Readers’ Feedback – Tables Turned on Integrity

NOTE: Two previous posts are relevant to this comment by Tables Turned. They are the post “Steven”, available HERE, and the post Tables Turned on “Steven”, available HERE.

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Tables Turned wrote:

Concerning R’ Kaplan’s statement, I’ll need to get a copy of “Handbook of Jewish Thought.” In the meantime, I’m sure the meforshim have things to say on Rabbi Akiva’s statement in Pesachim 112a: http://www.torah.org/advanced/weekly-halacha/5761/shoftim.html

See footnote 4.  (I’m sharing the essay because it’s good, not because I’m trying to prove a point).

My comment about Schroeder and the misuse of Torah sources was this: Schroeder was not PURPOSEFULLY misusing Torah sources. Your statement implies he was.

My Response:

As pointed out in the article by Rabbi Doniel Neustadt (in the link provided by Tables Turned), Talmudic authorities sometimes attributed halachos to their mentors, even though they did not actually hear their mentors state these positions. But the most important paragraph in Rabbi Neustadt’s article (in our context) is this:

Obviously, however, only the poskim can draw practical conclusions from such cases, since these very episodes can be understood on various levels. Moreover, not everything quoted in the Talmud is applied in practical Halachah, as we often rule differently from an opinion stated in the Talmud.

As pointed out by Rabbi Neustadt,  there are numerous practices of Talmudic authorities that we do not emulate. One obvious example is that nowadays we do not expound verses in order to generate halacha. Given that only the poskim can draw practical conclusions from such cases, the question arises: Is there any indication that contemporary halachic authorities permit one to distort Torah sources – by omitting crucial sources, mistranslating others, and fabricating yet others – in the service of kiruv? I suggest that the onus is on Dr. Schroeder to tell his readers whether he deliberately distorted sources, in the belief that it is halachically permitted.

Tables Turned wrote:

My comment about Schroeder and the misuse of Torah sources was this: Schroeder was not PURPOSEFULLY misusing Torah sources. Your statement implies he was.

My response:

Two distinct points arise out of Genesis and the Big Bluff:

1. The arguments in Genesis and the Big Bang are based on omissions of crucial sources, mistranslations of sources and fabrications. This is fully documented in Genesis and the Big Bluff.

2. These shenanigans occurred either as a result of incompetence or deliberate distortion of sources.

I did not address the second point at all in Genesis and the Big Bluff.

The purpose of Genesis and the Big Bluff is to critically assess the adequacy of Dr. Schroeder’s claims in Genesis and the Big Bang. The reasons for his demonstrable failure of scholarship are irrelevant to that purpose. It is the truth of the matter that counts in evaluating Dr. Schroeder’s work, and not his personal competence or subjective motivations. I leave it to readers of Genesis and the Big Bluff to reach their own conclusions as to Dr. Schroeder’s motivations.

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2 Responses to “Readers’ Feedback – Tables Turned on Integrity”

  1. TablesTurned Says:

    I finally found the gemara I was looking for. Stumbled upon, actually. I’m not trying to prove a point here — I see what you’ve written by Rav Neustadt above. Anyway, check out the place where a rabbi faked a letter from R’ Yochanan, at the top of Shabbos 115a, the very last words of that chapter. Artscroll refers to several meforshim that discuss the practice.
    Be well,
    TT

  2. TablesTurned Says:

    I found the R’ Aryeh Kaplan reference I was looking for:
    Chapter 12, paragraph 53, in Handbook of Jewish Thought. Apparently there are several sources that describe the practice of rabbis attributing statements to big rabbis in order for people to listen to it more. Puzzling, to say the least.

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