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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Maryles’

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

He Must Go
    The time is now for every Jew who cares about Israel and the Jewish people to sound off and register a demand for the removal of Ehud Olmert from office.
    I can’t remember when I have ever wished so hard to be proven wrong. When Sharon was stricken and relapsed into a coma and Olmert took over, my reaction was one of ominous dread. Attempting to find some relief, I reasoned that the citizens of Israel know better than I do whom to pick for prime minister.
    But now Olmert’s hesitation, lack of resolve, and failure to answer Hizbullah’s warlike provocations with an iron fist speak for themselves. He must go.
    The Aug. 11 “Quick Takes” column reported Olmert’s announcement that he planned to forge ahead with unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria despite the violence in Lebanon and Gaza that followed similar evacuations. This is irrational incompetence run amok.
    If it is not also reason enough to replace him, somebody please tell me why not. I need some peace of mind.

Norman Shine

Brooklyn, NY



Incompetent Troika
    There is a cease-fire in Lebanon. The war is over, maybe. Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz are smiling, but the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces are not. They are mad as hell that the politicians snatched victory from them. The IDF has been dealt a severe blow. Morale in the military is at an all-time low.
    This is all the fault of one man: Prime Minister Olmert. A man with no military experience, he micromanaged the war to its humiliating end. He vetoed every plan the generals formulated to destroy Hizbullah. No wonder Gen. Udi Adam complained to reporters that Olmert was tying his hands. From day one, the generals wanted to launch a massive ground offensive but Olmert delayed time and time again. Finally, when the war was almost over, he gave the go-ahead. The military had 48 hours to do a job that would take three or four weeks. A golden opportunity to get rid of Hizbullah was lost.
    The truth is that Olmert never had any intention of winning. He just wanted to fight long enough for the UN to impose a cease-fire. For this so many of Israel’s young men had to give up their lives? If you don’t intend to win, why bother fighting at all?
    It is time for the people of Israel to rid themselves of the troika of incompetence and indifference – Olmert, Peretz, and Tzipi Livni. The people of Israel deserve and can do much better.

Rabbi Yakov Lazaros

Framingham, MA



Prayers For The IDF
    Rabbi Harry Maryles writes that we should show our appreciation of the IDF by praying for its success (“The Right Stuff: Showing Our Appreciation for the IDF,” op-ed, Aug. 18). Nothing wrong with that thought. To my chagrin, however, he unfairly excoriates Rav Sternbuch, a leading talmid chacham and head of the Jerusalem-based Edah Hacharedis, an important religious organization.
    According to Rabbi Maryles, Rav Sternbuch and his haredi followers are not patriotic enough. They should be praying for the IDF. Even though Rav Sternbuch called for prayers for all the people of Israel, that’s not good enough for Rabbi Maryles. In fact, he condemns this perceived lack of patriotism as a chillul Hashem.
    Give me a break. Nobody is stopping Rabbi Maryles from praying for the IDF 24/7. Rav Sternbuch never said not to do so. Instead of making negative statements that accomplish absolutely nothing, Rabbi Maryles should settle down in Israel so that he will be better able to daven around the clock for the IDF. (Incidentally, Rav Sternbuch lives in Israel. But I guess he is not as patriotic as Rabbi Maryles.)
    Just one question: Did Rabbi Maryles daven for the IDF’s success last year when it evicted the residents of Gush Katif? To tell you the truth, I did not.

Chaim Silver

(Via E-Mail)



Direct Hit
    May I correct Rabbi Harry Maryles’s anecdote about Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, zt”l, and the Mir Yeshiva in 1967?
    A shell actually hit the top of the beis medrash while everyone was sheltering down below ground in the dining room. Although subsequently several floors were built above the area where the damage was done, one can still detect the spot from the change in the stone work.

Yerucham Rosen

(Via E-Mail)



Kannoim And Their Methods
    Thank you for publishing Gil Sudent’s article (“The Slifkin Torah-Science Controversy,” front-page essay, Aug. 18). Many people close to this issue have come to realize that the kannoim (as they are referred to in the blogosphere) who brought Slifkin’s books to the attention of the various rabbanim who eventually signed the ban represent a real threat to legitimate Jewish intellectual life.
    The pasken-by-poster method they utilize sidesteps the traditional Jewish method of religious debate. As Student pointed out, the kannoim put up signs declaring Slifkin’s books heretical, yet no one put up signs espousing the views of the rabbanim who held Slifkin’s books to be kosher. That’s because the system is used mainly by those who do not care to hear the other side of the story.
    I heard in the name of Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik, zt”l, that when R’ Chaim met a certain kannoi back in Europe, he criticized the kannoi‘s tactics and enthusiasm. The kannoi countered that R’ Chaim himself used similar methods and exhibited zeal when he advocated issues he felt strongly about – even when doing so involved pointing out the wrongdoings of other Jews.
    R’ Chaim responded that there was a fundamental difference between him and the kannoi. R’ Chaim compared himself to a housewife who chases a mouse from her kitchen because she needs her house free of harmful and dirty rodents, whereas the kannoi was like a cat that enjoys catching mice and would even go out of the house to pursue them.

Avi Grossman

Kew Gardens Hills, NY



Divine Punishment
    Based on their responses (Letters, Aug. 18), some readers apparently misinterpreted my letter of Aug. 11. I was not attempting to influence anyone’s opinion of the Jerusalem gay pride parade, and my description of the parade as “silly” was not the ringing endorsement that some evidently took it to be. Rather, I was arguing that statements attributing the present suffering in Israel to a divine punishment for said parade are inappropriate and unjustified.
    Such statements are inappropriate because, as per the Gemara cited in my previous letter, we ought not suggest that an individual’s sufferings are caused by this or her own sins (and, at the risk of stating the obvious, I will point out that it is indeed individuals – and many of them – who are currently suffering in Israel).
    Such statements are also generally unjustified because we do not have any insight into the system by which God dispenses reward and punishment, which I believe is the message of R’ Yanai in Avot chapter 4. Even Ramchal, who is far from timid in exploring matters of divine jurisprudence, tells us that the details of God’s judgment are beyond the grasp of man’s understanding (Derech Hashem, 2:3:11).
    I would also suggest that, in general, the practice of attributing suffering and hardship to divine retribution may seriously interfere with one’s ability to address the actual underlying problems in an effective and appropriate manner.
    Finally, while I thank Dr. Yaakov Stern for his most temperate response, he is mistaken in thinking that my letter rejected the notion that God punishes Israel for its sins. Nevertheless, in Tanach, when particular calamities are identified as punishments for particular misdeeds, the individual making these claims is usually a person of prophetic stature, and the claims are usually the result of a prophetic experience. Since we do not have such individuals or such experiences today, my view is that we should not attempt to make such claims, especially when they tend to portray God as being capricious, vindictive, and petty.

David Fass

Highland Park, NJ






Historical Self-Hate


         Perhaps it’s more than coincidental that Ben Shapiro’s perceptive op-ed “Jewish Birth No Shield for Anti-Israel Views” appeared in the August 4 issue of The Jewish Press – the day after Tisha b’Av. While Mr. Shapiro vividly illustrates how Jewish self-hatred can be manifested against the state of Israel, the events surrounding the destruction of the Second Temple in 69-70 C.E. lend another dimension to his thoughts.
         Though the conduct of the Roman war against the Jews transpired under the ultimate leadership of Titus Flavius Vaspasianus, son of Emperor Vespasian, Titus’s chief of staff, Tiberius Julius Alexander II – who may have directly supervised military operations against the Jews – was himself a Jew. According to the website livius.org, Alexander II, “belonged to one of the most influential families in the Roman East, a family that stood in three cultural traditions: Jewish, Greek, and Roman. They had the status of Roman knights. Where the elder Alexander had been able to combine Judaism and a Graeco-Roman attitude, his son had to make a choice. He chose Rome.”
         Alas, Alexander’s actions during “The Jewish War” should not have been unexpected. Two years before the destruction of the Second Temple, Alexander, as prefect of Egypt, commanded the Third and Twenty-Second Roman Legions. According to Flavius Josephus, Alexander instructed his legions to punish the Jewish inhabitants of the Egyptian city of Alexandria, in order to assuage the rising animosity and jealousy of their Greek neighbors, and to suppress increasing Jewish nationalism, unity, and self-assertion. Alexander’s two legions indiscriminately slaughtered some 50,000 Jews – men, women, and children – his troops only ceasing their brutality when the surviving Alexandrian Jews begged him for mercy.
        Considering his upbringing, and the moral decision he made in aligning himself with Rome, it’s obvious that Alexander never identified with the Jewish people, to begin with. His example, albeit terrible and extreme, suggests that the term “Jewish self-hatred” may actually be a misnomer. In reality, such Jews do not hate themselves, for they do not see themselves as Jews. Taking their identity and beliefs from a value system in which they themselves stand condemned, it is really other Jews they are arrayed against.
         In this – the example of Alexander II, and the commemoration of Tisha b’Av – there may lie a lesson. Not only was the Beit Hamikdash destroyed because of sinat chinam but perhaps also because of something less dramatic yet ultimately far more insidious: Deliberate forgetfulness.
         May we redeem and sustain ourselves through remembrance, and may our people, especially now, stand united.

Michael G. Moskow

(Via E-Mail)


Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

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.

Harry Grunstein

Hampstead, Canada


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.

Dov Elias


Judicial Outrage
   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: rcarmi@bgumail.bgu.ac.il.) 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.

Don Levine

Passaic, NJ and Holon, Israel




Evolution: An Exchange Between Readers

And Rabbi Maryles


Sources, Please
      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?

Amy Wall

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.

David Lebow

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.

Chaim Silver

(Via E-Mail)

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.

Hyman Gabai

Encinitas, CA



      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!


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