Sunday, January 08, 2006

Shlomo Miller and Nosson Slifkin

I had an opportunity over Shabbos to read a letter in the Yated (actually a printout of an opinion piece from the Yated internet site thinly disguised with the pseudonym, “Dei’ah veDibur”) written by Rabbi Shlomo Miller the rosh kollel and av beis din of the Kollel Avreichim of Toronto. The letter was written in Hebrew and translated by Rabbi Simcha Coffer, a protégé.

There has been much debate in a private e-mails and on various internet lists and blogs between Rabbi Coffer who defends Rabbi Miller and advocates his views, and other people of significant stature and knowledge on the subject who disagree with him. The point of Rabbi Miller’s letter is to show Rabbi Nosson to be a heretic. (Actually he say Rabbi Slifkin’s views are heresy, not that Rabbi Slkfikin is a heritic, a distinction without a difference, as far as I am concerened) and then cites various sources to try and back up what he says.

For those who don’t know, three of Rabbi Slifkin’s books were deemed as espousing heresy and banned by R. Elyashiv, whom many consider the Gadol HaDor. Those books essentially maintained a variation of views that were well within the mainstream of Jewish thought although not universally accepted. The two biggest objections cited at the time of the ban by some of those who signed it were that,

1) He claimed the six days of creation must have been allegorical and not literal since there was so much scientific evidence stating the world was much older. He cited Rishonim and Achronim that seemed to corroborate an old earth view.

2) He said that although Chazal were brilliant and in matters of Halacha and we areto consider their laws inviolable, never the less in matters of science they were clearly mistaken and simply were only knowledgable of the science of their time. This too was considered mainstream but was not the majority view. He brought proofs for this as well.

One can debate whether his approach is correct or not or whether his proofs are accurate, but no one ever spoke of such views as K’fira until the ban.

Back to Rabbi Miller.

I don’t know Rabbi Miller, I am told that he is a big Talmud Chacham. This may be so. But he is not a Gadol any more than are the Askanim who are responsible for the ban on Nosson’s books. He is entitled to his view but it should be taken in the context of his stature in Klal Yisroel, which is not very great. Although he is... trying.

In my view this is about Rabbi Miller establishing his Bona Fides as a card carrying member or the most extreme elements within the Charedi establishment. The primary point of his letter was to rubber stamp the views coming out of Jerusalem that Nosson Slifkin believes in K'fira. This was his staring point. This was his conclusion.

After I finished reading Rabbi Miller’s letter, I looked up the Gemarah he quoted in Chaggiga 12A and there was nothing even remotely resembling what Rabbi Miller says is there: that all of the laws of physics which prevail today were first established at the end of the Six Days of Creation when Hashem terminated the creative process as represented by Shabbos when, "He said to His world, enough" ...

It is just his own assertion and/or interpretation of a lengthy discussion about the Sheshes Yimei Breishis.

The fact is that both the OU and Agudah have recently come out with
statements which, based on this letter, Rabbi Miller would say is
K’fira shows exactly what the purpose of his letter is. His only
interest appears to be that he be viewed to be on the same page as
that of others on the extreme right who have nothing better to do
than put people in Cherem.

I have no respect for that. Just because someone is a major Talmid
Chacham and pretends to know the relevant science does not make him a

I suggests no one pay any attention to what comes out of Toronto.