Monday, June 29, 2009

The Ritva as apologist

I saw a fascinating piece of Ritva. In regards to BT Rosh HaShana 22b:

דא"ר יוחנן מאי דכתיב (איוב כה) המשל ופחד עמו עושה שלום במרומיו מעולם לא ראתה חמה פגימתה של לבנה ולא פגימתה של קשת פגימתה של לבנה דחלשה דעתה

The challenge here is that as noted by Tosafos Yom Tov to the same Mishna, the light of the moon comes from the rays of the sun, and so by definition the sun cannot see the פגימה of the moon which is only there from lack of sun. Apparently, the Modox crowd in Provence (I assume Provence based on the Meiri who was from Provence) who rather casually refers to the view of the astronomers who disagree with Chazal. Meiri doesn't seem to find this at all troublesome.), were making some trouble about this issue.

In response, Ritva takes the a similar line to that championed by Descartes who said he was discovering the laws that God had put into nature. In a similar way, Chazal were explaining why God created the light of the sun and the moon to come about in this fashion:

מעולם לא ראתה חמה פגימתה של קשת כו וי"ל שבראה הבורא בדרך ההוא מפני הענין הזה ולאו למימרא שלא ידעו רז"ל טעם הדבר וטבעו כמו שבודין המחפין עליה ועל חכמתם דברים אשר לא כן


Yitzhak said...

In a similar vein, the Rishonim had a great deal of trouble with the Bible's comments on the קשת; see, e.g. Ramban (Gen. 9:12), in a rare instance of his out-rationalisting Ibn Ezra:

avakesh said...

In Nesivos Hacninuch, this is beautifully explained to mean that a teacher should never see a deficiency in a talmid, as in The face of Moshe was like the sun, the face of Yehoshua like the moon (Bava Batra 75a).

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