In which you will find
words of truth on
reality and conjecture about
the ways of the world
and its inhabitants, on all that is done
blind eyes and educate
an unknowing heart.
The reader shall swiftly read it and understand
knowledge and wisdom.
Volume Number Four
The month of Shevat,
Please safeguard the sanctity of this page
“And G-d said let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide between the day and the night and let them be for signs and for seasons and years” (Genesis 1:14)
This is the fourth pamphlet, which in addition to its predecessors, was published and publicized to the greater public with great success. In previous pamphlets we showed Chazal’s understanding of true reality in issues connected to the Sabbath, predation (treifot), and kosher animals.
In this pamphlet we will deal with the important question of times in halacha. A correct and exact determination of the timing of commandments is one of the most important bases of Jewish law.
The upholding of many commandments relies on determining the exact time of dawn, sunrise, sunset, and when the stars come out. The times when Sabbath starts and ends are strict laws upon which rest the laws of stoning, as are the start and end of the Day of Atonement and of the holidays. Jewish law is very strict about all related to the times of prayer, putting on tefillin and tzitzit, etc.
In this pamphlet we will deal only with the time “the stars come out.” This is a very important time which divides between day and night, between holy and workaday, and it differentiates between one liable and one exempt; a knowledgeable person who so desires can expand his knowledge to the other issues of time—dawn, sunrise, etc.
Before we get to the halachic ruling we ought to understand reality as it faced Chazal, the gaonim, and the Rishonim, according to which reality they said what they said and according to which they determined Jewish law. There is no need to say that these are the Rishonim who have been likened to angels and from whose throats the Divine Spirit speaks; their words are holy for all generations and the rulings they made are actual laws given to Moshe at Sinai.
The Gemara in Pesachim 94b: “The wise men of Israel say that during the day the sun goes below the firmament and at night above the firmament, and the wise men of the Gentiles say that during the day the sun goes below the firmament and at night below the ground.”
And thus Rabbi Chananel explains the world of Chazal: In Pesachim 94 he wrote: “The sun travels at night above the firmament from west to east, and as soon as it reaches the window from which it shines, the sun dawns and the suntravels the width of the firmament. When it reaches the end of the width of the firmament, to the side seen by people, it immediately rises over the earth. Throughout the day it travels from east to west…and at sunset the sun travels the width of the firmament and as soon as it exits the width of the firmament completely the stars come out.”
And so, this is the picture of the world according to our holy sages: the earth is a flat circle, a sort of shallow plate, upon which “sits” the dome of the sky. This dome is in the shape of a half-sphere, and the wall of the dome is the firmament. This firmament has a recognizable width (as we shall see below).
The sun is found, during the day, in a course within this dome (“During the day the sun travels below the dome of the firmament”) and at night is on a course above the dome of the firmament(!). That is to say, the sun’s course is not circular, but goes to and fro above and below the dome of the firmament.
In order to move from daylight to night (and vice versa) the sun must, of course, go through the firmament. This passage happens twice a day, in the morning and the evening. This passage of the sun within the firmament takes no small amount of time.
The time it takes the sun to travel through the firmament is, in the morning, the time between dawn and sunrise and at night the time between the setting of the sun and the shining of the stars. And this is why it is said in Pesachim 94a, “Rabbi Yehuda says: the width of the firmament is one of ten in the day. Know how far an average man walks in a day—10 prasaot. From dawn to sunrise is four mil and from sunset to the coming out of the stars is four mil. Therefore the width of the firmament is one of ten in the day.” [Four mil are one parsa.]
There is a debate whether “the time to walk a mil” is 18, 22.5, or 24 minutes. But even if we consider only the shortest time, we will find that the time it takes the sun to travel the width of the firmament is 72 minutes (18 minutes times fourmil). This is the time between “sunset” and “the stars coming out.”
According to this reality Rabbeynu Tam ruled (in the 12th century, by their calendar) that the end of the Sabbath is 72 minutes after sunset. While it is true that Rabbeynu Tam had difficulty with the Gemara in Shabbat 34b: “How long is the period of twilight? Rabbah said in the name of Rav Yehuda, in Shmuel’s name: three parts of a mil” (that is, the length of twilight is as three quarters of amil and not four mil), he explained that “twilight” begins after the sun has already entered the width of the firmament and is no longer seen. And so, too, it is said on this matter in the Tosfot on Pesachim page 94a, “some say it states there from the beginning of the setting, that is, from the time the sun begins to enter the width of the firmament until the night is four mil and Tam states from the end of the setting,” end of quote.
There is no need to say that all these things are complete nonsense and unsurpassed evilness of spirit! The firmament is not a dome, it has no width, the sun does not pass through it, the times of day and night are determined by the speed of the Earth’s rotation, etc.
Chazal’s picture of the world is, G-d forbid, complete nonsense which has no hold at all in reality. If all the astronomical observatories were not enough, thousands of flights in space have proven that the real image of the world has no similarity at all to the understanding and knowledge of Chazal!
Not only in our day does every five year old know this; some of the things were known even in the time of Chazal and certainly in the days of Rabbeynu Tam and the Rishonim. The Greeks had a more complete, albeit mistaken, picture of reality (the sun and stars which move in their orbits around the earth) in the 5thcentury BCE, almost 800 years before the sages of the Talmud! We have also seen a hint of this in the words of the Gemara about the wisdom of the nations, above. The Gemara there even adds that “Rabbi said, their words are more likely than ours,” that is, Rabbi thought that the gentile view of the world was more correct than that of Chazal! But this changed nothing in the halachic rulings of Chazal, which were all made based on the mistaken perception of “the sun’s passage through the firmament.” It seems that Chazal did not know the theories of others, and even when they did know, they ignored them and stuck to their mistaken perception. Rabbeynu Chananel (Pesachim 94) even explicitly instructs to ignore the actual facts: “And even though those who look at the stars at this time say things which refute, we do not pay heed to them, rather we are careful about our rabbis’ words as they were and pay no attention to any other words…”
And you, the learned student who seeks knowledge and truth, know that Rabbeynu Tam was not the only one of the Rishonim to make this mistake; all the Rishonim made this mistake.
And since nothing has been said without evidence from what is written, we will quote the words of the Ran in Tractate Shabbat, second chapter, page 5, Rabbah Bar Chana said: “Rabbeynu Tam explained that there are two sunsets. The sunset, according to tradition, was from the end of the sun’s setting, that is,from the time it is lodged in the firmament and is still opposite the window and still has not traveled behind the dome, the firmament reddens opposite its position…but certainly the Tosfot’s time began at the start of the setting sun, since the sun is not seen from Earth until the twilight and this time is three miland a quarter.”
This is also the position of The Mordechai, chapter two in Tractate Shabbat: “and until the stars come out is 5 mil, that is, from the setting of the sun which is from when it starts to sink into the width of the firmament and when the sun enters from below, since the stars begin to enter from above and descend. It finishes its ascent when it passes the width of the firmament; the stars finish their descent when they have passed the width of the firmament and are seen by all. And in that same ascent of the sun and descent of the stars is a process of 5 mil,” end of quote.
And so is the opinion of the Ramban and the Rashba and the Yeraim. We find that according to all the Rishonim, the time of the stars coming out is 72 minutes after sunset. These are the Rishonim, who, “if we are as mortals, they are as angels” and the words of halacha in their mouths are the Torah given to Moshe at Sinai.
And so the “Shulcan Aruch,” in the laws of Shabbat 161, section 2, ruled 400 years after Rabbeynu Tam, that the time of the stars’ coming out is four mil(72 minutes) after sunset.
In the time of the Beit Yosef there was already a more accurate picture of the world, one almost identical to that of our days. The astronomer Copernicus published his book on the solar system and the movement of objects in the sky in 1543 by their calendar, more than twenty years before the writing of the “Shulcan Aruch”!
Did the poskim change their calculations of halachic time following these conclusive new proofs? G-d forbid. Their eyes were closed against seeing reality!
In his book “Times in Halacha,” (chapter 46) Rabbi Chaim P. Beinish wrote: “The general custom in Europe about twilight and the time the stars come out held until approximately 5500 (1740 by their calendar) with no protest as per Rabbeynu Tam’s method, for better or for worse. In the period of the following 50 years we find, for the first time, many of the Torah greats in these lands debating this law…” In note number three on this chapter the author finds it difficult to understand the exact reason which caused this awakening (and led the Torah greats to invent “the gaons’ method” which was not known to our forefathers; more about this in a future pamphlet).
The reason for this awakening is completely clear. The period of Enlightenment, of learning, knowledge, and understanding reality arose. There is no way to stop the truth, and the real facts are destined to win the fight.
And then the Vilna Gaon arose and clearly ruled in his Responsa 161: “And the sense contradicts for all who see…and in those lands which inclined toward the north…the stars do not come out at all in the summer, but twilight begins immediately at sunset… it is three fourths of a mil…” According to the Vilna Gaon, the time when the stars come out, based on the more stringent method (a mil being 24 minutes), is 18 minutes after sunset. And what the Gemara said is that from sunset to the stars’ coming out is 4 mil; this speaks about many stars and this instance of the stars’ coming out makes no practical difference in halacha(!).
With a wave of the quill the GR”A turned the whole set of zmanim on its head. According to the GR”A (The GR”A found no Tanna of real help, and we will expand on that in future pamphlets) everyone who made, in the preceding generations, a forbidden act during those 54 minutes of difference violated the Sabbath and is liable to bring a chatat [sacrifice].
And more than that. If the halacha is really according to the Rishonim then all our generation violates the Sabbath!
When the boundary of the Rishonim was breached, permission was given for the real truth to raise its head. And what can we do if a simple, visible proof testifies there are no stars 18 minutes after sunset? And therefore the words of the Vilna Gaon also fall; Rabbi Tikutchinsky has already criticized this in his book “Twilight,” chapter 5, and described observations through which he proved that medium-sized stars are visible 28 minutes after sunset (in the summer, when dusk is short).
And it was said in the name of the Chazon Ish that one should wait 40 minutes after sunset. Each halachic arbiter and his preference, every halachic arbiter and his issues, every halachic arbiter and his arguments…And the words of the Gemara have fallen down a deep well.
And what of the other issues of calculating halachic time? Serious and important matters such as halachic hours and dawn, etc., which were left as the Rishonim had it, about which it is clear to all that they erred and the matters reach contradiction and absurdity?
And to illustrate the embarrassment and confusion in these matters of calculating the halachic times, we will bring the words of Rabbi Tikutchinsky in the weekly “Kol Yisrael” (5699, volume 42): “And after a few years, when Rabbi Issac Goldberg, rabbi and teacher in Minsk, came to Jerusalem, he wrote me vehement letters about this method of calculation and said, in his letters, that the mistaken calculation is something of a desecration of G-d’s name (!).” (“Times and Halacha,” page 117)
And you the learned one, who desires to know the truth, remember and note that only examination and checking and experimentation and observation are the way to the true and correct reality, and only through the method of observation and understanding reality should each person determine his way and his viewpoints. For only from reality will come deduction and not the opposite.
And we will conclude with the words of our rabbi, Rabbi Yeshaya DiTarni, in Responsa 62: “But this is with me—every thing which does not seem right to me, even if Yehoshua Bin Nun said would be right, I do not obey it.”
And Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, in “Ruach HaChaim on Tractate Avot,” chapter 1, 42: “A student is forbidden to accept his rabbi’s words when he has questions about them; sometimes the truth will be the student’s.”
And this time, too, we will say something as a side-note:
One of our faithful readers sent us a cassette on which were things said byRabbi Neugroshel on his program on “Radio 10.”
To the question of one of the listeners, the honorable rabbi answered different and odd answers about the pamphlets and tried to respond to our words about various issues. Many vile things did he say about us and his arguments were also not of the best quality. And then, in the heat of his words, he suddenly says: “95% of scientific knowledge which is written in the Gemara is not in accord with the truth!!! (he used a foreign language to distract from this serious testimony and said “einenu accurate,” the exact translation of which is “not in accord with the truth.”)
A great amazement seized us! Such an overwhelming rabbinical endorsement of our words in all the pamphlets? Such an absolute confirmation of things we said again and again, that the knowledge of Chazal in realistic truth is lacking and mistaken and is not in accord with the truth! And this is precisely the reason why it is impossible that the Divine Spirit spoke through the mouths of Chazal, for the Divine Spirit would never err, G-d forbid, on matters of science and reality, not by a single percent and not by a thousandth!
And if the Divine Spirit did not speak through them, then they are as any person and all they ruled and determined has human authority and not Divine.
In any case, given his unambiguous stand, identical to ours, we are honored to invite Rabbi Neugroshel to join us on the writing staff of the pamphlets, for he is one of us. He should please contact our post office box and join those who speak knowledge and truth.
And you, too, the reader who seeks truth and knowledge, if you harbor thoughts or questions in your heart, please contact us and we will reply to our best ability.
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