[Avodah] Kitniyot

Lisa Liel lisa at starways.net
Thu Mar 28 11:48:19 PDT 2013

On 3/28/2013 1:03 PM, Micha Berger wrote:
>>> I disagree. See my most recent blog post
>>> <http://www.aishdas.org/asp/2013/03/tzav.shtml>.
>>> The topic is the implications of the difference between a legislative
>>> process and a fact-finding one, including the need to think in terms
>>> of what gives a ruling authority, not what makes the most sense from
>>> a historical or scientific perspective.

>> With all due respect, mitzvah isn't passive.  It's factitive, which is
>> sometimes consider intensive.  The opposite of passive.

> This is tangential, since the notion of mitzvah as a means of becoming
> a certain kind of person doesn't require analyzing the word. But even
> on the diqduq level, what is important to my note was that it is a
> circumlocution compared to the base "tzavah". A biblical mishmar is
> a place of confinement or a guardpost, not the act of guarding or the
> thing to guard. And that opens space for derashos as to why HQBH picked
> this term.

Mishmar is a good example.  It is far from passive.  It denotes an
intensive guarding.  Not merely an incidental one, but one for which
the mishmar was created.

>>                                                                       But
>> the biggest reason of all is that the inflated shiurim were obviously the
>> best that the poskim could do, lacking the actual olives to compare them
>> to.  That being the case, the actual fact doesn't constitute a historical
>> argument; it constitutes a reality-based argument.

> Except that it presumes that halakhah is reality-based. It's not a
> science, it's a legal system designed to change people. Who says it /should/
> be reality based?

We aren't Christians. We insist on the reality that Hashem gave us the
Torah at Sinai and that what we have now is that Torah. A legal system
designed to change people is all well and good, though it's much more
something you'd hear in a shul sermon than in any actual mar'ei mekomot,
but there's no way the k'zayit was inflated in order to change people.
It was an incidental thing, done without any intent of changing reality,
but rather of best approximating the reality given what was known.

In fact, the very fact that so much energy was spent trying to determine
what a k'zayit was demonstrates that reality is what it was about.
Rabbis weren't trying to figure out what size k'zayit would change people
in a certain way. They were trying to figure out what the reality was
that Chazal were talking about.

But this is sort of a recapitulation of the Beit Hillel / Beit Shammai
dispute. Beit Hillel dealt with reality. Real humans, with real heights
and real abilities. Beit Shammai taught about Adam HaRishon standing as
a giant, and Moshe Rabbenu leaping ridiculous distances into the air.
Not out of fancy, but out of a sense of theology. Out of an idea
that reality wasn't the critical thing; how the Torah affects people
is the critical thing. The same split exists between Hassidic thought
and non-Hassidic thought, with the Hassidim weighing in on the side of
Beit Shammai, ironically enough. And that's how we get meshichistim
and the like. When reality isn't the basis, there aren't a whole lot
of limits out there.

>> I think this is a philosophical issue that has far wider implications. I
>> see it as consonant with your argument that the Mabul could have been an
>> event that never actually happened in the physical world...

> This is a miunderstanding of my -- really the Maharal's and R' Dessler's
> position (AIUI). I do not question whether the mabul happened in the
> physical world. Rather, the question is how much of what we call "the
> physical world" is really out there, and how much is a projection created
> by human perception? The mabul really happened in the physical world,
> as perceived by a different kind of consciousness than ours.

Honestly... that's a lot of words.  It's the kind of thing I'd expect to 
see in a philosophy course in a university. It's theology. But Judaism
isn't a religion of theology, IMO. Phrases like "how much of what we
call the physical world is a projection created by human perception" make
me cringe. Yes, there are parts of the world that we can't perceive,
but that's why they're considered other worlds. Other domains.
To suggest that the Mabul didn't take place in the real, concrete,
physical, objective, still-there-when-no-one-is-looking world is the
same as saying that it never actually happened in the physical world.

> http://www.aishdas.org/asp/2006/02/rav-dessler-on-reality-and-perception.shtml

I disagree with your reading of REED, and lacking the text of the 
Maharal that you're referring to, I can't comment on it.

> This is a very Kantian perspective, and R' Aryeh Carmell (in his role
> as meivi la'or) believes that REED makes an intentional reference to
> Kant. But it's also the worldview of Ernst Mach, to which Einstein
> voiced agreement.

I doubt that.  Einstein couldn't even accept quantum mechanics, since it 
didn't comform to his understanding of concrete reality.

> A third instance, which I think is more logically similar to our topic
> of historical olive sizes is my advocacy and elaboration of the shitah
> (held by my rebbe among others) that the reason why bugs you can't see
> with your eye aren't a kashrus issue, and bugs born from microscopic
> eggs might as well be created abiogenically is that halakhah only cares
> about the world as directly experienced, not as we can indirectly (eg
> through instruments or otherwise confirmed theory) know it to be.

As R' Chaim Zimmerman put it, halakha exists for a "man-sized" world.  I 
don't see how that supports your view; nor how it lends support to your 
view (I'm not sure which was supposed to be happening).  Halakha doesn't 
deny the microscopic reality.  It simply doesn't consider it relevant to 
halakhic determinations.  Chazaka is another instance where process 
results in halakhic rulings, but it doesn't result in fact.  It can be 
altered when fact comes along.

> Here I'm saying that our evolution as a community goes hand in hand with
> the evolution of halakhah. An accepted practice that was created via
> the legal process therefore has redemptive power even if the scientific
> assumptions behind it don't match reality. Like the magnifying-glass
> sized bugs, because it's not objective reality but subjective experience
> that changes people.

It's legitimate to say that there's a chazaka of k'zayit being thus and 
such a size.  But when reality is determined, the chazaka no longer 
applies.  If a Kohen is muchzak a Kohen, which is a chezkat ha-guf, all 
the halakhot of a Kohen apply to him.  If he makes the mistake of doing 
a family tree project and finds that he is not a Kohen, or worse, that 
he is a Halal, we don't maintain the chazaka and say that reality isn't 
the issue.  Rather, we accept the reality, and it changes the halakhic 
determination.  I know of such cases.

> Or, to put it another way, the "reality" halakhah exists to address aren't
> biological, chemical or physical, they are psychological, existential
> and spiritual. We care more about how humans are encountering the world
> than how the world is.

That's a false dichotomy.  Prior to the arrival of a fact, the halakha 
can be x, due to chazaka or approximation or error.  Subsequent to the 
arrival of that fact, maintaining the halakha to be x in the face of the 
contradictory fact is contrary to sense, and is bad halakha.

> Not because of a deprecation of science, but because the harder sciences
> a simply exploring a topic less related to changing people into more
> extact images of the Divine.

The Torah isn't *merely* about determining reality.  Nor is it *merely* 
interested in "changing people into more exact images of the Divine".  
To say that it must be one or the other defines Judaism as a religion.  
A superstition.  Something which can never be trusted to reflect reality.

> And so halachic authority and communal continuity have the power to
> refine the soul. Even if they don't match the old physical basis for the
> prior law. A "kezayis" is what halachic process decides is a quantum
> of food. Nothing directly to do with olives.

I don't think any of the rabbanim who established inflated views of what 
a k'zayit was would have agreed with you.


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