When this Blog was first initiated, I promised myself that I would stay away from anything personal. I adopted a whole list of "thou shalt and thou shalt nots". I resolved that I would not invoke the "K" word. I would not criticize Rabbi Slifkin personally. I would never discuss the issue of the ban. I would remain objective. I would remain calm. I would maintain decorum and communicate my message in a respectful tone. Tonight, I will probably break several of these resolutions if not all of them. The following Blog entry should be viewed as a personal protest of Rabbi Slifkin’s writings and as such constitutes a deviation from the standard operating procedures which define this site.
With his last two blogs regarding Rav Shlomo Miller shlita, Rabbi Slifkin has sunk to new lows. Unfortunately Chazal have already predicted such behavior when they stated: aveira goreress aveira.
Anyone who is even somewhat familiar with the writings of Rabbi Slifkin knows how cavalier he can be towards Chazal. His books contain numerous examples of how Chazal [supposedly] erred in a variety of different areas relating to nature. To be sure, he plies his trade with an affected air of respectfulness. But the bottom line is, his attitude towards the wisdom of Chazal is appalling. If anyone still nurtures any doubts, his latest monograph clearly reveals where his heart really lies. It is entirely dedicated to demonstrating a) Chazal’s primitive knowledge of cosmology and b) our license to reject Chazal’s statements on nature in other areas of science unrelated to cosmology.
The gedoley Yisrael have remonstrated with him regarding his erroneous attitudes towards Chazal and have even taken forceful action such as banning his books. But all this goes unheeded by the Rabbi. On the contrary, he continues to stridently defend his views in the face of overwhelming rabbinic opposition. Since Azariah de Rossi I cannot remember anyone who has devoted so much time effort and research into subjects that invariably culminate in Chazal’s [purported] shortcomings in science! Rabbi Slifkin’s attitude towards Chazal is, in my opinion, his primary indiscretion and is the one which directly facilitates the expression of his numerous other indiscretions. (Incidentally Rabbi Miller warned him about this in his letter of admonishment!)
Rabbi Slifkin writes as follows:
Rav Shlomo Miller, the senior Charedi rabbinic figure in Toronto, first became known to many people when he wrote a letter protesting the heresy of interpreting Maaseh Bereishis in naturalistic terms, specifically as done in my book The Challenge Of Creation (but also applicable to any way of reconciling Bereishis with modern science).
This assertion amounts to nothing more than arrogant presumption. Rav Shlomo Miller is a world renowned gaon and posek. He didn’t "first become known to many people" because he happened to write a macha’a against Rabbi Slifkin’s opinions. This obvious attempt at self-aggrandizement by association with a renowned talmid chacham is Rabbi Slifkin's first indiscretion.
Rabbi Slifkin continues:
Now, in contrast to the topic of organ donation, where I admitted that I had not researched the topic thoroughly, the topic of women covering their hair is a topic that I have not researched at all. But what do I see? I see that Rabbi Broyde wrote a lengthy, detailed, article, with copious footnotes. And I see that Rabbi Miller responded with a single paragraph of assertions from authority and insults. And I ask myself: When two people have a disagreement, and one calmly presents a thorough explanation of his position, while the other refuses to do so and simply hurls out angry insults, who is usually correct? When you have good reasons to be confident in the correctness of your position, you don't refrain from sharing them. That's why, without knowing anything at all about this topic, I see Rabbi Miller's condemnation of Rabbi Broyde's article as an endorsement of its arguments.
The only thing Rabbi Slifkin got right was his statement about himself: "without knowing anything at all about this topic". He goes on to write "I see Rabbi Miller's condemnation of Rabbi Broyde's article as an endorsement of its arguments" Actually Rabbi Slifkin sees nothing at all! All he "sees" are his biased views against Chazal which have now expressed themselves in biases against current talmeeday chachamim. Even a fool would be able to come up with the following line of reasoning. Rabbi Miller is a well-known posek. If he was writing a counter-teshuva to Rabbi Broyde’s presentation, does it even begin to make sense that he would write a tiny 5-10 line presentation? Hmmm…. Let me call the kollel in Toronto in an attempt to understand the nature of Rabbi Miller’s "psak"…
But no. Instead, Rabbi Slifkin aligns himself with the propaganda of an insignificant am ha’aretz in Chicago and a pompous, loud-mouthed lawyer in Toronto – both renowned mevazey talmeeday chachamim – and even has the temerity to echo their attitudes on his supposedly "Rationalist" Blog. There is nothing rational about your behavior Rabbi Slifkin. The aforementioned two individuals could possibly be excused due to ignorance but you are a Rabbi. There is no excuse for being mevazeh talmeeday chahcamim! I am sure you know what the Rambam paskens in Hilchos Teshuva regarding the fate of those who are mevazeh talmeeday chachamim; kal va’chomer when it is done in such a public manner!
At this time, it should be noted that at least as far as Rabbi Slifkin is concerned, Rabbi Miller should be held a notch above other gedoley yisrael. Rabbi Slifkin is always complaining about the fact that the gedoley Yisrael signed a ban against him without giving him an opportunity to defend himself. You can look high and low and you will not find Rav Miller amongst the signatories; not in the Israeli ones and not in the American ones. The only reason Rabbi Miller wrote what he did was because Rabbi Slifkin came here to Toronto to disseminate his ideas. Consequently certain people here approached Rabbi Miller and requested that he write a letter delineating precisely what the issues were with Rabbi Slifkin’s view.
Second of all, Rabbi Slifkin complains that the gedolim did not explain what was wrong with his views. Once again, Rav Miller cannot be accused of this. He explained precisely what was wrong. And in case people might not understand his meaning, his letter was translated into English with explanatory footnotes!
Third of all, Rabbi Slifkin protests the fact that the gedolim never bothered giving him an audience. Not so Rav Miller! When Rabbi Slifkin was in Toronto he was granted a personal audience in Rav Miller’s home. And despite the fact that Rabbi Slifkin was unable to convince Rav Miller of his views regarding ma’aseh bereishis, the meeting ended amicably as Rabbi Slifkin himself will attest to.
If Rabbi Slifkin does not wish to accept Rav Miller’s criticism, this can at least be understood if not countenanced. But in view of the above, it would behoove Rabbi Slifkin to at least dan Rav Miller l’kaf z’chus. Instead, he insinuates himself into the fray without any research whatsoever and hastily arrives at ridiculous and unwarranted conclusions! He should have heeded Mishlei’s injunction against "grasping the ears of a dog" but instead he chooses to become embroiled in a "riv lo lo" (see Mishlei 26:17) and ends up aligning himself with those who denigrate the honor of the Torah.
Rabbi Slifkin, you must repair the damage you have done. I know Rav Miller and I’m sure he is mochel you. In fact, I’m sure he never even bothered taking any of the smears against him seriously in the first place. But this has nothing to do with your personal obligation. You must publicly apologize to Rav Miller on exactly the same venue you chose to defame him. Otherwise, I fear that you will be throwing in your lot with all the rest of the leitzim and kofrim who choose to denigrate the honor of the Torah.
Now, for those who would actually like to get a few facts mixed into the story, here’s what really happened.
Rabbi Michael J. Broyde is a Professor of Law at Emory University of Law and a dayan on the RCA Beis Din. Rabbi Broyde’s views can generally be characterized as leftist and people in the know have told me that even in the RCA he is a bit of a renegade. In 2008, he wrote a long teshuva which was characterized by him as "an attempt to justify the halakhic practice of the daughters of Israel who otherwise [other than uncovering their hair in public] dress and act modestly". Presumably this would apply both to past and present women. Rabbi E.B. Shulman responded to Rabbi Broyde and the latter presented his counter response ending with the following statement "I am convinced that it is the proper understanding of the Tur, Shulchan Aruch and Levush, as well as a smattering of Rishonim and Acharonim"
Recently, a certain Rabbi approached Rabbi Miller and complained that he was having trouble with Rabbi Broyde’s teshuva. I don’t know the exact details at this time but I strongly suspect that said Rabbi was experiencing some trouble with his constituency due to Rabbi Broyde’s teshuva. [Note: Rabbi Broyde claims that, in his opinion, the Tur and Shulchan Aruch would permit Jewish women to go out in public with their hair uncovered providing many (or perhaps most) Jewish woman do not currently cover their hair.]
In order to effectively address the issues associated with Rabbi Broyde’s teshuva, the above-noted Rabbi requested from Rabbi Miller that he should write a short "psak" regarding Rabbi Broyde’s teshuva in the most forceful way possible. If his constituency could be convinced that there was no merit to Rabbi Broyde’s approach, the issue could finally be laid to rest. After due consideration, Rabbi Miller decided to accede to his request. Rabbi Miller’s hand-written note was not a teshuva. It was not a response to Rabbi Broyde. It was his way of accommodating a personal request from a local Rabbi! It was not published anywhere and was never meant for public consumption. As these things go however, Rav Miller’s "psak", or more accurately, his macha’a, managed to find itself in the hands of unscrupulous individuals who decided to disseminate it over the net, misrepresent the background, and indulge in egregious bizayon hatorah! That’s the whole story, from beginning to end!
Rabbi Slifkin, does this story really warrant a post on your site, much less two posts? Is your site about the explication of the rationalist approach to Judaism or is it about gedolim bashing? I think you need to take a step backwards and begin examining your motives…