Two New Slifkin Supporters

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Long-time followers of this blog remember the height of the Slifkin Torah-Science Affair, in which I strongly supported the standard views R. Natan Slifkin adopted in accepting evolution, an ancient universe and the fallibility of the Sages’ science (see these posts, among many: link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4). In two recent books, prominent rabbis adopt the views for which R. Slifkin was castigated.

R. Jonathan Sacks, arguably the greatest living Jewish theologian, recently published The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search for Meaning, which I hope to discuss at length soon. Chapter 11 of this book is titled “Darwin” and in it R. Sacks accepts evolution of all life, including humans, and the mechanism “survival of the fittest.” In an appendix, R. Sacks defends his position by quoting many of the rishonim and acharonim we discussed in this context.

Interestingly, R. Sacks thanks in his Acknowledgments two dayanim from the London Beth Din “who read the manuscript and made many important suggestions.” Presumably R. Sacks took this initiative to avoid a disagreement similar to what he experienced with The Dignity of Difference (see this post and the links at its end: link). However, I think we can only safely deduce that the London Beth Din feels this book does not rise to the level of deserving condemnation. Anything more is speculation.

R. Yaakov Ariel is the rabbi of Ramat Gan and a leading Religious-Zionist authority. In his recent book, Halakhah Be-Yameinu: Morashtah, Limudah, Hora’asah Ve-Yisumah, his twelfth chapter addresses legal rulings based on mistaken science. Quoting from the Rambam, R. Avraham Ben Ha-Rambam and others we cited here, R. Ariel fully accepts that the Sages of the Talmud utilized the science of their times, which was sometimes incorrect. His interest lies in whether to change such a halakhah, which he is hesitant to do for various reasons he explains.

Years after R. Slifkin was condemned, prominent rabbis continue to publicly adopt his positions, justifying both his and my stand against the unfair and counterproductive ban.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. Al pi ruach hakodesh, or at least through analyzing his tone, the banners knew that Slifkin would become a post-Chareidi Orthoprax academic doctoral student. So the positions have nothing to do with it.

  2. milhouse trabajo

    I’m halfway through R Sacks great book (a little long-winded, but a must read for a serious modern orthodox jew), and its hilarious how he notes offhandedly (almost as universally accepted Jewish belief) much of the same stuff that R Slifkin said in his books, such as the age of the earth, creation and the interpreatation of certain talmudic science stories (i didn’t get to chapter 11 yet).

    I assume the reason no one attacks/Bans R Sacks like they did Slifkin is b/c he doesn’t appear as easy prey to make a model of like the young zoorabbi Slifkin was, plus i assume charedim are afraid of losing large monetary support they currently get from those in the diaspora who consider R Sacks their leader/Rabbi.

  3. Anonymous: assuming you’re not tongue-in-cheek, self-fulfilling prophecy?

  4. Without belittling the anguish of RNS and his supporters, wasn’t this an issue in the Charedi velt rathen than in MO? I rather think CR Sacks is following in the footsteps of the MO mesorah on this issue, rather than following RNS.

  5. milhouse: I also loved the book. RJS is a major English figure who operates and publishes outside of the Chareidi world. To me, that’s the reason the many Charedi-incompatible positions/approaches he espouses do not attract the same attention as RNS publishing under a Feldheim imprint and ostensibly (pre-ban) marketing to the “strictly” Orthodox sector specifically.

  6. Anonymous: If the ban was just on R. Slifkin, few would have objected. It was on the views.

  7. Lawrence Kaplan

    Ah Gil, don’t you know that it was the TONE of RNS’ works that was so offensive!

  8. I am kind of confused by this post. Did any MO rabbis or religious zionist rabbis ban Slifkin? IIRC the bans came from the Yeshiva world, led by R Shapiro, R Meiselman etc. Why is it a surprise that Slifkins eminently commonsensical paraphrases of Rishonim are held to be ok by MO and RZ rabbis? Do you not know the difference between MO/RZ and Haredim? Are you acting naive make some kind of strange point?

  9. “Presumably R. Sacks took this initiative to avoid a disagreement similar to what he experienced with The Dignity of Difference (see this post: link)” –> Can you please correct this link?

  10. I wonder sometimes if the effort was to define the terms of the debate – if I can force you to spend your time and energy defending something that is patently within the scope of traditional Jewish thought, we never get to discussing things that might actually be real distinctions?

  11. Chakira – I think in the case of R. Sacks, the point is non-trivial. R. Sacks was the subject of epic controversy, banning, etc. when The Dignity of Difference came out. If he isn’t banned this time around, or if at the very least his book isn’t, well then that’s Gil’s point.

  12. I realize that prominet religious figures have defended or adopted RNS’s view. What pains me however is that the world of the RW as represented by the Agudah Moetzes and others (like R’ Matisyahu Salomon) have absolultey rejected these views as Apikursus!

    I cannot therefore see these views being sustained as accpetable into the future. The RW is too large, and growing to fast to ignore.

    I don’t see anyone in that camp re-thinking R’ Elyashiv’s “Psak” on this issue. Even R’ Aharon Feldman a one time RNS supporter stays adamantly opposed to those views and considers them Apikursus as well. He was very clear about that and why he changed his mind (basicly becuase R’ Elyashiv said so).

    So I’m not sure these 2 great non Charedi rabbinic figures helps solves the problem.

    The result is an increasingly greater divide between the right and the center… a divide defined by whether one group thinks that the other accpets Apkirusus into their worldview.

    And for me, that is EXTREMELY upsetting!

  13. Harry – One has to remember that the ‘right’ consists of human beings who, by nature, are no more or less rational than anyone else. So yes, there are cultural factors which currently inhibit many of them from coming to the obvious conclusion that, inasmuch as there is not a single example of Talmudic science that demonstrates scientific knowledge beyond its time and there are countless example to the contrary (which just so happen to fit perfectly with the regnant theories of their time, and in some cases are direct quotations from contemporaneous texts –
    ), Chazal had no extra-natural sources for their factual statements. However, there is no reason to believe that the individuals that make up the ‘right’ will always accept this to be the case, and extrapolating that denial of the obvious will remain a constant going forward is fraught with risks.

  14. Oh please! “Slifkin Supporters”? Now he owns ideas that were already popularized in Challenge back when RNS was 3? As RIH writes, these rabbis are simply giving mainstream thought in their communities. You give RNS way too much credit.

    I also agree with RLK… It’s not that RNS challenged Chazal’s knowledge of science, it’s that his books dripped with youth’s assuredness. The problem wasn’t so much that he said that Chazal were speaking in the idiom of the Natural Philosophy of their day, and so carrying on their tradition would be to explain the Torah in the light of the science of ours. But that he chips away at the ground on which we should rely on our Sages without defining the limits of authority. There is no attempt to find the unchallenged kernel of truth under that idiom and pour it into new bottles.

    Of course the daas Torah crowd is outraged at the idea that the common individual can find problems in the words of the rabbis. That’s a dangerous idea for their community, and the ban was (in retrospect) inevitable.

    But any O Jew should be uncomfortable with the idea of second-guessing Chazal WRT aggadic statements that have theological implication. Even when necessary, one would think the topic is approached with an eye to preserving as much of their statement as still conforms to our understanding of the empirical world. That humility is lacking from his work. Which is understandable in books published when the author was in his mid-20s. And understandable after they martyred him for the first round of books. But it still is a major flaw in his writing.

  15. Harry and IH: The RW, MO and anything in between can easily get along if they ignore differences like this. They way forward, if we want one, is to set aside differences. My point in a post like this is 1) to justify my past actions and 2) not let the revisionists get away with claiming that “all rabbis” hold these views are unacceptable. Let them at least say “all rabbis in our camp” oppose these views.

    Micha: Your comment is only on the title, not about the post at all! I expect reasonable readers to look beyond a catchy headline and focus on the content. If you want me to quote you chapter and verse about how the bans and statements by “Gedolim” oppose BELIEFS I can. And I’m sure you can also. I don’t know why you focus on the tone. At most, that is what provoked the harsh response. But it doesn’t change the main issue, which was about ideas.

  16. My comment is about the framing of the issue in the first and last paragraphs as well. They are simply discussing beliefs their communities consider normative. You had no real reason to bring L’Affaire Slifkin into the conversation at all. You handed RNS ownership of the entire issue, when in reality the issue both predates him and isn’t really the bottom line about what got him banned. It wasn’t the topic of the books but the tenor in which he treated those topics.

    As for opposing beliefs… The same gedolim by-and-large oppose the entire notion of a “Torah-and” lifestyle. Why should I be surprised when rabbanim who do not share my beliefs say they are wrong?

  17. As Harry’s cri de couer illustrates, this is primarily an issue for the RWMO who want to have their feet in both camps simultaneously.

  18. “the idea of second-guessing Chazal WRT aggadic statements that have theological implication”

    That’s not an implication, that *is* theological. This is *all* “theological.” And so what? What’s wrong with theology? The place where it should concern is *halakhically* (unless you’re confusing the two terms), and R’ Slifkin actually is clear about the limits there. (As R’ Ariel seems to be.)

    In my humble opinion, this is all simply not a big deal because both R’ Sacks and R’ Ariel are way, way off the Charedi radar. R’ Slifkin- so much younger and, I’m sure he’d admit, less knowledgeable and authoritative than them, ironically enough *was* on their radar, or at least on the radar of some troublemakers.

    IH: As readers of Harry’s blog will know, he’s on his semi-annual trip to family in Ramat Beit Shemesh. I’m afraid that colors his view of the future of Orthodoxy for the whole year. He could walk a few hundred meters in Beit Shemesh proper- not to mention to Jerusalem, the Merkaz, or the settlements, and of course to much of the United States- for a real eye-opener.

    Gil: It’s all nice to talk about “setting aside differences.” The fact is, though, that charedi-ism, by nature, is *defined* by those “differences.” It’s kind of hard to set that aside.

  19. RIH: I would think that a self-definition of RWMO rather than LWY (Left Wign Yeshivish) means they chose sides. Even if their day-to-day lives are the same whether RWMO or LWY.

  20. Nachum — I have made similar points, but (I think) a little more diplomatically, on Harry’s blog.

    R’ Micha — Sorry if I wan’t clear, I did not mean all RWMO as such, rather the subset who actively try to keep their feet in both camps.

  21. R’ Nachum, I actually meant theological. Whether or not Chazal knew astronomy any better than their contemporaries has only theological implications; it’s not about G-d Himself. Maybe you are confusing theology in particular and philosophy in general?

    Given what AishDas stands for, I’m not likely to say “halakhah” as a stand-in for kol haTorah kulah, And had I meant halachic implications, I would have used a stronger word than “uncomfortable” to describe how an O Jew ought to feel when second-guessing Chazal, Something that describes how someone feels when being forced to cross a minefield…

  22. Differences in language aside… I disagree with R’ Nachum’s implication that one can trivially change hashkafah to fit scientific data. There is a mesorah of hashkafah, and insights of those who were “kemal’akhim” need to be taken more seriously than those of “kivnei mitusa”. This doesn’t rule out the possibility that they erred on hashkafic issues, but should make us wary of assuming we’re doing a better job than they did. As I wrote more briefly earlier, it requires decanting the religious thought from the Natural Philosophical “jug” into which it was poured, and preserve as much as does not require that framework, ie anything that isn’t “jug”, as possible.

    Things we do not find in RNS’s writing. For that matter, at the time of the ban, there was nothing in his writing distinguishing questions that impact halakhah from those he consideres open for our own reassessment.

  23. I find it unbelievable that two dayanim of the LBD under Dayan Eherentreu who considered himself a disciple of R Elyashiv and used him continuously for all difficult shaalos should now agree with R Slifkin. Since they are not named (significant in itself) one cannot ask them.
    Rabbi Sacks does not claim to be a talmid chochom and has had very limited Jewish learning, and his views cannot be considered ‘Jewish’ by any means or in any form.
    R Slifkin on the other hand has studied under Dessler talmidim. Dessler although very orthodox and mashgiach in ponovezh was not considered to have ‘mainstream’ views, and therefore no wonder his talmidim who all still support R Slifkin but afraid to say so have gone further and further from the mainstream view.

  24. Gil, I never said we can’t get along. In fact I have been saying exactly the opposite in sociological terms for quite some time now.
    I call them the New Centrists – using the word Centrist in a social rather than ideological sense. New Centrists consist of moderate Charedim and RWMOs. That community already exists and is growing.

    That said, the ideological divide is still there, big time, as was illustrated a few years ago when a group of RW rabbinic leaders addressed a Modern Orthodox Shul in Teaneck. If you recall, R’ Aharon Shechter angrily denounced RNS on that occasion.

    The question remains as to whether this ideological component will destroy this “New Centrism” or not. Will they insist on putting us “outside the Machaneh” if we insist on believing and promoting these beliefs? I think that depends on how they treat these views on Torah and Science in the future. I elaborated a bit on this today on my blog.

  25. See Rabbi J.D. Bliech’s exchange with slifkin in Tradition.

  26. Meir – Wrong on all counts. Firstly the LBD is not under Dayan Ehrentreu – he retired several years ago as you can see here:
    Secondly, Dayan Ehrentreu himself has R. Slifkin’s works displayed prominently on his bookshelf (, so whether or not he consulted Rav Elyashiv on ‘difficult shaalos’, he seems to have adopted a somewhat broader position ‘hashkafically’. I’m not even sure there’s much point in responding to the rest of your strange rant beyond noting that it is a mistake to impose American or Israeli categories on the English rabbinate.

  27. Micha: I brought RNS into this because he was the spark that led to this controversy which was about much more than his books.

    I’m not sure how you define “community” or “normative” but there are plenty of leaders in the MO community who do not believe in evolution (but don’t consider it heresy). The rabbis I quote here are espousing the views, not just tolerating them.

    IH: As Harry’s cri de couer illustrates, this is primarily an issue for the RWMO who want to have their feet in both camps simultaneously

    Maybe not your concern but it is for many readers of this blog.

    Micha: I would think that a self-definition of RWMO rather than LWY (Left Wign Yeshivish) means they chose sides

    I disagree. I think that is more a function of personal background.

    Nachum: It’s all nice to talk about “setting aside differences.” The fact is, though, that charedi-ism, by nature, is *defined* by those “differences.” It’s kind of hard to set that aside

    I think YOU might be colored by the situation in Israel. In the US, there are more shades of Charedim.

    Meir: Since they are not named

    They are. I just chose not to because I do not recognize the names.

    Rabbi Sacks does not claim to be a talmid chochom and has had very limited Jewish learning, and his views cannot be considered ‘Jewish’ by any means or in any form

    Nonsense. Anyone familiar with machshavah can tell that R. Sacks is a master of the field.

  28. jo: See Rabbi J.D. Bliech’s exchange with slifkin in Tradition

    You mean the one discussed here: link

  29. Shades of Gray

    “Quoting from the Rambam, R. Avraham Ben Ha-Rambam and others we cited here, R. Ariel fully accepts that the Sages of the Talmud utilized the science of their times, which was sometimes incorrect”

    Regarding the debate about the authenticity of R. Avroham b. Harambam, R. J.D. Bleich makes reference to the issue in Note 10 of his Tradition response(“Spontaneous Generation and Halakhic Inerrancy”) to R. Slifkin’s letter(“For a discussion of the provenance and authenticity of that statement see R. Moshe Meiselman’s forthcoming work, The Torah of Science, chapter 3.”).

    This was also discussed here:

  30. I don’t take that debate seriously and was surprised that R. Bleich even mentioned it.

  31. I can’t say I was. Despite his undoubted brilliance as a scholar, R. Bleich has some very dogmatic tendencies.

  32. Just because you dont recognise the names is no reason not to ‘name’them. I am sure many people like me who dont have the book would recognise them.
    As the letters to R Slifkin show, it does not mean in anyway that he agrees with every book on his bookshelf. As the main dayan in LBD he has to be able to answer people about everything.
    How you consider a person to have ‘Jewish’ machshava without proper Jewish education in gemoro and poskim is beyond me.
    One really has to understand the ‘Dessler syndrome’ to be able to understand what this is all about. He created new ‘machshava’. He was a ‘boki’ in kabala and wrote on the Luria eits chaim a really heavyweight sefer but still was not accepted.

  33. From that site.
    In 1984, Dayan Chanoch HaCohen Ehrentreu was appointed the Rosh Beth Din, he was formerly Rosh Beth Din of Manchester, and previously Rosh Kollel Sunderland. Dayan Ehrentreu retired from the Beth Din in January 2007. Dayan Menachem Gelley (son of R. Zacharia Gelley of Washington Heights) became the Senior Dayan in January 2007. The other Dayanim are; Dayan Yonason Abraham, Dayan Ivan Binstock and Dayan Shmuel Simons.
    These were all dayanim at one time under Dayan Ehrentreu and some are also (or their parent) ex-Gateshead talmidim like him. Dayan Simons has also written seforim on vestos.
    If R Slifkin would have gone to a decent yeshivo like Gateshead instead of Manchester, I am sure his views would be very different.
    Although they are all considered talmidai chachomim none are known to be expert in ‘machshava’ or have written books about it. So they’re ‘haskomo’ cannot carry much weight.

  34. You can see the names on Amazon’s “Look Inside” (p. x):

    “My thanks to… Dayan Ivan Binstock and David Frei of the London Beth Din who read the manuscript and made many important suggestions.”

  35. Just a note: David Frei is not a dayan on the Beis Din (although granted the wording is confusing). He’s a lawyer for the Beis Din.

    Dayan Binstock is, however, one of the dayanim, and a big talmid chochom from what I understand. At any rate I don’t think the fact that it’s one dayan rather than two detracts from Gil’s point.

    Some of the dayanim certainly do not accept evolution (Dayan Yonason Abraham certainly does not), but I have to assume from this that they at least tolerate those who do, which seems to support Gil’s point as well.

  36. Dayan Binstock was educated at Hackney Downs School and University College London, where he obtained a degree in chemistry. He remained at the college to do postgraduate research. He studied at the Etz Chaim Yeshiva, London, Jews College and the Mir Yeshiva, Jerusalem.

    Since he seems to be the only one not to have studied in Gateshead (under the mashgiach R Salomon now of Lakewood) that seems to explain it.
    Ets chaim yeshiva and Jews college are (or were) not yeshivos in the normal sense and their semichos unlike Gateshead not acceptable. They were to train United Synagogue pulpit rabbis not dayanim. R Louis Jacobs was a lecturer there who openly wrote books recognised by the then Chief Rabbi Brodie to be kefira.

  37. Meir you obviously don’t really know anything about British Jewry (you seem to have gleaned just enough from Google to at least sound plausible). I’d suggest you quit while you’re ahead (or at least not too far back) since you clearly have no clue what goes on in the UK.

    Let me educate you a bit: no one ‘sneaks on’ to the London Beis Din without the proper credentials. Have you ever met Dayan Binstock? Have you ever seen him with the other dayanim? Obviously not, given your comments. Also, you obviously know nothing about Jews College – after all, if anywhere that Louis Jacobs went is automatically pasul, then Gateshead is out as well! Yeshivas Chaim Berlin would be out because of David Weiss Halivni. Slobodka would be out because of Saul Lieberman. And so on.

    Also, it’s a little strange (clearly your Google search didn’t cover this) to quote Rabbi Brodie as a critic of Jews College…since he was the President of Jews College (and, I think, acting Principal after Epstein stepped down). And he held this position during the Jacobs Affair. Oh well…

  38. Since you are friendly w R Meir Yaakov Soloveichik who is both a candidate for the position of Chief Rabbi and a prominent link in the chain of American Soloveichik family, Im curious can you persuade him to weigh in on the “science of the times” issue. Where does he fall and how does it fit in with his mesorah from his grandfather and great-uncle?

  39. I have never spoken with him about this but I am fairly confident that 1) he will not step into a religious controversy like this without significant reason and 2) he (and probably his grandfather) is accepting of evolution, an ancient universe and the fallibility of Talmudic science.

  40. Ye’yasher kochakha to our Rosh Yeshiva R. Student (and respondents).

    Interestingly, R. Shabtai Rappaport testifies on the HODS website that R. Moshe Feinstein zatza”l consulted with (yibadel le-chaim) R. Moshe David Tendler shlit”a regarding all scientific questions that arose. And so when R. Feinstein writes in Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De’ah 3:73 (penultimate paragraph) that scientific textbooks containing denial of Creation should be eschewed, R. Feintein was presumably aware of the state of scientific thought on this matter, though the best approach to verifying this presumption of mine would be to interview R. Tendler, shlit”a. [Perhaps one may speculate that R. Feinstein – in reaching a conservative decision – was taking his cue from Shu”t Chatam Sofer, Yoreh De’ah 356, who writes that Adam ha-Rishon saw that he was miraculously created without parents.]

    On a related theme, I was fascinated to discover this Chol ha-Mo’ed that physicists are investigating the possibility that earth’s magnetic field – which shields the planet from radiation – will turn upside down within the next few centuries/millenia, just as it reportedly was 800,000 years ago.
    Now I can better appreciate the sentence we will say on Hoshana Rabba, which reads “Hoshana – Toleh Eretz Al Blimah – Hoshana”.

  41. Also, regarding the British scene in particular, R. Ya’akov Yisrael Kanievsky has a responsum (Kar’yena de-Iggreta 1:115) addressed to a Manchester school about using scientific textbooks.

  42. If we are discussing the British scene then presumably the views of former Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz and former Chief Rabbi (of Ireland) Yitzchak Herzog should also be mentioned.

  43. Thank you and well said. Touché.

  44. R Ahron Soloveichik favored the Tiferes Yisroel’s approach. There is a 3 part lecture on Torah U mada that he gave and is available on YU Torah

  45. Yes, that’s right. Thank you for reminding me. R. Ahron Soloveichik did not reject evolution because it conflicts with the Creation story but because it considers humans just another animal.

  46. Lawrence Kaplan

    Rabbi Spira: No doubt the presumably Harerdi school in Manchester that asked the Steipler for a pesak is bound by it. Otherwise, to my knowledge, he was not the mara de-atra of England.

    Also, I think you misunderstood R Rappaport’s point. Rav Moshe consulted RMT on matters of practical halakhah that required scentific background knowledge. I doubt he consulted him as to whether evolution is “Kosher.” Your presumption, then, is very dubious.

  47. My knowledge is from the Jewish chronicle not from google and most likely equals if not surpasses yours.
    Louis Jacobs was a talmid of Manchester and Gateshead not a lecturer there, there is a difference.
    CR Brodie was not a critic of Jews College but of R Jacobs.
    He single handedly with great m’siras nefesh saved the UK Jewry by involving the orthodox Sir I Wolfson whose family built Gateshead Yeshivo.
    He was also a very good friend of Gateshead.
    Jews college has rarely managed to muster over a minyan full time students whereas Gateshead has always hundreds.

  48. Not that it proves anything, but what would you posit the correlation coefficient is between the science and medicine of Chazal and that of their secular colleagues?

  49. Lawrence Kaplan

    Micha: I was being sarcasic. The claim that the bans were a reaction to RNS’s “offensive tone” was damage control and demonstrably false in light of the bans themselves.

    Meir. By your criterion, the Kuzari, being written by a person who was not a “baki in Shas and poskim” and was not, to cite the Rabad, one of “anshei ha-Talmud” is not a work of serious mahshavah. What of Bahya, Abarbanel, R. Yehudah Moscato, etc? Your criterion is absurd. Furthemore your attempts to discredit Dayyan Binstock, to marginalize Rav Dessler, and to finally claim that CR Sacks has had only “very limited Jewish learning” are not just nonsense, as Gil pointed out, but deeply offensive and insulting.

  50. Meir,

    You backtracked on all the points that supported you (predictable). Everything else you pointed out is irrelevant. Game over.

  51. I thank Rebbi u-Mori R. Kaplan for his insightful response. That said, I think we can agree that Chatam Sofer, R. Moshe Feinstein and R. Ya’akov Yisrael Kanievski prohibited belief in evolution.

    However, it is also the case that R. Aharon Soloveitchik permitted belief in evolution [citing Tiferet Yisrael regarding dinosaur fossils], and I am grateful to R’ Shmuel for pointing this out. R. Soloveitchik specifically states that Yeshiva University *should* teach evolution. R. Soloveitchik’s lecture (divided in two parts) is available at:

    A number of caveats may be noted:

    1) R. Soloveitchik calls evolution a “repugnant hashkafah” (though not heresy), saying that it is “a pshetel” (i.e. a forced explanation) to reconcile “Chaviv Adam she-Nivra be-Tzelem” with evolution.
    2) R. Soloveitchik, referring to Dr. Joseph Herz, says he “was not a great lamdan” (though not a heretic, either)
    3) R. Soloveitchik specifically defends the science of Chazal on all matters of Halakhah, including the science of spontaneous generation. Regarding matters of aggadah, R. Soloveitchik says he does not want to address the question in this lecture. [Thus, it sounds as though R. Soloveitchik is an ally of R. Bleich (regarding Chazal’s science), and an ally of R. Slifkin (regarding evolution).]

  52. Micha: I see where you’re going, but I still think there’s a “permissible” distinction.

    Gil: “I think YOU might be colored by the situation in Israel. In the US, there are more shades of Charedim”

    True dat. But:

    1. Most Orthodox Jews, modern and ultra, are in Israel.

    2. Mishegas has a troubling way of crossing the ocean. Wasn’t this whole thing begun by some North American kanoim who went running to R’ Elyashiv?

    3. I imagine you speak mostly with American yeshivish types who may think evolution is a little krum but don’t see what the big deal is and rather like R’ Slifkin’s books. How many Chasidim do you speak with? I imagine you’ll find a much different attitude there. What about the leadership? I don’t recall one charedi leader- including Litvish- who stood by R’ Slifkin in any way.

  53. “Gil: “I think YOU might be colored by the situation in Israel. In the US, there are more shades of Charedim”

    True dat. But:”

    Is it really? Every Charedi I meet, fails to stand up to the stereotype, regardless of which chasidic group or town or yeshiva they come from.

    People confuse the spokespersons for the people themselves I think.

  54. I cant speak for kuzari, although I am almost sure he is brought down regarding halachos like the date line.
    Why should CR Sacks views on machshava be of interest, just because he happens to be Jewish and a grandchild of famous rabbonim.
    What criteria would you choose that makes it Jewish ‘machshava’ if not mine which you consider absurd.
    The truth is not non-sense however unpalatable and offensive and insulting it may be.
    The CC says one is allowed to tell the truth in such circumstances.
    Rav Dessler is not mainstream, like R Elyahsiv, and it his talmidim who still promote R Slifkin.
    CR Sacks has most likely studied more non Jewish books than Jewish ones about machshava, and therefore cannot be held to have Jewish views.

  55. Why should CR Sacks views on machshava be of interest, just because he happens to be Jewish and a grandchild of famous rabbonim

    If you were starting from scratch, perhaps that might be your attitude. If you’ve spent years studying hashkafah and find his views a brilliant and creative approach based on the sources, then his yichus or lomdus doesn’t matter.

  56. “Rav Dessler is not mainstream, like R Elyahsiv,”

    R. Elyashiv is mainstream and Slifkin is m’chutz lemachaneh? LOL. One person is following virtually all the Rishonim and the other is following a view that began with the Acharonim. Guess which is which?


  57. Lawrence Kaplan

    Meir: Indeed, Halevi does discuss the date line. The Baal ha-Maor quotes him and the Rabad criticizes the Baal Ha-Maor for relying on someone who is not me-anshei ha-Talmud in a halakhic context. This did not prevent the Rabad from greatly valuing the Kuzari and making use of it as a source of theological discussion.

    Your comment about R. Sacks’ views on mahshvah to anyone who has read his books is so far off and insulting that it is difficult to reply to it. His works are very rich and display a great knowledge of Jewish thought, even if he is not a lamdan and a has not written a sefer on vestaos. Your notion that soneone must be a leading halakhist in order to be a baal mahshavah has no precedent in Judism and excludes a whole slew of great figures.

    I do not know what you mean by your saying that Rav Dessler was mainstream. If being the Mashgiach in Gateshead and Ponivezh and having one’s works already considered a Haredi classic and widely studied in all circles is not mainstream, then what is. So he was not a great halakhist and posek like Rav Elyashiv? You are begging the question with a vengeance.


    I happen to have known the woman concerned when she was a girl very well. She studied in a BJ school and was head girl there, and afterwards in Gateshead seminary which is based on teaching ‘Dessler’ to ‘girls!’.
    Taking his ‘revolutionary’ teachings too far has many outcomes.

  59. To Lawrence.
    If he was good enough for the Baal Hamaor he is certainly good enough for me even if he wasnt for the Raabad.
    I have never read CR Sacks books and cannot therefore cannot claim to give an opinion on them. When you say, display a great knowledge of Jewish thought, how do you know that its Jewish at all.
    Does he quote from the seforim you mentioned. Is he ‘boki’ in them. Having spent most/all of his student years studying non-Jewish ‘machshava’ works they would certainly ‘creep’ in somehow.
    I did not say a leading ‘halachist’ but some knowledge is certainly welcome.
    Your question about Rav Dessler is a very good one. First of all he was a big talmid chochom. He was not mashgiach in Gateshead yeshiva but the head of the kollel. But he was handpicked by the Ponovezh rov to be mashgiach there, and as you say his seforim have gained wide acceptance. So in which way was he not ‘mainstream’.
    For a start it is his British talmidim who still promote R Slifkin. R Salomon who most likely knows all the dessler seforim backwards doesnt, and is most vociferous against him and takes R Elyashiv’s side.
    So how best can one explain this.
    This really needs an understanding of the dessler ‘method’ which he was ‘mechadesh’.
    I will let others perhaps tell us and then give my comments.

  60. Lawrence Kaplan

    Meir: You’e joking, right. A Haredi couple splits up and the wife becomes, lo alenu, modern Orthodox, and it is the result of her taking the teachings of Rav Dessler too far??? Give me a break. By the way, the Gateshead seminary, is it also not mainstream”?

  61. Lawrence Kaplan

    Oh, so you haven’t actually read any of R. Sack’s books. Well, we wouldn’t want any knowledge to get in the way, would we. In light of that, there is no point in continuing the conversation.

  62. Nachum Klafter

    I have spent a lot of time and energy agonizing over this issue for several years now. The Slifkin ban made it impossible for me to take seriously anyone in the “anti-Slifkin” camp. It is just so obvious that the Earth is billions of years old and so obvious that the current diversity of the animal kingdom could not have possibly developed from one pair of animals on Noah’s ark several thousand years ago. An adult mind cannot accept such things as literal, historical reality and to do so requires one to completely turn off his or her critical thinking and common sense. It causes one to relate to G-d and the Torah and the mitzvot like a 4 year old child would. This is, in my opinion, the most important boundaries between reasonable Judaism and insane Judaism: Are we going to serve HaShem as mature adults and make use of all of our mental faculties to study his Creation? Or are we going to engage in implausible metal gymnastics to reconcile objective reality with ancient parables that read like metaphors in the first place. Yes, Ma’aseh Bereishit is an amazing parable for how the human species distinguished himself from the animal world (language, conceptualizing/naming all of creation, the development of sexual shame, the awareness of his death, and the recognition of a Creator). It is open for countless levels of interpretation, but it sounds like a parable and not like a literal account of history.

    Oddly, the Haredi authorities which have banned Slifkin’s book have adopted ancient and Medieval views of the universe – Aristotelian and neo-Platonic. Ironically, the neo-Platonic or theosophic view is completely incompatible with the Aristotelian view. But because both of these antiquated models of the universe are expressed by the Rishonim and Early Achronim, the Haredim believe that both are reality. Further ironic is that the neo-Platonic and Aristotelian views, when expressed by Rishonim and Early Achronim, represent attempts to re-interpret the teachings of Chazal in a manner compatible with contemporary science. In other words, the Haredim who believe in “matter and form” or who believe that segulot and kabbalistic incantations can affect our fate by changing the trajectory of the stars, are reinterpreting Chazal to conform to the the current scientific opinions of the high middle ages and the renaissance periods. This is no more faithful to the beliefs of chazal than evolution, relativity, and quantum physics.

    I had hoped that there would be a schism in the Haredi world over this issue and that half of them would defect to Modern Orthodoxy, but there will not be because there are no Haredi leaders who will dare state openly and clearly that there are many passages in the Talmud which are not from Har Sinai, that there are many elements in the Torah which cannot be understood literally, that the sages (like the rest of the ancient world) had a very limited view of the natural science and medicine, and that contemporary halakhists need to be informed by science and medicine so that contemporary psak halakha can continue to evolve in a manner consistent with contemporary science. One day, historians of Judaism will look back at our generation with great interest. I think that the Haredim will go the way of the Karaites, but the Haredim think that we will go the way of Conservative and Reform. This is a debate that will be settled by history and not by proof-texts. Haredim are completely uninterested in reconciling their views with scientific reality. And we are not going to believe in a young earth or that one can cure hepatitis with pigeons regardless of how often and loudly such things are repeated to us. They believe that the physical world is an illusions and that the ultimate reality which the Torah addresses exists in another metaphysical dimension or “mystical realm” which cannot be seen and which is only defined in the kabbala literature, including kabbalistic interpretations of Chazal. We believe that the Torah is actually concerned with this, early, visible, concrete reality in which we live and interact with one another. What I think we need to do is promote our own poskim, develop our own yeshivot. It will take us one or two generations to produce thousands of our own talmidei chachamim. We have a few gedolim at present, but we need to invest in modern Orthodox talmidei chachamim (and talmidot chachamim). There are a few places where we are already not counted in their minyanim. Whether this is an anomaly or the start of a trend will also be clarified by history, but I think it’s the latter. I think we are on two adjacent continents which are slowly drifting apart. It’s still possible to jump from one to the other, but I think that may no longer be case in another few decades.

  63. Nachum Klafter

    “…I think we can agree that Chatam Sofer, R. Moshe Feinstein and R. Ya’akov Yisrael Kanievski prohibited belief in evolution.”

    There is a tremendous amount of scientific evidence which has been discovered just in the last decade, and which continues to be discovered, that human beings share a common ancestry with chimps, gorillas, and orangutans. This evidence comes from DNA fingerprinting (or transposons), pseudo-genes (sequences of DNA in our genome which are remnants of genes which functioned in our past), endogeneous retroviruses, and homologous chromosomal structure in general. Had Darwin never existed, molecular biologists would have proposed their own theory of common descent and speciation which would be strikngly similar to Darwin’s simply on the basis of the molecular evidence. This evidence did not exist when I was in college as a studnet studying biological sciences in 1987-1991. And was just being discovered while I was a medical student but was not yet published or organized in a coherent fashion for us. The theory of Common Descent for many species, including the human being, has so much evidence for it that denial or prohibition of it is becoming similar to belief in a flat earth, or a geocentric solar system (i.e. the ancient belief that all the planets and the sun revolve around the Earth).

    The Chatam Sofer lived hundreds of years before DNA was discovered. Actually he died 20 years before Darwin published On the Origin of the Species, so I really have no idea what it means to say that he forbade belief in evolution, which did not yet exist as a scientific theory.

    Rabbis Feinstein and Kanievsky lived before the Human Genome Project. Really, to say that they have “prohibited belief in evolution” is similar to listing the great rabbinic authorities who agreed with the Catholic Church and held that Copernicus and Galileo were heretics because of their description and empirical demonstration, respectively, of a heiiocentric solar system (i.e., that the earth revolves around the sun). These rabbis stated that such a view it violated their understanding of some verses in Tanakh and Chazal.

    As science evolves, Rabbinic wisdom adapts to it. This has always been the case. Whether the Earth is 4.5 billion years old is not subject to a vote by the mo’etzet gedolei ha-Torah. It either IS or IS NOT that old. It is a question of metziyut, of scientific fact. Scientific fact it determined by scientific evidence. The question is whether the Haredi rabbinic leadership will adapt to scientific reality, or will remain frozen because the Chatam Sofer allegedly ruled that evolution was forbidden prior it even being proposed as a scientific theory.

  64. R’ Nachum Klafter,
    Thank you for your insightful response. I counter-respond as follows: the age of the universe is not only a question of scientific fact, but a question of historical fact. Chatam Sofer is stating that to deny any historical event in the Torah – including the fact that Adam ha-Rishon materialized as an adult without parents – is heresy. R. Feinstein and R. Kanievski agree with Chatam Sofer. On the other hand, R. Aharon Soloveitchik disagrees with Chatam Sofer (albeit without mentioning the fact that he is at odds with Chatam Sofer). So we are left with a dispute between Gedolim over what constitutes Ikkarei Emunah.

  65. milhoue trabajo


    why are you attacking the background of a man without even reviewing his substantive work/opinions? when you learn gemara, do you automatically skip any opinion of Reish Lakish? in fact, since Akiva didn’t start til he was 40 (r sacks went to a classic yeshiva in his mid 20s i think), i would suggest u don’t follow his opinions either (including those expressed via his talmud, R “Meir”, who was also a talmud of Acher btw).

  66. IMHO (specifically to R’NK) I would imagine that were it not for the fact that science and religion are viewed as warring parties by many in the religious community, this would be a tempest in a teapot. The broader concern is imho once one admits that current science may be more right than that articulated by chazal, the whole basis for belief is lost (I disagree but that’s what I understand the concern that brings out the bazooka to kill the fly)

  67. once … the whole basis for belief is lost

    This refrain is heard to many issues (e.g. Modern Bible scholarship). Why are people so insecure about belief?!

  68. To put it another way — in line, i think, with R’ NK’s nicely stated comments — is that the biggest danger to belief is forcing people to choose between “belief” and the unbelievable.

  69. Machon Shilo and Rabbi David Bar-Hayim also have no problem with many of Rabbio Slifkin’s positions.

  70. ‘I think that the Haredim will go the way of the Karaites, but the Haredim think that we will go the way of Conservative and Reform’
    Is it simchas torah today or purim. Or dont you know the difference.
    The chareidim have been around for thousands of years and your ‘prophesy’ has not yet been fulfilled. The Modern orthodox as their name implies has just surfaced and you expect them to last.

  71. Meir, you seem interested only in spreading lashon hara- rechilut, really- about Jewish leaders (well, one in particular) and completely uninterested in those dull things called “facts,” so I’m not sure it’s worth it to point this out to you, but you really should learn history. Charedism is really no more than two hundred years old, and in our current definition really dates only to the 1970’s or so. Modern Orthodoxy is certainly older than the later date, and is very likely much, much older than the first.

    By the way, before talking smack about Reish Lakish, you should see what the Yerushalmi says about him. Hint: Don’t look for the words “Reish Lakish.”

  72. Meir – What on earth is not traditional about Etz Chaim? All its staff have been Litvish charedim (R. Elya Lopian was mashgiach there), and (having davened mincha there today I feel qualified to comment) – its current inhabitants are, if anything, more charedi than in the past, and equally ‘classic’. In short, all you’ve done throughout this thread is throw sand in people’s eyes.

  73. Do you expect me to know the whole yerushalmi. Why cant you provide chapter and verse. See tosfos BM 84 more about him.
    As I have already written according to the CC this is not loshon hora rechilus etc.
    Him being a ‘Jewish’ leader in no way proves his machshovo is ‘Jewish’. And if you read google as I mentioned, they havent in the past been ‘Jewish’ and he has had to rewrite them.
    Whom do you consider to be the first ‘chareidi’, two hundred years ago. As if those previous to him werent.
    So if youre the ‘original’ ones why call yourself ‘modern’ orthodox. Surely you can find a better term than that.

  74. To J
    I think you know better than that. As a native of GG you will know that Eits Chaim has only moved there recently. Before that it was in the East end. R Elya and Rav Greenshpan have left long ago. R Ordman’s son learned in Gateshead. It is unlikely the CR or Dayan Beenstock studied under them or when it was in GG.

  75. There is a well know saying attributed to R Greenshpan. After the war they took in a lot of Hungarian chasidic boys. As a litvish yeshiva they didnt learn moed mesechtos. The chasidim complained that they wanted to learn shabbos. R greenshpan replied shabbos is nisht kein mesechto. But they said the local mesivta (a chasdish yeshiva) is learning that, he replied the mesivta is also not a yeshiva.
    What is surprising is that R greenshpan wrote his sefer called ‘mleches machsheves’ on shabbos subjects.
    He explains there the maharshos who names different towns in germany, each had there unique way and method of learning a gemoro.

  76. Lawrence Kaplan

    Meir: What a fortunate position you are in! You don’t have to bother yourself with such a trivial matter as actually READING any of R. Sack’s book’s or articles in order to pronounce his thought non-Jewish. Evidently you can make the assertion on a priori grounds. First, he did not study in a traditional Yeshiva–traditional by your definition, of course. Why that is a prerequisite for being baal mahshavah eludes me. The fact that he learned with Rav Nachum Rabinovich, one of the great talmidei hakhamim of our time is irrelevant. No doubt he is not traditional enough for you.

    Second, you claim that R. Sack’s does not even have “some knowledge” of halakhah. That is a lie and a canard and is lashon hara of the purest variety. I remember reading many columns of R. Sacks in Leeylah before he became Chief Rabbi, where he discussed complex halakhic issues, and I was always impressed by his incisive and insightful analyses. You are speaking out of sheer ignorance and do not know what you are talking about.

    Third, you say that R. Sacks has had to revise his books. He has written many many books and revised exactly ONE. He was burned by that experience, and I can assure you he has taken extra care with this book, given the sensitive nature of the issues it deals with– witness his consulting with members of the Beit Din. Your certainty that he will have to revise it is laughable.

  77. Lawrence Kaplan

    R. Spira: Alas, despite your great knowledge, you simply don’t get it. In matters of fundamental hashkafah you do not simply count up “Gedolim.” Already the Rema in commection with secular learning said that this is an old issue. The issue of the relationship between Torah and Science is a similar issue, and we modern Orthodox have our own Gedolim whom we look to and on this issues we simply do not care about what gedolim from the other camp may say. First there are many more Gedolim who say that evolution does not contradict the Torah than Rav A. Soloveitchik. More important Rabbis Kanievky and Elyashiv are great Talmidei Hakhamim and on many many issues their views would carry great weight, but on the issue of Torah and science their views, for modern Orthodox Jews, carry NO WEIGHT ALL. They are completely irrelevant. They are batel ke-afra de-ara. Do I make myself clear? We find your calmly contemplating the possibility that we should have to choose between our faith and our intellect repugnant to our understanding of Judaism.

    Wha mex t.pepphadwe shy day that

  78. ‘There is a tremendous amount of scientific evidence which has been discovered just in the last decade, and which continues to be discovered, that human beings share a common ancestry with chimps, gorillas, and orangutans.’
    It is known that some hold one only says the brocho of m’shane habrios on these animals and elephants since they are not considered original but became from people in the time of dor haflaga.

  79. ‘He was burned by that experience, and I can assure you he has taken extra care with this book, given the sensitive nature of the issues it deals with– witness his consulting with members of the Beit Din. Your certainty that he will have to revise it is laughable.’
    Have you ever heard of a rabbi writing a sefer and not getting a haskomo from all of his own present and previous beis din.
    A haskomo on any sefer never means that one agrees with everything that is written there, just that the person is ‘capable’ of writing one. They can all read English so they dont have that excuse.

  80. Rabbis NEVER get haskomos from their own batei din. They always go outside their own surroundings.

    Plus, this book is explicitly intended for a general audience, with the specific Jewish material put into an appendix. Books published for a general audience and by a secular publisher do not have haskomos.

    For what little it’s worth, I’ve read the book cover to cover and offer my own modest hakamah.

    A haskomo on any sefer never means that one agrees with everything that is written there, just that the person is ‘capable’ of writing one

    This is incorrect. It means whatever the maskim writes, sometimes very little but sometimes a lot. Sometimes they are explicitly not haskamos but just letters of blessing. In R. Enkin’s latest book, he has a haskamah in which R. Ephraim Greenblatt wrote and underlined the word “haskamah”.

  81. Lawrence Kaplan

    Did Rabbi Professor Isidore Epstein, the Principal of Jews College, get a haskamah for his “The Faith of Judaism”?

  82. Why are people even bothering to argue with Meir?

  83. Lawrence Kaplan

    Yissachar: Eyn hakhi nami.

  84. Nachum Klafter

    Shalom Spira:

    Thank you for your response and civil tone.

    With all due respect, I think you are thus far missing my point (though after you understand it you may yet disagree with it).

    There were many great rabbis who ruled that it is a violation of the fundamentals to posit that Copernicus and Galileo were correct in their assertion that the Earth and the other planets in our solar system revolve around the sun. They believe this violated the words of the nevi’im and also that it was makchish magideha (refutation of the Torah She-Be-Al Peh) because of talmudic passages indicating that the Sun revolves around the Earth. There were many great gedolim who took this view. No one takes such a view anymore, because Therefore, that rabbinic opinion is barur ke-shemesh that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

    Belief in the Nevi’im and the Torah She-Be-Al Peh are both, of course, fundamentals of faith. But if one believes that the words of the Navi are true, then he must revise his understanding of the Navi if he thinks the Navi claims that the Sun revolves around the earth. The same is now true of the age of the earth. It is no longer to read the psukim in Bereishit in a literal manner which leads to the conclusion that the Earth is 5773 years old.

    Your distinction between historical fact and scientific fact is unnecessary. I indeed mean “historical fact” when I say scientific fact. If it is a scientific fact that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old then it is also an historical fact.

    To say that the Chatam Sofer ruled that one may not believe in Evolution is totally false. There was no such thing as evolution. He believed in a literal understanding of ma’aseh Bereishit when there was no reason to read it otherwise. Now that it is clear that the Earth is billions of years old, there are good reasons to read it otherwise.

    In other words, how the Chatam Sofer understood ma’aseh bereishit is irrelevant to the question of what Jews now believe about the origins of the human species. He had no indication that a literal reading of Bereishit was incompatible with historical/scientific/objective reality.

    Meir-your comments are as ignorant as they are offensive and I will not bother to respond any further.

  85. I basically agree with R.D. Nachum Klafter but would not have expressed myself that strongly. I consider that the Hareidi world will be much different in a generation than it is today – just as today’s Hareidi world is much different than the pre-war frum world. The ‘torah only’ approach is not generally psychologically sound, just (think of the burden on the wives), or economically sustainable, and has caused much damage to families. I also much prefer to find ways of making the torah’s narratives – including the creation ‘days’ consistent with our knowledge of the world, rather than treating some narrated events as ‘parables’. There are ways of understanding the events narrated in Gen. 1-11 in a way consistent with scientific facts, and I have elsewhere posted on such an understanding.

  86. Nachum Klafter

    Here are my opinions about why it is misguided to engage in “making the Torah’s narrative – including ‘days’ consistent with our knowledge of the world.”
    1. It is dishonest in the sense that such meanings never emerge from the biblical text or the midrash, but are imposed superficially after we already have knowledge of science.
    2. Even antiquated/incorrect science has been be “made consistent” with Torah further demonstrating the fallacy of this approach.
    3. Ma’aseh Bereishit does not read like an historical narrative. It reads like a metaphoric parable. Let’s just acknowledge that.
    4. It doesn’t work. The attempts to square it with science are neither compelling nor persuasive. They are unnecessarily apologetic. In fact, reading as a parable yields superior parshanut.

  87. “There are ways of understanding the events narrated in Gen. 1-11 in a way consistent with scientific fact.

    No there isn’t. As Nachum Klafter says above, at best they are apologetics, and are risable.
    The creation and other pre-Abrahamic stories are just that.Stories. Myths. Other older cultures have similar stories and timelines. We borrowed them, adapted them, and as such they became our sacred history, but myths they remain. And we are enjoined to learn the myriad lessons contained there-in.
    Nothing bothers me more to say elu v elu and that we should accept the literal reading of the text as an equal understanding of it and that these and those are the words of a living God.
    God wants us to believe nonsense? And worse. He wants us to teach our children this nonsense?

  88. “2. Even antiquated/incorrect science has been be “made consistent” with Torah further demonstrating the fallacy of this approach.”

    Is it a fallacy, or was the story written in such a way that it would always line up with “modern scientific understandings” no matter which age it was read in?

    A counter point:
    Between the 1800s and the 1940s they used to point to the bible and say “The bible is wrong, the universe always existed and was never created.” Many Jews said, no the science is wrong and the world was created. This was a point of argument. Now it’s not.

  89. avi – “they used to point to the bible ”
    who are they? and what “science” or data are you referring to?

  90. I thank Mori ve-Rabbi R. Kaplan, R. Nachum Klafter and R. Y. Aharon for their kind responses to me and the illuminating points they raised. I will now address each of these points one by one.

    1) I fully agree that only one who is educated in science can comment on the relationship between Torah and science. This is precisely why R. Feinstein reportedly consulted with R. Tendler, a professor of biology (in addition to a Rosh Yeshiva) on the scientific aspects of all questions brought before his attention. R. Feinstein’s responsum prohibiting reading science books (YD 3:73) that refer to evolution is published in the same volume of Iggerot Mosheh as his brain death responsum (YD 3:132). R. Shabtai Rappaport testifies in his HODS interview that R. Feinstein carefully reviewed all the responsa in that volume before publishing it. Thus, I submit that just as R. Feinstein’s brain death responsum represents a scientifically informed conclusion of R. Feinstein, soo too does his anti-evolution responsum. And we have further discovered in the context of this discussion that just as R. Aharon Soloveitchik challenged R. Feinstein regarding brain death, R. Aharon Soloveitchik challenged R. Feinstein regarding evolution.

    2) It is possible that some Gedolim even before R. Aharon Soloveitchik accepted evolution, but it seems to me that further clarification is required. The usual names associated with this enterprise (and identified by the RCA in its 2005 statement at ) are Rambam, R. Hirsch and R. Kook. However, all three of these associations have been challenged. Regarding R. Hirsch, I refer to R. Joseph Elias’ articles in the Jewish Observer (Sept. 2006, pp. 42-44 and Dec. 2006, pp. 10-12). Moreover, in the latter article, R. Elias writes in a footnote on p. 10 “The Jewish Observer office can also furnish a refutation of the claim made by some that the Rambam takes an allegorical view of the Torah’s account of Creation.” Thus, the association of Rambam with evolution has been challenged. Finally, regarding R. Kook, Dr. Baruch Sterman (writing in Tradition 29:1, footnote 33) demonstrates that R. Kook did *not* accept evolution.

    By contradistinction, R. Aharon Soloveitchik indisputably accepted the possibility of evolution, as recorded in his 1987 lecture, and he was also indisputably a Gadol ba-Torah, as testified by the Jewish Observer’s very own obituary for R. Aharon Soloveitchik, published in Oct. 2001, p. 7.

    3) R. Hershel Schachter reports (in his book Mi-Peninei ha-Rav, p. 206) that R. Joseph Ber Soloveitchik held that hashkafah is itself bound by rules of halakhah. It seems to me that this is consistent with Shu”t Chatam Sofer YD 356, who speaks of a halakhic obligation to believe the historicity of events in the Sefer Torah. The particular halakhic clause of relevance to hashkafah is “ve-lo taturu acharei levavkhem”, which prohibits heresy, as per the gemara in Berakhot 12b. I believe this is further confirmed by R. Gil Student’s article “Crossroads: Where Theology Meets Halacha – A Review Essay”, published in Modern Judaism 24:3 (2004), pp. 272-295. Although, in context, R. Student there speaks of the obligation to believe that our Sefer Torah was dictated word-for-word by HKB”H to Mosheh Rabbeinu, exactly the same principle can apply to belief in historicity of all the events of the Sefer Torah, and such is Chatam Sofer’s opinion.

    4) Dr. Tovah Soloveitchik writes in her recent article in Tradition 44:4, footnote 1) that R. Joseph Ber Soloveichik never employed the term Modern Orthodox. R. Moshe Feinstein, in a posthumously published responsum (Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De’ah 5:27, just released last year) also seems to discourage employment of this term.

    5) I agree that we should never have to choose between faith and intellect. R. Avigdor ha-Levi Neventzal (Sichot le-Sefer Bereisheet, pp. 13-18) writes that one can reconcile faith with intellect by simply assuming that HKB”H miraculously created in six days (approx. six millenia ago) a mature-looking universe.

    6) The Torah speaks of sunrise and sunset because the Torah is addressed by HKB”H to human beings, and human beings (other than the mi’ut she-eino matzui of human beings who become professional astronauts and voyage to outer space) perceive the sun as rising and setting. Even the most sophisticated PhD-possessing meterologists speak of “sunrise” and “sunset” today for this reason. I am not aware that Chatam Sofer forbade belief in the demonstrable reality that the earth orbits the sun.

    7) My distinction between science and history is supported by Dr. Chaim Presby, a credentialed scientist, writing in Jewish Observer, May 2006. [Parenthetically, in that article, Dr. Presby explains how cosmologists used to erroneously believe in an eternal universe, only to recently abandon that belief in favour of the Torah’s description of a created universe, as discussed by R’ Avi and R’ Ruvie.]

    8) Although I appreciate R. Nachum Klafter’s argument that Chatam Sofer wrote before Darsin, I think that one can argue in the reverse: The fact that Chatam Sofer preceded Darwin actually further damages the credibility of Darwin. How could Darwin – who did not even read Hebrew and hence could not possibly have read Chatam Sofer – be trusted to contradict Chatam Sofer?

    9) I am confident that I have rendered a meaningful contribution to this discussion by bringing to light that: (a) Contrary to the intitial assertion of Jewish Observer (in its full-issue discussion of this topic in May 2006), there is at least one Gadol ba-Torah who believed evolution is kosher, viz. R. Aharon Soloveitchik. [I have also demonstrated that R. Soloveitchik is at odds with Chatam Sofer and R. Moshe Feinstein. I will leave aside R. Kanievski, since – as Mori ve-Rabbi R. Kaplan points out – I don’t know enough about R. Kanievski’s scientific education.] (b) R. Aharon Soloveitchik agreed with R. Bleich that Chazal’s science of spontaneous generation is true.

  91. Once again, Meir’s comments indicate the dynamic and all encompassing nature of the Charedi catechism on hashkafic matters. Obviously, in such a catechism, neither RYBS nor RAYHK exist. Now, we see a Chidush al Gavi Chidush-we see R Dessler ZL being marginalized as well as any other towering figure in Machshavah whose views can either be viewed as unduly influenced by secular knowledge or whose views are not considered on every page in Shas. How ironic that R Dessler ZL, whose works are the foundation for many of today’s Baalei Musar, is viewed beyond the pale.

  92. Lawrence Kaplan

    Rabbi Spira: I do not want to debate fundamentals because we are too far apart. Witness your truly ridiculous comment #8.

    Let me stick to particulars then.

    1) To repeat: The fact that Rav Moshe consulted with Rabbi Tendler on the scientific bacground of issues of practical halakhah like brain stem death, transplants, etc. does not mean he consulted him about the scientific issues involved in evolution preparatory to writing his teshuvah. These are two entirely different kettles of fish. Is there ANY evidence at all that Rav Moshe’s teshuvah re evolution represents “a scientifically informed conclusion”?

    2)Further clarification is NOT required re Rav Hirsch’s view and Rav Kook’s view about evolution, For heaven’s sake Shalom, READ what they wrote. It is all black on white, despite the pathetic and contemptible attempts of the revisionists to claim otherwise. RSRH explicitly says that evolution does not contradict the Torah. End of story. This is not to say that he believed in evolution. This is not the issue. Rabbi Elias’ attempts to deny and obscure the obvious are pathetic. He is a notorious apologist whose attempts to Haredize RSRH were too much even for such a staunch Hirchian as R. Danziger. I have exposed a number of R.Elias’ distortions. And you rely on articles in the JO?!

    As for Rav Kook, your quote from Dr. Sterman is irrelevant. The issue, again, is not whether Rav Kook “accepted evolution.” Indeed, he did not accept it, as Dr. Sterman correctly says. But what is important is that Rav Kook says that in principle evolution is consonant with the Torah. That is what matters.

    As for the RMBM, I have read all the Haredi atempts to deny that the Rambam said what he clearly said. They reflect a complete misunderstanding of the RMBAM. Again what don’t you study the relevant primary sources yourself? No further clarification is required. Some simple honesty is what is required.

  93. Dr. Isaac Betech

    Dear Rav Shalom Spira
    I am impressed with your detailed answer. Congratulations.
    I just want to add one source regarding R. Aharon Soloveitchik´s opinion on evolution, in his book “Logic of the heart. Logic of the mind”. 19’91
    Page 54-55
    Even if we are capable of explaining scientific queries with regard to the creation of the world, a general conflict of approach remains between Torah and the belief in organic evolution. Someone who believes in organic evolution can still believe that God, the Creator of the world, guided the course of existence over millions of years as the world actually evolved. However, such an outlook is repugnant, disrupting the whole ethical concept of Man created in the image of God, not just evolved into such. General conflicts like belief in evolution are beyond solutions and explanations.

    Any comment will be greatly appreciated.
    Dr. Isaac Betech

  94. Lawrence Kaplan

    Dr. Betech: That you were impressed by R. Shalom Spira’s “detailed answer” does not reflect very well on you.

  95. Dr. Isaac Betech

    Dear R. Kaplan
    I am impressed by people who try to support his statements with sources and work on a systematic way.
    The above reflect very well on them, regardless if you agree or not with their premises or conclusions.
    Shabbat Shalom

  96. Dr. Isaac Betech

    Dear R. Kaplan
    Of course the main point of my post was to present textual evidence of the opinion of Rav Aharon Soloveitchik on evolution.

  97. “Even if we are capable of explaining scientific queries with regard to the creation of the world, a general conflict of approach remains between Torah and the belief in organic evolution. Someone who believes in organic evolution can still believe that God, the Creator of the world, guided the course of existence over millions of years as the world actually evolved. However, such an outlook is repugnant, disrupting the whole ethical concept of Man created in the image of God, not just evolved into such. General conflicts like belief in evolution are beyond solutions and explanations.

    Any comment will be greatly appreciated.
    Dr. Isaac Betech”

    R. Soleveitchik is talking about “organic evolution”, which does not allow for a major “jump” or “shift” to happen with Humanity as it exists today. But evolution as understood today accepts many “jumps” and “shifts” of quality in different eras.

    Nobody can deny the chasm that was crossed some number of thousands of years ago.

  98. I thank Mori ve-Rabbi R. Kaplan and Dr. Betech for their kind words of response, and especially the valuable dialectic they created by approaching my comments from opposite perspectives. [Thanks also, R’ Avi, for the insightful analysis of R. Soloveitchik.]

    I admit that point #8 (in my comment yesterday at 2:36 p.m.) was clumsily formulated. What I meant to communicate is that Chatam Sofer is informing us of a historical tradition, passed from parent to child since Adam ha-Rishon, regarding the miraculous creation of Adam as an adult without parents. [This is incompatible with Darwin’s supposition.] But this is no different than my previous point #7 regarding the distinction between science and history being supported by Dr. Chaim Presby. Therefore, I should have consolidated point #8 with point #7.

    Regarding R. Feinstein, I admit I have no inside information. I am simply relying on the HODS interview of R. Rappaport, where he says that every sentence (of Iggerot Mosheh vol. 6) was carefully reviewed by R. Feinstein before R. Rappaport published it, and – moreover – R. Rappaport asked R. Feinstein about anything which he [R. Rappaport] thought was strange. Seeing as R. Rappaport’s father-in-law was (and B”H remains) a professor of biology at a university, where every single day the problem arises of how to deal with scientific textbooks that ostensibly offer a different perspective of the origina of life than Genesis, I presume that R. Rappaport did not let R. Feinstein’s anti-evolution comment pass without a fight.

    Regarding Rambam, R. Hirsch and R. Kook, I admit that I am not an expert.

  99. Dr. Isaac Betech

    Dear Avi
    You wrote:
    R. Soleveitchik is talking about “organic evolution”,…

    “Biological (or organic) evolution is thus change in the properties of populations of organisms, or groups of such populations over the course of generations.”

    Regarding belief in biological or organic evolution, Rav Soloveitchik wrote “is repugnant” and “beyond solutions and explanations”.

    Shabbat Shalom

  100. “passed from parent to child since Adam ha-Rishon”

    Are you suggesting that Moshe Rabbenu did not receive the whole Torah from Hashem, but rather, at least in places, relied on family and national traditions? Horrors!

    On a more serious note, I just want to clarify: Do you believe that there was literally a person named Adam who lived 5773 years ago? Do you, Dr. Betech? I just want some clarity here.

  101. “Regarding belief in biological or organic evolution, Rav Soloveitchik wrote “is repugnant” and “beyond solutions and explanations”.

    Shabbat Shalom”

    Are you suggesting that Rav Soleveitchik believed in non-biological (organic) evolution?

  102. Dr. Isaac Betech

    Dear Avi
    Sorry but I do not understand why you changed “Biological (or organic) evolution” for “non-biological (organic) evolution”
    Shabua tov

  103. “Sorry but I do not understand why you changed “Biological (or organic) evolution” for “non-biological (organic) evolution””

    Rav Soleveitchik used the qualifier of “organic” evolution. This is in contrast to “evolution” used on it’s own. You seem to be claiming that when Rav Solevetichik said that “organic evolution” is bad, he was actually referring to “biological evolution”. This raises the question of what other evolution did Rav Solevetichik have in mind that he does approve of?

    I’m claiming that he approved of evolution that was less organic and had more large shifts and leaps in quality. More appropriately called Quantum evolution.

  104. Avi: I don’t think that’s a fair reading of R. Ahron Soloveichik’s words.

  105. Dr. Isaac Betech

    Dear Avi
    Thank you for your clarification.
    I do not have any additional information on R. Ahron Soloveichik’s opinion but only what he clearly stated on his book, that he considers belief in biological or organic evolution (also known as Neo-Darwinian Evolution of the species), “repugnant” and “beyond solutions and explanations”.

  106. Dr. Isaac Betech

    Dear Nachum
    You wrote:
    “I just want to clarify: Do you believe that there was literally a person named Adam who lived 5773 years ago? Do you, Dr. Betech?”

    In 25 years of research of the scientific literature regarding biological evolution and the age of the earth I did not find any non-speculative information challenging the literal existence of a person named Adam who lived 5773 years ago.

  107. “Avi: I don’t think that’s a fair reading of R. Ahron Soloveichik’s words.”

    Why not? Look up Quantum Evolution, it was the “cutting edge” during his time, and not at all what people were commonly talking about.

  108. IB: You know what I meant: “…who is the literal ancestor of every human being on earth.”

  109. Dr. Isaac Betech

    Dear Nachum
    You wrote:
    You know what I meant: “…who is the literal ancestor of every human being on earth.”

    Yes, I know what you meant.
    In 25 years of research of the scientific literature regarding biological evolution and the age of the earth I did not find any non-speculative information challenging the literal existence of a person named Adam who lived 5773 years ago who is the literal ancestor of every human being on earth.

  110. Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

  111. Thank you and ye’yasher kochakha, R’ Nachum, for the excellent questions. I support your efforts to clarify the sugya further. As far as I can discern from his responsum, Chatam Sofer appears to be indicating two ideas. Firstly, Chatam Sofer writes that it is a mitzvah to believe in the historicity of all the events of the Sefer Torah [-presumably because Mosheh Rabbeinu was receiving this information from HKB”H (as per the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a), and the “seal of HKB”H is truth” (as per the gemara in Shabbat 55a)]. Secondly, Chatam Sofer writes that even absent such a mitzvah, there is an epistemologically compelling reason to believe in the historicity of all the events of the Sefer Torah – with the exception of Parashat Balak – since all those events were witnessed either by the entirety of Klal Yisrael, or by the progenitors of Klal Yisrael and humanity, progenitors who communicated the events from parent to child. Among the list of such events Chatam Sofer identifies are (a) the creation of Adam ha-Rishon without parents (i.e. Adam saw himself suddenly materialize into existence), (b) the episode of Adam and Eve in Gan Eden, (c) the deluge, (d) the dispersion.

  112. Dr. Isaac Betech

    Dear Nachum
    You wrote:
    Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

    Sorry, I am not American and I did not understand.
    If your answer was directed to me, please explain.

  113. If you don’t understand, why do you assume it’s American? It’s simply saying that with the way you twist language, and the way Mr. Spira avoids answers, and the way both of you are disconnected from reality, there’s no real purpose in discussing things.

  114. Dr. Isaac Betech

    Dear Nachum
    Thank you for your clarification.
    Could you please tell me where I twisted language. Maybe I could try again.

  115. Nachum, don’t waste your time. Every person who engages Dr. Betech in discussion reaches the same conclusion about him.

  116. Thank you, Yissacher.

  117. Dr. Isaac Betech

    Belittling is unworthy of this discussion.

  118. Again, how about the rabbonim who said that belief that the earth revolves around the sun is kefira?

  119. In more than 25 years of research of the scientific literature regarding astronomy I did not find any non-speculative information challenging the idea that the sun revolves around the Earth. 🙂

  120. To the argument between Dr Klafter and R Spira on whether the Chatam Sofer could have outlawed belief in evolution, I would point out that Dr Klafter may not be correct when he says (and repeats later):

    The Chatam Sofer lived hundreds of years before DNA was discovered. Actually he died 20 years before Darwin published On the Origin of the Species, so I really have no idea what it means to say that he forbade belief in evolution, which did not yet exist as a scientific theory.

    Evolution was a hot topic in the early Enlightenment. Erasmus Darwin, Charles’ grandfather, believed in it, and wrote books about it. Immanuel Kant refers to the “daring new theory” in his Critique of Judgment. The idea that species developed one from another, rather than all having been created at one time and remaining static, was certainly in the air in European intellectual circles during the Chatam Sofer’s lifetime.

    The ideas were given support by the development of “the new geology” in the early 19th century. We know that, e.g., the Tiferes Yisroel accepted the new geology, which posited a world older than 6000 years (Charles Lyell, author of the massively popular “Principles of Geology” in 1830-33, during the CS’ lifetime, thought it was 42,000 years), in his essay “Drush Or HaChaim,” included in many editions of the Mishnayot printed since the 1860s.

    Meanwhile, Lamarck, in France, was the first to develop a full coherent theory of evolution, which he wrote about in the first decade of the 19th century. It was kinda magical, by modern standards, since it posits an “alchemical” anti-entropic force, but at least he tried.

    Darwin’s chief contribution (the Origin of Species was published in 1859) was to propose a really scientific mechanism, natural selection, that purported to explain both the origin (development) and diversity (current and past varieties) of species. With various modifications (the neo-Darwinian synthesis), natural selection is still the current best explanation for the origin and diversity of species.

    So it is actually plausible, especially if the Chatam Sofer in Pressburg was aware of current intellectual trends in non-Jewish Europe, that he was writing against the acceptance of these new ideas of an old Earth and evolution.

  121. Yes, but does he actually say it?

  122. RSSpira has quoted the CS in YD 356 above in circumlocutory language.

    I have yet to really try to understand the teshuva, but if you want to tackle it as well, here it is:

    שלום וכל טוב לרב טב וכו’.

    יקרתו הגיעני ענין הויכוח אם יש י”ג עקרים או ג’ כהר”י אלבו לא ידעתי שום נפקותא כ”א קריאת שם בלבד ולדעת המקובלים אין כאן עיקר כי כל קוצים של תורה הם עיקרים מה בין זה לזה.

    אך הערני תלמידי הרב הגדול מוה’ מאיר אב”ד דק”ק אונגוואר נ”י בתפלת רב טביומי המוזכרת בשל”ה שער האותיות אות א’ דף ס’ ע”א שם נאמר עם יושר עיקרם שלש עשרה יע”ש משמע שקבלה קדמוניות מימי רב טביומי שיש י”ג עקרים.

    אך א”א לי בשום אופן להאמין שיהי’ גאולתינו א’ מעיקרי הדת ושאם יפול היסוד תפול החומה חלילה ושנאמר אלו הי’ ח”ו חטאנו גורמים שיגרש אותנו גירוש עולם וכדס”ל לר”ע בעשרת השבטים שהם נדחים לעולם המפני זה רשאים הם לפרוק עול מלכות השמים או לשנות קוצו של יו”ד /י’/ אפי’ מדברי רבנן חלילה אנחנו לא נעבוד ה’ לאכול פרי הארץ ולשבוע מטוב’ לעשות רצונך אלקי חפצתי ועכ”פ ועל כל אופן עבדי ד’ אנחנו יעשה עמנו כרצונו וחפצו ואין זה עיקר ולא יסוד לבנות עליו שום בנין אך כיון שעיקר יסוד הכל להאמין בתורה ובנביאים ושם נאמר גאולתינו האחרונה בפ’ נצבים ובפ’ האזינו כמ”ש רמב”ן שם והרבה מזה בדברי נביאים אם כן מי שמפקפק על הגאולה הלז הרי כופר בעיקר האמנת התורה והנביאים.

    והנה ר’ הלל בפ’ חלק צ”ט ע”א אמר אין משיח לישראל פירש”י אלא הקב”ה בעצמו יגאלם בלי שליח ופי’ זה מוכרח הוא דאל”ה אדמקשה לי’ רב יוסף מעני רוכב על החמור דיש לדחות דקאי על נחמי’ כמ”ש רמב”ן סוף פי’ שיר השירים ולא דחאו מדברי זכרי’ שיצאו מים חיים מבית ה’ וראיה זו כ’ הרא”בע סוף זכרי’ ע”ש אע”כ מזה אין ראיה דודאי גם לר’ הלל יש גאולה אלא שאין משיח מלך וגם בזה לית הלכתא כוותי’ והאומר אין משיח וקים לי’ כרבי הלל הרי הוא כופר בכלל התורה דכיילי אחרי רבים להטות כיון שרבו עליו חכמי ישראל ואמרו דלא כוותי’ שוב אין אדם ראוי’ להמשך אחריו כמו ע”ד משל במקומו של ר”א הי’ כורתים עצים לעשות פחמין לעשות ברזל לצורך מילה ואחר דאיפסקא הלכתא ע”פ רבי’ מחכמי ישראל דלא כוותי’ העושה כן בשבת בעדים והתרא’ סקול יסקל ולא מצי למימר קים לי כר”א.

    והא דתני’ במס’ עדיות למה נישנו דברי היחיד ע”ש מילתא אחריתי כמובן ואין להאריך ועכ”פ הגאולה וביאת המשיח איננה עיקר אבל מי שאינו מודה בו כופר בעיקר של האמנת התורה ודברי נביאים.

    ויש לי לעורר בדבר אחד הנה אין לנו בכל התורה שום דבר שאין אנחנו בעצמנו עידי ראיה חוץ מפ’ בלעם כי כל מופת מצרים ומדבר את הכל ראו עינינו ונעשה לפני ס’ רבוא ולא נשאר א’ מכל ישראל בחוץ שלא ראה חוץ למ”ד יתרו אחר מ”ת =מתן תורה= בא נשארו בני משה מבחוץ זולת זה לא נשאר אחד שלא ראה בעיניו אין האבות מנחילים שקר לבניהם וה”ל כאלו ראינו בעינינו ואפילו חידוש עולם ומעשה נחש בג”ע =בגן עדן= והמבול והפלגה כבר כ’ רמב”ן בס’ דרשות הרמב”ן הרי אדה”ר =אדם הראשון= ראה עצמו יחידי בלי אב ואם ומעשה ג”ע וגירושו והוא דיבר פא”פ =פנים אל פנים= עם שם בן נח רבו של יעקב אבינו ע”ה כי בן חמשים הי’ יעקב כשמת שם וקיבל ממנו כל הנ”ל עם מעשה מבול והפלגה והוא סיפר לבניו ועמרם שמע מלוי ואמרו לבניו משה ואהרן וכל הדור ההוא קבלו כן מאבותיהם ובכל הדורות כל הנעשה לזקן זקנים הרי הוא כאלו נעשה בפניהם ממש וא”א להכחיש זהו במעשיות וספורי תורה.

    ואמנם כל סידורי מצות נ”ל כשגעון מי שיאמר שבא’ מהדורות קם א’ והמציא להניח תפילין ויצא בקרן א’ על מצחו והטעה העולם לומר זהו טוטפת האמור בקרא הלא ירגמוהו העם ויאמרו זה לא שמענו ולא ראינו מאבותינו מיום עמדנו על הר סיני ועמנו מרע”ה =משה רבינו עליו השלום= ואחריו יב”נ =יהושע בן נון= וזקנים ונביאים מי ימלא לבו לחדש דבר וכן בענין סוכה וד’ מינים וכל מעשה קרבנות מי יכול לשנות הדבר בענין הנהוג בכל יום ויום לפני זקנים ונביאים אם לא כך ראינו בעינינו ממרע”ה ותלמידיו ותלמידי תלמידיו עד היום הזה ויסכר פי דוברי שקר הקראים הרעים מ”ש שאירע בימי שמעון בן שטח ויהודה בן טבאי תמק לשונם בחכם כלה ענן וילך יורד שאול לא יעלה.

    נחזור להנ”ל כל התורה כולה ראינו בעינינו חוץ מפ’ בלעם מי הגיד לנו מה הי’ בין מלך מואב ובין קוסם אחד בלעם שבא אליו אל ארצו ולמה בא ומי הביאו ומי ידע שבנה מזבחות ושרצה לקלל ונהפך לברכה מי בא בסודם וישראל הי’ שרוים במדבר ואם הם עמדו בארץ מואב בראש הפסגה וראו למטה אל המדבר למרחוק מאין ידעו יושבי מדבר שמביטים עליהם מראש ההר הזה ושמנחשים עליהם ואפי’ מרע”ה לא ידע ורק מפה הקב”ה ית”ש נכתבו הדברים והנביא צווח זכר נא מה יעץ בלק וגו’ והנה המאמין בכל התורה ובמצותיה רק מסתפק בפ’ בלעם הרי הוא כופר בה’ אלקינו ה’ אחד ולא יאמר אדם שפ’ בלעם היא עיקר מעיקרי התורה שבנו עליו בנין ומ”מ הכופר בה כופר בעיקר וה”ה ומכ”ש בגאולה אחרונה המפורשת מפי ה’ למרע”ה אם יהי’ נדחך בקצה השמים וגו’ וכפר אדמתו עמו וכיוצא בו.

    – ה’ הטוב והמטיב ייטיב לנו ויורנו מארחותיו, ונלכה בדרכיו’ ונהי’ ממבורכיו, לשמור תורותיו וחוקותיו, נעלה לציון ברננים ודבר אלקינו נשמע פנים אל פנים.

    פ”ב כאור בקר ליום ג’ יוד למב”י תקצ”ול.

    משה”ק סופר מפפד”מ.

  123. Thank you and ye’yasher kochakha, R’ Jon Baker, for the fascinating information regarding the pre-Darwinian “evolution” of evolutionary theory. Thank you, as well, for presenting Chatam Sofer’s responsum in its entirety, so that the public can judge for itself what he is saying.

    In any event, thank you R’ Nachum and Dr. Betech for the important debate that you orchestrated, which nicely parallels – and perpetuates in the noble spirit of milchamtah shel Torah – the debate between R. Aharon Soloveitchik and R. Moshe Feinstein on the subject of evolution. I learned a great deal from this conversation, and I can now better appreciate both sides of the debate.

  124. Another finding that can be shared – supporting Chatam Sofer’s insistence on the historicity of [at least the particular event of] the deluge – is the nusakh ha-tefillah (composed by Anshei Knesset ha-Gedolah) for mussaf of Rosh ha-Shanah, which states “ve-gam et Noach be-ahavah zakharta, ve-tifkedehu bi-dvar yeshu’ah ve-rachamim be-havi’akha et mei ha-mabul le-shachet kol bassar mi-pnei ro’a ma’al’leihem, al ken zikhrono ba lefanekha Ha-Shem E-lokeinu le-harbot zar’o ke-afrot tevel ve-tze’etza’av ke-chol ha-yam”. It seems to me, on the basis of this nusakh ha-tefillah, that Anshei Knesset ha-Gedolah understood the deluge as a real event.

  125. Nachum Klafter

    No, it is not plausible at all. Erasmus Darwin wrote a cryptic reference to ideas that can be called proto-evolution in the middle of a long poem. No one considered this significant until after Charles Darwin published On The Origin of Species. Erasmus Darwin did not publish “books about evolution.”

  126. Nachum Klafter

    Actually Erasmus Darwin did not even publish that poem. It was released posthumously.

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