Monday, December 12, 2011

Prof. Kaplan responds to Rabbi Meisleman's attack on Rabbi Slifkin

 This is part of an article from Rabbi Slifkin's Blog. The full article can be accessed here.
The main problem with R. Meiselman’s reading of the Rav’s thought is that it is all black and white, lacking any balance or nuance. Had R. Meiselman, for instance, argued that the Rav’s concerns were primarily parochial and that universal concerns played only a minor role in his thought, I would have disagreed with him and argued that the weight of the evidence indicates otherwise, but his position would have had some plausibility and it would have made for an interesting debate. But no, such a nuanced statement does not seem to accord with R. Meiselman’s style. Rather, he has to argue that “The Rav in all his concerns was exceedingly parochial... and that one cannot find a single instance where the Rav was involved in any of the universal issues of his day.’’ This made it almost embarrassingly easy for me to disprove his claim by simply pointing to clear and explicit statements of the Rav in his essay “Confrontation’’ and in his position paper “On Interfaith Relationships’’ where the Rav does express universal concerns.
Similarly, had R. Meiselman claimed that the Rav maintains that the importance of the State of Israel has to be evaluated primarily in pragmatic terms, I would again have disagreed with him, but his position again would have had some plausibility, and it too would have made for an interesting debate. In such a circumstance R. Meiselman might even have had some basis for maintaining that the shmuess lends some credence to that more limited claim. But no, first R. Meiselman claims in his unnuanced fashion that the Rav maintains that “the importance of the State of Israel has to be evaluated purely in pragmatic terms’’ and that it “does not have halakhic meaning,’’ and then he, in equally unnuanced fashion, argues that “everything I said about Rav Yoshe Ber and Zionism is confirmed in ...the shmuess....It confirmed everything I had said on this topic.’’ Of course, had R. Meiselman admitted that for the Rav the religious significance of the State of Israel is not purely pragmatic, he would not have been able to arrive at the astonishing conclusion that “The Rav’s difference of opinion with other [Haredi] Torah giants was the degree of accommodation with the government [sic] of Israel. It existed on the pragmatic level only.’’
R. Slifkin’s praise and R. Meiselman’s critique of my article arose only tangentially in the course of their debate regarding the relationship between Torah and science. It is not my purpose here to enter into the substance of that debate; R. Slifkin certainly does not need my help.  I will only say that the same all or nothing approach, the same lack of nuance and balance that I have shown to be so prevalent in R. Meiselman’s reading of the teachings of the Rav are equally prevalent in his discussions of Torah and science.


  1. Here's what I don't get. Surely Rav Meiselman is aware that nowadays people simply don't accept what they're told by an authority figure, that they have the ability to check sources and background for themselves with ease. How can he allow himself to make statements that he must know can be easily shot down by anyone with a computer and internet access?

  2. MGH- I'm wondering kind of the same thing. My guess is that he really, really REALLY, believes he has the truth and is confident it will win out eventually. Must be terribly frustrating though.

  3. Response to Dr. Kaplan can be found here:


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