Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Was the Shevus Yaakov a Flat-Earther? It would seem so.

The Gilyonei Shas I translated the other day detailed how both the Gra and the Shevus Yaakov believed the Earth was flat, despite all the scientific proofs that it was round. (See also here and perhaps here.) I thought it might be nice to see the Shevus Yaakov inside, and so here it is. I think it is worthwhile to bring these sources down to demonstrate that the non-rationalist approach can bring one to false conclusions about the world, and also that even great rabbis can sometimes be wrong about science. Perhaps more analysis of this teshuva in some later post.

Question 20: One who was a tutin {?} -- that this is that he did not have a sense of smell, how should he act in terms of havdalah, for the blessing on the spices?

Answer: Behold, this law apparently does not analysis, for it is straightforward and laid out in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim at the end of siman 297 seif 5, that he wrote there, and this is his language:
"He who cannot smell does not bless on the spices unless he has intent to satisfy the requirements {for blessing} for the minor members of his household, or one who does not know how to bless." End quote.

And so did the author of the gloss {=Rema} leave it plainly {by not stating anything in argument}, and the Levush. However, I saw that the opinion of the Acharonim -- who are the two Magens {=Magen Avraham and Magen David}, and my brother-in-law the gaon in his sefer Or Zarua {?} -- that he is not able to fulfill the requirements of adults, but only a minor, and see there.

And to me it seems that the primary {position} is like the position of the Shulchan Aruch, but not for his reason. For behold the basis of this law is not mentioned in Shas or in the first {rishonim} great halachic decisors, the Rif and the Rambam, and the like. Only the Rosh and the Mordechai in the name of Rabbenu Ephraim write that one who cannot smell is not able to bless. However, the Beis Yosef there brings in the name of the Orchos Chaim that
some say that even though he does not benefit from the scent, for he has no sense of smell, he blesses. For even though he does not sense it, in the scent there is a benefit to him, for it strengthens his head and his body. End quote.
And so it is logical, for behold we say in perek Keitzad Mevarchin, daf 43b:
Rav Chama bar Tuvia {J: Guria?} cited Rav: How do we know that we bless on the scent? For it is stated {Tehillim 150:6}
ו כֹּל הַנְּשָׁמָה, תְּהַלֵּל יָהּ: הַלְלוּ-יָהּ.6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. {S}Hallelujah. {P}
What is the thing that the spirit benefits from and the body does not benefit from? Say that this is scent. End quote.
Behold that there is no practical significance in that the body benefits from it. If so, even though his body does not sense the scent, still the spirit benefits from it, except that the body is missing one of the five senses.

And so I have heard from a doctor, that one who does not have a sense of smell, it comes from some denseness {?} of the brain, and it is written {Bereishit 7:22}
כב כֹּל אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁמַת-רוּחַ חַיִּים בְּאַפָּיו, מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר בֶּחָרָבָה--מֵתוּ.22 all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, whatsoever was in the dry land, died.
{So the neshama of the ruach is found at the nostrils, not at the brain.}
If so, since the neshama of the ruach in the nostrils benefits from it, he is able to bless on it. And based on this, the question that one scholar asked me is removed, namely how does the Shas speak of something that the spirit benefits from but the body does not benefit from it? Behold there are many people who derive benefit from a good scent just as from eating, and for that reason, some are stringent not to smell {spices} on Yom Kippur that which is made for its scent. Rather, certainly, this is the intent of the Shas: Even one who does not have a sense of smell should bless, since the neshama

benefits from it, and that this is what the Scripture states, כֹּל הַנְּשָׁמָה, תְּהַלֵּל יָהּ, that is to say that kol, all, is being analyzed, such that even one who does not have a sense of smell at all.

And even though I investigated by certain scholars of medicine and they said that in their medical textbooks it is made clear that one who does not have a sense of smell does not have any benefit at all, even so, since their medical textbooks are based primarily upon the wisdom of the nations of the world, Aristotle and his company, one should not rely on their words for practical law, just as היפ"מ {?} wrote in Berachot perek 9, daf 71b, and the teshuva of ח"י {Chavos Yair?} siman 219, see there, that they wrote along this reasoning, that even Kiddush Hachodesh one should not learn, except for the count of א' י"ב, {the year} {5}793, and the like, since the Rambam himself in perek 17 of Hilchot Kiddush Hachodesh testifies there that all is from the works of the Greek scholars, but that the works of the scholars of Israel did not reach us, end quote. Even though the Rambam, and the rest of the great investigators {chakrei leiv} learned Kiddush Hachodesh from the Rambam, and wrote works on this, even so, many gedolim who are in our times refrained and did not learn it at all, and shev veAl taaseh {sit and do not do} is better. For it is written {in the pasuk darshened in Berachot} {Devarim 4:6}
ו וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם--כִּי הִוא חָכְמַתְכֶם וּבִינַתְכֶם, לְעֵינֵי הָעַמִּים: אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁמְעוּן, אֵת כָּל-הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה, וְאָמְרוּ רַק עַם-חָכָם וְנָבוֹן, הַגּוֹי הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה.6 Observe therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, that, when they hear all these statutes, shall say: 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'

implying that they do not know the matter to its depth. And so how can we learn from their texts? And indeed, the primary aspect of their words are built upon the idea that the world is like a ball, against the implications of the sugya of our Shas, the beginning of the second perek of Chagiga, which states that "both this and that are a single measurement," and as is explained in the words of the Re'em {=Mizrachi} parashat VaEtchanan, and in Yefeh Toar {? a commentary on Midrash Rabba?}, the eighth perek, page 52, and in the Derashot HaRanach, at the beginning of parshat Bereshis, and in sefer Bris Shalom, there. And see in our novel insights to Chagiga, see there.

Therefore, it seems to me that for this reason, the Bet Yosef decided in Shulchan Aruch that in any event there is to rely on the words of these halachic decisors and to bless, if his intent is to fulfill {the obligation of blessing} for another.

And so it seems to me, the katan, Yaakov.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


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