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4 Teves 5766 - January 4, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
A Letter of Admonishment Regarding N. Slifkin's Opinions

by HaRav Shlomo Miller

translated and annotated by R. Simcha Coffer

The following is a letter written by HaRav Shlomo Miller, the rosh kollel and av beis din of the Kollel Avreichim of Toronto. The letter was written in loshon hakodesh. Accordingly, its colloquial form has been maintained wherever possible in an attempt to preserve its original flavor.

The additions found in this paper between square brackets and in italics are entirely those of the annotator and are not to be imputed to the author of this letter. Please note that in order for this letter to meet the space limitations of Yated, more extensive explanatory material had to be eliminated. For the original version of this letter with expanded notations, please contact the Yated at: editor(at)shemayisrael-dot-com.

Protest Against the Opinions of Slifkin

As is well-known, the books authored by Slifkin have already been banned by the gedolei Yisroel. When I initially came in contact with his writings, I sensed an aura of heresy emanating from them. Indeed, upon further investigation I discovered that his opinions on the Six Days of Creation are definitely heretical. Furthermore, they are boorish in content; he fails to comprehend 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" (Chagigah 12a).

In reality, the laws of physics which existed during the Six Days of Creation have no parallel to those which we perceive today. Our Sages have already stated, "two arose on the bed and four descended" meaning that the birth of Kayin and Hevel happened immediately after their conception on the Sixth Day of Creation (Sanhedrin 38b). Thus, Slifkin's opinions in these matters are absolute heresy.

[In other words, Creation is not a process that finds expression in current laws of physics and thus cannot be defined by it. During the Sheishes Yemei Bereishis, the laws of physics were entirely different from those that prevail today. This is self-evident from the Torah and can be gleaned from Chazal. Furthermore, this has been the collective mesorah of all Jews throughout the ages and in fact was uncontested even by gentiles. When a Jew makes kiddush on Friday night, he is specifically proclaiming the truth of this idea and rejecting that of Slifkin's approach. Since Chazal have portrayed the Sheishes Yemei Bereishis in terms of accelerated processes that have no parallel in our experience, there is no room to interpret Maaseh Bereishis in terms of what may look to us like millions of years of biological development. Anyone doing so is undermining the Torah and Chazal and is therefore espousing kefirah. Cf. Rambam Hilchos Teshuvoh 3:8.]

The truth is that he has followed the ways of those who scoff at the Sages, like the maskilim who ridiculed the exegeses (droshos) of our Sages while considering themselves all-knowing, assuming that only they were able to understand the precise meaning of words in loshon hakodesh, until the Malbim ztvk"l appeared and composed an incredible work on Toras Cohanim to clarify the words of our Sages, based on the deepest, most fundamental imperatives of loshon hakodesh, thereby demonstrating the wonders of Hashem's Torah and the profound grasp of biblical grammar which our Sages possessed.

So too in our time, Slifkin advances questions against our Sages from current theories and in place of honoring the words of our Sages, he denigrates their opinions. If he encounters a question for which he possesses no answer, it would behoove him to say, "I have not merited to understand the words of the Sages" — just as all of our great scholars have done through the ages whenever they encountered a question on a subject in Talmud. "For it is not a thing that is lacking, from you" (Devorim 32:47) and our Sages comment, "For if it is lacking, it is from you" (Cf. Rashi ad loc) who lack the ability to comprehend. If we approach the Torah and its Sages with awe and humility, then we will traverse confidently and not stumble in the fundamentals of our religion as Slifkin has done; the Rambam's words at the end of the laws of me'ilah (Hilchos Me'ilah 8:8) are well known: "One's thought processes in Torah should not be the same as his thoughts in mundane matters," see there the remainder of his pleasant words.

Words of Encouragement and Support for those who were influenced by Heresy

The Haggadah delineates the question of the rosho: "Of what purpose is this work to you?" (Shemos 12:26) "It is because of this that Hashem did for me when I went out of Egypt" (Shemos 13:8). And the author of the Haggadah comments, "For me, but not for him — had he been there, he would not have been redeemed." The commentaries note that the answer given in the Torah is, "and you shall say it is a Passover offering to Hashem" (Shemos 12:27) which differs from the answer in the Haggadah. The commentaries explain that when one hears words of heresy, he should not contend with them. However to himself, he should respond with words of encouragement, "and you shall say" (Ibid.) but, "not to him" (the baal haHaggada's comment), "it is a Passover offering etc." (Shemos 12:27)

Therefore, I have decided to expound upon some matters in order to strengthen the hearts of those who have been exposed to heretical doctrines which claim that our holy Torah is contradicted by the knowledge of scientists. On the contrary, "delve into it, and delve into it, for all is encompassed within it" (Ovos 5:22).

[There are obviously some differences in weltanschauung between certain groups in Orthodox Jewry. Rabbi Miller is aware of this. He is also aware that unfortunately there are certain elements that will spare no effort to malign Orthodox leadership in an attempt to undermine their words. Just as the teachings of the Haggadah are meant for us but are not directed towards the wicked, due to their unwillingness to acknowledge them, so too, the comments in the letter are directed only towards people who are open-minded and are willing to listen, as opposed to those who choose to maintain preconceived notions. Those in the latter group invariably fall prey to spurious depictions of Orthodox dogma effectively eliminating their partiality and thus their ability to countenance the pronouncements made by gedolei Yisroel.]


Until 400 years ago, scientists were not aware that the light which appears to radiate from planets is not inherent light but rather light reflected from the Sun. Then Galileo appeared and demonstrated that the light emanating from the "shining" planet Venus is merely reflected light. However, to my mind, this observation can already be gleaned from our Sages who referred to this planet by the term "nogah" (Shabbos 156). The word "nogah" (shining) differs from the word "ohr" (light) as the Malbim has explained in his commentary on the verse in Chavakuk 3:4, "and nogah will be similar to ohr." The Malbim writes that nogah is a term that denotes an object that does not possess inherent light but rather emits a reflected light just as the moon [and other planets such as Venus] receives the light of the sun and subsequently reflects its rays.

Thus, the fact that our Sages have assigned the term "nogah" to the planet Venus demonstrates that they understood that this planet did not possess inherent light. If so, we see that knowledge discovered by scientists 400 years ago was already known to our sages over 2000 years ago.

[See the commentary of the Gra in Aderes Eliyahu on the verse in Chavakuk 3:4 who interprets the posuk in the same manner. Malbim himself brings several proofs from all over Tanach to demonstrate the grammatical accuracy of this point.]

Regarding the essence of light, scientists first thought that light was composed of particles i.e. the Corpuscular Theory of Light. Later, they showed that light was emitted in waves i.e. the Wave Theory of Light. A hundred years ago, scientists demonstrated that light does possess particle- like qualities [In 1905, Albert Einstein provided a remarkable explanation of the photoelectric effect, a hitherto troubling experiment which the wave theory of light seemed incapable of explaining. He did so by postulating photons, quanta of light energy with particulate qualities.] and subsequently scientists proposed the Quantum Theory that sometimes light appears as waves and sometimes as particles.

[This is referred to as the Wave-Particle duality. The modern, theoretical resolution to of the wave-particle paradox is described by the theoretical framework of quantum mechanics.]

Now behold, the Yad Halevi, written by the av beis din of Wurtzberg, has written that the word "ohr" has its roots in the word "yoroh" (to fling) and denotes the flinging of light particles. There is another word which denotes light "naharoh" (see Iyov 3:3: "ve'al tofa olov nehoroh"). To my mind, this word has its roots in the word "nahar" (river) which signifies the concept of waves. If so, these two grammatical representations of the word "ohr" represent the two differing forms of the phenomenon of light respectively.

The Gra's words in Aderes Eliyahu (Bereishis s.v. Boro) are also noteworthy and are brought down in his name in the book Gevi'i Gevia Hakesef [written by HaRav Binyomin Rivlin] as follows: Darkness is not an absence of light but rather a creation unto itself as it states "who forms light and creates darkness" (Yeshayohu 45:7).

[In addition, there are other pesukim which indicate that choshech is a positive creation such as "eiy zeh haderech yishkon ohr vechoshech eiy zeh mekomo" (Iyov 38:19) or "yoda mah bechashocho unehoro imei sharyo" (Daniel 2:22). For a kabbalistic view of these two pesukim, please see the opening ma'amar of Maseches Atzilus — Ya'areshyah ben Yoseph posach and the peirush Ginzei Meromim by R' Yitzchok Isaac Chover, a talmid of R' Menachem Mendel of Shklov who was one of the premier talmidim of the Gra.]

Darkness is the substance upon which light operates.

[Although the Gra seems to say that ohr is also a bri'oh as it no doubt seems to be, Yeshayohu still refers to it as yetziroh in comparison to choshech.]

[The following is a quote from The Emperor's New Mind (Roger Penrose, Oxford University Press, 1990 page 385) in a section titled "Quantum Magic and Quantum Mystery:" "I have made no bones of the fact that I believe that the resolution of the puzzles of quantum theory must lie in our finding an improved theory. Though this is perhaps not the conventional view, it is not an altogether unconventional one. (Many of quantum theory's originators were also of such a mind. I have referred to Einstein's views, Schroedinger [1935], de Broglie [1956], and Dirac [1939] also regarded the theory as provisional.) But even if one believes that the theory is somehow to be modified, the constraints on how one might do this are enormous. Perhaps some kind of `hidden variable' viewpoint will eventually turn out to be acceptable. But the non-locality that is exhibited by the EPR type experiments severely challenges any `realistic' description of the world that can comfortably occur within an ordinary space-time — a space-time of the particular type that has been given to us to accord with the principles of relativity — so I believe that a much more radical change is needed [emphasis not in the original].]

In this area, the scientists err, not taking into account what the Gra has written [with respect to choshech]. Based on these theories, it might be possible to resolve the conundrums that plague Quantum Theory and to comprehend the existence of Non-Local Reality which is evident from Bell's Theorem.

[John S. Bell (1928-1990) was a physicist who became well- known as the originator of Bell's Theorem, regarded by some in the quantum physics community as one of the most important theorems of the 20th century.]

However, these theories have still not been fully clarified as yet. I have stepped outside my normal boundaries to expound upon things that are essentially unnecessary for Torah Jews who believe in the Torah and in its Sages. But the truth is that in today's climate, it is necessary to make known that we have no concept whatsoever of the greatness of our Sages or the veracity of their words.

Signed here in Toronto 27 Marcheshvan, 5766

Shlomo Eliyohu Miller

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