Monday, February 28, 2005

Evolution and the Zoo Rabbi

The People of the Book ban a book
Feb. 28, 2005

By Joel N. Shurkin
Fundamentalist Christians are not the only ones who have trouble with cosmology and evolution. Everyone who thinks the Bible is to be taken literally does as well, including the Haredi, the most fervently observant—fundamentalist—Jews.
A month ago, a group of the most esteemed Haredi rabbis, both in Israel and in the U.S., banned three books written by a well-known Orthodox rabbi because the books assert the world was not created in six days 5765 years ago, and because it accepts Darwinian evolution as the accepted scientific theory.
The books were, they said, unfit for Jewish homes.
The banning caused a furor in the usually private and quiet world of the Orthodox Jewish community, prompting a prominent head of a rabbinic school (or yeshiva) to fly to Israel to try to get them to back down. He only partially succeeded.
The author of the books, Rabbi Nosson Slifkin, the so-called “Zoo Rabbi” was accused of being a heretic and of writing books containing heresy because they contradicted a literal reading of Genesis. He made the situation even more contentious by suggesting that perhaps some of the great rabbis who commented on the Bible (the Jewish Torah) in the Talmud, got their science wrong. Having serious support from some of the most famous Talmudic scholars in history did him little good.
Rabbi Aharon Feldman, head of Ner Israel in Baltimore, the second largest yeshiva in North America, flew to Israel two weeks ago to “end the confusion,” and managed to get at least one of the rabbis attacking Rabbi Slifkin to agree that he was not himself a heretic. However, what he wrote still was verboten.

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