishing it as a particular time but ignoring the tekifah.

Dave:
Good point. I am reluctant to ignore Rashi in this because I think Rashi is correct in his understanding of Abaye, and if so, it is not just Rashi.

In terms of chodesh haAviv, I think the various derashot neatly solves that problem -- Chazal have the ability to redefine when certain Jewish holidays occur. Perhaps compare Rabbi Yehoshua with his staff and his purse on Yom Kippur, at the command of Rabban Gamliel. Perhaps we can say this here, but my issue is that the requirement is to see a phenomenon, and הא, he has not seen.

yaak:
even more good points. but can Chazal define history? is the lack of major halachic force on this because it has been ignored, and not brought before them; or because most halachic authorities are chareidi? for the rest of your points, and Rafi, I have to run. I might be back about 1 PM.

kt,
josh

apollo said...

It's our custom to recite birkat hahama. If you don't think custom is a strong enough basis for a bracha, you shouldn't make a bracha on hallel on rosh hodesh either.

joshwaxman said...

apollo:
interesting idea. i don't know if I buy it entirely, though. for hallel on rosh chodesh, *first* we have a minhag, and Ashkenazim consider minhag to rise to the level of halacha to the extent that it is commanded, such that we can make a bracha on the mitzvah.

in contrast, here there is no practice. rather, you are suggesting that the *custom* is to say the bracha of shevach. this seems to me to be a big difference.

by the way, I am not saying that practice should be X or Y. Rather, that it seems like a legitimate question, in which people can say all sorts of terutzim (I don't deny that terutzim exist), and I personally don't find the terutzim convincing. of course, consult your local Orthodox rabbi.

kt,
josh

joshwaxman said...

Another point I'd like to add in general, addressing Joe, yaak, and others. This may be a matter of parsing.

There are two matters here, it would seem: (a) the timing, and (b) the seeing.

I think all would agree that absent seeing, one should not make the bracha. That is, even if the calendar were exactly accurate, the world is young, there are no missing years, and April 8 falls out on the spring equinox, if it were cloudy, such that you could not see the sun, you should not make the bracha. Even though it is the established time for the shevach. Why? Because the bracha is instituted at this time for one who sees this phenomenon.

It then can be a matter of parsing the brayta. It states הרואה חמה בתקופתה. Is betekufata an adjective, or an adverb?? If it is an adjective, then the bracha is only upon seeing "the sun in its tekufa." And absent the sun being in its tekufa, you have not seen the relevant sight; it is just as if the sky is cloudy.

On the other hand, perhaps we can cast it as an adverb, such that it is not modifying the noun Sun but the verb Sees. If one sees the Sun. When? During its tekufa. And how is that time defined? As Abaye defined it.

yaak:
as I said before, good points, all of which should actually be presented to a halachic authority. my impression from hearing normal rabbonim talking about this is that they did not look deeply into the math and believed that it was indeed in precisely the same position, and that April 8 is the equinox. People should actually ask.

Should we rely on precedent and this universal practice if we believe it is wrong? I can cite some rabbis who would argue with this idea. It might tie into the par heelem davar shel tzibur. Even if Sanhedrin says something which is wrong and is assur, there is a sin associated with it. And one cannot rely on the Sanhedrin where one knows they are wrong. (There is, on the other hand, the idea of Zaken Mamreh, I will grant you. There is also the dispute between Bavli and Yerushalmi on yamin usmol if it extends even to some matter which they say about right that it is left.)

kt,
josh

joshwaxman said...

Rafi:
Oops! I conflated you for a time with Chaim B. Sorry.

"I'm lost with all the math and science and debate of counting the correct calculations,"
Indeed, I am with you on this. The complexity of the calculations involved are problematic and an impediment to many things. I try to avoid those calculations wherever possible.

"I never knew MO had a definite position on it, let alone one that was accepted by all MO."
I am not sure I would be considered Modern Orthodox; my own position is that the overwhelming likelihood, based on what we know about the world, is that the world is quite old. But that anything is possible, and perhaps all our science and scientific observations are wrong somehow; and Hashem is Kol Yachol, so He could have created a young earth with all the evidence pointing in the other direction. But many would consider these latter two to be apologetics or worse.

I think we disagree on this count. I think the overwhelming majority of MO do not believe in a young earth, having been exposed to the scientific evidence against it. And that for the most part this underlies statements that the world *could* be understood to be so old, and yet not contradict Bereishit.

kt,
josh

Rafi G. said...

no problem

Anonymous said...

First of all, obviously Chazal knew that the calculation of Shmuel was off. That's why they use the tekufa of R. Adda for the Jewish calendar. (And they knew that even that wasn't perfect. See R. Bleich's book.)

But, more specifically, they knew that it would SHIFT days. It only takes about 128 years for the tekufah of Shmuel to shift a day. Once it's off the proper time, it makes no difference one day or 2 weeks. The Gemara was sealed more than 128 years after Abaye. Would they have included it knowing it shouldn't be followed? Why don't any of the Rishonim pick up on this problem? It already existed in their day. Ditto for the Achronim. Unless you want to chuck all of our previous Gedolim, this was the way Chazal were metaken it, and that's how it's expected to be practiced.

As to the 165 years, why give that any credence? The entire thing is based on secular calculations of the Persian Empire. The Talmud explicitly (see Yoma 9 or 10, I forget) counts the years of the first and second temples. Why should we give any credence to non-Jewish scholars against an explicit statement of Chazal.

Even R. Schwab who was trying to reconcile these issues, and proposed the "missing" 165 years, did so as a possibility, not a definite. Furthermore, I heard (no written proof) that he later retracted.

Our modern Jewish calendar is based on calculations going back to Shnas Tohu (the "first" year of Creation.) To assume a missing 165 years, is to assume that our whole Calendar is off. Then you can't say Kiddush Levana since the calcuations for the Molad are days off and perhaps it's already halfway between the molads!

And if you say that Chazal, whenever they decided to "hide" the 165 years, did so with intent that we should make brochos and celebrate holidays all according to the "new" calendar, then Birchas HaChammah should follow suit as well.

Thanks for reading,

Benny Leibman

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. The calculation is imprecise and chazal knew that. It's supposed to be symbolic. What's the difference between imprecise and more imprecise? It's still symbolic. Besides I don't know why you think the gemara did not realize the calculation would be more "off" with time, or that they did but didn't intend us to make it using this calculation? Seems to me they ignored that purposefully and we should too.

I think the business of literal days is misguided. During the slifkin debate, it was pointed out (I think by RMichaBerger on avodah first) that no one points to a chazal that demonstrates that they took the days of breishis literally. I saw someone raise birkat hachama on hirhurim, but birkat hachama doesn't work because it's timing is symbolic. Maybe chazal did that only b/c otherwise we'd make the bracha so rarely, but it also doesn't tell us one way or the other that chazal thought or were insistent that the days be taken literally. The meforshim on Rambam understand him to take the days non-literally and Rambam bases his analysis on a chazal (IMO the maamar chazal he cites is even stronger evidence for the current scientific understanding for the idea that creation took place all at once which is the idea the meforshim on the Rambam say was Rambam's position, but that's another story). WADR how do we dismiss this understandingo of Chazal? Who says this is not correct and that Chazal did not believe in ancient u either thru kabala (see R Kaplan's analysis) or as Rambam is understood by the meforshim on moreh or some other way? The key is that birkas hachama is not tied to literal understanding of 7 days breishis and I don't see how the issue relates anyway. The calculation is still symbolic today even if it's more off than in that past.

joshwaxman said...

thanks, Benny and Anonymous. Both of you make good points (and in terms of 165 as well), and in some respect echo the points made by Rabbi Bleich and others. (More on the "others" tomorrow.)

In terms of whether "Chazal" knew it was inaccurate, in general I have my doubts that Chazal were monolithic in many beliefs. Yes, they have Rav Adda's calendar. But did every Amora understand that this was not just a machlokes, but was rather one being an approximation. Did every Amora understand the repercussions of using the approximation, with specifically the result that there would be a continuous shift over many years of the vernal equinox relative to this?

That Abaye sets this up as being on Tuesday night into Wednesday, and that Rashi (correctly) explains this *position* as the sun returning to its initial position, strongly suggests to me otherwise -- that Abaye did not have this realization that some claim that all of Chazal had. Just because we have a kasha does not mean that we assume that Abaye (and Rashi explaining Abaye) did not really mean it. People can mess up calculations.

The gemara was sealed more than 128 after Abaye, but firstly, many statements which are not lehalacha are included in the gemara. The gemara does not always rule definitively. And then it is up to Geonim and Rishonim to process the gemara and decide which is lehalacha. And who says the redactors analyzed every statement to see if it works out precisely mathematically, and filtered out those they did not like? And who says they realized it was off? Many authors *today*, and many Rabbis *today*, have said it is returning to its initial position, based on a literal understanding of Rashi, and are not cognizant of the much larger shift.

Also, I am not sure that that is how Chazal were metaken it. And that because of mathematical difficulties, it *must* have been intended symbolically. If so, why bother having to see the sun at all? Who says Abaye ignored it purposefully? In his days, it *did* more or less work out (though it was quite possibly off by one day from the equinox then).

Who says that he *realized* it would be off more and more with time? It was approximately at the equinox in his days, and was accurate enough. It is a mathematical calculation against Rav Adda's calender, and not necessarily obvious (especially before base 10 numbers and Microsoft Excel) just how quickly the calendar would shift.

The kabbalistic or non-literal explanation of Chazal is a possible one, but not one that I "buy." It rather seems to me to be a teretz.

If this is indeed the halacha, then I am certainly willing to rationalize it with terutzim. But I am not sure that finding terutzim is what we should be doing.

(In other words, if we have a machlokes Rashi vs. Tosafot, the fact that there are terutzim each could state to defend their position does not undermine the validity of the other position.)

kt,
josh

ZB said...

To Benny Leibman:

First of all the missing years conundrum is a lot more then some discrepancy between Jewish and Persian sources. Greek, Assyrian, Egyptian, archeological, astrological (ie eclipses) and even geological sources (ie earthquakes) support the 165 year discrepancy. If there was no 165 years then Greek historians would have had to have prophecy in order to accurately write down names of Persian kings and events, hundred years before it occurred. Also if you ever read K. A. Kitchens book called “On the Reliability of the Old Testament “ (which supported the historical accuracy of Tanach), he uses a historical timeline backed up by archeological data that has the 165 years added to our history. All of his proofs for the Old Testament accuracy would c”v be rather easily debunked if you have to move down the timeline 165 years. For example, there are multiple outside sources that back up stories written in Tanach (for instance the similar narratives of Chizkiyahu and Sancherib of Assyria regarding the Assyrian invasion of the Levant) which from a historical viewpoint need to have the 165 year gap. Also as Azariah de Rossi pointed out, in the Neveim (I believe in Ezra) when it listed the list of Cohanim Gedolim who were ben-acher-ben, it makes a lot more rational sense if are dealing with a longer bayis shaini. Obviously if this is true, (and the overwhelming evidence now is that it is), then we have a serious problem with why Chaza"l had the bayis sheini being up only 420 years. There are multiple ways of dealing with this issue, and R' Shkop who definitely understood the problem had one answer. Other answers were given by M. First (who wrote a book on the topic) and by a few guys on the Journal Hakira a few years ago. The bottom line is that its not simple to say its just a matter of who got their history better, in which there is no doubt we have to give credence to Chaza”l account of history over some other culture. Rather it is a rigorous accumulation over many years of numerous pieces of data in which all of them say that there was 165 additional years to the bayis sheini period.
(Of course we can also answer any problem by making bad and irrational arguments. However this path does no service to our heritage and creates a Chillul Hashem IMHO. For if we go along this path c”v then there is no pointing talking or even thinking, let along debating, as this gives everyone the right to say whatever we want without regard for the truth).

earileranon said...

what is r shkop's answer?

earlieranon said...

"But did every Amora understand that this was not just a machlokes, but was rather one being an approximation. Did every Amora understand the repercussions of using the approximation, with specifically the result that there would be a continuous shift over many years of the vernal equinox relative to this?"

it doesn't have to be every amora ever. see below

"The gemara was sealed more than 128 after Abaye, but firstly, many statements which are not lehalacha are included in the gemara. The gemara does not always rule definitively. And then it is up to Geonim and Rishonim to process the gemara and decide which is lehalacha. And who says the redactors analyzed every statement to see if it works out precisely mathematically, and filtered out those they did not like? And who says they realized it was off? Many authors *today*, and many Rabbis *today*, have said it is returning to its initial position, based on a literal understanding of Rashi, and are not cognizant of the much larger shift."

I think this is ridiculous. And what, you think rashi didn't put it together either - is that what you're implying? or just that he thought abaye didn't understand. Proving it from contemporary rabbis is beyond silly - sorry. first of all, a lot, probably most and possibly all of the ones you see saying that do understand it's not precise and they are simplifying it for their audience. Are you telling us that everyone reading blogs has figured this out from reading books like Artscroll birksa hachama and these rabbis haven't if only because people in their shuls have, they read it too. and not every shul rabbi is a great talmudist. A contemporary rabbi ssays something and he's a stand in for the saboraim? for amoraim?

This reminds me of your past claim that whether all droshos are from the pasuk or some are asmachta based on a mesora is a difference of opinion based on various rishonim not being able to read a drasha. Excuse me for what I'm about to write. Your claim is that you, Josh Waxman, have figured out that you can see what chazal are darshening in posuk by reading closely, but the Rambam couldn't. And your proof was the same inanity, again excuse me - that you read some article from a local rabbi and he can't read a midrash. You know, i am not talmid chachom. I grew up in the charedi world. I was taught to read midrash by focusing on the source of the drasha. As much at home as in school, probably more so, and I was taught by haredim who were serious about aggadata. Josh Waxman did not invent the art of reading a midrah! This doesn't mean you dont have chiddushim - don't get me wrong. But you come out with these amazing statements that imply am haaratzus on the part of rishonim and as though you invented learning! I mean, to dismiss rishonim and great achronim by saying that they didn't understand to focus on what in posuk chazal were darshening, and you can reject their viewpoint because you figured out how to read a drasha and they didn't! That's nuts. How did I figure it out, and those who taught me? YOu think you literally know how to read and others dont 0 and the proof is someone's article on the weekly parsha and a link to a local paper?! You found a shul rabbi who doesn't know abc about learning midrash or a yeshiva bochur and this means 1. pretty much no one can read and 2. no one could ever read. In earlier generations, with different and dare I say more classical education, they also couldn't read a midrash. BUt you can even though they couldn't. Don't you realize how crazy this is?

And similarly, i think it's nut to say that today we figured it out, but the gemara didnt' , the saboraim didnt, i may misunderstand you but rashi didn't...this is foolishness. they had both calculations and they didnt do them or understand, because today we have microsoft excel and still there are rabbis who get it wrong, so that's proof! Is it not clear these rabbis are mostly not doing any calculation themselves microsoft notwithstanding (but anyway rely on artscroll and so do understand and their words dont mean what you say)

As you can see from my example of drashot which you wrote about a long time back, this frustration with the way you approach matters is longstanding. I hope my tone here is not too OTT, I just can't handle this approach

joshwaxman said...

if you see the methods (in the text) they had to use to multiply, divide, etc., you would see how much more difficult it is than what we are doing today. and not everyone was an astronomer and mathematician.

i do indeed believe that Chazal were not monolithic in scientific or mathematical beliefs. Just as there were severe disputes between non-Jewish scientists.

If one source seems to directly contradict another, the answer is not, IMHO, to say "they did not mean it; they meant is figuratively." That is harmonization, and sometimes the harmonization is true. But often it is a kvetch in the wrong direction, based on the assumption that both must simultaneously be write, and all of Chazal are in agreement on these matters.

Yes, I do believe that they, like us, were limited in their knowledge, in different ways. Addressing approaches to midrash is way too off topic here. I am glad you know how to read a midrash. However, not everyone has the same approach to midrashim, and that includes rishonim, and that includes Acharonim, some of whom design whole systems of midrashic methodology to explain what is going on. And there is focusing on the pasuk in different ways.

They may have had both calculations, but did they regard this as a *machlokes*, or as one being accurate and one inaccurate? Having both calculations, did every person along the way calculate exactly how far off it would be in each instance?

You are certainly entitled to your opinion, your feelings and your tone. It doesn't bother me.

Kol Tuv,
Josh

Anonymous said...

I don't see how you're addressing my response.

"i do indeed believe that Chazal were not monolithic in scientific or mathematical beliefs. Just as there were severe disputes between non-Jewish scientists."
that's not relevant.

"If one source seems to directly contradict another, the answer is not, IMHO, to say "they did not mean it; they meant is figuratively." That is harmonization, and sometimes the harmonization is true. But often it is a kvetch in the wrong direction, based on the assumption that both must simultaneously be write, and all of Chazal are in agreement on these matters."

not relevant either

"However, not everyone has the same approach to midrashim, and that includes rishonim, and that includes Acharonim, some of whom design whole systems of midrashic methodology to explain what is going on. And there is focusing on the pasuk in different ways."

also not relevant. you're claiming they didn't know a,b,c over which there is no one disputing. Your shul rabbis don't look up the original midrash, if htey do they daven it. seeing what in posuk the respond to is a universal that anyone who is paying attention grasps, it's an elementary reading skill.

"They may have had both calculations, but did they regard this as a *machlokes*, or as one being accurate and one inaccurate? Having both calculations, did every person along the way calculate exactly how far off it would be in each instance?"

the first question is not related to the second. The second does not have to be every person along the way, and raising that is a red herring.

"You are certainly entitled to your opinion, your feelings and your tone. It doesn't bother me."

Let's agree to disagree. I think you are not differentiating between different forms of knowledge and skills with the effect of attributing sheer am haaratzus to the greats, especially on midrashim.

Anonymous said...

but i do appreciate that you are not taking this personally! a chag kasher vesameach

Anonymous said...

I just want to articulate two other points Regarding shul rabbis today - the ones who allegedly are not aware of the problem and haven't read artscroll, I think they wouldn't even know there are two systems of calculations. The redactors of the gemara did know this. Are we to think they thought using one calculation there and the other here is just happenstance? That one is more precise, but not figuring how much more precise? To me obviously this is not plausible, but regardless there is a big difference between not knowing of how the calculations are made and of different systems and knowing.

Also an irony regarding the practical aspect of MO not making the bracha. Here we have one Artscroll book written by a YU rosh yeshiva, used by haredim and MO alike. One mitzva in which Artscroll has allowed us to get together in unity so that many on the left and right are reading the same material to appreciate the mitzva. Wouldn't it be sad if just on this mitzva MO split off and decided it's not for them and only for the haredim? This introduces disunity in a rare moment of unity.

joshwaxman said...

not everything in my response has to be "relevant." my purpose is not to convince you, which I know i will not do, but to reiterate my position spelled out above.

the harmonization and possibility for dispute does seem relevant though. i had a similar discussion elsewhere, in multiple places. do we assume apparent mess-ups are deliberate, and read against the plain meaning of what rabbinic sources say?

for example, the mathematics in Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer to calculate an 84 year cycle is all messed up, by ignoring chalakim and conflating the lengths of lunar and solar years. One answer is that the author of PDE messed up. The other is that, despite the fact that a 84 year cycle was the known and established cycle by Romans and Christians, the author of PDE is *deliberately* messing up, because he intends a secret mystical message. one possibility seems a lot more plausible to me than the other.

or a demonstration that a gemara in Yerushalmi shows knowledge that the earth is a sphere. Do I then conclude that *all* of Chazal believed the earth was round, even where the straightforward reading of other gemaras is otherwise? It is a good question. I would assume not.

I don't want to discuss midrashim here because it is too far afield. perhaps next time I address something midrashic?

Back to kiddush hachama, knowledge is not universal. Amoraim, e.g., could be counted on to know every Mishna, but not every brayta. Who says that those particular savoraim redacting the Talmud in this place knew the divergence, or even if so, saw it their place to argue on what an Amora said? As I wrote earlier, things are encoded in the gemara only to be rejected by Rishonim. See all the times the gemara's apparent conclusion, with an Amora's statement, is called a shinuya by the Rif and rejected.

http://alfasi.blogspot.com/search?q=%D7%A9%D7%99%D7%A0%D7%95%D7%99%D7%90

indeed, apparently some Rishonim did reject Abaye's position and instead held that it meant the Sun after 3 days of clouds. See my more recent post. And read the Chabad article about it.

So this idea of going against this statement of Abaye is actually not my own innovation...

kt,
josh

joshwaxman said...

"Wouldn't it be sad if just on this mitzva MO split off and decided it's not for them and only for the haredim?"

indeed. yeranen yaakov made a similar point above about Agudot Agudot, but not with such contrast as you offered.

kt,
josh

earlieranon said...

"one possibility seems a lot more plausible to me than the other."

sure, don't see how this relates

"It is a good question. I would assume not."
I dont assume all chazal agree

"Who says that those particular savoraim redacting the Talmud in this place knew the divergence, or even if so, saw it their place to argue on what an Amora said?"

the first is different than the second. they had it in front of them so they knew!

"indeed, apparently some Rishonim did reject Abaye's position and instead held that it meant the Sun after 3 days of clouds."

but this is very different than not knowing the difference. we pasken differently but the assumption that that's b/c earlier figures didn't know what was going on is not proven by citing early authorities who note the difference!

Btw i apologize for repeatedly not remembering to take a pseudonym. be well and a good pesach

joshwaxman said...

"the first is different than the second. they had it in front of them so they knew!"

since much of Torah sheBaal Peh is written down nowadays, am I to assume that every great rabbi is aware of *every* source in midrash, halacha, hashkafa? Anyway, What I mean by "knew the divergence" is that they knew and appreciated how significant the divergence would be, such that every 128 or so years it would shift a day? or that r' adda's, while different, was more accurate, and accorded that much closer to the actual solar behavior. and anyway, even if they did know, who says it was there place to comment, or chas veshalom, to filter out Abaye's statement?

those earlier authorities who note the difference would *seem* to be attributing error in this calculation to Abaye, who appears to have instituted this. There are likely other ways of interpreting this, of course.

kt and have a great pesach,
josh

joshwaxman said...

"relates"
also, the above relates to the gemara in this case, since we are effectively claiming that since the calculations of Abaye do not accord to reality, and we claim from elsewhere that he must know that there is something more accurate, we disregard the straightforward meaning, as per Rashi, that he believes it actually is coming to the same position as maaseh bereishit and are instead (falsely IMHO) attributing to him other motivations -- he does not want it so often, but does want it to be regular and easy to count, and want to inspire us with reason X. And therefore, he knowingly is establishing a "false" time in which the sun is not in its tekufah for hidden, inspirational reasons that we ourselves get to provide. It seems to me to be the same thing.

kt,
josh

earlieranon said...

"since much of Torah sheBaal Peh is written down nowadays, am I to assume that every great rabbi is aware of *every* source in midrash, halacha, hashkafa?"

I don't get these parallels to contemporary rabbonim. when you see say the commentaries on midrash, some only two hundred years ago or even less, you realize some of them did know just about every midrash as they cross reference all the parallels w/o any technological aid. they know what they are working on with remarkable bekiut - maybe the fact that we today rely more on technology in general makes us limit our study and memory skills since such bekiut today is obviously so much rarer if it even exists! similarly the saboraim surely knew what was in the gemara. and no this does not mean any given one cant miss something but as a group over time to posit such lacuna is very strange IMO. i think great rishonim had tremendous command of just about everything available to them (not everything was available to them of course) the comparison to contemporary rabbonim is telling as our system does not emphasize bekiut whereas in poland two hundred years ago there were fantastic bekiim - kal vachomer to those who came earlier and the less material there is to command the greater the bekiut in primary sources also.

"even if they did know, who says it was there place to comment, or chas veshalom, to filter out Abaye's statement?"

but this is very different than what precedes in the paragraph. yes, i assume they did understand the difference and of course knew one was more accurate than the other, even how much more accurate. not every last person has to do the calculation either.

"those earlier authorities who note the difference would *seem* to be attributing error in this calculation to Abaye, who appears to have instituted this. There are likely other ways of interpreting this, of course."

and others who noted the difference and decided that earlier authorities said we can follow abaye anyway for the symbolism. as i wrote, that these authorities noted this is not evidence for your side that microsoft excel makes the difference.

we aren't going to agree... kol tuv and thanks for taking this in good spirit.

Anonymous said...

"and we claim from elsewhere that he must know that there is something more accurate"

I don't know why you assume this revolves around what abaye himself thought.

Anonymous said...

"we disregard the straightforward meaning, as per Rashi, that he believes it actually is coming to the same position as maaseh bereishit"

we're not disregarding this. we're disregarding precise calculations to get there or more accurately assuming precise calculations were disregarded to get there. i think it's weird to say that abaye did not know of the more precise calculation. that's harder to say than to infer he did not mean that the caluclation here was precise.

I'm out of time here before pesach so this will have to be the end on my side.

Anonymous said...

Monday, April 06, 2009 4:16:00 PM should be only revolves

joshwaxman said...

"I don't know why you assume this [only] revolves around what abaye himself thought"
it certainly revolves *a lot* about what Abaye thought. and this is what people (nowadays) are attributing to him.

in terms of rishonim, i would like to see the precise statements they make that take symbolism over accuracy in identifying the sun in its tekufah, rather than attributing this to them as well. otherwise, it seems like people nowadays are rationalizing what they think *has to be* the practice, and inventing excuses, rather than engaging the sources on their own terms and determining what the practice should be.

"i think it's weird to say that abaye did not know of the more precise calculation."
this is one of several possibilies -- and to justify it, they did not know all braytot either. other possibilities include that he knew of it but regarded it as a dispute; or knew of it but did not realize that the rounding errors would produce such a dramatic effect; or that he knew of it, but was only speaking for his time, for which it *was* accurate enough.

kol tuv,
josh

Aton said...

Rav Yatz Rimon from Alon Shevut has a really nice shiur on torah.libsyn.com where he addresses all these issues as well. It seems that from the constellation of evidence -- they knew Rav Adda was right, and in any case, we don't Poskin that B'Nissan Nivra Ha'Olam -- Hayom Harat Olam?! we are combining two rejected Shittos to get to this Bracha -- it's inconceivable that Rambam, et al. overlooked it; it's clear that something else is going on here. (I think the Ba'al HaMa'or/5769 issue can be "answered up" -- Rabbi Moshe Sokolow has a derech in which he asserts that the 165 years were deliberately omitted to even out extra years introduced in Tekufat HaShoftim to reach the thematically significant 480. The old earth issue is harder). Maybe the point is rather the symbolism of the sun, V'Zarach HaShemesh U'Ba Hashemesh -- the Kohelet analogy to generations; thus it makes a great deal of sense to purposefully schedule this on every fourth Hakhel year, after just having seen the entire people last Sukkos-time and realize that there are a lot of new faces, and missing faces since the last one.

yaak said...

See here

See p.12 from the משאת בנימין.

See p.16 from יחוה דעת where it says "והמקום" until the end.

joshwaxman said...

thanks.
kt,
josh

Anonymous said...

"in terms of rishonim, i would like to see the precise statements they make that take symbolism over accuracy in identifying the sun in its tekufah, rather than attributing this to them as well. otherwise, it seems like people nowadays are rationalizing what they think *has to be* the practice, and inventing excuses, rather than engaging the sources on their own terms and determining what the practice should be."

A little time before the bedika and I wanted to address this because I think rishonim is where your arguments fall apart. Rambam defintitely knew precise calculations and that this was off and still codifies birkas hachama every 28 years lehalacha. I see you acknowledge this in your latest posts and agree on this point. So even if you say abaye did not realize how imprecise the calculation is etc or he did, but instituted the bracha only for his time. and the redactors of the gemara, you argue even if they realized, they may just have recorded abaye's opinion and not wanted to argue on it. Yet with rishonim, we see some paskening differently, maybe b/c they thought this calculation is not the one we use and too imprecise. But rambam does use this calculation. So I see two possibilites. One that rambam thought like you (which as you see I think is not correct), that abaye uses the imprecise calculation not knowing or agreeing that his is off or not meaning it ledorot - but still rambam does not think it's a bracha levatala! Alternatively,rambam thought we calculate roughly for birkas hachama b/c otherwise it is too rare an event, or we use easier calculations for such a bracha even if it's not the correct calculation - or whatever. I don't know why else he may have thought to pasken we make the bracha every 28 years, but clearly he thought - knowing the calculation is off - that we do and did not think it a bracha levatala! So we see rishonim aware of the issue, and we follow those who say to make the bracha and obviously the issue of the imprecise calculation was known to rambam. Rambam does sometimes pasken like yerushalmi in cases of dispute in bavli, and he also sometimes omits things brought in gemara, so that would seem strong evidence that at least he thought it's still OK to follow abaye for this bracha.

Wrt interolating reasons - what else might the rambam have thought? I see these explanations as realistic and good reasons for him paskening as he did, but maybe there is another reason he did so.

"this is one of several possibilies -- and to justify it, they did not know all braytot either. other possibilities include that he knew of it but regarded it as a dispute; or knew of it but did not realize that the rounding errors would produce such a dramatic effect; or that he knew of it, but was only speaking for his time, for which it *was* accurate enough."

but rambam did know, so how do you explain him?

Wishing you all the best, and may the next 28 years be full of good things for all of us and continuation to grow in torah and avodas hashem until the next birkas hachama where hopefully moshiach will be here and we'll have our answers!

Anonymous said...

above is earlieranon

earlieranon said...

also as I mentioned earlier, the meforshim on the moreh understand Rambam to take the days of creation non-literally. And we see this too was not an issue for Rambam wrt to birkas hachama.

joshwaxman said...

perhaps I'll have opportunity to continue this after, or during Pesach.

I do think Rambam is a much better point than Abaye. And that certainly there have been multiple perspectives on this practice throughout different generations. (Including Geonim and some Rishonim against, and Rambam and others in favor.) Rambam certainly does not have to agree with me, and as someone MO look up to as a Rishon, Rabbi, rationalist and scholar, he certainly would seem to provide good precedent. Although lo tehdar pnei gadol, and all that, such that if we think that such a framing is misguided, perhaps... This is all off the cuff.

Rambam is difficult because he does not often explicitly cite his sources and explain his rationale. It is unclear, e.g., if he considered the silence of the Yerushalmi to amount to an active machloket; or what, if any theory behind this restatement of the gemara he had. In terms of Moreh Nevuchim, I don't know the specifics there (I *thought*, based on bad recollection, that it was that he would be *willing* to consider it such if so compelled by scientific evidence), but my impression was also that this is not the first place we find a divergence between the Moreh and the Yad.

In terms of bracha levatala, contrast with the wording he uses for keshet, in the seif above, and hakazat dam, below. Are you certain that he intended shem umalchut in this blessing?

kol tuv, and have a great pesach.
josh

earlieranon said...

what do you think the rambam thought abaye meant? or the gemara meant?

"(I *thought*, based on bad recollection, that it was that he would be *willing* to consider it such if so compelled by scientific evidence)"

sounds like you are remembering what he says about kadmus haolam, a different issue. I wouldn't think this is a machlokes between yad and moreh. I think it's identical to his knowing that the calculation is off even w/o the days of breishis issue. Also in moreh rambam implies that Chazal thought the days were nonliteral and he cites a chazal saying that they mean what he says! Which the meforshim take to mean non-literal days. (Yes this is not nec. all chazl and just this memre.) I would think he assumes they purposefully took an imprecise calculation for birkas hachama (My assumption). You argue if I understand you that he decided the halacha is like this even though abaye etc didn't know the calculation is off but we should make the bracha anyway?

the shem umalchus point is interesting though i confess it sounds a little unlikely to me.

would be interesting to continue after yom tov if you wish. kol tuv

earlieranon said...

"Although lo tehdar pnei gadol, and all that, such that if we think that such a framing is misguided, perhaps... This is all off the cuff."

Are there are examples where you would say that MO do or should ignore SA and accepted practice when it follows a rishon who was aware of the same issues the MO are grappling with??

joshwaxman said...

perhaps after yom tov. thanks for the explanation of the Rambam.

Rambam btw need not hold anything about the literalness of the days, since he does not advance Rashi's explanation. but then since he does not explain himself, I am not sure I should advance any explanation.

in the meantime, in terms of shem umalchus, IIRC this is a consistent shitta in a whole bunch of brachot in masechet brachot, whether the gemara intended them with shem umalchus or not. I think this manifests itself by hakazat dam, with the Shach vs. the Taz, but this is entirely from memory and way to late at night.

As for the rest, hopefully I will get a chance to think about it over Yom Tov, and elaborate afterward.

kol tuv,
josh

joshwaxman said...

"Are there are examples..."

I'm not sure this methodological question applies to just Modern Orthodox. (In fact, I just chose modern orthodox in this case because of the possibility of applying all three arguments.) Is the Shulchan Aruch and Rema (and Mishnah Brurah) always determinative of final psak? And what if most poskim follow one line, while among others there is a dispute in which there is one posek who holds X regardless while a whole bunch of others argue. What should be the course there? It is a good question.

I am not sure, BTW, that Rambam was interpreting or framing the gemaras at all. We don't know this was not mechanical application of kelalei horaah, without a place for his input. Though that, too, would be somewhat meaningful.

kt,
josh

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