Humans Or Beasts?
Is this nation-in-waiting the world calls Palestine populated by humans or two-legged beasts? They abduct children off the street, as was the case with Eliyahu Asheri, who was summarily murdered. Then a senior citizen is abducted and brought over to the Palestinian side of the border.
Israel entered Gaza to free a kidnapped 19-year-old soldier whose parents already grieve for the treatment he may be receiving. Israel began this invasion only after Palestinians crossed an internationally recognized border to attack an IDF unit in Israel, killing two and injuring others as they kidnapped the soldier. The attacks on Israel from the Palestinian side of the border have precipitated the events in Gaza.
The Palestinians cry for international borders. Now they have borders and this is how they use them.
Questions Levin’s Tactics
While I agree with his position on the “gay pride” event set to take place in Yerushalayim, Rabbi Yehuda Levin’s methodology in suggesting that Jews and Muslims find common ground in fighting the event “for the sake of the holiness of Jerusalem” is dangerous, if not downright ridiculous (“Fear ‘Pride’ Event In Jerusalem Will Spark World Islamic Furor,” news story, June 23).
Is Rabbi Levin really proposing that we agree with the Arabs on Jerusalem’s holiness and hope it ends there? Does he believe the Waqf would not twist such an “agreement” to further its destructive aims, once this joint effort ended? He actually “wants the Arab masses to rise up in indignation”? Does anyone believe that such a route can end well for the Jews of Jerusalem? Will the indignant Muslims simply cease and desist when he asks nicely?
Rabbi Levin defended his position (“Levin: Silence on WorldPride ‘Puzzling and Painful,'” interview, June 30) by posing a hypothetical question as to whether he would engage the services of an ideologically loyal Hamas doctor for a seriously wounded family member, were no other doctor available. The suggestion is that he would.
Is Rabbi Levin at all familiar with Hamas’s ideology? The Hamas covenant states, “The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” How, then, can he consider a Hamas doctor to be an option? How can he consider the Arabs of Hebron and Shechem his allies?
I would rather take my chances with no doctor than with one sworn to end the life I seek to save.
I was speechless after reading Allyson Rowen Taylor’s superb article (“Plaut Verdict A Symptom Of Israel’s Sick Judiciary,” op-ed, June 30) about an Arab judge in Israel endorsing Holocaust denial while ruling that treason is protected speech but criticism of treason constitutes “slander.”
This matter cannot be allowed to stand. I invite all Jewish Press readers to take a few moments to act. First, please write the Israeli minister of justice and demand that this judge be removed at once from the bench. Letters should be sent to Haim Ramon, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, Salah-a-Din 29 P.O.Box 49029 Jerusalem 91490 (Fax: 972-2-6466357)
And please write the new president of Ben Gurion University, Professor Rivka Carmi, at Ben Gurion University, P.O. Box 653, Beer-Sheva 84105 Israel (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.) Tell her that Ben Gurion University will not be receiving a dime in support from us and our communities as long as extremists like Neve Gordon serve as members of the faculty, and that we will be advising parents not to send their children to Ben Gurion University until this outrage is redressed.
Passaic, NJ and Holon, Israel
Evolution: An Exchange Between Readers
And Rabbi Maryles
When my copy of the June 23 Jewish Press arrived I eagerly turned to Rabbi Harry Maryles’s “Evolution, the Age of the Universe, and Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan” (op-ed, June 23). I read the article and was left with a deep sense of disappointment. While Rabbi Maryles may well be a Torah scholar, I am not familiar with him. But the name Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan does resonate with most of us – he was a brilliant Torah teacher and writer.
Rabbi Maryles seems to rely heavily on Rabbi Kaplan for most of the points made but fails to give any sources. I would be most interested in reading the paper Rabbi Kaplan delivered to the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists. What year was this presented? Is there any way to access it? And are there sources for the published works of Rabbi Kaplan on any other aspects of evolution, the mabul, etc?
New York, NY
Faith Of Evolutionists
I don’t understand why people are trying so hard to find compatibility between evolution and the Torah, when no one has ever satisfactorily explained how the random, accidental type of evolution proposed by Darwin works in the first place.
Even Rabbi Maryles says “he believes” and his college professor “believed.” What does all this “belief” have to do with anything? Science needs to be able to be explained in a way that makes sense. Evolutionists thus far have not done that. What one “believes” is not necessarily science, even if one happens to be a scientist.
Brooklyn, New York
No Proof From Fossils
In referring to claims made by the late Rabbi Kaplan concerning a 15 billion-year-old universe, one should not forget that Rabbi Kaplan’s sources are mystical and allegorical. On that basis Rabbi Maryles erroneously argues in favor of such a theory.
It should be borne in mind that all claims that the world is so ancient are based on fossil remains. The fossils are made to speak the language of evolution. Yes, if life evolved as imagined by faith-based evolutionary theory, the index fossil method would be reliable. The age of the fossils is assumed to follow an evolutionary sequence, which is an example of circular reasoning. Therefore, there is no reason to go ape about evolutionary theory.
Actually, upon careful scrutiny, an objective intellectual can easily consider the possiblity that the fossil strata were deposited rapidly. There is no scientific evidence that such phenomena occurred sporadically and slowly, as evolutionary theorists would have us believe.
In his article Rabbi Maryles writes: “The wonderful thing about science is that it has at its core no underlying belief system. Nothing is sacrosanct in science.” Perhaps inadvertently, Rabbi Maryles reveals a flaw in Modern Orthodox philosophy: an inordinate focus on the absence of sanctity and inappropriate emphasis on materialism. Such a system does not enhance Jewish spirituality – it weakens it. There is surely nothing wonderful about a system devoid of sanctity.
Analyzed from a different perspective, one can actually say that there is something perversely sacrosanct in scientific philosophy: so-called human reason, which by definition is flawed. How can anyone glorify science in view of the destruction it has clearly unleashed? Thanks to science, man’s arrogance is magnified to the point where man worships himself, paying homage to his achievements. Thanks to science, we now have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet numerous times. What is so wonderful about that?
May the Lord God of Israel have mercy on us.
Evolution And A Torah Worldview
It is comforting and inspiring for me to know that rabbinical scholars can have such a high level of confidence and faith in the truth of Torah that they are able to incorporate modern scientific theories of evolution and the age of the universe into a Torah worldview.
Rabbi Maryles acknowledges “problems inherent in attempting to reconcile science and Torah.” I should like to recommend a book that attempts to do just that: The Science of God, by Dr. Gerald Schroeder (Free Press, 1997).
One does not need to be a scientist to read and appreciate Dr. Schroeder’s book. Some of his ideas, along with other discussions relating science and religion, can be found in my own book, Judaism, Mathematics, and the Hebrew Calendar, published in 2002 by Jason Aronson, and now being sold by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.
Rabbi Maryles Responds: Not surprisingly, many readers responded to my article. Amy Wall complains that I did not mention the specifics of Rabbi Kaplan’s thesis. It wasn’t my intent to argue the specifics of his position, but only to show that a man of his stature and wide acceptance in the Torah world held the view that the universe is ancient.
I consulted Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, a premier young talmid chacham from whom I originally learned of Rabbi Kaplan’s approach, and he pointed me to http://www.lulu.com/reuven. There you will find a PDF version of Rabbi Kaplan’s lecture. It was delivered to the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists on February 18, 1979. I urge readers to access it for a full treatment of the issue. I acknowledge that my essay was a bit short on details and I will try to distill Rabbi Kaplan’s salient points.
Rabbi Kaplan quotes from the Sefer HaTemunah that there are there seven cycles of cosmic Shmitah of 7,000 years duration. The Sefer Livnas HaSapir adds that we are in the final cycle at approximately year 42,000.
Rabbi Kaplan also mentions a midrash about God creating and destroying many universes. Rabbi Yehudah Chait interprets this as physical. There is also the Gemara in Chagiga that refers to 974 generations that existed before Adam.
To me, the most important part of Rabbi Kaplan’s lecture is his reference to the Tiferes Yisroel, whose Yachin Boaz commentary on the Mishna is studied the world over. The Tiferes Yisroel says at the end of Seder Nezikin (written well before Darwin) that there were universes and people around well before Adam.
But just as individuals have banned similar works today, the zealots of yesteryear deleted this portion of his commentary in later publications of his work. Today, many chassidim refuse to learn the Tiferes Yisroel because of these views. The Tiferes Yisroel quotes scientific findings (fossils etc.) to show the universe is ancient as the above Rishonim indicate. Rather than bash science, he uses it to enhance emunah.
Another Rishon mentioned by Rabbi Kaplan is Rabbi Yitzchak of Acco, a contemporary of the Ramban. He states that one day of God equals 1,000 human years. He further goes on to explain that when the Sefer HaTemunah refers to a universe of 49,000 years’ existence, it is talking about Godly, not human, years. As stated above, the Livnas HaSapir says the world is currently 42,000 years old. If one does the math one will see that 42,000 Godly years equals about 15 billion human years.
Mr. Lebow asks what I mean when I say I “believe” in evolution. I was imprecise. I meant that I believe that the theory of evolution is compatible with the Torah’s description of Ma’aseh Bereishis. In fact, the Malbim in his commentary to Bereishis 1:20 makes this compatibility explicit. I should have written that I believe it quite possible, even probable, that God’s creation of the universe conforms to the description given by evolutionary science.
Mr. Silver, who clearly has not yet read Rabbi Kaplan’s essay, assumes that the “old universe” theory is based exclusively on the fossil record. It isn’t. It’s based on radioactive dating methods that have been demonstrated to be remarkably consistent. I cannot accept that Hashem would have placed in Creation such compelling evidence of an old universe for us to then have to deny on the basis of faith.
Finally, I thank Mr. Gabai for reminding us of the work of Dr. Gerald Schroeder. Highly recommended!
Letters to the Editor