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Chazal and Science

Chazal and Science

Lchivod Harav,
I heard a shiur from the Rav (Shoftim 5772) about his opinion about Chazal and Science. I really appreciated the approach and it made sense to me. If I understood correctly, it’s that Chazal weren’t trying to convey the metzius. Rather they were being koveah the halacha forever using the tools they had at their time, regardless of the scientific metzius.

A kasha I heard on this approach is the sugya in Horayos, that if the Sanhedrin paskens something that you know to be based on incorrect information you are not allowed to follow it. So if I know Chazal based their halacha on faulty science, how can I follow it? My guess is that the Rav would respond that the halacha isn’t based on the science. However, I don’t fully understand how the halacha wasn’t based on the science if they were using the tools they had at the time to be koveah it.

As well, I read that the Rivash (447), Rashba (Toras HaBayis, Mishmeres HaBayis 4 Shaar 1) and Maharal (Be’er HaGolah, HaBe’er Hashishi) say that it is forbidden to say Chazal erred in Science. How does this work with the Rav’s approach?

Thanks and all the best,


The Rav’s position is as follows: up until the end of the times of the Tanaaim, when Torah Shebal Peh was being formally codified [although it was given at Sinai in it’s completion] and the Chachamim where also setting up Takanos and Gezeiros, they were intended to rule on a myriad of issues. The halachic process required of them to rule on these issues based on their perception of the world with the basic tools they had at their disposal. The halchis rulings they arrived at, then became the established halacha. This halacha is eternal and not open to change.

The fact that scientific findings have changed and evolved over the ages, does not effect this in any way, as this is the very nature of the scientific process, and certainly how Hashem intended it to be. But this is all with regards to our approach to science and nature. However with regards to Torah and Halacha, it was never based on the scientific reality to begin with and was never intended to be. Rather the halcha was intended to be established based on the perceptions and tools that Chazal had at that time. So in fact it was not an issue of erring at all, as they were not scientists trying to figure out nature. As Chachamim establishing halachic norms they followed the halachic process which remains true eternally.

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