Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Yated Gets Hoodwinked

Here is a letter that was sent to Yated Ne'eman:

To the Editor:

In a review of Rabbi Meiselman's book that appeared in last week's Yated Ne'eman, the book was gravely misrepresented. It was effusively praised for showing that "Chazal's statements should not be adjusted to adhere to science's teachings," that "the integrity of the mesorah is never in question," and that it displays "an awesome reverence for the incredible golden minds represented in Torah Shebaal Peh and throughout our mesorah." But in fact Rabbi Meiselman does indeed adjust Chazal's statements to adhere to science's teachings, he challenges the entire mesorah in this area, and he discards the universal view of the incredible golden minds throughout our mesorah.

Chazal made a number of statements regarding the generation of various animals, including lice generating from humans, insects from fruit and water, and mice from dirt. ALL the Rishonim and Acharonim, without exception, explained Chazal as referring to spontaneous generation. (Today, since we do not see these creatures spontaneously generating, the standard approach in the yeshivah world is to say nishtaneh hateva or that the creatures described by Chazal are now extinct.) However, Rabbi Meiselman accepts the views of modern science in this area, and claims that all the Rishonim and Acharonim are wrong! (See p. 320, where he writes that they were incorrect regarding what Chazal had in mind.) Rabbi Meiselman also discards the Rishonim and Acharonim regarding their explanations of Chazal's statements regarding astronomy, in a section brazenly entitled "When the Commentaries are Mistaken," in which he writes that "the interpreters of Chazal held erroneous beliefs."

Rav Aharon Feldman, in his book "The Eye of the Storm," clearly explains the view of Rav Elyashiv ztz"l, that certain views regarding Chazal and science were aberrant minority views that are therefore to be discounted. It surely follows with the greatest kal v'chomer that if all the Rishonim and Acharonim were to agree on something, that represents the normative mesorah, and it would not be permitted to say, chas v'shalom, that they were all wrong. And Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel likewise writes in his haskomoh to the new sefer Sod Liyreyav, which specifically addresses the topic of spontaneous generation, that we must accept the universal mesorah from the Rishonim and Acharonim regarding the meaning of Chazal's words, and not reject them in favor of modern science. But Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, in his new book, does exactly that!

Whereas other books challenging the integrity of the mesorah were roundly condemned, and have been rejected by the chareidi community, Rabbi Meiselman's book is being praised. Surely attention should be drawn to his radical approach in this area, rather than misleading people as to what his book does.


  1. The letter is too professional to be published. A little Yinglish might help.

  2. Perhaps the author should respond as well to today's review of R. M's book in the Jewish Press.

  3. Hey, that's the exact same review that appeared in Yated!

  4. "Hey, that's the exact same review that appeared in Yated!"

    All the more reason to respond, because the appropriate response has already been written (and TJP might actually print it).

  5. Natan, did you write the letter?

  6. someone who read the bookNovember 27, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    It so happens that Rabbi Meiselman's radical approach to lice and spontaneous generation was already suggested by Rav Chaim Kanievsky in his sefer Derech Emunah.

    Somehow, I don't think Rav Wachtfogel will be as bothered by it as you are.

  7. Rabbi Meiselman's book should be BANNED!!!!

  8. "It so happens that Rabbi Meiselman's radical approach to lice and spontaneous generation was already suggested by Rav Chaim Kanievsky in his sefer Derech Emunah."

    Rav Chaim Kanievsky was not addressing the case of lice, and he would never say that all the Rishonim were wrong.

  9. Rabbi Slifkin: You did not answer the question as to who wrote the letter or better under whose name it is being sent.

    Lawrence Kaplan

  10. It was a collaborative effort. It wasn't sent under my name.

  11. Natan Slifkin said...
    It was a collaborative effort. It wasn't sent under my name.

    November 27, 2013 at 9:14 PM

    Probably with the heroine ;)

  12. im not sure why your so proud of getting in there, yated will publish anything in the readers write column in fact the more ridiculous the better

  13. How is this not under the prohibition of taking revenge?

  14. "It was a collaborative effort..."

    A collaboration between those to the left and right of RMM :)

  15. I hate to break it you but as much as the Rabbi Meiselmans and Wachtfogels were united in their milchama against you rabbi slifkin they are in no way ideological soulmates.I have no doubt that Reb Eli Ber considers the yu associated, college educated ,cool american tomo rosh yeshiva hashkaficly suspect . Rabbi mieselman likewise would question reb eli bers overall yedios and sechel. Hence your letter contained no great revalation but rather highlighted a disctintion that is common knowledge to any 1 st year yeshiva bochur.

  16. "Hey, that's the exact same review that appeared in Yated!"

    The paragraph below from the JP is missing from the Yated version ,"Another crucial issue addressed and supported in the book is..." and instead has the paragraph "Many find it truly amazing".

    --Perhaps R. Slifkin or someone else can publish an executive summary of the differences with RMM similar to the monographs on "The Question of the Kidneys' Counsel", etc.

    --Other issues for future discussion:How does RMM deal with RSRH ? Does he hold that there is anyone who disagrees with the yeshivish approach to science and chazal and Bereishis, as R. Aharon Feldman acknowledges re science/chazal but holds its kefirah?

    Does RMM believe that there are kiruv proofs from science ?

    --Relating to a previous post, I've seen RMM's book advertised with haskamos

    --Finally, I think your critics should acknowledge the work you and others (eg R. Leo Levi)have done before them. Perhaps someone should write a book on biblical archaeology, etc., be criticized for it, in order to get others to address the issue :)

  17. Now the review showed up here-

    (RMM sure knows how to get around.)

    the comment section is open

  18. A great comment at YNW:

    "10. bem684 says: November 29, 2013 at 8:59 am This is the longest advertisement I’ve ever read. Is there an article hidden in it somwhere?"

  19. These book reviews/ads made it quite clear to me that the book is written against RNS. It reminded of the incident a few centuries ago when two famous great Torah authorities, whose words are studied every day in Yeshivahs all over the world, had a war of words. One wrote a sefer to which the other wrote glosses and refutations. Then the first added an appendix defending himself --and again the other refuted those too. These later refutations are introduced as:

    (Emphasis added)

    “In this appendix he brings words around onto me but is AFRAID TO MENTION MY NAME . But it’s understood TO ANYONE WHO CAN UNDERSTAND that EVERYTHING HE WROTE IN THIS APPENDIX AND ALL THAT HE EXERTED HIMSELF HE ONLY EXERTED HIMSELF FOR ME. In truth heaven can testify that after I thoroughly read and reviewed and studied a third time all he wrote I had great pleasure and put happiness into my heart for without a doubt WHOEVER HAS A PALLATE TO TASTE will see and understand that all of his words are words of nonsense and he ONLY CAME TO STRIKE AND VEX ME in matters of Halachah. Now we need to make an investigation after him; this prompted me to investigate after him as far as my hand can reach.”

    In that instance history awarded honor to both combatants, but in this case IMHO, certainly R Meiselman’s delegitimization of other approaches is standing on thin air. Whichever way, as then, R Meiselman is “afraid to mention [R Slifkin’s] name. But it’s understood to anyone who can understand that everything he wrote in this [book] and all that he exerted himself he only exerted for [R Slifkin].”

  20. "Natan Slifkin said...
    It was a collaborative effort. It wasn't sent under my name."

    Maybe it's possible for a quasi-facetious letter to the editor to be spontaneously generated.


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