Free Yom Tov Seating
Once again Kehilas Mevakshai Hashem of Midwood, Brooklyn, is proud to offer free seats for the Yomim Noraim as a public service to the community.
Anyone in walking distance of our shul, whether adult or mature (non-noisy) child, is welcome to daven in our well-lit, air-conditioned, roomy, ground level bais haknesses.
Our address is 3011 Avenue K (between Nostrand Avenue and East 31 Street). To reserve your seat, kindly phone (718) 469-6999.
Best wishes to all of Klal Yisrael for a k’siva v’chasima tova and thanks to The Jewish Press for publicizing this community service.
Rabbi Yehuda Levin
Kehilas Mevakshai Hashem
Warning On Honey
As the New Year approaches, readers are advised to avoid giving honey to infants younger than one year because it can cause life-threatening botulism under that age.
May we all be inscribed for a healthy and sweet New Year.
R.A. Cyrulnik, MD
Fellow, American Academy of Neurology
I was pleased to see that The Jewish Press is not fixated on the past and saw fit to endorse Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primary. As you mentioned in the editorial, you shared the early concerns of many Americans about what kind of senator Ms. Clinton would be, particularly on Middle East issues. I too was somewhat skeptical, but her performance in the Senate these past six years has convinced me that my fears were groundless. I cannot conceive of anyone being more firmly in Israel’s corner than she has been.
New York, NY
Et tu, Jewish Press? Have you fallen in with the politically correct crowd? If not, how do you explain your endorsement last week of Sen. Clinton? Is this not the same Ms. Clinton who, as first lady, embraced Suha Arafat moments after the latter viciously libeled Israel? As I recall, The Jewish Press minced no words in condemning Ms. Clinton at the time.
The fact that she’s said all the right things about Israel doesn’t really impress me – any senator from New York has to be pro-Israel. The real test of Ms. Clinton’s sincerity on Israel would come if she were a senator from, say, Iowa or Tennessee.
In addition, the way she recently deserted Sen. Joseph Lieberman was offensive to me as an American, a Democrat and a Jew.
Rebuild The Towers
Five years after September 11, the World Trade Center site still remains as bin Laden left it. The current plan for Ground Zero was conceived in the aftermath of disaster. The desire of most Americans to see New York rebuild exactly what Al Qaeda took from us was stifled by fear and grief. Our elected officials said we couldn’t rebuild the Twin Towers because it was disrespectful, nobody would work there, and they, the towers, would be targets for Islamic fundamentalists.
Amazingly, five years later they plan to build a taller, flashier, lone structure called “Freedom Tower.” Only a building shaped like a Jewish star and made of pork with a cartoon of Muhammad on top could be a more tempting target for our enemies.
As long as we’re building a tall commercial tower whose height and moniker invite attack, there’s no excuse for not rebuilding the Towers.
It’s not too late to do the right thing at Ground Zero.
New York, NY
Still More On Slifkin Controversy
As he has done so often in the past, chronic letter-writer Dr. Yaakov Stern reveals himself to be a man of little tolerance for views that differ with his – as well as someone with an astonishingly narrow idea of what constitutes Torah Judaism (Letters, Sept. 8).
His wholly unwarranted attack on Rabbis Student and Slifkin , simply because they are open to the idea that the theory of evolution does not necessarily contradict the Torah (“The Slifkin Torah-Science Controversy,” front-page essay, Aug. 18), was ugly and ill informed. It was also quite presumptuous – who is he to judge their frumkeit? Is he acquainted with either man?
Fortunately for Dr. Stern, he has ample opportunity this time of year to do a cheshbon hanefesh and resolve not to cast aspersions on his fellow Torah-observant Jews.
Los Angeles, CA
Based on past responses to his strongly-worded letters to the editor, some readers will jump all over Dr. Yaakov Stern for his letter last week on the Slifkin controversy. I say to any and all of them: Tough. I cheer when someone like Dr. Stern stands up for our Torah and our gedolim. Jews with backbone have never been afraid to engage the Hellenizers, the apikorsim, the maskilim on their own terms, denouncing them for the dangers they represented to the neshamos of Klal Yisrael.
Readers who cry crocodile tears whenever someone like Dr. Stern gives a full-throated response to those who disrespect our gedolim either don’t know or won’t acknowledge that Modern Orthodox pseudo-sophisticates are far more likely to scorn haredim than vice versa.
The Slifkins of the world are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a very troubling phenomenon of our times: the growing number of frum Jews, most of them not nearly as intelligent as Rabbis Student or Slifkin, who think it makes them appear hip and intellectual if they question the authority of our rabbinic leaders.
It’s a phenomenon all too visible on the Internet, specifically on the many so-called Orthodox blogs that engage in open mocking of our sages, in denigrating Yidden blessed with emunah shleimah as being nothing more than deluded simpletons, and in championing politics and politicians whose worldviews are anti-Torah to the core.
That so many of the bloggers who spew derision at haredim are connected in one way or another to Yeshiva University – either as graduates, students or just hangers-on – should give that school’s administrators and rebbeim much cause for concern.
The part of Rabbi Student’s article I related to most was where he wrote of ” personal pain” and “a very loud cry of anguish being voiced” This moves beyond Rabbi Slifkin’s books, or even the general topic of the interface between Torah and science.
Addressing issues and hashkafos (Torah philosophy) without addressing people’s individual feelings will not bring peace and resolution. True, tolerance and pluralism should not be a cause for accepting any possible distortions in hashkafah. The oft-quoted Netziv on tolerance in the preface to Bereishis can indeed be abused, like any other Torah source. But I feel there should be at least an acknowledgment, on both sides, of the plight of individuals caught in the middle of all of this. Realizing and acknowledging this, on both sides, is part of empathy – nosei b’ol im chaveiro.
Whenever I participate in discussions of the issue, I stress that I am sanguine about the future. I am sometimes challenged for my optimism, but I nevertheless believe there is good reason for it. Somehow, people with different hashkafos will have to learn to accept and live with each other. The Jewish people have survived many tough challenges in the past, and we will survive this one as well.
Rebutting Slifkin’s Detractors
In the past two weeks, several letter-writers have supported the ban on Rabbi Slifkin’s books about Torah and science in which defends evolutionary theory and concludes that the Talmudic Sages were not infallible in scientific matters. Allow me to address the main issues raised by these letter-writers.
Dr. Yaakov Stern states presumptively: “Our Sages have divided the history of man into three 2,000-year epochs,” insisting that it is “sheer foolishness” to believe that a 7,000-year-old shard of pottery can be excavated. There are sources, from the Zohar through Rav Hirsch, Rav Dessler and Rav Kook, that suggest a world older than 6,000 years. Dr. Stern should argue with them before taking on Rabbi Slifkin.
The Rambam, no fan of the steady-state theory that the universe has always existed, nonetheless writes that if that theory were proven true, we would find a way to reconcile it with Torah. The Rambam is making a critical point here. Two opposing truths cannot coexist. If Torah is true and a seemingly oppositional scientific fact is true, there must, by definition, be a way for the twain to meet.
Evolution is at present a theory, but if it ever becomes established as fact we need not be concerned that it requires a non-literal interpretation of the creation chapters of Genesis. Belief in evolution does not mean denial of any principle of Jewish faith.
Bezalel Fixler seeks to account for the archaeological record by advancing Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky’s thesis that all matter was created in its fully advanced state. The world was made in six days; it merely looks like it is billions of years old. Perhaps, but when we observe the death of a star that is five million light years away, we are witnessing an event that (scientifically) occurred five million years ago.
Why would God destroy a star that never existed? Why would He create fossils of non-existent creatures? Why perplex us with a prehistoric man when there never was a prehistory? At any rate, whether the universe is actually 16 billion years old or was created to look that way, the scientific end result is the same.
Shimon Helfman scornfully quotes from Rabbi Slifkin’s The Challenge of Creation that the scientific estimate for the age of the universe “might be wrong by a few billion years.” Asks Mr. Helfman: “Is he serious? In my opinion, a miscalculation of a few billion years constitutes an enormous blunder.” Rabbi Slifkin is saying nothing new here. Scientists readily acknowledge that the age of the universe has not been pinpointed. Still, “a few billion” is a hiccup when discussing a universe that has existed for up to 16 billion years.
Finally, Shmuel Rosengarten declares that Rabbi Slifkin and his publisher, Gil Student, “undermine the authority of our gedolim.” Rabbi Slifkin did the yeshivish thing for his books, by obtaining haskamot from gedolim. How can Mr. Rosengarten accuse Rabbi Slifkin of undermining Torah authority when he actually obtained the approbation of talmidei chachamim?
While Mr. Rosengarten would likely respond with a variation on the “my gadol is greater than your gadol” theme, let me suggest instead that he accept the fact that gedolim can make mistakes. For example, in a recent article in The Jewish Observer, Rabbi Chaim Dov Keller wrote that every 28 years we recite the Birkat Hachamah at the precise day and time when the sun was created. However, this is based on the erroneous calculation that the year is 365-and-a-quarter days long. Even in 2006, Rabbi Keller evidently remains unaware of the length of the solar year.
The Sages of old were anchored to the science of their time. If we accept that science, we would be forced to believe that the world is flat, because that was the view of the Talmudic Sages. We would embrace the geocentric theory. We would believe in spontaneous generation. Rabbi Slifkin’s critics effectively make these errors into articles of faith. Denial of any of them would make one a heretic.
I believe that Rabbi Slifkin is owed an apology by those who harmed him. In the meantime, I pray that he will continue his good work, and that we as a people will focus on what is true, not on what is comfortable.
Far Rockaway, NY
Letters to the Editor