Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Where Did Those Haskamos Go?

Readers of the new edition of The Camel, The Hare And The Hyrax (which, for those who ordered it online, should be coming any day now) may notice that the three haskamos (rabbinic approbations) from the first edition no longer appear. There are different reasons for the absence of each of them, and so I thought it worthwhile to explain why they are missing.

One was retracted out of deference to the Gedolim who banned the books. I don't have any complaints against the Rav who did so; he is a personal disciple of one of them, and therefore it was probably appropriate for him to do so.

Another was not retracted, but I myself no longer respect its writer as any kind of authority in such topics. A haskamah is not only an approbation from its writer to the book's author; it is also a testimony that the author has great respect for the judgment of the haskamah-writer. But this particular Rav considers it perfectly reasonable to say that the Chumash and Nach discusses animals from lands far distant from Eretz Yisrael, as well as making many other claims that are decidedly at odds with a rationalist approach.

The third haskamah was not retracted, and I maintain my respect for its writer. However, he and I have agreed that it's for the best to no longer include haskamos in my books, and thus to make it clear that they are not directed at insular charedim. Those people who won't read books without haskamos probably shouldn't be reading my books anyway!

29 comments:

  1. However, he and I have agreed that it's for the best to no longer include haskamos in my books, and thus to make it clear that they are not directed at insular charedim.
    ===================
    Who gave the haskama to the Vilna Shas?
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  2. Not publishing the haskomos is fine, but why can't they be mentioned by name for the record. I don't have the first edition and just would like to know who is who. Why all this maneuvering? They did what they did and it's public knowledge anyway.

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  3. Why don't Charedim learn Nach?
    Because there are no haskomos!

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  4. R. Slifkin,

    Do you have plans to post on the arguments made by Dr. Betesh, which RYB refers to in his haskamah as "shetef mayim rabim" ? Also, does Dr. Betesh's argument now make the this topic a suitable argument for outreach seminars? Are Dr Betesh's arguments discussed in the revised edition of your book?

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  5. reasonable to say that the Chumash and Nach discusses animals from lands far distant from Eretz Yisrael

    What is unreasonable about this? Isn't the torah's author all-knowing?

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  6. "Why don't Charedim learn Nach?
    Because there are no haskomos!"

    And why don't Charedim read blogs?
    Because they get too frustrated when people generalize about Charedim all the time.

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  7. Do you have plans to post on the arguments made by Dr. Betesh

    I've already written the post, I hope to put it up tomorrow. But I hope that, by now, my readers can see why his arguments are absurd!

    Also, does Dr. Betesh's argument now make the this topic a suitable argument for outreach seminars?

    No

    Are Dr Betesh's arguments discussed in the revised edition of your book?

    Yes. They were also discussed in the original edition (albeit to a lesser extent).

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  8. Unobservant CharediJuly 27, 2011 at 11:32 PM

    But this particular Rav considers it perfectly reasonable to say that the Chumash and Nach discusses animals from lands far distant from Eretz Yisrael...

    I don't understand what is problematic with this belief. If we take the premise that God is all knowing, why couldn't he include animals in his Torah that were unknown to the Sinai generation?

    How do you explain the Talmud Hulin 42A which says that God showed Moses all animals and said
    "This one you may eat and this one you may not eat"

    דתנא דבי רבי ישמעאל זאת החיה אשר תאכלו מלמד שתפס הקב"ה מכל מין ומין והראה לו למשה ואמר לו זאת אכול וזאת לא תיכול

    Are you of the opinion that Llamas were not shown to Moses?

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  9. "it is not reasonable to say that the Chumash and Nach discusses animals from lands far distant from Eretz Yisrael"

    What is unreasonable about this? Isn't the torah's author all-knowing?


    Of course. But (a) He does not discuss things and use terms that are meaningless to the Bnei Yisrael, and (b) it would be very misleading for Him to do so with names that, in local languages, refer to local species (shafan means "hyrax" in certain Arabic dialects), and (c) the shafan is also mentioned in Tehillim and Mishlei.

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  10. How do you explain the Talmud Hulin 42A which says that God showed Moses all animals ...
    Are you of the opinion that Llamas were not shown to Moses?


    Correct, I am of the opinion that llamas were not shown to Moshe. I am also of the opinion that the maamar Chazal you quote does not mean that they were. But even if one were to disagree with me on all this, the fact remains that Tehillim and Mishlei refer to the habits of the shafan, and therefore it must have been a familiar animal.

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  11. "I myself no longer respect its writer as any kind of authority in such topics... this particular Rav considers it perfectly reasonable to say that the Chumash and Nach discusses animals from lands far distant from Eretz Yisrael..."

    Isn't one of the problems you have with parts of Orthodox Jewry, the very fact that they disregard (and disrespect) anyone who thinks differently than they?

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  12. Isn't one of the problems you have with parts of Orthodox Jewry, the very fact that they disregard (and disrespect) anyone who thinks differently than they?

    No, I don't think that I've ever said that.

    Incidentally, I respect this person as a very fine and accomplished person. Just not as someone with good judgements regarding Biblical and Talmudic zoology.

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  13. I am also of the opinion that the maamar Chazal you quote does not mean that they were.

    How do you explain it?

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  14. It just means that Hashem showed Moshe all the local animals and explained which are kosher.

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  15. The Torah's promises/predictions of Tochacha - exile and ingathering...how does a rationalist explain them?

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  16. How is that relevant to this post?

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  17. But this particular Rav considers it perfectly reasonable to say that the Chumash and Nach discusses animals from lands far distant from Eretz Yisrael, as well as making many other claims that are decidedly at odds with a rationalist approach.

    Relevant because you discount this particular Rav for considering it reasonable to take the "irrational" approach that the Torah's author could know something about animals that was not known presumably to the generation that left Egypt. Yet this same author performed some other unreasonable miracles which I presume you do believe in...so what is so difficult about him knowing of animals that inhabit other continents?

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  18. Did you read what I wrote above??? I never said that it's irrational to say that the Author of the Torah knew about animals from remote countries!

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  19. But you said that this Rav was unreasonable for thinking that the Torah could be discussing animals that were not in the vicinity of the Middle-East?

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  20. But not because the Author of the Torah doesn't know about them!

    Please read my comments above. Carefully!

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  21. Rav Slifkin-
    Although not related to this post, I would like to bring up another matter. A couple of weeks ago in the Shabbat section of the Makor Rishon newspaper, there was an interview with a Dr Bar-on (or Brown) who wrote a Ph.D thesis on the Hazon Ish which has now been published as a book. He was asked about the Hazon Ish's attitude to Rav Gedalia Nadel whom you quote. (Nadel had no problem with Darwinian evolution, if I understand correctly). Now, the Hazon Ish was known to be a strong believer in "pure Torah" doctrine, that everything is in the Torah and we don't need to think that HAZAL were wrong about anything. The interviewer asked how, if this was the Hazon Ish's attitude, he would want to have a close association with Rav Nadel. Bar-On's answer was that the Hazon Ish, while being a strong advocate of his "pure Torah" ideology, also tried not to let ideological differences in his relationship with people, unlike some other Haredi leaders. This does NOT mean that he, in any way, supported Nadel's opinion. Rav Nadel was viewed as a "oddball" in Hazon Ish's circle and his presence was tolerated but his views were not at all accepted. There were others like this as well and it was understood that the Hazon Ish accepted these people in his group without supporting their views.
    What is you understanding of the matter? After all, one might think that if Rav Nadel hung around the Hazon Ish, the Hazon might really agree with him, at least quietly.

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  22. You can always say you're trying to avoid chukas goyim by emulating an earlier time when Haskamos were non existent.

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  23. The Author of the new book on the Hazon Ish (as welll as articles about the Hafetz Hayyinm, Emunah Temimah, Daas Torah, and much else) is Dr. Benjamin Brown. The book is published by Magnes Press.


    As for the substance, there is no doubt in my mind that the Hazon Ish did NOT agree with Rabbi Nadel.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  24. "Those people who won't read books without haskamos probably shouldn't be reading my books anyway!"

    They're the ones who need to read them the most. At a certain point, we need to stop saying "Eilu v'eilu" and proudly assert that our way is objectively correct.

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  25. "After all, one might think that if Rav Nadel hung around the Hazon Ish, the Hazon might really agree with him, at least quietly."

    Many people manage to "hang around" with people who have fine middos but differing views on a couple of core issues. This includes married couples, too.

    If the Chazon Ish associated almost exclusively with a group of Rav Nadel-types, that might infer some kind of agreement with Rav Nadel's views, but the Chazon Ish did not do that as far as we know.

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  26. Even though it may be obvious that Chazon Ish did not share some of Rabbi Nadel's views, wasn't Rabbi Nadel actually a talmid muvhak of Chazon ish? If so it seems ahistorical and insulting to classify him as "just some oddball in his inner circle that was tolerated due to chazon ish's kindness" or whatever...

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  27. I object to the claim that Rav Gedalya Nadel was an "oddball" who was merely tolerated by the Hazon Ish and his circle. The fact is that the Hazon Ish appointed R' Gedalya Nadel the rav of the new shikun made in his name. Thus, such luminaries as the Steipler Gaon and his son, R' Chaim Kanievsky, sent their shailot to Rav Nadel. Having a minority opinion about such matters as the age of the world and evolution doesn't impact the ability to deliver p'sak halacha that is consistent with the major sources. While some in Bnei Brak considered Rav Nadel to be a heretic, that was apparently not the case of those close to the Hazon Ish.

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  28. I must apologize for letting through a certain vicious comment that I have since removed. I rejected it when it was submitted, but then it was submitted again and I didn't notice it when I approved a whole bunch of comments.

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  29. "One was retracted out of deference to the Gedolim who banned the books...."

    If this one would rather give his allegiance to his Rabbi with whom he is in total disagreement with, isn't he in fact doing an injustice to himself and to the Torah he holds is of the true Torah?
    Would his retraction not be deemed weak and of low character, considering, rather one's allegiance must be given to Hashem and His Torah.
    o

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