Wednesday, June 19, 2019


There was something in the news the other day about plans to eventually replace taxi drivers in Israel with self-driving vehicles. If that ever happens, it will remove a unique aspect of the Israel experience.

My taxi driver to the airport just now was secular and somewhat surly. As we left Ramat Beit Shemesh, there was no conversation. But then I noticed a gazelle by the side of the road, and commented upon it. The driver responded by telling me that his favorite animal is a honey-badger. And we were off!

Over the next thirty minutes the conversation turned from one topic to another. The amazing thing was that at each stage it was him advancing the topics, not me. Honey badgers led to Israeli wildlife, which led to discussing various animals including oryx (called re'em in Modern Hebrew), which led him to raise the topic of the re'em of the Midrash, which led to dinosaurs, which led to the antiquity of the universe, which led to Rambam, which led to the controversy over Rambam's work, which led to him mentioning the recent Israeli television series about Rambam, at which point he suddenly realized that he recognized me because he had seen me interviewed in one of the episodes, which led to discussing the ban on my books, which led to discussing charedi society.

Anyway, as we approached the airport, he told me something fascinating, which I'd like to share with you. He mentioned that he had heard an interview with a secular Israeli scientist discussing why religious Jews and especially charedim live longer than secular Jews. Apparently the explanation given was that in secular society, when people get old, they don't have so much to live for. But in religious and especially charedi society, the old are venerated for their wisdom, and they therefore find greater meaning and satisfaction in life, which helps them live longer. 

Would I get such a discussion with a self-driving car? No I would not!


  1. Funny how extroverts lament something that introverts would celebrate!

  2. רבי שמעון בן עקשיא אומר זקני עם הארץ כל זמן שמזקינין דעתן מיטרפת עליהן שנאמר (איוב י"ב) ... תלמידי חכמים כל זמן שמזקינים דעתם מתיישבת עליהם.

  3. The last publication of the Moreh with the four commentaries was almost 150 years ago. Perhaps we can do the world a service by republishing the work with puncutated commentaries, the classic translation, along with a newer translation that's easier to read.

  4. Israeli cab drivers are the repository of national wisdom. It's the only real way to gauge public opinion. But Uber and Lyft has put the profession on the path to extinction.

    Love the Johnny Cab pic.

  5. I know this has nothing to do with your posting today, but I couldn't resist mentioning this Shamir worm like news story in the NY Times...

  6. The link to your interview is very revealing.
    At exactly 28:24 it shows a chareidi-looking fellow perusing your most controversial book--"Challenge of Creation"--at your Torah museum.
    On it's face, this blatantly contradicts your stated policy of keeping the museum out of any possible controversy-- by hiding any references to dinosaurs and evolution-- in order to accommodate the sensitivities of charedi visitors.

    So it seems this policy was only for the first years of the museum to lure chareidim in. Once the chareidim became regulars and their guard was down, you moved to stage two...

    1. Welcome back Dovid, I see that you are still relentlessly attributing sneaky and nefarious intentions to me. Actually, the museum still has no references to dinosaurs or evolution. I just figured that the books in the gift store are a different matter, and in any case charedim don't buy books without haskamos.

    2. Natan is just as unaccepting and narrowly focused as he claims his opponents are. (The truth is, they are both extreme in the positions they claim as mainstream)

    3. your most controversial book--"Challenge of Creation"--at your Torah museum

      Not according to Rav Shapiro.

  7. "Relentless"?
    I'd post alot more frequently on your blog (or kept up my own) if I were relentless. It's just that some deceptions are simply too huge to ignore.

    1. Dovid/Unknown, I'm curious. How is that you "know" that I had planned all along to sell these books at the museum, and the museum was a way to "lure" the charedim to them, rather than it being as I said - that I simply realized that the gift store is different from the museum presentation and that charedim don't buy my books anyway?

    2. And there's even a third possibility - that it's nothing to do with any agenda, and it's a just a way to earn additional revenue for the museum.
      How is it that you're always so sure that there's a nefarious, sneaky agenda?

    3. Someone (posting as "Koppel") asked your very question in the comments here:

      And I responded that my evidence comes from here:

      Of course you'll deny any such nefarious motives, but how can anybody take your word for it? You are hopelessly biased in your favor!

    4. So because I want to influence the charedi world to work for a living and to support the IDF, this proves that the museum is part of a secret plan to influence charedim to read my books about Torah and science?

      But they don't even read English! And how many Anglo charedim (most of whom don't come to the museum, because I am "treif") are going to buy books without haskamos and with dinosaurs on the cover? (I can tell you how many charedim have bought my books at the museum - pretty much none!)

      And it's amazing how you are so certain that it's all part of a devious plan. Not just that one day I decided to sell my books at the museum store. Because the charedim don't buy them anyway, and why not have our non-charedi visitors buy them. No, that can't be it, it must be part of a carefully planned-out scheme!

      Honestly, you're bizarre. You see hidden agendas and nefarious motives everywhere. And in your ten-year obsessive blog against me, you always interpreted everything I wrote in the most sneaky, extreme way possible. Either it's Kol haposel bemumo posel, or you're just completely bonkers.

    5. Re-posting (it seems my comment yesterday didn't get through for some reason):
      In the comments section to the post I cited as evidence above, Natan Slifkin wrote:

      "I'm not talking about being mekarev the extremists. That's hopeless. I'm talking about the moderate charedim - in particular, the Anglos, who move to Israel and fall for the myth that Charedim is the True Torah Approach."

      So you've admitted your target audience *is* Anglo-Chareidim who read English. (They do buy books w/o haskomos, because Rabbi Meiselman's book has actually sold quite well.)

      And it seems Anglo-Chareidim do in fact come to your museum and read your controversial books -- because we all could see a Chareidi perusing an English-language book, "Challenge of Creation" right there in the video! They don't have to buy the book to be influenced by it when they read it in your gift shop.
      So who should we believe? You? Or our lying eyes?

      And to address your straw-man, I never claimed to be certain and I never claimed all your motives were nefarious. I'm sure you are also quite eager to make a buck from the community you so despise.

      Calling me names in response to the damning evidence only shows the weakness of your defense.

    6. I didn't let your comment yesterday go through because you posted it in my name! Play your silly games elsewhere, not here.

      The target audience for my museum is across the board. We get lots of Israeli charedim and lots of dati-leumi. We get virtually no Anglo-charedim.

      If anglo-charedim want to buy my book - and most will be wary of buying a book about dinosaurs by someone called "Natan" and without haskamos - they can do so. Just as they can do so in bookstores. It is unlikely to happen, and certainly the Israeli charedim aren't buying my books, which is why I eventually decided that it makes sense to have them available in our store for our non-charedi visitors, and that it is unlikely to alienate people from the museum.

      You claimed that our policy about no controversial things at the museum was just to "lure people in" and that "once their guard was down," I "moved to phase two." That's nothing less than an aveirah of dan l'kaf chov. As well as reflecting a sick/bonkers mindset which you demonstrated all too well on your ten-year obsessive blog against me.

    7. I see this discussion is devolving into a mud-slinging contest. Fine with me.
      You said:
      "That's nothing less than an aveirah of dan l'kaf chov."
      But not if there is concrete evidence against a person with a history of deception and we are dealing with a benoni (at best.)

      "As well as reflecting a sick/bonkers mindset which you demonstrated all too well on your ten-year obsessive blog against me."

      I backed every single one of my suspicions and allegations with concrete evidence--from either what you said/wrote/published or what you did.
      Since you tried so hard to project an image of perfect integrity and intellectual honesty in order to curry sympathy and support online against the banners, someone needed to expose the truth to the unsuspecting public.
      Yes, it took alot of debunking work, (you put out an awful lot of lies and theological distortions in quick succession at times) and seemed excessive at times, but at least now there is somewhere online people can go to find the truth.

    8. I'll leave it to the readers to make up their own minds as to which one of us is intellectually honest, and which one of us twists things to suit our purposes.

  8. Rabbi Kovid DornreichJune 23, 2019 at 9:18 PM

    Dr. Slifkin, I was recently watching the zapruder film, and noticed that if I played it backward, the words "rationalist judaism rules" were clearly audible. I always knew that you were cunning and dangerous, but didn't realize how far you were willing to go to achieve world domination. I would post more, but I need to re-enter my tin-foil faraday cage quickly. I dare come out only in short bursts. --DO

    1. Beautiful reply, but too sophisticated for the intended audience; he probably has never read a "tamei" book on history.

  9. But in religious and especially charedi society, the old are venerated for their wisdom, and they therefore find greater meaning and satisfaction in life, which helps them live longer.

    Or because they're looking forward to the טרקלין that awaits them after the פרוזדור.

    My friend asked a gentile physical therapist, who had worked mainly in the group's offices in gentile towns, and later began working in the Orthodox Jewish 'hood, how the new hood compared to the old one. The therapist answered that in the new hood they are more understanding and accepting of their often painful therapies. They don't complain and curse, and say it's all bashert (he said that w/o any accent). The broader picture offers comfort. The non-religious, Jew or gentile, don't have that. Overall for them life is just downhill.

    1. I would greatly challenge this. People in the West are living longer - fact. Older people are more physically active than they ever have been. A whole lifestyle and industry is dedicated to the welfare of the elderly. My family is 90% secular or traditional and they tend to live into their 80s and 90s. They have - likely more far more important than the comforting placebo of Hashem's love - actual loving families and engaging lives. I would be interested to see of there is actually any statistical backing for the claim that Haredim live longer? If anything I find elderly Haredim (men) - again this is anecdotal - to not exactly be pictures of mental and physical health. Perhaps - if we are going to speculate wildly anyway! - secular people live shorter lives because they tend to work harder? They might be more involved in physical effort to achieve in life? The idea that secular (Jews) have no outward or inward source of comfort or are less revered sounds like a theory to me. In my experience I have seen older people - even in Haredi or religious society - also set aside, or ignored rather than 'revered'.

    2. So you disagree with the original post?

    3. googling "do religious people really live longer" brought up some repetitive and some conflicting answers

    4. I just am not a fan of too much rampant anecdotal speculation in these matters. If there is any reason to believe Haredim live longer it may likely reside more in matters of lifestyle: diet, stress, climate etc. Israelis in general already have reasonable longevity - but so do many 'mediterranean' population groups.

    5. Adam from.....well, best not to say.July 10, 2019 at 11:48 PM

      Meir hits it fair and square. You really cannot base such a claim on anecdotal evidence.
      As far as the other points - there does seem to be a huge amount of psychological morbidity in the chareidi community.

  10. ACJA - Sort of related - 1) Has Rav Slifkin written about the type of fish or what ever it was in the book of Job ? 2) Was the story understood as history or fiction depending on the period of time ?

  11. RDNS, I enjoyed the post, and it illustrates your inclination and talent at connecting with others intellectually, and how this can lead to a humanizing reassessment of the other.

    On the theory about "religious Jews and Charedim" living longer, I wouldn't at all be surprised if feeling more respected in old age has an influence on longevity. Being involved with the mental helth field, I've seen much research, and many apparent real-life instances, illustrating how often and how profoundly thoughts, emotions, and social interactions can affect physical health.

    I would add, however, so that one not interpret this claimed Charedi longevity as indicative of religious Judaism being a uniquely healthy lifestyle (and certainly not that it reflects Divine approval), that it might help to put this in context of other groups...with rather non-Jewish beliefs. Seventh Day Adventists, for example, have been shown by some studies to live signicantly longer than their fellow Americans. (Yes, it's Wikipedia, but surely the studies cited are not to be dismissed without good cause--and they are likely at least as robust as the observation/theory regarding the Charedim.)

    Thanks for your intelligent blog.

  12. The self driving vehicles will not give you interesting discussion. But they will give something more important. They will have less accidents and save lives.


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