The Zionist Conspiracy
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Slifkin in Queens
Rabbi Natan (Nosson) Slifkin spoke last night at Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills about the age of the universe, the order in which different species were created, and the existence of dinosaurs.
The lecture was interesting and informative, and Slifkin clearly is very knowledgeable about topics related to Torah and science.
There were approximately 40 people in attendance. While that's not bad for Kew Gardens Hills, which aside from the corner of Jewel Avenue and Main Street is rather sleepy on weeknights, it does indicate that Slifkin is less of a celebrity in the real world than in the J-blog world.
Slifkin explained why, in his view, most of the observant Jewish approaches reconciling the text in Genesis to science are logically flawed. He submitted his own approach, based largely on the writings of Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler and other leading rabbinical figures.
The explanations offered by Slifkin sounded persuasive, but I wonder whether his tendency to summarily dismiss alternate contemporary approaches is one of the reasons for the charedi opposition to him. Slifkin is only around 30 years old, and in the charedi world, presentation of personal humility and modesty, along with expressions of respect for those with whom one differs, are generally requirements when submitting controversial opinions, especially those that are outside of the traditional consensus.
That's not to suggest that Slifkin is wrong in his arguments or that he does not have the right to make these arguments without being subjected to a ludicrous ban. But Slifkin seems to still desire acceptance in the charedi world and if that is to happen, a change in style will be necessary. My sense is that Slifkin was somewhat naive about that world (he expressed surprise that some charedi yeshivas refuse to teach about dinosaurs, even though this is nothing new), causing some of his problems.
While it is not likely that Slifkin will be publicly accepted by the leading charedi rabbis, it is likely that moderate charedi people will give his ideas serious consideration. Slifkin is clearly a talented person and an original thinker, and could make a significant contribution to observant Judaism's understanding of difficult issues relating to Torah and science.