web analytics
October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

A Giant Of Faith And Intellect


When I moved to Israel fourteen years ago, I was very keen on meeting Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, zt”l. He had taught Gemara to my father in Yeshivas Dvar Yerushalayim many years earlier, but what excited me was his role as editor of Challenge, the first of the Torah/science genre. I visited him one Shabbos, and he was glad to answer my questions.

In the years to come I would benefit from many discussions with him in which he mentored me in my approach to Torah and science. His frankness and intellectual honesty was a breath of fresh air. In the beginning I was very conservative on these issues, due to a fairly limited education in Jewish philosophy. Therefore, some of what Rav Carmell told me seemed shocking, but I gradually discovered that everything was grounded in the thought of authentic Torah sources.

Rav Carmell reviewed many of my manuscripts in a way that set him apart from other Torah scholars. Many rabbonim who review books do so in a relatively casual way; in some cases they don’t even read the books before writing an endorsement. With my books, because they dealt with sensitive issues, I made sure to show them to rabbonim who would review them carefully.

Rav Carmell took “carefully” to a whole new level. When he finished, there would be dozens upon dozens of incisive comments written in the margins, which he would go through together with me. If there was something he really didn’t like, he would refuse to write an endorsement unless it was removed, or he would qualify his endorsement to reflect that which he disagreed with. This was a grueling process, but because he was my personal mentor and widely acknowledged as a great authority in this area, it was an honor to subject my work to it.

His breadth of knowledge was spectacular. Not only did he master the standard areas of Torah knowledge, he was also expert in Jewish philosophy and theology. And he was fluent in science – not only having a “feel” for it, but also being conversant with the latest literature, even into his eighties.

Rav Carmell also stood out in terms of vision. His wonderful but sadly little-known book Masterplan was a modern day version of Hirsch’s Horeb, showing how Judaism deals not only with the narrow concerns of the individual but also with society and the environment.

Rav Carmell was perhaps most famous for being a longtime disciple of Rav Eliyahu Dessler. He published Rav Dessler’s teachings in the five-volume Michtav Me-Eliyahu which he translated into English as Strive For Truth. For me, Rav Carmell exemplified the concept of striving for truth. He lived by Rambam’s maxim “Accept the truth from wherever it comes.”

I was once discussing an extremely difficult Torah/science problem with him, and he gave me an answer which made me very uncomfortable. When I expressed my discomfort, he replied, “I dislike it just as much as you, but the evidence leaves us with no choice.”

Rav Carmell also taught me the corollary of “Accept the truth from wherever it comes,” which is “Reject falsehood from wherever it comes.” About twelve years ago, he rejected a halachic explanation that I had written in a manuscript on the grounds that it just didn’t make sense. I protested that I was simply presenting the view of one of the acharonim. Rav Carmell replied that one must be very wary of accepting something merely on the grounds that it was stated by a great authority if it does not make sense.

As it happens, I went back and checked the sefer again, and it turned out I had misunderstood what it stated. But the lesson remained with me, and I recently noticed that Rav Chaim of Volozhin, in his commentary to Pirkei Avos, comments that even if one’s own rebbe states something that does not seem to make sense, it is forbidden to accept it.

Rav Carmell’s intellectual honesty was matched by his integrity and courage. When some of my books were condemned by certain rabbonim, Rabbi Carmell was not intimidated. He wrote a polite but firm letter to one of the distinguished opponents of my work, relating a private communication he had with Rav Dessler which justified my approach. He also wrote a public letter stating that he had carefully considered the matter and maintained his endorsement of my works. Then, after the opposition to my works widened yet further, he wrote an essay in support of my works entitled Freedom To Interpret.

About the Author: Rabbi Natan Slifkin is the author of several works on the interface between Judaism and the natural sciences. Later this year he is publishing The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom, and he is currently developing a Biblical Museum of Natural History to be located in the Beit Shemesh region. Rabbi Slifkin's website is www.zootorah.com and he also runs a popular blog at www.rationalistjudaism.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “A Giant Of Faith And Intellect”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Steve Emerson, author, journalist and terrorism expert.
Haaretz Smears American Terrorism Expert with Political Hit Job
Latest Indepth Stories
Map of Syria-Turkish border area, pinpointing Kurdish border town of Kobani, just taken by ISIS terror forces Oct 7, 2014.

Turkey and Iran the 2 regional powers surrounding the ISIS conflict gain from a partial ISIS victory

The Rosenstrasse area of Berlin, where Jewish husbands of non-Jewish German wives were held.

Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.

NY rally against Met Opera's 'Death of Klinghoffer' opera. Sept. 22, 2014.

Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”

Guess who's behind the door?

Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?

Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.

The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.

Israel offered Syria the entire Golan Heights, only to find that the Syrians were demanding MORE!

Israeli hasbara too can be described at best as pathetic, at worst non existent.

A ‘good news’ story from the Nepal avalanche disaster to warm your heart. Take out your Kleenex.

Journalists see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as morality play: Israel=evil; Palestine=innocent

Warsaw Ghetto: At its height, the Nazis walled in some 500,000 Jews within the1.3 square mile area.

While police officers face dangers every day on the job, Jews also face danger in their daily lives.

Carter developed a fondness for Arafat believing “they were both ordained to be peacemakers by God”

If Hamas is ISIS, the world asks, why didn’t Israel destroy it given justification and opportunity?

That key is the disarming of Hamas and the demilitarization of Gaza – as the U.S., EU, and others agreed to in principle at the end of Operation Protective Edge.

We have no doubt there are those who deeply desire to present themselves as being of a gender that is not consistent with their anatomy, and we take no joy in the pain and embarrassment they suffer.

More Articles from Rabbi Natan Slifkin
bannedbooks

The zealots who engineered the ban have been publicly disgraced.

Man and Monkey at Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo.

Rabbi Slifkin gives us a Jewish view on Evolution.

When I moved to Israel fourteen years ago, I was very keen on meeting Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, zt”l. He had taught Gemara to my father in Yeshivas Dvar Yerushalayim many years earlier, but what excited me was his role as editor of Challenge, the first of the Torah/science genre. I visited him one Shabbos, and he was glad to answer my questions.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-giant-of-faith-and-intellect/2006/10/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: