Dear Rabbi Slifkin,

I must conclude that I was very surprised when I read your letter. I have not left religion at all, let alone due to influence from your writing. On the contrary, your books have helped me tremendously! By bringing together sources from across the Talmud, Midrashim, and quotes from leading rabbinic authorities from throughout the ages, you make an excellent case. It certainly provides an honest alternative to the standard approach, which could only leave an inquisitive mind in confusion.

Thus, for example, a rabbi whom I once learned with, noted for his scholarship and piety, challenged me on your seforim. He couldn't accept the possibility that the world was more than 6000 years old. Once I provided him with a sketch of an ancient city with ruins dating back thousands of years as an example of evidence for an older world than is generally assumed. The rabbi, whom I respected, glanced nervously at the drawing, trying to figure it out as if it were a puzzle. Instead he recommended for me to read Rabbi Avigdor Miller's books. However, I already owned all of Miller's books, and was greatly disappointed by them since he simply cuts and pastes information from Christian creationist literature without ever actually engaging the issues at hand. He also never provides references, misleading the reader to believe that he conducted this research on his own, since he seemlessly integrates the excerpts into his own writing. Then he presents himself as the "Sage," teaching the "ignorant" and "na?ve" student. When I found this out, I was greatly distressed, since it underlined for me one of the serious side effects of the iconoclastic approach taken by certain segments of orthodoxy.

Unable to deal with real problems, it is a great shame that some rabbinic leaders take the route of simply denying the problem, or condemning those who engage them. This is obscurantism masquerading as piety, intellectual shallowness pretending as sophistication.

It was your book, "The Science of Torah," that greatly relieved many of the problems that had come to clutter my mind. You demonstrate through your wide ranging selection from the classical Jewish sources that there are approaches to creation more varied than I had realized. Combining this with important trends in modern science that point to design in the universe, the book argues for engaging the issues, rather than denying them. There can be no question that if many of these ancient rabbis had been alive today, they would not ignore the discoveries of modern science as part of their interpretive approaches to maaseh bereishis. In fact, I have found your book to be the best among the growing literature of this type with its honest appraisal of the evidence and an enlightening thesis.

Your latest, "Mysterious Creatures," continues the precedent of open and honest discussion on the issue of incredible creatures mentioned in the Talmud and other rabbinic sources. Instead of the standard approach of condemning those who refuse to believe that they existed as intellectually shallow, you provide important evidence that these creatures were believed to have existed in the world in which the rabbis lived, and they thus dealt with them assuming that they did. This is similar to how many important rabbis discussed the "spheres" of the planets, such as Rambam in Sefer Madda. This is a reflection of the prevalent (and inaccurate) Ptolemaic model of the solar system which was held to be true in the wider world.

When I was exposed to the possibility that the beliefs of the non-Jewish world could impact the way the classical authorities constructed their worldview, it became clear that the current view of how to deal with the problem is radically out of line with the classical approach! This has led to the current malaise of treating anyone who doubts the scientific statements of the rabbis as intellectually shallow and closed minded, an approach those Sages themselves would have been the first to condemn.

Eventually I left the yeshiva to get a college education, and also to seek out more "breathing space." To be honest, I don't know where I would be today if it weren't for your excellent books that can only benefit those struggling with issues others would rather ignore. My Judaism has only been strengthened, since it is the fragile faith in every last statement of the Sages which can pose the greatest danger.

Hatzlacha in your continued work.

Sincerely and Respectfully,