Iyar 5765 – Open Letter from Rabbi Orlofsky

1 Iyar 5765
A Letter From Rabbi Orlofsky

Dear JEMSEM Readers,

First of all, I would like to apologize for my less than perfect attendance record this past year. I have too many obligations and unfortunately, my JEMSEM responsibilities has been among the casualties.

One issue that has occupied a disproportionate amount of my time has been an unfortunate situation that I would like to address publicly for the first time. That is the issue of the kol koreh that was released some months ago regarding three of the works by Nosson Slifkin. I stress “publicly” because apparently two drafts of my letter were released to the public and so I have been thrust into responding to letters that I never meant to release. I am finally, as a result of the drafts that have been floating around, releasing my letter officially on JEMSEM, since this is the only official forum I have.

First, I would like to establish a general approach to my answers offered on JEMSEM. Rabbi Tendler, who answers the “Ask The Posek” questions once sent me a question and asked me to respond. I told him it was a halachic question; I am not qualified to answer halachic questions. If he will tell me what the halacha is, I will do my best to explain why it is that way.

I suppose this approach could be described as apologetics; I prefer to see it as humility. In the words of the Sheriff in “Cool Hand Luke” (ask your grandparents) “A man has to know his limitations”. I have been accused on occasion as having no theology, meaning I don’t innovate a new approach to religion. I agree. I have always tried to follow my Rebbeim and be true to their views, and I am neither a scholar nor perfect. None the less, I think I have done some good over the years presenting Torah positions in a way that people can understand and accept.

On JEMSEM we have discussed approaches to many questions. All the views expressed in my column represent my own understanding. I am sure I have made mistakes. Sometimes they are simple mistakes based on the fact that I have no editor. When I wrote an article for the HaModiah, it sometimes took weeks of writing and back and forth with my editor, as well as with the editorial board, before my articles were published.

On JEMSEM, I shoot off a response, sometimes stopping to reread it, sometimes not, before clicking the “SEND” button and that is it. No doubt all of my responses in the archives could use a good review and editing, but that is a task I must leave to others or I will never have time to write anything new.

Recently, however, it has come to my attention that I may have misled my JEMSEM readership. Several months ago, a letter was signed by many gedolei Torah establishing a halachic position regarding Torah and Science. The attitude that Chazal can be wrong when it comes to science was deemed to be illegitimate. Among the signatories was the person I consider to be my Rebbe, HaRav Moshe Shapiro Shlita.

As such, I have asked JEMSEM to take down my two responses regarding Torah and Science and request that those whom I may have misled please accept my apologies.

Let me make clear; I am not saying you have to accept my view on this subject. There are gedolei Torah who disagree and feel that it is acceptable to espouse such a view. But though I try to present all the Torah views on a subject, I personally try to express the views of my Torah authorities

I will shortly be posting my latest draft of my “letter to no one in particular” on my understanding of the Slifkin affair. If you are interested, you can read it; if not, then don’t waste your time.

I wrote this letter to clarify the issues for myself and for a number of B’nei and B’nos Torah who felt their emunas chachamim had been shaken. Usually there are two sides to an issue; Gadol A says this and Gadol B says that and everyone follows their Rebbe. In this case for some reason it became gedolim A say this and they are stupid, evil, irresponsible, etc.

You can agree with these gedolim or not, but it is inappropriate to attack them or question their competence. That was my motivation for writing the letter. To allow those who wish to still believe in the gedolei Torah to at least understand their point of view.

Many people have chosen to close their eyes and wait for this all to go away. I considered that. But if there is one individual whose opinion I can affect and restore their emunas chachamim, then all the time I have spent and all the abuse I have been subjected to, is more than worthwhile.

Dovid Orlofsky