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January 18, 2009

Leading Haredi Rabbi Ahron Schechter Attacks Rabbi Natan Slifkin, Moderate Views Of Science And Torah

Creation was less than 6000 years ago, my friends. Believe anything different and you are a heritic.

Part 1

Part 2

These videos were uploaded to YouTube by Rabbi Slifkin and were shot in Teaneck, NJ in 2006. The Rabbi to Rabbi Schechter's left is Rabbi Ahron Feldman. Feldman originally backed Rabbi Slifkin but sold him out when Rabbi Elyashiv in effect offered to let Feldman into the exclusive "club" of really influential haredi rabbis.

[Hat Tips: Dr. Rofeh-Filosof and Sucker.]

Comments

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Shmarya,

This video was taken three years ago.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt"l, never shied away from challenging Darwin's theories. His book "The Universe Testifies" thoroughly refutes several of these theories. Whether you agree with Rabbi Miller or not, at least he deals with the issues and the questions raised. To tell the kahal that you don't need to know is not a proper response. You could say it in a more gentle way, like "There are so many mysteries in hashem's universe, is THIS your only question?"

Why is this controversial? If you want to be a good Roman Catholic, then you must obey your Pope. And if you want to be a haredi Jew, then you must obey your rabbis no matter what reason may teach otherwise. Don't want to? Fine, this being America, you can choose your own course in life.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller couldn't pass a 5th grade science test; his books are consequently laughable and filled with pseudo-science.

A very simple proof against 6000 year creation is the size of the universe. Telescopes can see stars from billions of lightyears away, and that's how long it takes from light to get from there to the earth.

A lightyear is how the distance that light travels in a year.

When grownups can't use their inside voices, I go outside.

How did R. Feldman DO that with the microphone?! It was there, then it wasn't! Wow..is Ner Israel like Hogwarts?...

Once you accept that Judaism is not a literal truth, this all becomes easier to accept.

In many ways, this sort of thing makes it easier for us.

Perhaps some of these haredi leaders know, just as the Communist leaders in Russia knew by the 70s that Communism was not sustainable.

Steve, please, Rabbi Avigdor Miller's books are childish. Those of us with graduate degrees in the sciences cannot possibly take his books seriously.
But, like you said, at least he tried to tackle the subject and not just blow everyone off.

Shmarya,

Why do you think Rabbi Slifkin uploaded these videos - and why do you think he's done it now? He's always taken a defensive position. Has there been some new attack on him?

A very simple proof against 6000 year creation is the thickness and layers of ice in Greenland and Antarctica. There is at least a 200,000 year record of snowfall at those two places.
While THAT isn't proof for a >5 billion year universe it certainly refutes a 6000 year one.

Regarding:"""If you want to be a good Roman Catholic, then you must obey your Pope."""
ah the infallibility doctrine...
As it has been explained to me the Infallibility Doctrine applies to faith and morals only and only if the pope want to exercise that authority.
I don't ever think the Infallibility Doctrine ever was applied to 'everything revolves around the Earth' even though Galileo was forced to recant his teaching

Well folks Reb Aharon was my rosh yeshiva and a man who lives in isolation and has a very bad temper. He does not understand a thing he is saying and is wrong in only looking at evolution through the time evolving of man. He does not understand GD time in the equation which in Gd time is six days. He is also very intolerant of anyone who deviates from his religious beliefs. He is the emes and everyone is not with his emes is sheker.

He halachally assumes he can do this because in matters of hashgofah to disagree is mutar however it should never be done with rancor or lack of knowledge.

Reb Aharon has missed the mark period and his zealotry has hurt many people due to his harshness and lack of sensitivity in some matters. He is surrounded by true believers who never deliver a true message of what is really going on.

Isolation is a terrible thing and he refuses to engage anyone he disagrees with and uses his rage as a weapon.

Chesed is not his strong suit.


"Rabbi Ahron Feldman. Feldman originally backed Rabbi Slifkin but sold him out when Rabbi Elyashiv in effect offered to let Feldman into the exclusive "club" of really influential haredi rabbis."

What does that mean? Put up or shut up and apologize.

Anyone have the same problem as me with YouTube videos? I can barely hear them even when straining.

Anyone have the same problem as me with YouTube videos? I can barely hear them even when straining.

Posted by: Archie Bunker

Bunker, you keep straining and you'll give yourself more hemorrhoids.

Stop straining.

I've never heard a nice word about the man, ever.

What does that mean? Put up or shut up and apologize.

Here is some of the proof:

http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2005/11/rabbi_aaron_fel.html

Much of the rest was on GodolHador's blog and is now gone.

I never studied at Chaim Berlin, and never heard of this R. Schacter until now. His eloquence, scholarship and erudition, as displayed in this video, are evidence that Balaam's donkey, most definitely ,spoke

What makes this totally ridiculous is that many Rishonim give a pshat in posuk that is not k'hilchasoh, not according to the halachah. If the rishonim can explain a verse of the chumash not according to the halachah, what difference does it make how I learn psat in Bereishis? Judaism used to be a question of practice. It is only the modern day Jewish Ayatollahs that have created jewish catechisms and tests of faith.

I was in Israel and had heard from some students that R. Slikfin's books were not considered kosher by unnamed authorities. Upon my return to the states, I had heard personally from a rabbi in baltimore, trying to calm my fears, that R. Feldman at Ner Israel himself had flown to Israel and while there, defended R. Slifkin's books as not apikorsut to a certain Gadol. In about a year, the ban was proclaimed, and R. Feldman's letter came out. Rebuttals were written - one of them after counsel with R. Feldman. So I think things are complex, to put it lightly.

Shmarya, this was also covered on Harry's blog. I don't mind the coverage, since I'm interested, but I join my fellow commenter above in wondering what the newsworthiness is in this video right now. It is 3 years old, after all.

anonymous, things are actually pretty simple.

The Haredi rabbis are afraid of anything that would deny them gawdlike authority over every aspect of a Jew's life. Science is fundamentally, radically incompatible with arbitrary authority. As such it can never be kosher according to these same rabbis.

Freedom and truth or slavery and the slavish acceptance of lies. That's choice.

The tragedy is that even within medieval Jewish cosmological discourse there was acceptance that G!d's creation began way before 5,769 years ago. Note, this was mythic discourse, not science... but even still, the notion that age of the universe was comprised of multiple sabbatical cycles, each of which were 49,000 years was familiar to scholars who cared about such arcane matters. Aryeh Kaplan cites Rabbi Isaac of Akko (1250-1350ce) in "Immortality, Resurrection, and the Age of the Universe," specifically his interpretation of celestial sabbatical cycles in the Sefer he-Temunah. But the main thing is that we are creatures with intelligence. It is the glory of the King to hide something, and the glory of humans to seek it out. It is an embarrassment that some Jews are resurrecting 200 year old arguments advanced first by fundamentialist Protestant Christians, subsequently laid to rest in the heady days of the Enlightenment and Age of Discovery. These rabbis and their kind are the fundamentalist dead-enders of our intellectual community.

My teachers don't follow the hashkofoh portrayed by R. Schechter in this talk but honestly I don't think many of you understood a word he said.

Like Shmarya, you've gone off like a pack of hyenas.

Pavlov's dog revisited.

My teachers don't follow the hashkofoh portrayed by R. Schechter in this talk but honestly I don't think many of you understood a word he said.

Like Shmarya, you've gone off like a pack of hyenas.

Pavlov's dog revisited.


Some of those people have smicha, Isaac, from good haredi yeshivot, no less.

They understand.

So do the others.

The old rabbi sounds like a grouchy old man; I sure hope most of us become more gentle and wiser in our wisdom as we get older.

Chicago Samson

Rather than approach an issue that has affected ALL religions for the past century and a half, these people choose to denigrate those whose cosmogony differs from theirs. Rabbi Slifkin's works do not DENY the authority of the Torah, they attempt to reconcile science with Torah.

If Rabbi Shachter has no problem with science, he's a lucky man. There are many Jews (and non Jews) who are believers (or would like to be believers), but may find some doctrines difficult to comprehend. Instead of sympathy, he shows hostility.

Rabbi Shachter's arguments are essentially,"this is what I believe, if you cannot accept my beliefs, there is no room for you in Judaism". His delivery is coarse, his attitude is bitter, his tone, sarcastic.

Rashi, in the preamble to Parshat Mishpatim, enjoins our leaders to lay the Law before us, as a "set table", easy to understand, accessible and user friendly. Pirkei Avot tells us that a "kapdan" (an overbearing person) cannot be a teacher. Perhaps here is one Rosh Yeshiva who should learn a little Chumash and Rashi, and spend his Shabbat afternoons learning a little "Perek". He could well afford to give his "Shita Mekubetses" and his "R' Akiva Eiger" a break!!

Oh how convenient Shmarya that your supposed proof is missing. I spoke to a relative of Rav Aharon Feldman less than a year ago who says he did NOT back down.

The are rabbis by the way who are considered even more Charedi who did not sign either because they disagreed with the letter or because they weren't sure but smelled a rat because career criminal Leib Pinter and Leib Tropper were behind it.

It's also wrong that David Willig and others are attacking the premise that it is prohibited or unwise for the masses to delve into the opinions of certain Rishonim in this generation. While this does not make Slifkin a heretic it doesn't put his book on the recommended list either.

In Yeshiva, we used to comment on the halachick use of "gedolim" wrt to bathroom etiquette, i.e., in terms of scatology. When understood in these terms, the "Gedolim" of today ought to be flushed down the toilet. What morons!

Archie, will you please translate your comment into English. I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

is this the same so called rabbi who allowed one of his talmidim to send his kid to a boot camp outside of the us where there are no laws regarding tourture?
from what i read they phisically and emotially messed him up and when people came to ask this rabbi schechter about it he responded that anyone doubting my decision obviously does not know halacha.

That's him.

he s also know as ARON SHLECHTER not aron shechter, for good reason i should add

BY KIRSTEN DANIS
DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF
Tuesday, March 25th 2008, 4:00 AM


A battle has erupted in the Orthodox Jewish community over a Brooklyn teenager sent by his prominent family to a behavior boot camp accused of terrifying abuse.

Isaac Hersh, 16, has been trapped since last summer at Tranquility Bay, a reform school on the island of Jamaica with a soothing name - and harsh discipline, according to the lawyer hired to try to get him out.

"It's a modern-day concentration camp," said Maryland lawyer Joshua Ambush.

Isaac's estranged parents sent him to the boot camp last year after luring him back to Brooklyn from his new home in Texas, court papers claim.

Isaac's twin brother, Sol, is panicked he's next to go.

"He's very worried about his brother. He's very worried about himself, too," said a friend of the family who asked to remain anonymous.

Tranquility Bay offers the promise of turning bad boys into focused achievers, but the walled-off camp with barred windows has been called a nightmare.

Children have been beaten, forced to eat their vomit and made to stand in painful contortions for hours, according to a separate suit filed in Utah by former students against private boot camps, including Tranquility Bay.

The case has so riled up members of the normally insular Orthodox community that several are taking the rare step of publicizing Isaac's situation.

One one side is Isaac's informal Texas foster family, who are also Orthodox, and their supporters, who prompted a nonprofit to file suit in Washington last week on Isaac's behalf.

They claim he was lured to Brooklyn with the promise of a job, handcuffed and thrown into a van that took him to the boot camp as he cried and begged to be released, the suit says.

On the other side are the teen's father, Michael Hersh - CEO of Brooklyn's huge Orthodox volunteer ambulance service, Hatzalah - and his wife, Miriam.

"Hatzalah will carefully monitor these proceedings, taking into account the seriousness of the allegations," the organization said in a statement.

The couple has a prominent supporter in Rabbi Aaron Schecter, head of Brooklyn's tight-knit Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, according to the suit.

It is unclear what prompted the parents to send Isaac to another country. Michael Hersh did not return a call for comment.

They had a troubled relationship for years, according to the suit.

Isaac, one of eight children, was sent to schools in Virginia and Long Island before the family moved to Israel in 2002, where the parents were accused of abusing Isaac, the suit says.

From there, the boys went to live with families in Texas, although the parents never lost custody.

"They're healthy, good, normal teenage boys," said the family friend.

The Slifkin fiasco of 3 years ago shows just what can happen when invented theology runs amok. Defense upon defense is heaped upon the invented nonsense ad absurdum. The Rambam wrote in his introduction to his treatise Moreh Nevuchim that absurdity of a conclusion is evidence that your line of reasoning has gone astray. He also warns that a Torah-only education yields a less than optimal education. Don't look at me that way; HE wrote it.

This is further evidence of the Protestantisation of Orthodox Judaism. We have decided what frum belief is from the surrounding culture, and the whole idea that we have to believe dogmatically like the "gedolim" is novel in the Torah world. Rambam's attempt at codifying a small set of required beliefs was met with great hostility, but nowadays that horrible term "orthoprax" as an insult to Orthodox men and women who are shomer Torah and Mitzvot but don't "believe" in the literal reading of every contradictory midrash, the more extreme the better, specifically when it contradicts modern science; the latter are now the true "orthodox".

I'm past that now, but I remember in my dating days we'd have a little farher before being allowed to go on the date; I wonder if now instead of the brocho plate we'd be quizzed on whether we think carbon-14 is minnus.

Much of this conflict is personally disturbing. At the intellectual level it revolves around the concept of whether to accept minority opinions on hashkafah. All agree that on halachah one goes with the majority, but what about hashkafah? Rabbi Kaplan says on hashkafah one can go with a minority opinion, however even on hashkafah, it seems a majority of charedi opinion is that one goes with the majority even there, and there is much convincing evidence to support this. The disturbing part is the emotional side: accusations that charedi rabbis have other reasons for their views, such as political motivations (who can join an elite club of rabbeim) or psychological motivations (such as control issues, etc). Those accusations are very serious ones, and also very hard to support. I think one should always assume such illustrious scholars are sincere, motivated only defend Torah. Surely one must agree that only with overwhelming direct evidence of insincerity should one think otherwise, and even if so, according to the rules of Loshon HaRah, one should bring the issue up to a Rav, in private, if one desires to actually address the issue of another Rav who has problematic views. The only reason one should complain about any of these issues is because one is motivated to actually help and correct a problem.

Yoel –

1. In hashkafa, there is NO OBLIGATION to hold by a majority opinion unless actual halakhic practice is involved.

This is the actual halakha.

No haredi rabbi can change that.

2. The laws of lashon hora you cite do not apply to rabbis who defame others in public.

That's lashon hora 101.

3. You show no sympathy for the people these haredi rabbis hurt – like Rabbi Slifkin, for example – while you show immense sympathy for them.

In my book, that makes you a very bad person.

Ladies and Gentleman, I hope you appreciate seeing the great Failed Messiah and your schnorred dollars at work. After much time and effort, in breaking news you will see only on Failed Messiah, the Failed Messiah website has managed to bring to your attention a three year old video of a Rabbi expressing views we all new he held. Imagine, without Failed Messiah we never would have known, that we already new that RAS opposed Rabbi Slifkin's books. I urge you all, in spite of the tough economic times, to take this opportunity to donate generously to the Failed Messiah cause. With the exception of amounts used to buy new underwear (which tend to wear out rather quickly when you blog in your underwear), your entire donation will be used to investigate and uncover additional public stories and bring those stories to the light of day. So long as Failed Messiah is on the job, we will never again be in the dark about things we already know.

Ladies and Gentleman…we already know.

Let's see:

1. The videos were first posted on YouTube Thursday night.

2. Schechter's views are not the only issue here. How this 'gadol' presents those views is equally important. The videos show that.

3. Matzav.com and other sites also covered this during the past couple days.

"If the rishonim can explain a verse of the chumash not according to the halachah, what difference does it make how I learn psat in Bereishis? Judaism used to be a question of practice. It is only the modern day Jewish Ayatollahs that have created jewish catechisms and tests of faith."

SOrry for the shorthand.

I understood that as referring to certain writings of the Rambam and other Rishonim that more recent rabbis have said should not be learned by the masses. I happen to be appalled at some things Rabbi Schechter has done. The question is how many rabbis are being labeled "Ayatollahs".

"In hashkafa, there is NO OBLIGATION to hold by a majority opinion unless actual halakhic practice is involved.

This is the actual halakha."

Oh really now? Where is this "halacha" stated? I know of at least one example where it is not true.

"In my book, that makes you a very bad person"

All take a bow now for the great "paragon of virtue", Shmarya Rosenberg!

Successful Messiah,

Brilliant!!

Oh really now? Where is this "halacha" stated? I know of at least one example where it is not true.

Bring it.

I am referring to the rashbam who was famous for learning Pshat, even if that was not the way the halachah was finalised. I am also referring to the Ibn Ezra, whose commentary has been removed from many chumashim, because he is cited as saying some things that biblical critics agree with, as opposed to the chareidim. I advocate these rishonim SHOULD be studied, and that while halachah must be respected, pshat and hashkafah, can be developed by each individual according to theis own understanding. Halachah dictates action. Except for belief in God, it does not dictate belief.

I played the video and I am having a hard time reconciling what Rav Aaron Shlita, said and what this post says he said. Specifically, he never said that the world was lessthan 6000 year sold or more than that. What he did say is that it is not our business to delve into this because it comes under "sisrei Torah", and we rae not competent in this field.

If a person disagreess, so be it. However, it is totally wrong to attack someone for something he did not say.

P.S. There are other things said in comments about Rav Aaron that are totally out of any experience I have had with him.

The specific question was about conflicts between Torah and science.

Schechter attacks the Big Bang and other things he disagrees with and attacks those who try to reconcile Torah and science.

And he signed the ban against Rabbi Slifkin.

In other words, you strip out all context and then willfully hear what you want, rather than what the 'gadol' actually said.

No he did not attack the "Big Bang." He said that changing the pshat we learn in the psukim in Bereshit to accomodate what science knows is not our business.

You may agree or disagree with this.
However, it is simply wrong to attack anyone for something he did not say.

If he indeed said what your post says he says, then quote his words. If I am wrong I will admit it.

I suggest you watch it again and note his screaming and his infantile behavior.

Then realize the behavior of his that surrounds this.

Shmarya, I will cite the example but the onus is on you first to prove what YOU say is the halacha. Even if someone proves me wrong, you still need to back up your statement.

There are at least some authorities that rule it is forbidden for the masses to learn parts of Moreh Nevuchim. I do not know of any competant authority that disagrees.

Your turn.

Shmarya, your mocking of RAS's behavior does not answer the question posed to you.

"Halachah dictates action. Except for belief in God, it does not dictate belief."

Belief in G-d is only one of the 13 articles of faith.

And halacha does not dictate action exclusively as in the case of Esav sonei ess Yaakov.

But someone holding the beliefs expressed by the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim would be doing nothing wrong.

And the reason they are 'forbidden' to learn it is because they will misunderstand it – not because it conflicts with any halakha or ikkarei emuna.

The claim with Rabbi Slifkin was that RS was advocating heresy.

"The claim with Rabbi Slifkin was that RS was advocating heresy."

Again, not all the rabbis against Slifkin said he is a heretic. The rabbis who refrained from doing so are split in 2 groups. Those who would compare this to a case of Moreh Nevuchim and those who say that it is possible to advance a heretical position without being a heretic yourself.

The split happened later, after RYSE was confronted and then said his bit about Slikin not being a heretic even though RYSE signed a ruling calling him one.

The two camps are cosmetic, for the most part.

Since Shmarya and fellow Liberal travellers are such big supporters of the Rambam's writings, I will point out that there is a Rambam on the inferiority of a certain race. (No comment on the type of pigmentation thereof).

Surely, you guys will defend this Rambam since the same author is one of Rabbi Slifkin's sources!

Oh knock it off Shmarya. We know how much you love to disparage rabbis, but please. At least come up with a story that you can support with the flimsiest evidence.

How do you know that EVERY rabbi against Slifkin came up with a slick interpratation after the fact?

It is also well known that Pinter & co were presenting one story while adding signatures to another.

No evidence to these "other rabbis'" divergent points of view exists pre-RYSE's remarks.

And all of them signed the ban with the word heretic in it.

"And all of them signed the ban with the word heretic in it."

False.

Of course Shmarya must "know" that Pinter & Tropper couldn't have duped various rabbis since he was right on their coattails.

Until you can prove they were duped, their signatures on the ban stand.

Here goes Shmarya again with his funny standard of where the burden of proof lays.

We know that letters of this sort are not reliable in general and you've got big man in charge Leib Pinter who law enforcement has proven has been a liar for over 3 decades.

I don't recall now which rabbi it was exactly but there was a letter issued after the fact that he was duped. Not exactly hard to believe considering the organizers.

So it's three years on and still no proof, eh, Bunker?

Sorry Shmarya but according to the extent that you require "proof" for every one of your cockamamie attacks on rabbis I cannot carry around that information for the multitude of instances. I don't think there are yet hard drives that handle that many gigabytes and I cannot afford a Cray supercomputer.

this type of rav sent my uncle off the derech

my uncle, who was 10 at the time, asked his rav about evolution...the rav slapped him across the face and said "GO TO CHELL"...that was it

his basic pshat is...thou shalt not question

how does one learn without questioning?

In his sefer "Sifsei Chachamim", R. Chaim Friedlander cites the Abarbanel in Parshas V'Eschanan, who quotes the Ramban as saying that only in regards to halacha must one hold like a given psak. Whereas in hashkafa a psak is irrelevant and one may 'hold' what seems right in their eyes. (Sifsei Chachamim - Emunah v'Hashkafa maamar on Mazal)

>>Rambam on the inferiority of a certain race.

Making that statement out of context is a strawman arguement. In order to honestly cite the Rambam's statement you must say in what aspect he said they were inferior. Nations have different strengths and weeknesses. That would mean that some are stronger than others in a given way and others would be weeker OR inferior to them. To not qualify the Rambam's statement you are simply inciting strawman arguement about something he didn't quite say. I mean did he say that God likes them less or that they can't have morality?

I would gladly ignore k'tanim like these if they did not have political power in Israel, and if they did not get to define Orthodoxy to the "Modern" Orthodox who look over their right shoulders. I am not comfortable with the liberal denominations, but if this guy is what Orthodoxy has become, I want no part of it.

The Rambam was a great Medieval sage, but he was a human being and a product of his time. We don't have to hold by his unfortunate racism, or attempt to explain it away. I love the Rambam and his openess to science and philosophy, but not his racism. (Similarly, I revere George Washington as the father of our country, but not his slaveholding).

The doctrine of Papal Infallibility only dates from the 19th century, and it is a rearguard response to "modernism." And it only applies ex cathedra. Today's "daas torah" concept confers near omniscience on every old fart with a beard.

Rav Kook and Rabbi Hertz (yes, the latter was Orthodox, back when JTS was actually Orthodox) both support the possibility of evolution, among many others.

Is Reb Pinter related to the late Harold Pinter?

"Rav Kook and Rabbi Hertz (yes, the latter was Orthodox, back when JTS was actually Orthodox) both support the possibility of evolution, among many others."

Where does it state this?

"Pinter related to the late Harold Pinter?"

Possibly as they are both of Hungarian descent. A Pinter 1st cousin incidentally is a spokesman for the Charedi community in London.

By the way, CHaim Boruch, if I wrote what the Rambam said, it would blow things sky high. Not only would SHmarya & his followers have the biggest cow in recent memory but all the troublemakers like Nadler would start crawling out of their holes to write articles in the Forward. The Rambam I refer to is an old ksav yad not in current editions that is quoted elsewhere over the centuries.

I read an anthology of Rav Kook's writings (admittedly in English translation) where he states that evolution could prove that Hashem is constantly improving the world, in a dynamic way. He preferred that model to the older scientific model that everything is basically static.

Hertz, in his essay at the end of Bereisheet, talks about how Chazal sometimes read the Creation story somewhat allegorically. (It happened; God was behind it; but the days were not literally days, etc.). He further writes that one could imagine the evolutionary tree could be imaginarily read into Toldot Adam, if one wished (from single-celled organisms, to Man).

Who knows who wrote the translation? I really doubt Rav Kook would support Evolution which does not fit with any Torah interpretation.

The 1st part you claim in Rav Hertz's name makes sense but what do you mean about "imagining"?

>I understood that as referring to certain writings of the Rambam and other Rishonim that more recent rabbis have said should not be learned by the masses. I happen to be appalled at some things Rabbi Schechter has done. The question is how many rabbis are being labeled "Ayatollahs".
Posted by: Archie Bunker | January 19, 2009 at 12:24 PM <

I've never heard a reasonable or rational "gadol" denouncing any of these ayatollahs. Either they agree with crackpots like RAS or they're too intimidated to speak their mind. In either event, it is orthodox reticence and abandonment of responsibility that elevates these cranks to infallibile fundamentalist popes. Shtika K'hodah !

Here's something I found online:

Rabbi Hertz writes on page 193 that Genesis is fundamentally about the fact of creation, not the manner of it. The manner of creation—that is to say, the process by which the universe came into existence—has been the domain of philosophers and scientists for millennia. What is revolutionary about Genesis is that the world was created at all. And the claim that Genesis makes is that the world was deliberately and planfully created; That life on earth has purpose; That our existence has meaning; That all life is sacred and that human life is most sacred because it has the most potential.

2This is the revolutionary, countercultural message that Torah comes to deliver to the world in its opening lines. Hertz goes on to say: There is… “nothing inherently un-Jewish in the evolutionary conception of the origin and growth of forms of existence from the simple to the complex, and from the lowest to the highest. The biblical account itself gives expression to the same general truth of gradual ascent from amorphous chaos to order, from inorganic to organic, from lifeless matter to vegetable, from animal to man…”

[Me again]: Hertz quotes a passage to the effect of: one celled organism begat multicelled organisms... to ape-like man begat man, He said, if the lack of contemporary science in the torah bothers the reader, one can imagine such a passage in the torah. The idea, I interpret, is that the science doesn't contradict the torah if one reads the Days of Creation section allegorically.

I also found this:

Kook discusses evolution in the section of Orot Hakodesh entitled "The Ascending Development." From the title, it is already obvious that Kook believes that development has a direction. The world is moving toward greater perfection, even though there may be temporary setbacks.
(myjewishlearning.com- I am unfamiliar with the site).

My source for Kook:

Abraham Isaac Kook: The Lights of Penitence, The Moral Principles, Lights of Holiness, Essays, Letters, and Poems (Classics of Western Spirituality)
by Ben Zion Bokser

I hope this is helpful.


Abe, maybe you need to get more informed. Rabbis Dovid Feinstein, Zelig Epstein & Kalman Epstein came out against RAS. Granted there were others not pleased with him but who didn't have the spine to do anything about it.

Yochanan, I have studied Breishis in great depth and I cannot think of any way to reconcile these supposed views.

I am highly suspicious that the sources have been distorted especially considering who is "interpreting" Rav Kook:

Ben Zion Bokser, (1907-1984) was one of the major Conservative rabbis of America.

Bokser was active in the Rabbinical Assembly of America, and was a member of its law and standards committee. He ... permitted a Cohen to marry a divorcee

His responsa against capital punishment is cited often.

In 1981, he advocated holding bat mitzvah ceremonies for girls on Sabbath morning in the main sanctuary.

Archie: Bokser didn't "interpret" anything. He merely translated Kook's writings. Granted, I didn't see the Hebrew originals, but I can't imagine from the context that Rav Kook was talking about anything BUT evolution.

My memory for details is spotty (sometimes great, sometimes horrendous) but I have heard from wiser heads than mine that Chazal allowed for some leeway in interpreting Bereisheet, even using allegory. Gerald Schroeder, an Orthodox Jew (or Orthoprax, by your lights) and a scientist wrote a book "Genesis and the Big Bang" which reconciles the torah and science. He also wrote an article in the J'lem Post defending Tnuva's use of a Jurassic Park tie-in that almost cost them Badatz hechsher (I think it was called "Can a Dinosaur Drink Kosher Milk?").

The Protestant-fundamentalist-ultraliteralist reading is only one possibility. The torah was meant to be timeless, and understood by our Hebrew ancestors who didn't have modern (Greek) conceptions of science and history- as well as by us, with our own way of interpreting it. It can be read on many levels, according to one's understanding. God did not give us a brain, and then plant false evidence, in order for us not to use our brains. He is not Loki the trickster.

If all evidence points to an allegorical reading, the torah fits in very nicely with science. The world is not eternal, nor did it pop into being complete, like Athena emerging fully armored from the head of Zeus. It unfolded over time (call it days, call it eons), where first the planet congealed, then plant life, then simple animal life, then Man. Man emerged from the pastoral and hunter-gather realms, and from one region and even one language, to fill the earth with cities, technology, and cultures. Just like in Bereisheet, overall.

If it wasn't for Hertz, I would have never sought out a Jewish education, never become traditional, and probably have strayed from Reform to secular to apathetic. Reading those essays in our Reform synagogue, while I was bored to tears with the service, saved my neshome.

The torah is not a science textbook- it is a life textbook.

Archie apparently can't read Hebrew texts in the original either, so I'm not surprised that he's unaware of R. Kook's position here, which is well known (and YL knows my citations are always from the original). Anyone with a Kabbalistic background would see the progressive unfolding of the Divine Plan for the universe in the concept of evolution, and there's the well known Tosefos Yom Tov, etc.
Its only nowadays, where the artscroll/aish world derives their idea of frumkeit more from the Southern Baptists than from Torah sources, where evolution becomes a central "orthodox" belief.

As an aside, YL, if you are talking about Loki have you downloaded Therion yet? :)

Maven, why do you continue to slander me? I have never even tried reading any of Rav Kook's seforim as others have been higher up on my list. Where have I stated otherwise? And if Rav Kook's position is so "well known" then please enlighten us. There are fellows in all the top Litvish yeshivos who like to stir up hornet's nests with controversial opinions and I never heard them talking about it.

Yochanan, in case I wasn't clear there are some aspects of what would be considered evolution that do not conflict with the Torah.

Archie, you are right, I beg mechilo. I got caught up in the general tone of this blog.

Let me say it like a mentch then. R. Kook and others in the pre-America days based their hashkofo on writings derived from the Gra and Ramchal in which the orientation was from toras hasod, in which there is an unfolding of Hashem's presence in the world, from the creation of the olamos (igulim to yosher) then through various stages through Avraham and then Sinai, and then through progressive enlightenments onto bias goel tzedek and tikkun (and lets not forget that R. Hutner was R. Kook's talmid in hashkofo).

Thus, you don't hear complaints about "evolution" from the Jewish writers in a serious manner until the current dor, there are even positive citations of evolution (really more in the social darwinism approach) such as the tosefos yom tov, etc. Why not, after all other than random mutation, what's the big deal, and random mutation is a concept held eisendik only by pop scientists, not biologists, as we understand more about control of gene expression.

I believe the current infatuation with "evolution" in the frum world is a societal influence from the Protestants, who don't accept concepts such as Midrash.

R. Steinsaltz said it best: there's no problem with Torah and science, only between Torah and popular interpreters of science. I'd say that many of us molecular biologists would say that if you really studied molecular biology you would become a believer, given how intricate all the protein interactions, etc, are (I'm not attempting to "prove" Gd this way, rather its a feeling one gets). And I think YL is entirely correct, the Torah has better things to do than teach us science, and I think we know that we haven't been great about learning the important things Torah does try to teach us :)

Maven: I don't do computer games, but I love comparative mythology. I also liked Neil Gaiman (MOT)"American Gods."

Archie: Sounds interesting. Please elaborate.

I shared this set of videos with an esteemed MO Rabbi who is very much a Talmid Chacham. His reaction was that Rabbi Schechter is the poster child for why MO differs from Hareidism. Moreover, he found it absurd that the Rema, the Rashal and the Naim VeNechmad (Ganz) delved into science without feeling that they compromised their Yiddishkeit while R. Schechter holds willful ignorance to be a desideratum. He summed it up by saying, "from this I can only derive that Rabbonim in 16th Century Poland were more open and sophisticated than many Roshei Yeshivah today".

BTW - did anyone notice that in the midst of his tirade R. Schechter couldn't decide whether to use the term "delve into" or the term "dwell upon" and therefore more than once he used the word "dwelve" (now that's a Chiddush - but is it Assur?).

I repeat that RAS did not say what most commentors here imply he said. Please listen to the video. His point was that we should not change the traditional pshat in Berashis.

He deliberately refrained from stating that the literal interpretation is true (or false); implying that it may not be true in a literal sense.

You may agree or not. However, you should not attack someone for what he did not say.

Maven, it's not clear.

What exactly does the Tosfos Yomtov say?

I have learned much Gra & Ramchal and have not seen them backing evolution either.

While dinosaurs having once existed and rapid aging of the Earth for instance can allow for science & Torah to agree, I disagree with Maven's constant comparisons to Protestants, even though he is correct on some level (lehavdil) in other areas.

I think the bigger problem is when you have Left-wing modern orthodox ignoramouses from YU & YCT who keep pushing to reconcile every aspect of the Evolution & Big Bang theories with the Torah, which is not possible. Just like Bokser may be distorting the words of Rav Kook, they are certainly distorting the words of Rav Soloveitchik and earlier authorities.

I know of the Bokser translations of Kook because I have seen them in Orthodox rabbis' libraries. Whatever commentary he may use to "distort" Kook, his straightfoward translations are widely accepted. Rav Kook did not have a cow over evolution (or should I say, evolve a cow?).

There can be many explanations as to why an orthodox rabbi would have Bokser's book on the shelf.

He may received it not knowing who the author is. He may have been reading it to refute him. It may be a Left-wing modern orthodox rabbi that does not have proper hashkafa and is actually violating halacha by using his work.

It is NOT Bokser's work. It is Rav Kook's work. Everyone knows who Bokser is. He was famous. I am not sure what you mean by improper hashkafa, but I'm sure I have it. Rav Kook states in the Orot that evolution indicates a teleology, or hashgachah pratit, that things are getting better and the world is moving towards perfection. It doesn't matter if Bokser, Moshe Rabbeinu, or Schmerl the Beggar translated it- that's what it says. And if Bokser so severely mistranslated it, the anthology of Kook's writings would be pulled out of print due to scholarly protest. Bokser's teshuvot are highly controversial, even problematic, I grant you. But he didn't write (or rewrite) the frickin' book, and he was known to be very erudite.

Rav Kook, in Orot, accepted at least the possibility of evolution; probably more. Deal with it, my friend (non-sarcastic).

Of course the Gra and Ramchal don't discuss evolution, the idea wasn't around at that time. What I said was that their haskofo was one of "progress" in the olamot, the Ramchal was very vocal about this in many places, and even argues that time itself is transient and will be superceded (to save you from the usual response of "oh yeah, show me", its in his perush to the Zohar section Arimit Yadi B'tzlotin).
The TYT talks about the discovery of fossils and how it proves the multiple "creations", v'hamaskil yidom.

"if Bokser so severely mistranslated it, the anthology of Kook's writings would be pulled out of print due to scholarly protest"

I really doubt it. Have you ever seen the Reform responsa book that completely twists the Talmud out of context?

Leib Tropper distorts the words of Rav Moshe Feinstein in his promotional materials and even the RMF's youngest son is going along with it.

The TYT talks about the discovery of fossils and how it proves the multiple "creations"

Creations as in "brios"? The same pronounciation means both creations and animal species. I wonder if there was a shibush.

"if Bokser so severely mistranslated it, the anthology of Kook's writings would be pulled out of print due to scholarly protest"

I really doubt it.

Bokser's translation has been in print for many years. It is accepted by many MO rabbis.

I have never in all my years in Orthodoxy heard a single complaint about it.

The TYT talks about the discovery of fossils and how it proves the multiple "creations"

Creations as in "brios"? The same pronounciation means both creations and animal species. I wonder if there was a shibush.


Rav Kook supported evolution. So did other gedolim of that generation.

It is only today that no 'gadol' accepts evolution.

Archie: You've jumped the shark. Just because Bokser translated it doesn't mean he did a shitty job, or purposefully distorted it. He translates whole excerpts in context; he doesn't cherry-pick and then editorialize. Just say "alu v'alu..." and accept that you hold differently than Rav Kook. Don't do mental gymnastics (pilpul) to find a way to say he didn't really say it.

If you think Bokser is Loki the Trickster, look it up in Orot, in the original.

"Bokser's translation has been in print for many years. It is accepted by many MO rabbis. I have never in all my years in Orthodoxy heard a single complaint about it."

Oh, Shmarya never heard about it while at some BT yeshivos and between impaling pickles at his deli on to Rubashkin pastrami sandwiches. That settles it (not)!

Not that I've really looked for it but I've never seen a copy of Rav Kook's sefer anywhere. I am curious to look up the original.

And it's sad that it's reportedly in use by modern orthodox rabbis as it is forbidden in most instances to use the work of a Conservative "rabbi".

Sigh. Orot is the work of Rav Kook, not a conservative rabbi. A conservative rabbi merely translated it. I think not using it for that reason alone is a ridiculous chumra, as it is not a conservative work.

It is not a ridiculous chumrah. It is a codified halacha in Shulchan Aruch echoing the Talmud that even a Sefer Torah written by a heretic should be burned. Sefer Torah includes all other books according to Rashi which no one argues with as far as I know.

There is another prohibition of enabling sinners which is why poskim have said that they are appalled that a well known sforim store in Brooklyn is selling JTS publications.

You know, it's ironic that Shmarya has railed, sometimes correctly, against various rabbis for being enablers. But I'm certain he would decline in this instance. As the morons at Reuters would say, one man's sinner is another's "freedom fighter".

So Rav Kook is a heretic because Bokser translated him. That is ridiculous.

No Yochanan, not at all. But anything that a heretic touches becomes contaminated.

There are plenty of people yelling that child molesters should not be doing any translations for Artscroll and I didn't see you defending the publishing house.

There are obviously spiritual reasons behind this that the sages of the Talmud, Rashi & Rabbi Yosef Caro understood, even if some people in 2009 do not.

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