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Interlude: "Does anyone take this sefer seriously at all?"
In the comments to the previous post, Reuven Meir asked the following question:
R. Slifkin, from your posts so far, it seems to me this "sefer" you are responding to is so poorly researched and even deceptive that I do not understand why you are taking the time to even respond!
Does anyone take this sefer seriously at all?
Reuven Meir asks a good question. As shown in the last few posts, and as I will continue to demonstrate in the next ten posts (and I could write many more if I had the stomach for it), this sefer denies the existence of an entire school of thought in the history of Torah scholarship, ignores inconvenient writings of the Rishonim and Acharonim or dismisses them as forgeries or as having been written only for kiruv, and it even edits and rearranges the words of the Rishonim to make them conform with its ideology. Can anyone take it seriously?!
The unfortunate answer to this question is yes.
First of all, the Gedolim of the charedi world who wrote long, effusive haskamos to this work apparently take it seriously, and certainly give the impression that they do. That alone is cause for grave concern.
Second, one can find this book recommended by the moderator at Frumteens.com. While the Frumteens moderator is not someone that I would take seriously, there are many impressionable teenagers who do take him seriously.
Third, and most troubling to me, is that there are many yeshivos and seminaries which cater to the non-charedi community but which employ teachers who are devoted disciples of Rav Moshe Shapiro and the other Gedolim who endorsed this book. Derech/Ohr Somayach, Toras Shraga, Darchei Binah and Michlala come to mind, but there are many others; even Gruss and NCSY employ such people! There is no doubt that these teachers take this book seriously. They could easily recommend it to their students, but even without that, the approach in this book informs and reflects their outlook. It never ceases to amaze me that people who are passionate supporters of the rationalist approach do not realize that when they send their sons and daughters to yeshivah and seminary, they are being taught by people who consider the rationalist approach to be unacceptable and even heretical, and they may well absorb this attitude. You can look at all the information given by the schools in Israel listed at YU's website and you will not see a hint of this, but it doesn't take much research to make it clear that this is a real possibility. It doesn't concern me if charedim educate charedim in this way, but it does concern me when they educate non-charedim in this way.
So, yes, there is a real danger of people taking Sefer Chaim B'Emunasam seriously, and that is why its grievous perversions of Jewish intellectual history must be exposed and denounced.