Monday, November 20, 2017

Disposing of Nosson

On my desk is a very disturbing book. It attempts to justify the charedi refusal to serve in the IDF. It presents the arguments of the Edah Charedis for religious zealotry. It advocates for the nation being directed by the Gedolim and Daas Torah. It argues that sources from the Rishonim presenting rationalist approaches to Torah and science should be buried. It presents a mystical view of reality. It denies the historicity of evolution.

And it was written by Nosson Slifkin.

Twenty years ago, I was a very different person. One of the books that I published back then was called Second Focus, and it used the weekly parashah as a springboard to discuss various topics. Today, I look back at these essays and cringe. True, some remain valuable, and they are written in a very engaging manner, and I don’t for one moment regret writing the book, which was an important part of my growth as a writer. But some of the views and attitudes that I absorbed in the yeshivos I attended and which I presented in the book were appalling.

Now, here's the problem. I came across a number of boxes of these books which for some reason had been misplaced back when this book was being sold. So what should I do with them? I can't just distribute them to anyone, since many of the essays in the book present views that I now consider to be fundamentally flawed. But on the other hand, there is some good material in it, and it's certainly of great interest, since it shows how a post-charedi ideologue condemned as a heretic can have started off as a Kool-Aid drinking anti-rationalist charedi apologist.

So here's my idea. I have written a critique of this book, which rebuts one of the essays in great detail, and briefly notes the problems with other parts of it. And I only want it to go to people who are serious about the Rationalist Judaism cause. So I will send a copy of the book and the critique to anyone who donates at least $180 to the Torah and Nature Foundation, which is my 501(c)(3) that funds The Biblical Museum of Natural History. By so doing, you will not only be receiving a book of historical significance, you will also be supporting our important work of teaching the full spectrum of society about the relationship between Torah and the natural world. Take advantage of this opportunity while there is still some stock left - this book will never be reprinted! Click below to donate via PayPal or credit card, and the book & critique will be mailed to you. On a personal note, I would like to say that I would be very appreciative of those who support this cause.

43 comments:

  1. No offense, but describing the book as having "historical significance" might be a wee bit of an overstatement.

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  2. כשם שמצוה לומר דבר הנשמע, כך מצוה שלא לומר דבר שאינו נשמע.

    כשם שקיבלתי שכר על הדרישה, כך אקבל שכר על הפרישה.

    IMHO, what you should do is go over your old books, take out the things that no longer pass muster, and re-publish. Cut your losses, and count it a mitzva to prevent further dissemination of ideas you now consider wrong. Trying to wring a little more profit from what you yourself consider problematic material sounds improper.

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    Replies
    1. It's problematic if you take it as it is. It's educational if you read it in conjunction with the critique.

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  3. reb Natan, what about opening the book to the title page of one of the offending essays, sealing it in amber and displaying it in the entrance of the museum with the title "Memorial to an extinct species Nossonus Godolatoricus...😉

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  4. The Parshas Noach essay in that book attacks racism, which is something no Chareidi writer (apart from Rabbi YG Bechhoffer and tentatively Avi Shafran) would even contemplate doing, so Yasher Koach for having the courage back then.

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  5. Burn them as there are תשמישי מצוה ולא תשמישי קדושה and thus inspire a whole new blog topic!

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  6. No, no, no. You create an account using a pseudonym on ebay. You advertise that "you" got a hold of copies of a book written by the "great rasha Natan Slifkin" that "proves" that his current views are all false for behold! Here's the book showing what he really thinks! How embarrassing for him if people were to get copies of this book and learn the truth about him! And you charge a really good price so you don't have to worry about rent payments any more.

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  7. I don't like it. You shouldn't be critiquing others publicly until you've discussed the issue with them privately. It's especially crass when the author you are critiquing is no longer with us. He has no chance to respond.

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  8. Wait, was is Nosson or Natan that did the testimonial for chiropractic in the last post? ;)

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    Replies
    1. Is there a David before and after?

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    2. Yes, there is the David before I realized that you were a troll :).

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    3. Gosh I hadn't realised that I had made such a difference to your life. I hope it is a positive change. And if you can shift so dramatically with such a small realisation what could happen to you if you really realised that I was right? And that your labels were just products of your imagination - perish the thought eh! :-))))

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  9. I expect in a few centuries there will be a great deal of effort expended to reconcile conflicting R' Natan's (he changed his mind is only given as an answer when all else fails) OTOH perhaps we will see shtai R' Natan's ninhu

    KT

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  10. If you erase the published date and leave them to be found after your death (ad meah v'esrim, Pooh Pooh Pooh bar minan bli ayin hara habeaus corpus ad nauseum) then the Cahredei world can use them to show that you did Teshuva in the end of your life just like all the other rationalists did . . .

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  11. IMHO, the thing to do here is to write a new revision of the book, including foreword and afterword commentary for each essay. This will let you explain to the reader what you currently believe and why (for the essays you no longer endorse) you have a different opinion today.

    I wouldn't consider selling the old copies (without the foreword/afterword essays), because they would mislead readers. Even if you try to restrict the readership, words and ideas never remain contained in one place. I would have them destroyed, if possible.

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    Replies
    1. I imagined me that he's trying to find a use for the old books, not find his next book project or repent for past publishing errors.

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  12. Does that mean that Focus and Lying For Truth are also full of tainted ideas?

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    Replies
    1. Focus doesn't have any ideas.

      Lying for Truth is a whitewash.

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    2. He must really hate the author...

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  13. What happens if you change your mind again in the future as you grow older and view the world through wiser eyes?

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    Replies
    1. Do you ask that question about every author? About every expert you consult?

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    2. "When someone persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?" -- Attributed to Keynes by Joan Robinson

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    3. To answer the question generally: he and all people with intellectual honesty will change their minds on many subjects. One or neither of the old or new positions will be correct. "What happens?" Not much. You get to read both arguments and decide for yourself is correct.

      There are some things in life, like legal rulings, that do depend on authority. Those things often have rules to prevent change even when they are incorrect (with sometimes bad results). For everything else, the truth is independent of any "authority" changing their mind.

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  14. Does this include shipping to the US?
    Do we get the book signed by the Author?

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  15. Are previous museum donors eligible?

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  16. what would have happened if chareidi noson had met rational natan. would charedi noson been converted instantly ?

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    Replies
    1. maybe they would have both disappeared in a puff of smoke - matter and anti matter

      or dare one suggest that rational natan would have been converted?

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    2. Did you ever watch Back to the Future either the world would cease to exist or both would pass out.

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    3. If you cross your own time line one of two things happens
      1) Either the space-time continuum can't take the paradox and there's a massive explosion or
      2) After spending time together the earlier you completely forgets about the encounter since remembering it would wind up altering the course of your personal history leading to the meeting never happening which can't occur since it already happened.
      (Lordy I wish I knew Gemara like I know this shtus)

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    4. @Garnel. Only in bad science fiction.

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    5. most likely they would just talk past each other (if you can't agree on axioms, theorems will not follow
      kt

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  17. Perhaps its the current ideas that are off the mark and Second Focus was correct.

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    Replies
    1. Or perhaps neither are correct. Such is life.

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  18. I to was confronted with similar dilema. I think per halacha burning or tossing in trash for example are not acceptable. One time I gave the 'holy' books to a shul or yeshiva that would appreciate them. Anyway, many people when confronted with strong evidence against their beliefs are unable or unwilling for whatever reasons to update their beliefs. But intellectual honesty demands that we do. It can be painful.

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  19. $180. Wow. You've truly become a real Israeli now.

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  20. Is it possible to just purchase a pdf of the critique?

    ReplyDelete

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Happy Chanukah!