Friday, August 5, 2011

Some Interesting Articles

I must apologize for the reduced rate of posting - travel makes it difficult. Here are links to four interesting articles (I am not saying that I agree with them - just that they provide food for thought!):

Oh, That I May Believe! - An interesting article on emunah by Rabbi Nathan Lopes-Cardozo.

Computer Confirmation of “P” – A Biblicist’s Perspective. Am I the only one who thought that this article changed direction sharply at the end?

"It Isn't Written That We Must Follow Rav Elyashiv" - This interview with Rav Nosson Kamenetzky, about the ban on his book Making Of A Godol, is absolutely fascinating. If someone has the time to translate it into English, I would put it up as a post.

Hyraxes: why Israel's 'rock rabbits' have become pests - An article at BBC Nature about how the hyrax's habit of hiding in the rocks, attested to in Mishlei and Tehillim, has enabled them to expand their range in 21st century Israel.


  1. If I remember correctly, didn't Rabbi Nosson Slifkin write something similar to R' Cardozo in his first publication on the weekly parsha? :)

  2. Did I? I don't remember doing so - in fact, I think that back then, I spouted the Aish doctrine about how emunah means absolute conviction based on scientific proof!

  3. The Article says: "Faith is not born from logical deduction. It is born from doubt, which is its natural breeding ground. To believe that all doubts must be resolved before we attain faith is a mistaken notion."

    I was always taught that a Jew must have more than faith. He must be faithful to the knowledge that Torah is true. With respect to doubt, some doubts must be resolved in order to have knowledge, no? How does one avoid being labeled a heritic if he doubts that 4 billion people actually descended from one family (Noach) about 3,500 years ago, for example? Or that the proven antiquity of different civilizations going back 20,000+ years runs directly counter to the Torah's desciption of human history?

  4. Surely an interesting tidbit is R. Kaminetzky's acknowledgment he is sitting on additional books - already written - that still await the light of day. is this public information in circles which i don't inhabit (or on which i don't rotate, to keep my metaphors unmixed)? the interviewer stated it as as a simple factoid, with which RK did not dispute.

  5. "Am I the only one who thought that this article changed direction sharply at the end?"

    Can you paste the first few words of the paragraph you're referring to? I feel like answering your question, but as of now, I'm not sure how to answer. I thought the paragraph starting with "In defense against the claims of higher biblical criticism..." was a pretty smooth transition.

  6. The original article by Rabbi Cardozo, from March 4, 2011, which is on his website, includes some footnotes.

  7. "I spouted the Aish doctrine about how emunah means absolute conviction based on scientific proof!"

    Whoa, watch out for strawmen. I've read hundreds of Aish essays over the years and have not seen this idea spouted once. They might say that emunah is /supported/ by scientific evidence, but not /based on/ scientific evidence.

  8. Rabbi Cardozo's article is profound.

  9. Here is Rabbi Kaminetzky speaking about the cherem (in English)

  10. Rabbi Slifkin, Rav Kaminetzky talks about your books in the podcast above^ (not in a positive manner) as well as Chief Rabbi Sacks.

  11. Rabbi,

    You wrote that any maamin means to actively work to believe as opposed to 'yesh li emunah".

  12. "Whoa, watch out for strawmen. I've read hundreds of Aish essays over the years and have not seen this idea spouted once".

    Cmon. DO you think they would make such claims on articles that are easily available online. There is obviously discontinuity between what goes on at Discovery, and the Aish website.

  13. It seems that Rabbi Samuel HaNagid in his introduction to the talmud emphatically states there is a clear and unbreachable difference between the Halachic system and delving into and developing a philosophical outlook....Thus irrespective of whether one believes the world is 6000 years old, or 14 billion years old, or whether or not one believes in the functioning of evolutionary processes ,we all put on the same tefillin and say the same words of prayer, and keep the same Shabbos and avoid the same treif foods. As was pointed out in one of the articles from your link, even the "apikoris" has to daven mincha.

    Dr Aron Barth in his small book entitled "The Modern Jew Faces Eternal Problems", (World Zionist Organization, 1956), written while the ashes of the holocaust were still smoldering, emphasizes it is the HALACHIC system that ultimately defines our Jewish way of life and outlook (Or Weltanshauung), and "when one scholar bases his opinion on any one Aggadah, another scholar is free to refute that opinion based on a different Aggadah." (page 23). Hence we welcome and thrive on different philosophical opinions and outlooks...We are a religion of Machloket.

    I have always learned that the three great pillars Jewish thought rests upon are:

    1.Creation: The world was created through the activity of an intelligent being as opposed to an eternal world or a randomly derived G-dless world.

    2. Revelation: At certain times, this being has made himself and his will (Mitzvot) known to individuals, and even to an entire nation! Additionally there is a system by which his will can actually be derived even in times when he doesnt reveal himself ( We dont need a Bas Kol to determine the Halacha).

    3. Redemption: The actions of humanity through time (History) has purpose, and this purpose can loosely be thought of as redemption. History is a redeeming process. What are we being redeemed from? That is a topic of philosophical speculation. For me, redemption is a process wherebye humanity (and myself as an individual) will rid itself of false ideas about the nature and function of the universe (avoda zara) and acknowledge Creation and Revelation as truth! (See the wording of the Aleinu).

    I have purchased your book "The Challenge of Creation" and believe that in our world today these issues must continually be debated and discussed in an atmosphere of openness and intellectual honesty. It is too bad that narrow minded and intellectually disengenuous individuals who happen to be called Rabbi have been given the authority to be thought police...THAT doesnt sound like Judaism to me, and it is not the Judaism I teach my children.

  14. I took you up on your request for a translation of Rav Natam Kaminetsky's interview.

  15. Elie writes: "There is obviously discontinuity between what goes on at Discovery, and the Aish website."

    I can't deny that. But let's realize that the website reaches many, many more people than does that seminar. If R' Slifkin wants to criticize Aish, let him pinpoint his criticism.

  16. Thank you Amichai (Isaac) for the link to Rabbi Kamenetzky's lecture. You are incorrect however about his appraisal of R' Slifkin's work. Listen to the lecture at,_Earthquakes_and_Tsunamis -- just after the 11 minute mark, where R' Kamenetzky is VERY SUPPORTIVE of R' Slifkin.

    Also see - where it is reported that R' Kamenetzky explained that:

    "In regard to Rabbi Slifkin, let me just point out that the true present “gedol hador” of American Jewry, my brother R’ Shmuel of Philadelphia, gave Rabbi Slifkin a haskamah - and he doesn’t get scared off by zealots: he never retracted his approval as others did. I mentioned Rabbi Slifkin in my Borough Park lecture just to point out that when one of the instigators of the ban wrote “As someone who knows English, I was approached by a person for whom the honor of Torah is dear and shown that the [Slifkin] book says that the world is millions of years old: earth to his mouth! Etc.,” insinuating thereby that Slifkin was lowering the honor of Torah. He must have failed to realize that Slifkin wrote his books precisely because “the honor of Torah is dear” to him, and he felt that the conflict between teachings of science and Torah must be intelligently addressed. Thus Rabbi Slifkin was raising the honor of Torah, not lowering it. I compared it to what was written about my book - that it denigrates gedolim, while in fact, to the contrary, it raises the stature of gedolim by describing them as they actually were, great human beings, not mythical creatures. I have had scores of telephone calls and e-mails from around the world telling me how the stature of great Torah scholars was raised by my book, and how inspired they became to enhance their Torah study and commitment through my book."

  17. Incidentally, in Rabbi Nathan Kamenetzky's interesting talk "Of Bans, Earthquakes and Tsunamis" that I referenced above, he makes it clear that he himself accepts the scientific fact that the world is much older than 6,000 years.

    In addition he implies that his father, Reb Yaakov zt"l, would also have no problem with this.

  18. Perhaps, but Rav Yaakov was a serious opponent of common descent.
    There is more more solid evidence that he opposed evolution than he approved of an older universe.

  19. I received my Hyrax yesterday, in time for Shabos Chazon :)


Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

Tzedakah: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

How do you tell apart a good charity from a bad one? It can be very difficult to know who is actually honest. But the first step is to be aw...