I have a friend. He found a yoyo, a unicycle, a bicycle, a tricycle, and a car in a junk yard. He read so many articles on evolution that he now thinks the unicycle evolved from the yoyo, the bicycle from the unicycle, the tricycle from the bicycle, and the car from the tricycle.
After all, he said, how else could the car get four wheels? He can even quote pesukim to show he’s right. How can I convince him he’s wrong about “everything?”
David Levenson, DDS
What Do You Say, Rabbi Slifkin?
There seems to be a point that is lost on those involved in the Slifkin contretemps. Evolution is a theory and, by definition, theories can’t be proven or refuted.
When Rabbi Slifkin asserts that it’s “well proven” that all life derives from a common ancestor, what he means is that it’s well accepted. It’s important to make that distinction because we learn from Avraham Avinu that truth isn’t a popularity contest. He stood alone in his convictions and was ultimately proven correct.
I’d like to view the controversy from a different perspective. The underlying basis of the dispute is whether or not the Biblical account of creation is allegorical. The literalists cite Rabbi Avigdor Miller and the Slifkinites counter with Rav Aryeh Kaplan, and this leads to a stalemate.
While I’m not among those who would blithely label Slifkin’s views heretical, I would like to ask him the following questions: Given your belief that the world is billions of years old, do you attach any significance to 5779, the age of the world according to traditional Orthodox Judaism? Further do you believe that Moshiach will arrive before the end of the sixth millennium?
I’m asking this to better understand your position, as these elements stand at the core of our faith. It’s easy to denigrate those who have opinions that differ from the norm, but I think we should give Rabbi Slifkin the opportunity to fully present his point of view before we dismiss it as antithetical to the Torah.
Dr. Yaakov Stern
Rabbi Slifkin responds:
As I stressed in both my articles, it is important to distinguish between the two components of evolution: common ancestry of species and the Darwinian evolutionary mechanism via which the changes occurred.
The latter is a widely (albeit not universally) accepted theory (though it is important to note that the term “theory” in scientific discourse means something considered well-substantiated). Common ancestry, however, is regarded in the scientific community as a historical fact, based on overwhelming evidence, just like the destruction of Pompeii by Vesuvius.
Dr. Stern states that Rav Aryeh Kaplan is the authority non-literalists present in support of their position. Actually, the authority I cited was the Rambam (and there are many others). Rav Avigdor Miller was certainly entitled to disagree with the non-literalist approach, but the Rambam’s view cannot be disqualified.
Dating the calendar from creation is a post-Talmudic innovation and a convention, not a “core of our faith.” And this calendar is calculated from the creation of man, not the creation of the universe. But in any case, the teaching that Mashiach will come in the year 6000 was certainly not meant any more literally than the Torah’s statement that the world was created in six days, which the Rambam and countless others argue should not be interpreted in a literal, historical fashion.
Dr. Stern appropriately suggests I be allowed to present a full presentation of the non-literalist view. Alas, a newspaper does not provide enough space for that. Those interested in a thorough discussion, however, are advised to read my book, The Challenge Of Creation.
New Yorkers Can’t Be That Dumb
Last week, Aaron Klein offered five reasons for opposing Kirsten Gillibrand’s reelection to the U.S. Senate, representing the State of New York. He said, among other things, that Gillibrand has displayed wanton disregard for the safety and rights of Israelis and supported openly anti-Israel people (such as Linda Sarsour) and groups (such as the BDS movement).
I can only conclude that Gillibrand is either solidly anti-Israel/anti-Semitic, or an idiot – possibly both. In either case, the voters in the state of New York would be making a big mistake to vote her back into office.
Los Angeles, CA
Not a Happy Camper
I found Avi Ciment’s article on girls acting in irreligiously while wearing long skirts at best okay and at worst a bald-faced attack on religious people.
Avi Ciment responds:
How does making the point that frum people sometimes focus on mitzvot bein adam laMakom rather than bein adam lachaveiro “a bald-faced attack on religious people”? I clearly explained that being kind and charitable doesn’t allow anyone to dress inappropriately.
The unfortunate fact is, though, that we often overlook being courteous to others whereas we wouldn’t overlook speaking lashon hara. Chazal teach us that “derech eretz kadma l’Torah.” Additionally, the Gemara states that “taking in strangers is greater than receiving the Shechina of Hashem.” The Gemara also says that a father on his way to circumcise his son or slaughter his Paschal offering could be exempt from doing so if he sees a dead person on the road who needs to be buried.
Hashem wants us to observe all his mitzvot in unison, yielding us ending blessings.
We Most Disgorge That Radical Jews Among Us
We criticize “moderate” Muslims because they don’t denounce and or do anything to drive out violent Muslim jihadis from their midst, mosques, and communities.
Yet, we religious and traditional Jews continue to allow and enable radical leftists in our own communities to flourish almost unimpeded as they undermine Judeo-Christian civilization. How, then, are we – you and I – any different from the “moderate” Muslims?
I submit that unless we traditional and religious Jews take very real action to confront the radicals among us, we will all be held accountable for the destruction of Western Civilization.
We must call upon our Orthodox and social conservative Jewish leaders to cast out the secular-leftist “social justice” warriors from our midst. If we don’t, all Jews will God forbid share the group punishment that will come if and when economic or social unrest visit our shores again.
New York, NY
Restore Constitutional Government
This election, we have the opportunity to retake our government from those who have turned it into a fiefdom. Not only have they overtaxed the citizenry, they have burdened future generations with over $21 trillion in debt. This is no better than pickpocketing.
We Americans can take back our government by voting only for candidates that have united to set our federal government back on the Constitutional track, beginning with passage of the proposed “Civil Rights Act for Equal Educational Opportunity.”
This act will empower all parents to provide their children with the best education has to offer for half the cost of their local public schools, saving taxpayers hundreds of billions annually.
Already 100 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson claimed our founding documents “read now like documents taken out of a forgotten age.” It should not be so.
Alliance for Free Choice in Education