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Yated Gets Hoodwinked
Here is a letter that was sent to Yated Ne'eman:
To the Editor:
In a review of Rabbi Meiselman's book that appeared in last week's Yated Ne'eman, the book was gravely misrepresented. It was effusively praised for showing that "Chazal's statements should not be adjusted to adhere to science's teachings," that "the integrity of the mesorah is never in question," and that it displays "an awesome reverence for the incredible golden minds represented in Torah Shebaal Peh and throughout our mesorah." But in fact Rabbi Meiselman does indeed adjust Chazal's statements to adhere to science's teachings, he challenges the entire mesorah in this area, and he discards the universal view of the incredible golden minds throughout our mesorah.
Chazal made a number of statements regarding the generation of various animals, including lice generating from humans, insects from fruit and water, and mice from dirt. ALL the Rishonim and Acharonim, without exception, explained Chazal as referring to spontaneous generation. (Today, since we do not see these creatures spontaneously generating, the standard approach in the yeshivah world is to say nishtaneh hateva or that the creatures described by Chazal are now extinct.) However, Rabbi Meiselman accepts the views of modern science in this area, and claims that all the Rishonim and Acharonim are wrong! (See p. 320, where he writes that they were incorrect regarding what Chazal had in mind.) Rabbi Meiselman also discards the Rishonim and Acharonim regarding their explanations of Chazal's statements regarding astronomy, in a section brazenly entitled "When the Commentaries are Mistaken," in which he writes that "the interpreters of Chazal held erroneous beliefs."
Rav Aharon Feldman, in his book "The Eye of the Storm," clearly explains the view of Rav Elyashiv ztz"l, that certain views regarding Chazal and science were aberrant minority views that are therefore to be discounted. It surely follows with the greatest kal v'chomer that if all the Rishonim and Acharonim were to agree on something, that represents the normative mesorah, and it would not be permitted to say, chas v'shalom, that they were all wrong. And Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel likewise writes in his haskomoh to the new sefer Sod Liyreyav, which specifically addresses the topic of spontaneous generation, that we must accept the universal mesorah from the Rishonim and Acharonim regarding the meaning of Chazal's words, and not reject them in favor of modern science. But Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, in his new book, does exactly that!
Whereas other books challenging the integrity of the mesorah were roundly condemned, and have been rejected by the chareidi community, Rabbi Meiselman's book is being praised. Surely attention should be drawn to his radical approach in this area, rather than misleading people as to what his book does.