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Jan 21, 2007

Slifkin situation clarification

Since I posted the information on the most recent incident in the Slifkin saga I have seen a bit of an increase in page hits. Many of those hits come from local RBS residents. The reason I know this is because many people over the weekend have come over to me telling me they saw my blog, etc..

Aside from the above, many people have asked me to help them understand the situation. The main question being the situation with Rav Malinowitz seemingly opposing Rav Elyashiv in this whole deal. Another main question was did Rav Malinowitz really write the letter in response or was that a forgery as well - this theory even got posted on a couple other blogs..

First, I will deal with the second question (not a problem of answering out of order, because I chose the order to write them) . Let me say that Rav Malinowitz's letter is not a forgery. He made that very clear.

I was present when someone asked Rav M if he really thought Rav P's letter was a forgery. He responded by saying, "Isn't that what I wrote in my letter? It says it right in the letter." He was a bit evasive and curt on the issue and he made it clear that the letter was written tongue-in-cheek and "hameivin yavin".

I then gave Rav M a ride and took the opportunity to discuss with him the first question I mentioned above. He told me that he has no problem arguing with Rav Elyashiv on this, just like people argue with him in halacha, people can argue with him in hashkafa as well.

That being said, he explained there is no difference between them on this issue. As I mentioned in the comments of the earlier post, Rav Elyashiv never put Rav Slifkin in cherem, rather condemned those specific books that dealt with the issues under debate. Rav M added that he too never gave Rav S a haskama on those books (not sure if that was because he disagrees with the points made in the book or because he was not Rav Slifkins rav at the time) and Rav S does not lecture on those topics (at least in the current series of shiruim by Rav S in the shul).

That being said, Rav M then explained to me how the whole thing erupted. Rav S wrote his book and had the approval and haskamos of many Rabbonim in America. Rav Elyashiv in Israel opposed the book at the time. Rav Aharon Feldman, Rosh Hayeshiva of Ner Yisrael, went to Rav Elyashiv when he was in Israel and asked about Slifkin.

Rav Elyashiv explained to him why he is against, and based on that Rav Feldman retracted his haskamah and withfrew his support, which led to the other rabbonim falling into line as well.

Rav Elyashiv based his opposition on his own chiddush. His chiddush is that once contemporary rabbonim rule overwhelmingly in favor of one hashkafic opinion (not sure when this ruling ever took place), any opposing hashkafic view, even if based on sources in rishonim and achronim as is the case in the Slifkin saga, is kefira and minus (heresy).

This is truly a chiddush and has never been used prior to this situation. Rav M said that he argues completely on that idea, and we never see it in play anywhere else throughout Jewish literature.

A hashkafic thought based on sources in the Rishonim is considered kefira because a contemporary Rav does not agree with it.

That is the source of the controversy.

22 comments:

  1. Thank you, as always, for keeping us informed.

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  2. Rav Malinowitz did too give a haskamah on the banned books! He even reiterated them in a letter on R' Slifkin's website!

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  3. anon - please point out to me where on the website I can find that vletter. I have been looking fo rit but cannot find it. The only haskamot on the book I see or Rabbis Carmel and Adlerstein.

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  4. Rav M's haskamah to mysterious creatures is on the webpage for that book, and his haskamah for the hyrax book is on the controversy webpage, along with a letter from him reiterating his haskamah.

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  5. Two problems:
    1)Where did I write a theory that Rabbi M's letter was a forgery itself?
    I only quoted you in saying that Rabbi M did NOT really consider Rabbi P's letter to be a forgery!

    2)How do you go from:
    >"His chiddush is that once contemporary RABBONIM rule overwhelmingly in favor of one hashkafic opinion (not sure when this ruling ever took place), any opposing hashkafic view, even if based on sources in rishonim and achronim as is the case in the Slifkin saga, is kefira and minus (heresy)."<

    TO:

    >"A hashkafic thought based on sources in the Rishonim is considered kefira because A contemporary RAV does not agree with it."<

    I believe Rav Eliyashiv was making the same fundamental point that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach made-- that the mesorah has implicitly sidelined the opinion of Rav Avraham Ben Harambam and has formed a consensus with the "Nishtneh Hatevah" approach.
    The only difference is that Rav Eliyashiv goes further and doesn't allow for the sidelined opinion to be cited at all, even as a "Yesh Omrim" that RSZA allowed.

    Pleae make the following correction to your post:
    This consensus against Rav Avraham Ben Harambam that RSZA conceded to is certainly not just "a contemprorary Rav"s view as you would have it.

    If you find mistakes to my post I will be glad to correct them. Please quote the exact mistake.

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  6. As far as what I understood in the conversation he was referring to the book Science and Torah. I understood that to be the source of the controversy.

    I see the letter you are talkign about, and he wrote it on the Hyrax book. and reiterates it.

    I might add that his haskama is consistent with what he told me last night. In the haskama he writes that even if one does not agree with the conclusions Slifkin arrives at in the book, his arguments are based on Torah sources and these are opinions that need to be reckoned with.

    Only according to Rav Elyashiv that once he makes a decision as to what is considered normativve hashkafa and everything else is kefira, would the book be considered kefira.

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  7. freelance -
    1. I apologize. I looked back at your post and comments again and do not see it. I must have mistaken a different comment I saw on a different blog somewhere with your post. My apologies.
    That being said, I did not claim you gave credence and believed the theory, just that it is making the rounds. It was posted in your blog in the comments by hamasig.

    2. I do not make the jump, Rav M said it to me. He told me that Rav Elyashiv came up with a chiddush that even if a hashkafic opinion was held by sources in halacha, such as rishonim, if contemporary rabbonim have decided not like that opinion, they have removed it from normative hashkafa and to suggest such an opinion is kefira.

    The opinion written in the books about age of the universe has a lot of sources, and many rabbonim nowdays use similar explanations and arguments. The fact that Rav Elyashiv does not hold of it, does not make it kefira - the other rabbonim only retracted their haskamos because of him, not because they held it was beyond the pale of normative hashkafa.

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  8. Rafi said:
    >"The fact that Rav Elyashiv does not hold of it, does not make it kefira - the other rabbonim only retracted their haskamos because of him, not because they held it was beyond the pale of normative hashkafa."<

    More mistakes.
    The age of the universe per se was NOT what Rav Elyashiv addressed in his ban according to Rav Feldman.
    Rav Feldman reported that it was the opinion of Rav Avraham ben Harambam that was labelled kefira by Rav Eliashiv.
    And on this opinion specificly, Rav Eliashiv is NOT the only Rav who has rejected it.
    I have cited Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach quoted on Slifkin's own website that says this opinion was relegated to "Yesh Omrim" by the mesorah and is not mainstream.

    Rav Elyashiv only went the next step to label such rejected opinions as kefirah.
    But Rav Shlomo Zalman apparently agrees with Rav Elyashiv against Rav Malinowitz that there is such a thing as a consensus of the mesorah that can sideline minority opinions.

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  9. yet only Rav Elyashiv considers it kefira. And then the American Rabbonim who has supported Slifkin began falling in line and withdrawing their support.

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  10. >"And then the American Rabbonim who has supported Slifkin began falling in line and withdrawing their support."<

    Those American Rabbnim who withdrew initial (implicit) support, in fact specificly LEFT OUT the charge of kefirah in their letters. They only said that the mesorah has rejected this approach. They also criticized Slifkin's general skeptical attitude towards Chazal that fueled his promotion of this rejected opinion.
    This isn't exactly "falling in line behind Rav Elyashiv" in arguing with Rav Malinowitz.

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  11. just look at rabbi M's letter,
    why rabbi P's letter is a forgery.
    we call that intellectual masturbation.
    the rest follows this pattern.
    he didn't even pick up a phone .
    he makes up his mind, based on
    his smicha from rabbis schottenstein.
    really who ever heard of this" tal umatar"rav?!
    ( very small ,like "tal umataar letters" compared to the rest of the text)

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. I mentioned the forgery theory WRT the R'M letter. It was meant tongue-in-cheek style, same as his letter.Where's your sense of humor. Good greif!

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  14. I realize it was originally humorous, but many people have asked me in person and I have seen it in comments (that were removed) and on other sites as well. So some people did take it seriously...
    Anyway, I did not ask him to confirm it. I was present when someone else asked for an explanation of the Rav P letter.

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  15. fkm - they might have left out the word kefira in their own letters, but they still fell in line when told so by Rav Elyashiv despite their thinking originally that such opinions and explanations were valid. Is that not what they must have thought when they intially gave Slifkin their support?

    And to make it clear, Rabbi Malinowitz never retracted his support from R' Slifkin. He has stood by him and supported him throughout the incident. To say otherwise is motzei shem ra.

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  16. actually rafi, can you find and post the letter signed by the "gedolim" about the ban? I remember R' Levin from Telz signed on it. I also remember the words "minus" and "Kefirah" in the loshon. BTW, I spoke to someone in Telz who said there's no way R' Levin ever saw the book and simply signed the ban because R' Elyashiv said so.

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  17. I found it.

    http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/postersmall.jpg

    notice the end of the second line going into the 3rd. specifically says - "divrei kefirah u'minus"

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  18. When RSZA said that it is a Yesh Omrim, that does not mean the opinion
    can not be ever accepted by anyone.
    If he held that it wasn't Kefirah,
    then there is no psak in Hashkafa according to Rambam in Perush Hamishneh. Even if it is an issue of Kefirah, which makes it a Halachik issue on which one can give a Psak,
    minority opinions can be accapted if there is sufficient proof that it is correct. I think the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in support of that position, and would constitute proof that the Yesh Omrim is the truth.

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  19. Rav Aharon Feldman never supported Slifkin, and never gave a Haskama. As with many of the Rabbanim in America who originally did not sign onto the ban, he felt that the ban was a tactical error, for it would never be understood by the masses, but he did not support Slifkin's ideas. He was forced to backtrack, not because he went to speak to Rav Eliashiv, but rather, because his silence was used by Slifkin to indicate that Rav Feldman apparently was a supporter of his ideas. Nothing could be further from the truth. The most public support that he gave Slifkin was in a talk to Kollel members at Ner Yisrael, when he stated that the Slifkin books were 'naarishkeit' and not kefira, not exactly a ringing endorsement.

    It is interesting to read Rav Malinowitz' explanation. He misstates the ban, and then explains why he has the right to disagree. The ban was because the rabbanim believe that Slifkin has distorted the sources; taken quotes out of context and utilized them for ideas that go well beyond anything that the Rishonim intended. This has been clearly stated by the Rabbanim in varied public statements. Slifkin does not understand the depth of Chazal, and rather than studying Chazal in the time-honored fashion, or relying on those who do, he did a Google search of 'Torah and science" and came up with a few quotes which he now uses to support his own inventions. The problem is not merely what he says: it is that he doesn't know how to learn. This explains Rav Eliashiv's objections.

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  20. Shaya G writes:
    "BTW, I spoke to someone in Telz who said there's no way R' Levin ever saw the book and simply signed the ban because R' Elyashiv said so."

    SG - you need to check your sources because I spoke to Rabbi Levin himself for twenty-five minutes about the ban and whether he read the books etc.
    This was as recently as three months ago and he claimed that he had read them [in part] and absolutely was against them.
    He gave me a number of reasons for his participation in the ban none of which I care to regurgitate for the masses edification, but he did so out of strong conviction that they were not worthy of being read and contained dangerous hashkafic material. I do not claim to agree or disagree but this is a first hand report.
    Speak to him yourself if you doubt my words. You'll be very surprised.

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  21. TO FREELANCE KIRUV MANIAC

    There is a big difference between a shittah being a ‘yesh omrim’ and being kerirah. It is like the difference between black and white or the difference between night and day. It is absolutely impossible to in any way put R’ Shlomo Zalman zt”l in the same camp as ybl”ch Rav Elyashiv shli”ta on this issue.

    Being a ‘yesh omrim’ does not mean the shittah is ‘implicitly sidelined’ whatever that means. Being relegated to a ‘yesh omrim’ IS NOT CLOSE TO BEING KEFIRAH.
    It is absolutely ridiculous to make such a claim. Rav Elyashiv shli”ta’s shittah is clear. However, it is not close to Rav Shlomo Zalman’s zt”l.

    We often find in halacha that one can rely on a minority-yesh omrim view b’sha’as hadchak. One can even rely on a da’as yachid b’sha’as hadchak. There is a machlokes Shach-Taz how far this goes. Can one rely on a da’as yachid only by a possible d’rabanan or even by a d’oraisa. Obviously, only the poskim can decide f something is a big enough sha’as hadchak to rely on such a legitimate da’as yachid. Would Rav Shlomo Zalman shli”ta allow and give support to someone to publish a sefer which includes kefirah opinions as yesh omrims?!!! Rav Malinowitz is with RSZA zt”l on this one against Rav Elyashiv shli”ta. And as Rav Malinowitz pointed out, Rav Elyashiv’s approach is a tremendous which we have not found before.

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  22. TO FREELANCE KIRUV MANIAC

    There is a big difference between a shittah being a ‘yesh omrim’ and being kerirah. It is like the difference between black and white or the difference between night and day. It is absolutely impossible to in any way put R’ Shlomo Zalman zt”l in the same camp as ybl”ch Rav Elyashiv shli”ta on this issue.

    Being a ‘yesh omrim’ does not mean the shittah is ‘implicitly sidelined’ whatever that means. Being relegated to a ‘yesh omrim’ IS NOT CLOSE TO BEING KEFIRAH.
    It is absolutely ridiculous to make such a claim. Rav Elyashiv shli”ta’s shittah is clear. However, it is not close to Rav Shlomo Zalman’s zt”l.

    We often find in halacha that one can rely on a minority-yesh omrim view b’sha’as hadchak. One can even rely on a da’as yachid b’sha’as hadchak. There is a machlokes Shach-Taz how far this goes. Can one rely on a da’as yachid only by a possible d’rabanan or even by a d’oraisa. Obviously, only the poskim can decide f something is a big enough sha’as hadchak to rely on such a legitimate da’as yachid. Would Rav Shlomo Zalman shli”ta allow and give support to someone to publish a sefer which includes kefirah opinions as yesh omrims?!!! Rav Malinowitz is with RSZA zt”l on this one against Rav Elyashiv shli”ta. And as Rav Malinowitz pointed out, Rav Elyashiv’s approach is a tremendous which we have not found before.

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