Excerpts of a letter by Rabbi
Aharon Feldman Shlit"a, Rosh HaYeshiva Ner Yisroel:
"Probably the public issue most damaging to the honor of Torah and to its
leaders in recent memory is what is known as the Slifkin affair. Rabbi Nosson Slifskin, a talented young man still in his twenties, wrote three
books in the past several years in which he attempted to justify certain
conflicts between the findings of modern science and parts of the Torah and
the Talmud. ... Nevertheless, in September of last year  a public
letter banning the books was issued by some of the leading Torah authorities
in Israel, and then shortly afterwards a similar ban, signed by many
prominent American Roshey Yeshiva, was issued in the United States. The
books were banned because they were deemed to contain ideas antithetical to
The ban was met with resistance by Slifkin who
vigorously defended himself on his Internet site on several grounds." ...
"Slifkin’s campaign was eminently successful. In short
time, most people were convinced that the ban had no basis or reason, and
that Slifkin had been unwarrantedly victimized. His campaign made the
signatories appear easily swayed and naive. Easily swayed, because they had
relied on the “extremists” and had not sufficiently checked the accuracy of
their claims. Naïve, because the tumult over the ban catapulted the books
into best-sellerdom. The books had been previously virtually unknown but
after the ban began selling by the thousands even at inflated prices – which
meant that the ban accomplished nothing."
Internet sites (mostly anonymous) where anyone with access to a computer can
express his spontaneous, unchecked and unedited opinion with impunity,
became filled with tasteless, derogatory attacks on these authorities, at
times to the accompaniment of vulgar caricatures."
a result, many thoughtful, observant Jews were beset by a crisis of
confidence in the judgment of the signatories. This was an extremely vital
crisis since these authorities constitute some of the greatest Torah leaders
of our generation, authorities upon whom all of the Jewish people rely for
their most serious decisions. More important, it threatened to make any of
their future signatures on public announcements questionable. The irony of
it all is that the books, which had originally been written to defend the
honor of Torah, became one of the most potent vehicles in our times for
weakening the authority of Torah." ...
Avraham Chaim Carmel on the Slifkin Controversy
[Rabbi Carmell is commenting on the following passage by Rabbi
Date: Mon, 27 Oct 2003 11:29:05 +0200
From: Zoo Torah < @zootorah.com>
Subject: RE: Basics for Philosophical discussions
Actually, if someone feels that one needs to have a sufficiently qualified
authority upon which to rely for the allegorization of the Mabul, then I can
provide one. It's a more authoritative source than the Rishonim. More
authoritative even than Chazal. It's the Metziyus. Hashem's "diary of history,"
the physical world, states that there was no global Flood. I think that Hashem
is a reliable source (unless, of course, He was deliberately deceiving us...).
There is only one metziyus. On the other hand, there are different ways of
understanding the Torah....]
Dear Nosson הי"ו,
As you realized on your last
visit, my father, shlita, is unfortunately no longer in a position to
discuss the issue of your books. I
would like to share with you some ideas I have discussed with him in the past.
I have tried to imagine what would have been Rabbi
Dessler’s position with regard to the ban against your books.
The following three points come to mind:
1) Rabbi Dessler advocated a healthy skepticism, to the point of contempt,
towards the “conclusions” of scientism, in particular where these challenged the
beliefs of a Torah Jew. See the
epilogue to Artscroll’s biography of Rav Dessler (p. 365), “Against the worship
He would not have taken kindly to your attitude that
anything reported in “The New Scientist” as fact is to be accepted as such.
2) Rabbi Dessler, following in the footsteps of the Maharal, taught us to
have the greatest reverence for Chazal and the tremendous siyatta
diShmaya and divine insight that permeates all their teachings.
I think that his advice to anyone tackling issues of
science and Torah would have been to use their knowledge to discover, or come up
with, alternative theories that the bias of scientism may have rejected, but may
give more credence to Chazal.
3) As you may have by now discovered, the main opposition of the Gedolim
is to your attempt to “re-educate” or reformulate the thinking of the chareidi
community. As one person put it:
“your worst crime” was to put haskamos on the books.
Rabbi Dessler was
uncharacteristically outspoken in his criticism of such attempts (see letters
4) Finally, regardless whether I am correct in my assessment of Rabbi
Dessler’s attitude to the above, one thing is definite.
After the fact, Rabbi Dessler would have accepted the decision of those
Rabbanim, Roshei Yeshiva and Mashgichim in whose hands Hashem has
entrusted the directions of our generation.
When Hashem showed Adam and Moshe, “dor dor vedorshav… manhigav”
these are the names on that list.
We can get no closer to Hashem’s ratzon than by listening to our
Gedolim who have spent their entire lives in ascertaining the emes of
Torah. Even if, as a result of all
the non-Torah ideas that we have read, their opinion seems to us to be
incorrect, Hashem wants us to follow them.
Their siyatta diShmaya in knowing what is good for Klal Yisrael
is unimaginably greater than ours.
Wishing you all the best,
Avraham Chaim Carmell
P.s. I saw a statement on your website to the effect
that “G-d told you that the mabul never happened.”
I would like to draw your attention to the Radak who writes that a
navi sheker may truly believe that he had a Divine revelation about the
falsehood he prophesizes about. He
is nevertheless chayav missa, because as a believing Jew, he is required
to realize that he has allowed himself to be mislead by his imaginations (or as
a horaas sha’a, since he is a danger to Klal Yisrael.)
Letter by Rabbi Shalom Kamenetsky Shlit"a prior to the Ban
September 13, 2004 5:39 PM
Avodah - High Level Torah Discussion Group
Age of the Universe (Haskamos
to the Science of Torah by RNS)
Rabbi Nossen Slifkin wrote on Avodah
>I do not accept that Ralbag only has validity if
backed up by Chazal,
>and Ralbag apparently didn't think so either. Rav Nadel's position is
>that Rambam (and, by the same token, Ralbag) give us a license to
>allegorize when there is necessary cause, such as overwhelming
>scientific evidence. My specific allegory in my sefer has haskamos from
>Rav Aryeh Carmell, Rav Sholom Kamenetzky, and Rav Mordechai Kornfeld,
I asked Rabbi Sholom Kamenetsky Shlita
whether his letter
in the sefer
[Torah and Science
be taken as expressing agreement with Rabbi Slifkin's approach.
Rabbi Kamenetsky has given me
permission to forward his response to Avodah. It is addressed to me by
my Hebrew name ("Yoel"
September 13, 2004
Dear R' Yoel,
Thank you for the note. My name does appear in his
book and a careful reading of the haskomo will show that I gave
no haskomo on the content. What impressed me about the book is
its science. The uninitiated unlettered Jew often finds that the
responses he gets when he questions the seeming incompatibility between
science and Torah (l'havdil) are lacking.
The science in the book is impressive, but I do not agree with the
positions he takes in the Torah. True, he has "unconventional"
sources that would lend some credibility to the
theories he proposes, but I see these as "suggestions" (based on
somewhat spurious understandings of unconventional sources) that are to
allow the uninitiated to feel that he can begin learning Torah, and see
for himself that the issues are irrelevant. More than anything else, RNS
should be lauded for trying his best to defend the Torah against a group
of apikorsim that are bent on mocking Torah and disseminating science as
the "proof" that Torah is false, Rachmono litzlan. But to say that these
theories have credibility as Torah positions was not my intent in my
letter of approbation. I agree with Rabbi Bechofer and there is no such
thing as scientific evidence which is "incontrovertible".
The ban and statements by other leading Torah authorities