Although not in the headlines, conflicts and controversies over evolution and creation are unfolding in Orthodox Judaism, reports Moment magazine (October).
While Judaism has generally not been divided by the evolution controversy to the same extent as Christianity, the growth of the right wing in Orthodox Judaism has changed that situation. The controversy became visible when Rabbi Nosson Slifkin, a popular writer of books on Judaism and nature, was publicly condemned by leading rabbinic scholars in the ultra-Orthodox community for his espousal of evolution. By last winter, a full-scale ban went into effect on Slifkin‘s writings, with the leading Torah scholar, Jerusalem’s rabbi Yoself Sholom Elyashiv, signing on.
Publishers and seminaries have repudiated Slifkin’s writings, although the ban is contested privately by many ultra-Orthodox (the modern Orthodox, as represented by Yeshivah University, have few problems with Slifkin’s writings and with evolution in general). Observers say the incident has split the ultra-Orthodox community, with many defenders of the ban pressing for stronger authority and greater insularity from secular society.
But even supporters of Slifkin will not say so publicly for fear of further dividing the ultra-Orthodox community. Jewish creationism is similar to its Christian counterpart, although the former relies on the Talmud and rabbinic tradition in making the argument that the earth is no more than 6,000 years old. Other Orthodox Jews cite the teachings of the 12th century scholar Maimonides, who allowed for less literal readings of Genesis.
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