“No kudos for the kudu” is a title he wisely skipped over, but if you are learning Daf Yomi, (and even if you are not) you will not want to skip Rabbi Natan Slifkin’s new essay that is keyed to the Daf for Sunday, Asara B’Teves.
Several parts of the Daf come alive, as you will find out the relative merits and demerits of making shofros out of some common and not so common animals. You will also find out why, to fulfill the mitzvah in the best possible manner, you may want to visit the local Yemenite shul on the way home from your own – at least if they haven’t decided to replace the ram’s horn with that of the kudu.
I read Rabbi Slifkin’s essay early this morning as I was eating a last meal before the fast. It added tremendously to the Artscroll commentary I usually read and I second Rabbi Adlerstein’s recommendation. I look forward to more timely expositions from Rabbi Slifkin.
I believe that Rabbi Slifkin has much to offer the frum world in terms of non-controversial scholarship, and I hope that his shiurim in Eretz Yisrael on these subjects will be well-attended, and that he will find his niche in the Orthodox world. As far as his controversial writings are concerned, I hope that after his remaining books are republished, and any counter-arguments are published in book or essay form, the Torah community will achieve clarity and closure regarding the issues in question.
The issues are extremely fundamental. I do not believe that closure is on the horizon and I think we all need to get accustomed to that fact.
“The issues are extremely fundamental. I do not believe that closure is on the horizon and I think we all need to get accustomed to that fact.”
I believe that after all of Rabbi Slifkin’s books are published, and we hear arguments and counter-arguments, there may then be closure. This will be achieved by going back to the status quo, or at least by honestly acknowledging what the status quo used to be.
Otherwise, a portion of the Yeshiva world, and RW centrists will continue to feel excluded, and the Yeshivah world, and it’s Gedolim, by implication, will sadly continued to be pummeled on blogs by extremists , or at least not fully recognized by more moderates, without an end it sight. This obviously can’t last forever. I also think that that moderate chareidi leaders see no interest in prolonging this dispute.
The issues were just as fundamental before Rabbi Slifkin wrote his books! For the sake of the argument, I am referring to issues which were acceptable to an extent, by some, for some, when expressed in certain ways(four modifiers!). Why can’t the Jewish world go back to the status quo? I am assuming that all concede what the status quo was. If so, that would be closure.
However, some will say that the previous acceptance was “under the radar screen”, “unauthorized”, was mistakenly permitted for kiruv purposes but is actually “ziyuf HaTorah”. Those who relied on Rav Gifter, Rav Yaakov Weinberg, Rav Aryeh Kaplan, Rav Hirsch, etc., no longer have a right to do so, because the “Mesorah died out”, presumably when the Hirschian leagacy died out(assuming the latter was not adopted by other parts of Klal Yisrael).
Regarding rishonim, there was a recent statement made by a respected Rav: ” A person can quote tens of Rishonim to bring proof to this or that scientific theory–if it’s not according to our mesorah it’s irrelevant. We don’t learn directly from those rishonim, we learn from talmidihem and talmidie talmidiehem who gave over to us what the mesorah is.”
Was the above paragraph always a blanket statement, for all of Klal Yisrael without nuance, or were there other acceptable approaches for some, as little as five years ago?
I just want it to be openly acknowledged that there has been a change of policy in the Yeshivah world. I think that is the fair and intellectually honest thing to do. Once we acknowledge honestly what changes took place, then we have hope for closure, even if we don’t actually go back to the status quo.
I do not want to open a machlokes on this blog which certainly the administrators would not tolerate in any case. However, I do not agree with the this statement which is heard all the time in the blogosphere: “The issues were just as fundamental before Rabbi Slifkin wrote his books!” I and many others feel that Rabbi Slifkin’s books are fundamentally different in how they address the issues. We are not kanoim, ignorant of science or otherwise brainwashed. That is simply and honestly the conclusion that we have came to. I have great kavod for Rabbi Slifkin personally and learned a lot from his books. Repeat: I am not a kanoi or unfamiliar with the issues.
For starters, we should start judging books and ideas soberly on their conceptual and factual merits. Attacking people as part of what should be a scholarly discussion of ideas has caused nothing but grief to the Orthodox community. Arguments on all sides need to be built from the ground up based on our Mesorah, Torah logic, and properly established facts. This won’t necessarily lead to “closure” or a consensus anytime soon, but it will certainly cut down on our embarrassment.
When did the change in the Yeshivah world start? Was it when it lost its left wing to Haskalah, or later?
“I and many others feel that Rabbi Slifkin’s books are fundamentally different in how they address the issues.”
That may or may not be so, but the indisputable facts are that there has been opposition not only specifically to Rabbi Slifkin’s ideas, tone and language, but also to ideas which were previously accepted by many other shmomrei Torah u’mitzvos, and by their leaders, including some in the broader yeshivah world.
The intellectually honest thing to do, and which would also help bring closure in my opinion, would be to publicly admit any reversal of previous positions, or if such reversal has not occurred because such opposition is not universally accepted, to publicly admit that as well, to avoid public confusion. In fact, one reason why the controversy has lasted so long, besides the involvement of the blogosphere, is specifically because people have difficulty in distinguishing between opposition to Rabbi Slifkin’s own ideas, versus opposition to ideas, which while perhaps unconventional, were considered acceptable before Rabbi Slifkin published his books.
I try to see both sides of this issue, and like in many other disagreements, I admire intellectual honesty and eschew what I see as anything less than it, whether found in arguments made by those identifying with modern orthodoxy or by those in the yeshiva world.
I do not agree with everything that Rabbi Slifkin writes. I hope that he will have the intellectual courage to admit any mistakes of his. Moshe Rabbeinu is praised for not being ashamed to publicly admit his error. Nevertheless, as human beings, such behavior is easier said than done. However, I do believe that Rabbi Slifkin, as mentioned by others, generally displayed intellectual honesty, whether right or wrong in his ideas.
I would like to see some empathy on the personal level from those in the anti-Slifkin camp, even if intellectually, they hold that his ideas are beyond the pale. In my opinion, a fair description of the social effect of the controversy, the acknowledgment of which would be an element in leading to closure, would include the following description published in a pro-Slifkin Jewish Press article:
“Whether from baalei teshuvah who felt pushed out of the community for which they had sacrificed so much to join, or rabbeim and kiruv workers who had just been informed that they’d been teaching heresy for many years, there was a very loud cry of anguish being voiced on the Internet”.
The reverse is true as well, and the pro-Slifkin side needs to understand that their opponents see his ideas and books as leading potentially to the destruction of the Yeshivah world, chas vesholem.
“Arguments on all sides need to be built from the ground up based on our Mesorah, Torah logic, and properly established facts.”
I agree, but the “our Mesorah” part of the equation(emphasis on the “our” part)is an extremely nettlesome issue, which is sometimes solved by participants in discussions, by simply asserting what the Mesorah is, or by making reference to the “Who is a Gadol” question. After closure, I think that there will continue to remain a difference on the issue of Mesorah, just as there are differences on other issues in halacha and hashkafa in the Orthodox world.
What “Our Mesorah” is,”Who is a Gadol”, and whether or not the Rambam, other rishonim, and previous Torah leader’s opinions may be rejected from Orthodoxy to the point of being described as kefirah(eg. the shittah of the Geonim, Rambam and his son Rav Avroham on chazal’s scientific knowledge which clearly predates the Slifkin issue), will be an issue with many Orthodox Jews and their Torah leaders, will continue to disagree upon, hopefully in an agreeable manner, in accordance with deracheha darchei noam.
While not focused on the specific topic of Rabbi Slifkin’s books, and distinguishing between opinions and Torah verities, a recent article by Rabbi Shafran contains good general advice from Rashi and the Gemera on humility , which I think if used by both sides, would also help in bringing closure:
“Whether in the political, scientific or social realms, opinions regularly take on the aura of convictions. There is, of course, nothing wrong with opinions (for some of us, our stock in trade), but Rashi’s modest example is one we would be wise to more often emulate. As the Talmud puts it: “Teach your tongue to say ‘I do not know'” (Berachot, 4b).”
Baruch Horowitz: The reverse is true as well, and the pro-Slifkin side needs to understand that their opponents see his ideas and books as leading potentially to the destruction of the Yeshivah world, chas vesholem.
Ori: Do people in the Yeshivah world really believe that it is this fragile? Torah learning survived the destruction of two temples, the Christian claim that Halacha has been superceded, and everything else up to and including the Shoah.
Shouldn’t Torah scholars have enough Bitachon to allow divergent opinions like Rabbi Slifkin’s?
You are asking “for clarification” and other things that sound great in principal. But you know full well that any effort to explain the ban will result in another round of horrendous disparagment from the blogosphere. I doubt that it is even muttar al pi din for Torah scholars to subject themselves to that. Those that truly are interested in explanation should seek it on an indidual basis. You ask for personal empathy from the anti camp toward the pro. But you seemingly do not realize the great personal anguish that many in the anti camp feel from some of Rabbi Slifkin’s writings. I cannot expand further in this venue.
“Do people in the Yeshivah world really believe that it is this fragile?”
People would argue that there indeed are natrual intellectual and emotional drives in a person that oppose the charedi way of life, and Torah living in general. The Mishnah does mention that certain Torah portions are not translated in concern that the unlettered might misunderstand them. There are however different layers to the charedi world, and it’s a challenge to satisfy the needs of everyone. Personally, I agree with you, as I wrote above.
“But you know full well that any effort to explain the ban will result in another round of horrendous disparagment from the blogosphere. ”
The problem is that such efforts were to “explain the ban”,with no acknowledgement whatsoever of any weakness, as opposed to honestly and openly discussing it’s strengths, weaknesses and complexity of the issues and ban process.
I believe that if done properly, fair discussion by Torah leaders would help people’s emunas chachamim and lead to closure. People respect a sincere and fully intellectually honest answer, even if they disagree with it. To quote a comment on Rabbi Rosenblum’s “Potpourri” thread: “I appreciate Jonathan Rosenblum’s response to the question… even if I, like some of the other bloggers, have serious doubts about the appropriateness of the [particular answer].”
“You ask for personal empathy from the anti camp toward the pro. But you seemingly do not realize the great personal anguish that many in the anti camp feel from some of Rabbi Slifkin’s writings.”
I indeed wrote above that the pro-Slifkin side needs to see things from another perspective.
But the people whose world was destroyed– and I do not use the term lightly– were those on the pro-Slifkin side who were pushed out of the charedi world.
People who don’t like Slifkin’s books, can take comfort in the fact that there is now a hesitancy to give haskamos to even Rabbi Yehuda(Leo) Levi’s books. People now will certainly think of Rabbi Slifkin’s example before following him. Rabbi Slifkin’s opponents were indeed successful, but it came at the very heavy price of making people feel estranged from the Torah world.
Reb Baruch “Levi Yizchak Beditchover” Horowitz,
“I believe that if done properly, fair discussion by Torah leaders would help people’s emunas chachamim and lead to closure.”
You are m’lamed z’chus on klal Yisrael in beautiful way.
In one line you write: “I indeed wrote above that the pro-Slifkin side needs to see things from another perspective.”… and in the next line you write: “But the people whose world was destroyed—and I do not use the term lightly—were those on the pro-Slifkin side who were pushed out of the charedi world.”
It is clear that your understanding of the perspective of the anti-camp is somewhat lacking. Many feel that Yiddishkeit itself and everything that our predecessors were literally moser nefesh for as has been highjacked. One camp feels that “Hashem wouldn’t trick us so we must be right.” But they fail to be sympathetic to the other side that also feels Hashem would not trick us. And He has given us enumerable p’sukim and maamarei chazal that don’t work with the CONCLUSIONS of science. The entire tone of Rabbi Slifkin’s book TSOT is reflected well in this statement of support from our own Rabbi Adlerstein: “I am in the company of virtually all intellectually rigorous kiruv workers”. By what right do they posel the intellectual integrity of Klal Yisrael? The bloggers claim the banners threw the first stone. But they did not.
I would like to reiterate for the public record that I think Rabbi Slifkin is a brillaint writter and that I gained alot from his books. My issues with them are primarily of tone toward those that disagree with him and what I percieve as an insufficiently respectful attitude toward Chazal. I email him from time to time and he has been extremely gracious.
Thank you for the compliment. A few comments regarding “intellectual rigorous kiruv”, intellectual honesty, and the dynamics of the Slifkin Affair in terms of background events:
“The bloggers claim the banners threw the first stone. But they did not.”
What’s the difference who threw the first stone? The fact is that each action causes another reaction on the other side. This was discussed in the Dennis Prager/Lubavitch thread.
“I am in the company of virtually all intellectually rigorous kiruv workers”.
I do not know who is considered an intellectual Kiruv worker and who isn’t. But I do know that one can not lie for kiruv rechokim or kiruv kerovim. If it true that it is not permissible to shoehorn evolution into Maaseh Bereishis, then that is indeed not intellectually honest. On the other hand, Rabbi Slifkin was initially praised for the intellectual honesty in his works.
Aish Hatorah put out a film “Inspired”, for frum audiences, to get them involved in kiruv. Afterwards, they gave a sample of their Discovery Seminars, and they briefly touched on the topic of the proof from the simanei kashrus. Having followed the controversy, but not having read the book, I asked the teacher afterwards(privately) about the book. After all, if you are proving the Torah to someone, an intellectually rigorous response would include dealing with the questions on the proof!
The person told me that it’s a controversial book and he didn’t know about its contents. It should be noted that the book has an atypical haskamah by a poseik, which states that he actually read it from beginning to end, although he mentions that Rabbi Sifkin left some loose ends. If this kiruv worker was intellectually rigorous in this aspect, he should have been able to discuss at least the approach of Rabbi Yaakov Segal to explain how he differs with Rabbi Slifkin. Rabbi Menken will indeed remember interviewing Rabbi Slifkin before the controversy where Rabbi Slifkin states that he was inspired to write his book because outreach organizations approached him for help because they were getting questions on that topic.
There is an organization in Eretz Yisrael which unfortunately attempts to missionize charedim. Rabbi Adlerstein noted in June ’05: “that “American haredim, used to the challenges and the approaches that have been offered to meet them, generally find the material laughable”. Rabbi Slifkin wrote at least one of those books specifically to counter that organization, l’shem shomayim. Ironically, it is now he who is seen as attacking the charedi world. In any event, now the Yeshiva world needs to react and publish refutations.
From reading Rabbi Berel Wein’s books and articles, I have learned to appreciate current events in light of Jewish history. It is very wrong to say the Slifkin controversy is identical to the Maimondean Controversy(one major, overlooked, difference is that we now have a collective mesorah that includes others besides the Rambam), but one can draw parallels, and note that that every action begets a reactions, sometimes years later. I indeed expect the Yeshivah world to issue counter books and essays as Rabbi Slifkin publishes the rest of his books.
Getting back to rigorous kiruv, the above organization, or a similar organization, will counter any argument which they perceive as not being intellectually rigorous. That is why I consider it important that people need to trust kiruv workers and FFB kids need to be able to trust Rebbeim that they are open and honest. Rabbi Slifkin has said that people respect them when you tell them “I don’t know”. Rav Shteinman has quoted Rav Shach, I believe, that the best kiruv is Gemera Bava Kama.
There are also issues of intellectual honesty which do not touch on ikkerei emunah. They have to do with presenting biographies fairly, and Rabbi J.J. Shacter discusses them(I don’t agree with some hashkafa points in his essay). I also believe that not being intellectually honest in ares such as biographies even for noble reasons, may cause by some, paradoxically, weakness to the Mesorah in general, and is a chumrah that leads to a kulah. That is also why I advocate that the charedi press and leaders be open with people about the strengths and weakness of policies.
I am not certain that I fully understand all your points. You write, “Rabbi Slifkin has said that people respect them when you tell them “I don’t know””. But when Rav Mattisyahu Solomon got up at the Agudah Convention and advocated exactly that approach as preferable to Rabbi Slifkin’s, he was subject to massive ridicule. Are you saying that Aish should prefer to say “I don’t know” rather than doing gimicky kiruv but those that “really have all the answers” don’t need to say that?
I don’t know about the details for each specific kiruv issue. I wrote that one can’t lie for kiruv purposes, whether distorting Torah sources or, on the other side, not giving a full discussion of the questions.
If Rav Gifter held that a certain approach is permissible is that called lying, if the majority disagree with it? If Rav Yaakov Weinberg advised Aish to use a certain approach is that lying, now that it is unacceptable? If one tells people that the Rambam’s position on chazal and science today is not kefirah, is that diluting Torah?
Conversely, from the secular side, a kiruv book is quoted to have made a sweeping statement to the effect that Bible critics no longer challenge the Torah for the most part.
I have no expertise in this field, and have also read that some bible scholars have indeed adopted a more traditional approach. Furthermore, the quote may have been take out of context, and I heard also that the book was revised. But nevertheless, this quote was attacked on the blogosphere, as not representing what the critics hold. We therefore see that kiruv books must be written completely honestly.
Bottom line: one can not build a life on anything less than emes(truth), whether in shidduchim or Yidddishkeit, and in the latter case, one can not distort Torah or brush aside questions either.
I am not sure if Torah should be marketed at all, but if it is, it must be based on truth. I indeed do not know how Aish should do Kiruv. As I mentioned, Rav Shteinman said Bava Kama is the best kiruv.
On his website, Rabbi Slifkin writes:
“I fully agree with Rav Keller’s statement that “you do not adulterate Judaism in order to sell it.” One does not compromise on truth in order to promote Judaism. But is it truthful to claim that no Torah authorities ever legitimized a non-literalist approach to Bereishis?”
If Rabbi Slifkin and Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb are proven wrong regarding “Challenge of Creation”, then both of them should indeed publicly retract their positions in the interests of emes.
Can you be more specific about Rav Matisyahu Salomon’s statement? Are you referring to the recent Agudah convention, or to the earlier Siyum Hashas ?
“I am not sure if Torah should be marketed at all, but if it is”…
I am sure. It should not be marketed.
“But is it truthful to claim that no Torah authorities ever legitimized a non-literalist approach to Bereishis?” Did someone say that?
“Did someone say that?”
I just quoted from Rabbi Slifkin’s letter to show that Rabbi Slifkin values intellectual honesty as far as not distorting Torah sources. The part about “no Torah authorities ever legitimized a non-literalist approach to Bereishis” I believe is referring to Rabbi Keller’s criticism of the RCA’s and Rabbi Slifkin’s understanding of the Rambam. There has been a debate between Rabb Slikin and Rabbis Coffer and Ostroff on the internet, and I have no problem with such open discussion. See footnote #1 in Rabbi Elias’ 12/06 JO article as well regarding the position of the JO on the Rambam.
I do not have a background in the Moreh Nevuchim to evaluate the arguments. That is why I said that if Rabbi Slifkin is wrong, then he should concede. My interests are more in the science/chazal issue,in stating that rishonim are kefirah or beyond the mesorah, in a fair banning proceess, as well as issues related less directly to the Slifkin Affair, such as better intellectual honesty in arguments of the Yeshivah world, and a more free, open, and balanced Charedi press.
Regarding Rav Matisyahu Solamon’s statement at the Siyum Hashas regarding “zedim helitzuni”, I think he was referring to the organization I mentioned previously, which mocks the Torah, and tries to make charedim irreligious. He mentioned as a separate point avoiding “makeshift answers”, which I think was what you were referring to before. From the tape copy that I heard of the recent Agudah convention , he did not discuss science and Torah at all.
I just want to make one last comment on this thread and leave it at that. The wording and manner of the ban was done in a way that strikes most American Orthodox Jews, including myself, as bizarre. But at the same time, one needs to understand that this is way of official statements in EY. To a lesser extent perhaps, American G’dolim have also signed onto such emotive, blanket statements. Honest, mature readers, will insert the subtlety were it doesn’t exist. In any case, I don’t hold from bans b’zman hazeh because they always seem to not accomplish what they are intened to.
But since l’maaseh there has been a ban, the context that I read into it are these two questions: “What is the face of our mesora that can legitimately be presented in nice English books with exciting pictures of lighting on the cover?” and just as important “With what tone should it be presented.” In the TSOT, Rabbi Slifkin discusses why there is such a resistance to some of the ideas he presents. The answer he seems to favor is it that there is an inflexiblity or rigidity in segments of the Orhtodox world. So we have here “David Stein” from a day school in Dallas reading the Science of Torah between games of Nintendo “knowing” why Charedim don’t accept alot of the conclusions of science and we have the Steipler Gaon in Bnei Brak writing “Chas v’shalom l’hachish maaseh v’reishis”
Isn’t the nature of these arguments such that no one ever concedes?
Isn’t kiruv a form of marketing Torah to non observant Jews?
“Isn’t the nature of these arguments such that no one ever concedes?”
The same can be said for most topics discussed on Cross Currents and on any other blog. While my convictions and feelings certainly come through, I was analyzing both sides from different perspectives, which I find is the least that one can do in coming to grips with many disturbing issues. To say that the issues do not bother people is to deny reality and counterproductive. While the blogosphere does play a role in self-perpetuating the the issue, the Slifkin issue and other ones are important to people independent of blogs, and aren’t going away soon. At least people should be able to discuss them somewhere.
Having said that, I think that Rabbi Berel Wein has said that dialogues have a way of becoming debates, so I’ll add that I never said I’m right, and perhaps I’ll reverse my position(which is to see strengths and weaknesses on both sides, even if leaning towards one) in five years hence, and become an anti-Slifkin kannoi.
I’ve heard that one has to let Torah sell itself, rather than market it. For example, Torah Codes, whether one likes them or mot, I think are only used because people do not have a background to learn actual Torah and experience it themselves. The programs which let people experience actual Torah, I think, are much more important.
“and become an anti-Slifkin kannoi.”
BTW, I was emphasizing my point, and not referring to my above discussions with Michoel(he says twice in comment #5 that he is not a kannoi, so I’ll take his word for it 🙂 )
“See footnote #1 in Rabbi Elias’ 12/06 JO article as well regarding the position of the JO on the Rambam.”
What does he say in this footnote?
The footnote reads:
The Jewish Observer office also can furnish a refutation of the claim made by some that the Rambam takes an allegorical view of the Torah’s account of Creation.