This week marks ten years since the controversial ban on my books. It was ten years ago that I received the phone call warning me to retract three of my books or face scandal and humiliation; ten years ago, on erev Yom Kippur, that flyers condemning my books as heresy appeared in certain shuls in Ramat Beit Shemesh. This was followed by a year and a half of raging controversy, and extreme turmoil in the lives of many people.
Ten years on, it has completely died down. The zealots who engineered the ban have been publicly disgraced. The rabbonim who signed on to the ban were taken aback at how it blew up in their faces and had many negative consequences. Meanwhile, I wrote an essay in which I accepted that the ban, if interpreted as a sort of social policy, should be understood and respected. The new editions of my books are not targeted at the Charedi world – I wrote this explicitly in The Challenge Of Creation – and therefore do not pose a threat.
While the controversy was swirling, I started writing a book about it. Recently, someone urged me to complete it and publish it. But I have no plans to do so, even though it would no doubt gain much publicity and be a bestseller. Allow me to explain why.
My major project in life, for the foreseeable future, is The Biblical Museum of Natural History. Unlike my books about science, this is something that can benefit every type of person. It is as universal as my book on Perek Shirah, which was never banned, and my input to the Schottenstein Talmud, which remains in place. There is nothing controversial about the museum, no reason for anyone to avoid it. And I want it to remain that way.
The museum is bigger than me; I am not the only member of staff. Many visitors (especially Israelis) won’t even see me! Still, as its creator and director, I am, to a certain degree, significantly associated with it. I therefore want it to be clear that I am making a fundamental bifurcation in my career. The museum will be entirely non-controversial. There will be no dinosaur fossils, and nothing relating to evolution. My so-called controversial books will not even be on display in the gift store. They will remain in print and will be available for those who are suited to them, but the museum is not the place to market them. The museum website does not and will not link to this blog (and I am probably going to be posting less and less on this blog).
It’s time to close the book on the ban and move on. Hopefully, everyone else will realize that this is to everyone’s benefit.
I wish you all a gemar chasima tovah!