Thursday, November 29, 2007

Slifkin in the Jewish Press III

For those who haven't tired of the issue, the Slifkin debate is again in the Jewish Press. What follows are mostly some general thoughts, beyond the topic of dinosaurs and evolution.For better or for worse, I have little interest in dinosaurs, the age of the universe, or in evolution. I understand of course, that there are others who are interested in these topics. My interest has rather been in the Science/Chazal issues, and I have always appreciated those who treat those topic separately from the former issues. To me, nuance and clarity of thought should be the name of the game, and separate topics deserve separate treatments, no matter what positions one takes.

I have quoted, positively, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb's forward to Challenge of Creation(and linked to a Jerusalem Post article discussing the issue), but noted clearly that that I was referring to the general points of intellectual inquiry, which have an application beyond the particular book. Similarly, one of the main reasons I attended the Challenge of Creation book launch was to hear Rabbi Weinreb, whose thoughts I enjoy hearing on many issues. Indeed, at the book launch, he mentioned the importance of the ability to think and to express a question, and that this could lead to strengthening, not weakening of emunah(based on my general recall of the speech).

I am still interested, though, in some aspects of the Jewish Press article linked above. For example, how does Rabbi Slifkin understand the following Moreh Nevuchim?

When we make Kiddush on Shabbos we recite the words of the fourth commandment stating that God rested (vayonach) on the seventh day. Chazal say that this means that creation came to halt on that day. The Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim, explains this as follows: “On each day of the six day creation week, novel entities were formed outside of the system of nature currently in operation and, on the seventh day (Shabbos), the state of the world became lasting and established just as it is at present.”

In a more general sense, as I have commented recently on Hirhurim, I am more concerned with intellectual honesty in public discussion, and to an extent, less afraid where the chips fall on the Slifkin issue. In other words, each side should admit to any weakness or perceived weakness in its positions, and not be afraid of allowing time to the other's arguments. This goes beyond the Slifkin issue, and I think applies to explaining any issue of Torah hashkafa, Charedi policy, or even basic emunah(I realize that emunah al pi chakirah is not a simple issue, but I'm referring to those who benefit from the approach).

I am not saying that this blog is necessarily the place to discuss every single issue, and therefore I give thought to what I post. But there should be a place for rigorous back and forth, for allowing the same thought process that is used in learning gemarah. I believe that intellectual honesty, strengthens, not weakens the Torah, and in the spirit of attempting that, I see fit to allow a link on this blog to a contra-Slifkin view, as well.

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