Name that Kefirah!
One reason why so few people are willing to consider the possibility that the ban may have some merit is that so many false reasons have been given for it. I have a theory as to why that is, but I'll save that for another post. It should be clear by now that the reasons publicly given for the ban are misleading at best. There is one in particular though that I find particularly appalling, because it takes a powerful argument that I empathize with and twists it to support a ban that I vehemently oppose.
This simple, powerful, and utterly misleading explanation for the Slifkin ban is that we need to be Machmir when it comes to a Safek Kefirah. Even if the reasons to support the ban are not airtight, as long a case could be made that Kefirah may be involved we should be Choshes for that possibility. Now this is obviously not the real reason for the ban because the ban required Rabbi Slifkin to condemn and burn his books. If a Torah book only has a possibility of being kefirah you wouldn't burn it. The singers of the ban clearly felt the books were 100% Kefirah, not merely a Safek Kefirah.
There is however a more important reason why that argument is false. Despite the great importance of the Rambam's 13 Ikkarim, there are many Yesodei Hadas which Klal Yisroel is shockingly Maikel on. Since we are talking about the most serious issue imaginable, I think it only appropriate to play a favorite game of mine: “Name that Kefirah”. Below is a list of certain actions and beliefs that many frum Jews have. Please name which of the 13 Ikkarim each of them may violate, and if possible explain how precisely it would possibly violate them. Bonus points for when you can show it violates more than one of the 13 Ikkarim. The first person to email me all the correct answers will receive a PDF of Marc Shapiro's Torah U'Madda Journal article on the 13 Ikkarim. You could of course download it yourself, but that's not quite the same. Here is the list. I left out the all the Chas VaShalom's so that you can have the zechus of adding them yourself.
1) A shockingly large number of frum Jews believe that Hashem has emotions and that we make him happy when we do mitzvos and sad when we do aveiros.
2) Some frum Jews believe in various segulos that can protect us from an Ayin Harah, help us to recover lost objects, find a mate, or a parking space in Boro Park.
3) If there is one day a year in which you don't want to be a Min, it is on the Yom HaDin. (It's a long story but trust me on that one.) Despite that, the Ashkenazi Machzor has a prayer on that day directed to G-d's attribute of mercy. Additionally, the Tefillos on that day contain references to spiritual beings interceding on our behalf.
4) Many frum Jews believe there is a literal piece of G-d in every Jewish soul.
I won't even go into the recent heresies within a certain segment of Klal Yisroel and the idolatrous motivations behind them, but there have been some excellent books on the subject.
The point of this post is not to condemn the countless frum Jews who knowingly and unknowingly flirt with kefirah in each of the above cases. I have no problem being Dan L'Kaf Z'Chus and assuming that they must have who to rely on (though for at least one of the cases above I personally wouldn't bring non-mevushal wine to their homes). It should be clear though that each of the cases on the list above may possibly violate one or more of the Rambam's 13 Ikkarim. Whether they technically do so or not, they certainly go against the spirit of the 13 Ikkarim and it is safe to say that the Rambam himself would not approve of them. Moreover, that list has many more entries (where is Marc Shapiro when you need him). I've purposely kept this list much shorter than I could have in order to encourage people to find as many additions to it as they can (and to save my ammunition for the next time I play the game).
I've always wondered why Klal Yisroel was so Maikel on certain Yesodei Hadas. There are so many areas in Halacha where we pile Chumra upon Chumra, yet when it comes to being a Ben Olam HaBah we make no attempt to cover all the bases. You think this is the one area where you would want to be on the safe side. I'm sure there's a deep Sod in here somewhere; I just haven't found it yet.
If the Gedolim want to protect our Yesodei Hadas I'd be the first one to support them. However, let's begin with protecting the Rambam's 13 Ikkarim – which we all profess to believe in, before we begin adding new ones - especially when the new ones may very well lead to Kefirah. I realize that last remark contains a bold assertion, and I plan to back it up in a later post.