Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Rabbi and the Mammoth

I can't believe it. In my last post, "Woolly Mammoths and the Jews," I forgot to mention the best bit!

As I wrote, the mammoth tusk that was donated to The Biblical Museum of Natural History came from a woman who found it while going through the belongings of her late father, who was a US Air Force chaplain in Alaska and acquired it there. He was a fan of my work, and therefore she thought it appropriate that it be given to my museum.

But I forgot to mention the best bit!

The other reason why she thought it would be very poetic to give it to the museum is that her father was Rabbi Joshua Wachtfogel. That last name will ring a bell for long-time followers of my work. Rabbi Joshua Wachtfogel was the cousin of none other than Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, one of the primary forces behind the ban on my books, and someone who insists that the universe is 5780 years old!

Luckily, Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel can visit the museum and see his cousin's gift without objection, since mammoths lived only 4000 years ago! (We won't tell him that this particular tusk is from Alaska, where mammoths lived much, much longer ago.)

(By the way, I don't believe that it is appropriate to feel smug or make fun of those who prefer to ignore or deny the existence of prehistoric eras. Many, many people choose to ignore facts or scholarly consensuses when these are disturbing to them and go against their worldview.)


  1. Consistent HonestyOctober 10, 2019 at 1:47 PM

    "Many, many people choose to ignore facts or scholarly consensuses when these are disturbing to them and go against their worldview."

    Huh? Make fun of all of them.

    1. To what purpose?

    2. I suspect that Rav Slifkin is trying to defend all his Orthodox Party Line friends who are climate change deniers.

    3. It's more fun to say "climate change deniers" than "climate change skeptics."

  2. RNS, all religions and religions belief go against facts and scholarly concenus.

    The question is just where you draw the line.

    They draw it where they chose to, you draw it where you chose to. They choose not to reconcile the traditional age of the earth, you choose to.

    But both of you believe in divine revelation of the torah, the 10 plagues, and the exodus which is against facts and scholarly concensus.

  3. This post is included in What's New in The Jewish Blog World? 1st Roundup of 5780... Take a look, read, comment and share.

    Chag Succot Sameach

  4. Lets be clear. It is only ok to not make fun of those who ignore (I dont like prefer to ignore) or deny the existence of pre-historic eras when you're in the bubble of Beit Shemesh (or to some degree Israel). Denying science - or any facet of it - whether climate change, vaccinations, dinosaurs - is worth of the strongest of rebuke (not making fun or being smug). If there is one uncontroversial halachic (deoraita) obligation from 'הוֹכֵחַ תּוֹכִיחַ' that has nothing to do with mitzvot, its to rebuke someone who denies truth to the detriment of themselves and society..and putting themselves and society at risk.

  5. "Many, many people choose to ignore facts or scholarly consensuses when these are disturbing to them and go against their worldview."

    For example, many of this site's commentators choose to believe that Judaism has no fundamental beliefs, and that one can happily call himself Orthodox while denying Hashem and his Torah as true, despite the scholarly consesus of all of Judaism's top rabbonim today. (I wonder if those commentatos skip Vekol Maaminim on Yom Kippur.)

  6. "I dont believe that it is appropriate to feel smug or make fun etc."... So the fact that this is the "best bit" that you "cant believe" you forgot to mention, is just your idea of friendly innocent irony that happens to involve someone who banned your books? I actually have a sneaking suspicion that you remembered very well (and probably were quite excited to post it) but wanted to stay away from such things right before Yom Kippur. If I am correct, then good for you! Maybe your conscience will eventually start working all year round.

  7. Denial of being the universe older may assume denial of mammoths, but should not deny existence of their tusks! They can answer: 5780 years ago the Lord created the world which contains tusks of mammoths and skeletons of dinosaurs.

  8. So a new study claims that mammoth went extinct recently. What if this study is disproved later? And even if not, mammoths are identified with prehistoric people and animals. This isn't going to remain unnoticed. You make an impression of a childish, subversive busybody trying to sneak in a controversial exhibit and gloating over it. This isn't likely to end well.

  9. Them supposed to have lived 4000 years ago is old news. Make sure you have the correct sub-species to display.

    "Mammuthus primigenius, Woolly Mammoth, was adapted to the cold sagebrush steppes and snowfields of the ice margins. The glaciers caused the sea levels to drop allowing Siberia and Alaska to be joined by a grassy land bridge. It shared the world with modern humans, and the last pygmy subspecies died out less than 4,000 years ago (Lange, 2002)."

    The usual YA

  10. How about a post on the mass psychosis of the oilam when picking out the 'perfect' 4 minim?

  11. This while idea of "physics was different then" sounds like a game of calvin ball" where that comic strip kid would play a game with his imaginary pet tiger and keep changing the rules.
    At some point you just have to say, Hashem didn't really care how we estimated the age of the world, he just wanted to make clear that He did create it.

  12. If you want to say that Hashem created the world to appear old, then you have to deal with, I think, there is at least this implication of such an assertion. Science makes observations and then draws some likely conclusions from those observations using our ability to reason and make reliable observations. Now, the age of the universe and the age of the fossils, and more, are based on observation and reason and additional science that is not based on the age of the universe. Radioactive decay, half-lives of isotopes, can be, and is, measured today and backwards interpolations are based on measurements ie. observations that we make right now of the rate of decay. Now, accept the assertion that it is all a trick by Hashem. Let's leave aside the discussion of why He would play such a trick on us -- to lie to us -- and what that implies about Hashem. That would require that we cannot rely on our ability to make observations and reason. If we can't rely on the credibility of our ability to reason, a general human trait that applies to all areas of knowledge, then we also cannot trust our ability to reason about Torah and Halacha. That is, unless it is explicitly written in Torah, then it has no validity. We cannot also trust that any d'rabbanan is valid. Thus, we might as well all be Karites. But we know that science works. If it didn't, then maybe you'd have to say that these computers and the internet we are using were given directly to us by Hashem and it only seems like men discovered it all because we can't really discover anything at all. It seems so absurd to me to assert that Hashem is a sly trickster. If that really is the way Hashem is, then every day should be April Fools Day if we are supposed to emulate Him. Finally, I don't think I could accept a god that is so devious.


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