I just read this letter from R' Nosson Slifkin to R' Moshe Meiselman. I just don't know what to say! I'm angry, and in shock, and very, very upset! (The letter is a response to various objections and comments R' Meiselman made regarding R' Slifkin and the ideas expounded in his books.)
I have to admit that I'm not very knowledgeable in the overall issues or even the specific points that are mentioned in the letter, and so make no claim about the veracity of the overall dispute regarding Science vs. Torah (although I think you might be able to figure which side of the debate I'd side with). But putting all that aside, if R' Slifkin is being honest in his presentation of R' Meiselman's comments, (he does provide specific quotes from recorded sources, which would be pretty easy to verify, and which therefore cause me to believe that he's being truthful), R' Meiselman's assault on R' Slifkin is entirely inexcusable. Seeing how R' Meiselman unfairly disparaged him, distorted his words, lied outright, misrepresented his intentions, and was just overall deplorable in his treatment of R' Slifkin made me sick to my stomach. I felt betrayed and deceived. It was exactly the type of reaction which my inner apikores loves to shove right up into my face as he loudly proclaims, "You see! This is what roshei yeshiva are like!"
But I ask myself why this really matters. After all, to a frum Jew, someone who believes in the importance of halacha, it's irrelevant if even the most prominent gadol hador (which no one claims R' Meisleman is, but he is a well respected rosh yeshiva) was caught red-handed in a great juicy fib. Halacha is meant to be adhered to regardless of how other people behave. Yet for some reason the whole thing grates on me terribly. After pondering the matter for a few brief moments, I think I know why it's troubling me so much.
To so many of us whose knowledge of the deep philosophical and ideological truths of Judaism are quite deficient, the fact of the matter is that our commitment to Judaism is to a large part based on trust. Halacha isn't easy to keep, but we keep it because we know it's the right thing. But how do we know that? Most of us haven't really studied or investigated that claim with any real depth. Yet even while we are aware of our lack of solid intellectual grounding, we still trust that that the belief is true. But why? I think if we were to examine why most of us believe that many of our cherished ideas are true, we'll discover that it's simply because our rabbeim have told us that it is so. They've taught us, and explained to us, and instilled it within us, that this is the right path. And we trust these people. We trust them for all sorts of things, but we also most definitely trust them that they understand torah well, that they are fair minded, honest, and considerate. And that they know best. So even though we ourselves can't know for certain it's the right thing, we rest easy knowing that these great people, who are so much wiser and more knowledgeable than us, must surely have investigated the issues properly, deliberated carefully, and thoroughly considered all the factors before coming to the conclusion that our path is indeed the right one.
But when I see something like the above, when I see a person that is considered a talmid chacham, one who is supposedly fair-minded and reasonable, and who posseses much knowledgeable of torah, one who is looked up to and admired as a bearer of truth, displaying such an utterly reprehensible demonstration of prejudice and untrustworthiness, it shakes me to my very core. And it makes me wonder if maybe, just maybe, the trust I put in my rabbis about the torah being right and proper might actually be mistaken too.