I recently received a letter from a reader about my post on miracles. The reader went on to state (capitilization his):
"NO ONE serious in even the LW Chareidi world takes the mabul literally. NO ONE. Honestly, I assure you. I know well known Rabbis who have told me personally that its not literal. They don't preach itto the masses because they don't want to get into trouble."
(-- N.B. The author mentions later on that what he means here is not that LW Chareidi world doesn't hold of the factuality of a flood, rather that they doubt the factuality of a world-wide flood )
The above statement, to me, shows how backwards we have become. Assuming that the first statement of the quote is true (or reasonably close to true) then why have we become so afraid to speak our minds? What is the fear of harsh words from the "right wing?" In short, the issue of absolute literalism, according to the above quote, has become our 800 lb. gorilla sitting in the corner - no one wants to talk about him, but we all know that he's there.
I suppose that there are several questions that need to be asked here:
1. Is the initial statement of my corrospondent correct (or reasonably close - in other words, does, say, 75% of the LW Chareidi world accept that the mabul story as written in Noah did not occur literally as written) ?
2. If the above statement is reasonably true, then why is everyone so afraid? Are we afraid of becoming the next Nosson Slifkin? Are we afraid of being branded heretics? Does the "right wing" of the Chareidi world really hold that much power over everyone else?
3. Even if my last question in #2 above is answered in the affirmative, we then have another question: is keeping silent about one's beliefs justifiable in the name of societal convenience? We're not talking about Conversos here, where keeping your mouth shut about your beliefs meant staying alive - we're talking about simple societal convenience. If there are truly enough of "us," then wouldn't it be proper to establish our own institutions - yeshivos, shuls, etc. if the "right wing" won't have us because we refuse to ignore evidence placed in front of our eyes?
(And, yes, I do include myself in the above. As I stated in other posts, I have always been a big believer in being "out there" and not hiding under the cover of anonymity. I regularly post on one of the larger message boards on the internet - and I do so with my real name, unlike the majority of the posters on the board. The people on those boards know a great deal about my personal life. I really don't like "hiding" behind this wolfish mask. Yet, when I broached the subject a while ago, the unanimous concensus of people who both replied to my post and contacted me privately indicated that I should remain anonymous, since they feared that if I were to go public, I would "lose my voice.")
4. Of course, the last question that I suppose one must ask is this: Even if we accept that the mabul story cannot be understood literally and can be viewed as either allegory or partially accurate (i.e. in describing a local flood, rather than a worldwide flood), then one must ask where the line is to be drawn? Can one say that the Avos were allegorical? Moshe? Mattan Torah? The wanderings in the wilderness? At what point must one stop and say: this is true because the Torah says it is - and it cannot be understood any other way? At what point do we turn to the person with the alternate interpretation and say "you, sir, are out of bounds - come back to the fold?" And when we draw the line for them, how do we justify where that line lays?