Saturday, June 02, 2007

16th Sivan - Yarzheit of R' Gedaliah Nadel

This Shabbat was the 3rd Yarzheit of one of the most exciting and radical Rabbis that you have never heard of. Rabbi Gedaliah Nadel was probably the closest student of the Chazon Ish, and was asked by the Chazon Ish to become the Rav of the neighbourhood. You have never heard of him because the B'nei Brak crowd decided that his thinking was heretical, and banned the only book of his material, before it was even published. The rumours have it that he was slightly off his rocker, but in fact it is more likely that this is historical revisionism (in his own lifetime) than actual fact.
This is what the Jerusalem Post has to say about him:

It is uncommon for the People of the Book to ban books - but that is precisely what three prominent rabbis of Bnei Brak have done. The ban was especially surprising considering who was responsible for the ideas in the banned book.

Rabbi Gedalia Nadel, who passed away a year and a half ago, was recognized in his lifetime as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, students of the Hazon Ish, Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz, the undisputed spiritual leader of haredi Lithuanian Jewry in the Holy Land in the first half of the 20th century. Nevertheless, Rabbis Michel Yehuda Lefkovitz, Nissim Karelitz and Chaim Kanyevsky, three of the most respected spiritual leaders in the haredi world, felt the need to issue a warning.

"The greatness of Rabbi Gedalia Nadel, may this righteous man's name be a blessing, was known to all," wrote the rabbis.

"His genius was incredible and he was an exemplary model of Torah scholarship. As a student of the Hazon Ish he had an unwavering grasp of the truth of the Torah. Yet few could plumb the depths of his thoughts... Therefore we fear that ideas found in unauthorized texts or recordings will be published in his name. We hereby warn not to rely on any book published in his name by any other than Rabbi Nadel's family and students."

Betorato shel Rav Gedalia is the name of the book referred to by the Bnei Brak rabbis, which was published posthumously by Rabbi Yitzhak Shilat based on Nadel's taped lectures. Shilat writes in the preface that everything that appears in the book was approved by Nadel himself.

The book, banned last December, seeks to resolve apparent contradictions between science and Torah. Offensive ideas include sentences like this: "Regarding his [Rabbi Ovadia Sforno's] approach, that the creation of man in the image of God marked the end of a long process which started with a non-cognizant animal which gradually evolved until this creature was given a human mind... this is an accurate description. Darwin's proofs, and those of geologists, for the existence of early stages of mankind, seem convincing."

Nadel sees nothing wrong with accepting Darwin's theory of evolution. Even the proposition that man and ape have a common ancestor presents no theological problem for Nadel.

He also rejects biblical literalism in favor of science: "It is a mistake to think that all of science [e.g. carbon dating, geology] is wrong. Regarding issues of life and death - some of the most stringent laws in the Torah - we rely on the scientific method without doubts. When a doctor gives a drug that was produced based on scientific methods of inquiry or when a surgeon operates on the eye or the brain with the aid of sophisticated scientific equipment we rely on science. We do not suspect that these doctors are lying. There is no reason to believe scientists are lying about the age of the world."

The rest of the article (which compares the ban on R' Nadel to that on R' Slifkin's books) can be found here

I missed my chance to buy the book a couple of years ago, and since then have never found it again. If anyone knows where I can get hold of it from please let me know.

May his Soul be Bound in the Bonds of Eternal Life

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