Category Archives: Torah and Science

Did Moses Exist?

The new Encyclopedia Judaica is not so sure, citing the work of historians, archeologists and others. YU’s Rabbi Shalom Carmy responds this way:

Orthodox Rabbi Shalom Carmy of New York’s Yeshiva University grants that historians have so far found no documentation on Moses apart from the biblical writings. He doesn’t find this gap surprising and says scholars who make that argument fail to acknowledge that evidence corroborating ancient texts is very spotty.

Summarizing the Jewish divide, Carmy observes that liberals hold the biblical text "doubted until independently proven true," while for fellow traditionalists "it is true unless conclusively disproved."

Really? A less-than-6000-year-old-universe has been conclusively disproven, yet most of Rabbi Carmy’s "fellow traditionalists" still posit a less-than-6000-year-old-universe. And, one should ask, what would Rabbi Carmy do if large parts of the Torah were proven false? You know the answer to that question. Rabbi Carmy will continue to believe, will continue to maintain even those parts of the Torah are true, and will continue living his Orthodox life.

In Rabbi Carmy’s mind, the Torah can never be wrong and can never be proven wrong. Therefore all proofs are not conclusive. Follow that reasoning? It should sound very familiar to you, especially if you were ever a Moonie or wore orange robes.

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Filed under History, Modern Orthodoxy, Torah and Science

Rabbi Avi Shafran On Torah & Science

Agudah spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran wrote a book on Judaism, Jewthink: A Guide To Real Judaism for the Thinking Individual, Hermon Press, 1977, which is a collection of apologetics meant to defend Judaism from, among other things, the challenges of rational thought and science. A friend send me this PDF of Rabbi Shafran’s take on the conflicts between Torah, which posits a world less than 6000 years old, and science, which has proved a much older world, billions of years old.

Rabbi Shafran insists the world is less than 6000 years old, claims science, all of it, is poorly intentioned and incapable of ascertaining the truth, and explains the world was created to look old. This is of course the famous Gosse theory, first advanced by a Protestant theologian in the first half of the 19th century. Gosse’s work was adopted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and apparently Shafran picked it up from him. Neither the Rebbe or Shafran bothered to attribute the theory to Gosse.

Here is an excerpt from Rabbi Shafran’s book:

Download avi_shafran_torah_science.pdf

For a Jewish view (not derived from Christian fundamentalist apologetics) on the age of the universe, read this.

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Filed under Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Torah and Science

Rabbi Avi Shafran On Torah & Science

Agudah spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran wrote a book on Judaism, Jewthink: A Guide To Real Judaism for the Thinking Individual, Hermon Press, 1977, which is a collection of apologetics meant to defend Judaism from, among other things, the challenges of rational thought and science. A friend send me this PDF of Rabbi Shafran’s take on the conflicts between Torah, which posits a world less than 6000 years old, and science, which has proved a much older world, billions of years old.

Rabbi Shafran insists the world is less than 6000 years old, claims science, all of it, is poorly intentioned and incapable of ascertaining the truth, and explains the world was created to look old. This is of course the famous Gosse theory, first advanced by a Protestant theologian in the first half of the 19th century. Gosse’s work was adopted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and apparently Shafran picked it up from him. Neither the Rebbe or Shafran bothered to attribute the theory to Gosse.

Here is an excerpt from Rabbi Shafran’s book:

Download avi_shafran_torah_science.pdf

For a Jewish view (not derived from Christian fundamentalist apologetics) on the age of the universe, read this.

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Filed under Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Torah and Science

Why Orthodox Judaism Fails

Rabbi Without A Cause, the RCA-affiliated rabbi so loved by Rabbi Gil Student (and so ridiculed by many of Gil’s readers and by me) has this to say about the behavior of the ‘gedolim’ in the Rabbi Slifkin Ban:

[L]abelling books kefirah and someone a kofer is well-within halachah, as is refusing to meet,if the claims are well-grounded. Read the position of Rabbi Akiva in Perek Chelek.

In other words, a shomer Shabbat Jew with recognized smicha wrote a series of books that quoted Rishonim and later authorities. Gedolim labeled those positions heresy, and Rabbi Slifkin a heretic. They refused to meet with him or his representatives. And, when pushed by others to explain themselves, they were left with saying that what was permissible for Maimonides or Nachmanides or Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch to believe is not permissible for us.

These rabbinic fools tried to destroy Rabbi Slifkin. They did so with no due process granted to the man they condemned. And who defends their misbehavior? An RCA rabbi.

This is Orthodox Judaism. People, run away from it as fast as you can.

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Filed under Bans, Haredim, Thuggery and Dirty Tricks, Torah and Science

Paul Shaviv On Rabbi Slifkin, The Age of the Universe, Chabad and Haredim

Paul Shaviv writes:

Whether we read the tangled tales of our “founding family,” or the mystical account of the origins of morality in the Garden of Eden, Genesis has always been the most engaging and the most challenging of the Five Books of Moses. But no part of it has exercised more attention than the account of Creation described in its opening 34 verses.

Way back, I was comfortable in understanding Genesis – Bereshit – as a majestic, spiritual account of Creation, containing in its short texts infinite spiritual truths. It was not a literal account. In the mid-1960s I first encountered Lubavitch-Chabad Chassidim who argued that the world was exactly five-thousand-and-some years old, and that God created fossils. But no one I knew – including several Orthodox rabbis – took them seriously. It was an exotic sideshow to the Chabad “gig,” which we all loved, in its uncomplicated, pre-Messianic incarnation.

A little later on, I encountered the “Orthodox Jewish scientists,” who sought to demonstrate by elaborate interpretations that the text of the Bible did not contradict any scientific theory. It was noticeable that as the scientific theories changed, so did the explanations. While, again, the arguments were sometimes fascinating, I could never understand why they were necessary. But every year, I loved those few weeks in the fall when the New Year began with the reading of the powerful account of the beginnings of the world as we know it. I could listen to Bereshit being read from the Torah without being troubled.

I am still not troubled, but others are troubling me. For in today’s Orthodox community, there are strong and insistent voices saying that you have to believe the world is 5767 years old or you are a heretic, with all the exclusions that are implied. Whether you are meticulous in observing the commandments or not is no longer a sufficient yardstick.…

The Challenge of Creation is important for two reasons.

The first is that it powerfully and rationally argues that to be Orthodox need not – indeed, must not – mean abandoning reason, nor need it mean rejecting science. That is – as indicated – a courageous statement in an Orthodox world that has been hurtling in the opposite direction for the last 30 years or so.

Rabbi Slifkin’s courage brought a firestorm down on his head. But his book is a powerful injection of calm common sense into an increasingly eccentric community. The small group of Orthodox who yearn to hear voices in Orthodoxy to whom we can relate – we feel like one of Rabbi Slifkin’s ecologically endangered species – owe Rabbi Slifkin a huge thank you.

The second, less immediately apparent reason, is that it is a practical complement to recent, and important, books by Menachem Kellner and Marc Shapiro, demonstrating that the parameters of Jewish definition have always been fixed by tests of practice, not tests of belief. Being Jewish was always about what you did, not what you thought. That idea sharply distinguished Judaism from most branches of Christianity, whose test of faith was belief, and it can only be conjectured whether those who want to reverse those parameters actually understand what damage they are doing. (Given the equally strong movement against the study of Jewish history in the same circles, it is entirely possible that they don’t.)

…This civilized, respectful, erudite, well-argued, beautifully structured book is a revelation in a controversy that has been marked by crude and adversarial public mud-slinging. His opponents could learn major lessons from him in derech eretz, let alone in Torah.

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Filed under Bans, Books, Chabad Theology, Haredim, Modern Orthodoxy, Torah and Science

BARUCH DYAN HAEMET: Rabbi Aryeh Carmel, ztz”l

Rabbi Aryeh Carmel, an exponent of rational Orthodox Judaism and a pioneer in Torah-science discussion, passed away yesterday. Rabbi Carmel was a strong backer of Rabbi Natan Slifkin and a pioneer of outreach to non-Orthodox Jews.

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Filed under Torah and Science

Dennis Prager’s Rabbi Slifkin Interview On Web

You can listen to Dennis Prager’s recent interview with Rabbi Natan Slifkin here.

[Hat tip: LA Yid.]

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Filed under Bans, Haredim, Modern Orthodoxy, Torah and Science