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Rav Dessler zt"l



The Slifkin Affair

Contra Rabbi Slifkin's naturalistic approach to creation

Chazal (Chagiga 12a) state that the name Shin-Dalet-Yud represents the idea that during the creative process the universe continued to expand “like two clues of warp” until the end of the creative process at which point Hashem said “dai”, enough, and established the final limitations of physical law. What emerges from this maamar Chazal is as follows:

1) There are two exclusive periods in the history of the universe; the “Creation” period and the “post-Creation” period. During the Creation period, as the laws of nature were first being brought into existence, they remained in a constant state of flux. This represented the period of Creation. Subsequently, Hashem said “dai” and “reigned in the expansion”, that is, he stabilized the laws of nature such that they became static, unchanging.

2) The creative process did not happen all at once. It lasted the entire sheshes yimey bereishis and culminated with Shabbos at which point the creative process was permanently suspended and the laws of nature permanently fixed. Shabbos is a commemoration of this idea as the pasuk states (Shmos 20:10)… why have I commanded you to keep the Shabbos on the seventh day? “ki” because, “sheshes yamim asa Hashem es hashamayim…vayanch bayom hashevee’ee…al kayn… therefore I have sanctified the seventh day etc. In other words, the “creation process” was not an instantaneous affair but lasted a duration of time referred to as sheshes yamim and we celebrate Shabbos on the seventh day to commemorate this event (see MN I:67). The Maharal explicates this concept which permeates Chazal and all the Rishonim:

[מהר"ל באר הגולה באר הרביעי דף פ"ג ] דע כי הוא יתברך הוציא את הנמצאים כולם לפעל המציאות בששת ימי בראשית בעצמו ובכבודו, לא ע"י שליח הוא הטבע, כמו שהיה אחר ששת ימי בראשית שהש"י מנהיג את עולמו ע"י השליח והוא הטבע.

Know that He, may His name be blessed, caused all of reality to materialize into existence during the six days of creation Himself, in His own Glory (b’chvodo u’veatzmo) and not through the agency of nature, as opposed to the period which ensues after the six days of creation in which Hashem, may His name be blessed, guides his creation via an agent, referred to as nature. (Be’er haGola - pg 83, second column last paragraph).

3) There are two ramifications that surface from the above-stated idea. a) The creative process cannot be duplicated in a post-Creation period. b) Attempting to reconcile post-Creation imperatives with the fundamental dynamics of the Creation period is essentially impossible. In the opinion of Rav Shlomo Miller Shlit"a, advancing a theory which contravenes the first ramification (a) by conflating these two distinct periods denies the core principle of Shabbos whereas attempting to reconcile phenomena which appear to contradict the Torah by positing, say, day-age theories, in opposition to the second ramification, does not constitute kefira, although it does violate our mesorah.

When Rabbi Slifkin writes conclude that “Naturalistic Darwinian evolution is fully compatible with religion” (Challenge of Creation pg. 294) or that “the blind-watchmaker thesis need not be incompatible with G-d” (Challenge of Creation pg. 297) he has in essence contravened the first of the two ramifications above. The reason is because evolution is a purely naturalistic process (albeit, in Rabbi Slifkin's opinion, guided by G-d) which can, and currently is being duplicated in the post-Creation period. The problem is, ramification (a) states that the creation process is unable to be duplicated via the normal chukey haTeva which obtain in the post-Creation period without a specialized ma’amar Hashem to activate this process. When we celebrate Shabbos, we are testifying to the idea that the world came about via a unique, meta-natural creative process which is entirely removed from the current chukey haTeva. We are affirming that the current laws of nature are entirely inadequate as a means of bringing about the phenomena of the universe.

The role of “Boreh” is entirely different than the role of “Manhig” in the sense that the very laws of nature, the imperatives which govern the cosmos, space, time, mass, energy, life etc., all this was only able to come into existence via Hashem exercising his role as Boreh. Subsequently, He transformed his relationship to the universe from Boreh to that of Manhig by suspending the creative process and permanently establishing the laws of nature and the fixity of the various species of life on earth. These laws continue to be repeated over and over again but cannot, under any circumstances, be understood within the context of possessing the ability of self-perpetuation. For that, only the role of Boreh suffices. Thus, by subscribing to the evolutionary paradigm which utilizes currently understood laws of nature to describe the appearance of all of the species of life on earth, one is contravening the idea that these laws are inadequate as a means of perpetuating life. It contravenes the idea that only Hashem, functioning in His role as Boreh, can possibly bring about life whether plant, animal or human. The same issue applies to other theories such as Big Bang cosmology. Since Shabbos was established specifically to commemorate this very idea, by subscribing to origins theories which utilize post-Creation imperatives, we undermine the very essence of Shabbos.

At this point, it should be clear that while the issue of literal versus allegorical interpretation is important, this is not the direct issue issue at stake here. The issue is the conflation of the Creation and post Creation periods which ultimately leads to an undermining of the essence of Shabbos.

As far as ramification (b) is concerned, Rav Miller feels that if someone wishes to believe that the universe is billions of years old and the six day period of maaseh bereishis is six time periods, he is not undermining Shabbos as long as he believes that these billions of years all occurred within the meta-natural miraculous framework of “Beriah” (as explained above) which does not utilize currently understood laws of nature and thus cannot be duplicated today. As far as Rav Shlomo’s personal position, he believes in a literal six day creation because he believes in the mesorah and sees no reason why we must contravene it. This is what he meant by bringing down the ma’amar Chazal regarding Kayin and Hevel’s birth. Since the very laws of nature themselves were first being formed during the Creation period, any number of random violations of those laws was possible. The actual truth is entirely unknowable because we do not possess a frame of reference by which we can compare (as the pasuk in Iyov states “Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you possess understanding” 38:4) and thus he feels that the best course of action is to simply follow the mesorah.

The following is taken from notes by Rav Miller (Motzai Pesach 5766) which says it all.

ובנוגע למה שכתבנו לענין ששת ימי בראשית, הנה ידוע שהקב"ה בורא ומנהיג עולמו, והנה זמן בריאת העולם נמשך כל ששת ימי בראשית וכמאמרם ז"ל בעשרה מאמרות נברא העולם.  והנה אלו שרוצים להתאים טעאריות של אלו שנקראים חכמי הטבע לאמונתן בששת ימי בראשית לא ימלטו מלכשל בעקרי תורתינו הקדושה שהרי אמונתינו בששת ימי בראשית הוא מעקרי האמונה וכל ענין שביתתנו בשבת הוא להעיד שהקב"ה ברא עולמו בו' ימים וביום השביעי שבת ואמר לעולמו די ואז נחקקו חקי הטבע כמו שאנו רואים היום. אולם יסוד נודע בחכמת הטבע שאם מצד הטבע גרידא יצא דבר כזה א"כ אפשר לאותו דבר לחזור ולהשנות עוד הפעם וא"כ אלו המחזיקים Big Bang Theory וכדומה, על כרחך שיטתם היא שמצד הטבע יוכל להשנות עוד הפעם שהרי מצד חקי הטבע שנוהגים עתה נעשה הדבר מתחילה ואם קרה פעם אחת בהכרח שיש אפשרות לקרות עוד הפעם.

אולם מיסודי אמונתינו הוא שרק ע"י עשרה מאמרות נבראו שמים וארץ, וא"כ מצד חקי הטבע בלי שתוף רצון הקב"ה לשנות ולבראות עולמו כבראשונה נמנע הוא מן המציאות שיברא עוד הפעם…  אבל מעקרי האמונה הוא שכשנגמר מע"ב והקב"ה שבת ממלאכתו א"א בשום אופן שיתחדש הבריאה עוד הפעם ע"פ חקי הטבע אם לא ע"י רצונו יתברך ושינוי הנהגתו ממנהיג לבורא. והרוצים לפרש שכל ענין הבריאה היתה אך ורק יש מאין ומאז ועד עתה מתיחס הקב"ה לעולמו רק בתורת מנהיג הרי זה כפירה בששת ימי בראשית אשר אנו מעידים ע"ז בכל שבת.