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Rav Schechter's Error
The post "When The Gedolim Came To Teaneck" generated this thoughtful comment by someone called Alex, with regard to the video of Rav Aharon Schechter's diatribe:
I was put off by the method of delivery, an over-the-top fairly angry rant, but I didn't take offense at the message, which I think had a clear point -- that one ought to know Shas a little better, and worry more about what one is clearly chiav al pi Torah to know and to do. I tend to gravitate more to my Slifkin books rather than study of Shas, so I don't mind the chizzuk in that area.
I greatly admire Alex for his ability to look past those parts of the presentation that offended him, and to find useful messages to take from it. But Alex is very much the exception. Most people are simply going to find it offensive, and reflecting very poorly upon Rav Schechter - and with good reason.
To be sure, the most important part of Judaism is to observe halachah. And there are more basic parts of Torah to learn than maaseh Bereishis.
Yet the fact remains that there are many sincere frum Jews who are bothered by conflicts between Torah and science. Now, I can appreciate that certain topics, such as the Deluge, bother relatively few people, and the answers require pushing the boundaries of faith to their very limits, and it is therefore not worth opening that can of worms in public. But questions regarding the age of the universe and evolution are extremely basic and are of great concern to countless thousands of people, and there have long been approaches proposed by authorities with impeccable credentials.
Screaming at people with these questions that they shouldn't think about such things is not going to be very helpful. In fact, it is likely to cause great harm. As Faranak Margolese writes in "Off The Derech":
Despite the history and importance of debate, we seem to have a hard time with questions today. Sometimes we do not accept them at all. At other times, we accept them only if they are “within the system,” as long as they don’t challenge the fundamentals of Torah. Students repeatedly express frustration and sometimes bitterness about this reality, and some go off the derech (the path of observance) because of it. (Faranak Margolese, Off The Derech, p. 234)
If a more choshuve source is required, then we have Rabbi Chaim Friedlander ztz"l from Ponovezh:
We are frequently faced with a dilemma in these topics: Is it worthwhile to enter into discussing them, and to know and understand what it is possible to understand and what it is not possible to understand, or to leave it all as a matter of simple faith? But on the other hand, it is likely that a person will raise the question and not know how to answer it, so it is appropriate to raise the question and the answer—especially in our generation, where there are many that are confused and have erred in their path. (Sifsei Chaim, Emunah VeHashgachah vol. I, p. 337)
Not many people are going to stop worrying about these questions just because Rav Aharon Schecter said so. Rebuffing people for their questions has the effect of making them feel invalidated, lacking confidence in Judaism, and resentful towards the rabbinic establishment.
Rav Schechter's diatribe is especially ironic because I know of people in his very own yeshivah, Chaim Berlin, who have been immensely bothered by these issues and never dared raise their concerns with him. And who can blame them? Instead, these people have turned to my books, which have been helpful to them. And thus Rav Schechter has no idea that even within the pure environment of his own yeshivah, there are people who desperately need guidance with these topics. On a personal level, I find it immensely frustrating that he is publicly slamming me for dealing with these issues, when his own talmidim are turning to me rather than him for help!