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Thought for the Day: Why Gemara Cases Seem So Crazy

Yesterday's post was terribly selfish and narcissistic; I think physics is really cool, so I will use any opportunity to write about it.  It's not that I am unaware that not everyone finds physics and fascinating as I do; it's more than I am insensitive to that feeling.  (Ok... so add "insensitive" to the list also.)  There are two basic ways to deal with a yeitzer rah; either conquer it or immerse oneself in it till your tired of it.  Guess which one I usually endorse for myself.

Imagine you are at a Royal Society natural philosophy conference in the late 1600s.  Isaac Newton gets up to address the crowd.
Newton: I am here to announce my theory of natural philosophy which will revolutionize the way we view the world and completely overturns the Aristotelian paradigm heretofore held.  My first principle is that a body at rest tends to stay at rest, while a body in motion tends to stay in motion -- in complete contradiction to Aristotle who holds that a body in motion tends to come to rest.
General murmuring...
One of Crowd: See here, Professor Newton! I have never observed a body to continue in its motion unabated!
Newton: Quite right, sir. That is because of a phenomenon that I call "friction". However, without friction, rest assured that the body in question would never waver from its course; not in speed, not in direction.
One of Crowd: I see. Can you, then, demonstrate for us a body that is not acted upon by this friction of your?
Newton: Well... ... no, not really. All physical systems are subject to frictional forces.
All of Crowd: Then, good "sir", please be kind enough to stop wasting our time.
That is not what happened, of course, though an explanation of why not is beyond the scope of the present work.  (I LOVE that expression!)  Wait a minute!  The whole reason for the present "work" is to explain that.

The most efficient way to understand a complex logical system is to break it down into its fundamental building blocks.  The more fundamental, the more distant each unit of understanding will be distant from any realizable situation.  That is because to make things work at all, they need a lot of supporting cast.  If you want to study lungs in a living organism, you are going to need a circulatory system, a digestive system, a nervous system, etc.

So whereas Aristotelian physics was very understandable on the surface, it blocked science and technology for nearly two millennia.  Newton, on the other hand, opened up the modern age and to an ever increasing understanding of our physical world.

Chazal, l'havdil, opened up the modern age and the door to much, much more than just the physical world.  Chazal opened up the door to an understanding of reality itself... and invited you in.


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