Thursday, July 20, 2006

We have liftoff!

I was privileged to be at Rabbi Slifkin's book launch Tuesday evening and it went off without a hitch. It was the first time I met Rabbi Slifkin face to face. A Hasidic master whose name I forgot once said that you could see a man's essence by looking into his face. I could see in the delicate boyish features and the slight build that he is not combative by nature, and was thrust against his will into the center of a storm. I feel so sad for what he's been through these last several years, and so utterly mystified that he can maintain a shred of respect for the people who are trying to destroy him. Rumor has it that he's been threatened with violence by some "religious" crazies in Israel. By golly I'd like to meet those who would do him harm and b'ezrat Hashem send them to the Land of Jumping Elephants .
Rabbi Weinreb from the Orthodox Union, who wrote a foreword to the book, spoke on the sometimes conflicting values of Emet and Shalom. Sometimes the former can be sacrificed for the latter, as when Hashem lied to Avraham about what Sarah said when she heard that she would be having a baby. But this is not such a time, not with so many bright young Jews being alienated from Torah over the issues on which Rabbi Slifkin writes. I myself could easily have been one of them 40 years ago. This is the time to stand up and proclaim loud and clear: Torah is true, science is true, and truth cannot contradict truth.
Rabbi Gil Student, Rabbi Slifkin's new publisher, spoke about "Who in the world do we think we are?" He masterfully demonstrated that we have whom to rely on when we defy those who are trying to suppress Rabbi Slifkin. But I would have answered differently: We are free men and Americans, with the God-given right to pursue knowledge wherever we wish. Give me liberty or give me death.
Tuesday evening's event should not have been necessary. In the usual course of events there's no such thing as a "book launch." A book is written, distributed to the bookstores and sinks or swims in the marketplace. But this book has a small niche market, and too many Jewish bookstores are cowed by the tyrants and won't touch it with a ten foot pole. If the people trying to suppress Rabbi Slifkin want peace they can do what I did with Not By Chance, an anti-evolution screed cited in Rabbi Slifkin's book. I panned the book in a review to be published in Reports of the National Center for Science Education. But I will defend to the death the author's right to write it, the publisher's right to publish it, a bookstore's right to stock and sell it, and anybody's right to read it. I am not an Arab. I know the difference between a "p" and a "b".


Anonymous Anonymous said...

here via Harry Maryles' blog, and just want to let you know that I enjoy your posts quite a bit. Keep at it!

Sat Jul 22, 11:10:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get your approach. It's very nice that we are free americans etc. but why is that relevant. If you believe in the authenticity of the Torah, which is really a prerequisite to this whole discussion, then why would you give a hoot about what some quaint and recent political/social philosophy says about issues of intellectual freedom? If the Torah allows intellectual freedom (which i believe it does) then that matters in this discussion. If it doesn't then i'm supposed to chuck the torah's directives in favor of contemporary western values? I mean, there are plenty of people who think that way, but that's not a torah-true perspective on life. Have you thought this through carefully?

Mon Jul 24, 06:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zev Stern said...

There comes a point where I'm going to say:
אם לא תתנו בהיתר נקח באיסור.
For me that point is when people tell me what I may or may not read and study. Opting out of the system altogether was not always an option, but today it is and a lot of disaffected young people are doing it. I have not reached that point and don't see myself reaching it, but I am ready to "declare independence" from some of the people running the system - people who are not part of our culture and are not attuned to our needs.

Sun Jul 30, 02:50:00 AM EDT  
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Sun Jun 12, 10:09:00 PM EDT  

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