The Wider Effects of the Ban - A Selection Of Letters Received

(Note: I do not agree with all the sentiments expressed in these letters. They are, however, very useful in gauging the public response to the ban.)

"You would not believe all the letters of people who have been writing to me telling me how outrageous this whole situation is. You have so many people who support you and know that this whole thing is a witch-hunt against someone who for years was encouraged to use his many skills to reach people that the typical frum person could not reach. A well known rav has informed me that he wants to write a defense of you but he doesn't know who will print it."

"Hi, I am an avrech in the Mir. I enjoy your books tremendously and i thank you for writing them. I just want you to know that you have my support no matter what those people are writing about you [i dont mean the gedolim - I mean the ones who are manipulating them]."

"Hi rabbi slifkin, my name is ______ and I'm one of your big chassidim. I am presently learning in yerushalayim. I was thoroughly shocked to see the cherem against your books and i was wondering how you had decided to deal with it and what you would advise people who are passionate about understanding Torah in the light of fact to do. Is it possible to remain a part of the charedi world and maintain these views? how does this affect my emunas chachomim?"

"Dear Reb Nosson, I know you are being attacked from certain quarters. I would like to tell not to buckle under. Suffice to say, even the Rambam had his detractors (he was also called an Apikores) so to the Ramchal was vilified by many elderly Rabanim in his time. All I can say you are in good company. Chazak v'Amatz. Many Chosheve B'nai Torah are rooting for you. V'Elokim Mivakesh Es Hanirdof. May Hashem help you in your time of need."

"It is craziness. I heard about this from a frum Rav - who was furious about the cherem."

"My wife's cousin saw the notice against your books in a shul in North Manchester. He decided that he knew who Nosson Slifkin was, but didn't know who these Rabbis are, so he tore down the notice. A few friends of mine are currently desperately seeking to get the whole Zoo Torah collection in response to your critics."

"This is an enormous tragedy which is taking place. But I see it not only as your own personal tragedy, but a national tragedy with enormous repurcussions. There are many creative Torah thinkers in klal yisroel who may now feel stifled and repressed from expressing original views for fear of attack. Without a breath of fresh air, many of our youth who don't connect with typical mainstream yeshivisha hashkafa, will be left without a lifeline of inspiration."

"Rabbi Slifkin, I have been following the controversy surrounding your books... I am horrified that now there are those that have seen fit to place a ban on your works. Your works are the only ones that deal with these issues, issues that many people struggle with and without your book would have nowhere to turn. I would be happy to do anything to help you in this mess..."

"Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
My brother and I are avreichim in a kollel in Yerushalayim and would like to express our support for both your recent published works and your general status (i.e. not a kofer). We reacted with shock and disappointment to the recent article in Yated Ne'eman decrying your books as works of "kefirah and minus." Do not lose heart; I can tell you from personal experience that you have many supporters, both in Eretz Yisrael and in America, including our Rosh Kollel - he in fact frequently promulgates similar ideas (lack of contradiction between the scientific theories regarding evolution and the age of the universe, and Torah) to the bochurim and avreichim of our Yeshiva.
Please note that we are not coming with any koach of our Rosh Kollel nor do we represent him; we just feel that you should know how popular and widespread the ideas that you represent are in the Torah world. We also believe, as do numerous others, that the rabbonim, both Israeli and American, who signed the proclamation did not read your works and are not aware of their worthy contents; but rather, it seems that they have been misled by certain zealous elements into issuing this Kol Koreh. In addition, we found it difficult to believe the Yated's assertion that you were approached by the various rabbonim involved and asked to explain your views (a call that you allegedly refused), insofar as the Kol Koreh itself demanded that you provide "no answers or explanations." As such we assume that Yated or their alleged anonymous source fabricated their information. We are also interested and hopeful that the prominent absences of several renowned American Torah personalities indicates that your support reaches the highest echelons of the Torah world in the United States. For example, both Rabbi Aharon Feldman and Rabbi Aharon Shechter were conspiciously absent, in addition of course to Rav Shmuel Kaminestsky. Is this mere coincidence or do they indeed disagree with the entire proclamation?
On another note, I recently spoke to a friend who studies in a different kollel in Yerushalayim. The rosh kollel there, who is a noted neighbourhood rav and posek, spoke to his kollel about the campaign against you. He characterized you as a "mevakesh emes", and stated that this is a shameful case of the rabbonim being manipulated by and giving into the kanoyim.
In closing, please remember that your supporters are many and widespread both in Israel and abroad. Chazak v'ematz and do not give in to the temporary disappointment that you must be experiencing due to the events of the last few months. We are sure that your accomplishments in both chinuch and kiruv will continue!
Respectfully yours, ____ and ____
P.S. Please do not burn your own books as per the aforementioned article. They are excellent works of Torah and important contributions to their various fields.

Rabbi Slifkin,
Luckily I purchased two of your books before they became collectors items. (Science and Torah and Mysterious Creatures). They are wonderful books and you are performing a Kiddush Ha'shem. I have, and will continue to recommend them highly and enthusiastically. I am a physicist and am quite familiar with the arguments for the age of the Universe (which we now know to within a few percent!). Truth and Torah are partners not enemies. As you know, and describe well, understanding the way Nature works adds to our appreciation of Gods creation. In order for us to be a "light unto the nations" we must be able to confront the modern world in the path of Torah. Your books show the way.
I want you to know that I fully support you in this controversy and commend your respectful support of your (correct) opinions. I would be honored to help you in the re-publication of your books.

"I am frankly aghast. I am so, so sorry that you have been hung out to dry this way. I donít know if it helps at all, but I want to tell you that your books ó The Science of Torah in particular ó have been very important to us. As a baalas teshuva, reconciling what I was taught growing up with what I know now to be true can at times be a challenge. Your books bridge those two worlds for me very nicely, and I find that reading work such as yours in fact strengthens my emunah and helps me to wrap my mind around Torah concepts that can otherwise be puzzling for someone like me. It is difficult to know what to say except ďbon courage.Ē If there is anything concrete that we can do to help, please let us know."

"Hello Rabbi Slifkin,
I just heard about the ban on your books, and I am deeply troubled by it. I recently started reading "Mysterious Creatures', and I have found it to be a wonderful, and deeply intelligent work. What strikes me most about it is its intellectual honesty. Your writing is absolutely part of the great line of Rabbinic writing, and it shouldn't be considered anything else. There is an old Hasidic saying that if no one is going against what it is you're doing, than you must not be doing anything worthwhile. So, you must be doing very worthwhile things to draw such attention. I don't know what to say, except that I support you, and your endeavors. Don't listen to those telling you that your work is against, G-d FOrbid, the Jewish tradition. Those who tell you things of that nature are doing so because of their own agenda, not because of you and your work. I'm so upset by how you have been treated, I don't know what to do, so I wrote you to tell you that, for what its worth, I am 100% with you, and with the Torah.

"Shalom Rebbi,
The nature of this email is somewhat ironic. You see, I'm a baal teshuva with a somewhat complicated past. For me, I couldn't begin to approach yiddishkeit unless I thought it could be validated under several inspective lenses, among them science. So, even after returning to judaism I've always retained a strong interest in explaining Judaism under these different lenses. Among other issues in science, the age of the universe and evolution are generally hot topics (even if many people aren't sure why). I realized that I only had a rudimentary understanding of these areas and wanted to investigate them further. I began to speak with rabbis and secular scholars whom I know. No-one seemed to have anything solid to say on the matters. (Most of the answers were either "you're crazy if you do believe in science", or "you're crazy if you don't!") Through hashgacha pratis I became acquainted with some "creationist" sites on the web. I had my doubts, as it still seemed pretty far fetched. Well, I also found I.D., which seemed more viable. Anyways...... I was reading and asking questions, doing research and consulting people. (which I'm still doing.) But, I couldn't really find anything good on the topic from a Jewish perspective. (besides schroeder's relativity notion, which I happen to like.) As I searched online (this was several months ago) I found that you had a book which discussed it, The Science Of Torah. I could barely put it down. The book was great! It discussed so many issues which were bothering me. The presentation of jewish sources in a coherant manner was so helpful. I'm sure I must have let out a great sigh of relief and a big smile: "Toras Hashem Temimah!" well, I read through it quickly and had a couple questions which I had in mind to email you about (mostly fine-points and hashkafik concepts), but decided I would read through it once more before doing so. (oh yea, I immedietely went out and bought a copy for myself, realizing that this was a book I wanted to hold onto.) Shortly thereafter I began to hear murmurs about the book. I was crushed. I was depressed for days. As more news about it came out my condition worsened. Not only was I upset about the banning of a book which seemed brilliant and which helped me so much, but I was even more hurt by the ramifications of the banning. Could science not be considered at all?! Do I have to sacrifice my brain to be a yid?! I asked myself that for days. Anways, I asked a Rebbi of mine whom I respect (and who's also a very "frum" person and a talmid chacham) what he made of it all. He replied that the whole banning was narishkiet, as far as he can tell. He assured me that he doesn't either believe in sacrificing one's brain. Well, someone referred me to your site where I now see that you have been directly addressing the questions. I'm glad. I think this whole banning was awful and no good came from it. So, I'm sure that you've suffered immensely because of it and I feel for you. I decided to write to you to let you know how much I (and many others) appreciate what you're doing, and for what it's worth, we're behind you. I hope this whole thing will be cleared up soon, but if it isn't, I'm sure that in years to come your books will be vindicated. You're doing klal yisrael a great tova. This is just my way of saying thank you and chazak vi'amatz.

"Rabbi Slifkin,
I read only a portion of one of your books, and found it entertaining, though I did have a degree of pessimism about some of your conclusions. That said, Yasher Koach to you for ably defending your work. I fail to see why those who are offended by your work do not either write a blistering attack as a book review, or use their considerable clout to write a critical feature in Yated, or some other paper. I could even understand their contacting those who gave haskamos, and confronting them. This unilateral attack, without a forum for explanation, seems counterproductive and intellectually and spiritually lacking. I feel for your anguish, and the extreme difficulty this must present for your and your family. May HKBH have rachmanus, and give you the strength to weather the storm.

"Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
You don't know me, but I wanted to drop you a line to let you know I was mortified to hear about the entire fiasco (which I only just learned about a few days ago). My confidence in your work is not affected at all. My confidence in those who have supported the book ban is seriously shaken. The people who have signed are clearly embarrassing themselves by their insecurity, their lack of understanding about what you have really written and why, and have belittled their names by attaching their signatures to a petition against works they do not understand. Keep up the good work, all sensible and educated people will support you 100%.

"Dear Rav Slifkin,
I am truly sorry about the position that you are currently in. It was quite a shock for me to hear about it because I am currently in school in New York and no longer in yeshivah. I wish there was something that I can do to help you. If there is anything at all, I would be more than willing to do it. I am not great with words but I was thinking about a little something after I heard about your predicament.
It says in Masechas Sanhedrin (37a) that ďone who saves one Jewish person, itís as if he saves an entire world.Ē Due to my lack of torah knowledge I am not sure if this is in regards to physically or if it is also regarding spirituality. Letís say for now that it is in regards to both. Before I arrived to Reishit, I had not learned a word of Torah for almost two years. I did not care for it and wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. It was about four months into Reishit and I had one foot out the door. I was miserable there. I hated the learning and felt that I was wasting my time. In a shiur with one of the rebbeim, Perek Shira was mentioned. It wasnít dealing with Natures Song but just Perek Shira. To me, that sounded somewhat interesting. So I began to look into it. I searched a little and was told about your sefer, Natures Song. With the most amazing Hashgacha Pratise, my Chavrusah knew the author. So we decided to learn it. I must tell you, that it was what I needed to help me. I was very enthusiastic about the Sefer and did not stop learning it. My copy at home is completely covered in hi-lites and notes. Not only that but I have a family member who was quite sick. She was arrested for drug possession and was in drug re-rehab for 9 Ĺ months for being addicted to Cocaine. I used to visit her once every two weeks. She once told me that she would take walks through the mountains where the re-hab was and loved looking at Nature. I decided to buy her a copy of Natures Song and Baruch Hashem, she had recovered and is frum. She told me that the book helped immensely.
Two lives were saved which means two worlds were saved. If nothing else, just know that all my future endeavors, the type of girl I will marry, my children and everything I do in life, will be because of you. There must be a starting point in everyoneís life. I am not a huge masmid, nor am I a talmid chacham, but what I am is a Jewish man who learns at least once every day because of someone who was able to touch my soul when nothing else was working. Whether Natures Song opening my eyes to Hashem everywhere I look at every moment in the day, or The Science of Torah giving me a new outlook of each of the months on a Jewish calender, or even Mysterious Creatures giving me a new insight to a very new and different aspect of Torah, everyone one of the Sífarim has helped me grow into the person I am today.
I am not sure if this letter will have any impact or whether it will be any console, but I wanted to let you know Rav Slifkin that you have helped me more than any Rebbeim I have had in all my years. The amount of Hakaras HaTov that I owe you is innumerable. No amount of thanks or gratitude can be given. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving my life from a life off the Derech Hashem.

"Dear Rabbi Slifkin, After discovering what happened, I found myself to be very upset. I had no idea of the problems you have been going through. You are a sincere, earnest Ben Torah and do not deserve the lambasting you had received. I have read your books, enjoyed your Bronx Zoo tour, and find your material relevant, biblically oriented and in keeping with the beliefs we share. Keep up the good work and research that you do.... it is relevant and instructive. I am eagerly awaiting your encyclopedia. Do not be discouraged. People do not come forward to give praise, but are very quick to criticize. You are doing praiseworthy, important work in an area that is virtually void of material. Keep it up!!!

"Dear Rabbi Slifkin:
I just wanted to drop off to you a quick note of support in your current troubles. I really should say our troubles. Keep up the good work of keeping alive the open minded, rationlistic and inquisitive sources in our Heritage and Mesora from being extinguished by the current climate of closed-mindedness and 'head in the sand' approach to anything scientific. You are in good company. Don't forget that the Rambam's works where burned. Burned! By 'Frum' people. Boruch Hashem, his ideals and works have survived. I shudder to think where Yidishkeit would be today had his opponents succeeded in silencing him r'l. Don't let this happen to you, for all of our sakes!
A yasher koach and a gutten shabbos!
Rabbi Y.
Musmach - Yeshivas Ner Yisroel (5756)

"Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
I became aware of the controversy surrounding some of your books last week in the European Yated Ne'eman. I could not think of anything else all day. I have read your books and have found them to have brought me closer to HaShem and His Torah and have gone a long way to helping me silence the occasional whispering of the yetzer horo. I was shocked to see your books referred to as heresy, how can they be heresy i asked myself, when the whole point of your writing is to strengthen emunah in HaShem and His Torah? And as far as i can see not one of our 13 principles of emunah have been violated. At the same time i am torn as i feel i must sublimate my limited knowledge before the Gedolim who signed against your books. If i had a Rav i would accept his ruling but as i live in a town with not even a minyan i do not.
I have always considered Rabbi Desler ZT"L as my mentor in all things Haskafah and Mussar and take the view of his Talmid Rabbi Aryeh Carmell shlita very seriously, his haskomoh for your books are one of the reasons i purchased them in the first place. Could you tell me if he has removed his haskomoh from your books? I would be surprised as his haskomah to "The science of Torah" clearly states that your book does not infringe or damage emunah at all. His opinion would help me out a great deal, i would contact him but i don't know how.
I daven to HaShem that this difficult episode will be quickly resolved and that your books be once again appreciated by all klal yisroel. I wish you and your family well, and hope that my insignificant words help alleviate any sadness you may be experiencing. I for one can say that you have helped me come closer to HaShem and for that i will always be grateful.

Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
On behalf of myself and my wife, I would like to express my utmost support for you in what I am sure are trying and and difficult times. Although I cannot claim to fully know what is going on and all the manoeuvrings (political and otherwise) involved, I can claim that I have read your books, gained from them, and grew from them. As you mentioned in your response, one cannot judge a writing based on a few isolated passages taken out of context, when looked at in the framework of a whole work all pieces fit in. Be that as it may I feel that even the excerpts that were chosen do not in any way even smack of kefirah or minnus.
I myself am having a hard time reconciling the behaviour of our gedolim in this matter but I have noticed a few signatures that were lacking and I am sure that you have their full support. Next to those gedolim our support may seem insignificant but I can tell you with all honesty that we enjoyed your work, referred it to many friends and will continue to do so. HaShem gave us brains to use and think for ourselves, not to follow and conclude blindly without first considering evidence. That is the approach you have used in your sefarim and I believe that is a fine way to live one's life.
I hope this all comes to a resolution soon and this ordeal will soon be over. May HaShem grant you and your family continued strength,

"Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
I wrote to you a few years back saying how much I appreciated your books... anyway I'm now in Australia, I just wanted to write to give you my support. A chevruta of mine sent me the link to your website outlining all of the problems you have been having with your fine books. I regularly recommend the Science of Torah both to religious and irreligious friends who constantly ask how I manage to juggle a religious life with a career dedicated to biological and evolutionary sciences. It is the most balanced and accurate book I have seen in the field of Torah and Science, and stands head and shoulders above the others I have read.
I wish you every success in the future with getting the Science of Torah republished, and for my small part have ordered Mysterious Creatures and The Camel... which as yet I have not had a chance to read.
I realize that it is parts (and I hope a very small part) of the Torah world that have turned against you of late, but If there is anything I can do to add support from the Biological/Evolutionary Sciences please let me know.

"Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
Thank you so much for writing on such a controversial issue . You opened my eyes to the beauty of Torah and helped me appreciate the verse ," ma rabu masecha hashem!?". I have been listening to people discuss all the controversy regarding your books which made me purchase 1 before I choose to get involved in such a discussion. I read your book titled 'mysterious creatures.' What an eye opening book !! I was amazed at all the information which you brought down. It makes me appreciate the torah and enjoy hashems creation so much more!! This book did not weaken my feelings toward hashem and the torah..... It only strengthened my feeling and passion I have towards the torah!!! I cannot thank you enough for writing such a beautiful book. I am looking forward to reading your other books and all your future books that you will continue to write!!!....... I know that times must be difficult with all the issues that have been raised by your writings .All I can say is ,"CHAZAK!-BE STRONG!"..... hold on to your beliefs and feelings and continue to open our eyes to the beauty of hashem!

"Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
I had the privilege of joining your Torah Tour this past October in the Bronx Zoo and enjoyed the pleasure of hearing you describe the different animals and the lessons we can learn from them. I found the day to be most inpsiring. It was really beautiful for me to learn about the various shiros the animals sing and the mussar we can learn from each creature and incorporate into our own lives. Your presentation was made with a real love of the Creator and His creations. You spoke with humility and humor and your sole agenda seemed to be "sichu bechol nifle'osav."
It was therefore devastating to hear that you were being personally maligned bu gedolei Torah, who had never met you and had never heard how you teach people about the magnificent world that Hakadosh Baruch Hu Created. I was angry at all the signatories of the letter and had real hashkafic difficulties with Daas Torah. I am still struggling with this today.
I want to just write this letter as a show of support for you and your wonderful work. I proudly own a couple of your books and find them to be a real tribute to the wonders of Creation. May you continue to pursue your love of nature and continue to share your inspirational insights with the Jewish audiences that have come to appreciate your ability "lehagdil Torah uleha'adirah."

Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
I wish you had been around when I was experiencing a crisis of faith in eighth grade back in the 1960s over precisely the issues you write about. Luckily I attended modern yeshivot and had some superb teachers to guide me, and I remained a practicing Jew. Today I teach biology in a public high school and have no problem with evolution (but big problems with the Bible thumping yahoos trying to ban it). My approach is similar to yours, being based on Rav Kook, who follows the Rambam. Perhaps they both were kofrim and minim. The banners are turning people off in a big way (richuk kerovim), and making Orthodoxy a laughingstock for the entire civilized world. But unlike the banners' antecedents, we live, baruch Hashem, not in European ghettos but in an open society, and banning won't work. We will read and study whatever we wish regardless of the un-American shenanigans of those whom we once revered as Gedolei Torah. What will suffer is emunas chachamim and its illegitimate offspring daas Torah. But in time we will find our own Rabbinic authority, people who, like you, were born into free societies and are conversant with, and not dismissive of, the realities on which they are asked to rule. Bon courage! Chazak v'amatz!
Zev Stern, Ph.D.

"Hello Rabbi Slifkin.
I just wanted to express my deep sorrow about what has happened. Your approach was like a fresh wind in the world of Torah, and it gave me strength to learn. I have just completed my thesis about the early days of geology and paleontology in America, and if it gives you any comfort, those who first expounded ideas of an ancient universe faced much disturbing public criticism and attacks as well. People need to have some sort of historical perspective on these problems! I keep thinking and thinking about how to understand Bereishit. There are obviously deep yesodot there. What can I say? I wish you chizuk, and the hope that emet and yashar will prevail in the end. As you know, many people support and defend you.

"Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
I immensely enjoyed reading your essays and your "Mysterious Creatures" book (unfortunately, I cannot obtain the "Science of Torah"). I am a BT, modern orthodox by practice and a computer scientist by profession, and it is great to see your sophisticated, accessible, and most importantly, honest attempts at interpretation of the Torah and rabbinic literature. I admire your courage in refusing to "sweep under the carpet" difficulties, and dealing with issues head on. I hope you will be able to continue to do your great work, and I look forward to your future books and essays.

Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
I don't know if you recall, but I wrote to you following the first wave. I must say that considering how hurt and confused I am, I can't imagine how you must feel. I am neither a talmid chacham nor a scientist, but having grown up frum and having learned in yeshiva for the past ten years, I'm horrified at the methods and viciousness with which you have been attacked. Although I'm an out-of-the-box thinker, I still try to maintain emunas chachamim. Unfortunetely that has taken quite a beating and I'm curious to know how you're handling it. If I can be of any help please let me know.

Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
I donít know the details of how youíve come to be lambasted by the very people whom you love, care for, and to whom you have dedicated so much. What I do know (from everything I have read of yours and have heard about you) is that you are an individual with the greatest respect for Torah and a genuine interest in Hakadosh Baruch Huís creation. Iím terribly sorry that you are going through all that you are, but if it is any solace I support your fight to have your views deliberately and fully discussed in an open forum. May the truth of our Torah never becomes a matter of hearsay, but only one derived from direct and painstaking yegiyah over the classic sources of our mesorah, including all gedolim past and present. May Hashem give you the health, chalitzas atzamos, and mental stamina to carry on your search for emes within his Torah, and among his people,

Rabbi Slifkin,
I hope you and your family are well. I am writing to you because I didn't do so earlier, when perhaps I should have, and I fear that others may have forgotten the terrible things that have been done to you.
I happened across an article on a website slandering you further. It would have been laughable except that it reminded me of how you have been mistreated, and how it is considered a merit to mistreat you further. The author made no logical arguments (though he pretended to do so) and didn't address the simple fact that you have kosher sources for your positions.
While it is probably little practical comfort, it may be helpful to recall how the Rambam was treated. It is my opinion that if he had not written his seforim then, and did so now, they would be burned again. There is an insidious theft of our heritage by powerful factions among us. They pay lip service to truly great men, as long as they are long enough dead, and co-opt their work by extracting simple-minded and misleading fragments that are palatable and not challenging to a shaky world view.
I was not raised in a religious household, and did not get to learn Torah as a child. I discovered Torah as an adult, and found it very beautiful. As I tried to find a place in Torah, I instead found myself being pushed away when I asked challenging questions. While I have not read your books, I have read much about the controversy concerning them. I found the same sources you used to deal with questions that cannot be answered using the allegorical (though, in my opinion, no less important or informing) sources that many "authorities" attempt to use.
I want you to know that there are a lot of people who support you, and have been disillusioned by what has happened to you. I try to be shomer mitzvos but I no longer trust the people that I used to think had a special connection to Torah to tell me what that means. On the other hand, your reaction to this has been a great chizuk, it has shown me that people can maintain a connection to Torah in spite of such things.
Though I cannot think of anything I might do, if ever I can help you in some way, please ask. If I can, I will.

Dear Rabbi,
I am neither a scholar nor a tzaddik but I know that I would never stand a chance of becoming either were it not for people such as yourself.
I am terribly sorry that there are some who don't seem to have learned from our own history that book burning bullying is neither productive nor holy. May God grant you the strength to continue your work learning, writing and teaching his wonderful truths.
As someone who has relatively recently come to religious observance it breaks my heart to see such a machlochet in the community. And it worries me deeply that there is such pressure on people such as myself to adopt the most stringent customs, practices and beliefs in order to feel that we are doing the right thing. Your example is desperately, desperately needed to help people find the Golden Mean.

Dear Rabbi Slifkin:
Thank you for putting the "controversy" page back on your web site. The attack on your books is so much more. It is an attack an every yeshiva boy who ever approached his rebbie with a troubling question and was reassured by answers similar to yours. It is attack on every educated baal teshuva. It is an attack on anyone who ever attended university. It is an attack on anyone who ever read the science section of the New York Times. In short, it is an attack on tens (or hundreds?) of thousands of Orthodox Jews. More than any of the recent controversies and book bannings - yours is a fight for the very soul of Judaism. I can only imagine how you must be suffering but I beg you to be strong for all of us. Thank you for fighting our battle.

Rabbi Slifkin,
I was very saddened and upset to hear about what is happening to you. I have always had an interest in science and when I discovered your first book, Seasons of Life, I immediately knew that I found something very special. Subsequently, I have purchased all of your other books. I also enjoyed going on one of your first tours to the Bronx Zoo. I have learned much from your books and found it very fulfilling to see how science and Torah can meld together. It disgusts me to see what these people are doing to you. The irony is that they write that your works could chas v'shalom cause people to go of the derech, but it is there behavior that really makes me wonder. I sincerely hope that you continue to be matzliach in your endeavors and find comfort in that there are many people who fully support your efforts.

The following letter was sent to the Areivim mailing list:

I would appreciate it if you can post this anonymously, as I think it is very important to make clear to people that there IS a crisis of faith, yet most people will not talk about it publicly. I speak to my very close friends about it - but that's it - as I see what the Chareidi Kannai Reshaim can do - and I don't want to be subject to that kind of hell on this earth.
This email may seem harsh, and I generally try to tone myself down, but I think I'm just going to let it all out - if you want to edit it, feel free - if not, you can leave it as is so that people know how others feel.
I grew up in a Torah im Derech Eretz home in the USA and was educated in mainstream Chareidi yeshivos. I was educated there to believe in the infallibility of the Gedolim, and although I did not accept it totally - as I understood that it is obviously possible for people to be mistaken here and there, I did accept most of it. Eventually, I moved to Eretz Yisrael, married and settled down. I began studying sciences in a local University for parnassah reasons, and as will ultimately happen, questions started popping up. I purchased two books that were quite good in defending Torah - one was the book by Prof Yehudah Levi "The Science In Torah" and the book by Nosson Slifkin "The Science of Torah". Although I did not agree with everything in the book, it gave a very good overview of the situation and possible solutions to the issues raised, as well as the personal view of Nosson Slifkin.
Some time later, bans started appearing, calling the book Kefirah and forbidding the reading of the book. I'm sure everyone knows this, so I won't get into this in detail. I had BIG problems with the actual ban - so I went to a number of prominent Rabbis to try to help me understand it.
There were three answers: 1) The Gedolim are the Gedolim - just rely on them and ignore everyone else, including your own puny brain. 2) The Gedolim are the Gedolim - but in this case they are mistaken, but they are usually correct - so just ignore this psak and follow them in everything else 3) The Chareidi community is insane and you have to understand that they are insane - try not to take it personally - maybe eventually they will once again regain their senses. The cause of the insanity is the holocaust - from which the moderate branch of Orthodoxy never recovered, and mostly the Kannoim survived.
I'm not going to name the Rabbonim I went to, as they spoke to me privately and probably would not have wanted their names plastered all over the internet, but suffice it to say that they were not 35 year old high school Rebbeim (no offence meant to any high-school rebbe - but I wouldn't go to them for my Hashkafic issues).
Additionally, information about HOW the process of the banning worked started coming through over the internet, and suffice it to say that my Emunas Chachamim was not benefiting.
Lastly, a number of "Gedoley Hador" published articles over the internet - namely R' Moshe Shternbuch and R' Feldman - which unfortunately made the issue worse. They either promised to give their version of how Torah/science mix - but they never did, or they showed their absolute lack of knowledge in scientific theory and methodology. The lack of receiving any type of theory whatsoever that made any sense was the Makeh B'patish for me, and internally, I started thinking of many Rabbis as utter fools who have phenomenal memories and have learned much Torah. The Torah has not affected their morality nor has it made them become more intelligent people. Was it wrong of me to think like that? Probably, yet any person that would look at the facts presented to them would either have to rely on blind faith in Gedoley Hador or come to the conclusion that the emperor has no clothes.
No, I have not taken off my yarmulka or stopped wearing tzitzis or stopped keeping Shabbos, but until today I have great nisyonos with regard to Judaism and Mitzvos that have a deep impact upon my soul. I don't know if it is possible to put how I feel in writing, but those who have gone through such nisyonos know what I mean. Baruch Hashem I have a wonderful wife who has stood with me and strengthened me throughout the process, and it is probably due to her alone that I remain frum today. The Gedoley Hador have turned me off to Judaism - if the MOST RESPECTED RABBIS IN JUDAISM CAN ACT LIKE THIS, HOW CAN I BE EXPECTED TO FOLLOW THEM??? The simple answer is "Don't judge Judaism by the way the Jews act", but please see "Off the Derech" by Faranak Margolese - Page 49-50: "Based on my experience and the hundreds of off the derech stories I have heard, I am convinced that when people say "you should not judge a religion by its practitioners" they are mistaken. We say Torah lo bashamayim hi - the Torah is not in Heaven. It is here on earth, in our interpretations of it, in our commitment to it, in our love for it. We believe that Torah is not a theory to be studied, but a way of life to be lived. Judaism is ultimately about the way we live it. The Judaism that exists in books may be intellectual stimulating and essential to our observant lives. But what impacts us most dramatically in terms of our commitment to observance is the reality we create with it here on earth. And what impacts us most in terms of our feeling toward Judaism is the relationships and experiences we have with observant Jews. Negative relationships and their painful experiences push us away from both Torah and Jews"
The feeling that I feel most strongly toward Judaism (or as Faranak Margolese puts it - towards the practitioners of Judaism) is a feeling of betrayal. Much of the good that I was taught exists in Judaism has been utterly destroyed by the actions of a few extreme individuals - who are the ones who should be leading the flock in the correct direction. Each person must come to his own personal peace with what happened, but for some of us, the path is very, very difficult.

Dear Rabbi,

I have read several of your books and praised them to all who I meet. As a ba'al teshuvah of 20 years, your books enlighten, open up areas of Jewish law and take what I call an uncharacteristically enlighted approach to Torah. By that I do not mean any connection with Haskalah thinking or revisionism. What I mean is innovation, freshness, drawing from science that which enhances Torah, makes open to the masses, etc. without sacrificing one iota of emunah.

The Science of Torah and Mysterious Creatures both enhanced my appreciation of Chazal, Talmud and how Judiasm has historically dealt with science. On an even more personal note, I have used your Mysterious Creatures book to bring back to Torah several people who othewise would have written of Torah Judaism as a fanatical cult - just by the simplicity of your language, provocative thesis and thoroughness of your research. I have made several Lakewood, NJ rabbis aware of all of this and have gotten positive responses from them - including getting one to read one of your books.

What those who criticize you do not get is your unique ability to reach and do kiruv among university educated Jews worldwide. There is a vast group to be educated. Both the Science of Torah and Mysterious Creatures should be books read in any comparative religion course in univeristies around the world. You should reach out and try to connect with such academics to consider that distribution channel. That would be a kiddush Hashem! Please write more books, especially on Judaism's use of, struggle with and absorbtion of all sciences.

Yasher Koach!

Dear R' Slifkin,
In my eyes, the behaviour of the rabbonim involved in this episode has caused far more damage than any potential "heresy" in your books could have ever achieved. These people have exposed themselves as total idiots, cut off from the concerns and needs of their flock, and therefore unworthy to lead. The ability to memorize Shas, pray piously and even develop innovative (albeit often-implausible) proposals to reconcile seemingly conflicting texts, does not render one a leader. I find some of the details regarding the disingenuous statements, downright nasty comments and impulsive behaviour of the main players particularly revolting.
I read the Hirsch-Reinman book (after hearing of the ban, of course), and came away with my faith greatly strengthened. Your books (which I read before the ban) have been a tremendous resource, helping me deal with nagging doubts and questions that with time had receded into the recesses of my memory but would periodically re-emerge when prompted by this or that stimulus. Frankly, I can only stand in awe of your steadfastness in the face of your current detractors. At least Rabbeinu Yonah had the courage to eventually admit his grievous error and impose a heavy penalty on himself in his attempt to make recompense. I have no confidence that those guilty of tarring & feathering you will have the same integrity if/when they ever come to realize their horrible mistake.
I admire your courage and integrity during this very difficult time. Stay strong for us -- your important work must not be allowed to be undone.

Dear Reb Nosson,
I only recently became aware of what's going on and I must say that I and my Chaverim are terribly saddened. i am a Rebbe in Yeshiva H.S., and I teach Adult ed to totally secular adults who B'h are on the way back. I've been using Rav Dessler, Hirsch, Aviezer, Schroeder, Rav Yaakov Weinberg ,Reb Noach, Avrohom ben HaRambam, etc, for thirty years to help them (and myself!!!) reconcile the apparent contradictions between Judaism and Modern scientific thinking. I always stress that String theory or punctuated Equillibrium, or... is not the final word in Science- as evidence, The age of the Universe was scaled down from 30 Billion to 12-15 billion as a result of the Hubble space telescope- but that as intelligent Jews we can handle it, and if anything, Chazal go beyond where they're at. Years ago- actually 32 years ago, when Dr. Breuer published Hirsch's letters on Agados Chazal (which were republished in LIGHT- a Neturai Karta'ish mafgazine edited by Leiman & Weinbach if you recall!!!) A number of us in Yeshiva (Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn) showed it to one of the Roshei Yeshiva, a very special Yid in every way, but HE"S NOT INTO THIS!!!!!! He said that it can't be, Hirsch couldn't have written it, it's "Mizooyaf...". We then showed it to Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, who said "it's Fantastic, Beautiful,!!!!!", but I believe he said that the "Hamone Am" is not ready to hear it. And so I am terribly saddened because it means that well intentioned Tamedai Chachomim, who I'm sure know more of Shas and Poskim than I, but who are AMEI HAaaretz when it comes to Machshava, are setting the agenda. I have spoken to a number of my enlightened Chaverim in the Yeshiva & Chassidishe velt, and they too share my sadness and fear that this attitude will turn many off, as in the old days, when Yiddishkeit was seen as being obscurantist and out of touch with what our searching brothers & sisters need to hear. Bu then I comfort myself with the knowledge that this battle of ideas has been going on in the Torah world, for .. oh, at least 2000 years. Our main battle is against ignorance among unenlightened secular & religious Jews who feel that Yiddishkeit has nothing to say to the modern person. Kanaos? Well, we'll have to live with it, as the Rambam, Ramchal, Hirsch, Rav Azriel Hildesheimer, Rav Kook,etc.... did. What truly saddens me is the Tzaar that you and your wife and children have had to put up with. The kannaim involved are going to have to give a Din Vacheshbon on that... So, please be comforted in the knowledge that YOU'RE RIGHT(!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and that there are thousands of Bnai Torah out there, especially on the front lines in Chinuch who stand with you. Perhaps some are afraid to express themselves, which is also kind of sad, but... Rav Yaakov once said to me (and to others as well), "There comes a time when you have to stop being concerned about what others will say, and do what's right. Are you afraid that they'll call you a sheigetz? They've called me a sheigetz for years'!!!"

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