Is This Book In Cherem?
Is my new Hebrew book, Yitzurei HaPele B'Midrash UveMada, in cherem?
It might seem clear that it is. After all, it's a direct Hebrew translation of Sacred Monsters. And that book was an expanded edition of Mysterious Creatures. And Mysterious Creatures was most definitely put in cherem, declared to be utter heresy by around three dozen leading charedi Gedolim.
But in fact, matters are not so straightforward.
The original "problem" with Mysterious Creatures was that it took a rationalist approach, which allowed for science proving certain things, and for the Sages having held beliefs about the natural world that were based upon the standard and sometimes errant beliefs of their era, rather than divine sources of knowledge. This was, of course, also the approach of Rambam, Rav Hirsch, and many dozens of other prominent Geonim, Rishonim and Acharonim, right up to our generation.
Of the charedi rabbinic authorities who declared the book to be heretical, some of them (such as the late Rav Moshe Shapiro and Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel) genuinely believe this approach to be absolutely heretical. As for the dozens of great rabbinic authorities who held this view - they are unaware of many of these sources and in denial of the others, claiming them to be forgeries and so on. According to these rabbis, my new Hebrew book is likewise absolutely heretical and must be burned.
On the other hand, some of the others who signed on the ban against my book, such as Rav Elyashiv, were aware that there were great Torah authorities of the past who took this approach. And when they signed that my book was heretical, they didn't actually mean that it was heretical. As Rav Elyashiv stated, "כוונתי כשהצטרפתי לקול קורא היתה רק בנוגע שהספרים אסורים לבא בקהל"" ("My intention when I added my name to the public announcement [regarding the issur] was only regarding that the books should not enter the community.") He was against this approach being taught in the charedi community, partly because charedim innately do not agree with that approach (which they are entitled to do, notwithstanding its illustrious heritage), and partly because they believe it to be educationally dangerous (which may well be true for many people in that community). Indeed, that book was written by a charedi author and published by a charedi publisher with charedi haskamos in a way that would target it to a charedi audience.
Yitzurei HaPele, on the other hand, is packaged very differently. It's softcover (which is almost never the case with "real" sifrei kodesh). It has no rabbinic endorsements printed in it. It's published by Maggid/Koren. It's written by someone with a doctorate from Bar-Ilan. It's clearly not a charedi book, and no threat to the charedi community.
So is it a heretical book in cherem? I think it's a machlokes charedi Gedolim.