Sunday, November 1, 2009

Response to R. Micha's Questions on Retroactive Existence

R. Micha has left me a number of question to my previous post which I think deserve to be addressed, and I am exercising my discretion as the ba'al hablog to answer in the form of a post:

Explain the difference between "retroactive existence" and the normal sort.

Good question, my point is that while you have [subsequently] used the term "fake history" to describe apparent age, for us there is no nafka mina. I might compare it to the old question, "if a tree falls in the forest." Without direct experiential observation such reality isn't actualized. Nevertheless whether you take the "traditional" approach that this was experienced in time, or the approach which I have dubbed "retroactive existence", I think that their is a purpose for the period in question, but I don't think that the purpose is served any better by the former approach than the later (and in some ways I think the later is better but that is another discussion). I guess my point is that there isn't a significant difference, for the most part, between apparent age and "past".

The first formulation is simply misleading in that it implies that Hashem has a "when".

I'm still trying to absorb this objection. How would you apply this though to the machlokes about whether the world was created in Nissan or in Tishrei, or more specifically the notion of "elu v'elu" regarding the machlokes? (Recognizing that their are different approaches to "elu v'elu", but your thoughts in relation to your objection).

That said, you would be hard pressed to find a rishon who believed in a young universe.

In addition to statements of Chazal (Chagigah 12a) indicating that B'reshis one teaches us that the length of the day and night was created on the first day of creation and that “R. Yehoshua ben Levi said: All creatures of the creation were brought into being with their full stature, their full capacities, and their full beauty” (Rosh HaShanah 11a) which imply a more simple approach to B'reishis we have:
“The result of the application of such a method of interpretation would be that there would not be an item left of the entire story of the creation [of the world] that would not be divested of its literal meaning, which is the creation and origination of things.” ( Rav Sa'adia Gaon, Emunos v'Deos , Yale Translation page 425).
“The second category consists of [those texts] which should be according to their ‘apparent’ meaning…[This category also includes]the story of the Creation, and other miracles” (Meiri, Beis haBechira, Avos 3:11, cited here Bold mine)
Additionally other relevant sources, some more than others, can be found at You are more capable than I at recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of these sources cited (and how faithfully they are presented) or those cited by myself. Apparently, however Rav Sa'adia Gaon, the Kuzari, and Rav Avraham ben HaRambam give numerical figures consistent with the traditional dating. Again, you are in a better position to judge these sources than me.

When the mishnah tells us that the pereq has no peshat.

I would be very interested in your source. This seems like a very odd subject matter for the Mishnah, no? Furthermore we have already noted that Rav Sa'adia Gaon felt the need to preserve the pshat of this perek. Likewise, when the Rambam cautions that a possible non-literal reason is not sufficient reason to reject the peshat, it is with regard to inyanim relevant to this perek!

Nevertheless, I must concede that a Mishnah which makes the statement you claim it does would significantly alter the playing field, so I look forward to you elaborating on your source.

Relevant Posts:

What Problem?

Guiding Principals

Critique of Rabbi Jeremy Weider's "When the Torah doesn't mean what It Says"

Parshas B’reishis: In the Beginning, Brias HaOlam according to the Torah and the contemporary scientific understanding

Parshas Noach: Evidence for a Global Flood?

Here Gosse Nothing

Genetics and Apparent Age

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