Rumor Control

A number of false rumors are currently being spread by various people. I am hesitant to mention them all, due to fears of spreading them further, but some of them are already so widespread that I feel a need to address them. Following some of the rumor in parentheses are the sources of these rumors.

Rumor #1 - "Rabbonim who gave their haskomoh to the book... relied primarily on the fact the author was the product of yeshivas." (Yated Ne'eman, European English edition and Hebrew edition, citing a letter from one Rav who retracted his haskamah)

The Real Story - Most of the rabbanim who wrote haskamos read the books in their entirety; one did not, but was certainly familiar with the important points of the book.

Rumor #2 - "Rabbonim who gave their haskomoh to the book retracted their approbation in a letter..." (Yated Ne'eman, European English edition and Hebrew edition; also stated in the text of the ban itself)

The Real Story: This is false; the letter was only signed by one Rabbi. Of the eight Rabbanim who wrote haskamos, only two retracted their haskamah, and only in deference to the wishes of their rebbe, Rav Moshe Shapiro. Some of the other six rabbanim who wrote haskamos want the books to be reprinted without any haskamos so that they are not seen as targeting the yeshivah world. I will acquiese to this request, and will instead simply make the haskamos available to those who request to see them.

Rumor #3 - "One who was involved in the negotiations that preceded the current publication of this letter..." (Yated Ne'eman, European English edition and Hebrew edition)

The Real Story: What negotiations? See next rumors.

Rumor #4 - "Rabbi Slifkin was offered a chance to meet with the gedolei harabbonim who signed the letter to discuss his views, but he declined." (Yated Ne'eman, European English edition and Hebrew edition)

The Real Story - On September 21st I received a phone call from Bnei Brak in which I was given the ultimatum that I had until the end of the day to withdraw my books and publicly recant my views or face public humiliation. I immediately tried to contact the four Rabbonim who were about to condemn the books in order to find out their precise objections (obviously I would be willing to retract anything in the books that was mistaken or, chas ve'shalom, heretical) and to discuss the matter. Two of them responded that they refused to meet or speak with me. One of them initially agreed to meet with me, and we set a time to meet. I was not able to reach the fourth, despite extensive efforts, but I left a message that I was trying to reach him. His wife refused to take my number. The person who gave me the ultimatum then contacted me and said that he had heard that I was trying to arrange meetings, and he said that I would not be permitted to meet with any of the Rabbonim. I told him that I had already arranged one such meeting; he wanted to find out who with, but I refused to tell him. About half an hour later, the Rav with whom I had arranged a meeting called me back and said that he had changed his mind and refused to meet with me. He said "I am not one of the gedolim in this," and "you will only try to argue and defend yourself." The posters went up a few days later. Over a month later, someone who was not at all involved said that he would be able to arrange for this Rav to meet with me, even though this Rav did not want to do so, and this person would accompany me. I said that I would think about it, and I ultimately decided against it, for several reasons. One is that this Rav's letter of condemnation had already been posted on walls everywhere. Another reason was that this Rav had made it clear to me over the phone that he was adamantly opposed to hearing anything I had to say to defend myself. I also had other reasons, but I will not make them public at this time. A wise person may be able to guess them.
None of the other twenty-two Rabbonim that signed the second poster contacted me at any time, and I was not offered any chance to meet with them. In most cases, I was not even told that they were going to sign, and in some cases, I was specifically informed that they were not going to sign).

Rumor #5 - "Rabbi Slifkin's primary source, the treatise of Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam, is probably a forgery produced by the maskilim."

The Real Story - The treatise was translated into Hebrew in the 16th century, long before the maskilim came into existence. Fragments of the original Arabic, dating probably from the 14th century, were discovered in the Cairo Geniza. The treatise has been printed in the Ein Yaakov for a long time, without anyone challenging it as being heretical. In any case, Rabbeinu Avraham's point was also stated by Rav Hai Gaon, Rambam, Rav Hirsch, and others.

Rumor #6 - "The letter of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch discussing Chazal and science was not written in Hirsch's handwriting and is likely to be a forgery."

The Real Story: On Thursday, November 11th, 2004, I spoke with Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Breuer, one of the greatest living experts on Rav Hirsch, who published the letters in HaMaayan. He told me that there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that they were originally written by Rav Hirsch and copied by his family members. Furthermore, the letters were written as part of a correspondence with R' Hile Wechsler, whose letters have been published. R' Wechsler was clearly under the impression that he was corresponding, as he frequently did, with Rav Hirsch.

Rumor #7 - "The primary people in the campaign are Rav Elyashiv and Rav Mattisyahu Solomon."

The Real Story: This is the impression that one might receive from the New York Times, the Forward and the Jewish Chronicle, but the truth is that these are simply the most well-known signatories. The primary person leading the campaign is Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel from South Fallsberg (and to a lesser extent, Rav Elya Weintraub and Rav Moshe Shapiro). (I am referring here to the Gedolei Torah that are involved, not to the people that were involved in engineering the campaign.)

Rumor #8 - "There is widespread opposition in the Orthodox world to Rabbi Slifkin's books."

The Real Story: This is the impression that one might receive from the two-dozen signatories to the condemnations. However, one should not extrapolate from this to the entire Orthodox world. First of all, the Modern Orthodox community is almost entirely opposed to the ban. Second, even within the Ultra-Orthodox/ Yeshivah community, opposition to the ban is far more widespread than one might assume. Many, many people in this community are very supportive of the books and are opposed to the ban. The major ultra-Orthodox newspapers in the US - Yated Ne'eman and HaModia - did not publicize the ban, even though these newspapers usually do publicize such things. The supposedly "heretical" concept that the Sages of the Talmud relied on the flawed science of their era is still to be found in the ArtScroll Talmud.

Rumor #9 - "Rabbi Slifkin's children were kicked out of school" OR
Rumor #10 - "Rabbi Slifkin withdrew his children from charedi schools and put them in national-religious schools."

The Real Story: I have one daughter who just turned two years old, and she is happily still attending the same gan. I also have a son who is only a few weeks old and is not yet enrolled in any educational institution.

Rumor #11 - "Rabbi Slifkin was asked to leave Yeshivas Shaarei Torah in Manchester and was encouraged to leave Yeshivas Midrash Shmuel by the Rosh Yeshivah because he was messed up."

The Real Story: Yeshivas Shaarei Torah put immense pressure on me not to leave their yeshivah, but I left anyway. When I decided to leave Midrash Shmuel after nearly six years there and a very close and positive relationship with the Rosh Yeshivah, he first tried to talk me out of leaving, then changed his mind and supported my decision. He added that he could not be entirely certain if he was acquiescing because I had gained enough from the yeshivah and it was time to move on, or because my extensive writing on my laptop computer affected the rest of the student body engaged in the Yeshivah's regular program of Talmud study.

Rumor #12 - "Rabbi Slifkin was kicked out of Ohr Somayach when the controversy began."

The Real Story: I left Ohr Somayach four years ago after I moved to Ramat Bet Shemesh and did not want the lengthy commute. The controversy did result in my being asked to leave one of the seminaries where I taught, due to Rav Moshe Shapiro's instructions to the dean. I enjoy continued employment and support at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah and Midreshet Moriah College for Women.

Rumor #13 - "There are yeshivah students who dropped out of yeshivah and abandoned Torah observance after reading these books."

The Real Story: I know of no such cases. There was a story being spread about two students in Monsey, described as "angelic," who dropped out after reading my books and concluding that "if the Sages could have been wrong about science, then they could have been wrong about everything." Further investigation showed that one of them was barely observant to begin with, and dropped out of yeshivah before my book on the Sages' knowledge of science was published. When I discovered the identity of the other student and wrote to ask him if it was true that my books caused him to drop out, he wrote this reply.

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