New Leadership Needed
If one were previously inclined to believe that Israel’s leadership would finally muster the will to fight the Islamofascists chomping at its borders, the recent war with Hizbullah/Iran should dispel us of this illusion (Steven Plaut, “The War Israel Chose To Lose,” op-ed, Aug. 25).
Instead of arming the IDF with cutting edge technological prowess and beefing up its human intelligence capabilities, Israel’s leaders have, since the advent of the Oslo Accords, steadily eviscerated their fighting forces. Instead of steeling the population, intellectually and psychologically, for victory over the jihadists, they cynically prepared them for channeling their anger onto their religious nationalist brothers and sisters. Nothing like a good dose of scapegoating to maintain political power.
If the (Jewish) citizens of Israel do not demand an immediate regime change, Professor Plaut’s ominous predictions about Israel’s future will become a reality. Will Israel’s leadership (hopefully a new one) have the courage and the vision it takes to implement Jewish Press columnist Louis Rene Beres’s Project Daniel before it is too late? Time is of the essence.
Elmwood Park, NJ
No Further Withdrawal
The one million citizens of northern Israel are at least fortunate that Prime Minister Olmert did not have time to implement his reckless Convergence Plan. For had he eradicated almost all of Israel’s communities in Judea and Samaria, where would many of those fleeing Hizbullah’s rockets have found refuge during the recent hostilities?
Residents of the maligned settlements have naturally provided indefinite hospitality for their brethren from the north; nevertheless, Mr. Olmert still intends to eventually destroy these very same communities and unilaterally withdraw to virtually the 1949 “Auschwitz lines” – despite non-stop genocidal threats by Iranian President Ahmadjinedad and his grinning terrorist cohorts.
The severely traumatized Israeli populace must demand a new government. One that will not fecklessly endanger them anew by suicidal withdrawals from the Judean and Samarian mountains.
Chaim ben Zvi
“Land for Peace” should be renamed “Land for Rockets.”
When will the Peace Now crowd realize that the old clich? about making peace with enemies and not friends is hardly applicable when your enemies don’t want peace?
I sincerely hope that expressions such as “land for peace,” “peace of the brave” and “peace now” disappear from the Hebrew lexicon for the foreseeable future.
Israel must be prepared to respond so forcefully that Syria and Iran will think very carefully before they unleash their proxies or themselves against Israel.
William K. Langfan
Palm Beach, FL
Questions Poland Trip
Re Shmuel Ben Eliezer’s Aug. 18 Po-Lin column:
I don’t understand why the mayor of Lodz or Mr. Nowak, who organized the annual commemoration of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto, would assume that Israeli teenagers, after living through the horrors of the recent war, would be anxious to see the Warsaw Ghetto monument and Lublin, as well as visit the practically Judenrein communities of Wroclaw and Lodz.
Something seems very sick about the whole experience.
Cherry Hill, NJ
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Slifkin Critics Have Their Say
Pieces Of A Puzzle
I can understand Gil Student’s frustration with the Slifkin controversy (“The Slifkin Torah-Science Controversy: An Admittedly Biased Insider’s Perspective,” front-page essay, Aug. 18). After all, I used to strongly support the big bang and the idea that the universe is billions of years old. I’ve read all the books and sources including Schroeder, Rav Kook, Rabbi Kaplan and even The Science of Torah by Rabbi Slifkin.
I thought they would help, but the reality is that these approaches simply don’t work. If you accept the idea of billions of years, you won’t be able to accept the pshat in Chumash until Lech Lecha at the earliest. This is unacceptable to everyone and Mr. Student doesn’t even try to address the problem.
However, once you accept the six days of creation and reject the uniformitarian assumption of historical science, you will have no problem with thorns in the fossil record or the Mabul and Hashem’s promise that it will never happen again. You will have no problem with the fact that the Torah says the entire world was united at the Tower of Babel.
Everything in the Torah fits together like a puzzle, which is why the gedolim are correct for insisting so strongly for the simple pshat everywhere.
Fully Grown Creation
I read with interest the first-page article by Gil Student. Permit me to comment on the issue of reconciling the Torah view with that of science regarding the age of the universe.
My rosh yeshiva, Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt”l, had a very plausible approach to resolving this problem. The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 11a) states, “all of creation was created with their height, with their mind and with their beauty.” Tosefos adds that we see all creatures gradually developing their beauty, strength, mind, etc. At the time of Creation, however, all this happened immediately.
In other words, the world was created fully developed. Adam was created as a fully-grown man, not as a baby who developed with time. This holds for all of creation.
With Reb Yaakov’s approach, there is no need to change the accepted meaning of the Six Days of Creation. The world was created in six days 5767 years ago, but with all the physical characteristics it has today.
Individuals like Gil Student and Rabbi Slifkin undermine the authority of our gedolim – and without that authority, where would bnei Yisrael be today? We have survived as a community of faith through thousands of years of indescribable hatred and persecution precisely because we looked to our sages to light our way, to teach us right from wrong, to silence the heretical and illuminate the perplexed among us.
By questioning – and worse, may Hashem have mercy on us, criticizing – giants of emunah and learning who, in their wisdom and vision, have seen fit to ban books by Rabbi Slifkin that might lead Yidden astray, we are in effect telling the world that we don’t respect our Torah leaders.
Perhaps Rabbis Student and Slifkin would feel more comfortable as Conservative or Reform Jews, in which case they could ignore, dispute, or castigate the verdicts of our Torah authorities to their heart’s content. But if they insist on identifying with the Torah camp, they would be well advised to humble themselves at the feet of our sages. As for me, I choose to serve Hashem and honor His messengers and teachers.
I continue to be fascinated by the commotion over the writings of Rabbi Slifkin and I find the reaction to their banning by leading halachic authorities incomprehensible. Here’s why:
A review of the biographical information Rabbi Slifkin offers on his website shows that he has no special training in zoology but rather is simply someone who’s had a “lifelong fascination with wildlife and has kept a wide variety of exotic pets, including iguanas and tarantulas.”
We are told that Rabbi Slifkin studied at Yeshivas Shaarei Torah in Manchester, England (we are not informed for how long, at what level, and with what distinction, if any) and then moved to Israel where he “spent many years in study at Yeshivas Midrash Shmuel and the Mir Yeshiva.” Rabbi Slifkin, we read, “received ordination” at Ohr Someach Institutions after teaching there for some time. (Significantly, Rabbi Slifkin is today all of 30 years old.)
So here we have a thoroughly ordinary young man giving his opinions about the interplay between the fundamentals of the Torah and zoology – although there is nothing to indicate that he’s an expert in either – and the Orthodox world is in a tizzy over what he has to say. And Rav Yosef Sholom Eliyashiv, arguably the leading posek of our time, is castigated for having had the temerity to condemn this young man’s interpretation of Creation.
I would also point out that Rabbi Slifkin’s website tells us that his first book – Lying for Truth: Understanding Yaakov’s Deception of Yitzchak – was published in 1996. In other words, he was already pontificating to the rest of us when he was barely 20 years old!
Only among us Jews.
Rabbi Gil Student Responds
I thank those who sent in letters about my article and those who contacted me privately. The article was not about how to reconcile science with Torah but the public banning of such attempts as heresy. Thus, Ari Haviv’s and Bezalel Fixler’s letters about the age of the universe are somewhat beside the point – although I will add that Rabbi Slifkin discusses these issues expertly in his new book, The Challenge of Creation.
Chaim Feuer challenges Rabbi Slifkin’s qualifications. This seems to me to be a meaningless exercise. Even if Mr. Feuer is correct in all of his claims, one should judge a man by his actions and a book by its content, regardless of the author’s age and in which yeshiva he learned. This is even truer when discussing a book that has almost no chiddush in it and quotes giants of Torah scholarship on every point it raises.
Shmuel Rosengarten states simply that the gedolim have spoken and everyone else is wrong. It is comfortable to believe that gedolim agree on all matters but this is simply not always the case. Particularly in respect to how we relate to science and secular studies, there are different approaches among gedolim. Rav Shimon Schwab once wrote a pamphlet about secular studies titled “Elu Ve-Elu, These and Those.” Regarding the issues we are discussing here, there are also “These and Those,” some of whom Rabbi Slifkin himself cites as providing ample precedent among gedolim for his positions.
Let me further respond to the question asked of me by many people, including one of the rabbis I quoted in my article: Why did I refrain from mentioning any names of the rabbis who support my and Rabbi Slifkin’s positions?
The answer is twofold. First, I have enough experience to recognize that mentioning a respected rabbi’s name in such a context is an invitation for a most repugnant round of name-calling and reputation smearing. I do not want to be the direct cause of such an unfortunate misuse of language.
Furthermore, I believe this is an issue that requires discussion with one’s own rabbis. I personally discussed it with rabbis upon whom I rely, to the point of having the entire article approved by a prominent rosh yeshiva. But everyone should consult with his or her own authorities.