In part one of this series, we explained that by comparing the miracle of Purim to the miracle of Creation, Rabbi Slifkin is improperly conflating Hashem’s role as Creator, i.e. Boreh, with His role as Administrator, i.e. Manhig. The former involves meta-natural processes whereas the latter involves Hashem’s administration via currently operating laws (unless in extreme exceptions). In Part 2 we expanded upon this while drawing a clear distinction between operational science and historical based science. In Part 3, we intend to illustrate what is perhaps the most objectionable element of Rabbi Slifkin’s approaches to ma’aseh Bereishis.
In Hilchos Avodah Zarah, the Rambam discusses the unfolding of Avraham Avinu’s career as the originator of Monotheism. Avraham was born into a world inundated with idol worship. No one (other than a tiny pocket of individuals living in Jerusalem) recognized the true One God. The Rambam writes as follows: (my translation with bracketed words inserted for explanatory purposes)
"As soon as this [spiritual] giant was weaned, his mind began to wander while he was still a young boy, and he thought by day and by night. And he wondered how it could be that the sphere continued to operate without an operator; who would cause it to turn? He had no one to teach him, no one to inform him of anything. Rather, he was steeped amongst the idiotic idol worshipers in Ur Casdim. And his father and mother and the entire nation were serving strange gods and he was amongst them [yet] his mind [continued] to delve and understand until he apprehended the true path and understood the "straight line" from his own correct understanding. And he knew that there was a unique Deity, and He causes the sphere to turn, and He created everything, and there is no other deity in existence other than Him."
The Rambam then goes on to recount Avraham’s history, his ongoing debates with the surrounding nations, and his ultimate achievement in introducing the knowledge of the One True God. It is clear from the Rambam’s presentation that Avraham reached an awareness of Hashem’s presence via empirical observation. This idea is clearly expressed in the following Medrash. (my translation)
"R’ Yitzchok stated: This can be compared to one who travels from place to place and notices a palace which is lit up. ‘Can we possibly say that this palace does not have a master’? The master looks out at him and says ‘I am the master of the palace’. So too, since Abraham was saying (i.e. thinking) ‘is it possible that this world has no master’? Hashem [therefore] looked out at him and said, ‘I am the Master of the world’" (BR 39:1)
Rashi (ad loc.) explains that Avraham reached an awareness of Hashem via empirical observation of the phenomena of the world.
Nature was formed via the asara ma’amaros (ten sayings) whereas the Torah was bestowed via the eser dibros (ten forms of speech). Both are manifestations of the Will of the Hashem. Consequently, a concerted study of either one has the inherent ability of leading one back to an awareness of their Source. Until the advent of matan Torah, the primary method of reaching an awareness of the Creator was via a study of nature. Once Moshe descended with the Torah, the study of nature took a back seat, at least temporarily. Matan Torah was such an extraordinary experience it eclipsed any other agent of Divine revelation, even nature itself. This situation obtained for several hundred years until Dovid haMelech re-introduced the study of nature to our nation. Ever since then, we have been using both forms of revelation as a means of gaining awareness of Hashem.
Rabbeinu Bachya ibn Pakuda – in his monumental work Chovos Halevavos – states that there are three primary ways of reaching an awareness of Hashem and His laws: 1) Through Torah 2) Through Nature 3) Through Tradition. He explains that although Torah may be superior to Nature, Nature is the surest, most direct method of reaching an awareness of the Creator.
In Slabodka they used to say that there are two batei medrash. There is the beis medrash of Avraham Avinu and the beis medrash of Moshe Rabbeinu. Both are equally valid. And both are equally necessary.
What’s wrong with Rabbi Slifkin’s theology? Simple. His approaches to ma’aseh bereishis have effectively eliminated Nature as a means of gaining an awareness of the Creator. Avraham Avinu’s beis medrash has become entirely irrelevant. How can one gain an awareness of Hashem via a study of nature when said study yields nothing but random chance mutations? If naturalistic explanations suffice to account for the presence of life, what meaning can Dovid haMelech’s enthusiasm in Barchi Nafshi, and countless other kapitlach Tehilim, possibly contain? If the very phenomena he describes can be understood as evolving over billions of years via naturalistic means, how do they possess the ability of demonstrating the greatness of Hashem?
Claiming that a hidden God is somehow causing the evolutionary process to unfold is entirely meaningless. It takes a pre-conceived notion and forces it upon an otherwise rationally acceptable materialistic process. Occam’s razor, which eschews unnecessary assumptions, considers the assumption of such a notion as unreasonable.
The pesukim are clear. We gain an awareness of Hashem’s presence from a study of nature as opposed to insinuating our pre-conceived notion of Hashem’s presence into the study of nature.
Evolution possesses no evidence whatsoever and yet Rabbi Slifkin feels the need to re-interpret the pesukim in order to satisfy a bankrupt theory. This alone is a serious breach of acceptable Torah interpretation. Unfortunately it pales in comparison to the true ramification of his approaches; the undermining of the very foundation of our religion i.e. the clear, unadulterated awareness of our Creator.