L’affaire Slifkin

Many, many people in the blogosphere have challenged Cross-currents to comment on the letter of the Roshei Yeshiva, shlit”a, regarding Nosson Slifkin’s books.

The challenge, in my opinion, is inappropriate. Cross-currents, at least in the mind of this blogger, should be looked to as a place in which Orthodox thinkers can carefully and creatively use their Torah knowledge to cast a different light upon timely issues. It is not a place for debating hot gossip, reporting Jewish news item, or airing complaints about the community – however legitimate they may be. There are other forums for that. We hope that our readers will understand the wisdom of attempting this focus, and not expect Cross-currents to treat every news item, particularly if there is nothing novel to say.

This issue may be different. There are many stakeholders in clarifying the relationship between Torah and science. So many people have desperately voiced their concern as to whether any figures within the Torah community will weigh in with a position different from that expressed in the letter.

The senior bloggers of Cross-currents come from, and represent, a wide diversity of backgrounds within the Torah world. Many have not yet examined the issues well enough to have formulated an opinion. It is probable that by the time they finish, the ten bloggers will be of ten different minds.

Some readers have expressed disappointment that no one has stood up clearly and unequivocally , at least publicly, for Nosson Slifkin. That is no longer true.

This author has his name on every one of the banned books. I am as supportive of the thrust of those books as when I first wrote those approbations. I believe that the thrust of what he wrote is firmly in line with the teaching of Rav Hai Gaon, Rav Sherira Gaon, the Rambam and his son, Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, and Rav Aryeh Kaplan. I am also proud to be in the company of many talmidei chachamim who did not sign the letter, and of more chaverim than I could count who think the same way. I am in the company of virtually all intellectually rigorous kiruv workers, who have been using this approach for decades. With them stand literally thousands of bnei Torah who happen to work or study in areas that raise issues about Torah and science, and for whom the above-mentioned figures have served as their lifeline to uncompromised avodas Hashem. There are reasons why they have not (as of yet) come forward publicly. Hamayvin, yavin.

This said, it in no way implies that anyone else on this blog agrees with my position. They should not be held guilty by association. In any event, Cross-currents is likely not the proper forum to conduct a debate on the matter. That will surely happen elsewhere.

Many decades ago, there was a rabbinical conclave discussing, among other things, a demand by the Czarist government that rabbis be instructed in the vernacular, and have some secular knowledge. The Chofetz Chaim was bitterly opposed; the Ohr Someach was not opposed. The two chanced upon each other, and exchanged some quick words, staking out their positions. At one point, the Chofetz Chaim turned to those with him and said, “Come. Let us move away from here before we come to ka’as (anger.)”

It is crucial that in all of our discussion, we must be careful not to overstep any boundaries, and come to all sorts of inappropriate talk. We must reinforce in our minds how important kavod haTorah is. Sometimes, less is more. For this reason, I have no plans for any more contributions on this subject on this blog, and will not post any comments.

May HKB”H allow us to see the proud raising of Keren HaTorah.

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1 Response

  1. January 28, 2005

    Cross-currents and Orthodox debates
    I really don’t have time right now to type, but I have read yet another series of blog comments that just don’t get it. Gil gets it, but many members of his comment community don’t. For weeks, people have been…

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