Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Samson Rephael Hirsch denies daas torah, infallibility of the Sages, on matters of science

If I had a billion dollars, I'd pay every Jewish school in the world to force every Jewish student to memorize this passage.

It seems to me that the guiding principle with which every student of our Sages' words should bear in mind is that our Sages were the scholar of the divine religion and were the recipients, transmitters and teachers of God's guidance, ordinances, commandments, and statutes; they were not especially natural scientists, geometers, astronomers, or physicians except as it was necessary for their comprehension, observance and performance of the Torah - and we do not find that this knowledge was transmitted to them from sinai. Nowadays, anyone whose occupation is not in one of these fields - such as a lawyer with respect to them all, or a geometer or astronomer with respect to the study of inanimate matter, plants, animals, and people, or even a physical scientist with respect to biology, or a botanist with respect to the rest - one should not expect any one of them to conduct research or to be held responsible except in his own field; it is enough, it is indeed impressive, if in all other disciplines he simply knows what the scholars of those disciplines teach about them, and what has been accepted in his time as fact. Moreover, even in the field of one's own occupation, it is neither possible nor expected that one will know everything from his own personal investigation and experimentation; one relies for most of his knowledge on the investigations of others, and is not to blame if they have erred. It is sufficient  -it is praiseworthy- if his storehouse of knowledge contains everything accepted as true in his time,his place and his generation; his sagacity is in now way diminished if in another generation it is determined that some of his statements, in making which he had believed and accepted the reports and investigations of others, were based on incorrect premises.

So, too, our Sages, in these matters and on these topics. The greatest of them knew what was accepted as true in their time in all fields of wisdom and science; they were in this regard the intellectual and scientific equals of the rest of the world's sages whose wisdom and teachings were widely accepted in their time.
Rabbi Samson Rephael Hirsch, Letter to Rabbi Hile Wechler

Take away points:
  • No Torah sage is infallible on matters of science, medicine, botany, biology, astronomy and the like 
  • The Torah sages relied on the local wisdom of their time when it came to these matters
  • The subjects are not part of the Mesorah, and were not transmitted from Sinai.
Found here, too, where a charedi cover up is suggested.

Search for more information about the things I have been right about and my opponents have been wrong about  at

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