Dealing with a Rebbe’s Comments about Dinosaurs

My son, a normal, dinosaur-loving six year old, just came home from Yeshiva to inform me that “dinosaurs never lived – the earth wasn’t created back then – what, did they float around in nothing?” And “no one’s seen a dinosaur, their bones were just put into the ground”.

I do not want to contradict his rebbe. At some undetermined point in the future, however, I feel it’s important for him to know about the different views of our sages regarding this matter. For now, I just nodded my head, smiled and said, “that’s correct, no one has ever seen a dinosaur”.

How would you have handle it?

What if the boy was 12 instead of 6?


57 comments on “Dealing with a Rebbe’s Comments about Dinosaurs

  1. To Charlie Hall #56: I didn’t explain too well in my prior comment, so please let me elaborate what I meant.

    If someone tells me that a particular set of dinosaur bones is 71,560,000 years old, and that that age calculation is based on replicated experiments first conducted by Professor Plony at the University of Somewhere who measured the amount of carbon-14 versus the amount of carbon-12, and here’s the math how exactly he arrived at that number 71,560,000, and here’s a copy of the article he wrote in a journal describing his lab setup and the results he obtained, that’s science.

    If somebody tells me that a particular dinosaur lived seventy million years ago without any basis for that statement, and I am supposed to memorize the date or flunk the final exam, that’s not science.

    Most of the numbers I was fed in fourth grade and in ninth-grade Earth Science and in college-level Intro Earth Science were without any scientific basis. I remember learning that the Earth was 4.6 billion years old and that uranium has a half-life of 4.6 billion years. So I thought, “Oh, that must be where they got that number for the Earth’s age, they found uranium and half of it had decayed into lead.” But that was just my own conjecture. Nobody ever told us, “This is how we calculated the Earth’s age.” It was just a number to memorize for the final examination. If we wrote 6.2 billion years we were wrong and if we wrote 2.7 billion years we were wrong and if we wrote 4.6 billion years we were right. I can’t accept being told to shut up and memorize as science, only “Evolutionist” dogma.

  2. “Much of the way evolution is taught in s schools is problematic in that it is not taught as a science but as a dogma to be memorized, dates to be learned but not questioned. I was told as a ninth grader that the Mesozoic Era was from 135 million years ago to 65 million years ago. Just memorize the dates for the final exam. That was definitely not science.”

    I agree and that is a major problem with science education today, and in fact with education in general as the overemphasis on standardized testing has meant massive amounts of rote learning. The fact is, there are reasons we are certain that the period known as Mezozoic Era was from about 250 million (not 135 million) to about 65 million years before the present. The period was framed by the the worst extinction event ever at its beginning and by the extinction of half of land animal speecies (including almost all dinosaurs) at its end. The dates themselves are determined by measuring the prevalences of the decay products of trace radioisotopes.

  3. “The Lubavitcher Rebbe, zatzal, was educated in science at the Sorbonne, he was a brilliant man in the secular sciences as well.”

    To be precisely accurate, The Rebbe earned the equivalent of a B.S. in Electrical Engineering at an engineering school in Paris. France’s system is higher education is somewhat different from that in the US, and the degree titles are not identical. Furthermore, “Sorbonne” has been an ill-defined term since the French Revolution broke up the old University of Paris; the particular unit the Rebbe attended was founded later.

    Earlier, The Rebbe had attended classes in Berlin but did not earn a degree.

    The multilingual ability of some of the great rabbis never ceases to amaze me. German and France were at best The Rebbe’s third and fourth spoken languages (after Yiddish and Russian) and of course he certainly knew Hebrew and Aramaic. Rov Soloveitchik was similar, earning degrees in Polish and German and then teaching in Yiddish and English.

  4. Regarding Charlie Hall’s comment of
    November 13th, 2009 14:02:

    Of course, HaShem operates through the world He created as well as through overt miracles. While science addresses the created world, it does not have full access to its “miraculous” dimension; science can only speak of higher or lower probability events. For example, seemingly random events follow a Divine script, but science can’t see past the randomness.

  5. I believe there is a concept that Gd operates through teva (the natural world, the rules of science) and that anything beyond teva had to have been created or planned ahead, so to speak, in the late afternoon of the sixth day, right before Shabbos: the mouth of the donkey that spoke to Bilaam, the sea splitting, the demons, Gehinnom, etc. I rely on the expert Mr. Cohen to come up with the source for this. Just having gone through Purim, where Gd was so to speak “nistar” hidden, and Gd worked the miracles through teva, is supposed to bring about an appreciation that teva itself is a miracle.

    Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zatzal, wrote extensively about how the Borei Olam worked miracles through teva in the natural world, trying to increase people’s appreciation for these “everyday” miracles. For example, Rav Miller pointed out that an ordinary apple is “cooked on the tree,” with a perfect balance of scent, color and sugars to make it attractive to an eater, plus seeds inside crammed with detailed instructions to create new apple trees and eventually new apples.

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe, zatzal, was educated in science at the Sorbonne, he was a brilliant man in the secular sciences as well. There is a memoir fragment of how the Rebbe zatzal was part of the civilian engineering corps working in Brooklyn during World War II to assist the navy in designing warships. The Rebbe zatzal rejected much of what was put forth as the dogma of the evolutionists.

    Much of the way evolution is taught in s schools is problematic in that it is not taught as a science but as a dogma to be memorized, dates to be learned but not questioned. I was told as a ninth grader that the Mesozoic Era was from 135 million years ago to 65 million years ago. Just memorize the dates for the final exam. That was definitely not science.

  6. My “aha!” moment was reading Rabbi Slifkin’s book The Challenge of Evolution and realizing that this was the way I felt all along but could not put into words.My other realization was that if believing R. Slifkin puts me out of the frame of reference for many frum Jews- then so be it.

  7. Bob Miller wrote:

    “Science does not deal with miracles whatsoever.”

    I would not say this. When we pray “Al HaNisim” on Chanukah we acknowledge a miraculous military victory that did not have any supernatural aid. Does that make it any less of a miracle?
    Is the conception, development, and birth of a child any less miraculous because science can explain exactly how it happened?

    By insisting that miracles be somehow supernatural we lose sight of the fact that HaShem is in charge of everything in creation, not just the things science can’t explain.

  8. I can’t be bothered fighting this– over here. I will save my ridicule on this issue for the “not yet Orthodox.”

  9. We do have a Mesorah that miracles have occurred and will occur. Science does not deal with miracles whatsoever. An observer of the world who uses only the tools and concepts of science could be said from a Jewish perspective to be “fooled” with regard to the possibility and incidence of miracles. However, since that observer also has access to the revealed information in our Mesorah, the fact that he is “fooled” is in principle his own fault.

  10. DK is correct in what he says about the “conspiracy” in which HaShem supposedly created a new universe that appears old. It is an idea that was created by a 19th century British Christian, an idea that was rejected by his fellow Christians (with quite a bit of ridicule). There is no source for anything like this from within our mesorah prior to the mid 19th century. However, there *are* sources within our mesorah for an ancient universe. How can reject our own mesorah in favor of something that came from Christianity?

  11. I don’t know if this helps anyone in the discussion here, but when I saw the original question–“dinosaurs never lived…I feel it’s important for him to know about the different views of our sages regarding this matter”–I thought it was phrased inaccurately and confusingly.

    What Shlomo probably meant was that he wanted his son to know about the dispute within Orthodox Judaism about how to reconcile the Torah’s age of the universe with the scientific age. I have never heard of different views amongst sages–past or present–regarding whether dinosaurs lived or not, unless the rebbe, who is the subject of this post, counts as one of the disputants :)

  12. Michoel, you did not quote or respond to my qualifier. I added corresponding, because it is a specific and directly refutable claim that this is a New Earth, and a conspiracy theory against Hashem to say he planted the bones in the ground to trick us.

    This is contemporary conspiracy theory, and one that is a conspiracy theory, because it directly rejects documentation. The scientists do not all pretend to have the answers. But all agree that this is not the answer.

    And incidentally none of the ancient great sages even claimed there was such a conspiracy by Hashem.

  13. DK has consistently shown that he objects not only to “haredi” doctrine but to Jewish doctrine in general. His advice to “Put your kid in a less haredi institution” is disingenuous.

  14. DK got me. I just can’t be kovesh my yetzer to respond…

    There are actually a great number of things about which scientists do not have various opinions. There are no various opinions about whether or not any people lived for hundreds of years, there are no various opinions about whether there was even a large, regional mabul in the last 5000 years (not to even speak of a world wide mabul) there are no various opinions about whether or not a very large nation collectively left Mitzrayim and spent 40 years in the desert. And there are actually no various opinions about whether or not the world is less than some 14 billion years old. (Any kind of belief in shmittos, or a world that is say, only 1 billion years old also has no scientific validity). So if one wants to be really, really careful to send their children to a school that is not stubborn, blatantly wrong etc, they shouldn’t be looking at schools that are merely “less charedi”, they need to be looking at the extreme left of Orthodoxy or further.

  15. Bob Miller and others noted that there are “various opinions” of our sages about dinosaurs.

    But there are not such corresponding “various opinions” about dinosaurs in science.

    If certain denominations can be so blatantly wrong, stubborn, and insistent about how Hashem created the world, they are surely wrong about plenty else.

    Put your kid in a less haredi institution.

  16. Mordechai,
    In the school were my sons learn, I feel that the teachers are way over-qualified for the money they make and the respect they receive. Reb Yaakov Kamenetzy would stand up for his sons’ rebbeim (perhaps not cheder rebeim, but in the older grades). When I speak to my son’s rebbe, I always speak to him in the third person, “does Rabbi “Bernstein” …”.

  17. As a followup to Rabbi Scher’s post (#40):

    From my experience, female teachers up to a certain grade are called Morah (first name), then as the students get older, Morah (last name) and finally Mrs./Miss/Ms./G’veret (last name).

    Male teachers are called Rabbi (last name) from the earliest grades and onward.


    Should there be a base level of qualifications for a male teacher to be called Rabbi?

    Should there be a progression for male teachers from Moreh (first name, then on to last name) to Mr./Mar/Adon (last name) to Rabbi (last name)?

    Should distinguished female teachers bear a title that reflects their academic/teaching excellence?

    To tie these questions in with the original post:
    The more experienced and qualified the teacher, the more he or she should be given leeway to express his or her own opinion to OLDER students. These opinions should be accompanied by a qualification that it may differ from the school’s “official position.”

  18. Michoel,

    It may that I’m just oversensitive; but Rebbe has two connotations to me. The unquestioned leader that modern hassidim follow; and the teacher in certain subsets of the Jewish population. It is my impression that people primarily think of a rebbe to be the leader of hassidim. From here it shapes how they relate to the word, what importance they attach to the person, and that then subtly transfers in a small way to the teacher in the classroom. I don’t think that teachers in the classroom should be treated disrespectfully; but I also don’t think they should be treated with almost mystical importance. And that is, indeed, how some families and schools are teaching their children to see their teachers. (This is without even relating to how undereducated and underqualified many classroom rebbes are.) Interestingly, we see this emphasis made especially with regard to the male teachers, even if/when the female teachers are just as qualified or moreso.

    Again, I may be oversensitive about the whole thing.

    Ultimately, the point I want remembered as my opinion is that Torah, those who learn it, and those who teach it demand tremendous respect. (Having said that, many of our teachers have only average qualifications at best.) We don’t demand much sophistication of many of our schools. No matter what school our children go to, the mitzvah of teaching them Torah is the PARENTS’ responsibility and the parents ‘own’ their children’s education, with all the implications thereof.

  19. I agree with Bob and Mordechai. I did not mean that you should tell the child something that is not true, but I do think that one should appropriately build up the rebbi in the child’s eyes in general and particularly before saying something that might undermine his a authority a bit.

    Mordechai, I do not understand what implication you are attaching to the word Rebbe such that you don’t care for it. Please clarify.

    BTW, I deal with this issue regularly. My son’s rebbi, a person that I really believe is a great man and a talmid chacham, often conveys hashkafos that are well beyond what are son sees at home.

  20. I agree with Bob Miller. I don’t think I was a less effective teacher with my students knowing I had feet of clay.

    I still remember the first year I came from Israel, an encounter with an elementary school class, and another with a middle school class.

    In the elementary class, I didn’t know an answer to some question, and the child burst out ‘but you’re a rabbi; you know everything!’ What a poor notion for a Jew at any age to have. In the middle school class many of the astute students (this was a shiur in Mishnah that I gave) would ask questions of practical halachah. I wanted them to know that the rav of the school and community had authority on many such matters, not their teacher. And so I would defer many questions to him. They eventually wrote a rap parody called ‘you can’t ask me.’ But they also got the message that the rav in the shiur is someone who works at learning; not some mythical perfect being who has all the answers. I retained their respect and the respect of their families all the same.

    I think this is why I personally don’t like calling teachers ‘rebbe’. Yes, I know it is a common Yiddishism; but it has a connotation which I think is patently false and poor education. The words ‘rav’ or ‘teacher’ are perfectly good and respectable words. Just my $.02. Of course, if the teacher isn’t a ‘rav’, there is no need to call him (certainly her!) that.

    We should be teaching our children honesty in Torah from birth! If Hashem’s ‘signature’ is Truth, we dare not mispell that name! ;-)

    There are a number of incidents recalled where a student stumped Rav Solovietchik; or where he even came back the next day and said ‘I was mistaken’ about an entire thesis he had built during shiur. He had no trouble correcting himself, and teaching absolute intellectual honesty in Torah. It shouldn’t be any other way; and we as parents have the primary and foremost responsibility to teach our children that Yosher. I believe that without that foundation, the entire Torah falls.

  21. Michoel wrote,
    “Parents need to be behind the Rebbe %100. They can say, ‘your Rebbe is a great man and a talmid chacham.'”

    Unless he really is one, they should not go down that road. It’s enough for them to say that talmidei chachamim have various opinions on this matter.

    That said, we ourselves should recognize that some opinions on Jewish topics, even those held here and there by a rebbe, really are too far out.

  22. I try to be careful not to contradict what my kids learn in yeshiva as I think it is harmful educationally. But depending on the question and age and disposition of the child, I sometimes introduce them to alternate views about things, all the while trying to get them excited about the fact that the Torah isn’t like any other book because it is from haKadosh baruch Hu and it contains many different perspectives, ALL of which teach us something and are worth learning about in time. However this needs to be applied on a case by case basis so as not to confuse or overload the child.

  23. This is such a great and important topic (how to deal with a Rebbe teaching something not consistent with the parent’s values or beliefs). It is a shame to highjack it into a partisan discussion about science and Torah. Parents need to be behind the Rebbe %100. They can say, “your Rebbe is a great man and a talmid chacham. I have also seen other opinions about this topic…” But do not undermine him no matter what. Someone mentioned that they knew of several people that left Yiddishkeit because the Rebbe told them beliefs about science that they later decided were not true. I don’t believe that anyone became not frum from that alone. Very many people have dealt with contradictions and questions and moved on. However, looking down at a child’s questions and failing to validate them, could have very bad long term consequences. But don’t go to the other extreme of delegitimatizing the Rebbe who is the conveyor of the mesora to the child.

  24. This post was initially about dealing with statements by a teacher with which parents have a problem. Whether the teachers problematic remark is about dinosaurs or derech eretz is not extremely relevant to that question.

    Nevertheless, we have diverted in the time honored faahion of the Gemara, so allow me to weigh in:

    It is written in Ashrei (Psalm 145) that Hashem’s greatness is beyond investigation.

    It is not written (directly) that the physical attributes of the world are beyond investigation.

    However, the Talmud in Chagigah discussess “expounding on the works of creation.” It is for more learned people to decide if scientific analysis of the physical world and how it reached its present state fits into the Talmud’s legal requirements. Nevertheless, the Talmud gives us good ethical guidance in using and disseminating knowledge gained by scientific investigation.

  25. Since Torah was the blueprint, so to speak, for the Creation, the behavior and properties of the physical world have to be compatible with Torah, despite all utilitarian arguments about Torah and science. Of course, mortals do not understand all the deepest meanings of Torah; we need to enhance our understanding as best we can. There will be matters that our current understanding of Torah cannot clarify, but we accept that the Torah is true, regardless.

  26. I wonder where the notion comes from that the Torah is an authoritative book about science. That it is not is quite obvious. It is not about science at all. The things Torah talks about, the ideas it presents, and the ways it offers evidence and proof are decidedly not scientific.

    Science is a totally different realm. It has different ways of speaking, deals with totally different ideas, has different ways of determining facts and proof, and is decidedly not religious.

    Simply put, Torah and Science are two different types and bodies of knowledge. They are not addressing the same issues. They have no common language. They have no common rules.

    It makes no sense to try to reconcile one with the other. Torah is not wrong when it says the world is 5800 years old and science is not wrong when it says something more like 4.5 billion.

    You can’t have a debate unless you first agree at least on how are facts shall be determined. Since Torah and Science don’t agree on how facts are determined, any meaningful and useful debate is impossible. Even if the logic of one parties arguement is impeccible, if the premises (the starting facts) are challenged, any conclusions will be deemed meaningless. In logical terms, starting from a false premise, you can show anything to be true. Each side will therefore refuse to accept the other’s proofs.

    And that is what I see happening in these incessant and futile debates and discussions.

    The real problem is that most of our Torah scholars don’t really know much about science and a lot of what they do purport to know is wrong. Of course, a lot of what scientists claim to know about Torah is equally wrong. So, when either camp makes proclamations about the other, they are equally foolish. Yep, I am calling both some rabbis and some scientists fools. They both need to get more honesty. A ‘great man’ once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

    Mostly though, they are both fools because they aren’t in touch with their own insecurities. Both are equally uncertain about the absolute truth of their positions but they hide it well. “Denial” is a word that comes to mind. Both are fools because they don’t understand, or won’t admit to, the limits to their respective bodies of knowledge. There are places where Torah is very useful and applicable and there are places it utterly fails to be of use. There are places where science is useful and applicable and there are places where it utterly fails to be of use. The courageous and honest stance is to acknowledge their respective limitations and applicable realms and the most valuable thing to know is where each is most useful.

    Scientists are insecure simply because science is not absolute and, by design, by its very nature, its truths change regularly. How could anyone be secure in his knowledge, given that one of the ground rules is that what you think you know today may very well change tomorrow?

    Torah scholars are insecure, I think for two reasons. First, they have a hard time denying what they see very clearly in front of their eyes. If you can’t trust your own senses to bring you reliable information about the world, then you have a hard time claiming that you know anything for sure. Second, they only believe in G-d. That is, they accept that G-d exists even if they don’t really know it, don’t really have any direct experience to attest to the existance of G-d. Torah isn’t direct experience.

    Me, well, I really, really don’t believe at all in G-d. Nope. Don’t have to. I’ve had experiences, really weird, really strong, really moving, experiences where I saw and felt the existance of G-d. For me, it is not a matter of belief. It is a matter of direct knowledge. Maybe not knowledge in a “scientific” way, but I not going to deny what I lived through and the reality of what I felt. I don’t have a shred of doubt. In fact, He’s my best buddy. If I only strive to figure out what He wants me to be doing, try to follow His plans for my life, things go well. When I try to do it my own stupid way, ignore His hints, things don’t work out well at all. And it works like this every time. Every time.

    So, Torah and G-d guide me and teach me some things and Science and Secular knowledge guide me and teach me some things. Different things. I got it good. I’ve got two very strong, reliable, and very useful ways of approaching the world, learning about the world, and living well in it. I just have to know where each one works best and I use that one in that situation. A hammer is not the wrong tool to use if what you’ve got is a nail, but it is the wrong tool if what you got is a screw.

    This is what you should tell your kid… at his own level, according to his understanding.

    So, you all can rake my body with forks and then burn me at the stake if you want. I still mean it with all my body and soul when I say Shema.

    Anyway, it works for me.

  27. IMO, R Mordechai Scher set forth a great approach for parents to deal with comments of this nature.

  28. I would tell the child that some people agree with his rebbe but other people do not, and that there are various opinions among rabbanim and talmidei chachamim about dinosaurs. I wouldn’t say it in a way to suggest, “Your rebbe is an ignoramus” but rather, “Your rebbe is following one opinion, but there are others.” Presumably the child is already familiar with Rashi’s in which two different opinions are cited about this or that, so the idea of rabbanim with different opinions is not new.

    You do not want to set up a situation in which a child believes that a rebbe can never be wrong or that there can never be more than one opinion. Because when he comes across evidence that his rebbe was wrong or that others disagree, it may shake his faith in the whole system. He may conclude, not that the rebbe was wrong, but that the Torah is wrong.

    Of course these doubts are not likely to be a problem at the age of six but you need to start with a good foundation so that when he is in his teens he knows there are various opinions. He also has to know from an early age that he can ask questions without being an apikores for asking.

  29. I would not send my children to a yeshiva that teaches that dinosaurs never existed or that the universe is 6000 years old. And I’d check that out before the first day of classes.

  30. My buddy Levyasan got through the flood OK, but I was unfortunately up the creek without a paddle.

  31. We all accept that the Yetzer Hara, another creation, was made to try to mislead us. We also accept that there are ways, through Torah, to avoid being misled by it.

  32. “It’s one thing to say that the physical world obscure deeper realities, quite another to say the Borei Olam deliberately misleads us, which is what implanting false evidence is.”

    Based on what the kid came home with, it seems *possible* that the idea being presented is not that the Borei Olam is fooling us, but rather than the evil atheist scientists are trying to fool us by fabricating evidence. indeed, some fundamentalist Christians believe this…

    kol tuv,

  33. I, too, think Reb Mordechai shows us a great approach to disagreement in general. It shouldn’t upset us, it’s part of Torah life. That being said, when I hear the point of view that this Rebbe advocates I want to ask “where’s the posuk that says this? Or the Chazal?” It’s one thing to say that the physical world obscure deeper realities, quite another to say the Borei Olam deliberately misleads us, which is what implanting false evidence is.

  34. I think it is never too early to teach the skills of respectful disagreement. You should tell your son that you disagree with the Rebbe on this, but it doesn’t make him a bad Rebbe or you a bad daddy.

    People who aren’t taught tolerance at an early age have had a harder time being tolerant. Which truth they believe in absolutely may change. They may think that everyone who believes in an old universe is a heretic or that everyone who believes in a 6000 year earth is a willfully blind fundamentalist. But the middah of intolerance will still be there.

  35. Harry Maryles has a post based on this post here. Harry’s comment thread is more focused on the cosmological and hashkafic implications as opposed to how to deal with a situation where you disagree with a Rebbe.

  36. Nathan,

    The good news is that dating of archeological finds from the Bronze Age shows that it pretty much coincides with Tubel Cain who the Torah says introduced metal works.

    The “bad news” is that this era was pre-Flood, showing that our dating methods were not affected by the flood.

  37. There are two issues, disagreeing with the Rebbe and the nature of the disagreement. It’s best if we can minimize the disagreement. There are times where you might have to talk it out with the Rebbe and in that case it’s also important to minimize the disagreement.

    Like most parents, I’ve had disagreements with things the Rebbe said and when I spoke about it with my Rav the nature of the disagreement played a big role on whether to let it go with no comment, or whether to present another point of view.

  38. Another thing to consider is that individual rebbeim/teachers will sometimes say things in class that don’t match the views of the administration of the school they work for.

  39. Mark,

    While the cosmology discussion is always fun, I don’t think that’s the issue. The issue is one of Chinuch and child rearing. Like Gary pointed out, no matter how much you think a school is going to line up with your philosophy, there will always be differences. I think Mordechai gave us a terrific road map to deal with those differences.

    Today for this author it’s dinosaurs. Tomorrow it WILL be something else.

  40. Is the issue:

    1) Did Dinosaurs ever exist on the Earth?

    2) How to reconcile the Torah’s account of a 6,000 year old Earth and the scientific evidence that Dinosaurs (and other things) existed on the Earth much longer than 6,000 years ago?

    If a scientist said that Dinosaurs lived 5800 years ago, would any Rebbe have a problem with that?

  41. I have a few thoughts about this. Rather strong sentiments, as well.

    1. The mitzvah of teaching Torah to our children is the PARENT’s (father, technically). The teacher and yeshiva act at your behest. At no time did you give up your right and responsibility to see to it that your child be educated in the manner that you see fit.

    1a. Too many institutions (from what I observe and hear in discussion) have become arrogant and conflated their roles in this. They act at the parents’ behest. They have a privilege in that parents entrust their children to the yeshiva to be shaped as souls and minds and hearts.

    1aa. Too many institutions insist that their own monolithic approach to content and methodology is the only way to go. Toe the line, or else. Parents should not support such an approach. Personally, I wouldn’t want my child taught in such a place. But, in any case the parents should be supplementing and completing what the children hear in school with their own beliefs, opinions, struggles, viewpoints, customs, and culture. Sadly, some parents (especially but not exclusively BTs) think they have nothing to offer in this process in comparison to the exalted teachers and institution. That is simply wrong on any and every level.

    1b. Parents must be part of their children’s education. At every age, they should engage their children in learning, in teaching the culture and customs of the family. Relevant to this post, even a six year old can be told ‘we do that differently’ or ‘I don’t think that is the only way to understand that.’

    Even if a parent is largely uneducated in Torah, they do not (must not) park their intelligence and morality at the door in deference to the teacher or yeshiva. I say this as someone who had the exquisite privilege to teach in the classroom for quite a few years. Parents should never feel inferior to the teacher or the school.

    2. Torah is NOT monolithic. There is NOT only one understanding. There is NOT only one approach in perspective/hashkafah/emunah. There is NOT only one educational methodology.

    2a. Any presentation of Torah as monolithic is a falsification of Hashem’s Torah. Plain and simple. As a teacher, I can and should only teach what I really believe about the Torah. But I must have a little humility about it. I must recognize and teach that there are other approaches and understandings, and the students may find a better fitting answer there. THAT is the truth of Torah. There are boundaries, and there are schools of thought that are out of bounds; but the bounds of Torah and halachah are much broader than many are admitting or teaching. Parents should demand better and greater of the schools.

    Of course, a six year old must be taught more simply than a 16 year old. But is doesn’t have to be all black and white. And I fear that a school that doesn’t respect the curiosity of the six year won’t sufficiently respect the existential struggles of the 16 year old.

    Disagreement, even with the rav, can be done with great respect. Teaching our children early on and forever more how to disagree respectfully, how to practice differently, all while living and building Torah together may be one of the most important tasks we have. Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai did it; I dare say we mustn’t forget to do so ourselves.

    Imagine how poor the realm of Torah would be if all the debates and disputes and variations of custom, thought, and practice had been done away with early on.

    Talk to your teachers. Talk to your administrators. Talk to the other parents. Talk to your children. And let all know that you do so because of a greater respect for Hashem’s Torah.

    Sorry for the diatribe.

  42. While the idea of reexamining your choice of yeshiva seems like a good one, it is ultimately futile. There is no yeshiva whose outlook precisely matches that of every family, so you must be prepared for these issues to arise from time to time. Especially considering the fact that yeshivos are generally right-leaning and that rebbe salaries make the job appealing only to the undereducated, this is something you will run into again and again.

    The most important thing to do, as my rav related to me, is to avoid contradicting the rebbe. You may win the battle, but at the expense of souring your child on the entire mesora. If there are concepts you believe you need to teach your children which conflict with the school, do so on your own after the incident has passed (such as over the summer). This way, the child will not associate your comments with those of his rebbe, but rather a separate discussion.

    Having your son come home filled with ideas with which you disagree can be frustrating, but we must think of the big picture.

  43. One day in the future your son is going to find out that dinosaurs really existed, and a very long time ago at that. When he does, he is going to lump everything his now-foolish-in-his-eyes rebbe told him together and throw away yiddishkeit along with the “no dinosaurs” nonsense.

    If you think this is an unlikely scenario, I promise you that I personally know a half dozen people who did just that.

  44. Just to clarify, my comment regarding R Slifkin was not meant as a coment against him, I simply meant that there is plenty of evidence that dinos exsisted and you need not go to a meeting with the Rebbe or Prinical armed with a stack of books and printouts from the internet. :)

  45. In addition to the “the world was created ‘old'” idea, I have heard (related to sharona’s comment) that the heat/cold/pressure of the flood as described in the CHumash and meforshim would have been more than sufficient to mess with carbon dating of anything measured afterwards.

    And that possibly dinosaurs were something of a giant-animal crossbreed and therefore were not “invited” on the Ark.

  46. This is a great question. There’s a children’s book on creation published by Chabad that actually shows drawings of dinosaurs (sadly I can’t remember the name of the book). If you truly feel you can talk with your child’s teacher about this, I’d suggest you do so. If you feel comfortable with speaking with the principal, maybe that’s the best route.
    I’d say having a conversation would be the first step. I’d avoid buying every R Slikin book out there and arming yourself with documented proof.
    Menachem said it best, speak with your Rav.

  47. There are many Torah opinions on dinosaurs, the age of the world (e.g., the verse from Tehillim/Psalms that states “a thousand years are like a watch in the night” has been offered as a quantitative measure of the qualitative days of creation) and other matters regarding nature and the environment. However, the statement that “their bones were just put in to the ground” is too much of a simplification for a school child of any age.

    Menachem in comment #1 wrote: “You may want to investigate if the Rebbe’s position is his own or the philosophy of the Yeshiva. That may have an impact on your long term relation with this Yeshiva.”

    Parents should reconsider their relationship with a school whose philosophy does not meet the parents’ wishes. Parents may also ask a school to reconsider its relationship with a teacher whose classroom statements inappropriately differ from the school’s philosophy or general standards of professional conduct.

  48. The problem is when the child later encounters evidence that dinosaurs lived. Even at this early stage the parent can say there are various opinions of Torah sages on this question.

  49. Not sure what to say to a child, but what I heard was that before the flood, everything was really big, the people, plants and animals. Afterwards, things became smaller.

    Want to mention also about the age of the world which is also an issue. I read a viewpoint that mentioned that just like Adam and Chava looked like adults when they were born, so too when the world was created, it also looked like it had been around for quite awhile.

  50. I think it depends on the kid. If he’s willing to let it go at that then I think it’s ok. If he pursues it then you’ll have to deal with it sooner than later.

    When my 8 yr old daughter was also 6 we learned from “The Little Midrash Says” together. Pretty much right away she asked me if all the Midrashim were true. I told her that I needed to speak to my Rav about it. He suggested leaving them as all true for the time being given her age. Ironically, soon after and to this day she generally asks to skip the “Midrash” sections.

    Given that you will want to present alternate interpretations to your son at some point. You may want to investigate if the Rebbe’s position is his own or the philosophy of the Yeshiva. That may have an impact on your long term relation with this Yeshiva.

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