Rav Feldman Writes Back
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
Thank you for your e-mail. I do not recall any “factual errors or serious flaws” in my article, “The Slifkin Affair,” which were brought to my attention; otherwise I would certainly have corrected them.
I do not recall having received a letter from you, and I apologize for not answering it. However, I do recall receiving a list of 38 sources which you said supported R.Avraham’s position. However, when I reviewed them I did not find more than several which were substantive (most of them repeated identical sources) and which would convert R. Avraham’s view into a majority view. I have always planned to point this out to you, but because I thought my response would not make a difference, and because I am overwhelmed with my duties, I never did.
I have not tried to “re-ignite” this issue; it is you who have kept the flames of disrespect towards gedoley torah burning. I simply thought (vainly perhaps) that my article deserved wider dissemination.
I apologize for having misspelled your name several times in my book, in the text and in the running heads. I went to large expense to replace the plates so that these errors will not appear in future printings.
Finally, I mailed a letter two weeks ago addressed to your Beit Shemesh address in which I asked you to remove a posting on your website in which literally every sentence has factual errors. Your posting states that I visited Rav Eliashiv together with Rav Berel Weisbord who asked him whether your books could be used for kiruv purposes and that Rav Eliashiv agreed that they could be used for such purposes. Rav Weisbord has, to the best of my knowledge, never in his lifetime visited Rav Eliashiv, certainly not with me, nor was this question posed by anyone at any meeting I had with Rav Eliashiv. On the contrary, Rabbi Moshe Frances of the Chicago Kollel told me that he posed this question to Rav Eliashiv and was told that it was forbidden. Finally, the statement that Rav Eliashiv forbade the books only for “his” community is totally false. I should hope that you keep your website free of such serious flaws in the future.
Very truly yours,
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Sunday, November 29, 2009
Dear Rav Feldman, shlita,
Thank you for responding to my email. I did not receive the letter that you mailed me, but my mailing address has changed: it is now 2/1 Nachal Raziel, Ramat Bet Shemesh 99632.
I will certainly remove from my website the account about Rav Elyashiv telling you that the approach of the Rishonim in my books is legitimate for outreach purposes. I apologize for this error; I thought that my information was reliable, since it came from a senior member of the Ner Israel faculty who claimed at the time that he heard it from you directly.
I likewise will accept your understanding of Rav Elyashiv's statement that the books are "forbidden from entering the community," that he meant the entire Jewish world rather than only the charedi community. I admit that I find it difficult to believe that Rav Elyashiv really did rule that an approach which his own rebbe, Rav Herzog, proclaimed to be the entirely normative approach from the Rishonim, is in fact a heretical aberrant view that is forbidden for everyone, even though countless talmidei chachamim and Roshei Yeshivah in Jerusalem and the US consider it perfectly legitimate.
With regard to your claim that it is I who have tried to keep the flames of disrespect to Gedolei Torah burning - as you yourself told me, five years ago, I have a right to defend myself. You are claiming that your article deserves wider dissemination than that which it has already received. Surely I deserve the right to defend myself before that wider audience? And what about the flames of disrespect towards those Rishonim, Acharonim, recent Gedolim and contemporary talmidei chachamim whose approach is being deemed unacceptable? Could it not justly be seen as disrespectful to claim that their understanding of Chazal is critically flawed and can be deemed heretical? Do they not have a right to have someone speak up on their behalf?
I am pleased to hear that it is certainly your intent to correct factual errors and serious flaws. But along with countless other people, I am at a loss to understand how you did not notice any at all in the point-by-point rebuttal of your article.
For example, you yourself admit that in the list of forty sources that I sent to you, all of which say that Chazal's statements about the natural world were not always correct, you found several that were substantive. Why did you not add them to your article, in your list of such views?
Furthermore, I do not understand your dismissal of the rest of these authorities on the grounds that they were simply repeating identical points. In repeating identical points, they were endorsing their legitimacy! By your logic, there is only one Gadol who opposed my books, since all the others signed on to the same statement!
My latest response included a list of over forty gedolei Rishonim and Acharonim, from the Geonim through to recent Gedolim, all of whom opposed the claim that Chazal were correct in all their statements about the natural world. I simply do not understand how you can maintain that this is an aberrant "minority viewpoint" that has "fallen by the wayside over the centuries" and may therefore not be followed by anyone at all. It is not a minority viewpoint, and it has not fallen by the wayside. When you learn the Gemara in Pesachim 94b that Chazal believed the sun to travel behind the sky at night, is there even a single Rishon that you can name whose approach to this sugya you consider viable? You are certainly dismissing the approach of the overwhelming majority of Rishonim. I do not deny that in recent centuries, many have rejected this approach, but there have nevertheless been significant Acharonim, recent Gedolim and contemporary Roshei Yeshivah who have acknowledged it as a legitimate normative view from the Rishonim. I am still at a loss to understand how anyone can claim that no Jew in the world is entitled to follow such a mesorah.