Tonight was the book launch for Rabbi Slifkin's new book, The Challange of Creation. The lovely eees and I both attended. There was certainly a better turnout tonight than there was when he spoke in Brooklyn last year.
The first speaker was Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President of the OU. He spoke about the need for a book of this type. Specifically, he mentioned that there were three types of people who were in danger of dropping out of the Orthodox community because of questions of science and Torah - specifically, (a) ba'alei teshuva, who often have these questions and may "drop out" if they are told to close their minds to them, (b) the young, who also may rebel if they are not allowed to ask questions and (c) the layman, who has questions such as these, and will not simply close his mind to them and pretend that they don't exist.
The next speaker was Rabbi Gil Student, the publisher of Yashar Books. Rabbi Student spoke about why the book is being published in spite of there being a ban against it. He gave three reasons why there can be such a book after a call for a ban against it - (a) there are authorities who permit it, (b) one is allowed to follow an authority in one's community and (c) these matters should be decided on a communal basis (since it is the communal rabbis who know best what the community needs) and that a one-size-fits-all p'sak should not be given in these matters.
Lastly, Rabbi Slifkin himself spoke. Rather than address issues that are in the book, he spoke about why he chose to put a picture of a dinosaur on the cover of the book. Aside from the fact that he personally likes dinosaurs (and yes, he mentioned the dinosaur that belives in itself - the apikorusaurus), he used it as a symbol to show readers that the book isn't meant for everyone - if you're troubled by the concept of dinosaurs and fossils, then the book isn't for you.
Overall, it was a very nice evening. Aside from Rabbi Student (obviously), I'm curious how many other bloggers were there.
Thanks for the first hand report. Having the book launching in KGH makes a major statement. Would have been their, had I still lived in NY. Hopefully Rabbi Student will post also.
I would have been there if i weren't in Israel at the moment.
Thanks for the report, I'm glad there was a decent turnout.
Myself (Mark Frankel), David Linn and Steve Brizel from Beyond BT, Steven Weiss of the Canonist (live blogged it), David Kelsey from JewSchool, Ezzie Goldish from Serandez, Nachum Lamm from Lammpost and I'm sure others.
For me the highlight of the evening was shmoozing with the other bloggers, I wish I would have also met you. Next time after the call for Maariv there should be a call for a blogger get together in some corner of the room.
There was a huge crowd-I would estimate that most of the men's section in the YIKGH was packed solid. I suspect that the web based publicity has as much to do with the attendance as the posters in Flatbush and KGH. I noticed many YU/RIETS/BRGS/TuM personalities present as well including RD D Berger, R D D Shatz, R S Carmy and R Y Blau. I agree that R Weinreb spoke eloquently about who the book is and is not intended for as well as the long history of such works in our Mesorah. OTOH, R Gil, who I deeply respect for his lomdus, intellectual honesty and courage, should have distributed his remarks via a series of talking points or on his blog. I suspect that most of the audience had read enough about the issues the ban, pro and con by this time and came to hear R Slifkin-who spoke nicely but too briefly.
I don't know how many people have spoken with RNS out of the lecture hall. I have done so extensively and IMO, he learned that the Charedi world is not the place for an open discussion of these issues and that there are Gdolim such as RYBS and R Hertzog Zicronam Livracha who have much to say on the issues in this area. That's at least one reason why he revised , expanded and reissued a book that had been about Torah and science in a new format with many sources that you won't see in works published by a Charedi publisher. That is a major positive development in and of itself.
Although RNS became persona non grata in some, if not all, Charedi circles in EY, I would be remiss in not mentioning that he is now teaching at RZ seminaries and is on R N Cardozo's staff as well. IMO, both RNS and R Cardozo simply were too independent for the Charedi world in their approaches to their areas of expertise.
OTOH, as both R Weinreb and RNS pointed out, this work is not for the person who has been raised in the Charedi world and has no sfekos,etc. Those of us who view the ban as inapplicable based upon any of the reasons mentioned by R Gil should be mindful that a book or sefer that aids any of the constituencies mentioned by R Weinreb might be viewed as absolutely assur in a Charedi community which has a different and time tested view on these issues.
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