Monday, August 21, 2006

The Slifkin Affair: A Current Analysis

Rabbi Maryles has an incisive post on his blog. It is too long to reproduce here, so follow the hyperlink and then read my comments, which were too lengthy to post there:

One thing I must say about Rabbi Slifkin's latest book, and he says it in the preface, is that it contains no hiddushim. Everything there is firmly rooted in traditional sources including the Rambam, Rav Hirsch and Rav Kook. Having been intrigued by biology since I was a kid (you don't get a Ph.D. in a discipline for nothing), I grappled with the problem for decades. Imagine my pleasure when I saw in Rav Kook's writings an approach similar to mine. As a teacher, I have had students approach me on occasion with questions on this topic, and that is the approach I used with them. So did other biology teachers and professors who are shomrei mitzvot. And now the ban. Since I never felt any allegiance to the banners, I will continue using the same approach with my students. But what of the scientists and teachers who did consider the banners their authority figures? What of the kiruv workers who are now scrambling for an approach that is acceptable to the gedolim and to the people they are trying to be mekarev? And what of all those ba'alei teshuva who sacrificed so much to join our community, only to find out that they joined the Flat Earth Society instead? As I have stated several times, almost as appalling as the shameless public humiliation visited upon Rabbi Slifkin by so-called gedolei Torah on Erev Yom Kippur is the spinelessness and lack of intellectual courage in our community. You can count on your fingers the Rabbanim willing to publicly espouse an approach like Rav Slifkin's: Rav Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb, Rabbi Shmuel Irons (Lakewood Rosh Kollel in Detroit) and Rabbi Milton Polin (rabbi emeritus of Kingsway Jewish Center in Brooklyn, where I daven, and past president of the Rabbinical Council of America) come to mind. Rabbi Slifkin has a page on his website dedicated to letters he recieved after the ban. Many people from right-wing yeshivot wrote in to support him, but I am one of the few who put his name on what he wrote: Gil Student's posek asked not to be named, as did the authority he directed Rabbi Student to consult. Haredi authorities who had supported Rabbi Slifkin in the beginning ran for cover under pressure from the banners. I have been observant from birth and that is not going to change, but
emunat hakhamim is a casualty. Gone. Kaput. Fuhgeddaboudit. I have to keep reminding myself that Torah is not the exclusive property of Rabbi Elyashiv and his adherents; it belongs to all of us. But there are no anonymous postings on their pashkevils (pashkevil = patshegen + evil?). None of them is afraid to sign his name to his work. If we had that kind of manly courage in our camp our emuna would be strengthened and many troubled seekers would find menuhat ha-nefesh.


Anonymous shmuel said...

So agree with you.

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