Friday, November 5, 2010

Déjà Vu All Over Again (unfortunately)

R’ Slifkin writes:

Check out this...discussion about an article in the International Journal of Cardiology, concerning how verses in Scripture demonstrate a knowledge of the function of the heart and blood that would not be discovered by science until thousands of years later. The catch is, this is not the Jewish Scriptures, but rather the Islamic Scriptures! It's all the same themes of wishful thinking that we have (unfortunately) seen in the Jewish world.

Wow. So, any attempt to support the veracity of the Torah by appealing to future scientific findings is 1) no better than attempting to support the Koran and 2) is unfortunate.

How unfortunate then is the Torah's attempt to do the very same thing - at least according to our sages’ in Chulin 66b and Nidah 51b - regarding future biological findings.

And how fortunate we are to have Rabbi Slifkin who sets us straight regarding the "wishful thinking" associated with any such venture.

Here’s a question for the Rabbi; Did Chazal get anything right?

33 comments:

  1. I don't normally stoop to respond to the nonsense on this blog, but I'll make an exception for the especially egregious claims and misrepresentations in this post.

    How unfortunate then is the Torah's attempt to do the very same thing - at least according to our sages’ in Chulin 66b and Nidah 51b - regarding future biological findings.

    Really? Have you never learned the Acharonim? I thought that you had read my books. It's not "according to our sages’ in Chulin 66b and Nidah 51b" - it's according to SOME ACHARONIM'S INTERPRETATIONS of those Sages, which is directly contradicted by the interpretations of other Acharonim.

    Here’s a question for the Rabbi; Did Chazal get anything right?

    Again, I thought that you had read my books. I give numerous examples of Chazal getting things right.

    Or did you mean to say, Did Chazal get anything right that could not have been known to the rest of mankind until the advent of modern science? (In which case the way that you phrased your question was an egregious misrepresentation.) I haven't yet found any examples. I have certainly found many, many claims of such examples which turned out to be baseless (e.g. those in Rav Feldman's essay), and which I had in mind when I wrote about the prevalence of wishful thinking in these areas. Or do you think that all these examples are valid?

    And, yes, I find your approach to be unfortunate. Emunah should be derived via the classical ways - seeing Hashem in our history and in our lives - not "shtick" such as claiming there to be modern scientific knowledge in Chazal. But I guess that for the people running this blog, who don't think that Hashem can really be seen so well in history and in our lives (since He works via the laws of science), you have to resort to such shtick.

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  2. Natan Slifkin -

    I read your comment several times and as it turns out it seems I may have been a bit hasty.

    Although I have not delved into the acharonim regarding this sugya, I assume you've done your research and thus I will not attempt to claim that my my reading of the gemara (yagdil torah vi'yadir) is exclusive.

    As far as reading your books, I don't have all of them. I have The Science, The Challenge (2006), Mysterious, and Sacred Monsters, that's it. I tried to purchase The Camel but your books were banned and I couldn't get a copy.

    I would like to respond to your final comment. You wrote:

    And, yes, I find your approach to be unfortunate. Emunah should be derived via the classical ways - seeing Hashem in our history and in our lives - not "shtick" such as claiming there to be modern scientific knowledge in Chazal.

    Red herring. I never claimed such a thing. You were equating attempts to support Jewish Scriptures with support for Islamic scriptures. I took exception to that, that's it. The only reason I quoted the gemaros in Chulin and Nidah was to demonstrate that Chazal understood the redundancy of the term snapir as a form of yagdil torah vi'yadir.

    Supporting the truth of the Torah via external evidence is indeed a valid enterprise and is helpful with our emunah. However, I admit that the ra’ayos I brought from the two gemaros are not conclusive.

    Also, your claim that “the people running this blog… don't think that Hashem can really be seen so well in history and in our lives” is patently false. AFAIC, this is just your way of avoiding one of the primary accusations of this blog i.e. your conflation of maaseh bereishis with the standard operating chukim of teva.

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  3. Check out Tosafos, Ran, Maharam Shif, and especially the Kreisi and HaKesav VeHaKabbalah. And I look forward to seeing your retraction in a post, not in a comment thread where people might miss it. And take the relevant lesson - do your homework and learn the sugya properly before using it to criticize someone.

    Also, your claim that “the people running this blog… don't think that Hashem can really be seen so well in history and in our lives” is patently false.

    Actually, it's entirely accurate. You claimed that naturalistic explanations of how life developed - which you classified as seeing Hashem operating as manhig rather than borei - "undermine Avraham Avinu's way of studying nature and seeing the hand of Hashem. They eliminate this great facility of emunah and render the hundreds of pesukim in Tanach which discuss the wisdom, might, glory and kindliness of Hashem apparent in nature, entirely meaningless."

    In other words, you consider that Hashem in His role as manhig - operating via the laws of nature - undermines our ability to see His hand, and renders the hundreds of pesukim in Tanach which discuss the wisdom, might, glory and kindliness of Hashem apparent in His running of the world, entirely meaningless.

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  4. Nosson -

    I am looking into the sugya of s'napir v'kaskeses. I do not think your request for a public retraction is justified however I need to review the sugya first.

    Please give it a day or two.

    Simcha

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  5. So first you accuse me, and only then do you explore the topic? That's ironic, because that's exactly what Isaac Betech condemned me for in the previous post! (Of course, he completely misunderstood what I wrote.)

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  6. B"H
    Natan, if you think that I misrepresented your position, please feel free to publish a clarification and let me know.

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  7. Natan Slifkin -

    Check out Tosafos, Ran, Maharam Shif, and especially the Kreisi and HaKesav VeHaKabbalah.

    Tosfos and Ran I already knew when I wrote my post. I've gone through the sugya and all the mareh mikomos you quote in The Camel - I borrowed the book) and I am not retracting what I wrote. Here's why.

    From the twenty or so sources which I reviewed, every single one beleives in Chazal's kabala that kol sheyesh lo kaskesees, yesh lo snapir. And although Tosfos undertsands yagdil torah v'yadir as the Torah eliminating mistakes (at least before Shmuel haNavi came along and wrote about the kaskesess - Ya'avetz) this doesn't detract from the fact that Tosfos himself writes openly that Chazal knew this halacha l'moshe mi'sinai. So essentially, if this biological fact is borne out in future generations, it does have the effect of yagdil torah vi'yadir and supports the scriptures.

    The only source you possess which could be understood to mitigate this kabala somewhat is the kresi and that is simply not enough to count against the force of all of the rishonim and acharonim. Even the Ma'adaney Yom Tov strives to uphold the kabala of Chazal and technically does not compromise the statement of the mishna.

    Furthermore, you admit yourself in your book that until the Stincus problem arose in the 1500's, Chazal's statement was quite bold, and did indicate that they had certain biological knowledge. You then go on to admit that by the time the Chasam Sofer came along, the issue was settled and Stincus is just a lizard. So what's your problem? Why can't you admit that this is in incredible testimony to the idea of the veracity of the scriptures?

    But somehow, you just can’t leave well-enough alone. So you go on in your book to write that we need to “continue to investigate” and that perhaps sea-snakes might pose a problem (by the way, sea-snakes would not be classified as “dag”. They don’t possess gills and have to breathe like all other terrestrial animals, by coming up for air – if anything, they would be classified as sheretz ha’mayim. These are two different issurim, at least according to the Rambam (Hil. Maachalos Assuros 2:4 and 2:12).

    It seems to me you are committed to showing up Chazal. I haven’t read your whole Camel book yet but I have plenty of examples from the other books I’ve read. I’m glad you forced me to look into the kaskesess issue more deeply; it only fortifies my impression regarding your unfortunate habit of “upstaging” Chazal.

    IIRC, that was exactly the issue which finally got Rav S. Kamenetsky, who initially supported you, to end up condemning you. Mike the Headless Chicken comes to mind…

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  8. Nosson Slifkin,

    Actually, it's entirely accurate. You claimed that naturalistic explanations of how life developed - which you classified as seeing Hashem operating as manhig rather than borei - "undermine Avraham Avinu's way of studying nature and seeing the hand of Hashem. They eliminate this great facility of emunah and render the hundreds of pesukim in Tanach which discuss the wisdom, might, glory and kindliness of Hashem apparent in nature, entirely meaningless."

    In other words, you consider that Hashem in His role as manhig - operating via the laws of nature - undermines our ability to see His hand, and renders the hundreds of pesukim in Tanach which discuss the wisdom, might, glory and kindliness of Hashem apparent in His running of the world, entirely meaningless.


    This is a blatant misrepresentation of my view but I am not going to respond to it here. I already promised several of the people in the comments section that I was going to write a Blog Entry specifically dedicated to this issue. When I write it, if you still think you are correct regarding my position, you are welcome to let me know in the comment section of that Entry.

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  9. Of course there are many sources that understand the Gemara's statement to be absolute! I cited several in my book. But my point was that you cannot bring the topic of fins/scales as absolute proof of an absolute prediction, since we have R. Yonasan Eybeshutz and HaKesav VeHaKabbalah saying that it was nothing of the sort.

    Furthermore, even if Chazal did mean it in an absolute sense and even if it is true, this is not a bold claim which has been amazingly confirmed and can be used to "prove" Judaism. It's a very reasonable extrapolation from all the fish with which they were familiar - just like Aristotle and Pliny made all kinds of general rules based on what they knew. I haven't got the time or patience to explain this in detail. But, basically, I would strongly recommend against using this topic to "prove" the astonishing scientific knowledge of Chazal, because any critical thinker with an understanding of history will not find it remotely convincing, and will be turned off by Orthodox Jews who claim it to be a "proof."

    Furthermore, I must also point out that in your post, you were addressing my description of such arguments as "unfortunate." You made the unequivocal claim that Chazal saw this Passuk as an example of the Torah itself presenting such an argument by appealing to future scientific findings. While some recent kiruv figures might make this claim based on the Gemara, the Rishonim and Acharonim did NOT claim that this was what Chazal themselves meant by Yagdil Torah, as you claimed in the post. So your claim was incorrect. Chazal did NOT claim that the Torah itself is making this argument. Even according to Tosafos, it's something that can emerge from it, but Chazal are not claiming that this is what the Torah was trying to do.

    "It seems to me you are committed to showing up Chazal."

    Originally, my interest was in getting rid of specious proofs which end up turning more intelligent people off Orthodoxy (like you and your colleagues excel at doing; just look at the comments on the previous post). But as a result of the ban, where the Gedolim claimed that it's false and kefirah to say that Chazal erred in science, of course I am interested in proving that this is true and not kefirah. Incidentally, are you planning to address this topic? It's strange that Rav Miller has never weighed in on it.

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  10. So it seems Rav S. Kamenetsky believes that that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with R slifkin’s idea’s and that believing in evolution is a legitimate Torah approach, otherwise he would have never supported it. He would not have supported R Slifkins books if they stated that jesus is the son of G-d.
    My point is that even if Rav S. Kamenetsky was against the way R slifkin dealt with these topics, it does not change the fact that he did not believe that evolution is heretical.

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  11. Incidentally, Rabbi Coffer, I'd like to ask you the very same question that you asked me in this post. Did Chazal get anything right that could not have been known to the rest of mankind until the advent of modern science? I want an unambiguous statement of Chazal with which you are not cherry-picking an interpretation that makes it fit with science. Since you criticize me for being critical of the examples that are commonly offered, I am sure that you must have plenty of legitimate examples.

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  12. Natan Slifkin -

    Of course there are many sources that understand the Gemara's statement to be absolute! I cited several in my book. But my point was that you cannot bring the topic of fins/scales as absolute proof of an absolute prediction, since we have R. Yonasan Eybeshutz and HaKesav VeHaKabbalah saying that it was nothing of the sort.

    Well, I disagree with you. First of all Kesav v'kabala refers to a miuta d'miuta which means that he understands the ma'amar Chazal to be referring to every species other than the rare exception. To my mind, such a prediction still possesses enough “amazing-ness” to fall under the auspices of your initial position in the Camel (page 213) and I quote: (my emphases)

    "This seemingly spectacularly bold pronouncement that every fish with scales has fins is often cited as evidence of the supernatural knowledge of the Talmud. Indeed, Tosafos says that this information could only have come either via Adam or from Sinai. All seemed well with this principle, until the early seventeenth century when Rabbi Yom Tov Lippman Heller (1579-1654) wrote of a possible exception."

    Not only does all seem well with this principle, everything actually is well! Thanks to our talented Zoo Rabbi, we now understand why Rabbi Heller’s kushya was never a kushya in the first place! Not only that, our esteemed Rabbi even provides us with an incredible scientific explanation for why the Scincus scincus was referred to as the S. marinus. Not because it swims in the sea but because it swims in the sand!

    So that settles it! The fact that you have one lone meforesh, the Kresi? Big deal! The Kresi is simply not enough to undermine the pashtus of the pesukim, and the unanimous position of all the ba’alei mesorah in this matter. It simply doesn’t carry enough weight to be significant. For all intents and purposes, what we have is enough to be considered “as absolute proof of an absolute prediction”.

    Furthermore, even if Chazal did mean it in an absolute sense and even if it is true, this is not a bold claim which has been amazingly confirmed and can be used to "prove" Judaism. It's a very reasonable extrapolation from all the fish with which they were familiar - just like Aristotle and Pliny made all kinds of general rules based on what they knew.

    I’m sorry Rabbi, you’re equivocating. Of course extrapolation can be at times reasonable. But Aristo and Pliny never made unequivocal statements. They never made any “bold predictions”. If their extrapolations turned out to be wrong, they would simply modify their classifications to accommodate the new information.

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  13. Natan Slifkin -

    Furthermore, I must also point out that in your post, you were addressing my description of such arguments as "unfortunate." You made the unequivocal claim that Chazal saw this Passuk as an example of the Torah itself presenting such an argument by appealing to future scientific findings. While some recent kiruv figures might make this claim based on the Gemara, the Rishonim and Acharonim did NOT claim that this was what Chazal themselves meant by Yagdil Torah, as you claimed in the post. So your claim was incorrect. Chazal did NOT claim that the Torah itself is making this argument. Even according to Tosafos, it's something that can emerge from it, but Chazal are not claiming that this is what the Torah was trying to do.

    I don’t think what you are saying is necessarily true. I think that if we looked we would find meforshim who are aligned with this pshat. But notwithstanding, that’s why my initial comment to you was that I was a bit hasty. If you’re looking for a partial concession, fine, you got it. Happy? I don’t know what good this concession will do for you. The point of my initial post was that your comparison to Islamic scriptures was absurd. Whether it is the Torah that is “pushing” the Torah or Chazal that are pushing the Torah does not make much of a difference. What we see is that to look for support for the veracity of our scriptures is a valid enterprise.

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  14. Simcha, I write this from my heart.

    Your blog is pushing me further and further away from yiddishkite.
    What you seem to miss is that these issues are a lot bigger than R Slifkin, these issues were around before him. Personally it was Rav Carmell and Rabbi Dr . Dovid Gottlieb that taught me these heretical views. I read Rav Carmell’s book challenge years ago, and I heard in a shuir rabbi Gottlieb quote rav Hirsch that evolution does not contradict the Torah. I believed them and it did not bother me if evolution was true or not. But now it seems that they were teaching me heresy, they may as well have been teaching me that the Torah was not given at Sinai
    Why don’t you rather have a blog explaining your views, explaining why people as great as Rav S. Kamenetsky were not aware of fundamental principles of the Torah. Why don’t you give clear and logical proofs that answer R Slifkin’s question “Did Chazal get anything right that could not have been known to the rest of mankind until the advent of modern science?”
    Why not dedicate your time to showing us clearly the logic of your views as opposed to dedicating an entire blog to catch R Slifkin out.
    I beg you to try understand my turmoil. I even have a frum friend who is going through turmoil over this.

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  15. Of course extrapolation can be at times reasonable. But Aristo and Pliny never made unequivocal statements. They never made any “bold predictions”.

    Aristotle's statements were just as bold as the Gemara's statements. Just read his material. "Every animal that is X also possesses feature Y."

    If their extrapolations turned out to be wrong, they would simply modify their classifications to accommodate the new information.

    Of course. Just like, if a fish with scales and no fins were discovered, you would say that R. Eybeschutz and HaKesav VeHaKabbalah were correct after all. You would not say that Torah is disproved. (Or am I wrong? Please let me know.) Which is why your "proof" is no proof.

    Whether it is the Torah that is “pushing” the Torah or Chazal that are pushing the Torah does not make much of a difference.

    It's neither. It's some outreach workers.

    I repeat that I look forward to your giving a comprehensive discussion of the topic of Chazal and science. I'd like to see you discuss the relevant sugyos, such as Pesachim 94b, with all the Rishonim and Acharonim. And I'd like to hear your long list of examples where Chazal got something right that could not have been known to the rest of mankind until the advent of modern science.

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  16. Natan Slifkin -

    Aristotle's statements were just as bold as the Gemara's statements. Just read his material. "Every animal that is X also possesses feature Y."

    I have read Aristotle's descriptions. Everything he describes in, say, De Partibus Animalum is based on currently (i.e. then) empirical evidence. Literally everything! Not once does he make a statement that even implies that his classifications are incontrovertible and can and always will be extended to unknown species.

    Of course. Just like, if a fish with scales and no fins were discovered, you would say that R. Eybeschutz and HaKesav VeHaKabbalah were correct after all.

    No! Not "just like". In the case of Aristotle nothing was disproved! In the case of fins and scales, the pashtus of chazal and the unanimous interpretation of dozens and dozens of ba'alei mesorah would be compromised thus posing a serious difficulty! And not just an aggadic one, also a halachic one! Remember how the Ma'adanei Yom Tov reacted when he thought there was a disproof to the klal? He was "nishtomem"! That's because he understood that if Chazal make a clear, unambiguous statement which they apparently possess al pi kabala, it is impossible to refute such a statement! Pri Chadash reacts even more violently! They did not possess your dismissive attitudes regarding such statements of Chazal! They didn’t rush to show that Chazal could be wrong. One thing is for sure; if they knew what Nosson Slifkin knows, meaning, if they knew that Stincus was really a terrestrial animal, they wouldn’t even dream of saying things like “further investigation is required”! Your attitude is mamash outrageous! You are so desperate to show that this klal of Chazal is not phenomenal that you even resort to items like sea-snakes, misclassify them as “dag”, and don’t bother to provide even a single species of sea-snake which possesses fish-like scales (as opposed to reptilian type scales) and no fins at all.

    Look. We now have the incredible phenomenon of the fact that after two thousand years and out of hundreds of thousands of species of fish, not once do we find one possessing scales and not fins and yet and all you can say is tzarich iyun! For heaven’s sake, wake up Rabbi Slifkin!

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  17. Rabbi Slifkin -

    I repeat that I look forward to your giving a comprehensive discussion of the topic of Chazal and science. I'd like to see you discuss the relevant sugyos, such as Pesachim 94b, with all the Rishonim and Acharonim. And I'd like to hear your long list of examples where Chazal got something right that could not have been known to the rest of mankind until the advent of modern science.

    I think I need to make something clear here. I never picked a fight with you in the field of Chazal and Science. My issue in this post is your general attitude towards statements of Chazal. As far as using supposed fantastic knowledge Chazal had in advance, I, like you, never use this in kiruv techniques. In fact, other than the scales/fins rule of Chazal, I don’t really have too many more examples. (The only other example that comes to mind now is the gemara in Berachos which demonstrates that Chazal knew that there is something in the order of one to the twenty first power of stars in the universe, a number amazingly close to the number current cosmology is approaching. Furthermore, how could they have known that there were any more than about 4 thousand stars in the sky (visible to the naked eye)? )

    The issue here is not whether Chazal could be proven to have fantastic knowledge. The issue here is whether Rabbi Slifkin can prove that Chazal were wrong. In order for me to do that, I would need to chase down every single case you deal with and counter it. Now I ask you, what for? Why should I do that? My hands are already full trying to get people to understand the erroneousness of your approaches to ma’aseh bereishis. Besides, I would fail. There are many ma’amarei Chazal which we simply don’t understand. I have a kabala from my Rebbi that when it comes to medical statements made by Chazal, we are not allowed to follow them if they contradict current medical understanding. Not that Chazal were wrong. But either we don’t understand what they were saying, or nishtanu ha’tivim, or other possible tirutzim (such as the one Rabbi Carmel delineates in the Michtav that sometimes Chazal were using modern day science merely to illustrate the halacha although they didn’t necessarily subscribe to the science).

    But I know what you would do. You would insist that Chazal meant every word they said literally, that all of my tirutzim (including your very own mentor Rabbi Carmel) are cop-outs, and that the most reasonable thing to assume is that Chazal were wrong. So, why should I engage you in a pointless discussion? All I can say is if this is the derech you wish to embark on, then achi, yehi lecha asher lach…

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  18. Simca
    Have you read Rav Carmel’s “freedom to interpret” he writes that it is unfortunate that the view that chazal were relying on the science of their time is not taught today. Again this is not about R slifkin.
    And could you please explain to me, if these views are heretical why did Rav S. Kamenetsky support them?

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  19. David -

    So it seems Rav S. Kamenetsky believes that that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with R slifkin’s idea’s and that believing in evolution is a legitimate Torah approach, otherwise he would have never supported it.

    Hello David. Welcome to our Blog.

    R' Shmuel did not support "Rabbi Slifkin's Books". He (initially) supported Mysterious Creatures, a book which does not deal with the evolution controversy.

    My point is that even if Rav S. Kamenetsky was against the way R slifkin dealt with these topics, it does not change the fact that he did not believe that evolution is heretical.

    I think you need to understand something about this Blog, and particularly about me. My mandate here is to assess Rabbi Slifkin's supposedly rational approaches to Judaism and determine whether they are indeed a) rational and b) in accordance with Torah opinion. The issue here is right and wrong, not heretical or non-heretical. I stay away from such terminology and in fact personally do not condone it. If you wish to know the chareidi opinion regarding the "heresy" of Rabbi Slifkin's opinions, I'm simply the wrong guy to talk to.

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  20. Natan Slifkin -

    Incidentally, Rabbi Coffer, I'd like to ask you the very same question that you asked me in this post. Did Chazal get anything right that could not have been known to the rest of mankind until the advent of modern science? I want an unambiguous statement of Chazal with which you are not cherry-picking an interpretation that makes it fit with science. Since you criticize me for being critical of the examples that are commonly offered, I am sure that you must have plenty of legitimate examples.

    How about the gemara in Berachos (daf lamed beis I think) regarding the number of stars in the sky? How could Chazal have known that there were more than 3-4000 stars in the sky? And how could they have known that there were trillions and trillions of stars?

    Please don't just shlog up my ra'aya with a dichiya b'kash. If it seems impressive, admit that it is impressive!

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  21. David -

    Your blog is pushing me further and further away from yiddishkite.

    Then I strongly suggest you stop reading it!

    Why not dedicate your time to showing us clearly the logic of your views as opposed to dedicating an entire blog to catch R Slifkin out.


    That is what I am doing! I have numerous posts on this Blog explaining my position at length. Also, I am not trying to "catch Rabbi Slifkin out". I have better things to do with my time. The reason we chose this format is because prior to Rabbi Slifkin, his type views were not disseminated in nearly as public a fashion in the Orthodox world. Concordantly, we have decided that the best way to get our material out there is to create an opposing Blog which analyzes his shittos and addresses the ones which we feel contradict Torah opinion while simultaneously discussing our own views on the matter at length. I can't speak for the other author's on this Blog but that's precisely what I have been doing. I respond to every questioner and sometimes go back and forth with dozens of comments expounding on my views. I honestly can't see what issue you have with my posts.

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  22. David -

    Have you read Rav Carmel’s “freedom to interpret” he writes that it is unfortunate that the view that chazal were relying on the science of their time is not taught today. Again this is not about R slifkin.

    And could you please explain to me, if these views are heretical why did Rav S. Kamenetsky support them?


    Gut voch David,

    First of all, as I mentioned to you before, heresy is not the issue here, at least not for me. As far as why R' Shmuel gave a haskama for Mysterious Creatures and then subsequently retracted it, I asked him that very question myself. Actually, we discussed the issue a few times. Unfortunately, this Blog is not the proper venue for such discussions. My involvement in this Blog is dedicated exclusively to matters of substance. I discuss Rabbi Slifkin's shittos and compare them with mine, that's it. I have no desire to malign Rabbi Slifkin in any way and thus I avoid these topics entirely. If you wish to know why Rabbi Kamenetsky retracted his haskama, I suggest you contact him directly.

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  23. Thanks for your time, I would be grateful if you could clear up some of my confusion.

    1)The ban stated that his books “are full of heresy, twist and misinterpret the words of our sages” however these ideas are not new. Rav Aryeh Carmell shares these ideas in the book “challenge” which I read over 11 years ago when I was a kid. Must I burn his book? Was he really teaching heresy? I find it hard to believe that he could teach things which contradict core torah principles when he spent his life sitting at the feet of Rav Dessler. Did rav Dessler not inform him of these core principles? Or was Rav Carmell off the derech?

    I also find it odd that the book “challenge” is recommended by Ohr Somayach website http://ohr.edu/explore/literary_corner/4284. Is this not the same as recommending a book that says “its ok to believe in jesus”? in short, surely people should have the courage to challenge the views of those that stated it first? Rather then attack a young guy who is more vulnerable? The same is true with regard to rav Nadel. What about rav Hirsch? I know people deny that he wrote his letter on evolution but I heard on a shuir rav Gottlieb quote it, Rav Gottlieb even said that evolution can’t contradict the torah because Hashem can be behind it.


    2)I think that the answer to these problems may be that “challenge” was recommended before the ban and rav Gottlieb may have given his shuir before the ban. It seems that when I peal away the layers there is one underlining issue, Daas Torah.
    But who actually decides who the Gedolim are?
    Why can I not follow Rav Carmell and Rav Weinreb?
    If it was just R Slifkin having these ideas then it would be a lot simpler, but the reality is that their are a lot of rabbis that have these views.
    And there are other rabbis that don’t have these views but accept these views as legitimate, I think this is like Rav Zev Leff who publicaly apologised to R Slifkin and said there is nothing wrong with his books.
    You write
    “But one really does need to know. If the pesukim are clear on the matter, and our collective mesorah is unambiguous, one actually needs to believe that the world developed in six days through processes which transcend the currently operating laws of nature.”
    But surely it is not that simple as you can see there are other opinions.
    Personally I don’t care if evolution is true or not I have a lot more important things to worry about but it pains me how much fighting this subject has created.

    3) My heart is not broken over the actual argument but from the way it was handled. In fact I first heard about this controversy from a very close friend of mine who is studying at Ner Yisrael. He is the sweetest, most sincere person I have ever met. When he spoke to me about this I could see he was deeply pained. I never knew what he was going on about it. But when I started investigating I was horrified. All the hatred brought me to tears. What has the world come to when a prominent rosh yeshiva says in a shuir things like R’ Slifkin was kicked out of yeshiva, and does not publically retract when this is proven false? There are other such examples.

    I am very sorry if I have said anything disrespectful, I just need to understand whats going on.

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  24. Thanks for your time, I would be grateful if you could clear up some of my confusion.

    1)The ban stated that his books “are full of heresy, twist and misinterpret the words of our sages” however these ideas are not new. Rav Aryeh Carmell shares these ideas in the book “challenge” which I read over 11 years ago when I was a kid. Must I burn his book? Was he really teaching heresy? I find it hard to believe that he could teach things which contradict core torah principles when he spent his life sitting at the feet of Rav Dessler. Did rav Dessler not inform him of these core principles? Or was Rav Carmell off the derech?

    I also find it odd that the book “challenge” is recommended by Ohr Somayach website Is this not the same as recommending a book that says “its ok to believe in jesus”? in short, surely people should have the courage to challenge the views of those that stated it first? Rather then attack a young guy who is more vulnerable? The same is true with regard to rav Nadel. What about rav Hirsch? I know people deny that he wrote his letter on evolution but I heard on a shuir rav Gottlieb quote it, Rav Gottlieb even said that evolution can’t contradict the torah because Hashem can be behind it.


    2)I think that the answer to these problems may be that “challenge” was recommended before the ban and rav Gottlieb may have given his shuir before the ban. It seems that when I peal away the layers there is one underlining issue, Daas Torah.
    But who actually decides who the Gedolim are?
    Why can I not follow Rav Carmell and Rav Weinreb?
    If it was just R Slifkin having these ideas then it would be a lot simpler, but the reality is that their are a lot of rabbis that have these views.
    And there are other rabbis that don’t have these views but accept these views as legitimate, I think this is like Rav Zev Leff who publicaly apologised to R Slifkin and said there is nothing wrong with his books.
    You write
    “But one really does need to know. If the pesukim are clear on the matter, and our collective mesorah is unambiguous, one actually needs to believe that the world developed in six days through processes which transcend the currently operating laws of nature.”
    But surely it is not that simple as you can see there are other opinions.
    Personally I don’t care if evolution is true or not I have a lot more important things to worry about but it pains me how much fighting this subject has created.

    3)My heart is not broken over the actual argument but from the way it was handled. In fact I first heard about this controversy from a very close friend of mine who is studying at Ner Yisrael. He is the sweetest, most sincere person I have ever met. When he spoke to me about this I could see he was deeply pained. I never knew what he was going on about it. But when I started investigating I was horrified. All the hatred brought me to tears. What has the world come to when a prominent rosh yeshiva says in a shuir things like R’ Slifkin was kicked out of yeshiva, and does not publically retract when this is proven false? There are other such examples.

    I am very sorry if I have said anything disrespectful, I just need to understand whats going on.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks for your time, I would be grateful if you could clear up some of my confusion.

    1)The ban stated that his books “are full of heresy, twist and misinterpret the words of our sages” however these ideas are not new. Rav Aryeh Carmell shares these ideas in the book “challenge” which I read over 11 years ago when I was a kid. Must I burn his book? Was he really teaching heresy? I find it hard to believe that he could teach things which contradict core torah principles when he spent his life sitting at the feet of Rav Dessler. Did rav Dessler not inform him of these core principles? Or was Rav Carmell off the derech?

    I also find it odd that the book “challenge” is recommended by Ohr Somayach website http://ohr.edu/explore/literary_corner/4284. Is this not the same as recommending a book that says “its ok to believe in jesus”? in short, surely people should have the courage to challenge the views of those that stated it first? Rather then attack a young guy who is more vulnerable? The same is true with regard to rav Nadel. What about rav Hirsch? I know people deny that he wrote his letter on evolution but I heard on a shuir rav Gottlieb quote it, Rav Gottlieb even said that evolution can’t contradict the torah because Hashem can be behind it.

    ReplyDelete
  26. 2)I think that the answer to these problems may be that “challenge” was recommended before the ban and rav Gottlieb may have given his shuir before the ban. It seems that when I peal away the layers there is one underlining issue, Daas Torah.
    But who actually decides who the Gedolim are?
    Why can I not follow Rav Carmell and Rav Weinreb?
    If it was just R Slifkin having these ideas then it would be a lot simpler, but the reality is that their are a lot of rabbis that have these views.
    And there are other rabbis that don’t have these views but accept these views as legitimate, I think this is like Rav Zev Leff who publicaly apologised to R Slifkin and said there is nothing wrong with his books.
    You write
    “But one really does need to know. If the pesukim are clear on the matter, and our collective mesorah is unambiguous, one actually needs to believe that the world developed in six days through processes which transcend the currently operating laws of nature.”
    But surely it is not that simple as you can see there are other opinions.
    Personally I don’t care if evolution is true or not I have a lot more important things to worry about but it pains me how much fighting this subject has created.

    3)My heart is not broken over the actual argument but from the way it was handled. In fact I first heard about this controversy from a very close friend of mine who is studying at Ner Yisrael. He is the sweetest, most sincere person I have ever met. When he spoke to me about this I could see he was deeply pained. I never knew what he was going on about it. But when I started investigating I was horrified. All the hatred brought me to tears. What has the world come to when a prominent rosh yeshiva says in a shuir things like R’ Slifkin was kicked out of yeshiva, and does not publically retract when this is proven false? There are other such examples.

    I am very sorry if I have said anything disrespectful, I just need to understand whats going on.

    ReplyDelete
  27. David -

    1)The ban stated that his books “are full of heresy, twist and misinterpret the words of our sages” however these ideas are not new. Rav Aryeh Carmell shares these ideas in the book “challenge” which I read over 11 years ago when I was a kid. Must I burn his book? Was he really teaching heresy? I find it hard to believe that he could teach things which contradict core torah principles when he spent his life sitting at the feet of Rav Dessler. Did rav Dessler not inform him of these core principles? Or was Rav Carmell off the derech?

    As I mentioned to you, I do not get into "ban" issues on this Blog. However, I will make a comment regarding your issue with the book Challenge.

    First of all, Challenge is a compendium of essays, some pro young earth, some anti. So although you may have some essays by academicians, such as the one by Vecht which takes geological findings for granted, you then have several essays by academics such as Marcell, Spetner, Simon, Goldman and Gross which call evolutionary findings into question! From a rabbinical perspective, on the one side you have Rabbi Schwab whom attempts to go with the billions of years while on the other side you have Rabbi Scheneerson who fiercely opposes it. In order to maintain a level of equanimity in their presentation, Cyril Domb and Aryeh Carmell gave equal time to the various approaches espoused in the 60's and early 70's to resolve the Torah Science Loggerhead but they weren't necessarily promoting one approach over the other. Their book was essentially a journal of Torah/Science thought published by the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, an organization, not an individual.

    Second of all, and most importantly, Rabbi Slifkin was initially part of the Chareidi camp! His essays on Torah and Science were highlighted in newspapers like the Yated and his approaches were being espoused in chareidi kiruv organizations like Ohr Sameach and Aish. AOJS does not have any real influence in Chareidi circles. Another example, for instance, is the RCA. Chareidim do not bother overly much with statements made by the RCA. Everyone understands that these two camps follow different approaches in their yahadus. But Natan Slifkin was not always Natan Slifkin. He used to be Nosson Slifkin and he was extremely influential in the Chareidi camp. Furthermore, he is a prolific writer, very attractive in style, and his books are written in such a way that they attract popular readership, even people who have no prior exposure to science. Put simply, it was not the content of Rabbi Slifkin’s books which necessarily activated the ban but rather Rabbi Slifkin's unique talents combined with his significant influence in Orthodox circles which made him a far greater threat to traditional Orthodox views than a book like Challenge could ever be.

    I hope this clears things up a bit for you.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Simcha

    “Everyone understands that these two camps follow different approaches in their yahadus. But Natan Slifkin was not always Natan Slifkin. He used to be Nosson Slifkin and he was extremely influential in the Chareidi camp.”

    Please let me know if I understand you correctly. You are saying that evolution and the question about our sages and science are not intrinsically prohibited approaches to the Torah. They are just not the Chareidi approach, R Slifkins problem was that he tried to push this approach in the Chareidi world.
    But for those of us orthodox Jews who strive to keep the Torah ,but are not part of the Chareidi world these approaches are acceptable and within the framework of true Torah ideals.

    If my assumption is wrong then Rav Carmell’s book challenge is the same as a book filled with useful material but happens to have a chapter saying that matan Torah did not really happen, instead it’s a metaphor. Surely ideas like this should not be recommended by the rabbis of ohr ?

    In fact even more so in our case because a truth seeker will obviously ignore a chapter that says matan torah never happened. But the ideas of theistic evolution is far from clear cut, so why on earth is there not, at least a warning to watch out for views that go against core Torah principles? (Indeed after I read the book I understood that theistic evolution is a valid Torah approach) the ohr websites describes the book as “Torah views”

    So there nothing wrong with someone following the approach of Rav Weinreb
    Prehapes this is why rabbi Gottlieb could quote Rav Hirsch on evolution, maybe he intended this for baaly teshuva that were not going to be a part of the Chareidi world.
    Personally I don’t have any opinions regarding evolution, personally I don’t believe I need to fall into any specific camp. I am simply trying to strive to keep the Torah to the best of my ability.

    (That may sound strange but the community I am in is very unified so it is actually possible for me not to belong to a specific camp, tragically elsewhere one has to be boxed in to a specific hashkofa. Rabbi Wein wrote a moving article about how this makes him weep.)

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  29. David -

    Please let me know if I understand you correctly. You are saying that evolution and the question about our sages and science are not intrinsically prohibited approaches to the Torah. They are just not the Chareidi approach

    No. I am saying that

    1) they are not the Chareidi approach and
    2) are wrong approaches.

    Remember, my issue is wrong and right, not "heretical or not heretical" and not "prohibited or not prohibited". I leave these types of decisions to the gedoley ha'poskim to decide. On this Blog I deal exclusively with “proper Jewish hashkafos and improper Jewish hashkafos”, that's it.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I would appreciate it if you could explain to me one simple thing.
    I do not believe I have the right or the ability to decide on what are proper Jewish Hashkofas.
    No matter how you word it you and a lot of other respectable, intelligent rabonim are indeed saying that evolution contradicts our mesorah and goes against core torah beliefs. They also say that one needs to believe evolution is false
    On the other hand there are a lot of intelligent respectable Rabonim that do not believe this and believe that if evolution would ever be proven beyond doubt to be true it would make no difference.
    So why should I be compelled to follow your side?
    To make this clearer I am compelled to follow Judaism because it is the only religion that has a national revelation
    But in our case, both sides will bring arguments back and forth. And on both sides the individuals making the argument know a lot more than me
    One can argue that the side that says evolution is with in the bounds of Torah are reform, but I hope you won’t say that because that would mean Rav Hirsch, Rav Kook, rav Carmell and rabbi Weinreb are reform.
    I would really appreciate it if you could answer this, as it really bothers me.
    Thanks for your time.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Dear David,

    Before I began with this Blog, I promised myself that I would stick to substance and eschew all else. I still intend on adhering to this self-imposed imperative however your strident and obviously sincere appeal has finally broken me down. I will try and respond to your request as best as I can without violating the mandate of this Blog. I hope I do not regret this action.

    You wrote:

    No matter how you word it you and a lot of other respectable, intelligent rabonim are indeed saying that evolution contradicts our mesorah and goes against core torah beliefs. They also say that one needs to believe evolution is false
    On the other hand there are a lot of intelligent respectable Rabonim that do not believe this and believe that if evolution would ever be proven beyond doubt to be true it would make no difference.
    So why should I be compelled to follow your side?


    I can think of several reasons. Here are a few.

    1) The former scenario is by far the majority opinion amongst the “respectable, intelligent rabonim”. After all, the ban against the good Rabbi’s books was signed by a who’s who list of RIB’s whereas the only current RIB on public record that you can quote in support of the Rabbi is Rabbi Weinreb who happens to be the Rav of his shul…

    2) Our mesorah regarding this issue is unanimous and unequivocal (see Rabbi Lampel’s treatment of the mesorah in the most current post). The three individuals you quote (Rav Hirsch, Rav Kook, Rav Weinreb) all lived/live after the advent of evolution. Despite their greatness, their opinions in this matter can not be considered massoretic (i.e. traditionally passed down and accepted by our nation).

    3) Rav Hirsch actually interprets the Bible in accordance with the former scenario. Thus, the most you might have from him is an “allowance” to go with the latter scenario if necessary. But he didn’t consider it necessary. Nor do all of the current RIB’s on public record.

    You wrote:

    But in our case, both sides will bring arguments back and forth. And on both sides the individuals making the argument know a lot more than me

    I see your dilemma. But I think a simple examination of your premises might be helpful. Who are the “two sides”? Rav Hirsch? Rav Kook? Your local orthodox rabbi? How much do you think they actually understood about evolutionary theory? Wouldn’t their arguments have to be taken under careful advisement? Wouldn’t we first have to determine if the theory of evolution is actually supported by the evidence before entertaining their approaches? Surely you don’t need to be a theological “gadol” in order to research evolution. You can easily do this yourself. If after due consideration you conclude that evolution is unassailable then I might understand your dilemna. But have you truly given it your due consideration? Have you investigated evolution?

    One can argue that the side that says evolution is with in the bounds of Torah are reform, but I hope you won’t say that because that would mean Rav Hirsch, Rav Kook, rav Carmell and rabbi Weinreb are reform.

    What is reform David? Yes, the above noted individuals are obviously not members of the reform movement but would you not say that their interpretations constitute a reform of the standard Jewish tradition regarding ma’aseh breishis?

    I hope I have not stepped too far outside my normal bounds. I guess time will tell.

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  32. Thanks for your time. I want to respond but I cannot write back on a public forum because
    What I want to write will be very damaging for a lot of people to read, and I am sure it is against the Torah for me to write about it publically.
    So I would appreciate it if you could tell me if there is any way for me to contact you privately.
    Thanks for all your time.

    ReplyDelete
  33. David,

    You may email me at rivkyc@sympatico.ca

    Be well...

    ReplyDelete