Monday, April 14, 2008

Something I Keep Forgetting to Remember...
I had directly heard several years ago a statement from a very established 'normal' Charedi Kiruv rabbi who himself had heard, regard a great rosh yeshivah from America [R. Aharon Feldman] about R. Slifkin's books - a rosh yeshivah who either made use of, or suggested their use in kiruv. One Shabbat, while salving my anxiety regarding how receptive some segments of the Orthodox world were to R. Slifkin's books, he told me the following story;

Upon hearing of conflicts in Israel regarding the 'kashrut' of R. Slifkin's ideas, this Rosh Yeshivah [R. Aharon Feldman] - whom had read his books and consulted them and use them regarding talmidim with "issues" - flew to israel specifically to explain to one of the Gedolim there that the books were not kefirah.

This same rosh yeshivah [R. Aharon Feldman], several years later, condemned certain of R. Slifkin's works, in writing, as kefirah.

Not long after, the same Kiruv rabbi - in my presence - suggested to another guest that dinosaur bones and the seeming age of the universe are there to test our emunah.

It would seem to follow that if our emunah is not challenged by the geological time scale or fossils...we don't have proper emunah.

It gets better. This same Rosh Yeshivah has, apparently after the ban, suggested material from one the 'banned' books to a rabbi at his yeshivah whom I'd also been in contact with. I clarified with that rabbi at the time that I was hearing him right - that this rosh yeshivah had suggested material from one of R. Slifkin's books. Aware of the bans, etc, he stated to me flatly that it was so.

So...regarding the "central" figure, I am clear on certain things; I disagree with R. Slifkin on his Charedi-kiruv in mindset, indicated by what I believe to be his expurgated treatment of the history of science (which really warrants its own post I"H). I may be wrong on these, things, but I can be clear on them to myself. And the rabbi who had consulted with the Rosh Yeshivah and recieved counsel from him to use certain of Slifkin's [banned] material - I know this rabbi to be exceptional and open to Slifkin, etc. These two, I feel confident regarding.

But the Rosh Yeshivah - I am radically unclear. I would like to think that the public, written condemnation that the Rosh Yeshivah engaged in was a political gesture. Not long after the ban was issued, very thorough and impressive critical treatments of it were made public, at least one made public only after counsel with the Rosh Yeshivah, R. Aharon Feldman himself... it would seem that the Rosh Yeshivah "said what had to be said" to maintain certain status quo, etc., - but with the knowledge that others "within the Charedi fold" would write criticisms that would be available to those who might be damaged by the Rosh Yeshivah's statements.

But that doesn't follow from the statements made by the Kiruv rabbi - who would know, or seem to know, if something like the machinizations I offer above were the realia. Now and again, I am deeply, deeply troubled by this, and it is prime example among many of why I can't associate myself ideologically with the Charedi world. At least among the Modern Orthodox - where no such claims to virtual "neo-Navi" status is attributed to Rabbinic Infrastructure - religious and intellectual 'infractions' can indeed be ascribed to the failings of human nature. But how can the Charedim - without adopting non-Charedi perspective - respond to these kind of kashiot about their infrastructure?


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