An Orthodox rabbi who writes about werewolves and unicorns and believes in evolution? Meet Rabbi Natan Slifkin– also known as “The Zoo Rabbi” – who teaches about what Jewish scripture says about natural history and beastly lore. And despite his opponents’ claims that his belief in evolution is heretical, he staunchly believes it’s not.
In 2004-2005, three of Rabbi Slifkin’s books were banned by a group of distinguished Haredi rabbis. Their heresy charges (listed here in full) included Slifkin’s claim that the universe is actually billions of years old, and that the Torah’s account of the six days of creation must not be interpreted literally. Slifkin and his mentors rejected the ban, evoking the tradition of non-literal interpretations of the creation story – perhaps most famously that of Maimonides, who says that it’s meant to be read metaphorically and not literally and chronologically.
Slifkin’s rational approach to biblical Jewish thought – not to mention his willingness to ask (and answer!) provocative questions – is vibrantly unorthodox in the contemporary landscape of Orthodox scholarship. His love for his work is evident, be it about giants or Darwin.
December 28, 2012